Better or Worse
Overview of Johnson's Plan
Johnson had three goals as president
- Restore the Union on the grounds that they had never truly left the Union so they should be brought back quickly.
- Move political power in the South to the lower classes, and keep former slaves from voting and gaining too much power.
- Win the election of 1868.
- The Freedmen's Bureau was created after the Civil War to assist freed slaves be reintegrated into society as free men.
- When Congress attempted to pass law reinforcing the Freedmen's Bureau Johnson vetoed it arguing that the legislation would put preference of one group over others.
Civil Rights Act 1866
- The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gave citizenship and equal rights to all men regardless of race or skin color.
- Johnson vetoed this act, but was later overrode by unanimous republican vote.
- The Black Codes were laws defining, and in some cases restricting the rights of African Americans in the South. They could now: own property, make contracts, sue, and marry, but not inter-racially.
- Labor contracts acted similarly to slavery "servants" could not leave the "masters" property, servants could be whipped, and had to work from sunup to sundown, but they could not be forced to perform "unreasonable" acts.
- Vagrants could be arrested and pushed into a labor contract as hard labor in order to pay off their fines.
- Black orphans could be forced into apprenticeship and authorized punishment and to recapture runaways, but they also had to provide food clothing, teaching a trade, and education.
Was it Better or worse for freed slaves after the Civil War?
Life for the freed slaves after the Civil war was unquestionably better for them. Despite all the setbacks to them by the black codes anything written in there was far better than being literally owned by another person and having all rights stripped away because you are no more than property. After the Civil War their lives were still poor as being those at the bottom of the social pyramid, but it was still a step up from the lives they were living before. With the new system there was at least some hope of finding a better life for yourself, but under slavery your best shot was Harriet Tubman taking a liking to you over all the other men women and children also living in bondage. Even if the lives of freedmen after the Civil weren't equal or even good, it was still better because they were now freemen.