The Civil War
During both the civil war and civil war reconstruction time periods, there were many changes going on in the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation, as well as legislation such as the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, was causing a new awakening of democracy; while the renouncing of secession by the South marked a definite triumph for Nationalism.
As well, the government was involved in altercations of its own. During reconstruction, the legislative and executive branches eventually came to blows over the use of power. The nation was being altered by forces which caused, and later repaired, a broken Union.
The first of these “forces”, was the expansion of democracy.
As early as 1862, Lincoln was taking a major step in that direction. On September 22, Lincoln announced the freeing of all slaves in areas not in Union control. Although the proclamation did not free all slaves everywhere, it was the action that would push Congress to pass the thirteenth amendment in 1865. The amendment, ratified later in 1865, stated that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude .Order now
. . shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It seemed democracy had triumphed by giving freedom to slaves, but the amendment was not complete.
It only stopped slavery, and made no provisions for citizenship; therefore, blacks were still not considered United States citizens. The fourteenth amendment was the democratic expansion that fixed that problem. Originally passed to “put a number of matters beyond the control or discretion of the president,” the amendment also made “All persons born or naturalized in the United States . .
. citizens of the United States.” It also provided that, “No State shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” This not only gave new meaning to black men’s freedom, but it also gave a new and broader meaning to citizenship.
Those drafting the amendment hoped that the broadness of would cover “unanticipated abuses”, yet, the general phrasing was only an advantage to abusers. There is no listing of the “privileges or immunities” offered to U.S. citizens.
In fact, there is not even a clarification of what rights a “citizen” has. These generalities, and the abuses that went with them, prompted the adoption of the fifteenth amendment in 1870. The final major step towards democratic expansion during reconstruction, the fifteenth amendment granted ” The right of citizens of the United States to vote,” and that right, “shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” This amendment finally took out loopholes existent in the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments.
The government of the United States was coming closer to being a government by all of the people, and not just whites. Civil war reconstruction offered more than just extended democracy, however. It was also a time of national unification.
One of the major boosts to United States nationalism, began with the simple Union victory over the confederacy.
Secession was unconstitutional according to those who supported the Union. By defeating the confederacy, the Union had only confirmed that fact. As well, the radical Republican reconstruction plan called for an official renunciation of secession, before states could be readmitted to the Union. If secession from the Union was now illegal, then Daniel Webster’s theory of the Constitution being a people’s government, and not a compact of states had to be true.
“The Constitution . . . begins with the words ‘We the people,’ and it was the people, not the states, who .
. . created it,” Webster claimed in his nationalist theory of the Constitution. The Union became more united than ever before, because now it truly was a Union, “.
. . now and forever, one and inseparable.” There were changes, though, that were occurring in the reconstruction time period that were not as helpful to the Union as democracy and nationalism.
While the nation was reveling in these more encouraging developments, the Union government was having internal conflicts.
Congress and the president began dueling over power distribution starting at about the time of Andrew Johnson’s presidency. Johnson became president after Lincoln’s death and immediately set the tone for the rest of