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Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction in Texas: Comparison and Evaluation

The process of Reconstruction that Texas undergone after the Civil War was excruciatingly hard for the state and its citizens, mostly due to the contradictory forces that were pulling the state apart on social, political, and economic levels. The changes in the relationships between African Americans and white Americans, particularly, the focus on the emancipation of the former, implied that the Black population needed representation on the statewide level. The described change was reflected both in the Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction processes, yet each implied a different set of rules being institutionalized. Whereas the Presidential Reconstruction focused on introducing legal changes, the Congressional one required a better understanding of social interactions.

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On a legal level, the Presidential Reconstruction process implied that the president should select a person that would represent Texas as a provisional governor. The described step would imply that the secession undertaken by Texas would become null and void, and the state would become a part of the United States of America (Frassetto 95). Moreover, legally, the appointment of a governor for Texas suggested that the state would eradicate the concept of slavery from its legal and social systems. Finally, the state’s federal debt was reinstated according to the provisions established in the Presidential Reconstruction process (Frassetto 95). The identified steps were quite different from the ones that were incorporated in the Congressional Reconstruction process.

In turn, the Congressional Reconstruction involved alterations on policymaking levels, which implied the ratification of the crucial amendments promoting equality for all citizens of the United States. Namely, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were included to ensure that the principles of democracy could affect everyone disregarding their race or any other characteristics (Johal 68). The specified amendments manifested the principles of equality and democracy across the United States for all races and ethnicities (Johal 67). Namely, the amendments created legal grounds for preventing the people that had been just freed from slavery to be tricked into involuntary servitude once again.

The 13th Amendment prohibited slavery as a concept, defining it as inhumane, whereas the 14th Amendment granted American citizenship to every person born in the U.S. Thus, the legal grounds for providing African American people with equal rights were created. Finally, the 15th Amendment granted every U.S. citizenship of legal age with the right to vote, disregarding their race, ethnicity, or the history of past servitude (Johal 69). The described changes were instrumental in establishing the principles of equality in the U.S. In addition, with the reinforcement of the Congressional Reconstruction process, the legal standards for the repudiation of Texas’s debt were established on a legal level. The repudiation of the Confederate debt was inevitable and essential for introducing opportunities for the state’s successful economic growth after the Civil War, as well as the creation of employment opportunities for recently freed African American citizens.

At the same time, it is important to note that there were several similarities like the Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction in Texas. The end goal of both processes was the glue that held them together and allowed them to share a range of similarities. Namely, abandoning the ideas that radical Republicans promoted and establishing the concepts of democracy in Texas was seen as the main outcome of both Presidential and Congressional Reconstruction (Johal 71). In addition, both processes sought to protect the rights of recently freed African Americans and ensure that they were treated with dignity.

Overall, the changes that the Congressional Reconstruction process entailed for Texas implied primarily alterations on the legal level. Congressional Reconstruction involved creating or revisiting the policies that ensured equality and equal rights protection for American citizens. As a result, the foundation for the equal representation of all citizens of the U.S. was created. Although the specified change did not provide African American citizens with immediate opportunities for equality, it set the basis for the future fight for equity. In addition, the principles of the so-called “iron cladiron-cladre introduced, allowing the state to involve a total of 703,000 black voters in the election process, which was unprecedented at the time (“The World Turned Upside Down: Reconstruction in Texas”). Overall, the change could be considered the groundwork for the future establishment of equity in American society.

Evaluating the Reconstruction in Texas

The Reconstruction process was excessively hard to conduct in Texas, mostly due to the conflicts between the newly promoted ideology of equality and the prejudices based on which the social hierarchy used to be built in the state. As a result, the Reconstruction took a while to be accepted on the sociocultural, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical levels. Despite the election of the provisional government that would represent the established standards and amendments to the Constitution, the Texas population did not seem to welcome the change. Consequently, the pace of the Reconstruction process was slackened significantly (Johal 69). Thus, in Texas, reconstruction became a long and complicated change, which required gradually introducing people to the ideas that challenged their perception of social justice and the social hierarchy, as well as the construct of race and relationships between people of different races.

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The underwhelming effects of Reconstruction in Texas could also be explained by the presence of interpersonal issues between the Union soldiers and Texas residents. Since a large number of people in Texas identified themselves politically with the views of the Confederate philosophy at the time, the confrontations were rather cruel. The vengeful attitudes of the Union troops, who were excruciatingly devastated by the time when they reached Texas, aggravated the state of indecision among Texas residents, causing the process of Reconstruction to continue without tangibly positive outcomes (Whitt 8). Therefore, the sociopolitical tensions and the human factor could be considered the main contributors to the lack of success in reconstructing Texas.

Arguably, several issues that could have affected the promotion of Reconstruction and its effects in Texas to an even greater degree were removed successfully. For instance, the Confederate debt that Texas had acquired by the time that the Civil War ended would have posed an unmanageable obstacle for the state. Namely, the weight of the economic challenges that the debt would have entailed would have ultimately crushed the Texan financial system and business opportunities, leaving it bankrupt (Whitt 9). However, even with the repudiation of the debt that Texas had accumulated by the time, the reconstruction was still hindered significantly by the issues related to the economy and differences in the cultural perspective.

In addition, the increased instances of violence of the white population toward African American citizens in Texas after the end of the Civil War also prolonged the Reconstruction process. The specified aspect of the problem was related to the issue of a cross-cultural conflict and the unwillingness to abandon racial prejudices, yet it implied a violent response aimed at the vulnerable group, which aggravated the situation. While the refusal to accept the change on a cultural level meant slower progress, the acts of actual violence toward African American people implied that legal actions and the support of law reinforcement units were necessary. However, given the devastating state in which the troops found themselves after the Civil War, the resources for preventing and addressing instances of racial assaults, particularly, physical violence, were extremely scarce (Whitt 11). As a result, the reconstruction process was excruciatingly slow, particularly, on the sociocultural level. The propensity toward dehumanization of African American people was quite strong in Texas, as well as in the South, overall, which led to the slower promotion of progress or reinforcement of democratic principles, particularly, the ones of equality and equity.

Overall, the lack of understanding of what constituted the core of Texas residents’ willingness to cling to their prejudices, amplified by the instances of injustice and violence carried out by the Union soldiers, made the process of Reconstruction in Texas nearly impossible. In addition, the fact that the changes, which the Union was striving to promote in Texas, were introduced mostly on the legal level without considering the sociocultural and sociopolitical aspects of the problem, also played a huge role in the mismanagement of the reconstruction process in Texas. Overall, despite the gradual transfer to the ideas of democracy and equality, as well as the acceptance of the transition to a different mode of relationships between the whet and African American population, Texas residents did not accept the Reconstruction process in the way intended by the Union. As a result, the conflict between the North and the South would continue, albeit on a social level instead of the political and military ones, thus, hindering the process of democratization of American society.

Works Cited

Frassetto, Mark Anthony. “The Law and Politics of Firearms Regulation in Reconstruction Texas.” Texas A&M Law Review, vol. 4, 2016, p. 95.

Johal, Amrita. “The Change in Status of African Americans during Post-Civil War Reconstruction.” HiPo: The Langara Student Journal of History and Political Science, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp. 65-71.

“The World Turned Upside Down: Reconstruction in Texas.”, n.d., 2020. Web.

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Whitt, Jacqueline E., and Elizabeth A. Perazzo. “The Military as Social Experiment: Challenging a Trope.” Parameters, vol. 48, no. 2, 2018, pp. 5-12.

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