Skip to main content

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."


Popular posts from this blog

1876 Redestruction: Supreme Court puts the final nail in the coffin of Reconstruction

  From the winner of 2019 Pulitzer Prize:  Frederick Douglass, Prophet of Freedom  by David W. Blight As the election neared in 1876, all knew the last vestiges of Reconstruction policies and regimes were at stake in the remaining "unredeemed" Southern states. In 1876 the project of Reconstruction, and perhaps the United States itself, were like a huge battleship slowly turning around as it lost power; once turning, it could hardly be stopped, even if the same group of officers remained at the helm.  That year the Supreme Court weakened the Reconstruction-era constitutional amendments by emasculating the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and revealing deficiencies in the Fifteenth Amendment.  In US v. Cruikshank, based on prosecutions for the horrible Colfax massacre of  1873, the Court overruled the conviction of Louisiana whites who had attacked a political meeting of blacks and conspired to deprive them of their rights.  The justices ruled that the Fourteenth

Bugs in the American Legal System

As an immigrant from India, I have always been very impressed with the American legal system. In over 17 years, I have not encountered grassroots corruption, have been treated courteously by those in power, and have seen the system work overall in favor of the individual. In particular, I've always seen the punitive damages system as a counter-balancing force that puts the "fear of God" in the minds of the rich & powerful corporations that would otherwise tend to trample the average citizen. I'm not so sure any more after I heard this program on NPR's Fresh Air today:  Reporter Explores America's Unique Take on Justice It discusses the news series in New York Times, by Adam Liptak, called  American Exceptions . The highlights of the series so far are: Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations’ The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but almost a quarter of its prisoners. Foreign Courts Wary of U.S. Punitive Damages For

It's a slow economy- Let's talk about handshakes & picking up chicks

You know it's a rough economy when Guy Kawasaki is tweeting about  picking up chicks  and TechCrunch is blogging about  handshakes & social etiquette  and  beating up dead horses . But shouldn't these guys be talking about my friend's company that just got funded to do  DNA computation in the cloud  - or something like that? [Originally posted on my personal blog at, May 09, 2009]