InLincoln wanted to end the Civil War as quickly as possible. With little economic power, blacks ended up having to fight for civil rights on their own, as northern whites lost interest in Reconstruction by the mids.
Lincoln did not want Reconstruction to be a long, drawn-out process; rather, he wanted the states to draft new constitutions so that the Union could be quickly restored. The Radical Republicans saw serious flaws in Civil War—era southern society and were adamant that the South needed full social rehabilitation to resemble the North.
He feared that strong northern public support for the war would wane if the fighting continued and knew that the war was also taking an enormous toll on northern families and resources.
Radical Republicans in Congress might have impeached President Lincoln after the Civil War, had he not been assassinated, because he and Congress had contrasting visions for handling postwar Reconstruction.
The era reminds us that the liberation of four million people from bondage did not suddenly erase the deep racial prejudices born of slavery, nor assure lasting political or economic equality for the former slaves. Yet Reconstruction also points to the possibility of moving beyond racism toward a more just society.
Meanwhile, the sharecropping system—essentially a legal form of slavery that kept blacks tied to land owned by rich white farmers—became widespread in the South.
The successes and failures of Reconstruction hold many lessons for our own time. However, Reconstruction failed by most other measures: Radical Republican legislation ultimately failed to protect former slaves from white persecution and failed to engender fundamental changes to the social fabric of the South.
Reconstruction and its aftermath remind us that rights in the Constitution are not self-enforcing, and that our liberties can never be taken for granted. The Act was Republican-sponsored, so Democrats were able to capitalize on its unpopularity to rally support for their party.