What were the strengths and weaknesses of Lincoln's Reconstruction plan?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

President Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction, called the Ten Percent Plan, had both strengths and weaknesses. One weakness of the plan was that President Lincoln only encouraged the southern states to give the former slaves the right to vote. His plan didn’t require voting rights for the former slaves. Some people also believed that his plan was too easy on the southern states. These people believed that more than ten percent of the people in a southern state should have to pledge loyalty to the United States before a new state constitution would be written. When Congress developed the Wade-Davis Bill, it required fifty percent of the people to pledge loyalty to the United States in order for a new state constitution to be written.

One of the strengths of the plan was that it was easy on the South to help with the healing and reunification processes. President Lincoln knew that the healing process would be difficult. He felt that by having a Reconstruction plan that wasn’t too harsh on the South would help with this. One way to accomplish this was to offer amnesty or forgiveness to most southerners who agreed to be loyal to the United States. Another way to accomplish this was to require a small percentage of people, only ten percent, to agree to be loyal to the United States in order to get the process of writing new state constitutions started. Another strength of Lincoln’s plan was that it required the southern states to ban slavery in the new state constitutions that were going to be written. This was important since the issue of slavery was a key cause of the Civil War. Lincoln’s plan also didn’t give amnesty to the former leaders of the Confederacy.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main strengths and weaknesses of this plan came from the same place.  They were both related to the fact that Lincoln wanted to be lenient to the South.

Lincoln's plan was going to make it easy for Southern states to be returned to the Union.  It said that any state could form a government as soon as 10% of the people who had been eligible to vote in 1860 signed an oath of loyalty to the US.

This was a great strength because it would have encouraged the South to reconcile with the North.  It was a magnanimous gesture showing that Lincoln was a great man who did not hold grudges.  But, at the same time, it could be perceived as a weakness.  We do not know how things would have turned out had Lincoln lived.  But Johnson's plan was similar to Lincoln's and the Southern states responded by doing things like instituting the Black Codes.  This showed that they were willing to take advantage of the lenient terms of the plan to try to return to the way things had been before the war.

Thus, Lincoln's plan was great because it was forgiving and lenient.  But these were also its major weaknesses.