As the Civil War came to a close and Union victory seemed certain, President Abraham Lincoln and Congress began to look ahead toward the inevitable reunification of the Union. A plan for readmitting the Confederate states and rebuilding the South was necessary. Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction, which included the Ten Percent Plan, was considered to be too lenient by a Congress led by Radical Republicans who sought to punish Southern states and dissuade future rebellion.
The Wade-Davis Bill, proposed by Congressmen Benjamin F. Wade and Henry W. Davis, was a bill to impose strict and punishing Reconstruction policies on the defeated Confederate states. Passed by Congress in 1864, before the end of the Civil War, it was vetoed by President Lincoln. The Wade-Davis Bill required 50 percent of white voters in each Southern state to take the oath before their state could rejoin the Union. The bill also compelled former Confederate states to be governed by congressionally appointed military provisional governors. In addition, each state would be required to draft a new state constitution. This constitution would include provisions for outlawing slavery and secession and for prohibiting former Confederate officials from holding elected office or voting.
Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill in July 1864, but it was vetoed by President Lincoln and never became law. However, it served as a model for more radical plans for Reconstruction than President Johnson's Ten Percent Plan. This congressional plan was embodied in a series of bills passed called the Reconstruction Acts of 1867. The bills divided the South into five military districts and assigned federal troops to oversee law and order. Furthermore, they compelled the states to ratify the 14th Amendment and to uphold voting rights for all men, regardless of race. Conflict between Congress and the president grew out of these widely differing views of how best to deal with reconstructing the South.
Carpetbaggers and Scalawags
In the aftermath of the Civil War, some people from Northern states flocked to the South to take advantage of rebuilding efforts in the war-torn states. Southerners called such a person a carpetbagger. Though not representative of all Northerners who migrated south, these particular Northerners sought to benefit financially from the devastation in the former Confederacy and to influence politics in favor of Radical Republicans. The pejorative term carpetbaggers refers to suitcases carried by many of these Northern transplants, doubtless to be filled with money from their financial exploits in the South. In contrast to the carpetbaggers, who sought to take advantage of white Southerners and former slaves, other Northern transplants were genuinely interested in promoting the civil rights and education of African Americans. Yet white Southerners viewed Northern transplants on the whole as opportunists and resented their political and financial influence.
The Southern counterpart to the carpetbagger was the scalawag. A scalawag was a white Southerner who cooperated with the Radical Republican party and was supportive of federal involvement in Reconstruction. Many of those labeled with the derogatory term had opposed secession and remained sympathetic to the Union cause throughout the Civil War. The majority had not been slaveholders. As a group, scalawags were drawn to the Republican Party as a way to increase their political influence, which had been largely overshadowed by the planter elites. They sought to rebuild the South's economy and prevent the rise of any future rebellion.
African American Political Participation
In a few short years, black political influence began to wane. By 1872, Confederate elites, pardoned by Northern politicians, were again eligible to vote and hold public office. Growing intimidation by organized groups and laws designed to disenfranchise African American voters were successfully restricting voting rights. In the end, no African Americans were elected to Congress between 1901 and 1929.