“Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction, And How It Works,” in Harper’s Weekly, September 11, 1866.
Johnson planned to admit the former rebel states upon minimal acceptance of emancipation and renunciation of secession. No provisions were made for rights or needs of southern blacks, whether previously free or newly emancipated. Instead, Johnson assumed there would be continued white domination over blacks. He tolerated white violence to achieve that end, and opposed measures to uplift blacks such as the Freedmen’s Bureau and the volunteer Freedmen’s aid societies formed in the North.
“The Great Labor Question From a Southern Point of View,” in Harper’s Weekly, July 29, 1865.
Emancipation removed nearly 4 million blacks from forced labor. Southern whites were determined to restore slavery in all but name and to retain their privileged white status. Through various “black codes” enacted into law, they denied blacks political and civil rights, restricted black rights to own property; and passed vagrancy laws requiring blacks to accept whatever jobs whites offered or face jail.
Carl Schurz, The Condition of the South: Extracts from the Report of Major-General Carl Schurz, on the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana: Addressed to the President (Washington, 1866).
Traveling through the south at the order of President Johnson, Schurz reported the consequences of Johnson’s lenient policies. Of southerners, Schurz observed “whenever they look around them upon the traces of the war, they see . . . not the consequences of their own folly, but the evidences of ‘Yankee wickedness.’ ” . . . “Treason does, under existing circumstances, not appear odious in the south . . . there is yet among the southern people an utter absence of national feeling.” Schurz supported enfranchising blacks for their own safety and the safety of the Union: “While the southern white fought against the Union, the negro did all he could to aid it.”
United State Congress, House of Representatives, Murder of Union Soldiers In North Carolina. Letter from the Secretary of War . . . (Washington, 1866).
A part of the ongoing exposé of southern atrocities was this investigation into the hanging of North Carolina loyalists in the Union Army, captured in 1864. Widespread violence against blacks & Unionists was not checked by federal troops. Domination of blacks was essential to the white southern view of Reconstruction. They attacked any individuals or institutions that aided blacks. Schools and churches were favorite targets. Local politicians counted on Johnson and the Democrats to help them keep blacks subordinate.
United States Congress, House of Representatives, Memphis Riots and Massacres. July 25, 1866 . . . Mr. E. B. Washburne, from the Select Committee on the Memphis Riots, made the following Report (Washington, 1866).
The Memphis riot of May, 1866 was one of the worst early manifestations of southern white rejection of defeat and emancipation. The riot helped provoke Congress to take control of Reconstruction. White mobs including police and firemen attacked the black shantytown in South Memphis; at least 48 people were killed, all but two of them blacks. “The disturbance resulting from collision between some policemen and discharged colored soldiers was seized upon as a pretext for an organized and bloody massacre of the colored people of Memphis.”
United States Congress, Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction (Washington, 1864).
Angered by southern intransigence, the Radical Republicans assumed control over the reorganization of the rebel states. The conquered states had “forfeited all civil and political rights and privileges under the federal Constitution, they can only be restored thereto by the permission and authority of that constitutional power against which they rebelled and by which they were subdued.” Congressional representatives selected by the southern states were denied their seats until the Republican majority deemed them “reconstructed.”
Charles Sumner, No Property in Man. Speech of Hon. Charles Sumner, on the Proposed Amendment of the Constitution Abolishing Slavery Throughout the United States (New York: Loyal League Publication Society, 1864).
“We are constantly and painfully reminded in this Chamber that pending measures against slavery are unconstitutional. This is an immense mistake. Nothing against slavery can be unconstitutional. It is only hesitation which is unconstitutional.”
Lazarus W. Powell, Amendments to the Constitution. Speech of Hon. L. W. Powell, of Ky., In Reply to Senators Clarke, Hale, and Sumner . . . On the Joint Resolution Proposing Amendments to the Constitution of the United States (Washington: The Constitutional Union, 1864).
In opposition to the 13th Amendment, Powell belittled its supporters: “The negro absorbs your every thought. For him you will destroy the country; for him you will allow the liberties of the white man to be stricken down, and every sacred guarantee of liberty in the Constitution put underfoot without a whimper or a censure.”
Benjamin Gratz Brown, Immediate Abolition of Slavery by Act of Congress (Washington: H. Polkinhorn, Printer, 1864).
This Missouri Republican long advocated abolition in his home state, and supported the efforts of Congress to effect it nationwide. “Missouri, which was consecrated to slavery more than forty years ago by a national Congress, comes this day and asks a national Congress to right that wrong and confer upon her freedom as the only sure guarantee of republican institutions.”
James A. Garfield, Speech of Hon. James A. Garfield, of Ohio, on the Constitutional Amendment to Abolish Slavery, Delivered in the House of Representatives, January 13, 1865 (Washington: McGill & Witherow, 1865).
Garfield was ingenuously amazed at the proslavery opposition to emancipation. “We shall never know why slavery dies so hard in this Republic and in this Hall till we know why sin has such longevity and Satan is immortal.”
Social, Civil and Statistical Association of the Colored People of Pennsylvania, Frederick Douglass, Will deliver the Third Lecture of the Course . . . Subject, “Equality Before the Law” (Philadelphia, 1865.)
The emancipation of southern slaves is not enough, Douglass argued before this gathering of Philadelphia African Americans. The next step must be guaranteeing equal rights for all, black and white alike.
Minutes and Proceedings of the Colored Shiloh Baptist Church Association, of Virginia. Assembled at Ebenezer Church, Richmond, August 11th, 1865 (Richmond: Republic Book and Job Office, 1865).
The individual black Baptist congregations created by free blacks under slavery sought to organize themselves state-wide to better provide for the needs of their now-free fellow blacks.
Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Men of the State of Tennessee, With the Addresses of the Convention to the White Loyal Citizens of Tennessee, and the Colored Citizens of Tennessee
Tennessee blacks organize to press for the vote and equality before the law. “We have met here to impress upon the white men of Tennessee, of the United States, and of the world, that we are part and parcel of the American Republic.”
Minutes of the Freedmen’s Convention, Held in the City of Raleigh, On the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th of October, 1866 (Raleigh: Standard Book and Job Office, 1866).
To carry on their agitation for the vote and equal rights, this convention organized itself into the statewide North Carolina Equal Rights League. Paraphrasing the most repellant line from the Dred Scott decision, they stated, “We believe the day has come, when black men have rights which white men are bound to respect.”
Proceedings of the First Convention of Colored Men of Kentucky, Held in Lexington, March the 22d, 23d, 24th and 26th, 1866. With the Constitution of the Kentucky State Benevolent Association (Louisville: Civill & Calvert, 1866).
“We are part and parcel of the Great American body politic,” this Kentucky convention declared. However, they were for a time prepared to do without the vote in exchange for other measures guaranteeing them equality before the law and access to land.
William Wells Brown, The Black Man: His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (Savannah: Published for James M. Symms & Co., 1865).
This collection of black biographical sketches was published by James M. Simms on his return home. Simms was a free black of Savannah, run out of town for teaching fellow blacks to read. He returned to pursue a career as a Republican politician, Baptist minister, and newspaper editor. He published this work to provide new role models for the new times. Most of the subjects were alive and active at the time; and many, like the author, were former slaves.