Professor David Blight: Reconstruction is that period of
American history that I think still--I know still--is
short-shrifted in the ways people tend to learn American
history in this society, for whatever the reasons.
Part of the reason may be that it's messy and complicated,
and part of the reason may be that it's full of violence,
and part of the reason may be that it's just not as easy to
find good heroes, and part of the reason may be
that it comes after such a total, all out,
and some may say, in so many ways a glorious war.
Or as Kenneth Stampp, a great historian,
once put it, until 1865 there was glory
enough to go around, but after 1865 where was the
glory? It's also been a period in
which we've almost insisted--and I wonder just how you have
learned about this before; if this were a smaller class I
would ask you--but it's as though our culture still
insists, from this period of our
history, that it be a melodrama, some kind of melodrama with,
well, a sufficient number of heroes and a sufficient number
of villains, and a melodrama that usually ends up with a
story of an oppressed South, much in need of our sympathy.
Now, I've put a piece of words up here in front of you.
I walked back to see if you could read it.
I do think most of you in the room can read it.
Just hold onto the papers until the end, please.
This is the Thirteenth Amendment.
We're going to look at the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth
today, or at least I'll get you up to the Fourteenth Amendment.
If the Civil War and Reconstruction were a second
founding--and I'll put the "if" on that,
although for the next three weeks I'm going to argue
that--if it was a second founding,
a second revolution of some kind, that second founding is in
the Thirteenth, the Fourteenth,
the Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Read the Thirteenth with me. It's the simplest,
shortest--other than the actual parts of the Bill of
Rights--it's the simplest, shortest amendment in the U.S.
Constitution. It outlaws slavery and
involuntary servitude, except for imprisonment for
crime. And then it has that very,
very simple Section Two: "Congress shall have power to
enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
That is almost, in some ways,
a précis for what Reconstruction will become.
What will constitute appropriate legislation to
enforce black freedom? I put it up today in part,
too, because just this weekend I was out lecturing in
Springfield, Illinois at the new Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library; and it's a magnificent place if
you haven't been there. It's a museum full of lots of
wax figures. There's at least one life size
wax of Lincoln in every bloody room, sometimes two of them,
and then they use holograms and he appears all over the place.
It's a little weird and scary. But at the end of the whole day
and evening they took me down in the vault and asked me if I
wanted to see some special documents and special
possessions. They showed me one of Lincoln's
three existing top hats, they showed me the cast of his
hand; I got to touch.
They showed me personal notes he wrote to pardon deserters
from the Union Army. They showed me all kinds of
things. But one of the things they
showed me was the original draft, the handwritten draft by
the clerk of the House of Representatives,
of the Thirteenth Amendment, and then signed by "A.
Lincoln" and most of the members of the House,
at least those who chose to sign it.
And I realized, "damn, that thing is real."
And maybe someday I can live to see the Fourteenth Amendment.
Back to the Fourteenth in a moment.
Sorry about that, that's not the Fourteenth
Amendment, that's just the outline.
Now, a few overall thoughts on Reconstruction,
to just give you some hooks to hang your hat on before we look
back again at this question of Reconstruction during the war,
and then after Lincoln's death the fight that ensues,
quickly, between the new president,
Andrew Johnson, and the Congressional
leadership that the Republican Party--soon now to be known as
the Radical Republicans--and what will become a great
constitutional crisis over who will control Reconstruction and
what Reconstruction will be. Reconstruction,
though, is often seen--it is indeed an era of almost
gargantuan aspirations, if you think about what they
were trying to achieve, and tragic failures.
But it's also an era of sudden and unprecedented legal,
political, and constitutional change.
It's also a period of tremendous social and political
violence. We've never experienced
anything in America--other than sanctioned war,
which the Civil War of course had been--we've never,
ever experienced social and political violence on the scale
which you'll see in Reconstruction.
In fact there's a whole batch of books coming out now on
Reconstruction violence, and I suspect this has a lot to
do with living in the age of terrorism;
publishers are really promoting the subject.
You're reading one of them that's just been out a year or
two by Nicholas Lemann called Redemption.
More on that in a week or two. In another way,
Reconstruction was one long, ten, eleven year agonizing
referendum on the meaning of the war.
What had the war meant? That's what Reconstruction was
trying to explain, trying to settle,
trying to codify.
What had actually been the verdict at Appomattox?
When Lee surrendered and then Johnston surrendered and the
Confederate Army surrendered, what was the verdict?
Who got to determine it? Who had really won the war,
and what had they won? What cause had lost?
Now, someone really won this war and someone really lost this
war. This is not one of those wars
where you can say, "You know, nobody ever wins a
Union victory is real, Confederate defeat was
virtually total, in a military sense.
But what was the South to lose? One of the greatest challenges
of Reconstruction was to determine how you take this
massive, national blood feud,
of unimaginable scale that's beginning, and then reconcile it
into a new nation?
The problem, in part, is that the survivors
on both sides in this war would still have to inhabit the same
land and the same country. It wasn't as though an actual
foreign country had been conquered and defeated.
It was part of North America, it was part of the U.S.--or
soon to be New U.S. of some kind.
And the side that lost is going to have to in time inhabit the
same government. How?
Where do you go in precedent? Where do you in history?
Where do you go in the Constitution?
Where do you look this up, to put Humpty Dumpty back
Put another way, the task was how to make the
eventual logic of sectional reconciliation--knitting North
and South back together--how to make the eventual logic of
sectional reconciliation somehow compatible with the logic of
that revolution that was put in place in 1863--or in other
And by logic, I mean you have to put North
and South back together, but you also now have to deal
with the fact the slaves have been freed to some new status.
Got to do both.
Put another way, how do you square black freedom
and all the stirrings of--the possibility at least--of racial
equality now with that cause, in the South,
that had lost everything--except its faith in
white supremacy? How do you fold black freedom
into white supremacy? How do you fold white supremacy
into black freedom? Can they ever be--could those
ever be reconciled? And what if they can't?
Lincoln spoke of a testing in the Gettysburg Address--if you
remember the famous speech--testing whether that
nation or any nation so conceived could long endure.
The testing of the war in some ways would become easier than
the testing the country would now face with Reconstruction.
Or finally put yet another way--and I wrote about this at
too much length in a book called Race and Reunion--the
challenge of Reconstruction, and it's the challenge we've
had ever since, is how do you do two profound
things at the same time? One was healing and the other
was justice. How do you have them both?
What truly constitutes healing of a people, of a nation,
that's suffered this scale of violence and destruction,
and how do you have justice? And justice for whom?
Here's what Lincoln said, next-to-the-last day of his
life; no, three days before he was
shot. It was his last public
utterance, from a balcony at the White House.
He was discussing Reconstruction.
His audience that day wanted to just hear about the glories of
the ending of the war, and he gave them a little mini
lecture on Reconstruction because it's precisely what he
was dealing with. He said this:
"Reconstruction is pressed much more closely upon our attention
now. It is fraught with great
difficulty. Unlike the case of a war
between independent nations, there is no authorized organ
for us to treat with. No one man has authority to
give up the rebellion for any other man.
We simply must begin with, and mold from,
disorganized and discordant elements, with all.
So new and unprecedented is the whole case that no exclusive and
inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to detail,
but important principles must be inflexible."
That's classic Lincoln. "No one plan must we
necessarily commit to, but we must stick to some
principles." It's Lincoln the pragmatist
trying to figure it out. And then he's dead.
But back to wartime, at least for a few minutes.
The debate over Reconstruction, as it will play out through the
next three years, four years, really five years,
up to 1870/71, is the debate that ensued
between Lincoln and his own party leadership in Congress,
as early as late 1863. Here's Lincoln's plan again,
and you can read all of this in Foner's Short
History of Reconstruction,
but let me give it to you at least in brief terms.
You'll remember I said the other day that Lincoln wanted
Reconstruction to be presidential,
lenient, and quick. He was openly friendly to
Southerners his whole life, as I suppose everybody knows.
His four brother-in-laws had fought for the Confederacy,
et cetera, et cetera. He was born in Kentucky.
He did not really have any kind of personal vindictiveness
towards Southerners the way many others in the Republican Party
will have; and they'll have reasons to
have that. Some have argued,
as Kenneth Stampp once did, that Lincoln actually had a
deep personal need for personal absolution;
that he carried this horrifying burden of all that death,
and that he took it as his personal responsibility,
and that this charity for all and malice toward none,
and the leniency in Lincoln's Reconstruction ideas is somehow
rooted in that sense of personal responsibility for all the
suffering. There may be something to that.
But his Reconstruction policy, such as he put it in place,
at least for awhile, was rooted in his
Constitutional philosophy. Lincoln, number one,
believed secession had never happened, that secession was
essentially impossible, a state could not secede from
the Union. He chose language carefully,
as a good lawyer. He said as states,
the Southern states, the Confederate states,
were still in the Union, technically,
during the war. Even though they seceded,
they were simply, in his language,
out of their normal relationship to the Union;
whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.
And they fought this total war against the United States but
they were not really out of the Union.
Now that's a legal position, rest assured.
He made a distinction between states and governments.
He said that governments may have failed and committed--he
never used the word treason--made rebellion against
the United States, but as states,
an Alabama never ceased to exist.
Okay. He's famous for saying things
like "physically we cannot separate."
His idea was to squash the rebellion, let a number of loyal
citizens, in one of those seceded states,
create a new loyal government, restore that state to the Union
as quickly as possible, even before the war ends,
by presidential authority, under presidential war powers,
and begin a process before you'd ever have a surrender of
what he was already calling restoration,
He wanted it done by executive authority.
That wasn't necessarily a personal power grab by any means
but he wanted to do it under presidential war powers,
because he did understand, to the extent anybody could
predict the future, that once the war did end,
Congress's powers would rise. A president is never so
powerful as in time of war.
Now, pause with me for a moment. What they're all thinking about
now--Lincoln, the Republican leadership of
Congress, anybody thinking about
Reconstruction, during the war or even in the
immediate aftermath--is really thinking about a set of
questions, somewhat like those big
questions I started with, but more specifically.
This is what they have to think about now.
And if you think American statesmen have been challenged
at other times in our history, how would you like to have this
challenge? Three main questions.
(1) Who would rule in the South, who?
Who gets to vote? Who gets to hold office;
ex-Confederates, black people,
whites who'd been loyal? How do you determine this?
(2) Who will rule in the federal government,
Congress or the President, in this unprecedented blank
slate set of issues? The country had never faced
this before. How do you reconstruct a Union?
How do you re-admit states into the Union?
There's no blueprint in the Constitution.
There are hints, depending on how you interpret
it. And (3) what will the
dimensions of black freedom be, in law and in practice and in
social life, on the ground, in the South?
All the while remembering this all must occur now in these
desperate conditions of poverty, destruction,
starvation and tremendous untold, as yet not even fully
fathomed, bitterness and hatred.
Or let me give you one last little question.
I love asking questions I don't have to stand up right now and
answer. Would Reconstruction be a
preservation of something old, or the creation of something
truly new? And if it's going to be new,
Back to the war years. Lincoln issued,
on December 8,1863, his State of the Union or
annual message--part of his annual message--what he called
the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction.
It was issued December '63. Remember the dates here,
because this first major debate on Reconstruction is going to
occur in some of the most terrible months of the war,
and yet in Washington they're also having this debate.
There were several parts to this, but three main ones.
It's Lincoln's classic lenient, rapid, moderate and
presidential Reconstruction. It's called the Ten-Percent
Plan. He, number one,
would pardon all ex-Confederates,
with a certain list of exceptions.
High-ranking Confederate officials--although he didn't
entirely clarify how high ranking--they wouldn't be
pardoned, at least yet. He would not pardon those who
had resigned commissions in the judiciary or in Congress,
to support the Confederacy.
And he put in a clause that said he would not pardon those
who could be convicted of mistreating black soldiers,
of which there'd been a great deal of, and he was under some
pressure to do something about that,
by late '63. And then he said when ten
percent of the voting population of a given Southern state--and
that voting population was determined by how many voters in
1860--when ten percent of the male voting population--because
that's the only people who could vote--would take an oath to the
Union and establish a new government,
then he as president, under presidential war powers,
would recognize them and readmit them to the Union,
just like that. Blacks were excluded from the
entire process. There was no mention,
at that point, of any black suffrage.
He wants ten percent. Now, right away members of his
own party and Congress are saying, "Wait a second Mr.
President, what about the other ninety percent?"
Well Lincoln's idea was if you can establish a pocket of people
in lower Louisiana or upland Alabama,
or part of Virginia that the Union troops occupy,
and you get, if you can get ten percent of
that state to take a loyalty oath and elect some kind of
little rump legislature that can meet somewhere,
like Wheeling, West Virginia,
where they did for awhile, then he would call that the
real Virginia, or the real Louisiana,
and they'd be back in the Union.
And his idea was that you would begin then a political process
of reunification. A political process would
already be in place, as messy as it might be,
as seemingly undemocratic as it might be, before the war would
end. This actually happened.
Well he didn't--they didn't get admitted to the Union,
but so-called Lincoln governments were established in
three states, again where Union armies had
significant occupation of the soil of that state--Louisiana,
Tennessee and Arkansas--and so-called Lincoln governments
were created there, in 1864 and early 1865.
They were pitifully weak governments.
They would've collapsed entirely without federal troops
to protect them, and Lincoln did this utterly
without consulting with Congress.
And we like to make a great deal of Abraham Lincoln as the
greatest president, and he was;
a political genius, and he was; magical with the music of
words, and he was; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
And I was just out at the Lincoln Library where you can be
sure Lincoln is God. But not consulting with
Congress on this one wasn't the wisest thing he ever did.
Congress began to react with great hostility,
in 1864. Some Radical Republicans
sincerely believed that these new Lincoln governments were not
only wrong and undemocratic, but dangerous,
and they wanted much, much more to even consider the
reconstruction of a Southern state,
on any basis. They were led--they being the
Republicans in Congress--by the two men on your right,
Thaddeus Stevens on the top and Charles Sumner on the bottom.
Stevens, a Congressman from Pennsylvania who grew up and
lived near Gettysburg; fascinating,
interesting, driven, passionate,
complicated, club-footed man;
a brilliant lawyer, and a radical,
and an old abolitionist, although he had some
complications along the way. Stevens and Sumner.
Sumner the great Senator from Massachusetts--the Sumner who
had had the brains nearly beaten out of him by Preston Brooks in
the Senate in 1856, who left the Senate for nearly
three and a half years and went all over the world to spas to
try to put his head back together,
including spending most of a year in Switzerland--was very,
very much back in the game during the war;
and he rose in power, of course, as the emancipation
issue rose to the fore, as did Stevens.
And the two of them led the response to Lincoln's ideas on
Reconstruction from the two different houses of Congress.
They had different names for their proposals,
but they essentially argued the same thing;
although Sumner's, you could argue,
was even more radical. Stevens called his approach,
or his constitutional approach, conquered provinces.
He said not only did the Southern states secede from the
Union, they should be reverted to the status of unorganized
territories; or, even further he went,
he said now they're not only going to have to be put under
territorial status, but they should be treated like
a foreign nation that the United States has conquered,
a conquered province of a foreign land.
They had been reduced by force of arms, they had made war upon
the United States, and under international law,
Stevens argued, they should be treated as,
quote, his words, "conquered foreign
land," subject to whatever the United States shall choose to do
with it. Sumner, for his part,
called this theory--it was even more direct--State Suicide.
That was pretty clear. He said not only had the
Southern states seceded from the Union, they committed political
suicide. They do not exist.
They experienced what he called, in his words,
"instant forfeiture of their status as states."
They therefore must be reverted to what he called "the status of
unorganized territories," as though Alabama was back in
1820, Virginia was back in 1787, or whatever year they
officially became a state--I'm sorry,
before that even, during the Revolution.
And therefore, in both cases,
Stevens or Sumner's plan, all authority to re-admit any
Southern state or determine the process,
the means by which, the laws by which a state would
be re-instituted into the Union, came under Congressional
authority because only Congress has the power to readmit new
states. Take that, Abraham Lincoln.
They issued this theory to Lincoln in what was known as the
Wade-Davis Bill in July--4^(th) of July to be exact--1864.
Note the date. This is in the midst of the
stalemate in Virginia; it's just after Cold Harbor;
Grant has just begun to put Petersburg under siege;
the terrible bloodletting in Virginia is coming in and the
thousands and thousands of names on casualty lists,
and Congress issues what's known as the Wade-Davis Bill,
named for Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio,
a strong anti-slavery Radical Republican, and Henry Winter
Davis, a Congressman from Maryland,
also of at least moderate anti-slavery credentials.
What you have here is the blueprint of Radical
Reconstruction, at least the beginning
blueprint. The Wade-Davis Bill said,
they took--the first part of it--was they took Lincoln's
Ten-Percent idea, ten percent of the voting
population of a Southern state, and they required a majority of
white male citizens of a Southern state who must,
secondly, take what the Radicals called an Ironclad
Oath, and that oath said that they had to get up and swear
they had never participated in the Confederate war effort or
aided and abetted it.
Now, immediately you're wondering how in hell are you
going to find a majority of the white males of Georgia,
or Alabama, or Mississippi, or any other Confederate state
that can get up and take that oath?
The answer is you couldn't. To the congressional leadership
that was just fine for now. The Ironclad Oath was a
political message, it was a symbolic oath.
They knew you'd never get a majority of whites who could
take this. The third part,
they said all officers above the rank of lieutenant,
and all civil officers of all kinds in the Confederacy would
not only be not pardoned, they would be disfranchised
forever, declared not--the actual language in the bill was,
"not a citizen of the United States."
It was almost as though they were giving every office holder,
every officer, lieutenant and above,
who was still alive in the South, an invitation to leave
the country, because if they stayed in
America they would be men without a country.
They did not set up, in spite of the lore that's set
in over the years, a plan of arrest,
indictments, and executions.
They didn't do that at all. But they did decide they were
going to treat the Southern states as conquered enemies.
They sent the bill to Lincoln, and Lincoln did what many
presidents have done, he gave it a pocket veto.
You know what that is. He simply let the bill die
without either signing it, or vetoing it,
or to some extent even answering it;
although he did finally answer it.
He answered it actually four days after the bill was
delivered to him, in what he titled "The
Proclamation on the Wade-Davis Bill."
And this was a classic Lincolnesque statement as well.
It was conciliatory. He thanked them profusely for
their work on this sensitive and terrible issue,
and he didn't completely reject it.
He refused, he said, to be, quote,
"inflexibly committed to any one plan."
"Okay Abe, but what are you committed to?"
is what congressmen began to say.
He was verbally willing to listen, but he really did not
placate the Radicals. They had an impasse here,
a big impasse. And note how deep the impasse
is, it's constitutional. Who's going to run
Reconstruction? Me, the president,
or you the Congress? Well, the congressional
leadership followed Lincoln's little Proclamation on the
Wade-Davis Bill with what they called The Wade-Davis Manifesto,
and they published it in national newspapers.
It was published on August 5,1864.
It was an unprecedented, vehement attack on a sitting
president by the leadership in Congress of his own party.
They lambasted Lincoln. They attacked him on two
grounds. They said his approach to
Reconstruction was simply way too lenient--and they're arguing
this now in August of 1864, with these thousands upon
thousands of casualties flowing in.
This is the very time Lincoln comes to believe he's not likely
to be re-elected. And there were some members in
particularly the Radical wing of the Republican Party who'd been
laboring to dump Lincoln from the ticket all summer,
and probably could've succeeded in doing it if there wasn't so
much at stake.
And they went a second step. They actually accused him of
usurpation of presidential powers, an impeachable offense
if anyone ever cared to take it any further step.
Here's the key, as the dispute emerged that
summer. Lincoln viewed Reconstruction
as a means to weakening the Confederacy and winning the war.
Think of it as a political strategy, that ten percent idea,
trying to get some fledgling little state legislature and
government, somehow get two or three of
them into the Union. It was a strategy,
and not a blueprint written in stone for the way Reconstruction
would always be. But to the Radical Republicans,
they viewed this as a much more far-reaching transformation in a
building really of a new nation, when and if they could win the
war. They really were at an impasse.
Now you know from our previous lectures and your reading that
the fall of Mobile Bay on August 5,
the same day as the Wade-Davis Manifesto, Admiral Farragut took
Mobile Bay. That had a tremendous impact on
public opinion. Then on September 3 or 4
Atlanta fell. It had an even greater impact
on public opinion. And of course you've got the
presidential race now happening in the fall, and Lincoln is
re-elected. This impasse on Reconstruction,
though, basically just sat there until Lincoln's death.
In the meantime he cooperated, and so did they,
on two tremendous pieces of legislation, on two great
enactments. One is the Thirteenth
Amendment, which we just discussed;
and I want to come back to that in a moment.
Well actually I'll mention it now.
The fact that it got passed is fairly remarkable;
that it got passed at all is fairly remarkable.
It is, first of all, an amendment that Lincoln
himself by late '64 began to advocate,
especially after his re-election, vehemently
advocate, and it's something exactly that the Radical
Republicans want. They were absolutely on the
same page on it. And the reason Lincoln
was--well he had moral reasons to believe slavery should now be
eradicated in the Constitution, make no mistake.
But he also had reason to want this Constitutional Amendment
because he feared, and rightly so,
that if the war ended, with only the Emancipation
Proclamation as the legal sanction for all those freed
slaves, that there would be nothing to
stop Southerners from thousands upon thousands of law suits in
federal courts, suing under Fifth Amendment for
their property. And it would've--it did happen,
to some extent anyway, but if you can get it in the
Constitution as a constitutional amendment,
then they would have no right to sue for property that is no
So a lot was at stake. They wanted a Thirteenth
Amendment because of the potential invalidity of the
Emancipation Proclamation legally;
they wanted to remove legal doubt.
And you'll remember that the Proclamation had only freed
slaves in the states in rebellion.
Technically slaves in Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware,
Maryland, were still in a kind of limbo.
It passed the House of Representatives on January
31,1865, but it was not easy. You might think you live in the
United States of America and of course there'd be a Thirteenth
Amendment--finally, of course, we would outlaw
slavery in the Constitution. The vote was 119 to 56;
it passed by two votes--it takes a two-thirds majority for
a constitutional amendment--it passed by two votes.
Lincoln began to twist arms; he began to have personal
meetings with a select little list of Democrats.
They didn't have a two-thirds majority of Republicans.
They needed some Democrats to vote for this.
And by far the majority of Democrats wanted nothing to do
with outlawing slavery in the Constitution,
but about eight of them came over.
And on the day that it was passed there was unprecedented
rejoicing in the House of Representatives.
The whole hall was full; congressmen,
we're told, started yelling, crying, hugging each other,
dancing on the tops of their desks--God knows why,
in part because of the importance, the gravity of the
issue, and in part perhaps because they'd lived through so
much agony in the war, they truly had something to
celebrate. You have to go to individual
diaries and letters to really see it.
There was a Republican who recorded in his diary that day,
quote, "Members joined in the shouting and kept it up for some
minutes. Some embraced one another.
Others wept like children. I have felt ever since the vote
as though I live in a new country."
Frederick Douglass's son, Lewis, veteran of the 54^(th)
Massachusetts, in his uniform was sitting in
the balcony, on the afternoon the Thirteenth Amendment was
passed. His father was back home in
Rochester. He immediately wrote his father
a note, that I've read. It said, "Father,
you should've been here today. Today was your day."
And then at the same time that Congress, with Lincoln's strong
approval, worked on a bill to create the Freedmen's Bureau,
an unprecedented agency in American history,
certainly to that time. Formerly called the Bureau of
Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, it passed Congress on the
3^(rd) of March, 1865, just a day before
Lincoln's Second Inaugural. It was social reform by
military force. Americans had never done this
before--a national, federal, social welfare agency,
in a land that had lived and breathed laissez-faire
government; in a land that had lived and
breathed this idea that governments don't provide food
for people, people provide food for people, healthcare,
schools. Well the war,
of course, had forced a new kind of history.
The basic purposes of the Freedmen's Bureau,
when it was set up, was to aid refugees and
displaced people, black or white.
And the estimate--and I may have used this before--the
estimate on the ground in the South,
by late winter 1865, was that there were at least a
quarter million totally displaced starving white people;
much less the four million soon to be liberated slaves.
The Freedmen's Bureau was to provide all kinds of physical
supplies, medical services, schools where it could.
Its purpose was also legal, to supervise contracts between
freedmen and employees--more on that later.
And its job--and this was an impossible task--but its job and
its title was to manage confiscated and abandoned land.
Yes, property. But who really owns it now?
If the Union Army took your plantation, who owns it?
And there is nothing more primal, of course,
especially to Americans, than property.
Now, more on the Freedmen's Bureau later,
but it was a terribly important piece of legislation.
It passed with majorities in both houses, of course,
because the Republicans had those majorities,
and Lincoln gladly signed it, and it established,
at least, an agency to be put in place once the war was over.
Now, let me take the last few minutes and set up what is now
to happen between old Andrew Johnson and this same leadership
of the Radical Republicans once Lincoln was gone.
This is the classic struggle of Reconstruction,
Johnson and the Radicals. Now first of all,
how did Andrew Johnson get on Lincoln's ticket?
Why did Abraham Lincoln choose Andrew Johnson as his running
mate? I've often put this to major
Lincoln scholars. Now look, I confess,
I'm a great admirer of Lincoln, like most people.
But he couldn't do everything perfectly.
And he gave us Andrew Johnson, and we've never held him
responsible for that. And I'm not willing to give him
a total pass on that one, because Andrew Johnson ranks
down there just about minus two on the list of presidents,
I think, of all time.
Well how's that for directness? Sorry about that.
If you're an Andrew Johnson fan, you're lonely.
[laughter] He's on the ticket in '64
because--you know this?--he's the only senator from a seceded
Confederate state who didn't secede with a state.
He stayed in the Union, from Tennessee.
He's a complicated guy. God, he could've been
interesting. He had some big flaws.
I'm going to leave you with a little background on Andrew
Johnson. As you can tell from the
syllabus I've put myself nearly a full lecture behind in the
course, but don't you worry,
because we're planning for Reading Week a special review
session when I can give another lecture.
Aren't you happy? There's an old saying about
Andrew Johnson that, quote, "old Andy never went
back on his raisin'," his raising up.
He's from East Tennessee. He was born in North Carolina.
He grew up illiterate. He once owned eleven slaves,
although he did free them. He moved to East Tennessee with
his wife, Polly, who taught him his literacy.
He grew up a Jacksonian Democrat.
His God was Andrew Jackson. If lovers of the New Deal
believe FDR was somehow the son of God, as my grandparents did,
Andrew Johnson thought Andrew Jackson was the son of God.
In 1861 he was the only Southern senator who did not
secede with his state. In 1862 Lincoln appointed him
the War Governor of Tennessee, in the occupied parts of
Tennessee, out of which Lincoln eventually
was going to--he did try to create a new government.
Andrew Johnson was his governor. It took tremendous courage to
be a Unionist in Tennessee during the Civil War.
There was a lot of Unionism in East Tennessee,
and in '64 Lincoln needed a border state running mate.
After all, who had been his running mate before?
Totally forgettable I realize; no one ever remembers the
vice-presidents from--anybody remember vice-presidents from
the twentieth century? Only those who get Nobel Prizes
do we really remember I guess. But Hannibal Hamlin of New
Hampshire had been Lincoln's running mate.
Now what good is a New Hampshirite on the ticket in
'64? A New Hampshirite was useful in
'60 but not in '64. So he dumps Hannibal Hamlin,
in spite of the alliteration of his name, and goes for a
political choice. What could send a better
Unionist message to the border states than Andrew Johnson,
the only Southern senator who doesn't secede from his seat?
Well, all was pretty well, at least until the
inauguration. Andrew Johnson,
unfortunately, was drunk at his inauguration
as Vice-President of the United States.
Now his explanation for that is that he had a terrible tooth
infection and he'd been sloshing down whiskey all morning.
But they literally had to stand him up, prop him up and point
him in the right direction, and practically raise his hand.
On the day he was inaugurated, when Lincoln delivered the
Second Inaugural, AJ had to be removed to a back
room. Not an auspicious beginning.
Last thought. By far the most important thing
about Andrew Johnson though, in spite of his early comments
when he said, "Treason must be made odious,"
and Charles Sumner said, "Oh, he's speaking my
language," the thing we must know about
Andrew Johnson is number one, he was a virulent white
supremacist, he was an ardent states'
rightist. Yes he was a states' rightist
and a Unionist. It's entirely possible to be
that. He also hated the southern
planter class. He was never anti-slavery.
He was not only not anti-slavery,
he was an open racist. He believed the United States
should remain, in his own words,
"a white man's country forever."
And he had a disposition that could best charitably be
described as hypersensitive and obstinate.
He was not a flexible politician.
Well, I'll leave you with old Andrew Johnson,
now into the story and messing things up, and I'll see you