CHAPTER I. RECONSTRUCTION AND ITS AFTERMATH
In their attitude toward the South, the people of the North, as well as the politicians, fell into two groups. The smaller or radical party desired a stern reckoning with all "rebels" and the imprisonment and execution of the leaders. They hoped, also, to effect an immediate extension to the negroes of the right to vote. It was this faction that welcomed the accession of Johnson to the Presidency. The other group was much the larger and was inclined toward gentler measures and toward leaving the question of suffrage largely for the future. Lincoln and his Secretary of State, Seward, were representative of this party. The attitude of the South toward the North was more difficult to determine. To be sure the rebellious states were beaten, and recognized the fact. There was general admission that slavery was at an end. But careful observers differed as to whether the South accepted its defeat in good faith and would treat the blacks justly, or whether it was sullen, unrepentant and ready to adopt any measures short of actual slavery to repress the negro.
In theory, the union of the states was still intact. The South had attempted to secede and had failed. Practically, however, the southern states were out of connection with the remainder of the nation and some method must be found of reconstructing the broken federation. President Lincoln had already outlined a plan in his proclamation of December 8, 1863. Excluding the leaders of the Confederacy, he offered pardon to all others who had participated in the rebellion, if they would take an oath of loyalty to the Union and agree to accept the laws and proclamations concerning slavery. As soon as the number of citizens thus pardoned in each state reached ten per cent. of the number of votes cast in that state at the election of 1860, they might establish a government which he would recognize. It was his expectation that a loyal body of reconstructed voters would collect around this nucleus, so that in no great while the entire South would be restored to normal relations. At the same time he called attention to the fact that under the Constitution the admission into Congress of senators and representatives sent by these governments must rest exclusively with the houses of Congress themselves. In pursuance of his policy he had already appointed military governors in states where the federal army had secured a foothold, and they directed the re-establishment of civil government. The radicals opposed the plan because it left much power, including the question of negro suffrage, in the hands of the states. A contest between Congress and the executive was clearly imminent when the assassin's bullet removed the patient and conciliatory Lincoln.
Lincoln's determination to leave control over their restoration as far as possible in the hands of the states was in line with Johnson's Democratic, states-rights theories. Moreover, the new executive retained his predecessor's cabinet, including Seward, whose influence was promptly thrown on the side of moderation. To the consternation of the radicals the President issued a proclamation announcing a reconstruction policy which substantially followed that of Lincoln. Like his predecessor he intended to confine the voting power to the whites, leaving to the states themselves the question whether the ballot should be extended to any of the blacks. Wherever Lincoln had not already acted, he appointed military governors who directed the establishment of state governments, the revival of the functions of county and municipal officials, the repeal of the acts of secession, the repudiation of the war debts, and the election of new state legislatures, governors, senators and representatives. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was ratified by the new legislatures and declared in effect December 18, 1865.
During the last half of the year, the President's policy met with wide approval among the people of the North, where both Republicans and Democrats expressed satisfaction with his conciliatory attitude. The South was not unpleased, as was indicated by the speed with which men presented themselves for pardon and assisted in setting up new state governments. Nevertheless there were disquieting possibilities of dissension. Northern radicals could be counted upon to oppose so moderate a policy. There was a reaction, too, against the great power which the executive arm of the government had exercised in war time. Congress felt that it had been thrust aside, its functions reduced and its prestige diminished. It could be looked to for an assertion of its desire to dominate reconstruction. Finally when ex-confederates began to be elected to office, many a northerner shook his head and wondered whether the South was attempting to get into the saddle once more.
When Congress convened in December, 1865, its members held a wide variety of opinions in regard to the best method of restoring the confederate states to the Union. On one point, however, there was some agreement - that Congress ought to withhold approval of executive reconstruction until it could decide upon a program of its own. Led by Thaddeus Stevens, the radical leader of the House, a joint congressional committee of fifteen was appointed to report whether any of the southern state governments were entitled to representation in Congress. For the present, all of them, even the President's own state, were to be denied representation. With Stevens as chairman of the House Committee on Reconstruction and Johnson in the President's chair, a battle was inevitable, in which quarter would be neither asked nor given.