Abraham Lincoln in the presidential chair was regarded by many of the politicians of his party as an "unutterable calamity"; and while the news of Lincoln's assassination was received with expressions of genuine grief, the accession of Vice-President Andrew Johnson was looked upon as a "Godsend to the country." As the Civil War came to a close, Lincoln opposed severe punishments for the leaders of the Confederacy; he urged respect for the rights of the southern people; he desired to recognize the existence of a Union element in the South, to restore the states to their usual relations with as little ill-feeling as possible, and in the restoration process to interfere but little with the normal powers of the states. Johnson, on the contrary, "breathed fire and hemp." "Treason," he asserted over and again, "should be made odious, and traitors must be punished and impoverished. Their great plantations must be seized, and divided into small farms and sold to honest, industrious men." For a time it seemed that the curtain would go down on the tragedy of Civil War only to rise immediately on the execution of the Confederate leaders and the confiscation of their property. A large and active group of Washington politicians believed in the necessity of a stern accounting with the "rebels." Lincoln's gentleness seemed to these bitter northerners like a calamity; Johnson's vindictiveness like a Godsend to the country. In the conflict between the policy of clemency and the policy of severity is to be found the beginning of the period of reconstruction.

Andrew Johnson was a compact, sturdy figure, his eyes black, his complexion swarthy. In politics he had always been a Democrat. So diverse were his characteristics that one is tempted to ascribe two personalities to him. He was a tenacious man, possessed of a rude intellectual force, a rough-and-ready stump speaker, intensely loyal, industrious, sincere, self-reliant. His courage was put to the test again and again, and nobody ever said that it failed. His loyalty held him in the Union in 1861, although he was a senator from Tennessee and his state as well as his southern colleagues were withdrawing. His public and private integrity withstood a hostile investigation that included the testimony of all strata of society, from cabinet officers to felons in prison. Later, at the most critical moment of his whole career, when he had hardly a friend on whom to lean, he was unflurried, dignified, undismayed.

Although Johnson was born in North Carolina, the greater part of his life was spent in eastern Tennessee. His education was of the slightest. His wife taught him to write, and while he plied his tailor's trade she read books to him that appealed to his eager intellect. When scarcely of voting age he became mayor of the town in which he lived and by sheer force of character made his way up into the state legislature, the federal House of Representatives and the Senate. President Lincoln made him military governor of Tennessee in 1862. In 1864 many Democrats and most Republicans joined to form a Union party, and in order to emphasize its non-sectional and non-partisan character they nominated Andrew Johnson as Lincoln's running mate. And now this unschooled, poor-white, slave-holding, Jeffersonian, states-rights Democrat had become President of the United States.

It was scarcely to be expected that a man who had fought his way to the fore in eastern Tennessee during those controversial years would possess the characteristics of a diplomat. Even his friends found him uncommunicative, too often defiant and violent in controversy, irritating in manners, indiscreet, and lacking flexibility in the management of men. The messages which he wrote as President were dignified and judicious, and his addresses were not lacking in power, but he was prone to indulge in unseemly repartee with his hearers when speaking on the stump. He exchanged epithets with bystanders who were all too ready to spur him on with their "Give it to 'em, Andy!" and "Bully for you, Andy!" giving the presidency the "ill-savor of a corner grocery" and filling his supporters with amazement and chagrin. The North soon looked upon him as a vulgar boor and remembered that he had been intoxicated when inaugurated as Vice-President. Unhappily, too, he was distrustful by nature, giving his confidence reluctantly and with reserve, so that he was almost without friends or spokesmen in either house of Congress. His policies have commended themselves, on the whole, even after the scrutiny of half a century. The extent to which he was able to put them into effect is part of the history of reconstruction.

The close of the Civil War found the nation as well as the several sections of the country facing a variety of complicated and pressing social, economic and political problems. Vast armies had to be demobilized and re-absorbed into the economic life of the nation. Production of the material of war had to give way to the production of machinery, the building of railroads and the tilling of the soil. The South faced economic demoralization. The federal government had to determine the basis on which the lately rebellious states should again become normal units in the nation, and the civil, social and economic status of the negro had to be readjusted in the light of the outcome of the war. Most of these problems, moreover, had to be solved through political agencies, such as party conventions and legislatures, with all the limitations of partisanship that these terms convey. And they had obviously to be solved through human beings possessed of all the prejudices and passions that the war had aroused: through Andrew Johnson with his force and tactlessness; through able, domineering and vindictive Thaddeus Stevens; through narrow and idealistic Charles Sumner and demagogic Benjamin F. Butler; as well as through finer spirits like William Pitt Fessenden and Lyman Trumbull.

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.[1] 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.

Unhappily for themselves, the southern states played unwittingly into the hands of Stevens and his radical colleagues. The outcome of the war had placed upon the freedmen responsibilities which they could not be expected to carry. To many of them emancipation meant merely cessation from work. Vagabondage was common. Rumor was widespread that the government was going to give each negro forty acres of land and a mule, and the blacks loafed about, awaiting the division. The strict regulations which had surrounded the former slave were discarded and it was necessary to accustom him to a new regime. "The race was free, but without status, without leaders, without property, and without education." Fully alive to the dangers of giving unrestricted freedom to so large a body of ignorant negroes, the southern whites passed the "black codes," which placed numerous limitations on the civil liberty of "persons of color." In some cases they were forbidden to carry arms, to act as witnesses in court except in cases involving their own race, and to serve on juries or in the militia. Vagrancy laws enabled the magistrates to set unemployed blacks at work under arrangements that amounted almost to peonage. It is now evident that the South was actuated by what it considered the necessities of its situation and not merely by a spirit of defiance. Yet the fear on the part of the North that slavery was being restored under a disguise was not unnatural. Radical northern newspapers and leading extremists in Congress exaggerated the importance of the codes until they seemed like a systematic attempt to evade the results of the war. As Republican leaders in Congress saw the satisfaction created in the South by the President's policy, and discovered that northern Democrats were rallying to his support, the jealousies of partisanship caused them still further to increase their grip on the processes of reconstruction. A disquieting by-product of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, also began to appear. Hitherto only three-fifths of the negroes had been counted in apportioning representation in the House of Representatives. As soon as the slaves became free, however, they were counted as if they were whites, and thereby the strength of the South in Congress would be increased. It was hardly to be expected that the North would view such a development with satisfaction.

The first action of the leaders in Congress was the introduction of a bill to continue and extend the powers of the Freedmen's Bureau, a federal organization which supervised charitable relief given the negroes, protected them in making contracts for labor and assumed a sort of guardianship over the race in making its transition out of slavery. The new measure was intended to continue this federal tutelage of the blacks. The President's veto of the bill, February 19, 1866, served to widen the breach between him and Congress and thereby postponed still further the admission of the representatives of the southern state governments. Three days later Johnson addressed a crowd which collected before the White House. In the course of his speech he lost control of himself to such an extent as to indulge in undignified remarks and personalities, and even to charge leaders in Congress with seeking to destroy the fundamental principles of American government. Thoughtful men everywhere were dismayed. In the meantime a Civil Rights bill was pending in Congress, the purpose of which was to declare negroes to be citizens of the United States and to give them rights equal to those accorded other citizens, notwithstanding local or state laws and codes. The President objected to the bill as an unconstitutional invasion of the rights of the states, but it was promptly passed over the veto. Scarcely any members of Congress now supported him except the Democrats. The conservative or conciliatory Republicans were lost to him for good. Throughout the North it was felt that protection must be accorded the freedmen against the black codes, and when the President opposed it he lost ground outside of Congress as well as in it. "From that time Johnson was beaten."

Stevens in the House and Sumner and others in the Senate were now in a position to press successfully a stern, congressional reconstruction policy to replace that of the executive. The first item in the radical program was the Fourteenth Amendment, which passed Congress in June, 1866, although it did not become of force until 1868. It contained four sections: (1) making citizens of all persons born or naturalized in the United States and forbidding states to abridge their rights; (2) providing for the reduction of the representation in Congress of any state that denied the vote to any citizens except those guilty of crimes; (3) disabling confederate leaders from holding political office except with the permission of Congress; and (4) prohibiting the payment of confederate debts. The first section was, of course, designed to put the civil rights of the negro into the Constitution where they would be safe from hostile legislation. The second sought to get negro suffrage into the South by indirection at a time when a positive suffrage amendment could not be passed. The third was to take the pardoning power out of executive hands.

At this point there came a halt in the controversy until the country could be heard from in the congressional elections of 1866. Both sides made unusual efforts to organize political sentiment. Both attempted to demonstrate their thoroughly national character by holding conventions attended by southern as well as northern delegates. Each angled for the soldier vote by encouraging conferences of veterans. Late in July occurred an incident which the radicals were able to use to advantage. A crowd of negroes attending a convention in New Orleans in behalf of suffrage for their race became engaged in a fight with white anti-suffragists and many of the blacks were killed. The riot was commonly referred to in the North as a "massacre," the moral of which was that the negroes must be protected against the unrepentant rebels. But it was Johnson himself who furnished greatest aid to his adversaries. Having been invited to speak in Chicago, he determined upon an electioneering trip, "swinging around the circle," he called it. Again he was guilty of gross indiscretions. He made personal allusions, held angry colloquies with the crowd and at one place met such opposition that he had to retire unheard. It mattered little that the greater part of his speeches were sound and substantial. His lapses were held up to public scorn and he returned to Washington amid the hoots of his enemies. It was commonly believed that he had been intoxicated. Probably no orator, The Nation sarcastically remarked, ever accomplished so much by a fortnight's speaking. There could be little doubt as to the outcome of the elections. The Republicans carried almost every northern state and obtained a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress, with which to override vetoes.

As if impelled by some perverse fate the southern whites during the fall and winter of 1866-67 did the thing for which the bitterest enemy of the South might have wished. Except in Tennessee, the legislature of every confederate state refused with almost complete unanimity to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. Natural as the act was, it gave the North apparently overwhelming proof that the former "rebels" were still defiant. Encouraged by the results of the election and aroused by the attitude of the South toward the Amendment, Congress proceeded to encroach upon prerogatives that had hitherto been considered purely executive, and also to pass a most extreme plan of reconstruction.

The first of these measures, the Tenure of Office Act, was passed over a veto on March 2, 1867. By it the President was forbidden to remove civil officers except with the consent of the Senate. Even the members of the Cabinet could not be dismissed without the permission of the upper house, a provision inserted for the protection of Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War. Stanton was in sympathy with the radical leaders in Congress and it was essential to them that he be kept in this post of advantage. General Grant, who had charge of the military establishment, was made almost independent of the President by a law drafted secretly by Stanton. On the same day, and over a veto also, was passed the Reconstruction Act, the most important piece of legislation during the decade after the war. It represented the desires of Thaddeus Stevens and was passed mainly because of his masterful leadership. At the outset the new Act declared the existing southern state governments to be illegal and inadequate, and divided the South into five military districts. Over each was to be a commanding general who should preserve order, and continue civil officers and civil courts, or replace them with military tribunals as he wished. Under his direction each state was to frame and adopt a new constitution which must provide for negro suffrage. When Congress should approve the constitution and when a legislature elected under its provisions should adopt the Fourteenth Amendment, the state might be readmitted to the Union.

The Reconstruction Act was remarkable in several features. The provision imposing negro suffrage was carried through the Senate with difficulty and only as the result of the tireless activity of Charles Sumner. Sumner and other radicals were determined that the blacks should be enfranchised in order that they might protect themselves from hostile local legislation and also in order that they might form part of a southern Republican party. Even more noteworthy was the military character of the Act. The President had already exercised his prerogative of declaring the country at peace on August 20, 1866, more than six months before the Act was passed. In the decision in the Milligan case, which preceded the Act by nearly three months, the Supreme Court had decided that military tribunals were illegal except where war made the operation of civil courts impossible. Military reconstruction was illogical, not to say unlawful, therefore, but Congress was more interested in a method that promised the speedy accomplishment of its purposes than it was in the opinions of the executive and judicial departments.

Despite his dissent from its provisions, the President at once set military reconstruction in operation. When he mitigated its harshness, however, where latitude was allowed him, Congress passed additional acts, over the veto, of course, extending and defining the powers of the commanding generals. Armed with complete authority, the generals proceeded to remove many of the ordinary civil officers and to replace them with their own appointees, to compel order by means of the soldiery, to set aside court decrees and even to close the courts and to enact legislation. In the meanwhile a total of 703,000 black and 627,000 white voters were registered, delegates to constitutional conventions were elected, constitutions were drawn up and adopted which permitted negro suffrage, and state officers and legislators elected. In conformity with the provisions of the Act, the newly chosen legislatures ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, sent representatives and senators to Washington, where they were admitted to Congress, and by 1871 the last confederate state was reconstructed.

The commanding generals were honest and efficient, in the main, even if their stern rule was distasteful to the South, but the regime of the newly elected state officers and legislators was a period of dishonesty and incapacity. Most of the experienced and influential whites had been excluded from participation in politics through the operation of the presidential proclamations and the reconstruction acts. In all the legislatures there were large numbers of blacks - sometimes, indeed, they were in the majority. Two parties appeared. The radical or Republican group included the negroes, a few southern whites, commonly called "scalawags," and various northerners known as "carpet-baggers." These last were in some cases mere adventurers and in others men of ability who were attracted to the South for one reason or another, and took a prominent part in political affairs. The old-time whites held both kinds in equal detestation. The other party was called conservative or Democratic, and was composed of the great mass of the whites. Many of them had been Whigs before the war, but in the face of negro-Republican domination, nearly all threw in their lot with the conservatives.

Not all the activities of the legislatures were bad. Provisions were made for education, for example, that were in line with the needs of the states. Nevertheless, their conduct in the main was such as to drive the South almost into revolt. In the South Carolina legislature only twenty-two members out of 155 could read and write. The negroes were in the majority and although they paid only $143 in taxes altogether, they helped add $20,000,000 to the state debt in four years. In Arkansas the running expenses of the state increased 1500 per cent.; in Louisiana the public debt mounted from $14,000,000 to $48,000,000 between 1868 and 1871. Only ignorance and dishonesty could explain such extravagance and waste. Submission, however, was not merely advisable; it presented the only prospect of peace. Open resentment was largely suppressed, but it was inevitable that the whites should become hostile to the blacks, and that they should dislike the Republican party for its ruthless imposition of a system which governed them without their consent and which placed them at the mercy of the incompetent and unscrupulous. A system which made a negro the successor of Jefferson Davis in the United States Senate could scarcely fail to throw the majority of southern whites into the ranks of the enemies of the Republican organization.[2]

One step remained to ensure the continuance of negro suffrage - the adoption of a constitutional provision. In 1869 Congress referred to the states the Fifteenth Amendment, which was declared in force a year later. By its terms the United States and the states are forbidden to abridge the right of citizens to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

While radical reconstruction was being forced to its bitter conclusion, the opponents of the President were maturing plans for his impeachment and exclusion from office. By the terms of the Constitution, the chief executive may be impeached for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Early in the struggle between President Johnson and Congress a few members of the House of Representatives urged an attempt to impeach him. Such extremists as James M. Ashley of Ohio, and Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts, believed that he had even been implicated in the plot to assassinate Lincoln. A thorough-going search through his private as well as his public career failed to produce any evidence that could be interpreted as sufficient to meet constitutional demands, and a motion to impeach was voted down in the House by a large majority. So indiscreet a man as the President, however, was likely at some time to furnish a reason for further effort. The occasion came in the removal of the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton.

Stanton, although of a domineering and brusque personality, had ably administered the War Department under Lincoln and Johnson. During the controversy between the President and Congress, Stanton had remained in the Cabinet but was closely in touch with his chief's opponents and had even drafted one of the reconstruction acts. Johnson had tolerated the questionable conduct of his Secretary, despite the advice of many of his supporters, until August 5, 1867, when he requested Stanton's resignation. The latter took refuge behind the Tenure of Office Act, denying the right of the President to remove him, but yielding his office at Johnson's insistence. This episode had occurred during a recess of Congress and, in accord with the law, the removal of Stanton was reported when it convened in December. The Senate at once refused to concur and Stanton returned to his office. The President now found himself forced, by what he regarded as an unconstitutional law, into the unbearable position of including one of his enemies within his official family, and once more he ordered the Secretary to retire. But meanwhile the House of Representatives had been active and had on February 24, 1868, impeached the President for "high crimes and misdemeanors."

The trial was conducted before the Senate, as the Constitution provides, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court acting as the presiding officer. The House chose a board of seven managers to conduct the prosecution, of whom Thaddeus Stevens and Benjamin F. Butler were best known. The President was defended by able counsel, including former Attorney-General Stanbery, Benjamin R. Curtis, who had earlier sat upon the Supreme Court, and William M. Evarts, an eminent lawyer and leader of the bar in New York. The charges, although eleven in number, centered about four accusations: (1) that the dismissal of Secretary Stanton was contrary to the Tenure of Office Act; (2) that the President had declared that part of a certain act of Congress was unconstitutional; (3) that he had attempted to bring Congress into disgrace in his speeches; and (4) that in general he had opposed the execution of several acts of Congress. The President's counsel asked for forty days in which to prepare their case. They were given ten, although members of the House had been preparing for more than a year to resort to impeachment. The trial lasted from early March to late May.

As the trial wore on, it became increasingly evident that the House had but little substance on which to base an impeachment, and that the force back of it was intense hatred of the President. It was made clear to senators who were inclined to waver towards the side of acquittal that their political careers were at an end if they failed to vote guilty. The general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church even appointed an hour of prayer that the Senate might be moved to convict. The lawyers for the defense so far outgeneraled the prosecutors that one who reads the records at the present day finds difficulty in thinking of them as more than the account of a pitiful farce. At length on May 16 the Senate was prepared to make its decision. The last charge was voted upon first. It was a very general accusation, drawn up by Stevens, and seemed most likely to secure the necessary two-thirds for conviction. Fifty-four members would vote. Twelve of them were Democrats and were known to be for acquittal. The majority of the Republicans were for conviction. A small group had given no indication of their position, and their votes would be the decisive ones. As the roll was called each senator replied "Guilty" or "Not guilty," while floor and galleries counted off the vote as the knitting women clicked off the day's toll of heads during the days when the guillotine made a reign of terror in France. The result was thirty-five votes for conviction and nineteen for acquittal. As thirty-six were necessary, Johnson had escaped. A recess of ten days was taken during which the prosecution sought some shred of evidence which might prove that some one of the nineteen had accepted a bribe for his vote, but to no avail. When the Senate convened again there was no change in the vote on the second and third articles, and the attempt to convict was abandoned.

For the first time in many months Johnson enjoyed a respite from the attacks of his foes. Stanton relinquished his office, and the integrity of the executive power was preserved. The race of the dictator of the House had been run, for Stevens lived less than three months after the trial.

The continuous controversies of the Johnson administration almost completely pressed into the background two diplomatic accomplishments of no little importance. The more dramatic of these related to the French invasion of Mexico. During 1861, naval vessels of England, France and Spain had entered Mexican ports in order to compel the payment of debts said to be due those countries, but England and Spain had soon withdrawn and had left France to proceed alone. French troops thereupon had invaded the country, captured Mexico City and established an empire with Archduke Maximilian of Austria as its head, despite the protests and opposition of the Mexicans under their leader Juarez. The United States had expressed dissent and alarm, meanwhile, but because of the war was in no position to take action.

As soon as civil strife was finished, however, Johnson and Seward took vigorous steps. An army under General Sheridan was sent to the border, and diplomatic pressure was exerted to convince France of the desirability of withdrawal. The occupation of Mexico was, apparently, not popular in France, and in the face of American opposition the French government sought a means of dropping the project. Accordingly the invading forces were withdrawn early in 1867, leaving the hapless Maximilian to the Mexicans, by whom he was subsequently seized and executed.

While the Mexican difficulty was being brought to a successful outcome, the government of Russia offered to sell to the United States her immense Alaskan possessions west and northwest of Canada. Secretary Seward was enthusiastically disposed to accept the offer and a treaty was accordingly drawn up on March 30, 1867, providing for the acquisition of the territory for $7,200,000. The Senate, however, was far less inclined to seize the opportunity. Little was known about Alaska, and the cost seemed almost prohibitive in view of the financial strains caused by the war. Nevertheless the inclination to acquire territory was strong and there was a widespread desire to accede to the wishes of Russia who was understood to have been well-disposed toward the United States during the war. Under the operation of these forces the Senate changed its attitude and ratified the treaty on April 9, 1867. By this act the United States came into possession of an area measuring nearly 600,000 square miles, and stores of fish, furs, timber, coal and precious metals whose size is even yet little understood.

It was not long before it became apparent that radical reconstruction had been founded too little upon the hard facts of social and political conditions in the South, and too much upon benevolent but mistaken theories, and upon prejudices, partisanship and emotion. It was inevitable that there should be an aftermath.

At the close of reconstruction in 1871, the southern negro was a citizen of civil and political importance. As a voter, he was on an equality with the whites; he belonged to the Republican party and his party was a powerful factor in the politics of the South; his position was secured, or at least seemed to be secured, by amendments to the federal Constitution. Legally and constitutionally his position appeared to be impregnable. In the minds of the southern white, however, the amendments vied with military reconstruction in their injustice and unwisdom. To his mind they constituted an attempt to abolish the belief of the white man in the essential inferiority of the black, to make the pyramid of government stand on its apex, and to place the very issues of existence within the power of the congenitally unfit. To the discontent aroused by war were added political and racial antagonism, which blazed at times into fury. The southern whites began to invent methods for overcoming the power of the freedmen in politics and for insuring themselves against possible danger of violence at the hands of the blacks.

The most famous device was the Ku Klux Klan or the Invisible Empire, a somewhat loosely organized secret society which originated in Tennessee during the turmoil immediately after the close of the war. In theory and practice its operations were simple and effective. Its chief officials were the Grand Wizard, the Grand Dragon, the Grand Titan. Local branches were Dens, each headed by a Grand Cyclops. The Den worked usually at night, when the members assembled clad in long white robes and white masks or hoods, discussed cases which needed attention, and then rode forth on horses whose bodies were covered and whose feet were muffled. The exploits of the Klan expanded, in the exaggerated stories common among the negroes, into the most amazing achievements. The members were thought to be able to take themselves to pieces, drink entire pailfuls of water, and devour "fried nigger meat." Usually the person about to be "visited" received a notice that the dreaded Klan was upon him. He was warned to cease his political activities or perhaps to leave the neighborhood. If the threat proved ineffective, whipping or some worse punishment was likely to follow.

In 1872 Congress unintentionally aided in the process of overcoming negro domination by the passage of the Amnesty Act, which restored to all but a few hundreds of the former Confederates the political privileges which had been taken from them by the Fourteenth Amendment. Under the latter the great majority of former southern leaders had been deprived of the right to hold office. On the restoration of this right such men as Alexander H. Stephens, former Vice-President of the Confederate States, and Wade Hampton, one of the most influential South Carolinians, could again take an active part in politics. With their return, the cause of white supremacy received a powerful impetus.

In taking this step, however, Congress did not intend to allow the legal and constitutional rights of the blacks to be waived without a contest. Reports reached the North concerning the activities of the southern whites - reports which in no way minimized the amount of intimidation and violence involved - and in response to this information Congress passed the enforcement laws of 1870-1871, generally known as the "Force Acts."[3] These laws laid heavy penalties upon individuals who should prevent citizens from exercising their constitutional political powers - primarily the right to vote. As offences under these acts were within the jurisdiction of the federal courts and as the federal officials manifested an inclination to carry out the law, the number of indictments was considerable. Convictions, however, were infrequent. The famous Ku Klux Act of 1871 amplified the law of 1870 and was aimed at combinations or conspiracies of persons who resorted to intimidation. It authorized the President to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and made it his duty to employ armed force to suppress opposition.

Additional sting was given the enforcement laws by provision for the superintendence of federal elections, under specified conditions, by federal officials called "supervisors of election." The supervisors were given large powers over the registration of voters and the casting and counting of ballots, so as to ensure a fair vote and an honest count. Since here, again, federal troops stood behind the law, it was manifest that the central government would show some degree of determination in its handling of the southern situation. Nevertheless, the result was merely to delay the gradual elimination of the blacks from political activity, not to prevent it. In practice the Republican state governments in the South were continued in the seats of authority only through the presence of the federal soldiery. In one way or another the whites gained the upper hand, so that by 1877 only South Carolina and Louisiana had failed to achieve self-government unhampered by federal force.

In the meantime the enforcement acts were being slowly weakened by the Supreme Court in several decisions bearing upon the Fourteenth Amendment. The significant portion of Section I of the Amendment is as follows:

    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge 
    the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; 
    nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or 
    property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person 
    within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In several cases involving the enforcement acts, the Court found portions of the laws in conflict with the Constitution and finally, in 1883, the decision in United States v. Harris completed their destruction. Here the court met a complaint that a group of white men had taken some negroes away from the officers of the law and ill-treated them. Such conduct seemed to be contrary to that part of the Ku Klux Act which forbade combinations designed to deprive citizens of their legal rights. The Court, however, called attention to the important words, "No State shall make or enforce," and was of opinion that the constitutional power of Congress extends only to cases where States have acted in such a manner as to deprive citizens of their rights. If individuals, on the contrary, conspire to take away these rights, relief must be sought at the hands of the state government. As the great purpose of the Ku Klux Act had been to combat precisely such individual combinations, it appeared that the Court had, at a blow, demolished the law. Not long afterwards the Court declared unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which had been designed to insure equal rights to negroes in hotels, conveyances and theatres. Here again the Court was of opinion that the Fourteenth Amendment grants no power to the United States but forbids certain activities by the states.[4]

Stuffing the ballot box was common in South Carolina and other states. In one election in this state the number of votes cast was almost double the number the names on the polling list. In some places the imposition of a poll tax peacefully eliminated the impecunious freedman. In Mississippi the state legislature laid out the "shoestring" election district, 300 miles long and about 20 miles wide, which included many of the sections where the negroes were most numerous, in order that their votes might have as little effect as possible. By hook or by crook, then, in simple and devious ways, the dangers of negro domination were averted. Nevertheless the provisions of the law for federal supervision of elections remained, becoming a bone of contention during a later administration.

About 1890 there began a new era in the elimination of the negro from politics in the South. The people of that section disliked the methods which they felt the necessity of using, and searched about for a less crude device. Furthermore the rise of a new political movement in some parts of the South in the late eighties and early nineties was making divisions among the Democrats and was encouraging attempts by the two factions to control the negro vote. Suddenly, a relatively small number of negro voters became a powerful and purchasable make-weight. Both sides, perhaps, were a bit disturbed at this development. At any rate, additional impetus was given to the movement for the suppression of the negro. Eventually plans were originated, some of which were clearly constitutional and all of which carried a certain appearance of legality.

The first steps were taken by Mississippi in 1890. The new state constitution of that year required as prerequisite to the voting privilege, the payment of all taxes which were legally demanded of the citizen during the two preceding years - a provision to which no constitutional exception could be taken, and which effectively debarred large numbers of colored voters. Further, it provided that after January 1, 1892, every voter must be able to read any section of the state constitution or be able to give an interpretation of it when read to him. As the election officials who would judge the ability of the applicant properly to interpret the constitution would certainly be whites, it was clear that the ignorant black would have scant chance of passing the educational test. Several other states followed in the wake of Mississippi, until in 1898 Louisiana discovered a new barrier through which only whites might make their way to the voting lists. This was the famous "grandfather clause." In brief, it allowed citizens to vote who had that right before January 1, 1867, together with the descendants of such citizens, regardless of their educational and property qualifications. As no negroes had voted in the state before that date, they were effectively debarred. Under the influence of such pressure, the negro vote promptly dwindled away to negligible proportions. In Louisiana, to cite one case, there were 127,263 registered colored voters in 1896, and 5,354 in 1900. Between these two years the new state constitution had been passed. In 1915 the Supreme Court finally declared a grandfather clause unconstitutional on the ground that its only possible intention was to evade that provision of the Fifteenth Amendment which forbids the states to abridge, on account of color, the rights of citizens of the United States to vote.

The history of the effects of the war and of reconstruction on the political status of the negro has been concisely summarized as falling into three periods. At the close of the war: (1) the negroes were more powerful in politics than their numbers, intelligence and property seemed to justify; (2) the Republican party was a power in the South; and (3) the negroes enjoyed political rights on a legal and constitutional equality with the whites. By 1877 the first of these generalizations was no longer a fact; by 1890 the Republican party had ceased to be of importance in the South; and by the opening of the twentieth century, the negro as a possible voter was not on a legal and constitutional equality with the white.

In the sphere of government the war and reconstruction were of lasting importance. Preeminently it was definitely established that the federal government is supreme over the states. Although the Constitution had seemed to many to establish that supremacy in no uncertain terms, it can not be doubted that only as a result of the war and reconstruction did the theory receive a degree of popular assent that approached unanimity. Temporarily, at least, reconstruction added greatly to the prestige and self-confidence of Congress. During the war the powers of the President had necessarily expanded. The reaction, although hastened by the character and disposition of President Johnson, was inevitable. The depression of the executive elevated the legislature and not until the beginning of the twentieth century did the scales swing back again toward their former position.


General. The best general account of the period 1865-1917 is to be found in the following volumes of The American Nation: A History : W.A. Dunning, Reconstruction Political and Economic, 1865-1877 (1907); E.E. Sparks, National Development, 1877-1885 (1907); D.R. Dewey, National Problems, 1885-1897 (1907); J.H. Latane, America as a World Power, 1897-1907 (1907); F.A. Ogg,National Progress, 1907-1917 (1918). The volumes vary in excellence and interest, but set a high standard, especially in their recognition of the importance of economic facts, and contain excellent bibliographical material. The following single volumes are useful: E.B. Andrews, United States in Our Own Time, 1870-1903 (1903); C.A. Beard, Contemporary American History (1914); P.L. Haworth,Reconstruction and Union, 1865-1912 (1912); P.L. Haworth, United States in Our Own Time, 1865-1920; E.P. Oberholtzer, History of the United States since the Civil War (to be in several volumes, of which one appeared in 1917, covering 1865-1868); F.L. Paxson, The New Nation (1915); H.T. Peck, Twenty Years of the Republic, 1885-1905 (1907), readable and especially valuable in its interpretation of the period which it covers; J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States from Hayes to McKinley, 1877-1896 (1919), lacks understanding of the period covered. J.S. Bassett, Short History of the United States (1913), has excellent chapters on the years 1865-1912; F.J. Turner in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed.), article "United States, History 1865-1910," is brief but inclusive; the later chapters of Max Farrand, Development of the United States (1918), present a new point of view. The Chronicles of America Series (1919 and later), edited by Allen Johnson, contains valuable volumes on especial topics. For party platforms and election statistics consult Edward Stanwood, A History of the Presidency (2 vols., 2nd ed., 1916).

Reconstruction. The most valuable single volume on the reconstruction period is the volume by Dunning already referred to; W.L. Fleming, Sequel of Appomattox (1919), is also excellent; J.F. Rhodes,History of the United States since the Compromise of 1850, vols. VI, VII (1906), is the best detailed account; James Schouler, History of the United States, vol. VII (1913), presents a new view of President Johnson. Valuable biographies are J.A. Woodburn, The Life of Thaddeus Stevens (1913); G.H. Haynes, Charles Sumner (1909); Horace White, The Life of Lyman Trumbull (1913). On impeachment, D.W. Dewitt, The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (1903), is best. W.A. Dunning, Essays on Civil War and Reconstruction (ed. 1910), is strong on the constitutional changes. Studies on reconstruction in the several states have been published by W.W. Davis (Florida), (1913); W.L. Fleming (Alabama), (1905); J.W. Garner (Mississippi), (1901); J.G. deR. Hamilton (North Carolina), (1914); C.W. Ramsdell (Texas), (1910); and others. For documentary material, W.L. Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction (2 vols., 1906-7), is essential. Edward Channing, A.B. Hart and F.J. Turner, Guide to the Study and Reading of American History (1912), provides full references to a wide variety of works covering 1865-1911. Consult also Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia,1861-1902. On foreign relations J.B. Moore, Digest of International Law, 8 vols., (1906).

Periodical literature. The most useful periodicals are:

American Economic Review (1911-); American Historical Review (1895-); American Political Science Review (1907-); Atlantic Monthly (1857-); Century Magazine (1870-); Harper's Weekly(1857-1916); Harvard Law Review; History Teachers' Magazine, continued as Historical Outlook (1909-); Journal of Political Economy (1892-); Nation (1865-); North American Review (1815-);Political Science Quarterly (1886-); Quarterly Journal of Economics (1886-); Scribner's Magazine (1887-); Yale Review (1892-1911, new series, 1912-).

       * * * * *

[1] Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States, was held in prison until 1867 and then released. He died in 1889. Suggestions that General Lee, the most prominent military leader, be arrested and tried met with such opposition from General Grant, the Union leader, that the project was dropped. Lee died in 1870.

[2] A number of these states later repudiated their debts.

[3] The threats used to keep the negroes away from the polls are typified in the following, which was published in Mississippi:

    "The Terry Terribles will be here Monday to see there is a fair 

    "The Byram Bulldozers will be here Monday to see there is a fair 

    "The Edwards Dragoons will be here Monday to see there is a fair 

    "Who cares if the McGill men don't like it?

    "The whole State of Mississippi is interested in the election.

    "It shall be a Democratic victory."

[4] In regard to segregation of the races in railroad coaches, the Court decided, 1910, that constitutional rights are not interfered with when separate accommodations are provided, if the accommodations be equally good. Chiles v. Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Co., 218 U.S., 71.