Talk:Reconstruction Era

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Military history (Rated B-Class)
MILHIST This article is within the scope of the Military history WikiProject. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks. To use this banner, please see the full instructions.
B This article has been rated as B-Class on the quality assessment scale.
WikiProject United States History (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject United States History, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the history of the United States on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject United States / American Old West / American Civil War / Military history (Rated B-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject United States, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of topics relating to the United States of America on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the ongoing discussions.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject American Old West (marked as High-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Military history - American Civil War task force.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Military history - U.S. military history task force.
WikiProject Elections and Referendums  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Elections and Referendums, an ongoing effort to improve the quality of, expand upon and create new articles relating to elections, electoral reform and other aspects of democratic decision-making. For more information, visit our project page.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the quality scale.

Combining Introduction and Overview[edit]

I propose that 'overview' is redundant when we already have an introduction. We could probably combine the two sections and save redundancy.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Dkam136 (talkcontribs) 16:04, 29 July 2013‎

Lincoln and Andrew Johnson described as pursuing the SAME "moderate" policy of Reconstruction. This seems misleading.[edit]

It seems misleading to describe Lincoln's pre-Reconstruction actions and attitudes toward a post-war South as the same "moderate" policy pursued by Andrew Johnson. Part of Lincoln's strategy to win the war and end the war was to defuse the Confederate cause by avoiding extreme policies and suggesting his administration would be generous and magnanimous, except on the battlefield, to the South if and when it surrendered. Did Lincoln articulate a complete Reconstruction policy before his assassination? There certainly was no such policy established in the six days between surrender and the President's assassination. But I can't believe Lincoln would have vetoed Congressional bills regarding reconstruction and then chosen to refuse to enforce those bills passed over his veto, contrary to his oath of office, as Johnson did.

American history has evolved with a powerful bias in favor of Lincoln and against Johnson, but with rather good reasons. The particulars of Lincoln's so-called reconstruction policy, as presented in this article are factual, but out of interpretive context. Much is made of Lincoln's early colonization ideas; too much. I do find it distasteful to conflate Lincoln's so called policy with Johnson's actions regarding Reconstruction, but this article seems to be written to put Andrew Johnson in the best possible light.

I am not an expert on the Civil War and its' aftermath, so I defer to those who are, to review this question and determine if this article presents this issue within the accepted main line of Lincoln / Civil War / Reconstruction scholarship.

I regret I am not going cite sources at this time. I am posting because this, admittedly controversial, question as presented seemed contrary to everything I have read over the years. I do realize this article has been extensively edited over the years.

David J Gill (talk) 23:49, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

Presidents Lincoln and Johnson both stood in sharp opposition to Radical policies. Historians are unanimous that Lincoln was a far better politician than Johnson, and as a Republican Abe had very strong ties to the moderate elements in the GOP that Johnson lacked. Note that Lincoln also vetoed the main Radical program (Wade-Davis) and that his program a the Hampton Roads Conference in Feb 1865 was distinctly pro-South. Of course the assassination not only removed Lincoln but also weakened the moderate position by greatly strengthening the vengeance theme that Lincoln rejected (Abe insisted on "malice toward none" and "charity for all" that the Radicals rejected). Rjensen (talk) 01:10, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

It's not misleading, it is wrong. Lincoln was certainly a moderate Republican, but Johnson was a Democrat, vetoing and opposing anything that interfered with "state's rights." Saying that they were moderates is flat wrong, Johnson was a conservative to a fault. -magisternewell — Preceding unsigned comment added by Magisternewell (talkcontribs) 03:56, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

Johnson was all over the map. In most of 1865 the radicals really thought he was one of them. In fact both he and Lincoln rejected most of the Radical positions on reconstruction. Rjensen (talk) 15:04, 8 March 2014 (UTC)
Johnson was not exactly all over the map, unless you assume he is a Republican, which he never was. He was selected by Lincoln because he was the a war Democrat. If you look at the whole of Johnson's policies, they are pretty consistent with the "state's rights" bent of the Democratic party of the day. Lincoln worked with the radical republicans, Johnson quickly made it clear that he could not work with them. Can we start talking about tweaking the wording of the first few sentences of the first paragraph?
magisternewell (talk) 16:47, 8 March 2014 (UTC)
a lot of Republicans (like Sumner and Logan) were ex-Democrats, so former party history was not a determining factor. Johnson did NOT "quickly made it clear" ... for as McKitrick shows, the break did not come until late-January to April 1866 (esp veto of civil rights bill), nearly one year after Lincoln's death. Rjensen (talk) 18:31, 8 March 2014 (UTC)
But Johnson's party history was a determining factor. He ascended into power after congress had closed down shop and the break occurred shortly after congress passed the new laws they had spent some time debating. So it was quick if you consider what was going on. This is really a small point that you haven't really addressed, what makes you think Johnson was a moderate? He was not a radical, that is clear, but his policies are far to the right of Lincoln. magisternewell (talk) 1:01, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
"Johnson's party history was a determining factor" -- that's odd because it was NOT a determining factor for so many other top politicians (look at top people who moved back and forth between Chase, Logan, Butler, Turnbull, Schurz, Stanton and Sumner). The break came about a year after Lincoln's death. That is a long time considering how fast events moved in wartime. Were his policies "far to the right of Lincoln"??? which policy? Rjensen (talk) 01:14, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
His policies? The vetoes in particular, are enough, I think. He also dismantled some of the freedman's farms that were established under Lincoln's auspices, but I'd have to look them up in Foner to give you a clear description of that. I was struck when I read your assertion and I'm giving you my two cents. If you insist on keeping it in there, I think you're wrong, but I'm not going to change it on my own. As far as Johnson's party history, it is perfectly possible for his to be important and for others' not to be, but I find it irrelevant to the main argument here, which is that Johnson was never a moderate.magisternewell (talk) 02:17, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

Maybe it's time to quote eight historians: 1) Smith in a new book argues that, "Johnson attempted to carry forward what he considered to be Lincoln's plans for Reconstruction." [Smith, John David (2013). A Just and Lasting Peace: A Documentary History of Reconstruction. Penguin. p. 17. ] 2) Klose and Lader argue that Johnson "favored a moderate policy.... He proceeded, therefore, to carry out a policy very similar to Lincoln's." Klose, Nelson; Lader, Curt (2001). United States History, Since 1865. Barron's. p. 6.  3) McKitrick in his famous book says that in 1865 Johnson had strong support in the Republican Party, "It was naturally from the great moderate sector of Unionist opinion in the North that Johnson could draw his greatest comfort." [Eric L. McKitrick (1960). Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction. Oxford UP. p. 172. ] 4) Billington and Ridge say, " One faction, the Moderate Republicans under the leadership of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, favored a mild policy toward the South." [Billington, Ray Allen; Ridge, Martin (1981). American History After 1865. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 3. ] 5) Lincoln biographers Randall and Current argue that: "It is likely that had he lived, Lincoln would have followed a policy similar to Johnson's, that he would have clashed with congressional Radicals, that he would have produced a better result for the freedmen than occurred, and that his political skills would have helped him avoid Johnson's mistakes." [from Lincove, David A. (2000). Reconstruction in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood. p. 80. ] Rjensen (talk) 04:23, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
If you could adjust the line to read like your first quote, that would be better. It suggests that Johnson pursued moderate policies early in presidential reconstruction and is a perfectly reasonable assertion.
The use of the term "moderate" in terms of reconstruction is not well defined and it seems to be used to describe anyone proposing leniency to the South. If that is what you mean when you use the term, then I suppose I do not disagree with you, I just wish it were better-defined.
The veto is a distinctly conservative act, however and should not be overlooked. It makes his appointments of former confederates and his policies shuttering freedmen-run plantations look a lot more suspect.

magisternewell (talk) 09:00, 6 June 2014 (PDT)

To suggest that Johnson took a "moderate" stance on reconstruction until his veto is generally understood. To assert that he "took the same path as Lincoln" is fine, as long as we make it clear that he did so until the veto. To suggest that they had the same views is utterly false, however.
To call him moderate at all is misleading because he took the stance for very different reasons than Lincoln, which should be made clear. Initially, Johnson wanted to impose harsh terms on the southern aristocracy, who he believed responsible for the war, and put in place a new racist power structure of loyal whites. When Grant informed him that he would not allow Johnson to try confederate generals due to his Appomattox agreement, this is when Johnson's policy switched, and even then begrudgingly.
By 1866, Johnson had declared war on the Radical Republicans and placed himself in an extreme and precisely opposite position against them. He refused to bring to bear federal charges against race riots sanctioned by elites in the south, he shuttered plantations that Lincoln had authorized for freedmen to start to transition from slavery to self-subsistence and began embarrassing himself on a tour around the country espousing his unpopular views.

magisternewell (talk) 09:00, 06 June 2014 (PDT)

Proposed edits: Grant's influence explaining Johnson's "moderate stance"[edit]

--Magisternewell (talk) 16:21, 12 June 2014 (UTC):The suggestions rampant in this article that Lincoln and Johnson had the same moderate views are wildly misleading. I propose removing all of them in the introduction and overview. In the presidential reconstruction section the quote can stay, but should be clarified by explaining that Johnson's moderation came only after a heated argument with Grant, who was effectively in command of the military at the time and had extensive political power. Johnson had been advocating harsh penalties for the Southern generals, but Grant insisted upon sticking to the terms of the Appomattox surrender agreement. Certainly by 1866, Johnson was busy vetoing congress left and right was no longer a "moderate" by any stretch of the imagination.

Johnson's moderation was a product of two factors, Grant's political power and his own views that the white aristocracy should be replaced by a government filled with white working class southerners. Johnson at no point advocated for the freedmen, either with voting rights, the freedman's bureau or the freedmen plantations that had been established.
As soon as these misleading elements are eliminated, I think the article will be greatly improved.


--Magisternewell (talk) 22:28, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

I think the first few paragraphs of the intro should be replaced by something like this:

From 1863 to 1865, Lincoln and Johnson in the early part of his term, took moderate positions designed to bring the South back to normal as quickly as possible. Johnson had advocated harsh penalties for confederates, especially wealthy ones whom he believed were responsible for the war. He was checked by Lieutenant General Grant, however, who reminded Johnson of the guarantees in the Appomattox agreement. Johnson agreed not to pursue federal prosecution for confederates, but would not relent so easily when congress passed the civil rights bill in 1866.

Johnson came up against Radical Republicans in 1866 when he vetoed the civil rights bill. Perhaps his strict Jeffersonian democratic principals governed his decision, in that he thought congress had no federal authority to force states to submit to such sweeping laws. On the other hand, Johnson's racism may have been the reason for his decision, revealed in a series of speeches in 1866 advocating white supremacy in the south and claiming that African-Americans were incapable of self-government.

Johnson's vetoes, his abortive speeches and his political miscalculation made room for the Radical Republicans. They checked his power; disallowing him from making political appointments with the tenure of office act and with a massive majority in congress were easily able to overturn his vetoes. --Magisternewell (talk) 22:28, 14 June 2014 (UTC)

General Bias?[edit]

I came to this article after doing some reading on Reconstruction from recent sources, hoping to get the general perspective and think about it in terms of the big picture. What I'm reading causes me to wonder if there's something of a general bias here. The topic is fraught with controversy, with many Americans holding strong opinions and a dramatic shift in the scholarship from the pro-Southern (and often openly racist) Dunning school that predominated in the first half of the twentieth century to the extraordinarily detailed recent studies by Foner and others.

Some obvious signs are:

Use of the terms "Carpetbaggers" and "Scalawags" outside of quotes in the introduction (paragraph 4) to describe Northerners who went South and Southern whites who supported Reconstruction policies. "Carpetbaggers" is first introduced in paragraph three, where it is placed in quotes and acknowledged as derogatory, but "Scalawags" doesn't even get that qualification. It's just the descriptive term for Southerners who wanted social change, according to this article.

The mention that Nelson Klose (coauthor of a textbook that is subsequently cited several times) compared African American freedmen to "children", which I discovered to be true:

"The emancipation of the slaves uprooted hundreds of thousands of them and brought sudden freedom, for which they were unprepared. Their labor was lost and they created a social problem for themselves and for the South as they wandered about looking for food and trying, like children, to enjoy their new freedom." (Klose and Lader, United States History, Since 1865, p. 5)

This reference to freedmen as "children" has a pretty prominent place in paragraph two of the introduction. I have the strong impression from the historical research that we now have a much more detailed understanding of what happened in the South, which, given the vast numbers of people and places involved, couldn't reasonably be expected to fit in the above caricature of childlike, unprepared freedmen. It's clear, indeed, that many black leaders emerged and the fight they waged with entrenched views became quite intense.

Reading further in the textbook cited, which was first published back in 1965, I get the sense it has much in common with the Dunning School. Read a bit of the Dunning School wiki, and then compare to, say, the section of Klose's textbook on "Radical Reconstruction in Effect in the South" (pp. 15-16).

My question is, would the Dunning School be essentially a WP:fringe theory now, and, if so, would Klose and Lader be the same? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wswanniii (talkcontribs) 21:59, 14 April 2015‎

There is no general bias-- just a poorly chosen quotation from an old high school textbook. Citing the Klose and Lader textbook was a mistake (I replaced it with a better source) ---It was originally a high school study guide prepared by non-experts in the 1960s, and was not based on scholarship. As for "Scalawag" That is a standard term that is used today without quote marks. Foner, for example, writes in 2013: "Throughout the South, carpetbaggers and scalawags controlled the [Republican] party machinery. To appeal to white voters, party leaders kept blacks off the state ticket in every state except South Carolina and Louisiana."Eric Foner (2013). Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. p. 145.  Rjensen (talk) 00:01, 15 April 2015 (UTC)