182 Chapter 16: Reconstruction: An Unfinished Revolution, 1865–1877 CHAPTER 16 Reconstruction: An Unfinished Revolution, 1865–1877 CHAPTER SUMMARY Reconstruction refers to the process by which the nation was rebuilt after the destruction caused by the Civil War. This rebuilding was social, political, and economic. Since there were no guidelines as to how it would be accomplished, questions and disagreements arose. Given such disagreements, as well as the emotional aftermath of four years of war and the force of individual personalities, Reconstruction proceeded by trial and error. As early as 1863, some two years before the end of the war, a debate began between the President and Congress over key questions relating to Reconstruction. In this debate, and in the Reconstruction proposals put forward by President Lincoln and Congress, it was apparent that the two disagreed over the scope and objectives of the Reconstruction process. Despite these disagreements, in early 1865 Congress and the President were able to work together to secure passage of the Thirteenth Amendment and to create the Freedmen’s Bureau. At war’s end, and as the power struggle between the executive and legislative branches over control of the Reconstruction process became more pronounced, freed men and women renewed their determination to struggle for survival and true equality within American society. On one level they placed faith in education and participation in the political process as a means of attaining equality, but they also turned to family and religion for strength and support. Denied the possibility of owning land, they sought economic independence through new economic arrangements such as sharecropping. However, sharecropping ultimately proved to be a disaster for all concerned. When Congress reconvened in December 1865, it was faced with a Reconstruction policy advanced by President Johnson that not only allowed former Confederate leaders to regain power at the state and national levels, but also obviously abandoned the freedmen to hostile southern whites. Northern congressmen and the constituents they represented were unwilling to accept this outcome of the long, bitter struggle against a rebellious South. Believing that it had a constitutional right to play a role in the Reconstruction process, Congress acted. This action led to clashes with an intransigent President Johnson and to the passage of two congressional Reconstruction plans. The first of these plans, the Fourteenth Amendment, evolved when the wrangling between President Johnson and Congress produced compromises among the conservative, moderate, and radical factions of the Republican Party. Although Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 over the president’s veto, there was concern that the Supreme Court would declare the basic provisions of the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional. Therefore, those provisions were incorporated into a constitutional amendment that was presented to the states for ratification in April 1866. The Fourteenth
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