Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

“The Revolution of 1860” by James McPherson

In the book “The Revolution of 1860by James McPherson, wrote about different types of abolitionists, comparing and contrasting them for believing in the end of slavery and in freedom. John Brown is willing to sacrifice his life for slaves. Willing to fight for their freedom, putting his time to think about plans to make this work. Even though it didn’t work as he planned, there were many people on his side. Frederick Douglass was one of the people who refused to participate in this Revolution. Although, John Brown was waiting for him to join he refused thinking it was a suicidal plan “never get out alive” (205). Not wanting to help them get their freedom, excepting the law and injustices. “Is predestined, as it began in blood, so to end,”(204). John Brown was willing to spend his valuable time and money, travel to the east, gain money for this event. He tries so hard to gain supporters but ended up gaining fewer people than he needed, counting 11 white people that were part of this secret group, John Brown was selected as the new commander in chief. But after all of this, he didn’t back off on his plan. Most white people or even most abolitionists are not willing to go this far for a “mere” slave. This event also made me realize that after all of the sacrifices people did nothing hasn’t changed, still, now there are problems with colored people. The only difference there is they have a little more freedom, but still, the government as as if they care but treats them as nothing. Kill innocent people, arresting them for “feeling” they are treating them, using their powers to shut us down. It’s like history repeats itself again, but in different ways to not let the black people have their freedom.

Blog post #3

Eric Foner’s “The Making of Radical Reconstruction” talks about the ever-expanding influence of the radical republican and reconstruction policies. Reconstruction is a period in American history from 1866-1877 after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. The focus of reconstruction was the reuniting of the South and North, finding compromises with citizens in the South and discussing the freed slaves status of citizenship and how it would compare to whites. In this reading Foner discusses reconstruction theory which is that white men in the south were far more concerned with salvaging as much of the past way of living, in the hopes bringing it into or recreating in the new type of civilization that the northern radical republicans. And although they never fully got everything back to the way it used to be they did everything in their power to slow it down. One of their biggest fears was the passing of the 14th amendment which was suppose to give equal rights to all citizens and give them the ability to vote. But even after the passing of the law African-Americans were still not allowed to vote. They did not like this law because they did not hand over any power to colored people who could then make even more change. I feel like this kind of stuff stills goes on to a lesser degree in our modern day. Politicians are still finding ways to keep African-Americans at a disadvantage in a more discreet way.

Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction

Eric Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction, pp. 104–123 (on Blackboard)

Throughout the Eric Foner reading A Short History of Reconstruction, it focuses on the radical reconstruction time period. A time period in the late 1800s, where black minorities and enslaved African-Americans needed the assistance of other party leaders and abolitionists to help fight for their civil rights. During this time, African-Americans were still enslaved and working overtime due to a white man governed land or “white man’s government” (105). The south did not have representation, especially since freedmen and enslaved African-Americans could not vote, since they weren’t seen as equal. However, changes were made during the Radical Reconstruction era. 

Radical Republicans played a key role in helping the minority gain their civil rights during the Radical Reconstruction era. The Radical Republicans had one main goal, rather a commitment to help slaves live a free life with the same rights granted towards white Americans as the civil war was occurring and afterwards when it was over.  This can be supported by the reading as it  states, “On the party’s left side stood the Radical Republicans, a self-conscious political generation with shared experiences, and commitments, a grass-roots constituency, a moral sensibility, and a program for Reconstruction.” (104) Foner focuses on two radical leaders throughout the reading: Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner. Foner describes both in the phrase: “differed in personality and political styles.” (105) To further explain their differences, Stevens was painted as “a master of Congressional infighting, parliamentary tactics, and blunt speaking” (105) while Sumner was painted as a dislikable character, “disliked by Senate colleagues for egotism, self-righteousness, and stubborn refusal to compromise, acted as the voice, the embodiment, of the New England conscience.” (105) 

As the reading continues, it discusses the changes that radicals managed to fight for. One major change being the 14th Amendment which granted all citizens equal protection/citizenship. The 14th Amendment is also widely known as it was one of the three amendments (including the other two: the thirteenth amendment – abolished slaves and the fifteenth amendment – the right to vote) passed during the Reconstruction period to a changed future for African-Americans. During this time, freedmen and slaves were granted the right to vote which granted the south representation. “… did the Fourteenth Amendment, the most important ever added to the Constitution, receive the approval of Congress. Its first clause prohibited the states from abridging quality before the law… Before the war, three-thirds of the slaves had been included in calculating Congressional representation.” (114) 

Overall, this reading strengthened my understanding of the Reconstruction time period. The descriptive details taught me the overall obstacles and achievements that Radical Republicans achieved/attempted like the fight for the plantation land as homesteads for former slaves, the fourteenth amendment, southern representation and more. The Reconstruction time period was a turning point for African Americans, especially with the assistance of radical leaders.


Blog Post #3 Brown

The Reconstruction era also known as the “Unfinished Revolution” had many major changes in history such as the creation of the 14th and 15th amendments and the black codes. In reading Joshua Brown “Reconstructing Representation, 1866-1877” it made me realize that it wasn’t as easy as I imagined it. Although many former slaves or immigrants were able to find  jobs due to the new laws being placed, it wasn’t enough for them to support their families. There was an economic depression in 1873 which led to many businesses hiring immigrants or former slaves because it was cheapest option for them. Leslie Illustrate Newspaper photo gives a great description on how families didn’t have enough money to feed the rest of their children and had to share their last piece of loaf wondering “where the next supply of food may come from”(Brown 133). Specifically it was demonstrated that the women did most of the work while the man just “sits idly by his cabin-door carousing with his boon companions”(Brown 132). There was also a “bitter Long Strike during the winter of 1874-75” where many miners protested to recieve a higher pay. During this Franklin Gowen the president of the Reading Railroad tried to “gain total control of eastern Pennsylvania coal mining by destroying the miners’ union”(Brown132). A lot of the people started to become chaotic because there was a lack of representation for the poor community. Even in today’s society there is a lack of representation for those who live in poverty. Although many changes have accrued throughout the years the most important issues we still continue to have is poverty and labor. It was interesting for me to see and learn about the negative side of the reconstructive era because what normally comes to my head when I think about reconstructive is how society improved due to new technology and expansion which eventually created more jobs for people. Now I see that it isn’t always the case and that every change has their pros and cons.

blog post #3

The reading which I found to be the most interesting was Joshua Brown, “Reconstructing Representation, 1866–1877,” from Beyond the Lines. I did some research about who John Brown was and found out he was an American abolitionist leader.Brown had the mindset that there needed to be violoience in order to end slavery because there had been years and years of peaceful efforts to end slavery but there was no outcome from them. However Dred Scott was not like brown and had a different mindset.. J.Brown led a raid on the Harpers Ferry federal armory and since he wasn’t successful John Brown was executed. Fredrick Douglas helps us understand how Brown’s plan with this raid would be unsuccessful. McPherson explained in detail why Brown’s plan didn’t work and the point that he didn’t think about.Brown explains in 2 short paragraphs and an illustration of what a family could go through in these times. Brown touches upon the struggle some families faced of not knowing where the next meal would come from.

Brown proceeds to explain what was happening with the mine strikes and Brown explains how others were  blaming the strikers for the way they were living. Brown talks about a family which had received a bread and were putting it in the oven as illustrated in the image provided in the reading. Brown allows us to see how some people much like today didn’t know where their next meal was coming from or if their families would have anything to eat the next day. I found this extremely touching because it’s something that is still happening today and something that I have experienced first hand with friends I have. It’s sad to see history repeating itself because of the lack of education. My question is if they were struggling so much why did they continue to have children? Why not keep the family small knowing they couldn’t provide for themselves?



Blog Post #3

In the article “Making of Radical Reconstruction”, Eric Foner explains that slavery was overthrown during the time (the 1860s-1870s) and how the 14th amendment had an impact on people’s lives. The Republican party wrote the 14th amendment. Which protected all citizens and gave them the right to vote. U.S. citizens now had rights under the law. But black men were not able to vote even after the 14th amendment. Having black votes was important as it would have an impact on different laws and bills. So, during this time the government didn’t want black men to vote as they knew their votes would give them the power to make a change for immigrants and people of color.  Rules and laws such as the ‘grandfather clause’ didn’t give black men the right to vote but it gave them ‘an equal right to vote’. The law was if your grandfather was allowed to vote, you could vote too. It was an unfair law as black men’s grandfathers were slaves and were not allowed to vote, which meant these men couldn’t vote as well. The 14th amendment had caused legal equality. The conflict between the Republican party and letting blacks vote became a replication. White political leaders wanted to stay in charge and have power. The article states “Radical Republicanism did possess a social and economic vision, but one that derived from the free labor ideology rather than from any one set of business interests.” Southern whites wanted to recreate the past instead of having rights for everyone. They wanted to use free labor to their advantage and also make as much money as possible. The south attempted change was successful but was affected by the presence of freedmen. The Freedmen Bureau Bill and civil rights act gave American Americans food, shelter, clothing, land, and medical services. 



In the reading of the Joshua Brown reading he talks about the living conditions/lifestyle of people during the reconstruction era. In this article he showed a negative perspective on the Irish immigrants. He claimed that the Irish were alcoholic, ignorant and they were sloths. American white families feared that immigrants would come over and take over their jobs. Unlike Americans immigrants would take any job no matter how little pay they receive. This triggered white Americans and article can be an example of it. Immigrants were already facing enough coming to a new country and finding jobs but they were receiving hate from”Americans.” Although this isn’t a surprise to me because 100 year later immigrants who come to the United states still receive hate it was interesting to learn the hate people had towards Irish immigrants.

Blog post #3

Before reading, I had a recollection of what I believed John Brown was known for. He was an abolitionist that chose to eradicate slavery with acts of violence. However, “The revolution of 1860” by James McPherson helped me acquire even more knowledge about all of John Browns endeavors and what actions he took as an abolitionist. Unlike other well-known activists like Dred Scott, Brown revolved his actions by a “lawlessness” kind of mindset. He chose to act on his beliefs with violence because of the god he worshipped that claimed, “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”. Often when he would go to anti-slavery meetings he would exclaim “Talk, Talk, talk” to insinuate that in his eyes people should be taking more action and target those that have done them wrong. Others began to change their mentalities on the nonviolence movement as well after the 1850s. Frederick Douglass for instance, was a pacifist before and when the fugitive slave law was passed on the New Testament he claimed “slave-holders…tyrants and despots have no right to live”. In fact, one of his favorite sayings was” who would be free must himself strike the blow”. To be honest it doesn’t surprise me that the oppressed would resort to violence to “earn self -respect and the respect of their oppressors”, I’m not entirely sure I can justify the ones that believed in “moral force”. When one has been wronged so many times, sometimes returning the favor can be the solution. I do believe that there are times when violence is the only answer and maybe some of Browns actions could have made sense. Regardless they did lead to a civil war that didn’t have many good outcomes. The author goes on to talk about how anti-slavery activists meet over time to act together. Overall, I would say this reading did teach me something and reassured my thoughts about how we view violence as a means to an end.

Blog post #3- McPherson “The Revolution of 1890”

In the reading “The Revolution of 1860”, Author James McPherson, Introduces the famous abolitionist James Brown during the Civil War Era in the late 1850s. Throughout the intro of the excerpt, The reader is introduced to the Revolutionary Acts of James Brown. McPherson starts off with describing Brown’s idea of a raid into the Appalachian foothills of Virginia, where Brown would later move southward along the mountains attracting slaves to his banner. Later on, Brown would journey with 11 white followers to a community of former slaves in Chatham, Canada. Furthermore, in the excerpt, the reader is introduced to Brown’s belief, that in order to win the fight against slavery, violence must play in contrast. McPherson depicts Brown’s strategies by comparing the violence used in the 1850s, where the southwest won from Mexico solely through the threats of violence by southern congress. In more depth of Brown’s Belief, McPherson includes Brown’s singular phrase for his violence attack for the fight of freedom for the slaves where he states” Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”(McPherson 203) which comes Brown’s Favorite New testament passage (Hebrews 9:22). 


Furthermore, McPherson includes Brown’s efforts into creating the abolitionist group the “Secret six” ,The ‘Secret six’ Involves six men following the scheme of  Brown’s intended invasion of the South. The men involved within the group range from A young educator (Franklin B. Sanborn), A Philanthropist of upstate New York (Gerrit Smith),Transcendental clergyman (Thomas Wentworth Higginson), Leading intellectual light of Unitarianism (Theodore Parker), A physician of international repute for his work with the blind and deaf (Samuel Gridley Howe),and a prosperous manufacture (George L Stearns). McPherson empathizes with the occupations of these men, to give the reader a sense of group members’ community ties. In more depth, To include the the group members’ daily lives don’t necessarily involve the expectations of being apart of the Harper ferry’s invasion for abolishment of slavery, However, They were participants in the resistance to the fugitive slave law, where the particular reform brought most them together to later form the “secret six”. 


Brown’s intended invasion on Harpers Ferry was extinguished as a “suicidal mission” according to Fredrick Douglas, in where, Brown had assigned a guerilla warfare invasion on harpers ferry with only 22 recruited men to ignite his small army. McPherson translates Brown’s immediate plan by empathizing with Brown’s step by step blueprint on Harpers Ferry, However, This plan would only take Brown so far, McPherson states “It was almost as if he knew that failure with its ensuing martyrdom would do more to achieve his ultimate goal than any “success ” could have done”(206). McPherson issues a foreshadowing moment where the reader is introduced to the failed invasion in Harpers Ferry in 1859. Additionally, McPherson depicts a pessimistic outcome on Brown’s intended plan by rehearsing that agony did more in Brown’s favor, than success of his ultimate goal.

All in all, McPherson includes Lincoln’s victory on his presidency as a prologue factor of the abolishment of slavery which would later pass as a law (13th amendment). McPherson recognizes “whether or not the party was revolutionary, Antislavery men concurred that a revolution had taken place”(233), identifying that though not all reinforcements of abolishment had succeed in grace, However, all acts of abolishment made a impact (factor) into the reform of the 13th amendment. 






Blog Post- Brown


The Reconstruction Era’s main goal was to restore the participation of the southern state in the Union. A major problem arose due to the new system of harsh labor that was supposed to be used to restore the economy and provide jobs for newly freed slaves. Joshua Brown displays the true lifestyle of families during the Reconstruction Era. Although new legislation was passed (13th, 14th, 15th amendment, both Civil Rights Act) as stated before a new form of slavery was birthed, the freed slaves now had to find jobs and homes for the family and build their life although they did not have access to these resources. 

Brown shares that mine strikes were starting but the depiction of those protesting by Becker was blaming them for their difficult life. “He blamed the destitution of mining families on a “spirit of lawlessness’ produced by ignorance, alcoholism, and sloth.” Becker also describes the family roles at the time, calling the father lazy while the mother does all the real labor (Brown 132-133). 

My interpretation of this message is that miners should not even be on strike, the father described seems as if he does not care for his family’s well being because instead of working he is “carousing with his boon companions,” while his “starving children” think this may be their last meal. This story is conveyed to the readers that the Irish immigrants are lazy. While I was reading, I thought, why does he portray these specific groups of people in that light? Obviously, families go through struggles but were immigrant families the majority of those who had it this bad? I also wonder how the writer would describe the average ‘American’ family, would he describe the father in that negative way without an explanation as to why he feels that striking is the best option for him at this point? This piece was especially interesting because it gave me a different perspective on strikes and protest, I believe that those acts of disapproval over issues are crucial and necessary but in that family’s case was it that crucial and necessary for your children to almost starve?