VIII. Aftermath of the Civil War -- Reconstruction Era 1865-77
A. Issues of Reconstruction
- Main Issue - Because the Constitution did not deal with the
issue of secessionism, it did not address the issue of how a state
may "reenter" the Union or who was responsible for reconstructing
- Readmission of the Southern States to the Union
- Treatment of Ex-Confederates, those who had taken up arms
against the US
- Civil Rights of Black citizens, most of whom were former
- Make-up of the New State Governments
B. Goals of Reconstruction
- Northern politicians hoped to reconstruct
Southern Society, so that rights for former slaves were
insured, and a political base for the Republican Party could be
- Lincoln hoped to produce a speedy recovery for the
a. If the South were part of the Union, a crippled South would
cripple the nation.
b. A political realist, he also hoped to attract former Whigs,
pro-Unionists and newly enfranchised Blacks into Republican
- Presidential Reconstruction -- Ten Percent
a. Abraham Lincoln did not recognize a states' right to leave
the Union and proceeded to determine the policies of
reconstruction based on these liberal secessionist
b. By Jan 1864, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas
offered loyal state governments on the basis of Lincoln's
- Congressional Reconstruction - Congress assumed that
reconstruction was a legislative prerogative, not of the
executive branch, because statehood was under their
a. Congressional beliefs
(1) Many Congressmen believed that the South should be more
severely punished for bringing the war to the nation and should
be made to pay war costs.
(2) While agreeing with Lincoln that mass executions for
treason were not in order, they did not want key Confederate
political or military leaders to emerge as leaders of post-war
b. Wade-Davis Bill
(1) Congress, led by Sen. Benjamin Wade of
Ohio and Rep. Henry Davis , passed a much
harsher plan of reconstruction (Wade-Davis Bill).
(2) The plan required a total of fifty percent
of the number of voters in 1860 before a new government could
be formed, while exempting most Ex-Confederates from
(3) State constitutions had to repudiate Confederate debts and
c. Although the bill passed Congress, it was within two weeks
of adjournment and was therefore pocket vetoed
- Brutal Mistake for the South
a. Lincoln's plan would have produced a speedy recovery for the
South, and would have provided Federal funding for rebuilding
the South, but unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated on 14
Apr 1865 at Ford's Theater, by John Wilkes
b. Booth was himself allegedly shot in a barn on 26 Apr near
Bowling Green VA.
C. Struggle Between the Legislative and Executive Branches over
- Presidential Reconstruction Under Andrew Johnson
a. As a Southern Democrat, he was known to despise Southern
aristocratic plantation owners and favored the 13th amendment,
proposed by Congress in Feb 1865.
b. Lincoln's death temporarily shifted momentum to Congress,
many of whom waited to see what the new President would do,
hoping he would favor a harsher plan, similar to the Wade-Davis
c. Johnson's Plan
(1) Because Congress was adjourned when Lincoln was killed,
Johnson offered reconstruction to Southern states which soon
revealed that he favored a plan much like Lincoln's 10%
(2) When Congress reconvened in December, all Southern states
had accepted the President's requirements except Mississippi
sending all-white delegations to congress for roll call,
including representative Alexander Stephens
(GA), former Confederate vice-president.
(3) Johnson also granted amnesty to thousands of ex-rebels,
barring only those with sizable property holdings from taking
oaths of allegiance (although many wealthy CSA supporters were
pardoned after directly petitioning Johnson)
d. Johnson Governments
(1) Many new Southern governments placed restrictions
on former slaves
(a) Denying blacks (males) the right to vote.
(b) Not allowing for the education of former slaves.
(c) Taking steps to keep blacks from acquiring real
(d) Black Codes (1865-66) in many cases
resembled the former slave codes with the name "freedman"
written in where the word "slave" had been.
i) The codes did recognize black marriages.
ii) They also permitted blacks to sue and to testify in court
in some cases.
iii) In some cases blacks could obtain certain types of
(2) These "Reconstructed Governments" left former slaves in
little better condition than as slaves, reducing them to a
subordinate role and into sharecropping as a way of life for
- Congressional Response -- Radical
a. Congressional Makeup
(1) Radical Republicans - wanted Southern
states treated more like conquered provinces, to insure that
Blacks had certain civil rights, especially the vote.
(2) Senator Charles Sumner (1811-74) MA
(Senator from 1851 until his death) - desired immediate racial
equality and punishment for the South.
(3) Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (1796-1868) - Whig
from PA (1848-52) and Republican (1859 until death) - favored
Federal protection for freedmen and punishment for the
(2) Demoralized Democratic minority - size
greatly reduced by the South's defection
(3) Small conservative Republican faction -
desired a quick return to normalcy
(4) Large moderate Republican faction -
provided the crucial swing vote.
b. Rise of Radical Republicans - Johnson's inflexibility cost
him crucial support of the moderate Republican faction
(1) Legislative Acts Challenged by Johnson
(a) Extension of the Freedman's Bureau Feb
1866 (established as a branch of the War Department under Gen.
Oliver O. Howard to provide assistance to
thousands of refugees, white Unionists, and former slaves).
i) Johnson vetoed it because it strengthened the powers of the
bureau, giving more jurisdiction over anyone who deprived
Blacks of their rights
ii) When sticking to a constitutional argument, that federal
jurisdiction should not be expanded into states, not yet
restored to the Union nor represented in the National Congress,
Johnson was supported by moderates
iii) By clarifying that freedmen should by their own merits and
exertions "manage for themselves," he lost moderate Republican
support, and Congress overrode his veto.
(b) Civil Rights Act Apr 1866
i) It granted full citizenship to all persons born on US soil
(except Indians, not taxed) with full rights of the civil laws
to which any citizen were entitled.
ii) It gave black citizens the same rights as whites, and
prohibited the states from restricting the rights of Blacks to
testify in court or to hold court.
iii) Johnson's veto along constitutional lines claimed that it
diminished a states' right to make its own laws and weakened
the limits on Federal power.
iv) But a further explanation that it would provide "security
for the colored race, safe-guards which go infinitely beyond
any that the General Government has ever provided for the white
race," again lost him crucial moderate support in Congress,
which again overrode his veto (the first major piece of vetoed
legislation overridden by Congress).
(c) Fourteenth Amendment - To preserve the
principles in the Civil Rights Act 1866
i) To insure that none of it could be declared unconstitutional
or removed by a later law Congress proposed an amendment which
stated that all persons born in the US or naturalized a US
citizen could not be deprived of "life, liberty or property
without due process of law."
ii) It further stated that
(1) any state that limited the voting rights of a segment of
its population might have their Congressional representation
(2) former Confederate officials were banned from holding
elective office without a 2/3 Congressional pardon.
(3) Confederate War debts were repudiated.
iii) Johnson's opposition to this further alienated
(2) Bi-Elections of 1866
(a) Waving the bloody shirt - Radical
Republicans reminded voters with this tactic that the Democrats
were the party of rebellion.
(b) Johnson toured the nation promoting the National Union
party to offset Thaddeus Stevens and Radical Republicans.
i) Radical Republicans won 2/3 of the seats in both houses of
Congress, every contested Governor's seat and control of all
ii) Congress was now veto-proof, fully controlled by Radical
Republicans who proceeded to control policies of Reconstruction
along their ideas.
- Radical Reconstruction
a. First Reconstruction Act 2 Mar 1867
(1) Except for TN, who had accepted the 14th amendment in 1866,
the rest of the Confederacy was divided into five military
districts, each governed by a major general, appointed by the
President, empowered to bring offenders to trial and to punish
them in order to maintain order.
(2) Each state was to call new constitutional conventions,
elected by all adult males, excluding ex-Confederates
(a) When at first, Southerners refused to call such
conventions, the military was empowered to register voters for
the election of delegates to the constitutional conventions
(Second Act Mar 67).
(b) Congress had required a majority of registered voters to
approve the new constitutions (Third Act
1868), but after Southerners refused to vote, it was amended to
require only a majority of those who voted.
(3) New state constitutions had to guarantee the vote to blacks
and to prevent ex-Confederates from voting who did not obtain a
(a) If Congress approved the constitution, the state
legislature had to approve the 14th amendment before final
(b) 7 states were readmitted by 1870 with Federal troops
remaining in SC, FL and LA.
b. Additional Congressional Acts
(1) Command of the Army Act 2 Mar 1867
(a) To insure that President Johnson did not interfere with the
major generals in each military district, all military orders
from the President must go through the General of the Army, who
was US Grant at this time.
(b) The President, although Commander-in-Chief, was forbidden
from dealing directly with the military governors in the
(2) Tenure of Office Act Mar 1867
(a) The President was further prohibited from removing any
official from office who had been approved by Congress, without
(b) Believing that this act was unconstitutional, Johnson
decided to test it in the courts by attempting to fire a
holdover from Lincoln's cabinet.
(c) Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin
Stanton , who consistently sided with Congressional
Radical Republicans, agreeing that military governors were
answerable to the Commander of the Army and then to the House
of Representatives, not the President
(d) Although adjourned when Johnson fired Stanton, a reconvened
Senate did not approve US Grant's appointment as War Secretary
by a vote of 35-7.
(e) Johnson fired Stanton a second time, thereby confronting
c. Impeachment of Andrew Johnson Feb
(1) By a simple majority, the House voted to impeach Johnson
for high crimes
(a) He was charged with 11 counts (9 relating to the Tenure of
Office Act; 2 related to his behavior toward Congress).
(b) He never appeared at the trial, but was represented by
former AG Henry Stanberry .
(2) The Senate trial lasted from 5 Mar - 26 May, Chief Justice
Salmon P. Chase presiding.
(a) The Senate vote 35-19 (7 Republicans/ 12 Democrats) failed
by 1 vote to convict and remove Johnson.
(b) The deciding vote was cast by Republican Senator
Edmund G. Ross (KS), which ruined his
(3) Stanton resigned as soon as the trial ended and Congress
(4) Johnson finished his term ineffectively after which he
returned to the US Senate (1875), although he died after 5
months into its term.
D. Grant Administration (18th President)
- Election of 1868
(1) Republicans in Chicago nominated the Civil War hero,
Ulysses S. Grant (OH) for president on the 1st
ballot and Radical Republican Schuyler Colfax
(IN) for Vice-President.
(2) Democrats in NY nominated ex-governor Horatio
Seymour (NY) for President and Unionist
Francis P. Blair, Jr (KY) for
(1) Republicans again "waved the bloody shirt" and campaigned
on a platform which called for Radical Reconstruction,
condemned the actions of President Johnson and Democrats,
advocated paying the national debt in gold but did not fully
endorse the tariff or Negro suffrage
(2) Democrats attacked Radical Reconstruction and endorsed
paying the national debt in greenbacks (Ohio
Idea of George H. Pendleton ).
c. Results -- Grant carried 26 of 34 states, receiving
3,013,427 popular (214 electoral) votes to Seymour's 2,706,829
popular (80 electoral) votes.
d. Significance - As Radical Republicans had hoped, Grant's
309,000 vote plurality was provided by over 1/2 million Blacks
who voted for the first time and mostly voted Republican which
provided a two-party system for the South
e. Grant Himself
(1) A West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican War
(2) While a good military strategist, Grant, a poor judge of
character, surrounded himself with inept and corrupt
(3) Knowledge of a major scandal involving railroad
construction surfaced just prior to the election of 1872,
although Grant was not linked directly to it.
(4) Grant, a problem drinker with a passion for cigars, died of
throat cancer age 63
- Credit Mobilier Scandal
a. Transcontinental Railroad May 1869
(1) Union Pacific Railroad went west from NV and Central
Pacific east from Sacramento CA.
(2) The two railroads met at Promontory Point
UT with a special ceremony on May 10 at which a gold
spike with a silver hammer was driven in.
(3) Symbolic gold and silver spikes were sent to the ceremony
by five states.
(1) This construction company was organized in 1864 by
promoters of the Union Pacific Railroad to build the
(2) Several stockholders of the construction company also owned
stock in the railroad companies which allowed the construction
company to overcharge for its building - $73 million for $50
million worth of work.
(3) When Congress threatened to investigate the Union Pacific
scandal in 1868, Oakes Ames , member of the
House of Representatives and stockholder of the railroad
construction company, sold company stock to key
(a) After the NY Sun broke the story, Ames was
censored by the House of Representatives
(b) Vice-President Colfax, also connected to the scandal, was
- Election of 1872
(1) Republicans renominated Grant, the railroad scandal having
come too late to hamper him, but added Henry
Wilson for Vice-President
(2) Republican Liberal faction in Cincinnati
(a) Favoring civil service reform and shocked by scandals in
Grant's administration, they nominated Horace
Greeley for president and B. Gratz Brown for
(b) Under the banner of the Liberal Party, they pushed civil
service reform, a return to specie payments and reserving the
public domain for actual settlers
(3) Democrats in Baltimore, hoping to unify opposition to Grant
and the Republicans, reluctantly endorsed the Liberal
b. Results -- Grant received a popular majority of 763,000
votes and 286 electoral votes to 66 for Greeley who died before
the electoral votes were cast.
c. Significance - The first Black delegates to a national
convention were seated at the Republican National
- Other Scandals
a. Salary Grab Act 3 Mar 1873
(1) On the day before inauguration, Congress doubled the
President's salary (to $50,000) and the salaries of Supreme
(2) Hidden in the salary increases was a 50% increase for
(3) Public indignation forced Congress to rescind their salary
b. Whiskey Ring
(1) A conspiracy of revenue officials and distillers formed in
St. Louis to defraud the government of the internal tax on
(2) Chief among those implicated in the scandal, after an
investigation ordered by Treasury Secretary Benjamin H.
Bristow, was Grant's appointee John McDonald and his own
private secretary, Gen O.E. Babcock , for whom
(3) In May 1875, 238 persons were indicted, but few were
c. Trading Post Scandal
(1) After the House investigated a scandal involving the
selling of trading posts rights, Secretary of War
William W. Belknap (1829-90) was implicated in
(2) Belknap resigned to avoid being impeached for receiving
- Election of 1876
a. Bi-Elections of 1874 - Because of Grant Administration
corruption, Democrats regained control of the House of
Representatives and several state houses, and gained strength
in the Senate.
(1) Republicans in Cincinnati
(a) Rutherford B. Hayes , honest, courageous
as Governor of Ohio twice, former General in the Union army and
Congressman, was nominated for President on the 7th ballot and
William A. Wheeler (NY) for
(b) Their leading candidate, James G. Blaine (ME), had been
discredited by a railroad scandal, having been implicated by
(2) Democrats in St. Louis - Samuel J. Tilden
(NY), a reform politician who favored civil service reform and
had aided in the fall of William Marcy ("Boss") Tweed, was
nominated for President and Thomas A.
Hendricks (IN) was nominated for Vice-President.
(a) Tilden received 4,300,000 votes to Hayes' 4,034,000, but
disputed returns in OR and the three unreconstructed Southern
states (LA, FL and SC ),
denied Tilden the needed majority of 185 electoral votes by
(b) Tilden carried NY, NJ, CN, IN and the South except where
(c) Republicans had clearly carried Oregon whose votes went to
Hayes, but white Southern conservatives had made a fair vote
impossible by intimidating blacks, while Republican control of
those states made a fair count virtually impossible.
(4) Electoral Commission
(a) Congress selected an election commission to certify the
i) Five each from the House, Senate and Supreme Court were
selected to resolve the dispute over the election of 1876 (7
Republicans/ 7 Democrats/ one claiming neutrality)
ii) Before the Commission completed its work, David
Davis , neutral justice, resigned to accept an
appointment as Senator from Illinois.
iii) His replacement -- Supreme Court Justice Republican
Joseph Bradley (NJ).
(b) The disputed returns were accepted in favor of the
Republicans by a vote of eight to seven in each case, and Hayes
was declared the winner by one vote, earning him a nickname of
His Fraudulency and Old 8 to
- Compromise of 1877
a. To gain the support of Southerners for the decision of the
electoral commission, on 26 Feb 1877, a meeting at the Wormley
Hotel produced a compromise.
b. In return for the South's support and for Southern
guarantees of Black civil rights, Hayes agreed to four things,
which became known as the Compromise of 1877.
(1) No second term.
(2) Remove remaining federal troops from SC, LA and FL
(3) Make a fair number of appointments to federal positions
from among Southerners, including at least one Cabinet
(4) Spend fairly federal funds for internal improvements in the
c. Hayes appointed David Key (TN) as
Postmaster General and kept the other promises, retiring after
one term in 1881 (dying in 1893).
d. While president, Hayes allowed no liquor at White House
functions, his wife known as "Lemonade Lucy".
E. Reconstruction - After Thought
- Reconstruction Government Corruption
a. Although corruption did exist, Southern Reconstruction
Governments were no more corrupt, wasteful or taxing than
similar governments, especially Northern municipal
b. The Southern governments were never controlled entirely by
(1) No Black governors were elected
(2) Only the lower house in South Carolina had a majority of
c. Reconstruction Governments accomplished several positive
(1) a more equitable tax system.
(2) an expansion of State Railroad systems
(3) promoted physical reconstruction
(4) increased public services
(5) created a lasting public school system.
- Supporters of the Reconstruction Governments
a. Carpetbaggers - Northerners who came South
to "take advantage" of the chaos after the War.
b. Scalawags - Southerners who were in cahoots
with carpetbaggers to plunder the slim treasuries of local and
state Southern governments
(1) Southern unionists - desiring retaliation against
their wartime persecutors.
(2) Poor white yeoman farmers - desiring a share of
the larger plantations.
(3) Southern businessmen - hoping that the economic
policies of the Republicans would rejuvenate Southern industry
(4) Upperclass Southerners - former Whigs who desired
to control the Black voters, and to rise to power over their
former enemies, Democrats.
(a) White Southern Republicans used clubs like the
Union League of America to control the Black
(b) With the use of symbols and secret rituals, Blacks were
enticed to join the club, whose members supported the Leagers
list of candidates.
c. Work of Redeemers - In response to the
Radical governments in the South, amidst the rumors that
Blacks, scalawags and carpetbaggers were ruining the South and
plundering its remaining assets, a group of old line
conservatives, former Democrats, arose to "redeem the South,"
to save it from being reconstructed and to restore the South to
its pre-war Southern democracy.
(1) Conservative Southerners who resisted the reconstruction
governments worked to restore the old Southern way of life
regarding the relationship between the races, by overturning
the results of the Reconstructed Governments.
(2) Drawing the Color Line - policy of race
rather than economics
(a) Poor whites aligned themselves with other whites rather
than with poor blacks against the wealthier whites who
controlled Southern politics and economics.
(b) As a result Democratic Party Dominance emerged again,
creating a Solid South.
d. Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Rise
of the Ku Klux Klan
(1) Several secret white organizations (Knights of the White
Camellia, Society of the White Rose) arose in the post-war era
to aid the return to a pre-war relationship between the
(2) Founded in Pulaski TN in 1865-66 as a social club by 6
ex-confederate soldiers, including Gen Nathan Bedford
Forrest , the Ku Klux Klan (Greek
kuklos - "circle") spread quickly throughout
(3) Although Forrest was "Grand Wizard of the Empire" in 1867,
Klan goals increasingly deteriorated to keeping Blacks out of
politics, using violence against scalawags and blacks.
(4) To curb violence, Forrest ordered the Klan to disband
(1869), but at a Grand meeting in Nashville, the
Invisible Empire of the South was born with
secret rituals and many levels - Grand Wizard, Grand Dragon,
Grand Fury, Grand Titan, Grand Hydra, Grand Nighthawk
(5) Repeated violence increasingly offended Northern public
opinion and many respectable KKK members withdrew from the
organization but local Klavens would not disband nor
discontinue its violence.
(6) Congress attempted to curb the violence with such
legislation as the Ku Klux Klan Act 1870 (Enforcement
Act ) which authorized a person to sue in federal
courts when deprived of his civil rights, but these efforts
were not successful.
(7) The rise of the KKK, which peaked in 1868-72, paralleled
the return of conservative control of the Southern legislatures
with the withdrawal of federal troops.
(8) By the end of Reconstruction, all Southern governments had
been returned to Southerners who overturned much that had been
done for Blacks in the South.
- Other Facts from the Reconstruction Era
a. Hiram R. Revels (MS) was the first Black
Senator during this period.
b. Dept of Justice was established (1870).
c. First National Weather Bureau was created (Feb 1870).
d. June 1870 - Senate rejected (28-28) a Treaty of Annexation