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37 Reconstruction

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37. RECONSTRUCTION. With the sur render of the Southern armies and the collapse of the Confederate government all organized resistance to the authority of the United States was at an end, but a problem second only to that of suppressing the insurrection now confronted the nation. This was the question of the restoration of the late insurrectionary States to their normal relations in the Union and the determination of the political status of both those who had borne arms against the United States and those who had been made free by the results of the war. It was a great political and social problem, involving, on the one hand, the political.. reorganisation or "reconstruction') of the Southern State governments which had carried on the war against the Union and, on 1 the other, "the investment of the freedmen with the rights and privileges of citizenship and the protection of them in the enjoyment of those rights and The ideas and traditions of constitutional liberty in the United States made the problem especially difficult. In Europe indefinite military occupation would have been the solution of the problem so far as it related to political reconstruction, but that was repugnant to American ideas and was, therefore, not to be thought of.

Theories of Reconstruction.— It was ad mitted on all hands that the collapse of the Confederacy left the Southern States in an anomalous condition so far as their political status was concerned, but opinions varied widely as to the exact nature of that status. The framers of the Federal Constitution ap parently did not foresee the possibility of civil war and consequently inserted no provisions in the fundamental law relative to the status of a State which having once seceded should be re conquered and brought again under the author ity of the United States. As soon as the even tual defeat of the Confederate armies was fore seen discussion of the status of the Southern States, preliminary to the work of political re organization, became active both in and out of Congress and several well-defined theories were enunciated. One of these was the view held by President Lincoln and his supporters that the act of rebellion in each State was the act of combinations of disloyal persons who had un lawfully subverted the State governments. The

existence of the States themselves, he held, was not affected by the disloyal acts of their inhab itants although he admitted that as a result of rebellion the States were out of their "proper practical relations') with the Union. In his opinion, the problem of reconstruction con sisted simply in placing the loyal element of each State in control of the government after which its normal relations with the Union could be resumed. By means of the executive par don those who had engaged in rebellion could, upon promise of future loyalty, be restored to their rights and allowed to join with the loyal element in the re-establishment of the State government. This process would perhaps re quire the use of the military arm of the gov ernment but the intervention of Congress would not be necessary. Opposed to this lenient view was that of the more extreme radicals like ',Sumner and Stevens. According to their view the Southern States by act of rebellion had de stroyed their corporate existence as self-gov erning commonwealths and should be held as conquered provinces or governed indefinitely as Territorial dependencies under the plenary power of Congress. A third and somewhat intermedi ate view was that finally adopted by Congress, namely, that the Southern States as a result of rebellion had ((deprived themselves of all civil government') and had forfeited their rights of ' self-government. They continued to exist, but rather as disorganized communities, subject to the paramount authority of Congress to restore them to their rights as States under such condi tions as it might prescribe. Other views of the status of the Southern States were but modifi cations of these three. It is to be noted that according to Lincoln's view the whole task of reconstruction was an executive problem, while according to the view finally reached by Con gress it was a legislative problem, being derived from the constitutional provision which makes it the duty of the United States to guarantee to each State a republican form of government — a duty which had been interpreted by the Su preme Court as devolving upon the legislative branch. This difference of view led to import ant consequences and greatly complicated the whole process of reconstruction.

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