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Reconstruction, Confederate style: The Civil War was won by the South

From: Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom, 2018 Pulitzer prize winning biography by David W. Blight

{ (In the immediate aftermath of Lincoln's assassination,) the new President, Andrew Johnson (the Tennessean) enabled the ex-Confederates. He was an ardent states' rightist. He shared none of the Radical Republicans' expansive conception of federal power.

He was a staunch white supremacist who accepted the end of slavery but could not abide the idea of black civil and political rights. His philosophy toward Reconstruction rested in a slogan: "The Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was."

Congress had recessed shortly after Johnson was sworn in after Lincoln's death. So during virtually all of the rest of 1865, the new president's lenient, rapid, and largely pro-Southern approach dominated what historian John Hope Franklin once called "Reconstruction, Confederate style."

By September, Johnson had initiated a generous policy of pardons to ex-Confederates. Johnson also returned a good deal of confiscated and abandoned lands to their former white owners in the South, while he also did his best to thwart the work o fthe Freedmen's Bureau, the agency established to provide rations to hundreds of thousands of black and white war refugees as well as adjudicate new labor contracts for freedmen.

In December, as Congress reconvened, Johnson declared Reconstruction complete eight months after Appomattox.

The former states of the Confederacy had all drafted new constitutions and passed a wide array of "black codes,", restricting freedmen's lives.

Blacks were being returned to servility, and no one would be held responsible for the war as many former Confederates were elected to serve in Congress.

Congress devised the Joint Committee on Reconstruction. Freedmen's Bureau agents reported over and again about violence against ex-slaves, including whippings, ritualistic torture, and murders. Once described huge problems negotiating wage contracts with unwilling planters, and a "general hatred of the freedmen."

The Joint Committee concluded that allowing ex-Confederates to rule in their former states had been a policy of "madness and folly," and it called for major legislation that would provide "adequate safeguards" for social order and freedmen's rights. Later that spring and early summer, this seismic shift in Reconstruction policy and politics led to passage of a new Freedmen's Bureau bill, the first Civil Rights Act of American history, and the Fourteenth Amendment.
The president declared the abolition of slavery merely an "incident to the suppression of the rebellion" and predicted a "war of the races" if blacks got access to the ballot. Worse, Johnson insisted that nothing could ever be forced upon the majority of a community "without their consent." "I am now talking about a principle ...a fundamental tenet in my creed that the people must be obeyed."


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