The Freedmens Bureau Bill History Essay
The Freedmens Bureau Bill which created and formulated the Freedmens Bureau was started by President Abraham Lincoln and was initially intended to last for 1 year; this bill came about after the end of the Civil War. The landmark bill was passed on March 3, 1865 by the Congress to aid former slaves through legal channel for food, housing, education, health care, oversight and employment with private landowners. The bureau became a strategic agency during Reconstruction assisting freed ex-slaves (freedman) in the South. The Bureau belonged to the U.S Dept. of War. The Bureau was operational from 1865 until 1872.
The South objected to the Bureau in that they accused it of essentially organizing blacks against their former owners. The Bureaus themselves were hard pressed to regulate the contracts or impose legal actions because of lack of military support at individual Bureaus and the great opposition of the public in the South. President Andrew Johnson vetoed the bill for an increase of power to the Bureau which was supported by Radical Republicans. However the bureau still attempted to help the newly freed slaves.
The Bureau helped solve day to day problems directly to the newly freed slaves like food, water, clothing, health care, communication with family members, and jobs. The Bureau made distribution of about 15 million food rations to African Americans. The Bureau was established in a system where the plantation owners and businessman could borrow rations in order to feed the freedmen they employed. Though the Bureau set forth a budget of $350,000 for this service only (10%) was borrowed.
The Freedmen’s Bureau was established to strengthen their existing medical care facilities and healthcare services and also to expand services into rural areas through the newly established clinics. Medical assistance and various medical and food supplies were in short supply and the civil authorities were often very reluctant to cooperate with the Bureau in aiding and assisting the freedmen. Despite with all that very good intentions, efforts and with limited success of the Bureau’s medical treatment of the freedmen and freedwomen, the facilities that was offered to them was severely deficient and below the standard.
Under slavery some marriages were informal in nature; there are many documented cases wherein accounts of slave owners presiding over the marriage ceremonies for their slaves. This migration forced to 1.2 million blacks in the internal slave trade to the South had caused great disruption to many families. Most of the other folks were separated during the wartime chaotic situation. The Bureau agents in their difficult attempts helped many families to reunite after the war was over. The Bureau however was setup with an informal regional communications system that made possible for bureau’s agents to send inquiries and provide answers. The Bureau most often provided transportation to reunite slaves with the families. Freedmen and freed women looked towards to the Bureau for mediation and assistance in resolving issues like abandonment and divorce.
The most well recognized accomplishment for the Bureau was Education. The freedman wanted the same publicly funded school system as the wealthy whites. The Bureau was granted by congressional law to seize confederate property for educational use. Through missionaries and aid for society’s further funds were obtained to establish schools. By the time the Bureau was dissolved, more than 1000 schools for former slaves was established and more than 20 higher education colleges and universities were operational, some still in existence today.
The Bureau attempted to make the civil courts work for blacks but reality was that murder and violence against the freedman was commonplace and the violators rarely got punished. The Jim Crow laws were a legal bill to keep blacks and whites separated in schools, neighborhoods, public places, and all aspect of life. As the reconstruction in general took its toll on Northern supporters of the Freedman Bureau, financial contributions began to wane. This eventually led to the Bureau’s demise.
The Freedmen’s Bureau had very good intentions but was not a very successful campaign in most of its fields it wanted to help the freed slaves. Access to its services and enforcement of its rules was lacking. Funding was hard to come for the bureau. The only success is the educational institutes of higher learning that were established by its funding that still are operational today.
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1. Texas Revolution:
During the Texas Revolution period of 1835-36 many American colonists in Texas had strongly secured the independence of that Texas area from Mexico and thereby subsequently established a Republic. During the 1820’s many settlers from the other parts of United States had settled and colonized Texas area. By the 1830’s they far outnumbered the Texas Mexicans in demography. The situation became grim for the Mexican leadership, well reputed Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna made an attempt to counteract this trend by taking drastic measures such as abolition of slavery and mandatorily enforcing the levy of tariffs and collection of customs duties. As a result the settlers therefore rebelled against the Mexicans and thereby hostilities began immediately at Gonzales on Oct 2, 1835. During February 1836 Santa Anna undiscouraged and relentlessly led a large force across the Rio Grande with the hopes of crushing the rebels. He was however held and delayed by the surprisingly unexpected and determined defense of Alamo. Meanwhile the Texans promptly and immediately taking advantage of the situation declared and asserted their independence from Mexico on Mar 2, 1836, and immediately organized a provisional care taking government. Santa Anna pursued the rebels overstretching his resources and supply lines and thereby isolating his forces. On April 21, he was defeated by Sam Houston and taken prisoner. Mexican troops therefore withdrew from Texas completely. The Republic of Texas has remained independent until 1845. Later it became part of the United States territory.
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"Texas Revolution." digitalhistory.uh.edu, 07Aug2010. Web. 7 Aug 2010. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=312>.
2. Kansas-Nebraska Act:
Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 this act organized, provisioned and mapped the northern Great Plains region into the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The purpose of the Act was to build and create opportunities for a Mideastern Transcontinental Railroad. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which made prohibition of slavery's continued expansion into the northwest territories of the border which is between the Arkansas State and Missouri State. Under the broad condition of the act “the residents from Kansas and Nebraska territories would decide for themselves whether if they could enter and join the Union as Free states or slave soil.” Thus by rejecting the Missouri Compromise the Kansas-Nebraska Act reopened the divisive issue of slavery's expansion and brought the U.S closer to civil war.
The political ramifications were divided and deep from this bill. Support for this bill came from southern members of Congress which was nearly unanimous in its decision. Northern Democrats were opposed to this measure and seriously split half their votes in the House by going for the measure and the rest half against it. Almost all northern Whigs opposed the bill. Opposition groups formed an alliance in the new Republican Party that was strongly opposed to the bill.
In the new territories masses of people flocked to be heard in the vote as slave or non-slave state. Banded and armed loads of people would come to have bloody fights and arguments to have their vote heard. This chaotic situation finally ended when the congressional parties had both states enter the Union as Free states.
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3. The Emancipation Proclamation:
On taking office President Lincoln was concerned with preserving the Union and thus only wanted to prevent slavery from expanding into the Western territories. After the South seceded there was no political or any other reason to tolerate slavery. In September of 1862 he called on the seceded States to return promptly to the Union or have their slaves declared free immediately. When no States returned he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan 1, 1863. The edict had absolutely no powers in the Confederacy but it provided moral support and inspiration for the North and discouraged European countries from supporting the South States. The proclamation also had the practical effect of permitting recruitment of African Americans for the Union army. By 1865 almost 180,000 African American soldiers had been enlisted. Finally the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which was ratified in 1865 officially abolished slavery in the entire country.
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"Emancipation Proclamation." archives.gov, 07Aug2010. Web. 7 Aug 2010. <http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/>.
4. Robert E. Lee:
Robert E. Lee was the son of Henry Lee, a cavalry commander during the Revolutionary War and a onetime Governor of Virginia. Lee attended military school and became an engineer in the US Army. He had a successful career during the Mexican-American War. As the bitter Civil War broke out in 1861, Lee resigned from his post in the U.S Army and joined the Southern forces. In 1862 he was posthumously made the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and over the next 3 years he became famous as he led the army to a barrage of victories over the larger and better equipped Union forces. He was however defeated in 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg and he finally surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on 9 April 1865, this surrender led to effectively ending the Civil war.
Soon after the Civil War Robert E. Lee was appointed has the President of Washington College in Virginia. And he held this prestigious post until his death. Lee was the South’s most famous general ever.
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5. Homestead Act:
The Homestead Act was a landmark piece of legislation passed by the U.S Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, “Under the Homestead Act people could rightfully lay a claim to the set amount of land acreage if they lived on it for five years while also did some farming in it. At one point there was an estimated 10% of the land in the U.S which was owned through homestead claims and the Homestead Act significantly contributed and made possible towards westward expansion in North America encouraging people to establish strong footholds well outside the original 13 colonies. Under the Homestead Act the head of a family could lay a claim to up to 160 acres. He doesn’t have to be a U.S citizen, the only requirement was the ability to pay a small registration fees and to occupy the land for the required amount of time. For those people in a hurry the land could be purchased for $1.25 an acre after six months.” The law required 3 steps for the process: file for an application, improve the land structure and file for deed of title. Anyone who had never threatened and taken up arms against the U.S. government including the freed slaves could file an application and also at the same time provide evidence of improvements to a federal land office. Many freed and escaped slaves took advantage of the Homestead Act program to advance themselves.
The ultimate goal of the Homestead Act was to get the vast majority of poor urbanized Americans and immigrants out of big regions into the countryside to farm and thus expand the country. However most people who claimed the land under the Homestead Act were farmers and their dependent children’s because they had the necessary farming skills that was needed to improve the land.
Unfortunately the act was designed and framed so vaguely that it seemed to invite big fraud in the system. Early modifications by the Congress only compounded and complicated the problem. Most of the land went to land speculators, cattlemen, miners, lumbermen and railroads. Around 500 million acres were dispersed by the General Land Office from 1862 until 1904 of which only 80 million acres went to homesteaders. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976 except for Alaska where it continued until 1986.
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