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Reconstruction Abuses

The mortally wounded president had been carried to a house across the street from the theater. There Lincoln died at 7:22 the next morning. With him died any hope of malice toward none and charity for all. Booth murdered Lincoln to avenge the South. In fact, the South became the most thoroughly brutalized victim of the assassination.

As the war was winding down, President Lincoln had formulated plans to set up loyal governments in the Southern states as quickly as possible. New governments were, in fact, formed in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas, but Congress refused to recognize them. Radical Republicans, wishing to delay the restoration in part to keep Democrats out of Washington, passed the Wade-Davis Reconstruction Bill. This bill would have delayed the process of readmission to the Union pending the signature of loyalty oaths. Lincoln vetoed the measure.

After Lincoln was assassinated, his vice president, Andrew Johnson, modified the Wade-Davis plan by issuing amnesty to anyone who took an oath to be loyal to the Union in the future. Johnson required that the states ratify the 13th Amendment (which freed the slaves), abolish slavery in their own state constitutions, repudiate debts incurred while in rebellion, and declare secession null and void. By the end of 1865, all of the secessionist states, except for Texas, had complied.

Congress, however, was not satisfied with Johnsons program, which, Congress feared, restored power to the very individuals who had brought rebellion. Moreover, the readmitted states persisted in keeping former slaves in subservience. To correct this problem, Congress passed in 1866 the Freedmans Bureau Act and the Civil Rights Act, both intended to ensure African-American equality before the law. When Johnson vetoed these acts, Republicans responded by refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the Southern states and overrode the veto.

Republicans also introduced the 14th Amendment, declaring African-Americans to be citizens and prohibiting states from discriminating against any class of citizen. When the Southern state governments created under Johnsons plan refused to ratify the 14th Amendment, Congress passed a series of Reconstruction Acts in 1867, effectively placing the South under military occupation. African-Americans were quickly enfranchised, and Congress forced acceptance of the 14th Amendment by refusing to recognize new state governments until those governments had ratified it. Recognized Confederate leaders were specifically barred from participating in the creation of the new governments.


An Evening at Ford s Theatre | Complete Idiots Guide to American History | Articles of Impeachment







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