Reconstruction Era in America from a moderate Revisionist standpoint contends that the era was neither a complete failure nor a sufficiently progressive attempt to provide black Americans full voting rights and political representation. The era begins with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and ends with the Compromise of 1877. This summary begins with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and finishes with the Compromise of 1877. Although the official beginning of Reconstruction did not occur until the end of the Civil War in 1865, it is generally acknowledged that the era began in 1863, when President Lincoln signed an executive decree known as the Emancipation Proclamation. This is despite the fact that the end of the war in 1865 did not mark the commencement of Reconstruction. This “freed” all slaves in America, but only on paper because the federal government and the Confederate States were at war at the time. However, the declaration was extremely clear regarding the destiny of slaves in the South in the event that the Union was victorious in the war.
Foner also focuses on key events that took place before Reconstruction but had a substantial influence on the policy that was established after the Civil War. In specifically, he discusses the Port Royal Experiment that was done during the years 1861 and 1862. The Port Royal Experiment took place in Union-controlled territory in the Sea Islands, which are located off the coast of South Carolina. This initiative was meant to serve as a potential model for wider Reconstruction efforts. Following the abandonment of their slaves by their Confederate owners, a total of around ten thousand persons were abandoned on the islands. While this was going on, Union and other Northern authorities studied the ex-slaves’ work and lifestyle patterns to see if they were fit for farming without white landowners. The research’s results could help guide future Reconstruction initiatives. Without the same degree of formal education as white Americans, former slaves, despite their unquestionable work ethic, would be at a huge disadvantage. Even if they worked harder than white Americans, this would still be the case.
Despite the fact that the Civil War was still ongoing in 1864, the Confederate army and other significant rebel organizations had been driven out of a number of Southern states. This necessitated a discussion between Congress and Lincoln regarding next moves in the case of a Confederate capitulation. To enact the Wade-Davis Act, the so-called radical Republicans in Congress fought hard. A majority of voters in each former Confederate state would have to take an oath dubbed the “Ironclad Oath” and affirm that they had never supported the Confederacy for the bill offered by Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade and Maryland Representative Henry Davis to pass. A state that joined the Confederacy cannot rejoin the Union without this. Lincoln strongly disagreed with the Wade-Davis Bill and instead advocated for the “10 Percent Rule,” which stipulated that just 10% of a Confederate state’s population had to swear to uphold the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln took a stand that was diametrically opposed to the policies enshrined in the Wade-Davis Act.
Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, succeeded him as president after his assassination in 1865, although he never had the chance to implement Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans. Johnson was significantly more hesitant to endorse the extreme goal of the Republican Party than his predecessor, Abraham Lincoln. Many believed that Johnson would not devote himself fully to the Reconstruction effort, in contrast to Lincoln’s portrayal of him. It was his hope that the Reconstruction would be finished before the year’s end. Meanwhile, radical Republicans had a more nuanced understanding of the problems of restoring the South’s economy and ensuring that freed slaves had equal access to democratic institutions like voting and schooling, according to Foner. As a result of this controversy, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration and the radical Republicans, headed by Pennsylvania’s Representative Thaddeus Stevens, fell deeply at odds with one another. The section of the party led by Stevens won a two-thirds majority in the 1866 election, giving them the power to efficiently manage Reconstruction while also thwarting Johnson’s hasty measures. Johnson avoided impeachment and expulsion from office, but his ability to steer the country during Reconstruction was severely constrained.
Foner claims that the years between 1866 and 1868 were the most fruitful for the advancement of laws protecting the rights of former slaves. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 disenfranchised President Andrew Johnson and guaranteed that all citizens of the United States, regardless of color, would be eligible to vote and hold public office. It also guaranteed that all citizens of the United States would be eligible to vote and run for public office. The Fourteenth Amendment was also ratified in the United States of America, guaranteeing the permanent establishment of certain protections. Foner highlights the many ways in which significant federal laws were unable to quickly improve the living conditions of freedpeople in the South. As a direct result of congressional actions done in the name of “Radical Reconstruction,” growing white supremacist organisations like the Ku Klux Klan exposed these people to unprecedented levels of brutality and intimidation. The economic crisis of 1873, commonly referred to as the “Panic of 1873,” affected the South particularly hard, and this violence only got worse as a direct result. It was widely known that the Radical Republicans’ efforts to rebuild the South had failed, and as a result, the political center began to tilt toward the Democratic Party.
As a result of the “Corrupt Bargain” or “Compromise of 1877,” Reconstruction officially came to an end in 1877. The race between Rutherford B. Hayes of the Republicans and Samuel Tilden of the Democrats for the presidency in 1876 was a tight one. For the sake of ending the election question, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives decided to acknowledge Hayes as president after he committed to withdraw federal forces from those Southern states where Republicans were still dominating Reconstruction activities. Nonetheless, the deal was conditioned on Hayes’s wording this commitment. Without them, the government would be unable to protect the newly established legal rights for freedmen. For decades to come, African Americans in these states would face unrelenting acts of violence, intimidation, and voter suppression.
Foner presents a vivid picture in his all-encompassing history of the Reconstruction Era, written mostly from the perspective of former slaves residing in the South, of how the Radical Republicans’ good intentions fell short due to economic downturns, political jockeying, and severe bigotry. He achieves this by providing a wealth of specifics about what happened during this time frame.However, the vast majority of white Southerners believed that black people could never be as successful as whites. This led white southerners to the widespread view that African Americans should remain in a position of subordination, and they initially turned to black codes and violence to enforce this belief.