What if reconstruction looked a little bit different

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mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
Disclaimer: I DO NOT WISH TO OFFEND. I love all people. I wish no ill will to anyone or their ancestors from 150 years ago.

As we all know only one confederate leader was tried and then executed after the war. I forget the name... I’m sure it’s around... but he was commander at the prison camp.

Prior and after civil war civilians have been tried and sentenced to either prison or execution for treason.

Lincoln took the position that the rebels were just that... citizens who have rebelled- which would be treason. He didn’t recognize the CSA as a separate entity.

Even if he did... I don’t have a list... but I’m sure you can find examples throughout history where the losers of war... especially if it was a long and tough war where the other side felt especially wronged... are executed.

But Lincoln and other political and military leaders didn’t take that approach. Except for the one prison camp guy... the rest were not just spared, but were able to regain full citizenship, maintained property rights, allowed to vote, run for office, etc.... everything a regular citizen could do. An act of forgiveness.

But what if Lincoln... then Johnson... and others... took a different approach. One less forgiving? What if political leaders who signed the secession documents and military leaders were tried and executed? Is Beauregard all that different than John Brown?

I’d like to hear arguments for and against. What would the ramifications be both during war and directly after?
 

Cavalry Charger

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Jan 24, 2017
Interesting question, and I think it would have led to an underground reaction, akin to guerilla warfare which had been suggested by some when the cessastion of hostilies occurred. This would have been ugly, and no doubt even more detrimental to the South, leading to a military occupation much sooner and very oppressive measures being put into place. A totalitarian scenario, if you like.

It could go on for years. And the hatred would build.

No doubt the decision not to execute stayed such a bitter possibility. It was the right decision, in my opinion.
 
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mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
Interesting question, and I think it would have led to an underground reaction, akin to guerilla warfare which had been suggested by some when the cessastion of hostilies occurred. This would have been ugly, and no doubt even more detrimental to the South, leading to a military occupation much sooner and very oppressive measures being put into place. A totalitarian scenario, if you like.

It could go on for years. And the hatred would build.

No doubt the decision not to execute stayed such a bitter possibility. It was the right decision, in my opinion.
If not execute because I think there’s truth to what you say... what about not allowing to come back as citizens of the United States of America? It can be argued the same guys who made this move also made moves that hindered moving on or further restricted the rights of now freed African Americans. If these guys aren’t citizens... maybe not hung up... but at least not allowed to have political power?
 
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jgoodguy

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That's what they were trying to achieve by seceding, surely. If the US was going to do that, they might as well have not bothered fighting a war to "preserve the Union" in the first place.
Preserving is the eye of the beholder. In other times and places, the rebels were not allowed to have local political powers. Seems to have worked out well for them.
 

Andersonh1

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Preserving is the eye of the beholder. In other times and places, the rebels were not allowed to have local political powers. Seems to have worked out well for them.
Would it have worked in the United States, do you think? Do you think the southern people would have sat back and submitted to a long term lack of restoration of their rights, or allowed their leaders to be executed? Just about any approach other than the one taken would have resulted in the war continuing in some other form.
 

Jimklag

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I highly doubt there would be any more executions of Confederate leaders during Reconstruction because that would only alienate the South further and even Lincoln and Johnson chose to pardon them.
I don't believe Lincoln ever expressed a wish to pardon the southern leaders. He didn't want trials and hangings, but it is not certain that he, like Johnson, would have pardoned anyone without some pretty serious restrictions. It is hard to alienate the south further than four years of war and some serious pillaging done during that four years. The fact that the southern leaders resorted to war indicates that, as far as loving the USA goes, they were incorrigible and Lincoln would have known this. I think it is a potential error to mistake Lincoln's mercy for outright acceptance.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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If not execute because I think there’s truth to what you say... what about not allowing to come back as citizens of the United States of America? It can be argued the same guys who made this move also made moves that hindered moving on or further restricted the rights of now freed African Americans. If these guys aren’t citizens... maybe not hung up... but at least not allowed to have political power?
As far as I know, an Oath of Allegiance had to be taken agreeing to become a loyal citizen of the U.S. government once again. An element of disenfranchisement was also put into place in order to prevent power being returned to those previously in leadership. So, these are actions aimed at supporting the measures the Government was trying to put into place regarding the new social situation. They didn't hold up in the long run, and the reasons are many and complicated from what I understand.

There would have been huge psychological and social barriers to the new order, as well as emotional and physical repurcussions from the war. In my opinion, this was a wrenching which further oppressive measures would not have helped. And I would suggest African Americans may have suffered even more under a more punitive regime. If you look at the context and circumstances, it was an incredibly complicated situation to manage and the results were always going to be mixed and far from ideal.
 

jgoodguy

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Would it have worked in the United States, do you think? Do you think the southern people would have sat back and submitted to a long term lack of restoration of their rights, or allowed their leaders to be executed? Just about any approach other than the one taken would have resulted in the war continuing in some other form.
It worked in other times and places, no reason for drastic measures not to work here. It would have prevented a lot of lynchings, church burnings, murders of blacks.
 

mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
I don't believe Lincoln ever expressed a wish to pardon the southern leaders. He didn't want trials and hangings, but it is not certain that he, like Johnson, would have pardoned anyone without some pretty serious restrictions. It is hard to alienate the south further than four years of war and some serious pillaging done during that four years. The fact that the southern leaders resorted to war indicates that, as far as loving the USA goes, they were incorrigible and Lincoln would have known this. I think it is a potential error to mistake Lincoln's mercy for outright acceptance.
I think this is a solid point.

Let’s be serious. The southern states were tore up. Money gone. Food gone. Cities burned. A quarter of the young men were dead. It’s hard to imagine a more bitter relationship ship at this point.

Preserving the union is different than making sure RE Lee, Jeff Davis and the like remained citizens.

Men have been hung for far less. And even if mercy was granted why allow the same lot who drug you through this war to have similar power?? In the eyes of the north they already screwed up once... why allow it to continue? You could just prevent them from running for office again and maintaining political power. Would that have done a better job and preserving the rights of recently freed salves?
 
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mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
It worked in other times and places, no reason for drastic measures not to work here. It would have prevented a lot of lynchings, church burnings, murders of blacks.
I’m not so sure it would prevent them... but perhaps justice would have been more adequately doled out. That I think is the big question.
 

mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
Would it have worked in the United States, do you think? Do you think the southern people would have sat back and submitted to a long term lack of restoration of their rights, or allowed their leaders to be executed? Just about any approach other than the one taken would have resulted in the war continuing in some other form.
Do you think they would have rebelled again if their former leaders weren’t allowed to hold office? Or would just regular folk who weren’t leaders in the CSA before run for office?
 

Andersonh1

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Do you think they would have rebelled again if their former leaders weren’t allowed to hold office? Or would just regular folk who weren’t leaders in the CSA before run for office?
Their leaders were not allowed to hold office for a number of years, and there was no serious revolt, though some of the measures the redeemers took could certainly be categorized as a revolt against the system. I think harsher measures would have produced a harsher response. For losing a war, the southerners I've read who put thoughts on paper were still fiery and unrepentant. They were not wrong, they just lost a contest of strength, and they were still going to demand their remaining rights.
 
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archieclement

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mo
Interesting question, and I think it would have led to an underground reaction, akin to guerilla warfare which had been suggested by some when the cessastion of hostilies occurred. This would have been ugly, and no doubt even more detrimental to the South, leading to a military occupation much sooner and very oppressive measures being put into place. A totalitarian scenario, if you like.

It could go on for years. And the hatred would build.

No doubt the decision not to execute stayed such a bitter possibility. It was the right decision, in my opinion.
Underground or eventually open...... Edited. I tend to agree, harsher methods would if anything slowed or stayed reconstruction. Theres plenty of examples worldwide of where harsh coercion has simply led to warfare for decades and centuries, or till eventually overthrown.
 

mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
Underground or eventually open..... Edited. I tend to agree, harsher methods would if anything slowed or stayed reconstruction. Theres plenty of examples worldwide of where harsh coercion has simply led to warfare for decades and centuries, or till eventually overthrown.
You would agree it’s a spectrum though. Edited.

Executing guys who your party has clearly viewed as traitors and nothing else would have no long term impacts limiting the ability of southerners to find work and improve their lives.
 

archieclement

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South suffered economically as it was, you think further removing the local economic leaders would help an economy? Dont think so, and also would just increase resentment and suspicion of government. If they start killing this guy, how would one know they wont eventually kill this guy or that guy too? Like Capt Terrill in Josey Wales said when Fletcher said it ends with Wales...….Terrill replied "doing right has no end" People who want blood, will want more blood.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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Underground or eventually open...... Edited. I tend to agree, harsher methods would if anything slowed or stayed reconstruction. Theres plenty of examples worldwide of where harsh coercion has simply led to warfare for decades and centuries, or till eventually overthrown.
Edited. Neither side in many ways did them any favours in terms of how their freedom was granted, with little aforethought as to how that was going to be managed in the long run.
 

mterry

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Jan 17, 2018
South suffered economically as it was, you think further removing the local economic leaders would help an economy? Dont think so, and also would just increase resentment and suspicion of government. If they start killing this guy, how would one know they wont eventually kill this guy or that guy too? Like Capt Terrill in Josey Wales said when Fletcher said it ends with Wales...….Terrill replied "doing right has no end" People who want blood, will want more blood.
One of the governments primary responsibilities is to secure the rights of its citizens. It is clear and I think impossible to argue against the fact that neither the state governments in the south nor the federal governments with oversight over the states were able to do that shortly after the civil war. If not, removing old leaders who previously took off with the CSA from political power, how could they achieve this?
 
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