SAT Subject US History Practice Question 783: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 783

44. President Lincoln's ideas about Reconstruction were based on the theory that the Confederate states

A. should be treated as conquered territories.
B. could be admitted to the Union only by Congress.
C. had never actually left the Union.
D. must grant full equality to all people.
E. should be barred indefinitely from being part of the United States.

Correct Answer: C


Lincoln argued that the Southern states had never left the Union. Individuals in those states had rebelled, but the states had never legally left. Therefore, using his power as commander-in-chief during wartime, Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in December 1863, in which he set the terms for the rebellious states to form new state governments. If the states had left the Union, as the Radical Republicans claimed, then it was Congress's job to readmit them and determine the conditions under which they would be readmitted. So the argument was political as much as it was legal. The Radical Republicans held that the South should be treated as a conquered territory (A), that only Congress can admit states (B), and that the South must grant equality to freed men and women (D). No one maintained that the Southern states should be barred from readmission to the United States (E). The debate concerned how readmission would take place.

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