Posted: March 24th, 2023
The period of 1865-1867 in the American history is referred as the reconstruction era, which came after the civil war. During this time, President Lincoln’s main agenda was to reintegrate all the federal States. However, this period was met with tremendous volatility and violence. The southerners felt that reconstruction was an insult to their already injured ideologies, while the northerners felt that this was the appropriate era of ending the slave trade. Nonetheless, in 1866, the Congress granted the Civil Rights Act that indicated that all Americans were eligible to freedom and equality as per the constitution. Despite this intervention formulated in the reconstruction period to ensure that America became a democratic nation, the African Americans enjoyed these changes in 1867, although for a very short time. In the 20th century, America revolutionized completely with the civil rights era taking the nation through another step to democracy. Therefore, this study will discuss the progress made by the U.S., since the reconstruction period in regards to liberty, power, and equality.
In the United States, freedom seems to be the most predominant language. Although other countries cherish the idea of liberty, America supersedes them all by giving it a prominent place in both the private and public sectors (Foner 500). However, despite the commencement of freedom during the reconstruction period, this terminology still poses prevalence with the meaning and the category it was given. When President Lincoln established the Reconstruction Act, he paved the way for freedom in America. In addition, the reconstruction period commenced the relevance of liberty in America society. During this time, all Americans were granted protection and rights under the law, regardless of their race or color. This era affected the definition of freedom amongst the black people. Nonetheless, liberty has progressed very slowly since the time of Reconstruction.
The sluggishness evidenced was highly propagated by inattention from the national government, which was busy reuniting and reconciling the Americans. For instance, even after black men were granted the voting rights during the Reconstruction era, they lost it in the same period of the 1960s. Moreover, former slaves in their need to acquire land were never granted that privilege. On the other hand, the right to citizenship for immigrants has been met with lots of obstacles over the centuries. Clear evidence can be cited from the Asian immigrants who until 1940 were not considered as American citizens by naturalization (Boyer et al. 800). However, any children they bore in America became automatic American citizens by birth. The 14th amendment is responsible for the liberty of American and all the rights that one is endorsed as a citizen, specifically by birth. Further, the reconstruction period brought concrete meaning to freedom and ensured that it provided new methods of enforcing it. Besides, this amendment has consistently acted as a core regulator because it prevents the federal government from enacting into law any state actions that may interfere with the liberties of the citizens. Moreover, the U.S. runs by the bill of rights act, which embodies the liberties of all Americans. In this bill, Congress is negated and restricted from overriding on the rights of the American citizens.
The reconstruction era gave birth to equality of all human beings under the law. The entire initiative constructed a new era for Americans, a situation that could not have been experienced in the past decades. Before this period, no state in the American union could give the Black Americans legal equality as per the law (Foner 570). Every state from North to South America had particular special laws relating to the Blacks. For instance, the Blacks could receive more or harsher punishments than the Whites. However, the Reconstruction Act changed the earlier arrangements and ensured that everybody was guaranteed equality under the law regardless of their race or color.
The fourteenth amendment is responsible for ensuring that every citizen is equal under the law. In addition, gender inequality became a predominant problem that progressed very slowly to the extent of resisting change. While the men were regarded as equal under the law, the women were excluded with equal measures. Women made political movements that were aimed at settling the case of inequality based on gender. During the 15th amendment, they showed little action because they were hoping that the issue of discrimination due to one’s gender would be resolved. However, this issue was never resolved, instead only the racism agenda was prioritized. However, the issue of gender inequality has become something of the past with women’s movements actively participating in actions against discrimination on gender lines.
Notably, black Americans continued to face discrimination in the economic and political arenas even after the reconstruction period. After this era, the Southern States took to disenfranchising the Republicans. The reason for this conduct was based on the premise that the society needed to go back to normalcy with the reigning of white supremacy. Indeed, due to the inequality prevailing in the southern states, the Democrats remained the powerful rulers with the change being realized in the 20th century. Political bias prevailed because the Blacks were harassed, intimated, and killed once they attempted to exercise their voting rights. The whites maintained that African American should not be allowed to vote because they were politically incompetent. On the other hand, many black leaders tried to fight for the equal rights of their race, but their plea was met with prevalent discrimination (Boyer et al. 856). Moreover, until the late 19th century America still faced social discrimination, especially in the Southern States.
Through the Jim Crow laws, Black Americans were exposed to segregation rules. African American children were denied access to public schools, while the entire Black race was not allowed into public parks, hotels, and restaurants. Notably, the Congress should have upheld the law, which prohibited discrimination due to one’s race, but they showed little concern. In addition, the legislature arm was busy dealing with financial issues affecting Americans, instead of dealing with inequality issues. However, since the 19th century, African Americans have faced lesser discrimination with more of them participating in the political arena. For instance, the current president of America is clear evidence that discrimination has been in decline because the entire U.S. population elected him to the office.
The reconstruction period commenced the journey towards a well-balanced power nation. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment gave the legislature authority to enforce appropriate legislations. From these ratifications, the national government was given the paramount responsibility to protect the rights of all the American citizens (Foner 496). However, after this era, a power concentrated in the Federal government ceased to exist after a few years. The reason for this change was that state governments took up their roles in governance, a step that helped to restore the power balance between the federal government and its states. The years after 1913 saw more amendments by state governments being barred from influencing the national government. Further, the federal government was given the power to control America’s money and wealth, a situation that demonstrated their supremacy.
However, since the 1930s the national government’s power started facing limitations. During this period, all the arms of government seemed to face controversies. They either plodded on each other’s liberties or acted in ways prohibited by the law. However, in the 1960s, the judiciary took its constitutional obligations seriously, where it compelled the other branches into performing all their duties as required by the law. With this step, the Federal government was able to function without any obstacles from the different arms of government (Boyer et al. 956). However, this move gave more power to the central government, which started oppressing its citizens in the 1970s. Therefore, the reconstruction era did an excellent job of paving the way for a stable government, but until today, the executive and Congress’ powers are still undermined. On the other hand, the judiciary can never make decisions by the law. Instead, they opt first to consult the public opinion before they can do so.
The reconstruction period commenced America’s journey to a democratic state. Their core themes of liberty, the balance of power, and equality are still under scrutiny. The question of the concept surrounding the three ideas and their real meanings remains a controversial issue in the American society until today. However, since reconstruction, some of the themes, especially freedom has exhibited change with more Americans enjoying their rights and liberties more unlike in the earlier eras. However, the balance of power remains the most controversial issue with the arms of government acting per public opinion instead of ruling according to the laid procedures of law. However, there is a big progress in equality, especially from the twentieth century. In fact, more African Americans have been enjoying the rights to equal representation and livelihoods as their white counterparts.
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