Between the years 1860 and 1877 a revolution was brought on in the United States due to constitutional and social developments. Significant constitutional developments such as secession in 1860 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 play an important role in the road to revolution. Social developments play a smaller role in this revolution. Freed slaves are the root of social developments such as the Black Codes, the Freedman’s Bureau, and the Ku Klux Klan. Politics and states’ rights, black suffrage, and civil rights issues all combine to create a revolution.
However, while certain constitutional developments during this time period have proven to be revolutionary, the social developments of this era have proven to be exactly the opposite. Document A shows the first colossal step of secession, that being the South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession. In 1860, South Carolina is the first state that secedes from the Union. This is a vital constitutional development because after South Carolina secedes, other states begin to follow and secede from the Union as well.
Document A discusses delegated powers and how powers not delegated to the US government are reserved for the people to handle, which is what the South strongly believes in. The Northern Unionists, on the other hand, believes to strengthen the federal government, which is shown in Document B. Senator John Sherman, a Northerner, describes states’ rights as a lack of nationality and how it is the reason the United States government is being overthrown. Unionists claim that the strong principles of states’ rights ruin the Union and will lead to financial and political ruin in the future.
Sherman is advocating the restoration of the National Bank by saying that Americans should depend on the United States for currency and trade. Northern Unionists want a stronger central government and after the Civil War they get what they want. The end result of the Civil War is that the central government has the most power it has ever had up to this point in history. While the social developments during this era are not necessarily revolutionary, these developments have helped shape America to what it is today. Black suffrage is an important social development that helps change American society.
Document D represents the different opinions of moderate and radical republicans on the issue of slavery. Moderate republican, Gideon Welles argues that slavery should be set aside instead of abolished. An important request that Blacks have after they are freed is that they should be given the right to vote. Document C is a petition from African American citizens to the Union convention of Tennessee, in this petition former slaves are sternly stating that they helped fight for the Union army and therefore, they deserve the right to vote.
If former rebellious Southerners are allowed to vote, then African Americans should be given the right to vote as well. Document C especially shows that Blacks don’t have any rights during Johnson’s Reconstruction era. White supremacists, or the Ku Klux Klan, believe strongly that African Americans should not vote and they will go to radical extremes to prevent them from voting. Document I symbolizes the cruelty of the Ku Klux Klan by showing two white supremacists shaking hands over a crest with two Black people cringing in pain.
This image not only represents the cruelty of the KKK, but also how social developments are not revolutionary. When the Northern military left the South, this allowed for the Redeemer governments to rise to power. These Redeemer governments were catastrophic and only proved that the New South was, in fact, worse than the former South before secession. Since this New South is found to be atrocious, in no way is it revolutionary. Other social developments, such as the Freedmen’s Bureau, play a small part in the change of American society, which is technically a small revolution in itself.
The Freedmen’s Bureau is designed to help Blacks and poor whites with food, shelter, and education (Document E). However, as stated in Document E, the Freedmen’s Bureau was going to give Homesteads to the freed slaves, but the government kept none of its promises. Freed African Americans demand the right for land and they find it unfair that once again Southerners, former traitors to the Union, are handed land when they do not rightly deserve it. Rather the African Americans deserve the land because they were loyal to the Union in the Union’s time of need.
African Americans are speaking out more, which is a positive development because these demands are what eventually will get them their rights. Senator Lot Morrill describes the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as absolutely revolutionary (Document F). Senator Lot Morrill, a Unionist, is responsible for the Morrill Tariff Act. This act is designed to raise tariffs to provide land to states for education. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is not only an important constitutional development, but also a social development.
The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are all beneficial constitutional developments because hese amendments show that the federal government has more power than state governments. The Civil Rights Act considers African Americans as citizens. From the time of South Carolina’s seceding in 1860 to the final withdrawal of Union troops from the South in 1877, the nation of America was filled with revolutions. There was constant development in this time both socially and constitutionally. It was a result of these developments that the Revolutions of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Redeemers would take place.
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