'What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing'. How far did Reconstruction realise Lincoln's vision?

Essay by vickeeCollege, UndergraduateA, March 2004

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Reconstruction had been a subject of discussion in the North ever since the Civil War started. By December of 1864, when it was clear that the outcome of the American Civil War had been decided and that it was only a matter of time before the Confederates would be crushed, the debate about reconstruction became an urgent consideration. Seeing the end of war draw nearer, more and more ideas about what should happen to the South after their imminent defeat started to be suggested by those in power in the North.

However, the main two thoughts for Reconstruction clearly represented two extremely polarised points of view within the Republican Party. On the one hand, were the radical Republicans who wanted harsh reconstruction in the South, in a manner of institutionalised revenge, to compensate for the losses the North had suffered. This involved federal occupation, equal rights for blacks and a complete elimination of the pre-war slavery lifestyle from social, economic and political aspects.

This view was opposed by a group of Moderates, including Lincoln, who believed that the South would be more likely to reintegrate with the North if treated less severely. His view, as illustrated in the quotation 'What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing', was that individual feelings of power, control or revenge could not be allowed to factor into decisions that concern such a great number of people and the welfare of future institutions. This ability to see personal interests as smaller than the larger concerns led Lincoln to believe that a softer reconstruction would bring the Union back together as quickly and as peacefully as possible. As detailed in Lincoln's 1863 10 Percent Plan, the transition through Reconstruction was envisaged with: re-admittance to the Union after 10% of the state attained loyalty by...