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 Civil War there were 4,000,000 black people held as slaves by about 340,000 people living in the South. That is, 340,000 slave owners paid all the living expenses of the slaves. Then, the war began and the slaves were freed.
Now we come to the [Radical Republicans]. And what do they want? To spend $12,000,000 a year to build schools and find jobs for these freed slaves. We have already spent $3,000,000,000 to set them free and give them a fair chance to take care of themselves -then these [Radical Republicans] ask for $12,000,000 to help them.
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 Radical Republicans also want to force the South to give blacks the right to vote. The blacks have not asked for the right to vote; most of them have no idea what it means. The Southern states should not be forced to do anything they don’t want to do. To force the right to vote out of the hands of the white people and into the hands of the blacks is against the law.
Speech to Congress - Thaddeus Stevens Speech
Source: This speech was delivered to the United States Congress on March 19, 1867.
Freed slaves should have the right to vote. The Southern states should be ruled by the Army until they learn how to accept blacks as their equals.
The cause of the war was slavery. We have freed the slaves. It is our responsibility to protect them, and help them until they are able to provide for themselves.
I propose that each freed slave who is a male adult, or the head of a family, will receive forty acres of land, (with $100 to build a house).
Four million people have just been freed from slavery. They have no education, have never worked for money, and don’t know about their rights. Unless they become independent, they will have to once again become the servants of their old masters.
We must make the freed slaves independent so that their old masters can’t force them to work unfairly. This can only be done by giving them a small plot of land to farm.