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Reconstruction And Industrialization Essay, Research Paper
After the Civil War, the nation witnessed two major social-economic movements: Reconstruction and Industrialization, which changed the country completely and made it one of the greatest industrialized countries in the world. However, it changed not only the country, but also, the society, its way of life and traditions.
The effort to rebuild the southern states and restore the Union was known as Reconstruction, a period that lasted from 1865 to 1877. Several different plans for Reconstruction emerged during and after the war. Much debate about differing plans centered on who would control Reconstruction – the President or Congress.
Lincoln had wanted to adopt a mild and forgiving policy toward the defeated rebels. The Radical in Congress, however, thought the South ought to be punished. They also felt that Congress and not The President should make Reconstruction policy. After Lincoln’s death, his Vice President Andrew Johnson, wished to continue Lincoln’s proposals. He enraged the Radicals, who controlled Congress, by vetoing some of their measures. Johnson’s failure to consider congressional views on Reconstruction and his efforts to block radical plans, finally led Republicans in Congress to attempt to impeach him. At his trial in the Senate, Johnson was acquitted by a razor-thin margin and even thought he was acquitted, his political power was gone.
Now the Republican-controlled Congress dictated the terms of Reconstruction. The chief features of this so-called Radical Reconstruction included: the division of the South into five military districts controlled by the U.S. Army, while new state constitutions and governments were being set up; the requirement of the new state governments to grant African American males the right to vote; and the requirement of southern states to ratify the Fourteen amendment. In addition to addressing several civil rights issues, the amendment prohibited many former Confederate officers and government officials from voting.
This period of Radical Reconstruction did not bring much change in the South. Although blacks began to participate in political life, they met tremendous hostility. Some Southern whites adopted a policy of terror to keep the freedmen from becoming too independent. Because blacks had no jobs or land they became sharecroppers in a kind of economic slavery.
Grant won election in 1868, and Congress became free to follow its Radical Reconstruction policies. It successfully proposed the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Amendments. However, a major depression occurred in 1873. In addition, public attention was diverted by the graft and corruption in President Grant’s cabinet. Corruption in the Grant administration weakened the political strength of the Republican Party. In addition, by the early 1870s, all but a handful former Confederates could vote again. Most of these white southern males now voted Democratic in reaction to Radical Republican Reconstruction. For most of the next century, the Democratic party would dominate voting in the South, giving rise to the term solid South. The emergence of the solid South gave the Democrats greater power in politics at the national level. In 1876, Democrats nominated Tilden, the governor of New York, to run for President against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, the governor of Ohio. It was a disputed election. Politicians and businessmen worked out a deal, and Republican Hayes was declared the winner. In the compromise of 1877, Democrats agreed to go along with the commission’s decision in returns for promises by Hayes to withdraw federal troops from the South, thus ending Reconstruction; name a southerner to his cabinet; and support federal spending on internal improvements in the South. Thus, Southerners assumed full control. During the next twenty years, they took steps to stop blacks from voting. They also introduced a policy of complete segregation of the races.
The most important legacy of Reconstruction has proved to be three amendments to the Constitution. The Thirteenth abolished slavery, the Fourteenth guaranteed the rights of citizens, and the Fifteenth gave black people the constitutional right to vote. And even thought these amendments did not bring freedom to African-American people at first, anyway it was an important step in American history.
From Reconstruction to World War I, the United States developed a prosperous industrial economy that revolutionized American society. After the Civil War, the growing northern factories looker to overseas markets for their goods. Meanwhile, completion of the transcontinental railroad opened new markets in the West and brought products of western farms and mines east. The Civil War ruined the South’s economy. Many farmers and planters had to sell off parts of their land to pay off debts or to start over. Yet despite all the hardships, they again began to produce cotton and tobacco. But, many southerners believed that the South economy should not rest simply on agriculture. They began to create a New South, with rebuilt railroads, new textile and steel mills, and new industries, such as oil and coal production.
Electricity became the key to many important economic developments that helped industry to expand. New methods of making steel brought its price down and improved its quality, making it suitable for dozens of uses. New inventions as the gargantuan Corliss steam engine, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the bicycle, the typewriter and the elevator very soon became commonplace necessities. The impact of new inventions was enormous. Technological change affected the lives of people far more than any political developments of the time. For example, the invention of the typewriter in 1867 and the development of a practical adding machine in 1888 mechanized offices. Innovations in communication also changed the nation, bringing people around the country in closer contact with one another. Links to the rest of the world also increased when a permanent transatlantic telegraph cable was completed in 1866. The United States was becoming the world’s greatest industrial power.
The mills and factories that came with industrialization, however, required greater capital, or money for investment, than one person or few partners could raise. To raise capital for expansion, many businesses became corporations, in which many investors owned shares. In exchange for their investment, each stockholder received a dividend, a part of the corporation’s profits. Also, companies could combine in various ways, through holding companies, mergers, and interlocking directorates. The new forms of business speeded the growth of American industry. Among the fastest growing industries were transportation (railroads, urban transportation, and, later, automobiles), building materials (steel), energy (coal, oil, electricity), and communications (telegraph and telephone).
The federal government generally held a laissez-faire attitude toward business for much of this period. Expanding industries and growing foreign trade seemed to justify such an attitude. A number of government policies were designed to aid the growth of business. These included loans and land grants to large railroad companies, high tariffs that discouraged competition from foreign manufacturers, tight limits on the amount of money in circulation, and few limits on immigration.
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, but after the Civil War industrialization drew an even greater flood of immigrants. From 1865 to 1900, some 13.5 million people arrived from abroad. Economic grow attracted new waves of immigrants to the United States. Some sought farms in the West, but most of them found employment in the blooming urban industries of the North. The growing population created demand for more consumer products and goods, which made the industries grow even more.
Industrialization and the growth of cities went hand in hand. Cities offered large numbers of workers for new factories. Cities provided transportation for raw materials and finished goods. As more plants were built, more workers moved to cities. In 1880, less than quarter of Americans lived in cities. By 1900, almost 40 percent did. Urbanization was aided and improved by new technologies in transportation, architecture, utilities, and sanitation. In addition, cities offered new cultural opportunities as museums, concert halls, theaters, and parks. New printing presses turned out mass-circulation newspapers, magazines, and popular novels.
Business growth brought generally higher wages to American workers. Yet periodic unemployment and poor working conditions remained a fact of life for workers. In addition, employers held enormous power over the lives of their workers and could lower wages and fire employers at will. To improve conditions, increasing number of American workers formed labor unions, which helped advance the cause of labor. Also, Industrialization brought changes to the lives of women in all classes. In the late 1880’s, more women began taking jobs outside the home, some out of economics necessity and others out of a desire for a larger role in society. Women started to attend colleges in increasing numbers though the late 1800’s and they sought to apply their educations and social concerns in the job market. Women’s suffrage, movement started to grow more active.
In addition, Industrialization had aided the settling of the West. A growing United States population and a demand for new lands and resources lured Americans westward, reducing the Native American population and forcing them into ever-shrinking parcels of land. The new technologies helped the people who moved onto Native American lands exploit the wealth of the West. Western land became occupied by miners, ranchers, and farmers. Thus, Industrialization created a new, stronger and greater country.
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