*In February, 1865, the XIII Amendment to the US Constitution was proposed by Congress. If ratified by at least ¾ of the state legislatures, it would become part of the Constitution. If so, it would outlaw slavery and most forms of involuntary servitude throughout the Union, even in loyal border states. This Amendment would be considered during 1865.
*With the War drawing to a close in 1865, Lincoln and the Congress considered how to deal with the South.
*Slavery had been ended legally in most of the Southern states by the Emancipation Proclamation, but some Southerners still clung to it. Furthermore, many people wondered exactly what to do with these freed slaves, who had no property and little experience outside field work.
*The North had lost 364,000 soldiers, and the South had lost 260,000. Many more men were crippled or otherwise permanently injured. There was a great deal of resentment on both sides as a result.
*The South was impoverished by the War. Southern industry, never strong, had been destroyed, fields and cities had been burnt, and Confederate paper money was worthless. The loss of their slaves alone cost the South $3 billion to rich southerners, and because blacks would work cheaper than whites (in part because whites would not pay them equally anyway) poor whites could not find work.
*The North was fairly prosperous afterwards, indeed, enjoying a new period of prosperity in many places, especially in industries that had profited from the War, such as railroads, certain factories, and food packers.
*Once back in the Union, would Southerners elect the same men back to Congress they once had, continuing the sectional crisis? Would Southern states ratify, or even accept the XIII Amendment, and even if they did, would they treat freedmen fairly? Should Southern state be allowed back in the Union at all?
*Lincoln wanted to treat the South leniently, and welcome them back as brothers. Congress was not sure Lincoln had the power to set such policy one way or the other, and many Congressmen would rather punish the South for the bloody war just ended, the evils of slavery, and years of sectional rivalries.
*As early as December, 1863, Lincoln
proposed the Ten Percent Plan.
1. It offered a pardon to any Confederate who would swear an oath of allegiance to the
Union and accept the federal policy on slavery,
2. but it denied pardons to all Confederate military and government officials and anyone
who had killed black prisoners of war.
3. Most important, it allowed states to hold conventions and make new state
Constitutions as soon as 10% of the state’s population had sworn loyalty.
*Congress proposed a harsher plan, the Wade-Davis Bill in 1864. Radical Republicans believed the South needed a complete Reconstruction of its society. Among many tougher restrictions, the Wade-Davis Bill required all ex-Confederate men to take an oath of allegiance and swear that they had never borne arms against the United States. After all, they could be called traitors if they did—the Constitution defines treason as making war against the United States. Lincoln refused to sign this bill, thus using the pocket veto.
*The debate was violently re-opened on 14 April, 1865, when Lincoln was assassinated.
*President Johnson, like Lincoln, proposed
a lenient plan, called Presidential Reconstruction similar to the Ten Percent
1. Pardons for Southerners who swear allegiance
2. Each state may write a new constitution without even the 10% provision.
3. States must pass laws voiding their secession acts, abolishing slavery, and
repudiating the Confederate debt.
When these provisions were met, states could hold elections and re-join the Union.
*It is early 1865. What should the Union do? How should the South be Reconstructed? What should be done about ex-Confederates, free blacks, and the rebellions states? Work alone or in groups to create a proposal.
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This page last updated 13 October, 2003.