In 1863, Abraham Lincoln was in a very difficult position. What was happening is the Union was not able to secure total victory against the South. Instead, everything hinged on: a series of miscalculations or the inability of the generals to effectively lead their forces into battle. This caused the war to drag on and the opposition to increase surrounding the policies that Lincoln had enacted in order to keep the nation united.
Then, after the victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, is when Lincoln felt confident that the South's days were numbered. This is because several situations occurred that created a fundamental shift in the momentum of the war. In the case of Vicksburg, the Union victory allowed Grant's forces to seize control of the entire Mississippi River (effectively cutting the South in two).
To relieve pressure on the Western Confederacy, Lee believed that an attack into the Maryland and Pennsylvania will place stress on Grant's forces to abandon Vicksburg. This is because the Confederate army would be able to quietly move through these areas unopposed and can live off the summer crop yields that were coming in. Over the course of a few weeks, the strategy called for Lee's armies to move up and attack the regional rail center at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Then, move Southeast to directly attack Philadelphia and Washington DC. The idea is that this would force Grant to redirect his army eastward to save Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Washington DC (effectively giving control of Vicksburg to the Confederacy).
During the process of maneuvering his armies in place, is when Lee was discovered by the Union army in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This led to a major defeat for the Confederacy and gave Lincoln the confidence that victory was at hand. It is at this point that Lincoln began to plan for the reconstruction of the South.
Lincoln's Plans for Reconstruction
Lincoln's basic strategy for reconstruction was focused on a number of objectives. The first step was the outlawing of slavery with the Emancipation of Proclamation. Prior to the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Lincoln had the draft of the bill sitting in his desk. What he was waiting for is to see some kind of clear signal that the tide of the war was changing in favor of the Union. This is when Lincoln would have the political and military clout to make the document as effective as possible.
The Emancipation of Proclamation
These victories convinced Lincoln that now was the time to sign the Emancipation of Proclamation and make slavery illegal everywhere. The impact of these actions sent a message to everyone that the new South will not be the same as the one that seceded. Instead, the Southern states will follow these guidelines and grant African-Americans their basic civil rights. This was the first step in Lincoln's plan to: address the culture and traditions that helped to create the conditions for the Civil War. Once this occurred, is when this would strike a psychological blow to the Confederacy and everything it was fighting for.
The Ten Percent Plan
After the Emancipation of Proclamation was signed into law, Lincoln began to unveil the rest of his plans for reconstruction. Commonly referred to as the Ten Percent Plan, the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction was enacted in 1863. The strategy focused on several different areas to include: an oath of loyalty, the pardoning of most Confederate officials and the protection private property.
As far as an oath of loyalty is concerned, Lincoln required that all Southern states must apply for re-admittance to the Union. The way that this would take place is through having 10% of all eligible voters swear an oath of loyalty to the Union. They would then have the power to recreate their state Constitutions', establish new governments and apply for re-admittance to Union. All this will occur based on the premise, that these states will abolish slavery forever. This was designed to speed up the healing process from the war by aggressively bringing the Southern states back into the Union.
The pardoning of Confederate officials applied to everyone who served in the Confederate army and to low level / mid ranking government officials. The only exceptions affected: anyone who served as an officer in the Confederate army or high ranking individuals inside the government. This was designed to win the support of poor whites in South by: welcoming them back into the Union and not seeking out some kind of revenge for their activities during the war.
The protection of private property is when Lincoln stated, that the Union will not try to redistribute the land that was owned by Southern planters. Under this policy, Lincoln wanted to see that these individuals retain their property and the basic rights to it. This was designed to show forgiveness to everyone and to win support for Union policies.
The combination of these different elements was supposed to shorten the war by addressing many of the concerns of Southerners.
The Radical Republicans
Despite the plans that were presented by Lincoln, the radical Republicans in Congress wanted to see the South suffer. This is because a small minority of individuals in Congress believed that the war was the South's fault. Since they were the losers in the conflict, these individuals felt that Southerners should pay for these actions. The results were that this group was able to build support for its ideas among the moderate elements inside the Republican Party. Once this happened, is when a more extreme plan was introduced that had much harsher penalties for the South (the Wade Davis Bill).
The Wade Davis Bill
In the Wade Davis Bill, the radical Republicans had a number of objectives in mind to include: transforming Southern society, redistributing land, destroying the planter nobility, guaranteeing that all former slaves will receive the same protections as everyone else and developing industry. The combination of these factors is supposed to help integrate the South with the rest of the nation and move it away from the traditions of the past.
The Wade Davis Bill was all these ideas integrated into one. The way it worked was to serve as first step for achieving the large objectives of the radical Republicans. This occurred with the amount of voters that would have to swear an oath of loyalty to Union. Under Lincoln's plan, he required a total of 10% of those individuals who were on the voter registration rolls from the 1860 election. The Wade Davis Bill required this amount to be 50%. In response to this legislation, Lincoln refused to sign the bill using what is known as pocket veto. This is when the President will not sign the bill into law before Congress goes out of session. When a new Congress reconvenes, the legislation is considered to be dead.
The Freedmen's Bureau
Despite these setbacks, the radical Republicans continued with their overall agenda of doing more to change the South. After the veto of the Wade Davis Bill, a similar law was enacted through the creation of the Freedmen's Bureau. Established in 1865, this government agency had several objectives to include: the creation of schools, the distributing food and giving confiscated lands to former slaves / poor whites. In the South, this was seen as threat to their way of life by directly forcing everyone to change. As a result, most Southerners resented the Freedmen's Bureau and felt that it intruded upon many traditions that were in place for generations.
This set the stage for future reconstruction projects. After Lincoln's death, is when many of his ideas were no longer relevant. Once this happened, is when the radical Republicans and their supporters began to impose these policies on the South. In many ways, one could argue that these programs were ineffective at dealing with the lingering problems (which helped to invite a culture of racial segregation).
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