Aftermath of the Civil War


Reconstruction Era 1865-77*

A. Issues of Reconstruction

  1. Main Issue – Because the Constitution did not deal with the issue of secessionism, it did not address the issue of how a state may “reenter” the Union or who was responsible for reconstructing the South.
  2. Readmission of the Southern States to the Union
  3. Treatment of Ex-Confederates, those who had taken up arms against the US
  4. Civil Rights of Black citizens, most of whom were former slaves.
  5. Make-up of the New State Governments

B. Goals of Reconstruction

  1. Northern politicians hoped to reconstruct Southern Society, so that rights for former slaves were insured, and a political base for the Republican Party could be formed.
  2. Lincoln hoped to produce a speedy recovery for the South
    a. If the South were part of the Union, a crippled South would cripple the nation.
    b. A political realist, he also hoped to attract former Whigs, pro-Unionists and newly enfranchised Blacks into Republican ranks.
  3. Presidential Reconstruction — Ten Percent Plan
    a. Abraham Lincoln did not recognize a states’ right to leave the Union and proceeded to determine the policies of reconstruction based on these liberal secessionist views .
    b. By Jan 1864, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas offered loyal state governments on the basis of Lincoln’s Reconstruction Plan.
  4. Congressional Reconstruction – Congress assumed that reconstruction was a legislative prerogative, not of the executive branch, because statehood was under their jurisdiction
    a. Congressional beliefs
    (1) Many Congressmen believed that the South should be more severely punished for bringing the war to the nation and should be made to pay war costs.
    (2) While agreeing with Lincoln that mass executions for treason were not in order, they did not want key Confederate political or military leaders to emerge as leaders of post-war South.
    b. Wade-Davis Bill
    (1) Congress, led by Sen. Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Rep. Henry Davis , passed a much harsher plan of reconstruction (Wade-Davis Bill).
    (2) The plan required a total of fifty percent of the number of voters in 1860 before a new government could be formed, while exempting most Ex-Confederates from participation.
    (3) State constitutions had to repudiate Confederate debts and prohibit slavery.
    c. Although the bill passed Congress, it was within two weeks of adjournment and was therefore pocket vetoed by Lincoln.
  5. Brutal Mistake for the South
    a. Lincoln’s plan would have produced a speedy recovery for the South, and would have provided Federal funding for rebuilding the South, but unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated on 14 Apr 1865 at Ford’s Theater, by John Wilkes Booth
    b. Booth was himself allegedly shot in a barn on 26 Apr near Bowling Green VA.

C. Struggle Between the Legislative and Executive Branches over Reconstruction

  1. Presidential Reconstruction Under Andrew Johnson
    a. As a Southern Democrat, he was known to despise Southern aristocratic plantation owners and favored the 13th amendment, proposed by Congress in Feb 1865.
    b. Lincoln’s death temporarily shifted momentum to Congress, many of whom waited to see what the new President would do, hoping he would favor a harsher plan, similar to the Wade-Davis Bill
    c. Johnson’s Plan
    (1) Because Congress was adjourned when Lincoln was killed, Johnson offered reconstruction to Southern states which soon revealed that he favored a plan much like Lincoln’s 10% Plan.
    (2) When Congress reconvened in December, all Southern states had accepted the President’s requirements except Mississippi sending all-white delegations to congress for roll call, including representative Alexander Stephens (GA), former Confederate vice-president.
    (3) Johnson also granted amnesty to thousands of ex-rebels, barring only those with sizable property holdings from taking oaths of allegiance (although many wealthy CSA supporters were pardoned after directly petitioning Johnson)
    d. Johnson Governments
    (1) Many new Southern governments placed restrictions on former slaves
    (a) Denying blacks (males) the right to vote.
    (b) Not allowing for the education of former slaves.
    (c) Taking steps to keep blacks from acquiring real property.
    (d) Black Codes (1865-66) in many cases resembled the former slave codes with the name “freedman” written in where the word “slave” had been.
    i) The codes did recognize black marriages.
    ii) They also permitted blacks to sue and to testify in court in some cases.
    iii) In some cases blacks could obtain certain types of property.
    (2) These “Reconstructed Governments” left former slaves in little better condition than as slaves, reducing them to a subordinate role and into sharecropping as a way of life for most.
  2. Congressional Response — Radical Reconstruction
    a. Congressional Makeup
    (1) Radical Republicans – wanted Southern states treated more like conquered provinces, to insure that Blacks had certain civil rights, especially the vote.
    (2) Senator Charles Sumner (1811-74) MA (Senator from 1851 until his death) – desired immediate racial equality and punishment for the South.
    (3) Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (1796-1868) – Whig from PA (1848-52) and Republican (1859 until death) – favored Federal protection for freedmen and punishment for the South
    (2) Demoralized Democratic minority – size greatly reduced by the South’s defection
    (3) Small conservative Republican faction – desired a quick return to normalcy
    (4) Large moderate Republican faction – provided the crucial swing vote.
    b. Rise of Radical Republicans – Johnson’s inflexibility cost him crucial support of the moderate Republican faction
    (1) Legislative Acts Challenged by Johnson
    (a) Extension of the Freedman’s Bureau Feb 1866 (established as a branch of the War Department under Gen. Oliver O. Howard to provide assistance to thousands of refugees, white Unionists, and former slaves).
    i) Johnson vetoed it because it strengthened the powers of the bureau, giving more jurisdiction over anyone who deprived Blacks of their rights
    ii) When sticking to a constitutional argument, that federal jurisdiction should not be expanded into states, not yet restored to the Union nor represented in the National Congress, Johnson was supported by moderates
    iii) By clarifying that freedmen should by their own merits and exertions “manage for themselves,” he lost moderate Republican support, and Congress overrode his veto.
    (b) Civil Rights Act Apr 1866
    i) It granted full citizenship to all persons born on US soil (except Indians, not taxed) with full rights of the civil laws to which any citizen were entitled.
    ii) It gave black citizens the same rights as whites, and prohibited the states from restricting the rights of Blacks to testify in court or to hold court.
    iii) Johnson’s veto along constitutional lines claimed that it diminished a states’ right to make its own laws and weakened the limits on Federal power.
    iv) But a further explanation that it would provide “security for the colored race, safe-guards which go infinitely beyond any that the General Government has ever provided for the white race,” again lost him crucial moderate support in Congress, which again overrode his veto (the first major piece of vetoed legislation overridden by Congress).
    (c) Fourteenth Amendment – To preserve the principles in the Civil Rights Act 1866
    i) To insure that none of it could be declared unconstitutional or removed by a later law Congress proposed an amendment which stated that all persons born in the US or naturalized a US citizen could not be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
    ii) It further stated that
    (1) any state that limited the voting rights of a segment of its population might have their Congressional representation reduced.
    (2) former Confederate officials were banned from holding elective office without a 2/3 Congressional pardon.
    (3) Confederate War debts were repudiated.
    iii) Johnson’s opposition to this further alienated Congressional moderates
    (2) Bi-Elections of 1866
    (a) Waving the bloody shirt – Radical Republicans reminded voters with this tactic that the Democrats were the party of rebellion.
    (b) Johnson toured the nation promoting the National Union party to offset Thaddeus Stevens and Radical Republicans.
    (c) Results
    i) Radical Republicans won 2/3 of the seats in both houses of Congress, every contested Governor’s seat and control of all Northern legislatures
    ii) Congress was now veto-proof, fully controlled by Radical Republicans who proceeded to control policies of Reconstruction along their ideas.
  3. Radical Reconstruction
    a. First Reconstruction Act 2 Mar 1867
    (1) Except for TN, who had accepted the 14th amendment in 1866, the rest of the Confederacy was divided into five military districts, each governed by a major general, appointed by the President, empowered to bring offenders to trial and to punish them in order to maintain order.
    (2) Each state was to call new constitutional conventions, elected by all adult males, excluding ex-Confederates
    (a) When at first, Southerners refused to call such conventions, the military was empowered to register voters for the election of delegates to the constitutional conventions (Second Act Mar 67).
    (b) Congress had required a majority of registered voters to approve the new constitutions (Third Act 1868), but after Southerners refused to vote, it was amended to require only a majority of those who voted.
    (3) New state constitutions had to guarantee the vote to blacks and to prevent ex-Confederates from voting who did not obtain a Congressional pardon.
    (a) If Congress approved the constitution, the state legislature had to approve the 14th amendment before final readmission.
    (b) 7 states were readmitted by 1870 with Federal troops remaining in SC, FL and LA.
    b. Additional Congressional Acts
    (1) Command of the Army Act 2 Mar 1867
    (a) To insure that President Johnson did not interfere with the major generals in each military district, all military orders from the President must go through the General of the Army, who was US Grant at this time.
    (b) The President, although Commander-in-Chief, was forbidden from dealing directly with the military governors in the South.
    (2) Tenure of Office Act Mar 1867
    (a) The President was further prohibited from removing any official from office who had been approved by Congress, without Congressional approval.
    (b) Believing that this act was unconstitutional, Johnson decided to test it in the courts by attempting to fire a holdover from Lincoln’s cabinet.
    (c) Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton , who consistently sided with Congressional Radical Republicans, agreeing that military governors were answerable to the Commander of the Army and then to the House of Representatives, not the President
    (d) Although adjourned when Johnson fired Stanton, a reconvened Senate did not approve US Grant’s appointment as War Secretary by a vote of 35-7.
    (e) Johnson fired Stanton a second time, thereby confronting Congress.
    c. Impeachment of Andrew Johnson Feb 1868
    (1) By a simple majority, the House voted to impeach Johnson for high crimes
    (a) He was charged with 11 counts (9 relating to the Tenure of Office Act; 2 related to his behavior toward Congress).
    (b) He never appeared at the trial, but was represented by former AG Henry Stanberry .
    (2) The Senate trial lasted from 5 Mar – 26 May, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase presiding.
    (a) The Senate vote 35-19 (7 Republicans/ 12 Democrats) failed by 1 vote to convict and remove Johnson.
    (b) The deciding vote was cast by Republican Senator Edmund G. Ross (KS), which ruined his political career.
    (3) Stanton resigned as soon as the trial ended and Congress adjourned.
    (4) Johnson finished his term ineffectively after which he returned to the US Senate (1875), although he died after 5 months into its term.

    D. Grant Administration (18th President)

  1. Election of 1868
    a. Candidates
    (1) Republicans in Chicago nominated the Civil War hero, Ulysses S. Grant (OH) for president on the 1st ballot and Radical Republican Schuyler Colfax (IN) for Vice-President.
    (2) Democrats in NY nominated ex-governor Horatio Seymour (NY) for President and Unionist Francis P. Blair, Jr (KY) for Vice-President
    b. Campaign
    (1) Republicans again “waved the bloody shirt” and campaigned on a platform which called for Radical Reconstruction, condemned the actions of President Johnson and Democrats, advocated paying the national debt in gold but did not fully endorse the tariff or Negro suffrage
    (2) Democrats attacked Radical Reconstruction and endorsed paying the national debt in greenbacks (Ohio Idea of George H. Pendleton ).
    c. Results — Grant carried 26 of 34 states, receiving 3,013,427 popular (214 electoral) votes to Seymour’s 2,706,829 popular (80 electoral) votes.
    d. Significance – As Radical Republicans had hoped, Grant’s 309,000 vote plurality was provided by over 1/2 million Blacks who voted for the first time and mostly voted Republican which provided a two-party system for the South
    e. Grant Himself
    (1) A West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican War
    (2) While a good military strategist, Grant, a poor judge of character, surrounded himself with inept and corrupt officials.
    (3) Knowledge of a major scandal involving railroad construction surfaced just prior to the election of 1872, although Grant was not linked directly to it.
    (4) Grant, a problem drinker with a passion for cigars, died of throat cancer age 63
  2. Credit Mobilier Scandal
    a. Transcontinental Railroad May 1869
    (1) Union Pacific Railroad went west from NV and Central Pacific east from Sacramento CA.
    (2) The two railroads met at Promontory Point UT with a special ceremony on May 10 at which a gold spike with a silver hammer was driven in.
    (3) Symbolic gold and silver spikes were sent to the ceremony by five states.
    b. Scandal
    (1) This construction company was organized in 1864 by promoters of the Union Pacific Railroad to build the railroad.
    (2) Several stockholders of the construction company also owned stock in the railroad companies which allowed the construction company to overcharge for its building – $73 million for $50 million worth of work.
    (3) When Congress threatened to investigate the Union Pacific scandal in 1868, Oakes Ames , member of the House of Representatives and stockholder of the railroad construction company, sold company stock to key Congressmen.
    (a) After the NY Sun broke the story, Ames was censored by the House of Representatives
    (b) Vice-President Colfax, also connected to the scandal, was politically ruined.
  3. Election of 1872
    a. Candidates
    (1) Republicans renominated Grant, the railroad scandal having come too late to hamper him, but added Henry Wilson for Vice-President
    (2) Republican Liberal faction in Cincinnati
    (a) Favoring civil service reform and shocked by scandals in Grant’s administration, they nominated Horace Greeley for president and B. Gratz Brown for vice-president
    (b) Under the banner of the Liberal Party, they pushed civil service reform, a return to specie payments and reserving the public domain for actual settlers
    (3) Democrats in Baltimore, hoping to unify opposition to Grant and the Republicans, reluctantly endorsed the Liberal ticket.
    b. Results — Grant received a popular majority of 763,000 votes and 286 electoral votes to 66 for Greeley who died before the electoral votes were cast.
    c. Significance – The first Black delegates to a national convention were seated at the Republican National Convention.
  4. Other Scandals
    a. Salary Grab Act 3 Mar 1873
    (1) On the day before inauguration, Congress doubled the President’s salary (to $50,000) and the salaries of Supreme Court justices.
    (2) Hidden in the salary increases was a 50% increase for congressmen.
    (3) Public indignation forced Congress to rescind their salary increases.
    b. Whiskey Ring
    (1) A conspiracy of revenue officials and distillers formed in St. Louis to defraud the government of the internal tax on whiskey.
    (2) Chief among those implicated in the scandal, after an investigation ordered by Treasury Secretary Benjamin H. Bristow, was Grant’s appointee John McDonald and his own private secretary, Gen O.E. Babcock , for whom Grant intervened.
    (3) In May 1875, 238 persons were indicted, but few were convicted.
    c. Trading Post Scandal
    (1) After the House investigated a scandal involving the selling of trading posts rights, Secretary of War William W. Belknap (1829-90) was implicated in corruption.
    (2) Belknap resigned to avoid being impeached for receiving bribes.
  5. Election of 1876
    a. Bi-Elections of 1874 – Because of Grant Administration corruption, Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and several state houses, and gained strength in the Senate.
    b. Candidates
    (1) Republicans in Cincinnati
    (a) Rutherford B. Hayes , honest, courageous as Governor of Ohio twice, former General in the Union army and Congressman, was nominated for President on the 7th ballot and William A. Wheeler (NY) for Vice-President.
    (b) Their leading candidate, James G. Blaine (ME), had been discredited by a railroad scandal, having been implicated by James Mulligan.
    (2) Democrats in St. Louis – Samuel J. Tilden (NY), a reform politician who favored civil service reform and had aided in the fall of William Marcy (“Boss”) Tweed, was nominated for President and Thomas A. Hendricks (IN) was nominated for Vice-President.
    (3) Results
    (a) Tilden received 4,300,000 votes to Hayes’ 4,034,000, but disputed returns in OR and the three unreconstructed Southern states (LA, FL and SC ), denied Tilden the needed majority of 185 electoral votes by 1.
    (b) Tilden carried NY, NJ, CN, IN and the South except where disputed.
    (c) Republicans had clearly carried Oregon whose votes went to Hayes, but white Southern conservatives had made a fair vote impossible by intimidating blacks, while Republican control of those states made a fair count virtually impossible.
    (4) Electoral Commission
    (a) Congress selected an election commission to certify the election results.
    i) Five each from the House, Senate and Supreme Court were selected to resolve the dispute over the election of 1876 (7 Republicans/ 7 Democrats/ one claiming neutrality)
    ii) Before the Commission completed its work, David Davis , neutral justice, resigned to accept an appointment as Senator from Illinois.
    iii) His replacement — Supreme Court Justice Republican Joseph Bradley (NJ).
    (b) The disputed returns were accepted in favor of the Republicans by a vote of eight to seven in each case, and Hayes was declared the winner by one vote, earning him a nickname of His Fraudulency and Old 8 to 7 .
  6. Compromise of 1877
    a. To gain the support of Southerners for the decision of the electoral commission, on 26 Feb 1877, a meeting at the Wormley Hotel produced a compromise.
    b. In return for the South’s support and for Southern guarantees of Black civil rights, Hayes agreed to four things, which became known as the Compromise of 1877.
    (1) No second term.
    (2) Remove remaining federal troops from SC, LA and FL
    (3) Make a fair number of appointments to federal positions from among Southerners, including at least one Cabinet post.
    (4) Spend fairly federal funds for internal improvements in the South.
    c. Hayes appointed David Key (TN) as Postmaster General and kept the other promises, retiring after one term in 1881 (dying in 1893).
    d. While president, Hayes allowed no liquor at White House functions. His wife was known as “Lemonade Lucy”.

*The Reconstruction Timetable and Information – Teach PDLaw’s Civil War

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