Opposing Views On Reconstruction

Throughout the summer of 1865 Johnson had proceeded to carry out Lincoln's reconstruction program, with minor modifications. By presidential proclamation he appointed a governor for each of the seceded states and freely restored political rights to large numbers of southern citizens through use of the presidential pardoning power.

In due time conventions were held in each of the former Confederate states to repeal the ordinances of secession, repudiate the war debt, and draft new state constitutions. Eventually the people of each state elected a governor and a state legislature, and when the legislature of a state ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, the new state government was recognized and the state was back in the Union again.

By the end of 1865, this process, with a few exceptions, was completed. But the states that had seceded were not yet fully restored to their former positions within the Union because the Congress had not yet seated their U. S. Senators and Representatives, who were now coming to Washington to take their places in the federal legislature.

Both Lincoln and Johnson had foreseen that the Congress would have the right to deny southern legislators seats in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, under the clause of the Constitution that says: "Each house shall be the judge of the qualifications of its own members." This denial came to pass when, under the leadership of Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, those Congressmen who sought to punish the south refused to seat its duly elected Senators and Representatives. Then, within the next few months, the Congress proceeded to work out a plan of southern reconstruction quite different from the one Lincoln had started and Johnson had continued.