By Mary Beth Norton, Jane Kamensky, Carol Sheriff, David W. Blight, Howard Chudacoff
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Extra info for A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, Volume II: Since 1865, 9th Edition
A northern observer noted that slaves freed in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia made “plain, straight-forward” inquiries as they settled on new land. ” Everywhere, blacks young and old thirsted for homes of their own. But most members of both political parties opposed genuine land redistribution to the freedmen. Even northern reformers who had administered the Sea Islands during the war showed little sympathy for black aspirations. The former Sea Island slaves wanted to establish small, self-sufficient farms.
In their vision, they were creating the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution. Reconstruction would bring revolutionary circumstances, but revolutions can also go backward. The Civil War and its aftermath wrought unprecedented changes in American society, law, and politics, but the underlying realities of economic power, racism, and judicial conservatism limited Reconstruction’s revolutionary potential. As never before, the nation had to determine the nature of federal-state relations, whether confiscated land could be redistributed, and how to bring justice to both freedpeople and aggrieved white southerners whose property and lives had been devastated.
Stevens advocated a “conquered provinces” theory, arguing that southerners had organized as a foreign nation to make war on the United States and, by secession, had destroyed their status as states. They therefore must be treated as “conquered foreign lands” and returned to the status of “unorganized territories” before any process of readmisLink to the Wade-Davis bill. sion could be entertained by Congress. In July 1864, the Wade-Davis bill, named for its sponsors, Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Congressman Henry W.
A People and a Nation: A History of the United States, Volume II: Since 1865, 9th Edition by Mary Beth Norton, Jane Kamensky, Carol Sheriff, David W. Blight, Howard Chudacoff