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pressive in appearance, correctly groomed. He even wore white spats after the English fashion, and English tweeds. He carried his fine head proudly to its great height. It was perhaps, natural that he should have failed to appreciate awkward great
But his egotism made his zeal offensive. Mere political opposition would never have antagonized Lincoln. Yet Sumner was so personally antipathetic to Lincoln, had so frequently clashed with the Executive where any degree of sympathy with the white men of the South was in question, and had so badgered him with instructions in season and out, that Lincoln had given orders to have him denied admission to the White House. Lincoln's secretary of war, also, was in sympathy with the extremists. Stanton had proved an exacting and autocratic subordinate, and it was only by the exercise of tact and patience that Lincoln had been able to make use of the war secretary's undoubted energy and ability. The extreme position, too, of the majority of Congress had in 1864 been shown in the Wade-Davis Bill, which assumed the right of Congress to prescribe the conditions to be fulfilled by the Southern States before they should be readmitted to the Union. When Lincoln let the bill go over the recess without his signature, the authors of the measure had loudly protested against such "usurpation of authority" on the part of the executive branch of the government. And Gideon Welles is authority for the statement that, as to the reconstruction of the Southern States, "Mr. Lincoln had no intention of calling on Congress,"
Thus, even before the accession of Andrew Johnson, the situation was charged with political dynamite. A sick nation waited in suspense for his first official act, but the Confederacy waited in despair. And this was all the greater since the death of Lincoln had called attention to the magnanimity of the gesture toward restoration that he had already made. But Johnson hated the "Southern aristocrats" who had, he said, led the masses into the war and needlessly prolonged the struggle. He had risen to national prominence through championship of the "poor whites." And because of his Union activities, his family had been driven from home and he himself, a hunted man, protected only by his pistol and his reckless bravery. He had a score to settle. What could the South expect from Andy Johnson but savage reprisals? It would need the chivalry of a higher social order than his, the gallant spirit of a gentleman to put aside the sweetness of the revenge within his grasp. No man of the President's coarse origin could be expected, now that he was in the saddle, to lift the fallen enemy at his feet.
The scheduled "revenge" came quickly. The first stroke was the Amnesty Proclamation of May 29. This restored rights to all property except slaves, and applied without penalty to all Confederates who would take the oath of allegiance to the National Government, with certain excepted classes, these classes embracing in general, the leaders of the Confederacy. The sole evidence of Andrew Johnson's theory that the "Southern aristocrats" were wholly to blame for the war was the
inclusion in this class of men whose possessions amounted to twenty thousand dollars or more. And with that class as with the others, machinery was immediately set up whereby pardon could be separately sued for. Investigation of petitions for the granting of pardons became part of the routine work of the Executive Office. By June, 1866, one thousand, nine hundred and sixty-three pardons had been granted.
This necessitated an enormous amount of work. There were special cases to be investigated; records searched; deputations received. There are constant fears expressed in Welles's diary that the President was overtaxing his health; the statement of White House employees that Andrew Johnson worked more hours a day and more days than any predecessor; the local newspaper announcement on November eleventh, that the President had spent his first holiday wandering around the White House grounds. The Executive Office had to be expanded. Six secretaries were employed instead of two, and as many clerks were detailed from the War Department. Modern business methods were introduced, with letterpress records of correspondence and a large collection of press-clippings made at the direction of the President. There were frequent cabinet meetings and constant informal conferences with cabinet officers. The general public, free to consult him between ten and three, monopolized those hours. There were many receptions for the public and a perfect army of hungry office-seekers to appease, a full program of official dinners, conscientious labor over
messages and short addresses, all of which, as Welles observed with misgiving, the President refused to delegate and insisted on doing himself.
The next move was much like a declaration of war on the Northern extremists, the "radicals" in the language of the day. During the summer and early fall when Congress was not in session, the President proceeded with the reconstruction of the seceded States under the Loyal Tenth plan of Lincoln, already experimented with in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. This tentative method of reconstruction was based on the principle, held by Lincoln even before the beginning of the war, and strewed by the radicals as well, that it was inherent in the Constitution that the union of the States could not be broken. This being the case, the Confederacy had been but a combination of individuals in rebellion against constituted authority, and never out of the Union. Therefore, according to Lincoln's reconstruction policy, when any nucleus of loyalty, were it no more than a tenth of the population of the State, would take the oath of allegiance to the United States, that organization should be recognized as the Government of that State. And after it had repealed the Ordinance of Secession, ratified the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery, and repudiated State debts incurred in prosecuting the war, its duly elected representatives and senators should be admitted to the National Congress. Before acting President Johnson had sent General Grant on a tour through the South to make a survey of conditions. The General
It is not surprising, since the Johnson Government neither punished the States for their rebellion nor recognized federal control over the welfare of the freedmen, that the radicals were enraged, or that they devoted the recess to informing their constituents of the full enormity of the President's action. As for the South, men drew a long breath of incredulous hope and went to work to organize and to elect their ablest and best to represent them in Washington. The mass of reasoning men who subordinate passion to honest desire for the general welfare of their country, suspended judgment.
The opening of Congress in December, 1865, found the representatives and senators of the States so lately in rebellion, waiting at their doors. The radicals were still further enraged to discover that the majority of these were men who had been the Confederate leaders in the late war. It is easy to see that this would appear anything but the proper humility of a conquered people; but it is equally difficult to understand how the South could have chosen otherwise since virtually no men of character or ability among them had not been leaders in the war. In any case, Congress certainly had the last word. The "Johnson Governments" were not recognized nor were their congressmen admitted. Even the President's own Tennessee, whose record he was so proud of, was
And, Senator Sumner having pronounced General Grant's report on Southern conditions a "white-washing message," its information was ignored. The Republican leaders had no desire to have their conviction of the depravity of the South changed. They now had a majority large enough to pass any bill over the President's veto. They had no intention of imperiling that majority by the admission of Democratic votes from the solid South.
In the country at large however, the President's message to Congress, advocating these policies, immediately gained wide support. In the newspapers and in the conversation of dispassionate citizens everywhere, Andrew Johnson at once gained a position as statesman which he had never occupied before. Such men as George Bancroft, the historian, indorsed his attitude, and across the water, English newspapers compared him with the Northern "partizans" very much to their disadvantage. The only dissenting voice came from the radical press and the radical Congress.
The Republican majority, having the whip-hand, proceeded to wield it. They passed two bills which indicated the abolitionist attitude on the problem of the recently emancipated slaves: The Freedman's Bureau and the Civil Rights' Acts. Both of these the North very generally considered necessary humanitarian measures, guaranteeing the negroes personal and property rights and protecting them in domicile and in independent labor. If it were true that there could be no hope of fair or humane treatment of the slaves from their former masters, some such legislation was
inevitable. And, as to the hope of anything but cruelty from the average slave-owner, the non-slave-holder whose inexperience fed upon such pictures of slavery as were presented in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," could not be expected to be optimistic. Both of these bills the President vetoed, but the radical majority was strong enough to pass them over his veto.
Thus the issue was joined between the Executive and Congress. The most disorganizing of all possible situations was created: a division between the two departments of Government which, in time of national crisis, must be depended on for prompt action. And this was a time of national crisis.
Where each contestant is passionately convinced he is in the right, valid opinion must depend on the dispassionate judgment of those unconcerned in the issue. And these must take into account both the abstract right or wrong of the issues involved and the underlying motives of those supporting them. Sectional feeling is virtually dead, and the unrelenting logic of events has rendered judgment on much that was in 1865 the subject of bitter controversy. It may be that the time has come to form that impartial opinion as to the opposing policies of the reconstruction period, upon which the permanent place of Andrew Johnson in the history of our country, must depend.
The central constitutional feature of the radical program was that it took the solution of the freedman problem away from the States and put it into the hands of a bureaucracy of Northerners, setting up machinery in Washington to control
The "Johnson Governments" on the other hand, put the whole responsibility for rebuilding the fabric of the Southern States squarely upon the shoulders of the people of the South. There was to be as little time lost in restoring former relations between State and Federal Government as was humanly possible: energy was to be concentrated on healing wounds, not on further punishment. State and local affairs were to be administered by State and County organizations; the problem of developing free laborers from exslaves was squarely up to those who were responsible for slavery.
It is probable that very few would be found to-day to question the assertion that even this first reconstruction legislation was based upon wrong administrative principles and upon a misunderstanding of human psychology. Even if that were not so, the complete failure of the Freedman's Bureau Freedman's Bureau to solve its problem and the chaotic labor conditions created by the Civil Rights' Bill furnish the evidence that, in this first conflict over reconstruction
policies, the President's was the sounder side.
As to the motives of the radical leaders, they were very much what might have been expected. There was, undoubtedly, sincere concern for the welfare of the freedmen. But there was also conviction that some form of punishment should be inflicted upon their beaten enemies. It was also natural that the North should feel that ex-slave owners were not fit to be trusted with the initiation of the negroes into freedom. In matters of State policy, however, it is to be questioned whether following mere "natural" feeling can be considered statesmanship, radical leaders had neglected to acquaint themselves with the actual conditions and had disavowed actual conditions when they were revealed.
Concerning Johnson's remarkable reversal of the policy expected of him by those who had heard him denounce the "Southern aristocrats," explanation seems to be as necessary to-day as it was when the radicals and the Confederates were alike astounded. Johnson's cabinet was not in doubt of the facts, neither was Ward Lamon, Lincoln's friend, nor the people about Johnson. He was a passionate Constitutionalist. Even Welles-inclined as he is to doubt if any one but himself, is really devoted to the Constitution-writes in his diary about the President: "Honest, patriotic, devoted to his duties, he would not lend himself to the radicals to exclude the States, nor to the Democratic party to secede from the Union, but has stood, as it were, alone, on the constitutional policy of Lincoln and himself."
carry out the policy that Lincoln
It was not, however, personal loyalty only, that made Johnson the upholder of Lincoln's policy, even though Lincoln's steady support of the war governor of East Tennessee might well have made a merely Johnson conceived it his duty to partizan man an unquestioning fol