Paul Leland Haworth.

Reconstruction and union, 1865-1912 online

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general's return in October, he asked at a per-
sonal interview in the White House to be allowed
to make a formal report. The president demurred,
Schurz insisted, and a dramatic scene ensued. " I
thereupon turned my back upon Andrew John-
son," said Schurz many years later to the author,
"and I never spoke to him again." Subsequently
Schurz embodied his observations in a well-writ-
ten report, and it was this paper which the senate
demanded. The president complied, and trans-
mitted also a report made by General Grant.

Grant's report was the fruit of a hasty trip
recently taken through the South, in the course of
which he had conversed with many Southerners
and Federal officers, though he had not made
any real investigation of the situation. His
conclusions were favorable to Johnson's Recon-
struction plan, for he reported: "I am satis-
fied that the mass of thinking men of the South
accept the present situation of affairs in good
faith." Schurz, however, found "an utter ab-
sence of national feeling," and chronicled many
outrages that had been committed upon negroes
and white Unionists. He reported that, while
accepting the abolition of slavery, the Southern
people believed that "some species of serfdom,
peonage, or other form of compulsory labor is not
slavery and may be introduced without a vio-
lation of their pledge." As a "condition precedent
to 'readmission,' " Schurz advocated "the exten-
sion of the franchise to the colored people" in


order to give them "protection against oppressive
class legislation, as well as against individual

In February congress passed a bill continu-
ing the Freedmen's Bureau, enlarging its powers,
and extending civil rights to the freedmen. Sup-
porters of the bill disclaimed any quarrel with the
president, but it was out of harmony with his
plan of Reconstruction, and he vetoed it. As
some Republicans were not yet convinced that
the breach between executive and legislature
was irrevocable, an attempt to pass the bill
over the veto failed.

It was Johnson's last victory. The prevailing
sentiment in congress and the North had come
to be that "the Southern states were in a great
hurry about getting out of the Union, and we
will take our time about letting them back in."
On the very day that the Freedmen's Bureau
Bill failed, the house passed a resolution to the
effect that no senator or representative from one
of the eleven seceded states should be admitted
to congress until congress declared such state
entitled to representation. The senate soon after
concurred, and henceforth open warfare existed
between Johnson and congress.

In this conflict the Radicals were aided not
only by Southern rashness but also by the presi-
dent's own lack of tact and of official dignity.
On February 22, in a speech to a crowd of citizens
who had come to the White House to congratulate
him upon the veto, he threw propriety to the winds
and indulged in an intemperate, egotistical ha-
rangue in which he denounced his enemies in


violent terms. He styled the Joint Committee
on Reconstruction "an irresponsible central
directory" and accused it of usurping the powers
of congress. When asked to name his enemies,
he cried: "I say Thaddeus Stevens of Penn-
sylvania; I say Charles Sumner of Massachusetts;
I say Wendell Phillips of Massachusetts!" He
even went so far as to impute to them a desire
for his assassination. The Radicals hailed the
speech with glee, and it lost the president many

The house proceeded to pass a Civil Rights
Bill, which had already received the approval of
the senate. The bill was designed to carry into
effect the Thirteenth Amendment, the ratification
of which had been proclaimed in December, and to
render null and void the obnoxious "black codes."
It declared the freedmen to be citizens of the
United States with all civil rights, and provided
heavy penalties for the punishment of any one who,
under color of state law, should encroach upon
their rights. Johnson vetoed the bill (March 27,
1866), but congress promptly passed it over the

Meanwhile the Joint Committee on Recon-
struction had been taking testimony regarding
Southern conditions and evolving a congressional
plan. In its essence, this plan, sometimes called
"the forfeited rights plan," was to deny statehood
to the seceded states until certain results of the
war had been irrevocably guaranteed. A detail
of the plan was a Fourteenth Amendment to the
constitution. This amendment, as it finally
passed Congress (June 13, 1866), embodied those


features of the Civil Rights Act guaranteeing
citizenship and civil rights to the freedmen and
provided that representatives should be ap-
portioned according to "the whole number of
persons in each State, excluding Indians not
taxed,", but that in case the suffrage was denied
to any male citizens of voting age the representa-
tion of the state should be proportionately dimin-
ished. It disqualified for Federal and state offices
all persons who, having taken the oath to support
the constitution, had subsequently engaged in
rebellion, but congress was empowered by a two-
thirds vote to remove such disabilities. The
amendment further formally asserted the validity
of the public debt and repudiated the Confederate
debt in all forms, together with all claims for the
emancipation of slaves.

In July, by its action in the case of Tennessee,
congress outlined the conditions on which the
seceded states might be readmitted to their old
rights and privileges. In consideration of the
fact that Tennessee had ratified a state constitu-
tion abolishing slavery, had declared the ordinance
of secession and the Confederate debt void, and
had ratified the Thirteenth and Fourteenth
amendments, congress again recognized the
statehood of Tennessee and admitted her sena-
tors and representatives. About the same time
congress passed over the president's veto a
new Freedmen's Bureau Bill continuing the
institution for two years.

Had the other Southern states accepted the
congressional plan the Johnson conditions plus
the Fourteenth Amendment they would prob-


ably have avoided much trouble and humiliation
in the future. It is true that extreme Radicals
like Stevens and Sumner would have tried to
impose other conditions, but it is improbable that
they would have succeeded. But the breach
between congress and president, joined with the
hope of aid from Northern Democrats, encouraged
the South to refuse acceptance. There existed
a delusive hope that with a United South, with
the Democratic party in the North and the
president to help them, Southerners might recover
control of the government and regain much of
what had been lost on the field of battle. It was
a sad blunder. Compared with the settlement of
any other great war, the plan was magnanimous,
for it involved no executions, confiscations, or
imprisonments. It restored the ballot to virtually
every white man who would take an oath to
support the constitution, and it did not admit
the negro to the franchise, though it held out
a reward to the states to confer the franchise
upon him.

Everything now depended upon the outcome
of the congressional elections. Johnson had great
confidence that upon an appeal to the people
his policy would be sustained. In August a great
"National Union Convention" in his behalf met
at Philadelphia. It included many prominent
Confederates, border-state Whigs, Northern Dem-
ocrats, both Union and Copperhead, and a con-
siderable number of former Republicans. On
the first day, as a sign of the closing of the " bloody
chasm" between the sections, the delegates from
Massachusetts and South Carolina walked into


the convention together, whence was derived the
popular name of the "Arm-in- Arm Convention."
In September a convention of soldiers and sailors
who supported the president met in Cleveland,
but it was noticeable that its membership did not
include any of the great generals of the war.
Earlier in the month a convention of Southern
Unionists met in Philadelphia to denounce John-
son's policy. It ended in a wrangle over the ques-
tion of negro suffrage, but it drew the attention
of the North to outrages perpetrated upon loyal
men in the South. It charged, probably with
some exaggeration, that "more than a thousand
devoted Union citizens have been murdered in
cold blood since the surrender of Lee," and put
forth a potent plea that such patriots should not
be abandoned to their enemies. A fourth con-
vention composed of anti-Johnson citizens, sol-
diers, and sailors assembled in Pittsburg, and by
its numbers and enthusiasm bore evidence as to
where the sympathies of the great body of the
defenders of the Union lay.

The result of the campaign might have been
doubtful had it not been for the president's own
acts and those of persons who supported him. On
July 30, 1866, two days after the adjournment
of congress, a bloody riot took place in New
Orleans which helped to crystallize the opinions
of many hesitating voters. There had developed
in Louisiana a movement in favor of negro suf-
frage, and an attempt was made, with the consent
of the governor and a judge of the Supreme
Court, to reconvene the convention of 1864.
Mayor Monroe, a violent secessionist who had


been mayor at the time of the capture of the city
four years before, made preparations to suppress
the convention. A procession of negroes marching
through the streets became involved in a riot
with a mob of whites and took refuge in the conven-
tion hall. The police and the mob attacked the
hall, and an inhuman massacre ensued in which
about forty negroes and white Radicals were killed,
and over a hundred more were wounded, while
the loss of the assailants was only about a dozen.
General Sheridan, who was in command at New
Orleans, characterized the affair as "an absolute
massacre ... a murder which the mayor and
police of the city perpetrated without the shadow
of a necessity." The New Orleans riot and a
somewhat similar outbreak at Memphis were
made much of by the president's opponents and
did much to convince the Northern people that
it would be folly to leave the freedmen to the
mercy of their former masters.

Equally disastrous to the president's cause
were the president's own acts. Late in August
he set out for Chicago to participate in the cere-
mony of laying the corner-stone of a monument
to Stephen A. Douglas. While "swinging round
the circle" he seized upon the opportunity to
make a number of violent speeches glorifying
himself and denouncing congress as a congress
of only part of the country. At Cleveland while
intoxicated he indulged in an unseemly wrangle
with the audience, and in reply to a reproof
declared: "I care not for dignity." He also
asked: "Why not hang Thad Stevens and Wen-
dell Phillips?" At St. Louis, angered by cries


of "New Orleans," he foolishly charged that
the riot at that place was substantially planned
by "the Radical congress."

Such behavior alienated thousands. Johnson
returned to Washington a thoroughly discredited
man. Although he removed hundreds of opponents
from office in an effort to turn the tide, he suf-
fered an overwhelming defeat. The people of
the North condemned the president's plan and
returned to the next congress sufficient major-
ities against him to enable the congressional leaders
to reconstruct the Southern states as they chose,
irrespective of Johnson's opposition. Many ele-
ments entered into the result, but the chief was
this: rightly or wrongly, the loyal people of the
North were determined not to take any chances
of losing the results of a frightful war that had
cost hundreds of thousands of lives and untold

Unfortunately for the Southern people they
failed to read the signs of the times. Badly
advised by Johnson and the Democratic party
in the North, they still hoped that the president
would triumph in the end. In the period from
October, 1866, to February, 1867, the legisla-
tures of every one of the seceded states except
Tennessee voted down the Fourteenth Amend-
ment by overwhelming majorities, thereby delib-
erately defying congress and rendering inevitable
the imposition of terms far more drastic and

The Radicals regarded the result of the election
as a mandate to deal rigorously in the work of
Reconstruction. The rejection of the amendment


strengthened the hands of those who demanded
the exaction of further guarantees and gave a
great impetus to the movement in favor of negro
suffrage. Hitherto the number of persons who
favored bestowing the ballot upon the blacks
had been small. A few extremists like Sumner
and Chase had advocated it from the first, but
the great majority even of Republicans held
with Governors Morton of Indiana and Andrews
of Massachusetts that unlimited negro suffrage
would be a sad mistake. At this time only six
Northern states allowed persons of color to vote,
and it would manifestly be inconsistent to ask
the South to grant them the ballot. But as time
went on the idea gained in favor even among
moderate men. It was believed that the ballot
would serve the freedman as a weapon in his
own defense, while keen-sighted Republican
politicians saw that the measure would enable
their party to control a number of Southern

Congress proceeded to tie the president's
hands and to elaborate a more rigorous plan of
Reconstruction. By a rider on the army appropri-
ation bill (March 2, 1867) the president was
forbidden to issue military orders except through
the general of the army, to relieve the general
of his command, or to station him elsewhere than
at Washington without his own consent or the
approval of the senate. A violation of any of
these provisions was pronounced a misdemeanor.
By another act of the same date, passed over
Johnson's veto, congress prohibited the presi-
dent from removing civil officers save with the


consent of the senate. Violation of this Tenure
of Office Act rendered the president liable to fine
and imprisonment. As the president had been
allowed the power of removal since the institu-
tion of the government, the constitutionality of
this law, like many of the other Reconstruction
acts, was open to grave question.

The new policy toward the South was elaborated
in what is generally known as the Great Recon-
struction Act (March 2, 1867) and in two sup-
plementary acts (March 23, July 19, 1867), all
passed over Johnson's veto. Acting on the theory
that no legal state governments existed in the
ten "rebel States," congress divided these states
into five military districts, each of which was to
be ruled by a military officer. This officer was
to make a registration of the voters of each state
within his district, excluding those persons dis-
qualified for rebellion, but admitting all other
male citizens "of whatever race, color, or previous
condition." These voters were to choose dele-
gates to a constitutional convention, the work
of which, if ratified by a majority of the registered
voters, was to be submitted to congress. If
the constitution so framed and ratified proved
satisfactory to congress, and if the legislature
elected under it ratified the Fourteenth Amend-
ment, the state might then be restored to its
position in the Union.

The congress which passed the two supple-
mentary Reconstruction acts was the new fortieth,
which, in obedience to a law passed by the ex-
piring thirty-ninth, met on March 4th instead
of waiting as usual till the following December.


In July, however, despite the earnest appeals
of some of the Radicals not to leave Johnson
so long free from restraint, congress adjourned
until November. In the interval the president
determined to rid himself of Secretary of War
Stanton, who was openly aiding the Radicals
and retained office in order to act as a check upon
his superior. Stanton declined to resign, so
Johnson promptly suspended him and appointed
General Grant secretary ad interim. Upon the
reassembling of congress the president sub-
mitted his reasons for this act to the senate,
as required by the Tenure of Office Act. Had
the senate concurred, the suspension would have
become a permanent removal, but that body was
anxious to embarrass Johnson and refused (Janu-
ary 13, 1868). Stanton at once returned to office,
but a month later, determined to test the con-
stitutionality of the obnoxious act, Johnson
summarily removed him. Stanton refused to
recognize the order of dismissal, and the president's
act precipitated the gravest crisis between execu-
tive and legislature in the history of the country.

Three days later the house of representatives,
by a great majority, formally resolved "that
Andrew Johnson, President of the United States,
be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors."
The trial before the senate began on the 5th
of March. With two exceptions, the managers
were all extreme Radicals, the most prominent
being Thaddeus Stevens, Benjamin F. Butler,
John A. Logan, and George S. Boutwell. The
president's counsel included the learned ex-
Judge Benjamin R. Curtis, the brilliant William


M. Evarts, and Attorney-general Stansberry,
who resigned office for the purpose of defending
his chief. The charges consisted of eleven articles,
mostly dealing with Stanton's removal, but the
tenth was based upon newspaper extracts from
the president's violent speeches.

As the evidence was presented it became
glaringly apparent that the prosecutors would
be unable to prove that the president had been
guilty of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes
and Misdemeanors," which are the sole constitu-
tional grounds for impeachment. It was shown
that, though bitterly opposing congress, the
president had displayed a careful regard for law
and precedent. In violating the Tenure of Office
Act he had meant to get a test case as to its
constitutionality before the supreme court; he
had had no intention of beginning a revolution.
Furthermore, when the bill was under consider-
ation, senators who were now supporting im-
peachment had expressed the opinion that it did
not guarantee the tenure of cabinet members who
had held over from Lincoln's administration as
Stanton had done. But party prejudice ran so
high that many senators felt justified in support-
ing the president's removal on political grounds
or grounds of public policy, having as a precedent
for such action the impeachment on account
of drunken insanity of Judge John Pickering in
the time of Jefferson's presidency. A number
of Republican senators refused, however, to be
carried away by party prejudice and staked their
political lives in an effort to save the president.
The first vote was taken (May 16, 1868) on the


eleventh article, a kind of omnibus change shrewdly
drawn up by Stevens. The vote stood, "guilty,"
35; "not guilty," 19, one less than the required
two-thirds. Fessenden of Maine, Fowler of Ten-
nessee, Grimes of Iowa, Henderson of Missouri,
Ross of Kansas, Trumbull of Illinois, and Van
Winkle of West Virginia, by voting with the
Democrats, had defeated impeachment. It is
now known that at least two other senators,
Sprague of Rhode Island and Willey of West
Virginia, stood ready to vote in the negative had
it been necessary to do so to save Johnson. Ten
days later the same result was reached on the
second and third articles, and the case at once
broke down.

Andrew Johnson and the independence of the
executive were saved. Secretary Stanton at once
resigned and was succeeded by General J. M.

A large majority of the people of the North
had hoped for conviction, but they acquiesced in
the result the more readily because they knew
that Johnson's remaining lease of power was
short. Four days after the vote on the first count
the National Union Republican Convention met
in Chicago, and without a dissenting vote nomi-
nated Ulysses S. Grant, the hero of Fort Donelson,
Vicksburg, and Appomattox, for the presidency.
Schuyler Colfax of Indiana, the speaker of the
house, was named for the vice-presidency. The
platform approved the congressional plan of
reconstruction, denounced as "a national crime"
all forms of repudiation, and somewhat guardedly
opposed the "Greenback" plan of paying the


debt in depreciated paper. On the question of
negro suffrage the platform was evasive. The
idea had not proved altogether popular evenin
the North, where the people of four states
Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kansas had
recently rejected constitutional amendments en-
franchising the blacks. On this subject the plat-
form read: "The guarantee by Congress of equal
suffrage to all loyal men at the South was de-
manded by every consideration of public safety,
of gratitude, and of justice, and must be main-
tained; while the question of suffrage in all the
loyal States properly belongs to the people of
those States." General Grant accepted the nom-
ination in a characteristically brief letter, one
phrase of which, "Let us have peace," struck
the popular fancy.

The Democratic convention, meeting in Tam-
many Hall, New York City (July 4, 1868),
denounced the Reconstruction acts "as usur-
pations and unconstitutional, revolutionary and
void," and demanded the "immediate restoration
of all the States to their rights in the Union,"
with amnesty for "all past political offenses."
It also declared for the taxation of government
bonds and for their payment, when not otherwise
stipulated, in "lawful money," meaning the pa-
per currency popularly known as "Greenbacks."
The financial plank was in part the reflection of
a desire ultimately to repudiate the debt, in part
of a "soft money" craze that was particularly
prevalent in the West, where there existed a
strong dislike for the moneyed East, and where
" the same currency for the bond-holder and the


plough-holder," struck a popular chord. Business
was bad, and by many it was believed that the
depression was due to the contractionist policy
of retiring greenbacks that had temporarily
been adopted by congress and the treasury

The leader of the "Greenback" forces was
George H. Pendleton, an Ohioan who had served
a number of terms in congress and now had the
support of his state for the presidential nomi-
nation. Another candidate was Chief Justice
Chase, who had hoped to receive the Republican
nomination and now engaged in an undignified
scramble for the Democratic one. Chase's "in-
sanity on the subject of the presidency" was in
part due to the ambition of his brilliant and
beautiful daughter, Kate Chase Sprague. Lin-
coln had noted the weakness, and of Chase it was
said that "what in other men is a craving for the
presidency seems to have been in Chase a lust
for it." Other candidates were Sanford E. Church
of New York, General Hancock of Pennsylvania,
Senator Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana, and
President Johnson. The contest continued for
twenty-one ballots without result. On the
twenty-second the Ohio delegation cast their
votes for Horatio Seymour of New York, the
presiding officer, a stampede ensued, and he
was unanimously nominated in spite of his own

In the campaign the financial issue was quickly
driven into the background by the Southern
question. Frequent murders of Republicans,
both white and colored, in the South diminished


Democratic chances, while the general who had
written "unconditional surrender" made a better
candidate than the governor of New York who
had addressed the draft rioters of July, 1863,
as "my friends." The electoral vote stood 214
for Grant and only 80 for Seymour. An analysis
of the popular vote showed, however, that the
result was much closer than would appear from
these figures, for Grant's majorities in several
states were small, and his success in certain
Southern states was evidently due to the dis-
franchisement of ex-Confederates. The possi-
bility of future defeat stared the Republicans
in the face and confirmed them in their policy
of votes for the freedmen.

Andrew Johnson retired from the presidency a
discredited man, and lived for some years in
restless obscurity in Tennessee, until shortly be-

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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 2 of 20)