American Civil war and Reconstruction

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Introduction

The American civil war played a huge role in the America reconstruction process. The events that took place during the war determined the form of governance or the kind of system that was adopted to rule America1. The civil war is very important to the history of America between the two sides of the north and the south, the ideologies that were adopted depended on the side that won. All the events that took place and how each contributed to the reconstruction of America are analyzed.

Historical origin

The American civil war took place in 1861, in the middle of the nineteenth century. The war was as a result of the rise of two rival systems which had opposing political ideologies. The groups were simply the north and the south. The North was Republicans or the unionist while the south was democrats or the confederates. The leader of the north was Abraham Lincoln. The civil war started like a conventional contest between the northern and southern armies. At the end, it resulted to war between two societies with slavery becoming the primary factor. Slavery as the southern foundation of social order became the target.  It was a war that sparked out of two social orders, two economic systems and two different types of rules that had contradicting needs, interests and demands.

The South was made of the elite, and they were mainly from the white community. The South had big plantations of food crops and cotton. Due to this, they took African from the north that is the blacks and made them their slaves. Their work was to work for them in the plantations. In the civil war, the morale of the civilians was very vital in sustaining and winning the war2. On top of that, the will of the people to fight was also another determinant of getting victory. Before the war, United States was decentralized and the powers of the federal government were limited. Quite a number of institutions were not available. For instance, there was lack of a banking system, there was no national railway, and there was no national system of tax and a well-defined national map. The army was small and the federal budget could not the support the government activities. The civil war contributed to the creation of the modern national state in the United States of America. The northern victory strengthened the American union. The nineteenth century civil war forms part of the process of nation building. Therefore, it is evident that the civil war is a representation of America revolution and it played a very crucial role in the reconstruction of America.

Legacies of events of Civil War and Reconstruction

The civil war was an event of major importance to the country of the United States. The civil war imparted various meanings to it and outlined the importance of the civil war to the country of America. The war itself caused major and positive changes in America. It is as a result of war that changed the nature of the warfare. The war led to the formation of a strong and a reputable army that now represented all the states of America. They were better equipped and well trained. This was the basis of the robust and formidable army of America. With industrial revolution new ways were innovated of making their army better. The slaves that were fighting for the south turned and became Union soldiers. There was a massive revolution in the manufacture of the weapons used in war. The traditional musket that was accurate at short ranges was replaced with a more modern rifle and bullet that was lethal and deadly. This direction changed the nature of wars and the importance of strengthening the army and devising ways of defeating the enemy through for instance digging trenches to act as shields from bullets. The rifle proved to be very efficient and reliable in war.

The civil war led to the abolition of slavery and slave trade. In fact, one of the main aims of the civil war was to abolish slavery. The South had taken people from the north mainly the blacks and made them their slaves. The south was more sophisticated. They practiced farming intensively. They had plantations of food crops and cotton. Therefore they took the Africans from the north and made them their slaves. The slaves used to work as laborers in the farms. In the previous days, before the war, at least out of three residents of the south, one had enslaved. Therefore there were approximately four million people who were slaves. Their labor made their masters or owners very rich and powerful. The slave holders were controlling both the state governments and the federal government in Washington. They used that political power to gain control over their slaves and expand a territory where slavery was legal and protected so that they could continue promoting their special interests 3. During the war, the white South tried to fight in order to preserve the slave society but Abraham Lincoln led a revolution that destroyed the slavery system and disoriented the political supremacy of the south. At the beginning of the war, the Republican Party had a radical wing that was abolitionist. The radical wing contained those slaves who were working for the Southerners also the Democrats. The slaves were fighting for their masters or their slave holders.

Since it became clear that the Confederates were fighting to preserve slavery system, Lincoln shared this conviction in the north that for them to successfully conquer the war against the south that was fighting for slavery and fully supported the slavery system, they had to hit against slavery itself 4 .He explained that besides them fighting to preserve the union, they were also fighting for freedom so that the slaves would be freed from slavery. Lincoln gave reassurances to the slaves that had seceded as well tried to win back those who had put their support behind the southerners. Through this he managed to win the slaves who joined them to put up a violent and strong revolution that defeated the white southerners. He then engineered for legal frameworks that abolished slavery.

Before the occurrence of the American civil war, that that enjoyed the fruits of liberty and protected by the constitution was growing to be defined by race. In 1857 decision of the Dred Scott, it was declared that no black person was entitled to become a citizen of the United States of America by chief justice Roger B Taney. During the second half the civil war, 200,000 black men were enrolled as soldiers in the Union armed forces. This led to the consideration of black citizenship on the post war agenda. The principle of a national citizenship emerged from the war. The principle enabled the members to have the privilege of enjoying equal protection from the laws. The principle is commonly referred to as civil rights in today’s world. It originated out of the civil war and the turbulent Reconstruction period that followed. Abolition of slavery by presidential proclamation, legislation and amendment of the constitution was very vital to nation building.

Following the victory of the Union, the status those who had been freed from slavery became the central topic of politics of reconstruction after war. The whole society made political participation the key element of freedom.5 The former slaves were granted the right to vote and this fulfilled their desire for empowerment and self-governance. Immediately after the war ended, and in some southern parts of America, the black slaves who had been liberated from the war and those who had been freed before the war united and organized conventions, series of meetings and written petitions to demand and push for the right or chance to vote so that they could be able to express their decision or participate in decision making. They occasionally organized their freedom ballots. They received massive support from the radical Republicans of the north. The Radical Republicans viewed this as justice act and as the only way of ensuring that they prevent the former Confederates from the dominance of the southern politics.

The national government took over the responsibility of defining and protecting the civil rights of the Americans. Amendment number fourteenth  of the constitution composed the aspect of birthright as an automatic qualification of getting citizenship and also ensuring that all the Americans are entitled to equal rights. The amendment prohibited states from barring the citizens from getting their privileges and immunities or denying them the law of equal protection. This paved way for the future congresses including the federal court to give emphasis to legal equality as an important process and pillar in the courts. Then later the fifteenth amendment was made that barred race as a qualification for voting in the states. By the time legislature ad reconstructed the federal government had taken over the role of ensuring that the civil and political right of every American is upheld.

Reconstruction led to a political revolution in the south part of America. In the year 1867, the African American who were defeated together with the confederates in the  civil war were all guaranteed the right of voting and holding office something that was not there in the pre-civil war days6. Before the civil war, the blacks could only vote in a few states in the north. The black community mobilized itself and united with the whites an action that saw them bring Republican Party to power in the southern region. The purpose and the responsibilities of the government were redefined. Black men for the first time held political positions in the US Congress and the state legislatures. They also held positions as local sheriffs, school boards and in the judicial system.

The civil war had international repercussions. The war made the British to invest heavily in the various sectors of the economy of America. The sectors include railroads, coal industry, timber industry, land and banking. The British sympathized with the south who was the ruling class. The south had large cotton plantations that they use to export to Britain. Therefore they were composed of manufacturers, landowners and imperialists. Their coalition put mounted pressure on the government of Britain because of the business ties that existed between them. The Confederates or the southerners were very much confident and they believed in the power of cotton. Most of their cotton exports were made to British. The British bought approximately five sixth of all the total exports and the number of British workers who worked at the cotton mills in England was 400,000. This meant that this workers together with their families consisted of about two million people who fully depended on cotton to meet their livelihood. This statistics put a lot of confidence in the southerners as they felt that they impacted directly on the economy of Britain.

Therefore, they were fully convinced without doubt that the British would recognize them within at least three months, and try to ensure that all activities in the south were not interrupted and that everything ran smoothly. This meant that they would help them fight the northerners.7 Cotton industry was one of backbone of the British economy and they could not afford a shortage of the raw material. Therefore during the civil war, the warships that the Confederates were using were from the British. They were either built there or were bought from the subjects of Britain. The crews of the ships were mainly the British sailors. Of the ships, three of them did a significant amount of damage to the businesses of the north region. None of these ships went through the Confederate port. This move by the British showed obvious favoritism for the south and showed that Britain was not neutral between the two sides that opposed each other. In fact, in November 1861, Britain was very close to declare war on the Union. However, this did not happen because an American ship stopped a British mail boat that was off the Cuban coast and seized two commissioners of the confederates who were on their way to London. The British government backed out of the war for fear of the British public reaction especially that of the working class. The ruling class sympathized with the slave owners but their working class supported the Union. Therefore this tied down the motives of the ruling to assist the south. If the British government had interfered with war, then significant disparities would have been witnessed.

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The civil war played a role in reconstruction of the Americas democratic process. After the victory of the Union, the people’s rights began to be observed. Everyone became recognized by the law and guaranteed all the civil rights and legal privileges. A structure government was set in place by Abraham Lincoln that represented the interests of everyone. The slaves who had been freed were guaranteed their democratic right to choose the leaders of their choice through voting. They were even allowed to hold meetings and even make peaceful demonstrations as a way of making their grievances to be heard. Everyone became protected by the constitution and was at liberty to express himself or herself.

The civil war led to the reconstruction of industrialization in America. The transport infrastructure was developed. More roads were opened, and a railroad was constructed. These roads were used for transportation of weapons of fighting and also for logistical purposes. The innovation of the telegraph made communication a lot easier. It became more fast and spontaneous. Industrialization also occurred in the farming sector. With the abolition of slavery, power driven machines were innovated that would replace the human labor. This led to the innovation of tractors for tilling the land and also for harvesting. This led to the increase of production. Banking and a tax system were put in place.

Conclusion

The America civil war can be strongly considered as the second American Revolution in some of ways. It represented a very radical perception in how beliefs and convictions would be seen forever in America. Before the civil war, there was no real debate on how conviction of ideas, values that could not be negotiated and passionate could impact negatively on the structure of the democracy of America. The civil war eradicated slavery, strengthened the government, promoted unity, led to industrial revolution, promoted civil rights among others. The civil war was a complete revolution as it radically changed or influenced America and all its activities. The American civil war is the main activity in the history of the United States. It was a revolutionary war that completed the work of the independence war. It was the war that helped in deciding as to which of the two social systems that were incompatible could be used in the United States.

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  1. Bacevich, A. J. (2009). American empire. Harvard University Press.
  2. Bailyn, B. (2012). The ideological origins of the American Revolution. Harvard University Press.
  3. Browne, Ray Broadus, and Lawrence A. Kreiser. 2003. The Civil War and Reconstruction. Westport (Conn.): Greenwood Press.
  4. Cimbala, Paul A., and Randall M. Miller. 2010. The great task remaining before us: Reconstruction as America’s continuing Civil War. New York: Fordham University Press.
  5. Downs, Jim. 2015. Sick from freedom: African-American illness and suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
  6. Foner, Eric. 2002. Reconstruction: America’s unfinished revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Perennial Classics. https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=522077B0-D6CA-4B53-B812-23C038C6222A.
  7. Sabine, L. (2009). Biographical sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution (Vol. 3). Applewood Books.
  8. Wallenfeldt, Jeffrey H. 2010. The American Civil War and Reconstruction: people, politics, and power. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. In association with Rosen Educational Services.
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