American history

Question One: Compare and contrast the plans for Reconstruction as envisioned by U.S. presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant. Discuss the objectives of each. Which plan was better for the Union and why?Before a comparison can be made of the policies of Andrew Johnson (President of the United States 1865-1869) and Ulysses S. Grant (President of the United States 1869-1877), the whole theory of Reconstruction has to be understood.

The Civil War or sometimes referred to as the War Between the States happened between 1861 through 1865. It was the result of a long time brewing issue of slavery in the Southern States. Abolitionists of slavery and advocates of every human’s right to personal freedom were a strong political voice within the northern part of the Union while most of the southern states accepted slavery as a personal right.

The North was more of an industrial area with many of its citizens being of a more conservative religious nature. The North did have a firm agricultural aspect as well but these farms where family owned with hired labor to work them. Indentured servants from the original colonial days no longer existed but within the fertile crop lands of the southern states, plantations of great size were prospering in the growth of cotton and sugar cane. With slave labor, the owners of these plantations amassed great wealth in comparison to their farmer counterparts in the north.

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Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s vice president during Lincoln’s second term, automatically became the new president after Lincoln’s death. Mr. Johnson attempted to continue on with Lincoln’s policies concerning reconstruction. Lincoln had attempted to practice that though the southern states should be placed under military rule, it would be eventually be to return those states to their own governmental rule. If one tenth of the state population were willing to swear to an oath of loyalty to the Union, then that state was more likely to be removed from military government rule.

In natural reaction, the once rebellious southern states objected to the state of being dictated to by the federal government in how their state should be run. The whole process was met with constant strife and disgruntlement from every side of politics. No satisfactory medium ground could be found. Most of the blame for this conflict was laid at the feet of Andrew Johnson, who as President was held the most responsible.

This and other factors led to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, including Johnson’s placement of Lorenzo Thomas as Secretary of the Department of War after having removed Edwin M. Stanton. This was all done without the approval or consent of the Senate. Johnson was charged with a high misdemeanor and his privileges of Office were removed as President.

Ulysses S. Grant, a powerful figure in politics due to his favorable war credentials, had maintained a neutral attitude about Johnson’s Reconstruction policies during Johnson’s term. He was quoted as being in favor of Johnson’s policies as a continuance of Lincoln’s Reconstruction ideas. After his election as President, Grant took a stronger outlook on the Reconstruction issues. He absolved all military personnel of any charges of misconduct while in place as military government officials within the southern states. He gave them amnesty against any prosecution of acts while acting in capacity of military government.

Grant took a dim view on the protests of the southern states’ complaints of military occupation and unfair treatment by the officials of that military occupation. The object was to form a one solid union once again at any price and to quell any possible uprising within the occupied states. While harsh and often unfair, Grant’s stern practices did succeed in ceasing any other attempts of the southern states to cede and order and unity was once again in place.

Question Two: What impact did the frontier have on American behavior, attitudes, and institutions? Is the “frontier thesis” of Fredrick Jackson Turner still viable on today’s historians?

With the opening of the western frontier, a whole new range of prospects was brought to the economy of the United States as well of the people who before populated the eastern part of the country and newly arrived immigrants seeking a better life in a different place.

The gradual move west happened over a long period of time as the unexplored wilderness contained many dangers and unknown possibilities, both good and bad. It was a long slow process that happened over the first and middle part of the 19th century but by the last decade had arrived; most of it had been settled and civilized. Great new prospects had been introduced into America’s economy.

The raw wealth in the forms of gold, silver or other mineral mining, oil, lumber and livestock ranching as well as other agricultural crops, gave the United States almost an unlimited source of products, increasing the country’s independence to provide for itself without so much dependency on foreign sources.

The West had known such a boon of prosperity and economic growth that when the turn of the century arrived, there was an over abundance of these products and far less a demand for them than in the days when the West’s contributions to the country had been more in demand. Towns that had grown up overnight had faded away and new modernization of trains and freight shipping had eliminated many key jobs that so many people had known such as the end of the stage coach line and also the Pony Express.

The East continued to prosper and develop new conveniences such as the telephone, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, and the whole country was swept up in a whirlwind of inventive revolution. The Great Unknown just no longer existed as the whole vastness of the country was united by modern technology and sweeping change. It became the age of the machine and the end of the horse and buggy day.

Fredrick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” has broadened the whole concept that the generalized progression of people to move into unknown territory and settle it, leads to advances in all aspects of living from the industries of business to the growth and decline of economy. Foresight is better than hindsight could be said but it is only in hindsight that such historians as Fredrick Jackson Turner can project forecasts for today’s politicians. It could perhaps stop a forward movement such as that period went from prosperity to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Fredrick J. Turner’s thesis also expounded on the value of deepening and strengthening relationships with neighboring and foreign nations as a broadened frontier.

Question Three: Discuss the political, social and economic significance of the year 1876 in American History.

This year brought a time of great strife for the United States. It had only been a little over a decade since the end of the Civil War and that poor economic growth in the southern part of the nation had ever lasting effects on the country as a whole. People were still moving west and many of the south were moving north to the cities in hopes of finding work and decent living conditions. This caused an overcrowding in these cities, affecting the normal citizenry as well as the newcomers, both American and still arriving immigrants. It was the end term of Ulysses S. Grant’s terms as President.

The year was economically depressed which caused homelessness and unemployment for many Americans. These aspects were in direct contradiction of the people in the less populated western areas who knew a far better income and life. The year also suffered from a series of disasters from former years that has caused a great financial strain on the nation’s economy such as the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 that had virtually left thousands homeless. There had been earthquakes and floods. Relief agencies were set up to bring relief to many of the indigent of those times but not all the money donated to at least thirty charities found its way to the intended purpose. There was rampant political misconduct.

The year of 1876 is also known as the year of the tramp. Men who traveled from place to place working odd jobs or just simply squatting in places in groups causing disgruntlement and fear among the established citizens. The tramps were the by-products of the increasing number of homeless people. It became an even stronger distinction of class from the poor to the rich. More people were in poverty in comparison to the numbers who either wealthy or had a sufficient income to live a decent life. Homelessness breeds hopelessness and crime.

Hobos were tramps that rode the railroads from place to place. The introduction of the railroad into American transportation was only increased by its use during the Civil War by transporting soldiers and equipment from place to place. Many of the hobos were ex-soldiers who had only gained a poorer way of life by fighting for their country instead of reaping rewards for their service by having a more evenly distributed prosperity.

Such social and economic variances can only lead to a more volatile type of politics. During Grant’s term, the Democrat party had remained extremely weakened by the Civil War where the controlling party had remained Republican for a number of years. By 1876, the Democratic Party had finally begun to return to some power but there remained the strife that most of America’s politicians were Republican and more conservative and class aware. The rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer.

Question Four: Compare the role of the political machines and the social reformers in dealing with the new urban environment of the late 19th Century. Which group was more successful and why?

As it has been stated so many times, the 19th Century was a time of phenomenal change that far surpassed its preceding centuries. In those short one hundred years, there happened such a mass of innovative invention, mass population movement and radical social change than had ever been seen before. Accepted standards were challenged, religious statues questioned and political change that must incur with these actions. The questions of race, gender and creed became predominately evident in the American population that was more far spread than ever before and the country had amassed great growth in its size.

Military force became a predominant figure in American politics since its said effective use after the Civil War. The federal government used its military forces as police basically after that period. Along with governing and maintaining the southern states during the years of the Reconstruction period, the American government now employed its Army to keep peace and jurisdiction among the remaining bands of Native American tribes in the west. Federal marshals held precedence over the local town and state marshals so the once wild frontier became more lawful and peaceful.

At the end of Grant’s term in 1877, Rutherford Hayes became the President of the United States. He was also Republican and the highest seat in the country would remain in the control of the Republican Party until the election of Grover Cleveland in 1885. He was a Democrat and was set to bring about radical political change. He became the President of the common man but he also made strong enemies among certain powerful politicians in the Republican controlled Senate.

Cleveland discovered a large monetary amount in the national treasury that had its basis in former Civil War tariffs and was termed as “pork barrel legislation”. He lowered the tariffs and vetoed laws that would have kept the tariffs and other such practices in force. He earned a high popularity among the agricultural groups and the less wealthy average American man on his income. His one term as President greatly aided the common man but his opponents in the political arena caused his loss to Benjamin Harrison in 1889. He re-ran in the following term and was re-elected President in 1893. His popularity was strong among the people of the spreading urban society of the United States.

The time of the separation of Church and State had arrived.

Women’s Suffrage had arisen on the horizon and would create a huge reform in American life and politics. The female citizens of the country had begun to demand their rights as individuals, especially the right to vote. What had been predominately a man’s world would soon be toppled over as American women brought their weight to bear upon every aspect of daily life. Along with Women’s Suffrage, came the feminine viewpoint of social reform to include religion more into politics and also led towards the prohibition of liquor. Perhaps a bit more predominant within the larger cities, the Suffrage movement caused more change within the expanded realm of the American population living.

The political machines had a more direct bearing on the urban environment that the social reformers simply because the politics had a stronger foothold among the male population and it would take time for the new social reform to take effect.

Question Five: Discuss the differences between the Populists and the Progressives as third parties in American politics. Include an analysis of their party platform, candidates and supporters.

Both the Populist and La Follette Progressive parties were right wing. They were short lived political parties that did not survive the transitional growth of American politics. When George Washington was elected as President of the United States, there were no party affiliations. At the beginning, there was the Federalist Party and the Whig party and Anti-Federalist Party. The Federalist Party survived longer than either other party but within time several parties by other names would come into formation and as well disappear because their party platforms were too narrow and one sided to survive.

The Populist Party would eventually move into becoming the Democratic Party with the election of Andrew Jackson as President. It began as the Democratic Republican Party, which because of its basic populist mandate, eventually became what we know today as the Democratic Party. The original Populist Party maintained too much of a radical, one-sided view.

It had come down to an issue between the agricultural groups and the unionists. Due to falling land prices, crop prices, and heavy taxes, the western farmers felt themselves unrepresented in government. The unionists meanwhile were better organized and compact groups that differed greatly from the farming community. It was industrial against agricultural. Each newly formed party had its own interest in mind and chose candidates in accordance with those interests. There was no common benefit among the population as whole within these right wing parties.

The Populist Party leaned closer to the farmers and sought to have a candidate elected that would represent them in Washington and relieve their growing pile of grievances. It connected eventually with the Greenback party but eventually took the form of the Democratic Party under the presidency of Andrew Jackson.

The La Follette Progressive Party differed in its industrial pursuit as the Populist was agricultural. The Labor party turned to nominating candidates that would further their cause. The unionists cared little about the declining income plight of the farmers and by its very organized nature; the Labor party was eventually absorbed into what is now the Republican Party.

Since each political party must differ in order to achieve a decent balance in politics, it is to the best advantage of election process to have two such agendas. There has been within the course of American history the emergence of third parties, even in today’s society with the Independent ticket. Though history has proved that very seldom is a candidate of a third party ever been elected to actually hold a political office.

Works Cited/Reference Page:

1.  Andrew Johnson, A Study In Courage by Lloyd Paul Striker, Macmillan, 1929

2. Ulysses S. Grant: Politician by William B. Hesseltine, Dodd, Mead, 1935

3. Halford Mackinder and the ‘Geographical Pivot of History’: A Centennial Retrospective, Journal article by Klaus Dodds, James D. Sidaway; the Geographical Journal, Vol. 174, 2004

4. Down and Out, on the Road, the Homeless In American History by Kevin L. Kusmer, Oxford University Press, 2002

5.Political Mischief: Smear, Sabotage, and Reform In U.S. Elections by Bruce L. Felknor; Praeger Publications, 1992

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