The Making of a Superpower: USA 1865-1975, Part 1: From Civil War to World War 1865-1920


History USA Revision notes

Part 1: From Civil War to World War 1865-1920

Topic 1: The Era of Reconstruction and the gilded age 1865-90:

The Weaknesses of federal government: Johnson, Grant and the failure of Radical Reconstruction (mostly political, some society)-

  • US system compromised of 3 branches (president, congress and supreme courts), each with checks over the other, this makes decisive leadership in difficult times hard, which is evident in the struggle of Reconstruction in the post-war period
  • before there was 13th amendment and Freedmen’s bureau set up
  • Johnson (D) and the form of Reconstruction-
  • 2 key issues in Reconstruction-
    • how far to punish southern states for seceding 
    • how African-Americans/former slaves should be treated in Southern states
  • Johnson wished to see the Southern states restored to the Union ASAP and didn’t want to punish them and felt each state should be responsible for how it treated its African American population 
  • however Congress filled with Radical Republicans who wanted harsh measures on South and legal protections of African Americans 
  • Radical Republicans gained more support when South passed Black Codes (legal discrimination against African Americans) and former Confederate politicians were restored to positions of influence
  • Congressional victory over Johnson-
  • Congress passed The 1866 Civil Rights Bill which overrode Black Codes
  • Johnson tried to veto but failed and to ensure the bill stayed, congress passed 14th amendment which gave all African Americans born in the USA citizenship and full rights in law
  • to help with passing the 14th Amendment congress introduced “Radical Reconstruction” to the south which included the Tenure of Office Act (prevented Johnson from removing office-holders), however he ignored this and removed Stanton, the impeachment process began, he survived by one vote but got easily defeated at 1868 election by Grant
  • Grant (R) and the figure of Radical Reconstruction-
  • Congress passed four separate Reconstruction Acts and placed the Southern states under military rule-but reconstruction is mostly seen as a failure
    • Many African-Americans were voted into political office but were poorly educated and lacked the experience to govern effectively-although many regions saw expansion fo social services, improvements in education, developments of railroads and construction of levees to prevent flooding
    • The entry of carpetbaggers and scalawags into political scene was unpopular with Southern whites because they were accused of exploitation and corruption
    • Many white people terrorised and intimidate African Americans into withdrawing from political process, set up of KKK in 1866, Redeemers (white group) attacked corruption in government and found support among poor classes 
  • by late 1870s many in North were tired of costs of Reconstruction, result of 1876 presidential election was contested and Compromise of 1877 meant South support Republican Hayes if federal troops withdrawn and Reconstruction ended
  • south became self responsible

The Politics of the Gilded Age, the era of weak presidents, and political corruption

  • Gilded Age, Mark Twain, 1870-1900, time of weak and corrupt gov 
  • The Era of weak presidents-
  • The period 1866 to 1896 saw a period dominated by congressional government, president tended to…


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