The period after the Civil War was a very difficult time in the United States’ history. This time was known as the Reconstruction period and it was a very controversial time. There were many issues that had to be addressed such as what to do with the free blacks in the south and how states would be readmitted to the Union. This era saw the rise of the Radical Republicans. The government was going through changes, southerners were going through changes, and blacks were going through changes.
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 to 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.
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 Johnson’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 than $20,000 worth of taxable land had to ask the president directly for a pardon. Johnson’s Plan had nothing to say about the rights of blacks after the war. Most Northern Democrats favored Johnson’s Plan. However Southerners were not so impressed.
Many of the southern states accepted Johnson’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 blacks of every right and justice that was due to them. Since Johnson’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 Johnson’s veto.
These acts began in 1867 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 .