Paul Leland Haworth.

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INDEX , 253




THE weeks following the surrender of Lee at
Appomattox (April 9, 1865) justified General
Sherman's declaration that the South was "an
empty shell." The Confederacy collapsed even
more rapidly than it had arisen. The war-worn
veterans in gray, weakened by want and wounds,
scattered heavy-hearted to their desolated homes,
and before the end of May the Stars and Stripes
once more swung to every breeze from the Poto-
mac to the Rio Grande.

The war was over. A revolt begun to per-
petuate slavery and state rights had ended in a
revolution that had extinguished both. The
sword could be sheathed, but there remained
the two great problems of the status of the se-
ceded states and the status of the freedmen.
Both problems pressed hard for solution, but the
latter was infinitely the more difficult. Regarding
the former there were many theories, but all
men were at least ready to agree with Lincoln
that the seceded states were "out of their proper


practical relation with the Union." To restore
that practical relation would at most be hardly
more than a matter of a few years, whereas the
presence in the Republic of three and a half
million ignorant black freedmen was certain to
entail embarrassment for generations. So sudden
a transition from slavery to freedom would
mean a tremendous shock to the social fabric
even in times of peace. No country could expe-
rience such a complete overturn in times of war
and hope to settle down to immediate quiet.

While the war continued the negroes in sections
remote from the clash of arms remained quietly
upon the plantations obedient to their masters.
Even the news of the Emancipation Proclama-
tion did not produce a single insurrection. "A
thousand torches," said Henry Grady, "would
have disbanded the Southern Army, but here
was not one." Nevertheless, the slaves vaguely
understood the purport of the great struggle;
and when fugitive Union prisoners came their
way, they lent them assistance. They wel-
comed the Northern troops as deliverers. On
Sherman's march to the sea the spokesman of
a large number of slaves said to an aide-de-camp :
"I'se hope de Lord will prosper you Yankees
and Mr. Sherman, because I tinks and we all
tinks dat you'se down here in our interests."
Thousands of slaves fell in behind the victorious
army as it swept through the land, being "se-
duced from their allegiance," as a South Caro-
linian complained, by the prospect of freedom.

With the collapse of the Confederacy, many
negroes became intoxicated with the idea that


they were their own masters. Some were con-
tent to remain as renters or employes upon the
plantations of their former masters, but great
numbers, desirous of tasting their liberty, aban-
doned their old homes and wandered hither and
thither about the country, "found endless de-
light in hanging about the towns and Union
camps, and were fascinated by the pursuit of
the white man's culture in the schools which
optimistic northern philanthropy was estab-
lishing." "What did you leave the old place for,
Auntie?" a Northerner asked an old negress who
had been an indulged favorite in her master's
family. "What fur? 'Joy my freedom!" was
her ready answer. To many freedmen freedom
meant primarily idleness, and some were sadly
disillusioned when informed that they would
still have to work for a living.

In some respects the condition of the freedmen
was pathetic. In the words of Frederick Douglass,
the government had made the negro free, "yet
he had none of the conditions of self-preserva-
tion or self -protection. He was free from the
individual master, but the slave of society. He
had neither money, property, nor friends. He
was free from the old plantation, but he had
nothing but the dusty road under his feet. He
was free from the old quarter that once gave him
shelter, but a slave to the rains of summer and to
the frosts of winter. He . . . was turned loose,
naked, hungry, and destitute to the open sky."

The idea spread abroad that the government
would confiscate the property of ex-Confederates,
and every negro dreamed at night of the "forty


acres and a mule" which was to be his share. In
some sections sharpers took advantage of the
illusion and reaped a rich harvest by selling to
simple-minded negroes the painted stakes with
which each must be provided when the day of
division came. Sometimes the pegs were called
"pre-emption rights," and their sale in the back
districts continued for years. One pretended
deed was in part as follows: "Know all men by
these presents, that a nought is a nought and a
figure is a figure; all for the white man and none
for the nigure. And whereas Moses lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness, so also have I lifted
this d -d old nigger out of four dollars and six
bits. Amen! Selah!"

To act as a guardian for the blacks the thirty-
eighth congress, just before dissolution, had
created an institution known as the Freedmen's
Bureau, which was to endure until one year after
the end of the war. One of its most important
functions was to act as a buffer between the
two races. The necessity of some such institu-
tion was obvious, but the agents of the Bureau
were naturally highly unpopular in the South.
Some of them were lacking in tact and character,
some were unprincipled rascals, but a majority
were well-meaning men who did work that needed
to be done. Even had all been Solomons in
wisdom and judgment, they would not have found
much favor among the former masters.

Among the whites themselves despondency
and despair reigned well-nigh supreme. Their
political aspirations had been defeated, their
social system swept away, and many were finan-


cially ruined. In sections through which the
trail of war had led, houses, bridges, barns, and
gins had been burned; everywhere the neglected
roads were almost impassable, fences were rotting
down, levees no longer restrained the floods, and
Confederate currency and bonds were reduced
to less than the value of the paper on which they
were printed. Hatred of Yankees and Southern
Unionists prevailed, being manifested even in
churches, where congregations refused to listen
to loyal preachers. Women were especially
bitter against those whom they considered the
authors of all their woes, and over Southern
society, as over every other, woman reigned
supreme. For a time the calamity struck the
whole South dumb, but presently boisterous
demagogues and reckless editors recovered some-
thing of their equanimity and gave vent to in-
cautious utterances that were distasteful to the
conquerors and too often drowned the voices of
those striving to soften bitter feelings and tra-
ditional antipathies. The delusion which the
Southern people had long indulged regarding
"the absolute superiority" of then* customs and
social organization, though shaken, still persisted,
and stood " as a serious obstacle in the way of

The gravity ' of the situation was greatly in-
creased by the assassination of Lincoln. Follow-
ing the surrender of Lee and before Booth's
fatal shot a magnanimous spirit prevailed in the
North. "On earth peace, good will toward men"
was the generous sentiment of the mass of loyal
people. The murder of the beloved president


changed everything. It was almost universally,
though wrongly, believed that the assassination
had been planned by the leading Confederates
in a desperate effort to avert their doom. Gen-
erous sentiments gave way to a desire for ven-
geance; everywhere a demand arose that the
"chief Rebels" should be hanged. Men believed
that to the crime of a great war to destroy the
Union the South had added one of the most
dastardly murders in history. Even those who
thought the Southern leaders incapable of insti-
gating such an act could not but reflect that the
assassination flowed from the spirit of slavery
and secession.

The death of Lincoln not only roused a danger-
ous desire for vengeance, but it also deprived the
country of the services of its ablest pilot. Whether,
with all his sagacity and tact, he could have
solved all the trying problems of Reconstruction
may well be doubted, but it is safe to say that he
would have done better than the man who suc-
ceeded him. For if the country had been searched
from end to end, it would have been difficult to
find a man less fitted for the crisis.

Andrew Johnson was born at Raleigh, North
Carolina, of poor white parents, and during his
early years his opportunities for culture were so
few that, although he managed to learn to read
a little, the art of writing was one that he ac-
quired in manhood from his wife. At the age of
ten he was apprenticed to a tailor, and at seven-
teen removed to Greenville in East Tennessee,
where he worked at his trade, and presently
became a Democratic political leader in opposi-


tion to the Whig aristocracy. He was succes-
sively alderman, mayor, member of the legis-
lature, and in 1843 became a member of the
national house of representatives. Subsequently
he was twice elected governor of Tennessee, and
in 1857 was sent to the Federal senate, "being
a remarkable if not the sole exception to the cus-
tom in the slave States which debarred men who
worked at a trade from such high office." Al-
though he had done much by reading and by
contact with men to remedy the defects of his
education, he remained narrow-minded and
uncultured. By vigorously opposing secession
he gained high favor in the North and was ap-
pointed governor of Tennessee, an office he filled
with much zeal and courage. In 1864, as a result
of the desire to recognize the "War Demo-
crats" and the Southern Unionists, he was
nominated for the vice-presidency by the Union
party and was elected. Some persons were
inclined to doubt the wisdom of the selection,
and .the doubt received confirmation at his inau-
guration. On that occasion he was so badly
intoxicated that he presented a maudlin spec-
tacle which has usually been glossed over by

Johnson's policy toward the South at first
gave promise of being a vindictive one. "Trea-
son must be made odious, and traitors must be
punished and impoverished," had been the burden
of his speeches. In private talks he gave the
impression that he was about to embark upon a
bloodthirsty crusade against the leaders of the
"slavocracy," whom he had once called our


"illegitimate, swaggering, bastard, scrub aris-
tocracy." He issued a proclamation charging
Jefferson Davis and other Southern leaders with
complicity in the murder of Lincoln and offering
large rewards for their arrest. Radical Republi-
cans who had disapproved of Lincoln's leniency
were much pleased with Johnson's attitude, and
some were inclined to consider Lincoln's removal
a dispensation of Providence. But even the
Radicals feared that Johnson might be too

Their concern was wasted worry. Johnson
had been in office only a few weeks when he turned
a complete political somersault and adopted a
Southern policy in the main in accord with the
rather vague lines laid down by Lincoln. On the
29th of May, 1865, he issued two proclamations,
one of restricted amnesty and the other a pre-
scription for the reconstruction of North Caro-
lina. The first granted pardon to all those who
had "participated in the existing rebellion"
except those belonging to certain specified classes,
members of which might subsequently obtain
clemency by special application to the president.
The second proclamation appointed William W.
Holden provisional governor of North Carolina
and provided for the calling of a constitutional
convention to frame a constitution in accord
with the times. The members of this convention
were to be elected by the loyal voters of the state,
the test for loyalty being the taking of an oath
prescribed in the amnesty proclamation. No
extension of political rights to the freedmen was
made. At intervals from June 13 to July 13,


similar proclamations were issued looking to the
restoration of civil government in Georgia,
Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida.
The "rump" Union government in Virginia, the
"ten per cent" governments of Arkansas and
Louisiana, and the government of Tennessee,
which Johnson had himself helped to organize,
were also formally or tacitly recognized.

The plan thus adopted was unsatisfactory to
many Radicals, but until congress should convene
in December there could be no effective opposi-
tion. In the meantime the South had a great
opportunity. As yet the great majority of
Northerners were opposed to negro suffrage, but
an active minority of earnest advocates were
working for it, and reactionary steps on the part
of the South would undoubtedly strengthen the
movement. Unhappily the people of the South
did not understand the true situation. They
failed to realize fully that they were a conquered
people and that wisdom dictated that in all their
acts they should be guided not only by ordinary
rules but also by the prejudices of the conquerors.

The first convention to assemble in obedience
to the president's proclamations was that of
Mississippi. It voted that slavery should no
longer exist in the state and declared the seces-
sion ordinance null and void, but failed to com-
ply with a recommendation from Johnson that
the elective franchise should be conferred upon
negroes who could read and write or who owned
real estate worth not less than $250. In Georgia
and South Carolina the old states rights idea
flickered feebly once more when the conventions


repealed their secession ordinances. Florida
annulled her ordinance, and the others, like
Mississippi, proclaimed the acts null and void,
North Carolina declaring that her ordinance
"at all times hath been null and void." All the
conventions except that of South Carolina re-
pudiated the debts contracted in support of the
war, but in some states this was done only after
a hard struggle and after pressure had been exerted
from the outside. All formally abolished slavery
and made such further modifications in the old
state constitutions as seemed essential. The
conventions then adjourned, leaving to the
legislatures the task of completing the social

The proceedings of the conventions were not
always pleasing to exacting Northerners; those
of the legislatures were still less so. The legis-
lature of Mississippi refused to ratify the Thir-
teenth Amendment abolishing slavery, and this
and other legislatures passed acts concerning
the freedmen that were interpreted in the North
as designed to secure the substance of slavery
without the name. These "black codes" were
in part an honest effort to meet a difficult situa-
tion, but the old slavery attitude toward the
negro peered through most of them and gave proof
that their framers did not yet realize that the
old order had passed away. In Mississippi a
f reedman was forbidden to own or rent land except
in incorporated towns, of which the number was
small. Negro children under eighteen whose
parents were unable or unwilling to support them
were to be "apprenticed," preferably to then*


former masters, who were empowered to inflict
"moderate corporal chastisement." All negroes
over eighteen found on the second Monday of
January, 1866, without employment or business
were to be fined, and, if unable to pay, were to be
hired out. Any laborer who should quit the
service of an employer before the expiration of
his contract was liable to arrest and forfeited his
wages. In South Carolina no person of color
was to engage in any trade or business "besides
that of husbandry, or that of a servant under
contract for labor," until he had obtained a
practically prohibitive license costing from ten
to a hundred dollars. No such fees were exacted
from white men. Laws almost or quite as unfair
were enacted in other states. The words "mas-
ter," "mistress," "servant" constantly recur
in such legislation, and minute regulations were
provided for such "servants." Special penalties
were enacted for freedmen, and in some states
the blacks were forbidden to have arms of any
sort or even to assemble together except under
careful restrictions. The "black codes" have
had apologists, but the existence four decades
later of "peonage" in numerous Southern com-
munities a practice broken up only through the
activity of Federal officers and Federal courts
is a sufficient answer to the assertion that under
such laws the freedmen would have received fair

The "black codes" naturally roused violent
opposition in the North. "We tell the men of
Mississippi," said the Chicago Tribune (Decem-
ber 1, 1865), "that the men of the North will


convert the state of Mississippi into a frog-pond
before they will allow any such laws to disgrace
one foot of soil in which the bones of our soldiers
sleep and over which the flag of freedom waves."

Stories of hostility to Union men in the South
and of the mistreatment of freedmen by individ-
uals added fuel to the flames. The fact that as
time passed an increasing number of persons
who had been prominent in the military or civil
service of the Confederacy were elected to high
office did not increase the popularity of the
president's policy. In a telegram protesting
against the proposed choice as United States
senator of Alexander H. Stephens, recently
vice-president of the Confederacy, even Johnson
said: "There seems in many of the elections
something like defiance, which is all out of place
at this time." The protest went unheeded, and
presently Stephens appeared in Washington to
demand his seat. "In his astonishing effrontery,"
says Blaine, who was then a member of the
house, "Mr. Stephens even went so far as to
insist on interpreting to the loyal men, who had
been conducting the government of the United
States through all its perils, the Constitution
under which they had been acting."

There was yet another motive that doubtless
caused many politicians to oppose the president's
reconstruction plan. It was evident that with
the freeing of the slaves the constitutional pro-
vision excluding two-fifths of them in the appor-
tionment of representatives to congress became
of no effect and that the former slave states would
be entitled to more members. That one result


of the war should be an increase in the political
power of the South was a possibility little relished
by those who were convinced that upon the con-
tinuance in power of the Republican party hinged
the nation's well-being and their own political
fortunes. The specter of the Federal government
in control of an alliance between ex-Confederates
and Northern Democrats troubled the sleep of
many a Republican statesman, and in the end
was one of the chief influences that brought about
the bestowal of the suffrage upon the blacks.



REPUBLICAN conventions in Massachusetts
and Pennsylvania had already condemned the
president's policy, and the Republican leaders,
when they gathered in Washington for the first
session of the thirty -ninth congress, determined to
insist upon the right of that body to participate
in Reconstruction. Acting under their influence,
the clerk of the house omitted the names of mem-
bers-elect from the states recently in rebellion,
and the Republican majority promptly sustained
him. As soon as the organization of the house
was'completed, Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania
moved the appointment of a joint committee of
nine representatives and six senators to inquire
into conditions in the former Confederate states
"and report whether they or any of them are
entitled to be represented in either House of
Congress." The resolution was quickly adopted,
though there were some members who intimated
that it would be more proper to await the presi-
dent's message before taking action. This mes-
sage, which was read the following day, was a
sane, well-written document which explained


with force the president's Reconstruction policy.
To many it was an enigma how a man with so
little education could have produced such a state
paper, but it is now known that the document
was composed by the historian Bancroft. In
congress the message had little appreciable effect;
a few days later the senate concurred with the
house in the appointment of Stevens 's Joint
Committee on Reconstruction.

Among the congressional majority there was
great diversity of sentiment, but the course of
events tended to bring the extremists to the front.
Of these the chief were Charles Sumner and Thad-
deus Stevens. Sumner, the Brahmin senator
from Massachusetts, an idealist for human equal-
ity in theory but a snob in private practice, had
long been distinguished as an opponent of the
slave power, and was anxious to crown his work
by erasing all legal distinctions between the
freedmen and their former masters. In his view
the attempts at secession were inoperative and
void, but amounted to "a practical abdication
by the State of all rights under the Constitution "
in other words, to state suicide. He held that
such states were now under "the exclusive
jurisdiction of Congress as other territory." As
a condition to their restoration he proposed the
imposition upon the late Confederate states of Ifull
civil and political rights to the negro.

Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, the leader
of the house, possessed much of the sternness of
the old Puritans, without their morality. Unlike
Sumner, he hated Southerners personally, and
his hatred had been rendered more vindictive


by private losses sustained in the burning of
Chambersburg by the Confederates. Although
a lame old man of seventy-three, his spirit was
dauntless, and during the next few years, with iron
resolution, he held the house to his policy of
"thorough." He regarded the late Confederate
states as conquered provinces possessing no
rights the conquerors were bound to respect. Like
Sumner, he advocated treating them as territories.
He also favored negro suffrage, stringent laws for
the protection of the freedmen, and homesteads
for them to be carved out of confiscated lands.

In the hope of gaining popular support, the
Radicals promptly carried through the senate a
request that the president transmit a report upon
Southern conditions recently made by Major-
general Carl Schurz. Schurz was a naturalized
German, by temperament an idealist and in-
clined to be extremely independent of party in
his political views. He participated in the Revo-
lution of 1848, narrowly escaping a Prussian
firing-squad, and in his subsequent rescue of his
friend and teacher, the poet Gottfried Kinkel,
from life imprisonment in the Berlin penitentiary
he performed an exploit unsurpassed in gallantry
either in ancient or modern annals. Emigrating
to America, he quickly became prominent as an
anti-slavery leader and was much in demand as
an orator. For a short time he was minister to
Spain under Lincoln, but he preferred the tented
field to diplomacy, and, entering the army, rose
quickly to high command. At the close of hos-
tilities he went South at Johnson's request on a
tour of investigation. His reports were at first


cordially received, but as the president became
more and more committed to his liberal policy
he lost interest in his agent's work. Upon the

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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 1 of 20)