Emancipation and Reconstruction

Emancipation and Reconstruction

Emancipation and Reconstruction

Emancipation and Reconstruction

Synopsis

An adept distillation of the scholarship that has been produced since the 1950s-thoughtfully reorganized and updated to include a consideration of new works that have appeared since 1987-this new edition of Michael Perman's highly popular book examines the ways in which historians have interpreted what was perhaps the largest program of domestic reform undertaken in the history of the United States.

In addition to accessing the impact of what might best be described as a maturation of the Revisionist history of Emancipation and Reconstruction, Perman introduces previously neglected areas of interest that have assumed new significance, such as the nature of the southern labor system after slavery and the role of African Americans in Reconstruction politics.

The result is a lucid portrait of the post-Civil War years, one reluctant to employ such simplistic and judgemental terms as success or failure in assessing the complex problems of rebuilding the nation.

Excerpt

In his Second Inaugural Address, delivered to Congress on the eve of the Confederate surrender, President Abraham Lincoln exhorted the people of the victorious North to “strive on to finish the work we are in” and to “do all which may achieve a just, and a lasting peace.” Even though the Civil War itself was almost over, its ultimate out- come had not yet been decided. Therefore, the next few years, so Lin- coln seemed to be saying, would determine whether the war to save the Union and give the nation “a new birth of freedom” had really been won.

When he referred to the work that remained, Lincoln undoubt- edly had in mind the two initiatives that he had already set in motion: the emancipation of the slaves and the reconstruction of the defeated southern states. Carrying both out successfully would complete the nation's task. Unfortunately, the President's hopes for the postwar South, like his own life, were soon extinguished, for things did not go well after the war. As a result, a residue of disappointment and bitter- ness has lingered over the entire era. Indeed, historians of Emancipa- tion and Reconstruction have been virtually unanimous in their disen- chantment with the period.

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