Constructing the South
Today, my ‘friend’ received a relatively high mark for talking relatively little about reconstruction following the civil war and why it failed. In true competing fashion I’m going to better his talk by talking about it in a lot more depth, for no mark at all. (I’m not that competitive. Actually I am and it made me a little annoyed for the mark he received)
Immediately following the American Civil War, there was a problem. The North didn’t trust the South, and the South didn’t trust the North. Reconstruction, did not just concern what needs to be done about African Americans, instead it was concerned with what needed to be done about the South to reincorporate them back into the Union, following their surrender. Thaddeus Stevens told Congress that ‘We have the right to treat them (the South) as we would any other provinces that we might conquer’. Stevens was in the radical wing of the Republican party and saw the necessity of incorporating the Southern states in the Union as well as incorporating the South Freedmen back into society. But, it is important to note, Stevens didn’t see African Americans as equals.
For the south to be admitted back into the Union, the radical Recontructionists which dominated Congress sought the south to change the social fabric of the south. It could be argued that the North was looking for a social revolution in the South, this would never happen. But there were areas of progress, the passing of the 13th Amendment making it unconstitutional to keep and use slaves. The establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau offered help to slaves in various ways. There were efforts to integrate recently free slaves back into society, but the Southern attitudes were not having any of it.
(This is already better than my friends shoddy performance. I’m not arrogant about my work or anything like that because, quite frankly, I think it’s shit. But this is definitely, definitely, better than the presentation I witnessed today. I just wish you could have been there)
The fact that Reconstructionist policies were seen to be applied on behalf of Congress - sponsored almost entirely by Northern Congressmen - reinforced the impression that foreign policies were being imposed on a helpless South in defiance to their states rights, one of the causes of the civil war. The fact that many of the South had no say in what their policies would be was bound to cause problems. Segregation was beginning and with the backing of the Supreme Court following the case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) which effectively started the juggernaut of the Segregation doctrine as well as the well known policy of ‘Separate but equal’. The presentation which I saw today mentions none of this, instead opting instead to focus all the attention on the mistakes of President Andrew Johnson.
Ok, that seems fair you may think. After all, Andrew Johnson wasn’t really that helpful in the Reconstruction era. He did issue thousands of pardons to southern white’s and effectively ended hopes of freemen. These are fair issues which were raised and discussed by the presenter but was it really all his fault? I hardly think that in a system of government with all the Checks and Balances that are in place that a racist President can have all the power, especially with Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens and the numerous other radical Republicans in Congress. Andrew Johnson was a poor president, there is no denying that. But what I am arguing is that it was also the Southern White mentality as well as the current economic problems which led to the failure of reconstruction.
These economic problems caused racism to occur in the North, and therefore policies for the South were almost forgotten. And I do mean forgotten. After the Compromise of 1877, when Hayes won the presidency, (I don’t know how, after all his opponent Tilden won the popular vote. Fucking US Electoral system) the federal troops which were occupying the South ‘enforcing’ the laws which had been in place post-war were removed. With that, Reconstruction had ended: so had the brief optimism regarding Civil Rights for African Americans, who endured decades more of racial abuse.
So presenter, I think you missed all of these points apart from the bit about Johnson which you did well on. But, I don’t think you entirely deserved the mark you were given because you ignored several other areas.
This post seems to have no direction and I currently don’t want to go back and change it all to make it seem like an essay. This is actually a reply to the presentation I saw today which you really had to be there for to understand why I’m talking about this in the way that I am. If you’re interested, I have to do a presentation on the Foreign Policy between 1945 and 1950. A much harder topic I must admit, but I hopefully will do better than what I saw today and considering the mark he got, I’m hoping for full marks. Bastards.
The Unwritten Constitution
-Congressional Legislation to provide further details not laid out in the constitution
- eg: Impeachment and any vague provision such as the necessary and proper clause.
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached.
- Executive orders
- Executive Priviledge
Ratification Politics: The Era
- Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the US or by any State on account of sex” (this did not pass)
- Demonstrates the difficulties of amending the constitution.
The Constitution is often based in natural law which implies a universal sense of right and wrong, an idea respected by most of the founders.
The following are notable quotes from James Madison:
“If men were angels, no goverment would be necessary”
“You must first enable the goverment to control the goverment and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
- The idea that goverment should be able to control itself is a belief Madison expoused in fedralist # 51
- Madison believed that the accumulation of all powers (legislative, executive, and judicial) was the formula for a tyranny. This was expressed in fderalist #47 (fedralist papers)
- The theory that each branch should be able to stop some of the acts of the others to ensure that no one branch dominates our goverment is know as the system of CHECKS and BALANCES.
Today in history, on December 29th...
- The “Railway Rapist” attacks 19-year-old Alison Day and abducts her from a London train. Although the perpetrator had attacked and raped many women since 1982, this was his first murder, 1985
- Ted Danson, who will become best known for his role as bar owner Sam Malone on the mega-hit TV sitcom Cheers, is born in San Diego, California, 1947
- In the final chapter of America’s long Indian wars, the U.S. Cavalry kills 146 Sioux at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, including Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux Chief, 1890
- The first game is played between two teams of the first professional baseball league in Cuba, later known as the Cuban League. Havana defeated Almendares 21-20, 1878
- Six months after the congress of the Republic of Texas accepts U.S. annexation of the territory, Texas is admitted into the United States as the 28th state, 1845
- President Andrew Johnson is born in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1808
"Seward was tested in 1865 as few men are ever tested:
by the carriage accident, by the attack of the assassin, by the near death of his son Frederick, by the death of his good friend and leader Lincoln, and then by the death of his wife Frances.”
“One key change in Seward’s life was his relationship with the president. Seward mourned Lincoln’s death for many months….although Seward had played a key role in selecting Andrew Johnson as vice president, and thus in making him president, he did not know Johnson well at the time he became president, and the two men never became close.”
SEWARD MISSES LINCOLN
1865: THE YEAR SEWARD’S LIFE SERIOUSLY SUCKED
So I've been increasingly frustrated with Seward's post-Lincoln politics.
He kept supporting President Johnson even when Johnson was clearly doing things for the wrong reasons and vetoing the hell out of everything (though Seward supported some of these motions from a different point of view)
so I was like WHY DON’T YOU CRITICIZE HIM MORE, SEWARD?? WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS HELPING HIM?! YOU ARE BETRAYING YOUR OWN PARTY! STOP BEING SO DAMN LOYAL TO EVERYONE
and then I realized
Seward saw Johnson as the man who was charged with carrying out Lincoln’s unfinished work
so maybe he just wanted to help Johnson in every way not only because of the loyalty of his position
but because it was all Seward had left of his friend Lincoln, and in serving Johnson, Seward was serving Lincoln in the only way he could anymore.