Thaddeus Stevens was the most famous Radical Republican in the House of Representatives from 1849-1853 and 1859-1868. Along with Charles Sumner in the Senate, he opposed President Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction, calling it too lenient. Stevens served as chairman of the joint committee on Reconstruction in order to try and carry out his plan of punishing the Southern states and treating them as "conquered provinces." After their congressional victory in the election of 1866, Stevens nullified Andrew Johnson's Plan and, instead, passed the Civil Rights legislation and the Fourteenth Amendment over his veto. Stevens was also a major factor in placing the South under military occupation and granting black men the right to vote. Black social equality was the subject that he was genuinely committed to, but admitted that enfranchising them would ensure the continuing dominance of the Republican Party. In the end, Stevens led the congressional movement to impeach Johnson, but the battles of Reconstruction had worn him down. Stevens wished to be buried in a cemetery with African-Americans, rather than in one where blacks were forbidden. A true testament to his strong beliefs in racial equality.
Andrew Johnson was chosen as Vice President by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. After Lincoln's assassination, he became President. In the time of Reconstruction, Johnson believed the South should decide what is best for them. He also thought that African-Americans were incapable of managing their own lives and were undeserving of having the right to vote. His negative beliefs towards African-Americans showed when he told a group of blacks visiting the White House in 1866 that they should emigrate to another country. Johnson also gave amnesty and pardon, returning all property (besides slaves) to former Confederates who pledged loyalty to the Union and supported the Thirteenth Amendment. Johnson's visions of Reconstruction proved to be very lenient. Very few Confederate leaders were persecuted and by 1866, 7,000 Presidential pardons had been granted. The still-powerful whites in the South sought to subjugate freed slaves by passing harsh laws known as Black Codes and frequent brutal beatings of African-Americans were common as well. Some states even required written evidence of employment for the following year or they would be required to work on plantations. Johnson's policies were initially supported, but there was no census as to what rights African-Americans received along with Emancipation.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted, not only citizenship, but the same rights obtained by white citizens to all male persons in the United States "without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude." President Andrew Johnson's veto of the bill was overturned by both houses of Congress, making the bill law. The 1866 Civil Rights Act states, "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...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...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."
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted African-American men the right to vote by declaring: "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Fifteenth Amendment would not be fully recognized until almost a century after its original date of ratification on February 3, 1870. States in the South were, effectively, able to disenfranchise African-Americans by requiring a poll tax, literacy tests, and other means, to vote. The majority of African-Americans in the South did not have their chance to vote until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.