Did “Reconstruction” Ever End?

Like I have said before, Reconstruction gives me the creeps. Dark times. Even though the scary parts ended by 1877, I wonder if Reconstruction ever ended. Reconstruction was implemented to rebuild the country, patch it up after four years of destruction. I wonder if we are always “reconstructing.”
Even though blacks became citizens with the 14th Amendment, they weren’t treated equal until 100 years later, and they are still facing prejudices.
Even after the war ended there was a regional divide between North and South.
Even after the war, people were arguing about politics; arguing over how the government should be ran.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds very familiar today. Now, is it as bad as it was then? No. Not all of it. I would like to say we evolved, but on some issues we de-evolved, if that is even a word.
I am no politician, sociologist, psychologist or philosopher. I am the next best thing. Man. As part of the human race, I have evolved with everyone else. We are always adapting; to colder winters and wetter summers. We are always reconstructing. 150 years after the Civil War, we are still putting back the pieces. We always will be. Every century, decade, year, whatever, a problem or situation will arise and we will have to try to fix it, reconstruct it. It may be social, economical, political, racial, environmental or scientific. Who knows!
Nature changes. It has been for billions of years. Man is part of nature. He changes with it.
The United States is comprised of man from every and any background. The U.S. is always adapting. It is always “Reconstructing” – fixing a problem or adjusting to the times. We all are and we always will be.

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The “Rebirth” of a Nation?

In 1915, D.W.Griffith released his film The Birth of a Nation. Adapted from the novel, The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon, Jr., it was a highly innovative film, in the technical sense, but it was also undeniably racist and held unjust prejudices toward black people.
While I do not agree with the film’s politics, it does raise an interesting question. Was the United States reborn after the Civil War? Was it that different from what it was before?
When the Civil War ended, Abraham Lincoln insisted on a plan to “reconstruct” the nation. However, he died and the persona of his plan went with him. One could only wonder how history might have been different if Lincoln had lived. Nonetheless, America had to persevere through its own “dark ages”.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of Reconstruction, I get this eerie feeling. Don’t know why, I just do. I’m kind of creeped out now. Scary time.
So, how was America different. First, the black man was now a citizen with rights. Unfortunately, not everyone wanted it that way. Thus, the rise of the Klan. While the Civil War was over, the hate was not.
Second, the Civil War was a scar that divided the nation. How was America ever going to be the same. There was a regional divide, racial divide and political divide. Everything the founding fathers visioned for America was almost crushed by the weight of war.
Third, there was a lack of leadership. When Lincoln died, America would go without a great leader until Teddy Roosevelt, and his leadership was in the early 20th century.
Fourth, America was about to experience the Industrial Revolution, which would change the face of America, and especially Thomas Jefferson’s Yeomen Vision.
As I sit here, typing, I am trying to think of how America was different, or reborn after the Civil War. I really can’t say how, but it just was and is.
Personally, I think my professor has it right. The Civil War, in essence was America’s adolescence. Puberty.
The boy becomes a man. He is still the same person, but he is not the same person.

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The Civil War: A Reflection

150 years ago today, America faced its greatest obstacle: The Civil War. On friday April 12, 1861, the Confederate army fired upon Fort Sumter, where Union soldiers had been stationed. On April 13th, the Union army surrendered and left. What would follow for the next four years would come to define a nation, a people and a government.
When someone learns about the Civil War they may not fully grasp what it means. Yes, it was a war. But it was also a near-suicide of a nation. The United States, who rebelled against Britain and won, the home of George Washington, was about to crumble from within. It had yet to be around for 100 years. Believe me, the British and French were watching. A nation that gave hope to rebellions for freedom around the world was about to fall to its own hands.
The hands of its people. Who were the Americans? The natives had been pushed out, but did it belong only to the white man. What about the black man, who had been there as long or longer than any white man? Was a nation of farmers or industrialists? Was it a land of freedom or enslavement? When asked “What does it mean to be American?”, many say someone who was born and raised here. If I am not mistaken that would include many people. But in the time of the Civil War, Native Americans were not considered Americans, even though they had been here longer than anyone else. Blacks were not considered Americans. Nor Hispanics, Asians or any other immigrant.
Finally, the government. The government that was For the People, By the People. Democracy. Equality. The founding fathers had fought for it 87 years prior to the Civil War. Now, many were not fighting the war to end slavery, that just came with it. Were they fighting the war to preserve the Union? Or were the fighting for the sake of democracy? For the “Great hope of the Earth.”
To this day many still disagree what caused the war and why it was fought. But they do agree on this: It happened and it defined a nation.

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Compromise? Pshhh . . .

Studying antebellum America has led me to see an unfortunate part of American history. The weakness of the compromise. Yes, some compromises work, but others just delay the inevitable. It’s human nature; no one is going to be completely happy with a compromise.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 “settled” the slavery dispute in the western territories of the time. Like how I said “settled”? Yeah, I did too. Anyways , this compromise prohibited slavery in the northern territories and allowed slavery in the southern territories. Uh oh. Foreshadowing? This compromise further created a deeper distinction between the the southern United States and the northern United States. Delaying the inevitable.
The Compromise of 1850 “settled” the rising conflicts between the northern and southern states after the Mexican-American War. The war, if you don’t know, gave the United States an unprecedented amount of new territory, an empire from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Manifest Destiny! The Compromise called for five measures.
First, California is a free state. Second, The Texas and New Mexico Act made Mew Mexico a territory and established Texas’ boundaries. Third, The Utah Act established, (guess what?) Utah as a territory. Fourth, the Fugitive Slave Act forced free state citizens to return escaped slaves back south. Fifth, Slave trade was abolished in Washington, D.C. Review that list one more time. Yeah, delaying the inevitable.
People were unhappy, but it delayed the Civil War for four years. However, it happened nonetheless. Today, the political factions of both sides are trying to compromise to “avoid” a government shut down. Stubborn people. Look at the NFL. I have a syllabus, so I know what is coming next, but, I can tell you, people back then knew what was coming, they just didn’t know when and what form.

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The Second Law of Thermodynamics

There are many ways to say the Second Law of Thermodynamics, one such way is entropy is always increasing. This means the universe is always losing energy and at some point there will be no more. The Heat-Death of the Universe. What does that have to do with history? Well, as my class and I wrap up our unit, entropy is increasing. Entropy in the sense of chaos. Chaos in the sense of the Civil War. Reviewing this past section I can clearly see the foreshadowing of events to come.
First in 1787, the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. This defined the difference between a slave state and free state.
Second, the Constitution, which by all means is magnificent and really a wonder to study. But, it delegated much legal authority over to the states. States could make their own laws. A state could decide if it was pro-free or pro-slave.
Third, The Hartford Convention in 1814. This meeting, held by anti-War of 1812 federalists, aimed to fix the Constitution, but some even wanted to secede. However, the federalist party disappeared as the war ended, but it did intensify the tensions between the parties and regions.
Fourth, President Andrew Jackson, the president of the “common man”, quells abolitionist movements. To Jackson, they were simply a “Noisy Minority” and he believed they should follow the Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavey in the northern section of the Louisiana Territory (the purchase) and allowed slavery in the southern region.
Fifth, the era of Manifest Destiny. Reform movements were spreading across the region, some preaching separation for a Utopian Society. Then the fallout of the Mexican-American War. The Whig party warns against adding slavery to the west. This makes certain people unhappy. Also, the Mexican-American War was a training ground for great Generals such as Robert E. Lee (who Lincoln asked to lead the Union, but Lee declined, because his beloved state of Virginia was seceding, even though he was against the idea) and Ulysses S. Grant. In conclusion, this disrupted the balance of power between the slave states and the free states.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics.

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California. No Doubt About it.

California, behind New York, is the most popular state in the Union. Many dream about going there, and I should know, I am a victim of that very dream. It is hard to imagine the United States without California. If there was no California, 2Pac and Dr. Dre would have no song! It is hard to believe it once belonged to Mexico.
California was once part of Mexico, but liked Texas, rebelled, and formed its own republic in 1846. However, the republic was short lived. In 1846 the Mexican-American War began, and like Texas, California was absorbed into the United States. However, the war continued.
The Mexican-American War is as almost forgotten as the War of 1812 and the Korean War, which technically is not over; there is only a cease-fire. James K. Polk, who was President of the U.S. at the time, was a man of Manifest Destiny. Actually, many historians rank Polk as one of the greatest presidents because of what he was able to accomplish in just one term in office. Nonetheless, the U.S. was meant to be a country from coast to coast. Manifest Destiny! Mexico warned the U.S. that if Texas, famous for the Alamo, became a state, there would be hell to pay. Well that happened. In 1846 American troops clashed with Mexicans at the Rio Grande, and war was on.
Let’s just say the war was a little one sided. In 1847, Gen. Zachary Taylor, future president of the United States, won the battle of Buena Vista and Cerro Gordo. Furthermore, Gen. Winfield Scott won a decisive victory at the Battle of Molino del Ray and an American victory in the Battle of Mexico sealed the deal. The war officially ended in 1848, and Gen. Taylor followed Polk in office as the 12th president of the United States, a member of the Whig party, and served only 16 months before dying in office.
Well, from California to the Mexican-American War, the U.S. is now a coast to coast nation. Manifest Destiny baby!
California…knows how to party
California…knows how to party
In the citaaay of L.A.
In the citaaay of good ol’ Watts
In the citaaay, the city of Compton
We keep it rockin! We keep it rockin!

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Knickerbockers? What the . . .

In class, we were discussing Antebellum America, or America before the Civil War. We discussed the various temperance and reform movements, you know, the same old story. However, near the end of class three important literary figures were mentioned to paint a cultural image of America. I may be a literature and film nut, but I was shocked that a majority of my classmates did not know who these people were. So, for the sake of society I must tell you about them!
First, James Fenimore Cooper, a true Knickerbocker, was the author of the Leather-stocking Tales. This five-part series chronicles the frontiersman Natty Bumpo, and his adventures with settlers and local Native Americans. The series include The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans (his most famous novel, considered a masterpiece of American Literature), The Pathfinder, The Pioneers and The Praire. Cooper’s novels took place in upstate New York, bringing visual imagery to those who had not seen it. Furthermore, he used Native American characters as central parts to the story. While most may know the Daniel Day-Lewis/Michael Mann film Last of the Mohicans, it actually strays from the novel a bit, so I encourage you to pick it up. Warning: its vernacular may be hard to read. Also, James Fenimore Cooper – Cooperstown, New York – a relation maybe?
Second, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlett Letter! SERIOUSLY!
Last, but not least, Herman Melville. Epic. Seriously, “epicness” is in the same breath as him. Herman Melville is the author of Moby Dick. Why is that significant? Moby Dick is considered the greatest American novel ever written. EVER. Unfortunately, Melville battled depression and alcoholism, and when he died in 1891, he was forgotten. However, in the early 20th century there was a Melville revival and since then he has been seen as the true literary genius he was. His epic tale of man against God/nature, Moby Dick, tells the tale of young Ishmael aboard the ship Pequod captained by the tyrant Ahab, who lost his leg to Moby Dick, the albino sperm whale, and has been hunting the whale since. Many in the literary community see Moby Dick, the whale, as a metaphor for God, nature, fate, even the universe, while Ahab is man, trying to understand it all. Seriously, this is epic stuff!
So there you have it, mini-bios of authors whose works came to shape America. Once you read this, you should have no excuse for not knowing who these people are!

P.S. In 2010, an extinct species of prehistoric giant sperm whales were discovered off the coast of Peru. The team that discovered them were all Melville fans. So they named it Livyatan melvillei.
Too Cool . . .

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Andrew Jackson: A Complicated Man.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, was and still is one of the most influential men in American History. Love him, or hate him, his legacy is enduring.
His idea of democracy for the people is one of our core values. Now, his definition of people is different from ours, but nonetheless the idea is the same. Government for the people, by the people. Almost everyone would agree with that statement. If that is so, then you agree with Jackson. Furthermore, Jackson loved the value of individual liberty, and to say so, we do too. Imagine a life where you can’t do what you want. Terrible! However, Jackson also believed in a strong central government, that could help the nation along. While some today would surely disagree with that notion, I do not. A loose confederation of states would get us nowhere. So, am I a Jackson fan? No.
While Jackson political ideas are sound, his social values are deplorable. Jackson was an ardent advocate for slavery, using his power to quell abolitionists. This I cannot respect. If he truly respected the Declaration of Independence, then he would have believed all men are created equal. Second, the removal of Native Americans hurts me the most. I am part Cherokee, and the acts against them and other tribes is absolutely despicable. The eventual slaughter of the indigenous people, my ancestors, really burns my blood. Enough of that, I am about to go on a tangent.
So, while this is brief, you can see how Jackson, the “People’s President” affected our world today, with both his political and social values. One last question. Jackson is considered the father of the modern Democratic Party. What would you think his reaction would be to Barack Obama as the face of the Democratic Party? Hmmm . . . . .

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Forgotten? Yes. Unimportant? No.

The War of 1812. What? You don’t know what I am talking about. That is all right. I knew little about it, until this morning. When I learned about it in grade school and high school, we were told a few things: Americans v. British, Tecumseh died, and that’s about it. Truly, “Mr. Madison’s War” is the “Forgotten War.” But, that does not mean it is unimportant.
First, this finally threw the British out of the United States. After the Revolution, they were still hanging around. Some say out west, trying to spur on the natives, but it is well documented that they were coasting on the coast. Well, thanks to us, and well . . . I guess Napoleon, they wore down and decided to finally worry about the home-front. Hate to digress, but it seems to me that we owe a lot to Napoleon. The Louisiana Purchase, now the War of 1812. This guy needs a monument! Nonetheless, the British are out of here! Well, technically British people are running the United States. I mean, we slaughtered the real Americans. Nonetheless, the story goes on.
Second, this ushered in the political factions that divide us today. Now, are the Federalists and Antifederalists around today? In name no, but their beliefs, to an extent, are. That is a whole other topic. Today’s Republican party technically started post Lincoln, and underwent further changes during Industrialization (there was a divide during Teddy Roosevelt’s tenure) and the Democratic Party underwent some major changes during Industrialization. Again, sorry to digress. However, this faction of parties was not only political, but also regional. The Federalists were strong in the north and east, the Antifederalist were strong in the south and west. Furthermore, as I was told today, some Federalists thought of seceding in New England. Foreshadowing anyone?
Finally, “American heroes” were born. Two generals, William Henry Harrison (Battle of Thames) and Andrew Jackson (Battle of New Orleans) took over the national spotlight. Both of them even became president. Jackson became the seventh president of the United States and is the father of the Democratic Party. However, socially, today’s party would be unrecognizable to him. Lets just say, Jackson was not the most sympathetic person when it came to minorities. William Henry Harrison became the ninth president of the United States. For him, that was about it. He died, from complications with pneumonia, on his 32nd day, the first president do die in office. Actually, there is a rumor that he caught pneumonia form giving a two-plus hour inauguration speech in the rain. Who knows. His death actually caused a little chaos because no on knew who should succeed him, and if the person who did died, who should succeed that person. Thanks to Harrison, that all got cleared up.
So now, when thinking of the War of 1812, think of how important it was to today’s modern scene. What if Tecumseh lived? Would the future of the Native Americans have been different? Good question, huh.

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“Jefferson. You sly dog!”

Everybody knows, or should know about the Louisiana Purchase. If they don’t, they should be forced to take U.S History five times! For those of you who forgot, The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of approximately 828,800 square miles of territory owned by France. This territory includes all of or parts of present day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and some areas in Canada. That is one-third of the present day United States and then some!
France, at the time, was under the rule of the iron fist of Napoleon Bonaparte, who sought to make the world a French Empire. He might have done it too, if he had not invaded Russia during the winter; but that is another story all together. Anyways, France at the time had just lost Saint-Domingue (present -day Haiti) to a slave uprising. This was a huge blow to their economy and imperial dreams; they needed money! Without the Caribbean, Louisiana was of little value.
In the meantime, Jefferson was now president of the U.S., and the first Antifederalist, and wanted the port of New Orleans. To inquire about New Orleans, he dispatched James Monroe (future president) and Robert Livingston to Paris. What resulted is the greatest purchase in the history of the United States.
At that moment (figuratively speaking), Napoleon was planning to sell the whole territory to help with their (France’s) debts. Lucky for him, two Americans knocked on his door.
For Jefferson, the deal was too hard to pass up, but as an Antifederalist, he disdained big government and had no power in the Constitution to purchase the territory! But, like the Jefferson we all know, we worked around the edges. He saw this as a complimentary piece to his Agrarian Society, so, he used the federal government’s foreign treaties privilege. On April 30, 1803 James Monroe and Robert Livingston, on behalf of all Americans, signed the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. By the stoke of an inked feather-tip pen, the United States doubled in size. For Napoleon, better in the hands of Americans than the British.
Later, Jefferson would send Lewis and Clarke, with the surprise assistance of Sacagawea, to explore it.
“Jefferson. You sly dog!”

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