The Ten Percent Plan was motivated by the frustration Abraham Lincoln felt with the way reconstruction activities were moving on post-war, especially in the Louisiana area. It was a model proposed by Abraham Lincoln for the reinstatement of states in the Southern part of America. Initially, he had written a letter and addressed it to the then Major General Nathaniel Banks with a list of what he wanted to happen in Louisiana. In his letter, he proposed a new constitution and for all states to adopt emancipation. He went ahead also to state that he expected Louisiana to develop a coordinated structure that would aid in easing the changeover for former slaves from slavery to freedom. In addition to that, he recommended the provision of education to all former slaves irrespective of gender or age. He categorically stated in his letter that he would neither retract the proclamation for emancipation nor take anyone who had been freed by the position of the said proclamation or any other act of Congress back to slavery. Three months went by, but there were no signs of progress, prompting him to write another letter expressing his disappointment. He was afraid that disloyal men would try to reintroduce slavery and repudiate the emancipation declaration. He, thus, came up with the Ten Percent Plan to counter any form of disloyalty from the pro-slavery champions.
The plan did not only aim for Louisiana but also other states down by the South including; Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Lincoln’s need for urgent reconstruction of the Southern states was a valid concern owing to the fact that past situations had convinced him that they were anti-union from the onset. Victories recorded in the states of Chattanooga, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg during the war led him to hope that the Confederate states were at the helm of looming collapse. Lincoln was caught in a dilemma. His reconstruction policy was on the verge of causing yet another war. He knew he could not back down from his plan of reconstruction but also soon realized that he could not dictate his terms upon the people lest he causes a revolt. A slight mistake on his part would bring about disastrous effects in an environment that was already highly politically charged.
The abolitionists, such as Fredrick Douglass, did well to appeal to the humanity of Lincoln. Without their whistleblowing, it would never have come to his attention that the evils of slavery were not just a theory or story. He played his political cards properly and ensured he did not offend either side up to the last minute. He kept the slaves on his side while keeping white people close too. He formed a plan that catered to both people, albeit, one side remaining oppressed. His humanity may have been tweaked just a bit but his politics guided most of his actions during the reconstruction of America.
The Union Army thoroughly defeated the army of the Confederacy, which resulted in the Southern region becoming a wasteland. To start with, the Siege of Vicksburg saw over 31,000 members of the Confederacy army submit and surrender to the Union due to starvation. After that, the Battle of Gettysburg also recorded significant victory for the Union army in which they utterly defeated the Confederates once more. The Confederacy then suffered the third major defeat during the Battle of Chattanooga in November 1863 (Gallagher and Meier 488). These wins for the Union Army meant that the states in the South were starting to lose the civil war. The plantation system was the stronghold of the region's economy, and it heavily relied on slave labor. The abolition of slavery, therefore, led to its collapse. Lincoln thus had to find a working system that would not only ensure the region’s economy picked up and resumed operations but also worked on legitimate terms without the risk of reintroduction of the slave system. Lincoln wanted all states to be united which meant that his Ten Percent Plan would ensure that the eleven states that formed the Confederacy returned to their former glory within the Union and only with governance that was directed by loyalty.
By the first of January, 1863, the emancipation proclamation had already been issued. However, it could only be applied in parts of the South that had been seceded and were now under the Union. Lincoln also wanted to ensure that slaves did not come from slavery to be free just by name. Releasing them without offering an alternative source of basic needs would mean that they had to work for white families again. Therefore cycle of slavery would be repeated, but this time it would be legitimate trade based on the principle of willing buyer willing seller. He was, hence, looking for means to reintegrate the freedman into society. The emancipated slaves had to have defined roles.
It is without doubt that the Ten Percent Plan was not a trick pulled out of a hat but a strategy with specific objectives. One of the chief goals of the plan was to offer a reasonable plan for peace, which would resultantly translate to shortening the American Civil War. Its second aim was to create a path to be followed that would lead to a healing process for the entire nation at the end of the war. The reconstruction phase would bear the burden of curing the country of the horrors it had experienced. Thirdly, and most importantly, the Ten Percent Plan would further enforce the emancipation policy by forcing the newly formed governments to abolish slavery to entirety (Vito and Vito 775-787).
Lincoln’s Ten Percent Plan was a strategic move to answer the question regarding what would happen to the Southern states and the citizens who lived there. The question of what would happen with the former slaves was also catered to by the Ten Percent Plan. It is important to note however that there were divergent views regarding the matter. Some people opined that the states in the Southern part had already been taken over and must, therefore, be included in national governance. The president held the belief that the situation could be handled by reestablishing what her termed as "proper practical relations" to the states that had been conquered most quickly and quietly possible (Du Bois 116). His solution lay within the Ten Percent Plan.
Just like its name, President Lincoln, in his plan, proposed that ten percent of voters from the seceded states swear loyalty to the Union. His heart was in the right place, and it is evident that he had the interests of the entire nation at heart. He went on to be lenient to people who had outrightly violated human rights and placed the nation in jeopardy. In his proclamation, he declared that the people who were ready to swear allegiance to the united states of America would be pardoned of their crimes and their property would also be restored (Na 1866). Slaves were exempted from being restored as the property of white people because they were no longer enslaved but free to live like every other person. Lincoln did not stop there. He went on to state the kind of people would not receive clemency. They included people who aided the Confederates, the high ranking military personnel who fought against the Union and anyone who was caught mistreating fellow human beings. Lincoln, however, appears to have been too merciful to the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. He seems to have wanted to please both the black people without offending the whites. He was thus caught in a limbo which created a tug of war between two opposing factions of abolitionists and slave owners.
The Ten Percent Plan would see the formation of new governments and rejoin the Union under the condition that ten percent of voters swear allegiance to America. The new governing bodies in the compliant states in the South were charged with the responsibility of forming policies to reintegrate freedmen into society and ensured that they remained free. President Lincoln did not just make sure that slaves were freed but also ensured that they remained so. It would be useless to free people without putting in place schemes to ensure that their rights were protected and that they moved forward.
All in all, Lincoln's step towards working with abolitionists to end slavery was admirable. He received great criticism from various quarters with Congress being his greatest opposers. His ambition seems to lead to the conclusion that he did not want former slaves and slave owners to be imbalanced. He took away from plantation owners, but he did not take away everything. He still left them with some property which meant that they could pick themselves up and go back to living the way they did before the introduction of the slave trade. He introduced a system that ensured slaves were not taken back to work forcefully and made it compulsory to adhere to the rules or suffer consequences.
The goal was to end slavery and not punish the slave owners. Lincoln tried to remain impartial in the fight. Black people were angry and rightfully so. White slave owners, on the other hand, were angered by the sheer audacity to challenge their oppressive systems. If a former slave had been put in Lincoln's shoes, they would have called for an uprising. The people would have gone up in arms to demand reparations. On the other hand, a slave owner given the responsibility of President Lincoln would have advocated for the continuation of slavery. Either way, the war would have persisted, leaving the country in a direr state than it already was. Lincoln may not have done enough for freedmen, but it is logical to see that he finally acted and put a stop to the evils of slavery. He acted on the slavery situation, punished a few perpetrators, created new governments and ensured that nobody oppressed the other, at least not under his watch. His contribution to the abolition of slavery cannot go unnoticed.
Du Bois, W. E. B. "Looking Backward." Black Reconstruction in America. Routledge, 2017. 115-162.
Gallagher, Gary W., and Kathryn Shively Meier. "Coming to Terms with Civil War Military History." Journal of the Civil War Era 4.4 (2014): 487-508.
Na, Na. An American Crisis: Congress & Reconstruction 1865-1867. Springer, 2015.
Vito, Anthony G., and Gennaro F. Vito. "What police leaders learned from "Lincoln on leadership."" Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 38.4 (2015): 775-787.
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