[Delete this text and type your explanation of what social equality means here.]
[Delete this text and type your explanation of what social equity means. Remember to
focus on how it differs from social equality.]
Examples of Equality & Equity in the Workplace
[Delete this text and describe some examples of both social equality and social equity in
the workplace here. Remember to describe examples of both. And focus on providing
examples that really demonstrate you understand the difference between the two
Importance of Equality & Equity in the Workplace
[Delete this text and explain why promoting more social equality and social equity in
your workplace is important. In other words, why is this a good thing to do? What do
you hope to accomplish by making policy changes?]
Plans to Implement Equality & Equity in the Workplace
[Delete this text and describe the policies you think should be implemented to promote
more social equality and social equity in your imaginary workplace. Remember: this
assignment requires students to write ‘in character,’ using creativity and imagination.
So, really focus on making your writing sound professional and realistic – as if you are a
supervisor implementing specific workplace changes to generate more equality and
equity in your workplace.]
The Events Leading to Independence
In 1763, few would have predicted that by 1776 a revolution would be unfolding in British
The ingredients of discontent seemed lacking — at least on the surface. The colonies were not in
a state of economic crisis; on the contrary, they were relatively prosperous. Unlike the Irish, no
groups of American citizens were clamoring for freedom from England based on national
identity. King George III was not particularly despotic — surely not to the degree his
predecessors of the previous century had been.
Furthermore, the colonies were not unified. Benjamin Franklin discovered this quite clearly
when he devised the Albany Plan of Union in 1754. This plan, under the slogan "Join, or Die,"
would have brought the colonial rivals together to meet the common threat of the French and
Indians. Much to Franklin's chagrin, this plan was soundly defeated.
Ben Franklin sketched this cartoon to illustrate the urgency of his 1754 Albany Plan of Union. He unsuccessfully
tried to bring the colonies together to defend themselves against Indian and French threats.
How, then, in a few short years did everything change? What happened to make the American
colonists, most of whom thought of themselves as English subjects, want to break the ties that
bound them to their forebears? What forces led the men and women in the 13 different colonies
to set aside their differences and unanimously declare their independence?
Much happened between the years of 1763 and 1776. The colonists felt unfairly taxed, watched
over like children, and ignored in their attempts to address grievances. Religious issues rose to
the surface, political ideals crystallized, and, as always, economics were the essence of many
For their part, the British found the colonists unwilling to pay their fair share for the
administration of the Empire. After all, citizens residing in England paid more in taxes than was
asked of any American during the entire time of crisis.
The 1770 Boston Massacre was only one in a series of events that led American colonists to revolt against Britain.
This was not the first time American colonists found themselves in dispute with Great Britain.
But this time the cooler heads did not prevail. Every action by one side brought an equally strong
response from the other. The events during these important years created sharp divisions among
the English people, among the colonists themselves, and between the English and the Colonists.
Over time, the geographic distance between England and the colonies became more and more
noticeable. It took England time to respond to Colonial provocations and to administer the settled
areas of America. Further, some now questioned how it could be that a tiny island nation could
contain and rule the American continent.
Before long, the point of no return was reached.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763
After Britain won the Seven Years' War and gained land in North America, it issued the Royal Proclamation of
1763, which prohibited American colonists from settling west of Appalachia.
The Treaty of Paris, which marked the end of the French and Indian War, granted Britain a great
deal of valuable North American land. But the new land also gave rise to a plethora of problems.
The ceded territory, known as the Ohio Valley, was marked by the Appalachian Mountains in the
east and the Mississippi River in the west.
Don't Go West, Young Man
Despite the acquisition of this large swath of land, the British tried to discourage American
colonists from settling in it. The British already had difficulty administering the settled areas east
of the Appalachians. Americans moving west would stretch British administrative resources thin.
Further, just because the French government had yielded this territory to Britain did not mean the
Ohio Valley's French inhabitants would readily give up their claims to land or trade routes.
Scattered pockets of French settlers made the British fearful of another prolonged conflict. The
war had dragged on long enough, and the British public was weary of footing the bill.
Moreover, the Native Americans, who had allied themselves with the French during the Seven
Years' War, continued to fight after the peace had been reached. Pontiac's Rebellion continued
after the imperial powers achieved a ceasefire.
The last thing the British government wanted were hordes of American colonists crossing the
Appalachians fueling French and Native American resentment.
The solution seemed simple. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued, which declared the
boundaries of settlement for inhabitants of the 13 colonies to be Appalachia.
Proclaim and Inflame
But what seemed simple to the British was not acceptable to their colonial subjects. This remedy
did not address some concerns vitally important to the colonies. Colonial blood had been shed to
fight the French and Indians, not to cede land to them. What was to be said for American
colonists who had already settled in the West?
In addition, the colonies themselves had already begun to set their sights on expanding their
western boundaries; such planning sometimes even causing tension among the colonies. Why
restrict their appetites to expand? Surely this must be a plot to keep the American colonists under
the imperial thumb and east of the mountains, where they could be watched.
Consequently, this law was observed with the same reverence the colonists reserved for the
mercantile laws. Scores of wagons headed westward. How could the British possibly enforce this
decree? It was nearly impossible.
The Proclamation of 1763 merely became part of the long list of events in which the intent and
actions of one side was misunderstood or disregarded by the other.
The Stamp Act
One of these was the Stamp Act, which Parliament passed in March 1765, things changed. It was
the first direct tax on the American colonies. Every legal document had to be written on specially
stamped paper, showing proof of payment. Deeds, wills, marriage licenses — contracts of any
sort — were not recognized as legal in a court of law unless they were prepared on this paper. In
addition, newspaper, dice, and playing cards also had to bear proof of tax payment. American
activists sprang into action.
Taxation in this manner and the Quartering Act (which required the American colonies to
provide food and shelter for British troops) were soundly thrashed in colonial assemblies. From
Patrick Henry in Virginia to James Otis in Massachusetts, Americans voiced their protest. A
Stamp Act Congress was convened in the colonies to decide what to do.
The colonists put their words into action and enacted widespread boycotts of British goods.
Radical groups such as the Sons and Daughters of Liberty did not hesitate to harass tax collectors
or publish the names of those who did not comply with the boycotts.
Soon, the pressure on Parliament by business-starved British merchants was too great to bear.
The Stamp Act was repealed the following year.
The crisis was over, but the uneasy peace did not last long.
Angry Bostonians rebelled against British taxation and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston
The British East India Company was on the brink of financial collapse. Lord North hatched a
scheme to deal simultaneously with the ailing corporation and the problem of taxing the
colonies. He decided to grant the British East India Company a trading monopoly with the
A tax on tea would be maintained, but the company would actually be able to sell its tea for a
price that was lower than before. A monopoly doesn't allow for competition. As such the British
East India Company could lower its prices
British ships carrying the controversial cargo were met with threats of violence in virtually all
colonial ports. This was usually sufficient to convince the ships to turn around. In Annapolis,
citizens burned a ship and the tea it carried. Boston reacted in a similarly extreme fashion.
The Boston Tea Party
Governor Thomas Hutchinson allowed three ships carrying tea to enter Boston Harbor. Before
the tax could be collected, Bostonians took action. On a cold December night, radical
townspeople stormed the ships and tossed 342 chests of tea into the water. Disguised as Native
Americans, the offenders could not be identified.
The damage in modern American dollars exceeded three quarters of a million dollars. Not a
single British East India Company chest of tea bound for the 13 colonies reached its destination.
Not a single American colonist had a cup of that tea.
E Pluribus Unum
Committees of Correspondence
American patriots of the 1770s did not have modern means of communication at their disposal.
To spread the power of the written word from town to town and colony to colony, Committees of
Correspondence were established. The Committees of Correspondence were bold enough to use
the British postal service as the means of communication. For the most part, the pen was their
weapon of choice, but revolutionary sentiment did at times take other forms. For example the
Committee of Correspondence in Boston gave its blessing on the raiding of the Dartmouth and
the destruction of its cargo that became known as the Boston Tea Party. Before the Tea crisis
had passed, each colony had a central committee designed to coordinate discussion with the
other twelve colonies.
First Continental Congress
On September 1774, the First Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia. A
declaration of colonial rights was drafted and sent to London. Much of the debate revolved
around defining the colonies' relationship with mother England. Parliament chose to ignore the
Congress, so they reconvened that next May.
Lexington and Concord
Britain's General Gage had a secret plan.
During the wee hours of April 19, 1775, he would send out regiments of British soldiers
quartered in Boston. Their destinations were Lexington, where they would capture Colonial
leaders Sam Adams and John Hancock, then Concord, where they would seize gunpowder.
But spies and friends of the Americans leaked word of Gage's plan.
Two lanterns hanging from Boston's North Church informed the countryside that the British
were going to attack by sea. A series of horseback riders — men such as Paul Revere, William
Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott — galloped off to warn the countryside that the Regulars
(British troops) were coming.
Word spread from town to town, and militias prepared to confront the British and help their
neighbors in Lexington and Concord. When the advance guard of nearly 240 British soldiers
arrived in Lexington, they found about 70 minutemen formed on the Lexington Green awaiting
them. Both sides eyed each other warily, not knowing what to expect. Suddenly, a bullet buzzed
through the morning air. It was "the shot heard round the world."
The numerically superior British killed seven Americans on Lexington Green and marched off to
Concord with new regiments who had joined them. But American militias arriving at Concord
thwarted the British advance.
As the British retreated toward Boston, new waves of Colonial militia intercepted them.
Shooting from behind fences and trees, the militias inflicted over 125 casualties, including
several officers. The ferocity of the encounter surprised both sides.
The Americans surrounded the town of Boston, and the rebel army started gaining many new
recruits. During the battles of Lexington and Concord, 73 British soldiers had been killed and
174 wounded; 26 were missing. Lord Percy, who led the British back into Boston after the defeat
suffered at Concord, wrote back to London, "Whoever looks upon them [the Rebels] as an
irregular mob will be much mistaken."
Second Continental Congress
By the time this Congress met, the Battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought and won
by the colonists. Now the professional imperial army was attempting to arrest patriot leaders,
and minutemen had been killed in their defense. In May 1775, with Redcoats once again
storming Boston, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. The questions
were different this time. First and foremost, how would the colonist meet the military threat of
the British. It was agreed that a Continental Army would be created. The Congress
commissioned George Washington of Virginia to be the supreme commander, who chose to
serve without pay. How would supplies be paid for? The Congress authorized the printing of
money. Before the leaves had turned, Congress had even appointed a standing committee to
conduct relations with foreign governments, should the need ever arise to ask for help. No longer
was the Congress dealing with mere grievances. It was a full-fledged governing body.
Still, in May of 1775 the majority of delegates were not seeking independence from Britain.
Only radicals like John Adams were of this mindset. In fact, that July Congress approved the
Olive Branch Petition, a direct appeal to the king. The American delegates pleaded with George
III to attempt peaceful resolution and declared their loyalty to the Crown. The King refused to
receive this petition and instead declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion in August. As
the seasons changed and hostilities continued, cries for independence grew stronger. The men in
Philadelphia were now wanted for treason. They continued to govern and hope against hope that
all would end well. For them, the summer of 1776 brought the point of no return — a formal
declaration of independence.
The Declaration of Independence
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the Congress that declared the
thirteen colonies "free and independent states." Congress did not act on the resolution
immediately. A vote was set for early July. In the meantime it seemed appropriate that some sort
of explanation was in order for such a bold act. A subcommittee of five, including Benjamin
Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, was selected to choose the careful wording. Such a
document must be persuasive to a great many parties. Americans would read this and join the
patriot cause. Sympathetic Britons would read this and urge royal restraint. Foreign powers
would read this and aid the colonial militia. They might, that is, if the text were convincing. The
five agreed that Jefferson was the most talented writer. They would advise on his prose.
The declaration is divided into three main parts. The first was a simple statement of intent.
Jefferson's words echo down through the decades of American life until the present day. Phrases
like "all men are created equal," "unalienable rights," and "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness"
have bounced from the lips of Americans in grammar school and retirement. All are contained in
the first section that outlines the basic principles of the enlightened leaders. The next section is a
list of grievances; that is, why the colonies deemed independence appropriate. King George was
guilty of "repeated injuries" that intended to establish "absolute tyranny" in North America. He
has "plundered our seas, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." It was
difficult for Americans to argue his points. The concluding paragraph officially dissolves ties
with Britain. It also shows modern readers the courage taken by each delegate who would sign.
They were now officially guilty of treason and would hang in the gallows if taken before a royal
court. Thus, they would "pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Debate in the Congress followed. Jefferson watched painfully as the other delegates tweaked his
prose. Jefferson had wanted to include a passage blaming the king for the slave trade, for
example, but the southern delegates insisted upon its removal. Finally on July 4, 1776, the
colonies approved the document. The vote was twelve to zero, with the New York delegation
abstaining. As president of the Congress, John Hancock scrawled his famous signature across the
bottom and history was made. If the American effort was successful, they would be hailed as
heroes. If it failed, they would be hanged as traitors.
The Revolutionary War
When the possibility of a clash with the British became real, New England farmers began to arm
themselves and train for battle. These troops were dubbed "minutemen" because they could be
ready to fight in a minute. This monument to the minutemen stands in Concord, Massachusetts.
How could the Americans ever hope defeat the mighty British Empire in a military conflict?
Americans faced seemingly impossible obstacles. When the guns fired at Lexington and Concord
in 1775, there was not yet even a Continental Army. Those battles were fought by local militias.
Few Americans had any military experience, and there was no method of training, supplying, or
paying an army.
Moreover, a majority of Americans opposed the war in 1775. Many historians believe only about
a third of all Americans supported a war against the British at that time.
Further, the Colonies had a poor track record of working together.
How, then, could a ragtag group of patriots defeat the British?
The early stages of war, in 1775, can be best described as British military victories and American
moral triumphs. The British routed the minutemen at Lexington, but the relentless colonists
unleashed brutal sniper fire on the British returning to Boston from Concord.
In June 1775, the colonists failed to prevail at Bunker Hill, but inflicted heavy casualties on a
vastly superior military force. A year later, in 1776, while the British occupied New York,
Washington led his army to two surprise victories at Trenton and Princeton that uplifted the
morale of the patriots.
Regardless, by 1777 the British occupied Philadelphia, the seat of the Continental Congress, and
sent that body into hiding. The British also controlled New York City and pretty much had their
way in the waters along the Eastern Seaboard. In fact, there was no Continental Navy to speak of
at this time. Meanwhile, the British began mounting a southward attack from Canada into upstate
New York. This threatened to cut New England off from the rest of the Colonies.
Saratoga and Valley Forge: The Tide Turns
The Battle of Saratoga, in northern New York, served as a critical turning point. The British
attempt to capture the Hudson River Valley ended with their surrender to General Horatio Gates
in October. Washington, having lost Philadelphia, led his troops to Valley Forge to spend the
winter. None of the world's powers had come to the aid of the patriot cause — yet.
In early 1778, the French agreed to recognize American independence and formed a permanent
alliance with the new nation. Military help and sizable stores of much-needed gunpowder soon
arrived. The tide was beginning to turn.
The surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown marked the end of the Revolutionary War. This painting by John
Trumbull is 12 feet by 18 feet and hangs in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building.
A New Type of War
The British grew increasingly frustrated. The loss at Saratoga was humiliating. Capturing the
enemy's capital, Philadelphia, did not bring them much advantage. As long as the American
Continental Army and state militias remained in the field, the British had to keep on fighting.
And no matter how much damage the British did to American cities or private property, the
Americans refused to surrender. This was a new type of war.
Having failed in the north, the British turned their attention to the south. They hoped to inspire
Loyalist support among dissatisfied Americans — a hope that was never realized. Fighting
continued. The threat of French naval participation kept the British uneasy.
A Stunning Defeat
In October 1781, the war virtually came to an end when General Cornwallis was surrounded and
forced to surrender the British position at Yorktown, Virginia. Two years later, the Treaty of
Paris made it official: America was independent.
How could the Americans ever hope defeat the mighty British Empire in a military conflict?
Perhaps an even better question to ask is, How did the mighty British Empire ever expect to
vanquish the Americans?
Articles of Confederation
The Bill of Rights
Every society needs a set of rules by which to operate. After the colonies declared independence
from Great Britain, they had to write their own constitutions. Impassioned with the republican
spirit of the Revolution, political leaders pointed their ideals toward crafting "enlightened"
documents. The result was thirteen republican laboratories, each experimenting with new ways
of realizing the goals of the Revolution. In addition, representatives from all the colonies worked
together to craft the Articles of Confederation, which itself provided the nascent nation with
The state constitutions had much in common with each other. Fearful of a strong monarch, the
states were reluctant to grant sweeping powers to a new government. Most governors were kept
purposefully weak to deter an individual from aspiring to regal status or power. The legislative
and judicial branches were elected regularly, so voters could hold them regularly accountable for
their actions. Most states granted their people a Bill of Rights to protect treasured liberties from
the threat of future despotism. Property requirements were still maintained, but in many cases
they were lowered. Although the wealthy maintained a disproportionately large percentage of
legislative seats, their influence was diminished. This is reflected in the post-Revolutionary
transfer of state capitals from wealthy seaboard towns to the interior. At least seven states moved
their centers of government. The most notable changes occurred in Pennsylvania, which moved
its capital from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, and in New York, which transferred its governing
seat from New York City to Albany.
Massachusetts developed an idea that would soon be implemented by the entire nation. They
made any changes to their constitution possible only by constitutional convention. This inspired
the nation's leaders to ratify changes in the Articles of Confederation the same way. Truly
political ideals of equality were set into place in the states before the war even came to a close.
The Articles of Confederation, this first national "constitution" for the United States was not
particularly innovative, and mostly put into written form how the Congress had operated since
Even though the Articles were rather modest in their proposals, they would not be ratified by all
the states until 1781. Even this was accomplished largely because the dangers of war demanded
The purpose of the central government was clearly stated in the Articles. The Congress had
control over diplomacy, printing money, resolving controversies between different states, and,
most importantly, coordinating the war effort. The most important action of the Continental
Congress was probably the creation and maintenance of the Continental Army. Even in this area,
however, the central government's power was quite limited. While Congress could call on states
to contribute specific resources and numbers of men for the army, it was not allowed to force
states to obey the central government's request for aid.
The organization of Congress itself demonstrates the primacy of state power. Each state had one
vote. Nine out of thirteen states had to support a law for it to be enacted. Furthermore, any
changes to the Articles themselves would require unanimous agreement. In the one-state, onevote rule, state sovereignty was given a primary place even within the national government.
Furthermore, the whole national government consisted entirely of the unicameral (one body)
Congress with no executive and no judicial organizations.
The national Congress' limited power was especially clear when it came to money issues. Not
surprisingly, given that the Revolution's causes had centered on opposition to unfair taxes, the
central government had no power to raise its own revenues through taxation. All it could do was
request that the states give it the money necessary to run the government and wage the war. By
1780, with the outcome of the war still very much undecided, the central government had run out
of money and was bankrupt! As a result the paper money it issued was basically worthless.
The states now faced serious and complicated questions about how to make their rules. What did
it mean to replace royal authority with institutions based on popular rule? How was "popular
sovereignty" (the idea that the people were the highest authority) to be institutionalized in the
new state governments? For that matter, who were "the people"?
Every state chose to answer these questions in different ways based on distinctive local
experiences, but in most cases colonial traditions were continued, but modified, so that the
governor (the executive) lost significant power, while the assemblies (the legislative branch,
which represented the people most directly) became much more important. We'll focus on the
new rules created in three states to suggest the range of answers to the question about how to
organize republican governments based upon popular rule.
John Adams remarked that the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 was "so democratical that it must produce
confusion and every evil work." He would be elected to the Presidency in 1796.
Pennsylvania created the most radical state constitution of the period. Following the idea of
popular rule to its logical conclusion, Pennsylvania created a state government with several
distinctive features. First, the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 abolished property requirements
for voting as well as for holding office. If you were an adult man who paid taxes, then you were
allowed to vote or even to run for office. This was a dramatic expansion of who was considered a
political person, but other aspects of the new state government were even more radical.
Pennsylvania also became a "unicameral" government where the legislature only had one body.
Furthermore, the office of the governor was entirely eliminated. Radicals in Pennsylvania
observed that the governor was really just like a small-scale king and that an upper legislative
body (like the House of Lords in Parliament) was supposed to represent wealthy men and
aristocrats. Rather than continue those forms of government, the Pennsylvania constitution
decided that "the people" could rule most effectively through a single body with complete
Many conservative Patriots met Pennsylvania's new design with horror. When John Adams
described the Pennsylvania constitution, he only had bad things to say. To him it was "so
democratical that it must produce confusion and every evil work." Clearly, popular rule did not
mean sweeping democratic changes to all Patriots.
South Carolina's state constitution of 1778 created new rules at the opposite end of the political
spectrum from Pennsylvania. In South Carolina, white men had to possess a significant amount
of property to vote, and they had to own even more property to be allowed to run for political
office. In fact, these property requirements were so high that 90 percent of all white adults were
prevented from running for political office!
This dramatic limitation of who could be an elected political leader reflected a central tradition
of 18th-century Anglo-American political thought. Only individuals who were financially
independent were believed to have the self-control to make responsible and reasonable
judgments about public matters. As a result poor white men, all women, children, and African
Americans (whether free or slave) were considered too dependent on others to exercise reliable
political judgment. While most of these traditional exclusions from political participation have
been ended in America today, age limitations remain, largely unchallenged.
The creation of the Massachusetts state constitution of 1780 offered yet another way to answer
some of the questions about the role of "the people" in creating a republican government. When
the state legislature presented the voters with a proposed constitution in 1778, it was rejected
because the people thought that this was too important an issue for the government to present to
the people. If the government could make its own rules, then it could change them whenever it
wanted and easily take away peoples' liberties. Following through on this logic, Massachusetts
held a special convention in 1780 where specially elected representatives met to decide on the
best framework for the new state government.
This idea of a special convention of the people to decide important constitutional issues was part
of a new way of thinking about popular rule that would play a central role in the ratification of
the national Constitution in 1787-1788.
Drafting the Constitution
Since 1787, people from around the world have come to tour Independence Hall, where the
Constitution of the United States was signed.
The 1780s has often been termed the "critical period" for the new nation. The dangers posed by
economic crisis and the disillusionment that came with the collapse of Revolutionary
expectations for dramatically improved conditions combined to make the decade a period of
discontent, reconsideration, and, in the end, a dramatic new proposal for redirecting the nation.
Just as the Revolution had been born of diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives, even
among the Patriots, so too, ideas about the future of the United States in the 1780s were often
cast in dramatic opposition to one another.
The new plan for the nation was called the Federal Constitution. It had been drafted by a group
of national leaders in Philadelphia in 1787, who then presented it to the general public for
consideration. The Constitution amounted to a whole new set of rules for organizing national
government and indicates the intensity of political thought in the era as well as how much had
changed since 1776. The proposed national framework called for a strong central government
that would have authority over the states. At the same time, the proposed Constitution also
centrally involved the people in deciding whether or not to accept the new plan through a process
In spite of the common vision and status that linked most of the delegates to the Philadelphia
Convention, no obvious route existed for how to revise the Articles of Confederation to build a
stronger central government.
The meeting began by deciding several important procedural issues that were not controversial
and that significantly shaped how the Convention operated. First, George Washington was
elected as the presiding officer. They also decided to continue the voting precedent followed by
the Congress where each state got one vote.
James Madison is known as the "Father of the Constitution."
They also agreed to hold their meeting in secret.
There would be no public access to the Convention's discussions and the delegates agreed not to
discuss matters with the press. The delegates felt that secrecy would allow them to explore issues
with greater honesty than would be possible if everything that they said became public
In fact, the public knew almost nothing about the actual proceedings of the Convention until
James Madison's notes about it were published after his death in the 1840s.
The delegates also made a final crucial and sweeping early decision about how to run the
Convention. They agreed to go beyond the instructions of the Congress by not merely
considering revisions to the Articles of Confederation, but to try and construct a whole new
The assembly room inside Independence Hall is where the Constitution was signed in 1787.
The stage was now set for James Madison, the best prepared and most influential of the delegates
at the Philadelphia Convention. His proposal, now known as the Virginia Plan, called for a
strong central government with three distinctive elements.
First, it clearly placed national supremacy above state sovereignty.
Second, this strengthened central government would have a close relationship with the people,
who could directly vote for some national leaders.
Third, Madison proposed that the central government be made up of three distinct branches: a
bicameral legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. The lower house of the legislature would be
elected directly by the people and then the lower house would elect the upper house. Together
they would choose the executive and judiciary.
By having the foundational body of the proposed national government elected by the people at
large, rather than through their state legislatures, the national government would remain a
republic with a direct link to ordinary people even as it expanded its power.
After deliberating for months, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention approved their new
Constitution in September 1787.
Madison's Virginia Plan was bold and creative. Further, it established a strong central
government, which most delegates supported. Nevertheless, it was rejected at the Convention by
opposition from delegates representing states with small populations.
These small states would have their national influence dramatically curbed in the proposed move
from one-state one-vote (as under the Articles) to general voting for the lower legislative house
where overall population would be decisive.
The Virginia Plan was unacceptable to all the small states, who countered with another proposal,
dubbed the New Jersey Plan, that would continue more along the lines of how Congress already
operated under the Articles. This plan called for a unicameral legislature with the one vote per
state formula still in place.
Although the division between large and small states (really between high and low population
states) might seem simplistic, it was the major hurdle that delegates to the Convention needed to
overcome to design a stronger national government, which they all agreed was needed.
After long debates and a close final vote, the Virginia Plan was accepted as a basis for further
discussion. This agreement to continue to debate also amounted to a major turning point. The
delegates had decided that they should craft a new constitutional structure to replace the Articles.
This was so stunning a change and such a large expansion of their original instructions from the
Congress that two New York delegates left in disgust.
Could the states ever form a more perfect union?
After hot summer months of difficult debate in Philadelphia from May to September 1787, the
delegates had fashioned new rules for a stronger central government that extended national
power well beyond the scope of the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution created a
national legislature that could pass the supreme law of the land, could raise taxes, and with
greater control over commerce. The proposed rules also would restrict state actions, especially in
regard to passing pro-debtor laws. At the end of the long process of creating the new plan, thirtyeight of the remaining forty-one delegates showed their support by signing the proposed
Constitution. This small group of national superstars had created a major new framework
through hard work and compromise.
The supporters of the proposed Constitution called themselves "Federalists." Their adopted name
implied a commitment to a loose, decentralized system of government. In many respects
"federalism" — which implies a strong central government — was the opposite of the proposed
plan that they supported. A more accurate name for the supporters of the Constitution would
have been "nationalists."
The "nationalist" label, however, would have been a political liability in the 1780s. Traditional
political belief of the Revolutionary Era held that strong centralized authority would inevitably
lead to an abuse of power. The Federalists were also aware that that the problems of the country
in the 1780s stemmed from the weaknesses of the central government created by the Articles of
For Federalists, the Constitution was required in order to safeguard the liberty and independence
that the American Revolution had created. While the Federalists definitely had developed a new
political philosophy, they saw their most import role as defending the social gains of the
Revolution. As James Madison, one of the great Federalist leaders later explained, the
Constitution was designed to be a "republican remedy for the diseases most incident to
The Peculiar Institution
Slaves being put up for auction were kept in pens like this one in Alexandria, Virginia — just a few miles from
"The Peculiar Institution" is slavery. Its history in America begins with the earliest European
settlements and ends with the Civil War. Yet its echo continues to reverberate loudly. Slavery
existed both in the north and in the South, at times in equal measure. The industrialization of the
north and the expansion of demand for cotton in the south shifted the balance so that it became a
regional issue, as the southern economy grew increasingly reliant on cheap labor. As is always
true in history, cultures grow and thrive in all conditions. Two interdependent cultures emerged
in the American south before the Civil War — the world the slaveholders created for themselves
and the world of their slaves. Even though slaves were not permitted to express themselves
freely, they were able to fight back even though enchained.
Slaves worked long hours in the hot sun picking cotton for their owners. Overseers watched the slaves progress and
disciplined those that were deemed to be working too slow.
Although African-Americans had been brought to British America since the time of Jamestown
colony, American slavery adopted many of its defining characteristics in the 19th century. The
cotton gin had not been invented until the last decade of the 1700s. This new invention led the
American south to emerge as the world's leading producer of cotton. As the south prospered,
southerners became more and more nervous about their future. Plantation life became the goal of
all the south, as poor yeoman farmers aspired to one day become planters themselves. Rebellions
and abolitionists led southerners to establish an even tighter grip on the enslaved.
Even amidst the bondage in the south, there was a significant population of free AfricanAmericans who were creating and inventing and being productive.
The Peculiar Institution refused to die. Great Britain had outlawed the slave trade long before its
former American colonies.
New nations in the Western Hemisphere, such as Mexico, often banned slavery upon achieving
But in America, political, religious, economic and social arguments in favor of the continuation
of slavery emerged. Slavery became a completely sectional issue, as few states above the MasonDixon Line still permitted human bondage. These arguments also revealed the growing
separation in the needs and priorities of the northern industrial interests versus the southern
planting society, all of which culminated in the Civil War.
Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center
Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery when he was 20 years old. Eventually, his freedom was purchased by
When Americans think of African-Americans in the Deep South before the Civil War, the first
image that invariably comes to mind is one of slavery. However, many African-Americans were
able to secure their freedom and live in a state of semi-freedom even before slavery was
abolished by war. Free blacks lived in all parts of the United States, but the majority lived amid
slavery in the American South. It is estimated that by 1860 there were about 1.5 million free
blacks in the southern states.
How did African-Americans become free? Some slaves bought their own freedom from their
owners, but this process became more and more rare as the 1800s progressed. Many slaves
became free through manumission, the voluntary emancipation of a slave by a slaveowner.
Manumission was sometimes offered because slaves had outlived their usefulness or were held
in special favor by their masters. The offspring of interracial relations were often set free. Some
slaves were set free by their masters as the abolitionist movement grew. Occasionally slaves
were freed during the master's lifetime, and more often through the master's will. Many AfricanAmericans freed themselves through escape. A few Americans of African descent came to the
United States as immigrants, especially common in the New Orleans area.
Slaves found many ways to escape to freedom. Henry Box Brown had himself mailed to an abolitionist in
Pennsylvania. He went on to become a famous anti-slavery speaker.
Were free blacks offered the same rights as free whites? The answer is quite simply no. For
example, a Virginia law, passed in the early 1830s, prohibited the teaching of all blacks to read
or write. Free blacks throughout the South were banned from possessing firearms, or preaching
the Bible. Later laws even prohibited Negroes who went out of state to get an education from
returning. In many states, the slave codes that were designed to keep African-Americans in
bondage were also applied to free persons of color. Most horrifically, free blacks could not
testify in court. If a slave catcher claimed that a free African-American was a slave, the accused
could not defend himself in court.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded despite protests from the white church from which its
The church often played a central role in the community of free blacks. The establishment of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church represents an important shift. It was established with black
leadership and spread from Philadelphia to Charleston and to many other areas in the South,
despite laws which forbade blacks from preaching. The church suffered brutalities and massive
arrests of its membership, clearly an indication of the fear of black solidarity. Many of these
leaders became diehard abolitionists.
Free blacks were highly skilled as artisans, business people, educators, writers, planters,
musicians, tailors, hairdressers, and cooks. African-American inventors like Thomas L. Jennings,
who invented a method for the dry cleaning of clothes, and Henry Blair Glenn Ross, who
patented a seed planter, contributed to the advancement of science. Some owned property and
kept boarding houses, and some even owned slaves themselves. Prominent among free persons
of color of the period are Frederick Douglass, Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and Harriet
Rebellions on and off the Plantation
Gateway Virginia, The Richmond Times Dispatch
In 1800 Gabriel Prosser conspired to lead a march on Richmond, capture the governor, and start a revolution.
Starting as early as 1663, slaves were organizing revolts to regain their freedom. Hundreds of
minor uprisings occurred on American plantations during the two and a half centuries of slavery.
Most of the uprisings were small in scope and were put down easily. Some were larger in
ambition and sent a chill down the spines of countless Southern planters. Two of the most
famous revolts were in the early nineteenth century. One was led by Denmark Vesey and the
other was led by Nat Turner.
Denmark Vesey earned his freedom by winning a lottery and purchasing his freedom. He worked
as a carpenter in South Carolina as a respected artisan for years and was quite satisfied with his
life. He was an educated man, fluent in several languages, which he learned while he was
enslaved to a widely traveled slave trader. But a profound repulsion to slavery, plus
encouragement from the successful slave revolt in Haiti led him to plan to murder every white in
the South, with the help of thousands of slaves and supporters. The date was set for Sunday, July
24, 1822. Before the uprising began, his plan was revealed and he was captured, tried, and
hanged. Forty-seven African-Americans were condemned to death for alleged involvement in the
plot. An estimated 9,000 individuals were involved.
The success of Nat Turner's slave revolt lead to fear among slaveholders. Slave codes became more strict with
concerns that other slaves might rebel.
Nat Turner was somewhat of a mystic. He frequently was said to have religious visions, and he
claimed at times to have spoken with God. In 1831, Turner claimed to be responding to one of
these visions and organized about 70 slaves who went from plantation to plantation and
murdered about 75 men, women and children. As they continued on their rampage they gathered
additional supporters but when their ammunition was exhausted, they were captured. Turner and
about 18 of his supporters were hanged. This was even more shocking than any previous
uprising. Turner had done what others had not. He actually succeeded in killing a large number
of white Southerners. The South responded by increasing slave patrols and tightening their ever
more repressive slave codes.
The Haitian slaves commemorated in this monument gained their freedom in a revolt, inspiring Denmark Vesey.
Rebellion would often find voice in less dramatic ways and more personal ways. The slave codes
bear witness to the growing fear of slave insurrection and revolt. Slaves ran away in droves,
following the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada and the Northern states. They fled to
the Indians and joined them in their wars against the white settlers. Some accounts tell of slaves
poisoning their masters and mistresses. Some slaves banded together and stopped working, while
others deliberately slowed down their pace. The history of slave resistance and revolts is the
story of the desperate and sometimes successful attempt of people to gain their liberty in the face
of systematic repression and bondage.
The Southern Argument for Slavery
Southern slaveholders often used biblical passages to justify slavery.
Those who defended slavery rose to the challenge set forth by the Abolitionists. The defenders of
slavery included economics, history, religion, legality, social good, and even humanitarianism, to
further their arguments.
Defenders of slavery argued that the sudden end to the slave economy would have had a
profound and killing economic impact in the South where reliance on slave labor was the
foundation of their economy. The cotton economy would collapse. The tobacco crop would dry
in the fields. Rice would cease being profitable.
Defenders of slavery argued that if all the slaves were freed, there would be widespread
unemployment and chaos. This would lead to uprisings, bloodshed, and anarchy. They pointed to
the mob's "rule of terror" during the French Revolution and argued for the continuation of the
status quo, which was providing for affluence and stability for the slaveholding class and for all
free people who enjoyed the bounty of the slave society.
Defenders of slavery argued that slavery had existed throughout history and was the natural state
of mankind. The Greeks had slaves, the Romans had slaves, and the English had slavery until
Defenders of slavery noted that in the Bible, Abraham had slaves. They point to the Ten
Commandments, noting that "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, ... nor his manservant,
nor his maidservant." In the New Testament, Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his
master, and, although slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, Jesus never spoke
out against it.
Defenders of slavery turned to the courts, who had ruled, with the Dred Scott Decision, that all
blacks — not just slaves — had no legal standing as persons in our courts — they were property,
and the Constitution protected slave-holders' rights to their property.
Defenders of slavery argued that the institution was divine, and that it brought Christianity to the
heathen from across the ocean. Slavery was, according to this argument, a good thing for the
enslaved. John C. Calhoun said, "Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the
dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only
physically, but morally and intellectually."
Defenders of slavery argued that by comparison with the poor of Europe and the workers in the
Northern states, that slaves were better cared for. They said that their owners would protect and
assist them when they were sick and aged, unlike those who, once fired from their work, were
left to fend helplessly for themselves.
James Thornwell, a minister, wrote in 1860, "The parties in this conflict are not merely
Abolitionists and slaveholders, they are Atheists, Socialists, Communists, Red Republicans,
Jacobins on the one side and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other."
The violence of Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt frightened many southern slaveholders. Such unrest was used by
many as a reason to continue slavery.
When a society forms around any institution, as the South did around slavery, it will formulate a
set of arguments to support it. The Southerners held ever firmer to their arguments as the
political tensions in the country drew us ever closer to the Civil War.
In the heat of the Wilmot Proviso debate, many southern lawmakers began to question the right
of Congress to determine the status of slavery in any territory. According to John Calhoun, the
territories belonged to all the states. Why should a citizen of one state be denied the right to take
his property, including slaves, into territory owned by all? This line of reasoning began to
dominate the southern argument. The Congress had a precedent for outlawing slavery in
territories. It had done so in the Old Northwest with the passing of the Northwest Ordinance in
1787. The Missouri Compromise also had banned slavery above the 36º30' latitude lines. But
times were different.
As the Mexican War drew to a close and no compromise could be reached in the Wilmot
argument, the campaign for President became heated. The Democratic standard bearer, Lewis
Cass of Michigan, coined the term "popular sovereignty" for a new solution that had begun to
emerge. The premise was simple. Let the people of the territories themselves decide whether
slavery would be permitted. The solution seemed perfect. In a country that has championed
democracy, letting the people decide seemed right, if not obvious.
Although Taylor didn't advocate any position regarding slavery during his campaign, after his election he stated that
California and New Mexico should be admitted to the union and should decide their status by means of popular
sovereignty. Taylor's cabinet, shown here, had members of different sections of the nation with differing opinions on
However simple popular sovereignty seemed, it was difficult to put into practice. By what means
would the people decide? Directly or indirectly? If a popular vote were scheduled, what
guarantees could be made against voter fraud? If slavery were voted down, would the individuals
who already owned slaves be allowed to keep them? Cass and the Democrats did not say. His
opponent, Zachary Taylor, ignored the issue of slavery altogether in his campaign, and won the
election of 1848.
As the 1840s melted into the 1850s, Stephen Douglas became the loudest proponent of popular
sovereignty. As long as the issue was discussed theoretically, he had many supporters. In fact, to
many, popular sovereignty was the perfect means to avoid the problem. But problems do not
tend to disappear when they are evaded — they often become worse.
The Compromise of 1850
California was admitted to the Union as the 16th free state. In exchange, the south was
guaranteed that no federal restrictions on slavery would be placed on Utah or New Mexico.
Texas lost its boundary claims in New Mexico, but the Congress compensated Texas with $10
million. Slavery was maintained in the nation's capital, but the slave trade was prohibited.
Finally, and most controversially, a Fugitive Slave Law was passed, requiring northerners to
return runaway slaves to their owners under penalty of law.
The Compromise of 1850 overturned the Missouri Compromise and left the overall issue of slavery unsettled.
Compromise of 1850
No slavery restrictions in Utah or New Mexico
California admitted as a free state
Slave trade prohibited in Washington D.C. Slaveholding permitted in Washington D.C.
Texas loses boundary dispute with New
Texas gets $10 million
Fugitive Slave Law
Who won and who lost in the deal? Although each side received benefits, the north seemed to
gain the most. The balance of the Senate was now with the free states, although California often
voted with the south on many issues in the 1850s. The major victory for the south was the
Fugitive Slave Law. In the end, the north refused to enforce it. Massachusetts even called for its
nullification, stealing an argument from John C. Calhoun. Northerners claimed the law was
unfair. The flagrant violation of the Fugitive Slave Law set the scene for the tempest that
emerged later in the decade. But for now, Americans hoped against hope that the fragile peace
The Kansas-Nebraska Act
Stephen Douglas, the sponsor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act as well as the most vocal supporter of popular
sovereignty, was known as the "Little Giant" because of his small stature.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 may have been the single most significant event leading to the
Civil War. By the early 1850s settlers and entrepreneurs wanted to move into the area now
known as Nebraska. However, until the area was organized as a territory, settlers would not
move there because they could not legally hold a claim on the land. The southern states'
representatives in Congress were in no hurry to permit a Nebraska territory because the land lay
north of the 36°30' parallel — where slavery had been outlawed by the Missouri Compromise of
1820. Just when things between the north and south were in an uneasy balance, Kansas and
Nebraska opened fresh wounds.
The person behind the Kansas-Nebraska Act was Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act began a chain of events in the Kansas Territory that foreshadowed the Civil War.
He said he wanted to see Nebraska made into a territory and, to win southern support, proposed a
southern state inclined to support slavery. It was Kansas. Underlying it all was his desire to build
a transcontinental railroad to go through Chicago. The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed each
territory to decide the issue of slavery on the basis of popular sovereignty. Kansas with slavery
would violate the Missouri Compromise, which had kept the Union from falling apart for the last
thirty-four years. The long-standing compromise would have to be repealed. Opposition was
intense, but ultimately the bill passed in May of 1854. Territory north of the sacred 36°30' line
was now open to popular sovereignty. The North was outraged.
The Kansas-Nebraska act made it possible for the Kansas and Nebraska territories (shown in orange) to open to
slavery. The Missouri Compromise had prevented this from happening since 1820.
The political effects of Douglas' bill were enormous. Passage of the bill irrevocably split the
Whig Party, one of the two major political parties in the country at the time. Every northern
Whig had opposed the bill; almost every southern Whig voted for it. With the emotional issue of
slavery involved, there was no way a common ground could be found. Most of the southern
Whigs soon were swept into the Democratic Party. Northern Whigs reorganized themselves with
other non-slavery interests to become the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln. This
left the Democratic Party as the sole remaining institution that crossed sectional lines. Animosity
between the North and South was again on the rise. The North felt that if the Compromise of
1820 was ignored, the Compromise of 1850 could be ignored as well. Violations of the hated
Fugitive Slave Law increased. Trouble was indeed back with a vengeance.
From Uneasy Peace to Bitter Conflict
Dred and Harriet Scott were taken through free territory on their way to St. Louis. Their court battle for freedom
added another facet to the slavery issue.
Between 1856 and 1860, America would see a breakdown in many of its political processes that
had developed over the last eight decades. The great compromisers of the early 19th century —
Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun — were gone, and their leadership in avoiding
disunion were gone as well. Forces on the extremes were becoming more and more powerful,
reducing the influence of moderates and crippling the spirit of reconciliation. Front and center
was the issue of slavery. Could the country be saved, or was it on an irrevocable path toward
The Congress and the Presidents of the past decade had failed to resolve the burning issue of
slavery in the territories. Could the Supreme Court, the highest law in the land, put the issue to
rest? Politicians and the American public hoped it could determine some long term framework
for settlement of the slavery issue. An opportunity was presented when the Dred Scott case
reached the High Court. As a slave having lived in a free territory, was he now free when he
returned to a slave state? No. And more — neither a state nor Congress had the right to outlaw
John Brown and his men hid inside this engine house for cover, but were captured there by Federal troops.
The Dred Scott decision was unacceptable in the north. This prompted a young lawyer from
Illinois to return to politics, seeking Stephen Douglas's seat in Congress — he was Abraham
Lincoln. A series of debates between the two foreshadowed the issues of the election 1860.
John Brown returned. He organized a daring attack on slavery by attempting to incite a mass
uprising of slaves, at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. While he failed in his effort to cause a slave
rebellion, he succeeded in causing an insurrection of conscience in the north as well as grave
misgivings in the south about its future in the Union.
The results of these events and the forces that caused them became hot spots in the cauldron of
electoral politics. The north could never accept a President who planned to protect or extend
slavery. The south would never accept a President who refused to do so. The nomination of
candidates and the election of the President in 1860 were among the most divisive events in the
history of this nation. Abraham Lincoln was President, and within weeks, 7 states left the Union
to form the Confederate States of America.
The Dred Scott Decision
Missouri Historical Society
Portrait of Dred Scott by Louis Schultze, painted from a photograph.
From the 1780s, the question of whether slavery would be permitted in new territories had
threatened the Union. Over the decades, many compromises had been made to avoid disunion.
But what did the Constitution say on this subject? This question was raised in 1857 before the
Supreme Court in case of Dred Scott vs. Sandford. Dred Scott was a slave of an army surgeon,
John Emerson. Scott had been taken from Missouri to posts in Illinois and what is now
Minnesota for several years in the 1830s, before returning to Missouri. The Missouri
Compromise of 1820 had declared the area including Minnesota free. In 1846, Scott sued for his
freedom on the grounds that he had lived in a free state and a free territory for a prolonged period
of time. Finally, after eleven years, his case reached the Supreme Court. At stake were answers
to critical questions, including slavery in the territories and citizenship of African-Americans.
The verdict was a bombshell.
The Court ruled that Scott's "sojourn" of two years to Illinois and the Northwest Territory
did not make him free once he returned to Missouri.
The Court further ruled that as a black man Scott was excluded from United States
citizenship and could not, therefore, bring suit. According to the opinion of the Court,
African-Americans had not been part of the "sovereign people" who made the
The Court also ruled that Congress never had the right to prohibit slavery in any territory.
Any ban on slavery was a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibited denying
property rights without due process of law.
The Missouri Compromise was therefore unconstitutional.
Dred Scott's battle for his freedom began at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Chief Justice of the United States was Roger B. Taney, a former slave owner, as were four
other southern justices on the Court. The two dissenting justices of the nine-member Court were
the only Republicans. The north refused to accept a decision by a Court they felt was dominated
by "Southern fire-eaters." Many Northerners, including Abraham Lincoln, felt that the next step
would be for the Supreme Court to decide that no state could exclude slavery under the
Constitution, regardless of their wishes or their laws.
Two of the three branches of government, the Congress and the President, had failed to resolve
the issue. Now the Supreme Court rendered a decision that was only accepted in the southern
half of the country. Was the American experiment collapsing? The only remaining national
political institution with both northern and southern strength was the Democratic Party, and it
was now splitting at the seams. The fate of the Union looked hopeless.
The South Secedes
Crowds gathered in front of the Capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, the day that the secession bill was
The force of events moved very quickly upon the election of Lincoln. South Carolina acted first,
calling for a convention to secede from the Union. State by state, conventions were held, and the
Confederacy was formed.
Within three months of Lincoln's election, seven states had seceded from the Union. Just as
Springfield, Illinois celebrated the election of its favorite son to the Presidency on November 7,
so did Charleston, South Carolina, which did not cast a single vote for him. It knew that the
election meant the formation of a new nation. The Charleston Mercury said, "The tea has been
thrown overboard, the revolution of 1860 has been initiated."
South Carolina Ordinance of Secession
We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and
it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by us in convention on the twenty-third
day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the
Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all acts and parts of acts of the
General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and
that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the "United
States of America," is hereby dissolved.
Done at Charleston the twentieth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
This map shows the states that seceded from the Union before the fall of Fort Sumter, those that seceded afterwards,
the slave states that did not secede, and the Union states.
Within a few days, the two United States Senators from South Carolina submitted their
resignations. On December 20, 1860, by a vote of 169-0, the South Carolina legislature enacted
an "ordinance" that "the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under
the name of 'The United States of America,' is hereby dissolved." As Grist had hoped, South
Carolina's action resulted in conventions in other southern states. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama,
Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas all left the Union by February 1. On February 4, delegates from
all these states except Texas met in Montgomery, Alabama, to create and staff a government
called the Confederate States of America. They elected President Jefferson Davis. The gauntlet
was thrown. How would the North respond?
Senator Crittenden's two sons went on to serve as generals on opposite sides of the Civil War.
A last ditch effort was made to end the crisis. Senator James Henry Crittenden proposed to
amend the Constitution to extend the old 36°30' line to the Pacific. All territory North of the line
would be forever free, and all territory south of the line would receive federal protection for
slavery. Republicans refused to support this measure. What was the President doing during all
this furor? Abraham Lincoln would not be inaugurated until March 4. James Buchanan presided
over the exodus from the Union. Although he thought secession to be illegal, he found using the
army in this case to be unconstitutional. Both regions awaited the arrival of President Lincoln
and wondered anxiously what he would do.
The letter that Union soldier Major Sullivan Ballou wrote to his wife, Sarah, a week before the First Battle of Bull
Run expressed his belief that he fought for a just cause. He was killed in the battle.
The Civil War was fought with awe-inspiring passion.
On the Union side, President Lincoln believed that failure to preserve the Union was a betrayal
of the founders of the republic and the promise of the Declaration of Independence. He would
not see it "perish from this earth."
Many others in the North echoed similar thoughts. On the day before the first battle of Bull Run,
Major Sullivan Ballou of Rhode Island wrote to his wife: "I know how strongly American
Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those
who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution." He died one week later
After slavery was abolished, Wendell Phillips went on to fight for women's suffrage.
The cause of union did not drive all Northerners. Abolitionists believed they were acting with
divine guidance to fulfill God's will. They would tolerate neither compromise nor legal obstacle.
Majority consent was not necessary. Wendell Phillips, a well-known abolitionist, declared, "One,
on God's side, is a majority." Abolitionists saw slavery as an affront to God to be ended by any
means necessary. Abolitionists incited riots throughout the South that resulted in hundreds of
Passions raged as hot in the South. Like Lincoln, Jefferson Davis also believed in the Declaration
of Independence. He insisted that governments existed with the consent of the governed.
Northern interference with popular Southern law was an affront to this ideals.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It freed slaves in the states that had
seceded and were not yet under Northern control.
Robert E. Lee, who did not favor secession, felt that the North was seeking to wrest from the
South its dearest rights. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a devout Presbyterian, believed that the
Southern cause was a sacred one. He ascribed his successes to God's will, and preached that
religious certitude to his troops.
Many Southerners believed the Northern position was an outright attack on the Southern way of
life. They observed that the poverty suffered by Northern industrial workers created living
conditions worse than those endured by Southern slaves. They also cited the Bible in defense of
Southern legalists believed that the North was undermining the original intent of the Founding
Fathers. The cornerstone of the American system was the state government, for which
Confederates believed the Northerners had little respect.
Such fiery passions were difficult to reconcile. After decades of compromise attempts, these
sacred beliefs finally raged against each other in the cauldron of war.
A House Divided
This portrait of a solitary African-American soldier brings the personal suffering and the deeper meaning of the
Civil War into focus.
The most destructive war in America's history was fought among its own people.
The Civil War was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. For four long and bloody years,
Americans were killed at the hands of other Americans. One of every 25 American men perished
in the war. Over 640,000 soldiers were killed. Many civilians also died — in numbers often
At the battle of Antietam, more Americans were killed than on any other single day in all of
American history. On that day, 22,719 soldiers fell to their deaths — four times the number of
Americans lost during the D-Day assault on Normandy in WWII. In fact, more American
soldiers died in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined.
The war was fought in American fields, on American roads, and in American cities with a
ferocity that could be evoked only in terrible nightmares. Nearly every family in the nation was
touched by this war. Scarcely a family in the South did not lose a son, brother, or father.
Four long years of battle changed everything. No other event since the Revolutionary War
altered the political, social, economic, and cultural fabric of the United States. In the end, a
predominantly industrial society triumphed over an agricultural one. The Old South was forever
changed. The blemish of slavery was finally removed from American life, though its legacy
would long linger.
Southern states began to leave the Union beginning with South Carolina in late 1860. The secession ceased when
Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the C.S.A. following the skirmish at Fort Sumter.
In 1861, everyone predicted a short war. Most believed that one battle of enormous proportion
would settle a dispute at least 90 years in the making. But history dictated a far more destructive
The Election of 1864
This torchlight parade for George McClellan, the Democratic nominee for President took place in New York City in
It is hard for modern Americans to believe that Abraham Lincoln, one of history's most beloved
Presidents, was nearly defeated in his reelection attempt in 1864. Yet by that summer, Lincoln
himself feared he would lose. How could this happen? First, the country had not elected an
incumbent President for a second term since Andrew Jackson in 1832 — nine Presidents in a row
had served just one term. Also, his embrace of emancipation was still a problem for many
Despite Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg a year earlier, the Southern armies came
back fighting with a vengeance. During three months in the summer of 1864, over 65,000 Union
soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing-in-action. In comparison, there had been 108,000
Union casualties in the first three years. General Ulysses S. Grant was being called The Butcher.
At one time during the summer, Confederate soldiers under Jubal Early came within five miles
of the White House.
The states which Lincoln won in the election of 1864 are shown in red. McClellan won Kentucky, New Jersey, and
Delaware. Notice that citizens of the Confederacy did not vote in the election.
Lincoln had much to contend with. He had staunch opponents in the Congress. Underground
Confederate activities brought rebellion to parts of Maryland. Lincoln's suspension of the writ of
habeas corpus was ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney — an
order Lincoln refused to obey. But worst of all, the war was not going well.
Meanwhile the Democratic Party split, with major opposition from Peace Democrats, who
wanted a negotiated peace at any cost. They chose as their nominee George B. McClellan,
Lincoln's former commander of the Army of the Potomac. Even Lincoln expected that
McClellan would win.
The South was well aware of Union discontent. Many felt that if the Southern armies could hold
out until the election, negotiations for Northern recognition of Confederate independence might
Everything changed on September 6, 1864, when General Sherman seized Atlanta. The war
effort had turned decidedly in the North's favor and even McClellan now sought military victory.
Two months later, Lincoln won the popular vote that eluded him in his first election. He won the
electoral college by 212 to 21 and the Republicans had won three-fourths of Congress. A second
term and the power to conclude the war were now in his hands.
Few times in U.S. history have been as turbulent and transformative as the Civil War and
the twelve years that followed. Between 1865 and 1877, one president was murdered and
another impeached. The Constitution underwent major revision with the addition of three
amendments. The effort to impose Union control and create equality in the defeated South
ignited a fierce backlash as various terrorist and vigilante organizations, most notably the
Ku Klux Klan, battled to maintain a pre–Civil War society in which whites held complete
power. These groups unleashed a wave of violence, including lynching and arson, aimed at
freed blacks and their white supporters. Historians refer to this era as Reconstruction, when
an effort to remake the South faltered and ultimately failed.
The South, which had experienced catastrophic losses during the conflict, was reduced to
political dependence and economic destitution. This humiliating condition led many
southern whites to vigorously contest Union efforts to transform the South’s racial,
economic, and social landscape. Supporters of equality grew increasingly dismayed at
Reconstruction’s failure to undo the old system, which further compounded the staggering
regional and racial inequalities in the United States.
The end of the Civil War saw the beginning of the Reconstruction era, when former rebel
Southern states were integrated back into the Union. President Lincoln moved quickly to
achieve the war’s ultimate goal: reunification of the country. He proposed a generous and
non-punitive plan to return the former Confederate states speedily to the United States, but
some Republicans in Congress protested, considering the president’s plan too lenient to the
rebel states that had torn the country apart. The greatest flaw of Lincoln’s plan, according
to this view, was that it appeared to forgive traitors instead of guaranteeing civil rights to
former slaves. President Lincoln oversaw the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment
abolishing slavery, but he did not live to see its ratification.
The President’s Plan
From the outset of the rebellion in 1861, Lincoln’s overriding goal had been to bring the
Southern states quickly back into the fold in order to restore the Union. In early December
1863, the president began the process of reunification by unveiling a three-part proposal
known as the ten percent plan that outlined how the states would return. The ten percent
plan gave a general pardon to all Southerners except high-ranking Confederate government
and military leaders; required 10 percent of the 1860 voting population in the former rebel
states to take a binding oath of future allegiance to the United States and the emancipation
of slaves; and declared that once those voters took those oaths, the restored Confederate
states would draft new state constitutions.
Lincoln hoped that the leniency of the plan—90 percent of the 1860 voters did not have to
swear allegiance to the Union or to emancipation—would bring about a quick and longanticipated resolution and make emancipation more acceptable everywhere. This approach
appealed to some in the moderate wing of the Republican Party, which wanted to put the
nation on a speedy course toward reconciliation. However, the proposal instantly drew fire
from a larger faction of Republicans in Congress who did not want to deal moderately with
the South. These members of Congress, known as Radical Republicans, wanted to remake
the South and punish the rebels. Radical Republicans insisted on harsh terms for the
defeated Confederacy and protection for former slaves, going far beyond what the president
In February 1864, two of the Radical Republicans, Ohio senator Benjamin Wade and
Maryland representative Henry Winter Davis, answered Lincoln with a proposal of their
own. Among other stipulations, the Wade-Davis Bill called for a majority of voters and
government officials in Confederate states to take an oath, called the Ironclad Oath,
swearing that they had never supported the Confederacy or made war against the United
States. Those who could not or would not take the oath would be unable to take part in the
future political life of the South. Congress assented to the Wade-Davis Bill, and it went to
Lincoln for his signature. The president refused to sign, using the pocket veto (that is,
taking no action) to kill the bill. Lincoln understood that no Southern state would have met
the criteria of the Wade-Davis Bill, and its passage would simply have delayed the
reconstruction of the South.
THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT
Despite the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the legal status of slaves and the institution
of slavery remained unresolved. To deal with the remaining uncertainties, the Republican
Party made the abolition of slavery a top priority by including the issue in its 1864 party
platform. The platform read: “That as slavery was the cause, and now constitutes the
strength of this Rebellion, and as it must be, always and everywhere, hostile to the
principles of Republican Government, justice and the National safety demand its utter and
complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic; and that, while we uphold and maintain
the acts and proclamations by which the Government, in its own defense, has aimed a
deathblow at this gigantic evil, we are in favor, furthermore, of such an amendment to the
Constitution, to be made by the people in conformity with its provisions, as shall terminate
and forever prohibit the existence of Slavery within the limits of the jurisdiction of the
United States.” The platform left no doubt about the intention to abolish slavery.
The president, along with the Radical Republicans, made good on this campaign promise in
1864 and 1865. A proposed constitutional amendment passed the Senate in April 1864, and
the House of Representatives concurred in January 1865. The amendment then made its
way to the states, where it swiftly gained the necessary support, including in the South. In
December 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment was officially ratified and added to the
Constitution. The first amendment added to the Constitution since 1804, it overturned a
centuries-old practice by permanently abolishing slavery.
President Lincoln never saw the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. On April
14, 1865, the Confederate supporter and well-known actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln
while he was attending a play, Our American Cousin, at Ford’s Theater in Washington. The
president died the next day. Booth had steadfastly defended the Confederacy and white
supremacy, and his act was part of a larger conspiracy to eliminate the heads of the Union
government and keep the Confederate fight going. One of Booth’s associates stabbed and
wounded Secretary of State William Seward the night of the assassination. Another
associate abandoned the planned assassination of Vice President Andrew Johnson at the
last moment. Although Booth initially escaped capture, Union troops shot and killed him
on April 26, 1865, in a Maryland barn. Eight other conspirators were convicted by a
military tribunal for participating in the conspiracy, and four were hanged. Lincoln’s death
earned him immediate martyrdom, and hysteria spread throughout the North. To many
Northerners, the assassination suggested an even greater conspiracy than what was
revealed, masterminded by the unrepentant leaders of the defeated Confederacy. Militant
Republicans would use and exploit this fear relentlessly in the ensuing months.
ANDREW JOHNSON AND THE BATTLE OVER
Lincoln’s assassination elevated Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, to the
presidency. Johnson had come from very humble origins. Born into extreme poverty in
North Carolina and having never attended school, Johnson was the picture of a self-made
man. His wife had taught him how to read and he had worked as a tailor, a trade he had
been apprenticed to as a child. In Tennessee, where he had moved as a young man, he
gradually rose up the political ladder, earning a reputation for being a skillful stump
speaker and a staunch defender of poor southerners. He was elected to serve in the House
of Representatives in the 1840s, became governor of Tennessee the following decade, and
then was elected a U.S. senator just a few years before the country descended into war.
When Tennessee seceded, Johnson remained loyal to the Union and stayed in the Senate.
As Union troops marched on his home state of North Carolina, Lincoln appointed him
governor of the then-occupied state of Tennessee, where he served until being nominated
by the Republicans to run for vice president on a Lincoln ticket. The nomination of
Johnson, a Democrat and a slaveholding southerner, was a pragmatic decision made by
concerned Republicans. It was important for them to show that the party supported all loyal
men, regardless of their origin or political persuasion. Johnson appeared an ideal choice,
because his nomination would bring with it the support of both pro-Southern elements and
the War Democrats who rejected the conciliatory stance of the Copperheads, the northern
Democrats who opposed the Civil War.
Unexpectedly elevated to the presidency in 1865, this formerly impoverished tailor’s
apprentice and unwavering antagonist of the wealthy southern planter class now found
himself tasked with administering the restoration of a destroyed South. Lincoln’s position
as president had been that the secession of the Southern states was never legal; that is, they
had not succeeded in leaving the Union, therefore they still had certain rights to selfgovernment as states. In keeping with Lincoln’s plan, Johnson desired to quickly
reincorporate the South back into the Union on lenient terms and heal the wounds of the
nation. This position angered many in his own party. The northern Radical Republican plan
for Reconstruction looked to overturn southern society and specifically aimed at ending the
plantation system. President Johnson quickly disappointed Radical Republicans when he
rejected their idea that the federal government could provide voting rights for freed slaves.
The initial disagreements between the president and the Radical Republicans over how best
to deal with the defeated South set the stage for further conflict.
In fact, President Johnson’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in May 1865
provided sweeping “amnesty and pardon” to rebellious Southerners. It returned to them
their property, with the notable exception of their former slaves, and it asked only that they
affirm their support for the Constitution of the United States. Those Southerners excepted
from this amnesty included the Confederate political leadership, high-ranking military
officers, and persons with taxable property worth more than $20,000. The inclusion of this
last category was specifically designed to make it clear to the southern planter class that
they had a unique responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities. But it also satisfied
Johnson’s desire to exact vengeance on a class of people he had fought politically for much
of his life. For this class of wealthy Southerners to regain their rights, they would have to
swallow their pride and request a personal pardon from Johnson himself.
For the Southern states, the requirements for readmission to the Union were also fairly
straightforward. States were required to hold individual state conventions where they would
repeal the ordinances of secession and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. By the end of
1865, a number of former Confederate leaders were in the Union capital looking to claim
their seats in Congress. Among them was Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the
Confederacy, who had spent several months in a Boston jail after the war. Despite the
outcries of Republicans in Congress, by early 1866 Johnson announced that all former
Confederate states had satisfied the necessary requirements. According to him, nothing
more needed to be done; the Union had been restored.
Understandably, Radical Republicans in Congress did not agree with Johnson’s position.
They, and their northern constituents, greatly resented his lenient treatment of the former
Confederate states, and especially the return of former Confederate leaders like Alexander
Stephens to Congress. They refused to acknowledge the southern state governments he
allowed. As a result, they would not permit senators and representatives from the former
Confederate states to take their places in Congress.
Instead, the Radical Republicans created a joint committee of representatives and senators
to oversee Reconstruction. In the 1866 congressional elections, they gained control of the
House, and in the ensuing years they pushed for the dismantling of the old southern order
and the complete reconstruction of the South. This effort put them squarely at odds with
President Johnson, who remained unwilling to compromise with Congress, setting the stage
for a series of clashes.
President Johnson and Congress’s views on Reconstruction grew even further apart as
Johnson’s presidency progressed. Congress repeatedly pushed for greater rights for freed
people and a far more thorough reconstruction of the South, while Johnson pushed for
leniency and a swifter reintegration. President Johnson lacked Lincoln’s political skills and
instead exhibited a stubbornness and confrontational approach that aggravated an already
THE FREEDMEN’S BUREAU
Freed people everywhere celebrated the end of slavery and immediately began to take steps
to improve their own condition by seeking what had long been denied to them: land,
financial security, education, and the ability to participate in the political process. They
wanted to be reunited with family members, grasp the opportunity to make their own
independent living, and exercise their right to have a say in their own government.
However, they faced the wrath of defeated but un-reconciled southerners who were
determined to keep blacks an impoverished and despised underclass. Recognizing the
widespread devastation in the South and the dire situation of freed people, Congress created
the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March 1865, popularly
known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. Lincoln had approved of the bureau, giving it a charter
for one year.
The Freedmen’s Bureau engaged in many initiatives to ease the transition from slavery to
freedom. It delivered food to blacks and whites alike in the South. It helped freed people
gain labor contracts, a significant step in the creation of wage labor in place of slavery. It
helped reunite families of freedmen, and it also devoted much energy to education,
establishing scores of public schools where freed people and poor whites could receive
both elementary and higher education. Respected institutions such as Fisk University,
Hampton University, and Dillard University are part of the legacy of the Freedmen’s
In this endeavor, the Freedmen’s Bureau received support from Christian organizations that
had long advocated for abolition, such as the American Missionary Association (AMA).
The AMA used the knowledge and skill it had acquired while working in missions in
Africa and with American Indian groups to establish and run schools for freed slaves in the
postwar South. While men and women, white and black, taught in these schools, the
opportunity was crucially important for participating women (Figure 16.5). At the time,
many opportunities, including admission to most institutes of higher learning, remained
closed to women. Participating in these schools afforded these women the opportunities
they otherwise may have been denied. Additionally, the fact they often risked life and limb
to work in these schools in the South demonstrated to the nation that women could play a
vital role in American civic life.
The schools that the Freedmen’s Bureau and the AMA established inspired great dismay
and resentment among the white populations in the South and were sometimes targets of
violence. Indeed, the Freedmen’s Bureau’s programs and its very existence were sources of
controversy. Racists and others who resisted this type of federal government activism
denounced it as both a waste of federal money and a foolish effort that encouraged laziness
among blacks. Congress renewed the bureau’s charter in 1866, but President Johnson, who
steadfastly believed that the work of restoring the Union had been completed, vetoed the
re- chartering. Radical Republicans continued to support the bureau, igniting a contest
between Congress and the president that intensified during the next several years. Part of
this dispute involved conflicting visions of the proper role of the federal government.
Radical Republicans believed in the constructive power of the federal government to ensure
a better day for freed people. Others, including Johnson, denied that the government had
any such role to play.
In 1865 and 1866, as Johnson announced the end of Reconstruction, southern states began
to pass a series of discriminatory state laws collectively known as black codes. While the
laws varied in both content and severity from state to state, the goal of the laws remained
largely consistent. In effect, these codes were designed to maintain the social and economic
structure of racial slavery in the absence of slavery itself. The laws codified white
supremacy by restricting the civic participation of freed slaves—depriving them of the right
to vote, the right to serve on juries, the right to own or carry weapons, and, in some cases,
even the right to rent or lease land.
A chief component of the black codes was designed to fulfill an important economic need
in the postwar South. Slavery had been a pillar of economic stability in the region before
the war. To maintain agricultural production, the South had relied on slaves to work the
land. Now the region was faced with the daunting prospect of making the transition from a
slave economy to one where labor was purchased on the open market. Not surprisingly,
planters in the southern states were reluctant to make such a transition. Instead, they drafted
black laws that would re-create the antebellum economic structure with the façade of a
free- labor system.
Black codes used a variety of tactics to tie freed slaves to the land. To work, the freed
slaves were forced to sign contracts with their employer. These contracts prevented blacks
from working for more than one employer. This meant that, unlike in a free labor market,
blacks could not positively influence wages and conditions by choosing to work for the
employer who gave them the best terms. The predictable outcome was that freed slaves
were forced to work for very low wages. With such low wages, and no ability to
supplement income with additional work, workers were reduced to relying on loans from
their employers. The debt that these workers incurred ensured that they could never escape
from their condition. Those former slaves who attempt to violate these contracts could be
fined or beaten. Those who refused to sign contracts at all could be arrested for vagrancy
and then made to work for no wages, essentially being reduced to the very definition of a
The black codes left no doubt that the former breakaway Confederate states intended to
maintain white supremacy at all costs. These draconian state laws helped spur the
congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction into action. Its members felt that ending
slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment did not go far enough. Congress extended the life
of the Freedmen’s Bureau to combat the black codes and in April 1866 passed the first
Civil Rights Act, which established the citizenship of African Americans. This was a
significant step that contradicted the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision, which
declared that blacks could never be citizens. The law also gave the federal government the
right to intervene in state affairs to protect the rights of citizens, and thus, of African
Americans. President Johnson, who continued to insist that restoration of the United States
had already been accomplished, vetoed the 1866 Civil Rights Act. However, Congress
mustered the necessary votes to override his veto. Despite the Civil Rights Act, the black
codes endured, forming the foundation of the racially discriminatory Jim Crow segregation
policies that impoverished generations of African Americans.
THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT
Questions swirled about the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The Supreme
Court, in its 1857 decision forbidding black citizenship, had interpreted the Constitution in
a certain way; many argued that the 1866 statute, alone, could not alter that interpretation.
Seeking to overcome all legal questions, Radical Republicans drafted another constitutional
amendment with provisions that followed those of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. In July 1866,
the Fourteenth Amendment went to state legislatures for ratification.
The Fourteenth Amendment stated, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States
and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State
wherein they reside.” It gave citizens equal protection under both the state and federal law,
overturning the Dred Scott decision. It eliminated the three-fifths compromise of the 1787
Constitution, whereby slaves had been counted as three-fifths of a free white person, and it
reduced the number of House representatives and Electoral College electors for any state
that denied suffrage to any adult male inhabitant, black or white. As Radical Republicans
had proposed in the Wade-Davis bill, individuals who had “engaged in insurrection or
rebellion [against] . . . or given aid or comfort to the enemies [of]” the United States were
barred from holding political (state or federal) or military office unless pardoned by twothirds of Congress.
The amendment also answered the question of debts arising from the Civil War by
specifying that all debts incurred by fighting to defeat the Confederacy would be honored.
Confederate debts, however, would not: “[N]either the United States nor any State shall
assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the
United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts,
obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.” Thus, claims by former slaveholders
requesting compensation for slave property had no standing. Any state that ratified the
Fourteenth Amendment would automatically be readmitted. Yet, all former Confederate
states refused to ratify the amendment in 1866.
President Johnson called openly for the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment, a move
that drove a further wedge between him and congressional Republicans. In late summer of
1866, he gave a series of speeches, known as the “swing around the circle,” designed to
gather support for his mild version of Reconstruction. Johnson felt that ending slavery went
far enough; extending the rights and protections of citizenship to freed people, he believed,
went much too far. He continued to believe that blacks were inferior to whites. The
president’s “swing around the circle” speeches to gain support for his program and derail
the Radical Republicans proved to be a disaster, as hecklers provoked Johnson to make
damaging statements. Radical Republicans charged that Johnson had been drunk when he
made his speeches. As a result, Johnson’s reputation plummeted.
During the Congressional election in the fall of 1866, Republicans gained even greater
victories. This was due in large measure to the northern voter opposition that had
developed toward President Johnson because of the inflexible and overbearing attitude he
had exhibited in the White House, as well as his missteps during his 1866 speaking tour.
Leading Radical Republicans in Congress included Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner
(the same senator whom proslavery South Carolina representative Preston Brooks had
thrashed with his cane in 1856 during the Bleeding Kansas crisis) and Pennsylvania
representative Thaddeus Stevens. These men and their supporters envisioned a much more
expansive change in the South. Sumner advocated integrating schools and giving black
men the right to vote while disenfranchising many southern voters. For his part, Stevens
considered that the southern states had forfeited their rights as states when they seceded,
and were no more than conquered territory that the federal government could organize as it
wished. He envisioned the redistribution of plantation lands and U.S. military control over
the former Confederacy.
Their goals included the transformation of the South from an area built on slave labor to a
free-labor society. They also wanted to ensure that freed people were protected and given
the opportunity for a better life. Violent race riots in Memphis, Tennessee, and New
Orleans, Louisiana, in 1866 gave greater urgency to the second phase of Reconstruction,
begun in 1867.
THE RECONSTRUCTION ACTS
The 1867 Military Reconstruction Act, which encompassed the vision of Radical
Republicans, set a new direction for Reconstruction in the South. Republicans saw this law,
and three supplementary laws passed by Congress that year, called the Reconstruction Acts,
as a way to deal with the disorder in the South. The 1867 act divided the ten southern states
that had yet to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment into five military districts (Tennessee had
already been readmitt...
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