CONGRESSIONAL RECONSTRUCTION

Once Congress reconvened in December 1865, Republicans began drafting their own Reconstruction policy. Central to Republican thinking on Reconstruction was the need to ensure freedpeople basic civil rights, such as equal access to the courts, and to secure orderly and fair labor arrangements in the South. Republican policies were premised on the belief that federal intervention in southern affairs would be temporary and that, with basic freedoms established, the freedpeople would be accountable for their own work and lives. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill of 1866 summed up the definitions of freedom and the federal obligation for most Republicans; but Johnson vetoed both bills as unconstitutional invasions of state powers, to the delight of Democrats. The Republican Congress overrode Johnson's vetoes and then tried to move the issue beyond politics by passing the 14th Amendment, defining citizenship to include the freedpeople and guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws. At the same time, the Freedmen's Bureau and private freedmen's aid societies were translating principles into practices, negotiating and arbitrating labor contracts, running schools, and carrying northern values southward. Their many reports on conditions in the South kept northern interest in southern developments alive, and prodded Republicans to act. Republicans also began to recognize that for freedpeople to be free they needed the ballot.

 

 

 

 

Franchise
Pardon
 

"Pardon...Franchise. Shall I Trust These Men and Not This Man?"

in Harper's Weekly, August 5, 1865.