Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Reconstruction Plans

Abraham Lincoln's Reconstruction plan was known as the 10 percent plan. His plan required 10 percent of qualified voters to take a loyalty oath to the Union. The voters could then create a state government. "The new state constitution had to be republican in form, abolish slavery and provide for black education" (Davidson 473). Lincoln did not require, however, political or social equality for black Americans.

Radical Republicans' Reconstruction plans were much stricter than Lincoln's 10 percent plan. The goal of the Radicals Reconstruction plans was to "make emancipation a war aim..It proposed that Confederate states be ruled temporarily by a military governor, required half the white adult males to take an oath of allegiance before drafting a new state constitution, and restricted political power" (Davidson 473). The Radicals focused on social and political equality and believed it was their duty to enforce southern states to follow the laws of Congress.

Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction plan was similar to Lincoln's: "He prescribed a loyalty oath that white southerners would have to take to regain their civil and political rights and to have their property, except for slaves, restored...Johnson announced that once a state had drafted a new constitution and elected state officers and members of Congress, he would revoke martial law...Suffrage was limited to white citizens who had taken the loyalty oath (Davidson 474). Like Lincolns plan, Johnson did not require political and social equality for blacks.

Both Johnson's and Lincoln's Reconstruction plans were strong because they made the transition, for southern states to enter back into the Union, easier than the Radical's plan. They did not focus on political and social equality which would make it easier to gain political support from southerners. Regardless, the goal of all three plans were to absolve slavery in the Union.

If I had to choose between the three, which I would not if I was a voter at the time, I would most likely advocate the Radical's Reconstruction plan. The Radical's supported black voting rights and passed the 14th Amendment, actions that would improve the Union in the long run. Regardless, all three plans had numerous negative consequences (as the war did in general as well). Blacks were not considered equal, though they were defined as equal by law, and would not for many years. Even to this day, racism and discrimination continues.

Davidson, James, Brian Delay, Christine Heyrman, Mark Lytle, and Michael Stoff, Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic Volume II: Since 1865. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

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