Whites in the south were left without people to work their plantations. Slavery was indeed a very important topic during this time. Many of the reconstruction plans that were proposed required states to prohibit slavery in order to be readmitted to the union. When the Civil War ended in 1865, there was no definite plan for reconstructing the Union. This was a Very serious matter. President Lincoln had begun thinking about this while he was in office. In 1863 he proposed his Ten Percent Plan.
This policy would allow seceding states to return to the Union if ten percent of their prewar voters took an oath of loyalty to the Union and if the state would prohibit slavery. Although the plan forced states o prohibit slavery it did not force them to grant equal rights to blacks. The Ten Percent Plan was a good idea but some Republicans felt that it was not strict enough. This paved the way for the Wade-Davis Bill. This bill required the majority of a state’s prewar voters to pledge loyalty to the Union and that blacks were seen as equal in the eyes of the law.
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These plans led to controversy. Some people felt that because the constitution never mentioned succession, the states never actually seceded the Union so they didn’t need to be formally readmitted. Others felt that the states from the South had given up their rights once they left the Union so they must be readmitted. Upon the close of the Civil War, Congress was not in session. They would not meet again until December. This left the burden of developing a reconstruction plan on the shoulders of President Andrew Johnson.
So in May of 1865 Johnny’s Reconstruction Plan was unveiled. Under this plan, Johnson gave pardons and restored property rights to former white landowners if they pledged loyalty to the Union and the Constitution. Southerners that held prominent positions in the Confederacy and had more Han $20,000 worth of taxable land had to ask the president directly for a pardon. Johnny’s Plan had nothing to say about the rights of blacks after the war. Most Northern Democrats favored Johnny’s Plan. However Southerners were not so impressed.
Many of the southern states accepted Johnny’s plan but some of them attacked the black rights issue. Some states would not ratify,’ the thirteenth amendment. None of the southern states WOUld allow blacks to vote. In late 1865 the southern States revised their slave codes into what became know as the black codes. This basically stripped lacks of every right and justice that was due to them. Since Johnny’s plan did not address the rights and liberties of blacks, the southern states took it into their own hands to create their own laws regarding blacks.
When Congress met again they began to fight for the rights of blacks. They responded to the black codes by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866. President Johnson vetoed the bill but Congress overruled his veto with a 2/3 majority vote. Congress’ view of President Johnson began to deteriorate. The Military Reconstruction Acts did not go over well with President Johnson. He vetoed the bill, however the Radical Republicans passed it over Johnny’s veto. These acts began in 1 867 and began what was known as Radical Reconstruction.
Under this plan the south was divided into five districts. Excluding Tennessee because they had already been readmitted into the Union. Each of the districts were headed by a general. The main goal of the leader was to increase voter registration of blacks and to see to it that white confederates did not get back into office as they were before. The new voters would then vote on a new constitution that allowed blacks to vote. If he majority of the voters ratified the new constitution and the fourteenth amendment then the state would be eligible for readmission to the Union.
These bills covered the objectives of Radical Republicans. They called for universal suffrage, made it likely that republicans would be put into office in southern states, and they set the standards for readmission. The south had to suffer the consequences of being defeated. To ensure their acts, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act which prohibited the president from removing certain officeholders without the permission of the Senate. President Johnson deliberately violated this by firing Secretary of State Edwin Stanton.
President Johnson was tried for impeachment but the Senate could not convict him. During this time many things were done to help free blacks in the South. The thirteenth amendment prohibited slavery. The Freedman’s Bureau was created to assist blacks with things such as education and finding homes. The Homestead Act which gave blacks preferential treatment to get public land in the south. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 defined what civil rights were entitled to citizens. The fourteenth amendment which prohibited states from allotting the rights of their citizens.
The fifteenth amendment which guaranteed every male citizen the right to vote regardless of race. Although the government did all these things to help the black man, it was still tough living in this era. The UK Klux Klan were at the height of their power. If was hard for blacks to farm because they could not get supplies on credit. There were not many opportunities for free blacks other than work for very small wages on a white persons farm or move to the city and work in a factory. This is what led to the migration of blacks from the farms to the cities and from south to north.