Unit 10-Reconstruction. Lesson 58-Laws of Reconstruction. Review.
Lesson 58-Laws of Reconstruction
After the Civil War, the people of the United States, including President Lincoln and Congress, disagreed on how to handle the readmission of the Southern states to the Union. At which time, the nation was shocked to learn that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. The new president, Andrew Johnson, would be the key on how to restore the Union, instead of rebuild.
Under Andrew Johnson’s plan of “restoration,” many of the Southern states created new governments that met the rules of the plan, as well as elected representatives to Congress.
More than a dozen of these newly elected representatives had been high-ranking Confederate leaders, including Confederate Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens.
Congress refused to seat these newly elected Southern representatives in Washington, D.C.
Many congressmen refused to admit the Southern states under Johnson’s plan. They felt the restoration was too easy.
It seemed that Johnson’s plan was downplaying the Union’s victory in the Civil War. The treatment of African Americans in the South was not improving.
In 1865 and 1866, the new Southern state governments passed new laws that aimed to control the newly freed men and women and to allow plantation owners to take advantage of the African American workers.
The black codes were based off of laws that regulated free African American prior to the Civil War, taking away many of their rights in the South.
Some of the new laws allowed local officials to arrest and fine African Americans who were unemployed, making them work for white employers to pay off their fines.
Other laws prevented African Americans from owning or renting farms.
Another law allowed whites to take an African American orphan child as an unpaid apprentice.
In the opinions of Northerners and the freed men and women, black codes was a way to keep slavery active.
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to challenge the Black Codes.
The act gave African Americans full citizenship and provided the federal government the power to intervene in state affairs to protect African American rights.
The law overturned the Black Codes and challenged the Supreme Court decision that African Americans were not citizens from the Dred Scott case in 1857.
President Andrew Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act because the federal government was overstepping its authority.
He also stated that the law was unconstitutional because they were passed by a Congress that did not include representatives from all the states, which some considered to be a threat of veto to any law passed by Congress.
Republicans in Congress had enough votes, even without the Southern states representatives voting, to override, or defeat, Johnson’s veto, allowing the Civil Rights Act to become a law.
The Radical Republicans realized they most likely would not be able to compromise with the president and created their own Reconstruction plan.
Congress was afraid that the Civil Rights Act would be challenged and possibly overturned in court, so they created an amendment to make sure that African Americans would not lose the rights granted by the act.
In June 1866, Congress passed the new amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment gave full citizenship to individuals born in the United States, allowing most African Americans to become full citizens because most had been born in the U.S.
It stated that no state could take away a citizens right to life, liberty, and property “without due process of law,” and that every citizen is entitled to “equal protection of the laws.”
States would lose representation in Congress if any male citizen was kept from voting.
The amendment stated that former Confederates could not hold national or state office unless pardoned by two-thirds
The fourteenth amendment did not include Native Americans, who were not given citizenship by Congress until 1924.
Congress included the Fourteenth Amendment into their new Reconstruction plan.
Congress declared that the Southern states had to ratify the new amendment to be readmitted to the Union, but when only one of the eleven Southern states ratified it, the amendment was not adopted until 1868.
In the congressional elections of 1866, the Republicans gained control in every Northern state government, as well as increased their majorities in both houses of Congress.
Now able to override any veto by President Johnson, Congress took charge of the plans for Reconstruction.
The act required the creation of new state governments in the ten Southern states who had not ratified the 14th amendment.
Tennessee would be admitted to the Union quickly and be allowed to keep its government because it had already ratified the amendment.
The act also divided the ten Southern states into five military districts. They were under the control of a military commander until new state governments were formed.
African American males were also guaranteed the right to vote in state elections.
Former Confederate leaders were also banned from holding political office.
In order to be readmitted into the Union, the states had to ratify the 14th amendment and have their new state constitutions approved by Congress.
A few weeks after the Act was passed, a Second Reconstruction Act was passed, requiring the military commanders to begin registering voters and preparing state constitutional conventions.
Many white Southerners refused to take part in the elections for constitutional conventions and state governments.
Thousands of newly register African American voters did use their right to vote, allowing the Republicans to gain control of Southern state governments.
By 1868, seven of the Southern states had created new state governments and met Congress’ requirements for readmission.
By 1870, the remaining three states of Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas had been readmitted into the Union.
As commander in chief of the army, President Johnson was able to give directions to the military governors of the South.
In March 1867, Congress challenged the president by prohibiting his power from removing government officials, including members of his cabinet, without the Senate’s approval.
The act threatened the power of the president because he no longer had total control of his cabinet.
In August 1867, while the Senate was not in session, Johnson challenged Congress and the Tenure of Office Act when he suspended Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton without the Senate’s approval.
When the Senate met and refused to approve the suspension, Johnson violated the act by removing Stanton from office.
Johnson angered the Republicans by appointing generals, that were not approved of, as commanders of the Southern military districts.
The House of Representatives responded by voting to impeach, or formally charge with wrongdoing, the president.
Johnson was charged with misconduct and the case was sent to the Senate for trial.
The trial against Johnson began in March 1868, and lasted three months.
Supporters of Johnson defended him by claiming that he was exercising his presidential powers to challenge laws he believed to be unconstitutional.
They believed that the impeachment was politically motivated, which went against the spirit of the Constitution.
President Johnson’s accusers argued that Congress should hold the power to make the laws and that Johnson had used “the veto power conferred by the Constitution as a remedy for ill-considered legislation…into a weapon of offense against Congress.”
The senators cast two votes in May 1868, both with the result of 35-19 to convict the president of wrongdoing – one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.
Some moderate Republicans had voted not guilty because they did not believe that the president should be removed because of political differences, allowing Johnson to finish his term.
The Republicans, looking for a new candidate, chose the Civil War hero, Ulysses S. Grant, as their presidential candidate.
The Democrats nominated the former governor of New York, Horatio Seymour.
After President Johnson created his plan of “restoration,” the Republicans of Congress used their power of majority to make sure his plan would not be allowed. Through the creation of many laws and amendments, Congress was able to create and enforce their plan of Reconstruction. After a failed attempt to impeach the president, the Republicans maintained power in the election of 1868.
You will have a final exam for the entire US History course after you complete Lesson 60