Johnson's Plan for Reconstruction

Genesis Soto

Overview of Johnson's Plan

Johnson's amnesty proclamation ,May 29, 1865, was more severe than Lincoln's.
  • Pardons would be granted to those taking a loyalty oath
  • No pardons would be available to high ranking Confederate officials and persons owning property valued in excess of $20,000
  • A state needed to abolish slavery before being readmitted
  • A state was required to repeal its secession ordinance before being readmitted.
Most of the seceded states began compliance with the president’s program. Congress was not in session, so there was no immediate objection from that quarter. However, Congress reconvened in December and refused to seat the Southern representatives.

Reconstruction had produced another deadlock between the president and Congress.

Freedman's Bureau

The U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, popularly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). Some 4 million slaves gained their freedom as a result of the Union victory in the war, which left many communities in ruins and destroyed the South’s plantation-based economy. The Freedmen’s Bureau provided food, housing and medical aid, established schools and offered legal assistance. It also attempted to settle former slaves on Confederate lands confiscated or abandoned during the war. However, the bureau was prevented from fully carrying out its programs due to a shortage of funds and personnel, along with the politics of race and Reconstruction. In 1872, Congress, in part under pressure from white Southerners, shut the bureau.

Johnson was opposed to the use of the military during peacetime. He felt the Bill was a Federal encroachment into state matters and felt this was "class legislation" for a particular segment of society that it would keep the ex-slaves from being self-sustaining, and had not been done for struggling whites. Johnson did not feel that Congress should be making these decisions for unrepresented states. He vetoed it twice.

Civil Rights Act of 1866

An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their Vindication.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.

This bill was vetoed by president Johnson twice, but congress passed it as a law the second time.

Black Codes

The Union victory in the Civil War may have given some 4 million slaves their freedom, but African Americans faced a new onslaught of obstacles and injustices during the Reconstruction era (1865-1877). By late 1865, when the 13th Amendment officially outlawed the institution of slavery, the question of freed blacks’ status in the postwar South was still very much unresolved. Under the lenient Reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson, white southerners reestablished civil authority in the former Confederate states in 1865 and 1866. They enacted a series of restrictive laws known as “black codes,” which were designed to restrict freed blacks’ activity and ensure their availability as a labor force now that slavery had been abolished. For instance, many states required blacks to sign yearly labor contracts; if they refused, they risked being arrested as vagrants and fined or forced into unpaid labor. Northern outrage over the black codes helped undermine support for Johnson’s policies, and by late 1866 control over Reconstruction had shifted to the more radical wing of the Republican Party in Congress.

* Race was defined by blood; the presence of any amount of black blood made one black
* Employment was required of all freedmen; violators faced vagrancy charges
* Freedmen could not assemble without the presence of a white person
* Freedmen were assumed to be agricultural workers and their duties and hours were tightly regulated
* Freedmen were not to be taught to read or write

Was life after the Civil War better?

Life was still hard after the Civil war. It helped with some progress towards the freedom of African Americans in the U.S. but also resulted in the black codes, which was pretty much another form of slavery. Johnson wasn't a very good president either, making the current situation worse. Things weren't all that much better after the war. Hopefully things would get better.
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