"There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands." -- Plato


"Politics is the art of the possible." -- Otto Von Bismarck

"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." -- John Kenneth Galbraith


Do you scoff at politicians of the past? Do you think it is easy to sooth the turbulent passions of man? Wonder why people just couldn't "get along" and "work out" their conflicts? Do you think that, given the chance, you could have done it better? Is history nothing more than the wretched register of political short-sightedness and governmental incompetency? Is there a better way? Could you do it better?

Well, now you have the opportunity, with 20/20 hindsight, to set things right. To be more specific, you and the other members of your group are going to examine, discuss, debate, and finally create a Reconstruction policy that would help bring the United States together again at the end of the Civil War after 1865. The goal is to craft a government policy that would have rendered better results than that pursued by President Johnson ("Presidential Reconstruction") and the Radical Republicans ("Congressional Reconstruction"). That is the goal.

First of all, you will want to break into groups of approximately three students. Each member in your group will pose as a senator from a different victorious Northern state, and in considering your legislative options you must remember that your policy proposals must answer the following questions:

  1. What is the primary goal of reconstruction? Reunification, punishment, civil rights, other? (Thesis)
  2. What should be done to the ex-Confederates?
  3. What should be done for the freedmen?
  4. Who should be able to vote and hold office in the new Southern state governments?
  5. What requirements must be met before states regain full rights and representation?
  6. How should the Southern economy be restored?
  7. What role should Union troops play in policing, governing, or rebuilding the South?
  8. Re-state the primary goal of reconstruction. (Thesis re-stated)

(NOTE: Mr. Geib and Mr. Barich makes the following recommendation: as a group, reach consensus on your response to question #1. That answer will determine, more or less, the rest of your policy proposal. Also, have each group member tackle a color-grouping of questions.)

Your teachers suggest you write an extended paragraph in response to each question, staying very focused and getting right to the point. Keep in mind that although this is a group project, your proposed legislation needs one coherent thesis with a logically consistent plan of action. One recommendation in your policy proposal cannot contradict another: it would be illogical to stress reunification as most important, for example, while advocating a military occupation of the South. You are proposing one course of governmental action that must be uniform in intent and desired outcome.

To craft a thesis as a group requires intense communication and discussion among group members at the beginning rather than at the end of this assignment. When brainstorming possible policy options, think of the difficulties and objections that it might raise. You can make any proposal that you wish, but always keep in mind the complexities of the historical reality circa 1865. Simple-minded and reductionist policy proposals will be penalized. Again, the idea is to come up with a better policies than were, in fact, enacted by United States authorities during the Reconstruction Era.

BE ADVISED: The use of "thinking out of the box" and the employ of genius worthy of a "philosopher king" is both helpful and advised.

NOTE: Your teachers will introduce this assignment to you as we begin to study the Reconstruction Era, and it will not be due until the end of the unit, so keep in mind what you will need ultimately to produce here as you listen to Mr. Geib's and Mr. Barich's lectures and read the textbook.

Presidential Reconstruction.mp4| Congressional Reconstruction.mp4| South Backlash in Reconstruction.mp4 | The Freedmen


(Kobayashi Maru Scenario)






Mr. Barich's APUSH CLASS