During the American Civil War in December 1863, Abraham Lincoln offered a model for reinstatement of Southern states called the 10 percent Reconstruction plan. It decreed that a state could be reintegrated into the Union when 10 percent of the 1860 vote count from that state had taken an oath of allegiance to the U.S. and pledged to abide by emancipation. The next step in the process would be for the states to formally elect a state government. Also, a state legislature could write a new constitution, but it had to abolish slavery forever. At that time, Lincoln would recognize the reconstructed government. By 1864, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas had established fully functioning Unionist governments.
This policy was meant to shorten the war by offering a moderate peace plan. It was also intended to further his emancipation policy by insisting that the new governments abolished slavery.
Congress reacted sharply to this proclamation of Lincoln's. Republicans feared that the planter aristocracy would be restored and the blacks would be forced back into slavery. Lincoln's reconstructive policy toward the South was lenient because he wanted to popularize his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln feared that compelling enforcement of the proclamation could lead to the defeat of the Republican Party in the election of 1864, and that popular Democrats could overturn his proclamation. Some Republicans pushed through Congress the Wade-Davis Bill in July 1864, which outlined more stringent requirements for re-admission. This was pocket-vetoed by Lincoln after it passed.
The Radical Republicans opposed Lincoln's plan, as they thought it too lenient towards the South. They wanted more stringent requirements for Southern states' re-admission into the Union. Lincoln, however, chose not to punish the South. He wanted to preserve the Union and start rebuilding the wealth and prosperity of the country.
- Foner, Eric. Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation & Reconstruction. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.
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