CHAPTER XXXI. RECONSTRUCTION

THREE ISSUES. - After the collapse of the Confederacy, our countrymen were called on to meet three issues arising directly from the war: -

1. The first was, What shall be done to destroy the institution of slavery? [1]

2. The second was, What shall be done with the late Confederate states? [2]

3. The third had to do with the national debt and the currency.

THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT. - When the war ended, slavery had been abolished in Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia, by gradual or immediate abolition acts, and in Tennessee by a special emancipation act. In order that it might be done away with everywhere Congress (in January, 1865) sent out to the states a Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, declaring slavery abolished throughout the United States. In December, 1865, three fourths of the states having ratified, it became part of the Constitution, and slavery was no more.

RECONSTRUCTION. - After the death of Lincoln, the work of reconstruction was taken up by his successor, Johnson. [3] He recognized the governments established by loyal persons in Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, and Louisiana. For the other states he appointed provisional governors and authorized conventions to be called. These conventions repudiated the Confederate debt, repealed the ordinances of secession, and ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

This done, Johnson considered these states as reconstructed and entitled to send senators and representatives to Congress. But Congress thought otherwise and would not admit their senators and representatives. Johnson then denied the right of Congress to legislate for the states not represented in Congress. He vetoed many bills which chiefly affected the South, and in the summer of 1866 made speeches denouncing Congress for its action.

THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT. - One measure which President Johnson would have vetoed if he could, was a Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which Congress proposed in 1866. Ten of the former Confederate states rejected it, as did also four of the Union states. Congress, therefore, in March, 1867, passed over the veto a Reconstruction Act setting forth what the states would have to do to get back into the Union. One condition was that they must ratify the Fourteenth Amendment; when they had done so, and when the amendment had become a part of the Constitution, they were to be readmitted.

SOUTHERN STATES READMITTED. - Six states - North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas - submitted, and the amendment having become a part of the Constitution, they were (1868) declared again in the Union. Tennessee had been readmitted in 1866. Virginia, Mississippi and Texas were not readmitted till 1870, and Georgia not till 1871.

THE DEBT AND THE CURRENCY. - The financial question to be settled included two parts: What shall be done with the bonds (p. 381)? and What shall be done with the paper money? As to the first, it was decided to pay the bonds as fast as possible, [4] and by 1873 some $500,000,000 were paid. As to the second, it was at first decided to cancel (instead of reissuing) the greenbacks as they came into the treasury in payment of taxes and other debts to the government. But after the greenbacks in circulation had been thus reduced (from $449,000,000) to $356,000,000, Congress ordered that their cancellation should stop.

JOHNSON IMPEACHED. - The President meantime had been impeached. In March, 1867, Congress passed (over Johnson's veto) the Tenure of Office Act, depriving him of power to remove certain officials. He might suspend them till the Senate examined into the cause of suspension. If it approved, the officer was removed. If it disapproved, he was reinstated. [5]

Johnson soon disobeyed the law. In August, 1867, he asked Secretary-of-War Stanton to resign, and when Stanton refused, suspended him. The Senate disapproved and reinstated Stanton. But Johnson then removed him and appointed another man in his place. For this act, and for his speeches against Congress, the House impeached the President, and the Senate tried him, for "high crimes and misdemeanors." He was not found guilty. [6]

GRANT ELECTED PRESIDENT, 1868. - In the midst of Johnson's quarrel with Congress the time came to elect his successor. The Democratic party nominated Horatio Seymour. The Republicans chose Ulysses S. Grant and elected him.

Grant's first term is memorable because of the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment; the restoration to the Union of the last four of the former Confederate states, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas; the disorder in the South; and the character of our foreign relations.

THE FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT. - Encouraged by their success at the polls, the Republicans went on with the work of reconstruction, and (in February, 1869) Congress sent out the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

By the Fourteenth Amendment the states were left (as before) to settle for themselves who should and who should not vote. But if any state denied or in any way abridged the right of any portion of its male citizens over twenty-one years old to vote, Congress was to reduce the number of representatives from that state in Congress in the same proportion. But now by the Fifteenth Amendment each state was forbidden to deprive any man of the right to vote because of his "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." In March, 1870, the amendment went into force, having been ratified by a sufficient number of states.