After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he was succeeded as president by Andrew Johnson, a Tennesseean who sympathized with the South. During debates over Reconstruction—how to treat the freed slaves and rebuild the South—a group of Radical Republicans in Congress thought Johnson was too kind to the South. Read the following speeches from Andrew Johnson and Senator Thaddeus Stevens and consider which plan was more likely to be successful.
Cleveland, Ohio Speech – Andrew Johnson
Source: This campaign speech was delivered on September 3, 1866 in Cleveland, Ohio. Johnson was trying to get people to support his ideas, but he was booed by the crowd of Radical Republicans.
Before the rebellion there were 4,000,000 called colored persons held as slaves by about 340,000 people living in the South. That is, 340,000 slave owners paid expenses, bought land, and worked the negroes, and at the expiration of the year when cotton, tobacco, and rice were gathered and sold, after all paying expenses, these slave owners put the money in their pockets- [slight interruption]-your attention-they put the property in their pocket. In many instances there was no profit, and many came out in debt. Well that is the way things stood before the rebellion. The rebellion commenced and the slaves were turned loose....
Now to the Freedmen's Bureau. What was it? Four million slaves were emancipated and given an equal chance and fair start to make their own support-to work and produce; and having worked and produced, to have their own property and apply it to their own support. But the Freedmen's Bureau comes and says we must take charge of these 4,000,000 slaves. The bureau comes along and proposes, at an expense of a fraction less than $12,000,000 a year, to take charge of these slaves. You had already expended $3,000,000,000 to set them free and give them a fair opportunity to take care of themselves -then these gentlemen, who are such great friends of the people, tell us they must be taxed $12,000,000 to sustain the Freedmen's Bureau.
Veto of the First Reconstruction Act – Andrew Johnson
Source: This speech was delivered to the United States Congress on March 2, 1867 by Andrew Johnson after he vetoed the First Reconstruction Act, a plan by the Radical Republicans that would have given freedmen the right to vote.
The purpose and object of the bill - the general intent which pervades it from beginning to end - is to change the entire structure and character of the State governments and to compel them by force to the adoption of organic laws and regulations which they are unwilling to accept if left to themselves. The negroes have not asked for the privilege of voting; the vast majority of them have no idea what it means.... Without pausing here to consider the policy or impolicy of Africanizing the southern part of our territory, I would simply ask the attention of Congress to that manifest, well-known, and universally acknowledged rule of constitutional law which declares that the Federal Government has no jurisdiction, authority, or power to regulate such subjects for any State. To force the right of suffrage out of the hands of the white people and into the hands of the negroes is an arbitrary violation of this principle.
Speech to Congress - Thaddeus Stevens Speech
Source: This speech was delivered to the United States Congress on March 19, 1867.
The cause of the war was slavery. We have liberated the slaves. It is our duty to protect them, and provide for them while they are unable to provide for themselves....
The fourth section [of the bill under debate] provides first that out of the lands thus confiscated each liberated slave who is a male adult, or head of a family, shall have assigned to him a homestead of forty acres of land, (with $100 to build a dwelling,) which shall be held for them by trustees during their pupilage....
Four million persons have just been freed from a condition of dependence, wholly unacquainted with business transactions, kept systematically in ignorance of all their rights and of the common elements of education, without which none of any race are competent to earn an honest living, to guard against the frauds which will always be practiced on the ignorant, or to judge of the most judicious manner of applying their labor. But few of them are mechanics, and none of them skilled manufacturers. They must necessarily, therefore, be the servants and victims of others unless they are made in some measure independent of their wiser neighbors.... Make them independent of their old masters, so that they may not be compelled to work for them upon unfair terms, which can only be done by giving them a small tract of land to cultivate for themselves, and you remove all this danger.