Reconstruction study sheetWhat was Andrew Johnson’s minimal reconstruction plan?In 1865 President Andrew Johnson implemented a plan of Reconstruction thatgave the white South a free hand in regulating the transition from slavery tofreedom and offered no role to blacks in the politics of the South. The conduct ofthe governments he established turned many Northerners against the president'spolicies.The end of the Civil War found the nation without a settled Reconstruction policy.In May 1865, President Andrew Johnson offered a pardon to all white Southernersexcept Confederate leaders and wealthy planters (although most of these laterreceived individual pardons), and authorized them to create new governments.Blacks were denied any role in the process. Johnson also ordered nearly all the land in thehands of the government returned to its prewar owners -- dashing black hope foreconomic autonomy.At the outset, most Northerners believed Johnson's plan deserved a chance to succeed.The course followed by Southern state governments under Presidential Reconstruction,however, turned most of the North against Johnson's policy. Members of the old Southernelite, including many who had served in the Confederate government and army, returnedto power.The new legislatures passed the Black Codes, severely limiting the former slaves' legalrights and economic options so as to force them to return to the plantations as dependentlaborers. Some states limited the occupations open to blacks. None allowed any blacks tovote, or provided public funds for their education.What did the “Radical” Republicans want in their morecomprehensive reconstruction plan?The Radical Republicans believed blacks were entitled to the same political rightsand opportunities as whites. They also believed that the Confederate leadersshould be punished for their roles in the Civil War. Leaders like PennsylvaniaREPRESENTATIVE THADDEUS STEVENSand Massachusetts SENATORCHARLES SUMNERvigorously opposed Andrew Johnson's lenient policies. Agreat political battle was about to unfold.
Americans had long been suspicious of the federal government playing too large arole in the affairs of state. But the Radicals felt that extraordinary times called fordirect intervention in state affairs and laws designed to protect the emancipatedblacks. At the heart of their beliefs was the notion that blacks must be given achance to compete in a free-labor economy. In 1866, this activist Congress alsointroduced a bill to extend the life of the Freedmen's Bureau and began work on aCIVIL RIGHTS BILL.President Johnson stood in opposition. He vetoed the Freedmen's Bureau Bill,claiming that it would bloat the size of government. He vetoed the Civil RightsBill rejecting that blacks have the "same rights of property and person" as whites.