more ping-pong

On March 19, 1867 Congress passed a law to supplement the initial Reconstruction Act of March 2nd. The new law’s purpose was to to set up the machinery for beginning Congressional Reconstruction. It provided “for the registration of perspective voters able to swear to past loyalty by registrars appointed by the military commanders, as well as for the calling of conventions and the ratification of their resolutions by a popular majority”.[1]

150 years ago today Congress received President Johnson’s veto message and immediately smashed the bill right back at him: Both Houses of Congress overrode the veto on the 23rd.

You can also read the Supplementary Act at the University of Houston.

Project Gutenberg provides President Johnson’s veto message:

WASHINGTON, March 23, 1867.

To the House of Representatives:

I have considered the bill entitled “An act supplementary to an act entitled ‘An act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States,’ passed March 2, 1867, and to facilitate restoration,” and now return it to the House of Representatives with my objections.


oath from March 23rd law

This bill provides for elections in the ten States brought under the operation of the original act to which it is supplementary. Its details are principally directed to the elections for the formation of the State constitutions, but by the sixth section of the bill “all elections” in these States occurring while the original act remains in force are brought within its purview. Referring to these details, it will be found that, first of all, there is to be a registration of the voters. No one whose name has not been admitted on the list is to be allowed to vote at any of these elections. To ascertain who is entitled to registration, reference is made necessary, by the express language of the supplement, to the original act and to the pending bill. The fifth section of the original act provides, as to voters, that they shall be “male citizens of the State, 21 years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, who have been residents of said State for one year.” This is the general qualification, followed, however, by many exceptions. No one can be registered, according to the original act, “who may be disfranchised for participation in the rebellion”—a provision which left undetermined the question as to what amounted to disfranchisement, and whether without a judicial sentence the act itself produced that effect. This supplemental bill superadds an oath, to be taken by every person before his name can be admitted upon the registration, that he has “not been disfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States.” It thus imposes upon every person the necessity and responsibility of deciding for himself, under the peril of punishment by a military commission if he makes a mistake, what works disfranchisement by participation in rebellion and what amounts to such participation. Almost every man—the negro as well as the white—above 21 years of age who was resident in these ten States during the rebellion, voluntarily or involuntarily, at some time and in some way did participate in resistance to the lawful authority of the General Government. The question with the citizen to whom this oath is to be proposed must be a fearful one, for while the bill does not declare that perjury may be assigned for such false swearing nor fix any penalty for the offense, we must not forget that martial law prevails; that every person is answerable to a military commission, without previous presentment by a grand jury, for any charge that may be made against him, and that the supreme authority of the military commander determines the question as to what is an offense and what is to be the measure of punishment.

The fourth section of the bill provides “that the commanding general of each district shall appoint as many boards of registration as may be necessary, consisting of three loyal officers or persons.” The only qualification stated for these officers is that they must be “loyal.” They may be persons in the military service or civilians, residents of the State or strangers. Yet these persons are to exercise most important duties and are vested with unlimited discretion. They are to decide what names shall be placed upon the register and from their decision there is to be no appeal. They are to superintend the elections and to decide all questions which may arise. They are to have the custody of the ballots and to make return of the persons elected. Whatever frauds or errors they may commit must pass without redress. All that is left for the commanding general is to receive the returns of the elections, open the same, and ascertain who are chosen “according to the returns of the officers who conducted said elections.” By such means and with this sort of agency are the conventions of delegates to be constituted.

As the delegates are to speak for the people, common justice would seem to require that they should have authority from the people themselves. No convention so constituted will in any sense represent the wishes of the inhabitants of these States, for under the all-embracing exceptions of these laws, by a construction which the uncertainty of the clause as to disfranchisement leaves open to the board of officers, the great body of the people may be excluded from the polls and from all opportunity of expressing their own wishes or voting for delegates who will faithfully reflect their sentiments.

I do not deem it necessary further to investigate the details of this bill. No consideration could induce me to give my approval to such an election law for any purpose, and especially for the great purpose of framing the constitution of a State. If ever the American citizen should be left to the free exercise of his own judgment it is when he is engaged in the work of forming the fundamental law under which he is to live. That work is his work, and it can not properly be taken out of his hands. All this legislation proceeds upon the contrary assumption that the people of each of these States shall have no constitution except such as may be arbitrarily dictated by Congress and formed under the restraint of military rule. A plain statement of facts makes this evident.

In all these States there are existing constitutions, framed in the accustomed way by the people. Congress, however, declares that these constitutions are not “loyal and republican,” and requires the people to form them anew. What, then, in the opinion of Congress, is necessary to make the constitution of a State “loyal and republican”? The original act answers the question: It is universal negro suffrage—a question which the Federal Constitution leaves exclusively to the States themselves. All this legislative machinery of martial law, military coercion, and political disfranchisement is avowedly for that purpose and none other. The existing constitutions of the ten States conform to the acknowledged standards of loyalty and republicanism. Indeed, if there are degrees in republican forms of government, their constitutions are more republican now than when these States, four of which were members of the original thirteen, first became members of the Union.

Congress does not now demand that a single provision of their constitutions be changed except such as confine suffrage to the white population. It is apparent, therefore, that these provisions do not conform to the standard of republicanism which Congress seeks to establish. That there may be no mistake, it is only necessary that reference should be made to the original act, which declares “such constitution shall provide that the elective franchise shall be enjoyed by all such persons as have the qualifications herein stated for electors of delegates.” What class of persons is here meant clearly appears in the same section; that is to say, “the male citizens of said State 21 years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, who have been resident in said State for one year previous to the day of such election.”

Without these provisions no constitution which can be framed in any one of the ten States will be of any avail with Congress. This, then, is the test of what the constitution of a State of this Union must contain to make it republican. Measured by such a standard, how few of the States now composing the Union have republican constitutions! If in the exercise of the constitutional guaranty that Congress shall secure to every State a republican form of government universal suffrage for blacks as well as whites is a sine qua non, the work of reconstruction may as well begin in Ohio as in Virginia, in Pennsylvania as in North Carolina.

We accept the situation / Th. Nast. (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 537 (1867 April 13), p. 240. ; LOC:

” this fearful and untried experiment of complete negro enfranchisement—and white disfranchisement, it may be, almost as complete”

When I contemplate the millions of our fellow-citizens of the South with no alternative left but to impose upon themselves this fearful and untried experiment of complete negro enfranchisement—and white disfranchisement, it may be, almost as complete—or submit indefinitely to the rigor of martial law, without a single attribute of freemen, deprived of all the sacred guaranties of our Federal Constitution, and threatened with even worse wrongs, if any worse are possible, it seems to me their condition is the most deplorable to which any people can be reduced. It is true that they have been engaged in rebellion and that their object being a separation of the States and a dissolution of the Union there was an obligation resting upon every loyal citizen to treat them as enemies and to wage war against their cause.

Inflexibly opposed to any movement imperiling the integrity of the Government, I did not hesitate to urge the adoption of all measures necessary for the suppression of the insurrection. After a long and terrible struggle the efforts of the Government were triumphantly successful, and the people of the South, submitting to the stern arbitrament, yielded forever the issues of the contest. Hostilities terminated soon after it became my duty to assume the responsibilities of the chief executive officer of the Republic, and I at once endeavored to repress and control the passions which our civil strife had engendered, and, no longer regarding these erring millions as enemies, again acknowledged them as our friends and our countrymen. The war had accomplished its objects. The nation was saved and that seminal principle of mischief which from the birth of the Government had gradually but inevitably brought on the rebellion was totally eradicated. Then, it seemed to me, was the auspicious time to commence the work of reconciliation; then, when these people sought once more our friendship and protection, I considered it our duty generously to meet them in the spirit of charity and forgiveness and to conquer them even more effectually by the magnanimity of the nation than by the force of its arms. I yet believe that if the policy of reconciliation then inaugurated, and which contemplated an early restoration of these people to all their political rights, had received the support of Congress, every one of these ten States and all their people would at this moment be fast anchored in the Union and the great work which gave the war all its sanction and made it just and holy would have been accomplished. Then over all the vast and fruitful regions of the South peace and its blessings would have prevailed, while now millions are deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen and after nearly two years of legislation find themselves placed under an absolute military despotism. “A military republic, a government founded on mock elections and supported only by the sword,” was nearly a quarter of a century since pronounced by Daniel Webster, when speaking of the South American States, as “a movement, indeed, but a retrograde and disastrous movement, from the regular and old-fashioned monarchical systems;” and he added:

Daniel Webster (c1906.; LOC:

look up Webster’s words

If men would enjoy the blessings of republican government, they must govern themselves by reason, by mutual counsel and consultation, by a sense and feeling of general interest, and by the acquiescence of the minority in the will of the majority, properly expressed; and, above all, the military must be kept, according to the language of our bill of rights, in strict subordination to the civil authority. Wherever this lesson is not both learned and practiced there can be no political freedom. Absurd, preposterous is it, a scoff and a satire on free forms of constitutional liberty, for frames of government to be prescribed by military leaders and the right of suffrage to be exercised at the point of the sword.

I confidently believe that a time will come when these States will again occupy their true positions in the Union. The barriers which now seem so obstinate must yield to the force of an enlightened and just public opinion, and sooner or later unconstitutional and oppressive legislation will be effaced from our statute books. When this shall have been consummated, I pray God that the errors of the past may be forgotten and that once more we shall be a happy, united, and prosperous people, and that at last, after the bitter and eventful experience through which the nation has passed, we shall all come to know that our only safety is in the preservation of our Federal Constitution and in according to every American citizen and to every State the rights which that Constitution secures.


From the Library of Congress: Thomas Nast cartoon originally published in the April 13, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly on page 240; Daniel Webster
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. page 281.
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the five commandants

Pursuant to the first Reconstruction Act enacted in early March 1867, President Andrew Johnson was required to appoint a district commander for each of the five military districts that divided up the South. On March 11th the president appointed Generals Schofield, Sickles, Thomas, Ord, and Sheridan. General Thomas, the Rock of Chickamauga, begged off and was replaced by General John Pope to command the Third District – Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. A northern editorial lauded the appointments. From The New-York Times March 15, 1867:

US_Reconstruction_military_districts (

1 – Schofield, 2 – Sickles, 3 – Pope, 4 – Ord,
5 – Sheridan

The New District Commanders.

Probably no fitter choice of military commandants for the five Southern Districts was easily possible, than that which the President has just made. The five soldiers named – THOMAS, SHERIDAN, SCHOFIELD, ORD and SICKLES – have a national and healthy fame. They are not noisy, impracticable theorists, but men of fair judgment, resolute, not alarmed by rumors or moved by threats. They became distinguished not entirely by displaying genius in the field, but by their force of character and executive ability, They possess the confidence of Gen. GRANT. The promptness with which their nominations were acted upon by the President and Cabinet, and their speedy assignment to duty, forms a happy augury that the Military Law of Congress will be carried out in good faith and to the letter by all branches of the Government.

The new military commanders in the [in]surrectionary states ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 536 (1867 April 6), pp. 216-217; LOC:

“The new military commanders in the [in]surrectionary states” with Thomas and Grant

[relief that the commanders chosen don’t distrust “the expediency of putting the South under military control” and are mostly in charge of the same areas where they already were working.]

The key-note to the execution of the law is already struck by Gen. SCHOFIELD in Virginia. In assuming command of the First District, with headquarters at Richmond, that officer notifies all civil authorities under the Provisional State Government to continue in their duties till he may otherwise order. In this way he wisely avoids that peril of anarchy which was feared by some statesmen as the inevitable issue of the bill. He proposes to exercise military power “only so far as necessary to accomplish the objects for which it was conferred.” Other commanders will take the same ground – save, perhaps, in exceptional quarters like Texas, or at some unusual epoch like that of a turbulent election. In this way the desired revolution in the feeling of Southern society will be accomplished, and none the less effectually for being smooth and noiseless.

Portrait of Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, officer of the Federal Army (Between 1860 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-05934)

“whipping or maiming of the person” is verboten

According to the March 19, 1867 issue of The New-York Times (middle column) one of General Schofield’s first acts as commander of the First District (the Old Dominion) was to proclaim that he would enforce two provisions of the 1867 Army Appropriations Act. All militias in the South were to be disbanded and not called into service again unless authorized by Congress. Furthermore:

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the officers of the army and navy and of the Freedmen’s Bureau to prohibit and prevent whipping or maiming of the person, as a punishment for any crime, misdemeanor, or offence, by any pretended civil or military authority, in any State lately in rebellion, until
the civil government in such State shall have been restored, and shall have been recognized by the Congress of the United States.

The Times editorial seems relieved that the prompt appointment of the commanders might indicate that President Johnson wasn’t going to impede the purpose of the Reconstruction Act. Hans L. Trefousse wrote that the president wanted to use the appointments to make some political hay: “Too shrewd a politician not to take advantage of the fact that Grant, the most popular officer in the country, was not very well liked by some of the radicals, he consulted the general and largely accepted Grant’s recommendations.” Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was “appalled” that President Johnson appointed some radical generals, but the president “wanted to please Grant,” … “As time would show, he could always dismiss them later on.”[1]

Jengod’s map of the military districts is licensed by Creative Commons From the Library of Congress: the seven generals from Harper’s Weekly on April 6, 1867; Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. page 281.
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Pottsville people power

It wasn’t just well-known radicals in and out of Congress. According to documentation at the Library of Congress, on March 11, 1867 some people in Pottsville, Pennsylvania promulgated a series of resolutions calling for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

pottspaimpeach (LOC:

selective enforcement an impeachable offense

Benjamin F. Butler reportedly delivered his speech in Albany on March 2nd, allegedly implying that even bad political speeches were impeachable offenses.

Here’s a little on impeachment maneuvers in Congress 150 years ago. From The New-York Times March 7, 1867:


Republican Congressional Caucus – …

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.

WASHINGTON, Wednesday, March 6.

Hon. James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio, Editor of Dispatch & Gov. of Territory of Montana, Born: 1824, Died: 1896 ([ca. 1860-1865; LOC:

going after the Acting President

The Republican House caucus to-night was largely attended, and was a very lively affair, lasting until 11 o’clock until it adjourned. To begin with, it is proper to state that a secret caucus of extreme Radicals, called by BEN. BUTLER, was held this morning, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the projects for taking the impeachment investigation out of the hands of the Judiciary Committee, and putting it in the hands of a Select Committee of Thirteen, stood any chance of success. [That possibility was shot down, so Mr. Butler stood little chance “to cut a figure” in the impeachment investigation because he was unlikely to be appointed to the Judiciary Committee.] On the assembling of the caucus to-night ASHLEY opened with a ruse, by moving a resolution that the Judiciary Committee be appointed by the Speaker, to whom should be referred the record of the impeachment investigation as far as proceeded with in the last Congress. This ASHLEY did simply for the purpose of keeping both organizations in the hands of men of his ilk, for COVODE immediately moved a resolution that a select Committee of Thirteen be appointed for the impeachment investigation, when ASHLEY showed his colors and said he preferred that. [“after a long and somewhat bitter discussion,” the caucus decided that the Speaker should appoint the members of the Judiciary Committee] …

According to Hans L. Trefousse, radical Ohio Representative James Mitchell Ashley “had been instrumental in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Perfectly fanatical in his advocacy of extreme measures, Ashley had convinced himself that all presidents who had died in office had somehow been done in by their successors, and Lincoln was no exception. It was he who finally brought the first successful resolution looking toward impeachment.” [On January 7, 1867 Representative Ashley introduced a resolution impeaching “Andrew Johnson, Vice President and Acting President of the United States”. His resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee.[1]

no more compromises

Millard Fillmore / F. D'Avignon lith. ; from Dag. by Brady. (323 Broadway N.Y. : D'Avignon's press, c1850.; LOC:

murderer most foul?

From the Library of Congress: James M. Ashley, the Henry Clay monument in Pottsville, and Millard Fillmore
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. pages 282-283.
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“it is our country”

On March 7, 1867 the Southern Famine Relief Commission published a fact sheet about the severe destitution in the South, especially in Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. General O.O. Howard wrote that although his Freedmen’s Bureau was for the most part taking care of the basic needs of freedmen and loyal refugees, he did think that other Southerners were in extreme want, even widows and orphans in the planter class. The fact sheet printed information from first-hand accounts in the four states. The sheet closes by requesting donations to the organizations treasurer, who had already received $55,000 and purchased 50,000 bushels of corn. Since more was desperately needed, all churches were urged to take up collections on Sunday, March 17th.

Here’s the Alabama section of the report:

alapart1 (LOC:

contributions bless donors and recipients

alapart2 (LOC:

war, drought, and hog cholera


According to the February 25, 1867 issue of The New-York Times the same U.S. Congress that had enacted legislation dividing the South into five military districts and requiring the passage of the would-be Fourteenth Amendment also provided a U.S. Navy ship for the Southern Famine Relief Commission to get food and supplies South:

Immediate Aid for the South.

The concurrent resolution that passed the Senate and House of Representatives, permitting the Secretary of the Navy to place a national vessel at the disposal of the Southern Famine Relief Commission, justifies the members of that Committee in making a personal and peremptory appeal for immediate relief. The vessel will be in readiness this week. Shall it be sent South with less than a full load, or shall it go burdened with material, tangible evidence of fraternal regard and sectional sympathy? Already large sums of money have been given for the relief of the poor and destitute of the South, but it is like a drop in the bucket. Vastly more is needed to make the aid effective, and now is the time to give it.

The Committee, through Mr. JAMES M. BROWN, of No. 61 Wall-street, will receive contributions of cash, provisions, clothing, boots and shoes – anything and everything that can suggest itself to men in behalf of other men in need – and faithfully apply whatever is sent.

In other days our people have generously sent aid to starving Ireland. They are now preparing to exhibit their sympathy with the struggling Cretan Christians by a practical demonstration; and no one supposes that they would decline to give of their bounty to anybody and everybody in any other country. Why, then, should this home charity, or rather this home duty, be comparatively unheeded? It would be wholly foreign to our habit, our thought, our honor, to permit a half-laden vessel to go from the land of plenty to the land of poverty, and we urgently second the appeal of the Commission that each and every citizen send at once his mite, or his fair proportion, in the furtherance of this cause, which is at once pleasurable and imperative.

The March 23, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly (page 179) exhorted readers to attend church on March 17th ready to contribute to help “our unfortunate brethren” and seemed to have a similar mindset to that of Congress:

While we oppose to the utmost the political policy which would intrust [sic] reconstruction exclusively to those who were lately in rebellion, and while the social condition of the Southern States undoubtedly demands the measures of the military bill, we do not in the least forget the sufferings of thousands and thousands of the people in those States, and we earnestly press upon the absolute necessity of immediate relief. The accounts from many parts of the South are most melancholy. …

The February 16, 1867 issue of Harper’s (page 99) more fully expounds its view of Reconstruction and famine relief. I can see how a Southerner could think it’s a bit much. After explaining that the magazine was not vengeful but only wanted to ensure that the war’s hard-fought victory for justice was maintained, it went on: “We would feed, and clothe, and teach. We would invest the truth of our political convictions with all the glory of sympathy and humanity. We would show that our doctrine of equal human rights has a moral foundation by an exhaustless beneficence.” [and more] After detailing the famine in the South: “And it is our country; and these are our people; and they are people against whom inexorably fighting we have at last prevailed, and people who must remain one with us.”
The entire famine fact sheet appears at the Library of Congress; the portrait of Robert M. Patton at Project Gutenberg
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Wade in waiting?

150 years ago today the 39th U.S. Congress ended and the 40th convened. This was an unusual move, but Congress wasn’t taking any chances. In the last days of the 39th, Congress enacted measures that curtailed President Johnson’s policies and power. It ended the president’s lenient reconstruction by dividing the South up into 5 military districts and making readmission to the Union dependent on passage of the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution. Congress severely limited presidential power to appoint and fire officeholders and even impinged on his authority as Commander-in-Chief. Apparently the legislators wanted to keep up the pressure and keep their eyes on Mr. Johnson: “Unwilling to allow the president the customary intervals between sessions of Congress in March and December, the lawmakers took advantage of a seldom-used clause in the Constitution to convene sooner.” [1]

Hon. Benj. Franklin Wade of Ohio (between 1860 and 1875; LOC:

advanced for his age

You can read about the last and first day of Congress in the March 5, 1867 issue of The New-York Times. In the House incoming Representative James Brooks said the 40th “was in danger of placing itself on record, not as a rump Congress, but the rump of a rump Congress. He admitted its de facto power, but denied that it had an authority as a de jure body, and presented a protest signed by the Democratic members against the organization of the House while seventeen States were unrepresented.” [I thought it was ten states.] Schuyler Colfax was re-elected Speaker.

“The Senate organized promptly at 12 o’clock, Hon. B.F. WADE in the chair, as President pro tem., having been elected to that position this morning during the last hour of its session. During Andrew Johnson’s administration the President pro tem. was especially important – under the law of the time that officeholder was next in order of succession to the Presidency. If Andrew Johnson was ever impeached and convicted, Mr. Wade would become president. Benjamin Franklin “Bluff” Wade , was “the old Ohio radical whose ideas about female suffrage and the relationship between capital and labor were so advanced that his election [to President pro tem.] has been called a turning point in the impeachment process. Chosen because of his radicalism, he nevertheless frightened less outspoken colleagues.”[2]

It wasn’t until the February 1967 adoption of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution that the issue of the missing vice-president was rectified: “Under Section 2, whenever there is a vacancy in the office of Vice President, the President nominates a successor who becomes Vice President if confirmed by a majority vote of both Houses of the Congress.”
Other sources say that Senator Wade was elected President pro tem. on March 2, 1867.
The photograph comes from the Library of Congress
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. page 276.
  2. [2] ibid. page 287.
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in (and out) like a lion

NY Times March 3,1867

NY Times March 3,1867

On March 2, 1867 Andrew Johnson vetoed two bills as the 39th Congress was wrapping up its business. Both vetoes were immediately overridden by Congress.

The Tenure of Office Act limited the President’s power to terminate certain appointees without the Senate’s consent:

That every person holding any civil office to which he has been appointed, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and every person who shall hereafter be appointed to any such office and shall become duly qualified to act therein, is and shall be entitled to hold such office until a successor shall have been appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and duly qualified; and that the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of War, of the Navy, and of the Interior, the Postmaster-General, and the Attorney-General shall hold their offices respectively for and during the term of the President by whom they may have been appointed and for one month thereafter, subject to removal by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. [from the veto message]

Congress was especially interested in protecting Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the most radical member of President Johnson’s cabinet. According to Hans L. Trefousse, all cabinet members opposed the bill, including the Secretary of War, however, Mr. Stanton refused the president’s request that he write the veto message because he was real busy and the rheumatism in his arm was acting up. William H. Seward wrote the “exemplary” veto message (at Project Gutenberg). John Bigelow watched the Congressional override proceedings and was impressed by the contempt Congress had for the president. [1]

President Johnson also vetoed “An act to provide for the more efficient government of the Rebel States”, which was the first of the Reconstruction Acts. The first law divided the South into five military districts. “In addition, Congress required that each state draft a new state constitution, which would have to be approved by Congress. The states also were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and grant voting rights to black men.”

Here’s a Southern take on the law by Walter L. Fleming in his 1905 Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (pages 473-474):

The Military Reconstruction Bills

US_Reconstruction_military_districts (

congressional redistricting

The Radicals in Congress triumphed over the moderate Republicans, the Democrats, and the President, when, on March 2, 1867, they succeeded in passing over the veto the first of the Reconstruction Acts. This act reduced the southern states to the status of military provinces and established the rule of martial law. After asserting in the preamble that no legal governments or adequate protection for life and property existed in Alabama and other southern states, the act divided the South into five military districts, subject to the absolute control of the central government, that is, of Congress. Alabama, with Georgia and Florida, constituted the Third Military District. The military commander, a general officer, appointed by the President, was to carry on the government in his province. No state interference was to be allowed, though the provisional civil administration might be made use of if the commander saw fit. Offenders might be tried by the local courts or by military commissions, and except in cases involving the death penalty, there was no appeal beyond the military governor. This rule of martial law was to continue until the people should adopt a constitution providing for enfranchisement of the negro and for the disfranchisement of such whites as would be excluded by the proposed Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As soon as this constitution should be ratified by the new electorate (a majority voting in the election) and the constitution approved by Congress, and the legislature elected under the new constitution should ratify the proposed Fourteenth Amendment, then representatives from the state were to be admitted to Congress upon taking the “iron-clad” test oath of July 2, 1862. And until so reconstructed the present civil government of the state was provisional only and might be altered, controlled, or abolished, and in all elections under it the negro must vote and those who would be excluded by the proposed Fourteenth Amendment must be disfranchised.

The President at once (March 11, 1867) appointed General George H. Thomas to the command of the Third Military District, with headquarters at Montgomery, but the work was not to General Thomas’s liking, and at his request he was relieved, and on March 15 General Pope was appointed in his place. Pope was in favor of extreme measures in dealing with the southern people and stated that he understood the design of the Reconstruction Acts to be “to free the southern people from the baleful influence of old political leaders.”

The act of March 2 did not provide for forcing Reconstruction upon the people. If they wanted it, they might initiate it through the provisional governments, or if they preferred, they might remain under martial law. While all people were anxious to have the state restored to the Union, most of the whites saw that to continue under martial law, even when administered by Pope, was preferable to Reconstruction under the proposed terms. Consequently the movement toward Reconstruction was made by a very small minority of the people and had no chance whatever of making any headway.

You can also read the veto message of the Military Government bill at Project Gutenberg. Mr. Trefousse wrote that President Johnson wrote the document with the help of Jeremiah S. Black and Attorney General Henry Stanbery[2]

An editorial in the March 5, 1867 issue of The New-York Times reviewed the bills passed at the end of the 39th Congress:

The Session.

It’s the same old story. A session begun lazily winds up with speed of a high-pressure engine. …

The settlement of the reconstruction question would alone invest it with importance. The mode of settlement is not as we would have it. It conflicts with preconceived notions of republicanism, and awakens a painful, anxious interest in the future of the South. But, rough though it be – harsh and despotic as it undeniably is – it is preferable to prolonged uncertainty or delay. Even Radical reconstruction, with military government as its initiatory process and universal negro suffrage as its inevitable object, is better than the indefinite exclusion of ten States, or the absence of specific declarations touching their reorganization. Congress has fixed its policy, and with the President’s help, must work it out. From this responsibility there can be no escape. The work must go forward from this day, on the basis constructed; and the wisdom or folly of the policy must be determined by its fruit. How it shall operate upon the South – whether as an irritant, necessitating the vigorous exercise of the military power, or as a stimulant, producing the healthy counteraction which shall render military authority unnecessary – depends upon the South itself. It may resist and suffer, or it may submit and regain peace and prosperity. Congress has acted intelligibly, and in a certain sense thoroughly according to the judgment of a majority, and though the Southern people may lose, they cannot possibly profit, by failing to comply with the terms prescribed. …

Waging a quiet but uncompromising war with the President, Congress has not only enacted a measure crippling his power of removing and appointing in the civil branches of the Government, but has also tacked to the Army Appropriations Bill a clause diminishing his authority as Commander-in-Chief over the General, and otherwise over the army. An opinion prevailed that the latter measure would encounter a pocket veto. The exigencies of the service, however, rendered the loss of the appropriation undesirable, and the President yesterday signed the bill under protest. …

Congress added to the military appropriations a requirement that the president issue orders to the army through the general-in-chief (Ulysses S. Grant), who had to be stationed in Washington, D.C. [3]

Jengod’s map of the military districts is licensed by Creative Commons
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & company, Inc., 1997. Print. page 277.
  2. [2] ibid. page 280.
  3. [3] ibid. page 277.
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and the freedmen are ignorant?

The Georgetown elections - the Negro at the ballot-box / Th. Nast. (- Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 533 (1867 March 16), p. 172; LOC:

“justice is the best policy”

In January 1867 the United States Congress passed a law over President Johnson’s veto that guaranteed the right to all men in the District of Columbia “without any distinction on account of color or race.” 150 years ago today black men voted for the first time in an election in Georgetown. According to one editorial, white men in Georgetown who boycotted the election because of the black voters sort of shot themselves in the foot. From The New-York Times February 27, 1867:

… Special Dispatches to the New-York Times.

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, Feb. 26. …


The Georgetown election, which took place yesterday, affords some curious and amusing instances of the extremes to which men, calling themselves white, and believing themselves possessed of sense, will be led by their passions and prejudices. The Republican candidate, Mr. CHARLES D. WELSH, who planted himself squarely on the platform of negro suffrage, was elected by ninety-six majority; and the same party elected seven out of eleven members of the Common Council. The entire vote was about 1,900, while the registry was over 2,300. It is an indisputable fact that the colored vote, only about 900 of the aggregate, was thoroughly polled, for they were at the polls early, and brought out every man in their eagerness to improve the first opportunity for the exercise of the long-sought boon of free suffrage. The presence of the colored men at the polls was so distasteful to the whites that many refused to vote while a black voter was near the ballot-box, and at least three hundred registered white men refused to go near the polls. The result was that they were beaten, as they deserved to be, when they really had it in their own power to beat their opponents. A few men have even gone so far as to threaten to discharge some of their colored employees because they dared to vote at all. One of this class was brought to his senses this morning by being informed by two of his best customers, that if he carried his politics into his business to that extent, they would also carry their politics into his business by withdrawing their patronage. …

The Georgetown elections - the Negro at the ballot-box / Th. Nast. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. 11, no. 533 (1867 March 16), p. 172; LOC:

Andy-proof election

Thomas Nast’s cartoon was published in the March 16, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. On page 162 in the same issue the magazine reported that the election showed “that the colored citizen is intelligent enough to know his interest, and independent enough to act accordingly. The horrible consequences of the vice and ignorance of colored voters are not yet apparent” – they didn’t seem beholden to “massa.” The freedman’s conduct was dignified, decorous, and restrained. Because some Baltimore and Washington roughs and bullies had threatened to show up, 150 policemen were on hand. There were sneers and insults, which the freedmen disregarded, and “the peace was not broken.” The election “was an ample vindication of the wisdom of Congress in passing the suffrage bill, and of those who insist that justice is the best policy.”

Slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862.

Johnson's Georgetown and the city of Washington : the capital of the United States of America. (New York : A.J. Johnson, [1867] ; LOC:

a land where all men can vote (1867 D.C.)

Check out the cartoon and map at the Library of Congress
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at the great white father’s

aj and dacotahs (LOC: )

peace and amity at White House

In February 1867 a delegation of about 100 Native Americans were in Washington, D.C. on treaty-making business with the Indian Bureau. 150 years ago today they visited President Johnson at the White House. According to the February 24, 1867 issue of The New-York Times. The natives, about half of whom were “in full Indian costume,” were accompanied by Secretary of the Interior Orville Hickman Browning and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Lewis Vital Bogy. Commissioner Bogy told the president that the Indians wanted to pay their respects to “their great father,” “the big chief of the nation.” Mr. Bogy said the Indians looked to the great father “for protection and care. Our government looks upon these people as dependents and wards of the nation, and since I have held the responsible under you as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, I have endeavored to give to them that to which they are justly entitled.”

The natives approved the commissioner’s words upon translation. President Johnson told the Indians that the government and the natives’ great father would “cultivate peace and amity between the races, although the United States has grown strong and powerful in its march onward, and your tribes have greatly diminished, there will be nothing left undone that a great and powerful nation can do, for the care and protection of its wards.”

Indian delegations at Washington--presentation to the president / From a photograph by A. Gardner, Washington, D.C. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 March 16, p. 164. ; LOC:

first peoples, first wards of the nation?

The image of the reception was published in the March 16, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly. On page 173 the periodical noted that the Indians were Sioux and Yancton from Dacotah accompanied by the territorial governor. “The reply of the President, unlike most of his speeches, also met with approval.”

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used furniture

Declaration of Independence (John Binns, United States : s.n., c1818, published 1819; LOC:

Hancock and Washington (and Jefferson)

According to the February 23, 1867 issue of The New-York Times, even though Washington’s Birthday had been a legal holiday in the state for four years, New York City’s celebration was rather subdued. Customs were slow to change and the snow storm of the previous two days certainly put a damper on it. A lot of people were staying inside, probably reading President Washington’s “Farewell Address.” About two hundred disabled veterans attended a feast put on by the “Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Relief Agency.” In addition to a delicious menu the disabled veterans were provided a perennial stream of lager, and “one glass of whisky, two cigars and a paper of Cornish’s chewing tobacco.”

The same article included some snapshots from cities around the old United States. Three cities below Mason-Dixon observed the day. Charleston’s observance included “an oration before survivors of the Washington Light Infantry.

Here’s a paragraph in the same article from up North:

Observance of Washington’s Birthday.

PHILADELPHIA, Friday, Feb. 22.

To-day is observed as a holiday by the banks and Courts. The public and private buildings display flags. The formal presentation of HANCOCK’S chair, and the table on which the Declaration was signed, was made by LEWIS W. HALL, the Speaker of the State Senate, in Independence Hall. The response was made by Mayor MCMICHAEL.

You can glimpse these items at the University of South Florida and Temple University

Benjamin Franklin signing the Declaration of Independence (c1911.;LOC:

well-used furniture

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cotton-picking wages

Scenes on a cotton plantation / sketched by A.R. Waud. left ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

Harper’s Weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, p. 72

Scenes on a cotton plantation / sketched by A.R. Waud. left ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

Harper’s Weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, p. 73

Almost two years after the Civil War ended Alfred R. Waud was still providing illustrations from the front for Harper’s Weekly. Back in January his drawings of a rice plantation in Georgia were published. The February 2, 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly (page 69) included Mr. Waud’s observations of southern cotton plantations. “These pictures were mainly taken upon the Buena Vista plantation, in Clarke County, Alabama.” The accompanying text went on to explain the process of growing cotton and processing it into bales for shipment and sale. The picture of the plantation graveyard for “defunct negroes” shows the rail fence above the graves to keep away marauding animals. The former slaves put a mattock and a spade on each new grave for fourteen days to prevent “premature resurrection of the corpse”. Cotton growing was still profitable in the South, even with free labor replacing slavery:

picking cotton (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

wage earners

… One man to ten acres is considered sufficient – if they work. A good hand before the war was worth $1500 in gold, which, at the Alabama rate of interest – 8 per cent. – was $120 a year, besides the clothing, taxes, doctor’s bill, loss of time during sickness, insurance, etc. The same hand can now be hired for $10 a month in currency; pay’s his own doctor’s bill and taxes, clothes himself, deducts all time lost by sickness, and if he dies is his own loss – a consoling reflection to some planters.

Horses and mules can be purchased for less in currency than they could before the war, while provisions are about the same when reduced to a gold basis. The richest lands are for sale for prices one half to one third less than before the war. …

According to Walter L. Fleming in his 1905 Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (pages 322-324) many Yankees took advantage of the cheap land:

Planter and overseer ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

immigrants from the North?

Immigration to Alabama

As soon as the war was ended, there was an influx of northern men and northern capital into Alabama. Cotton was selling at a fabulous price,—40 to 50 cents a pound, $200 to $250 a bale,—and the newcomers expected to make fortunes in a few years. They were welcomed by the planters who wanted to sell or to lease their plantations, which, for want of funds, they were unable to cultivate. General Swayne said that in 1866 there were 5000 northern men in Alabama engaged in trading and planting. They were sought for as partners or as overseers by those who hoped that northern men could control free negro labor. Lands were sold or leased at low prices, and many soldiers, especially officers, decided to buy land and raise cotton. Numbers of large plantations in the Black Belt were bought or leased by officers of the army, all of whom had lofty ideas as to what they were going to do. The soil was fertile, cotton was selling for high prices, and the free blacks, they were sure, would work for them out of gratitude and trust. They wanted to help reconstruct southern industry, and to show what could be done toward developing the great natural resources of the state. They embarked in large enterprises, and as long as their money lasted bought everything that was offered for sale. Their success or failure was dependent largely upon the negro laborer, who was to make the cotton, and the new planters made extraordinarily liberal terms with him. They dealt with the negro as if he were a New Englander with a black skin, and they purchased expensive machinery for him to use. They would not listen to southern advice, but went as far as possible to the opposite extreme from southern methods of farming. All suggestions were met with the assurance that the southern man was used only to slaves, and could not know how free men would work.

Reports, generally false and made mainly for political purposes, were continually published by the northern press in regard to the ill treatment of northern men who wished to make their homes in the South. But not a single authenticated case of violence to such persons can be found to have taken place in Alabama.

Cotton gin ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

rum gin?

In some localities, on account of bands of outlaws, for several months after the war it was not safe for any stranger to settle. The ignorant whites had no liking for the northern men (and may not have to this day). The better class of people was in favor of much immigration from the North, and Governor Parsons made a tour through the North to induce northern men and capital to come to Alabama. The people had no capital, and wanted to induce those who possessed it to come and live in the state. The testimony of travellers was that the accounts of cruelty and intolerance toward northerners were almost entirely false; that they were welcomed if they did not attempt to stir up trouble between the races. The refusal of Congress to recognize the state government and the rejection of the members elected to Congress caused a fresh outburst of bitter feeling against the North; but General Swayne, who had the best opportunities for observation, said that rudeness and insult and the occasional attentions of a horse-thief were the worst things that had happened to the northern settlers.

fleming (

southwesterly Clarke County

These northern men meant well but, as a rule, were incompetent as farmers and business men. Consequently they failed, and most of them never quite understood the reasons for their failure. They knew next to nothing of plantation economy, and the negroes were their only teachers. Most of them were from the West, and had never seen cotton growing before. It was almost pathetic to see these 5000 northerners risking all they possessed upon their faith in the negro, and losing. The northern merchant gave the negro unlimited credit and lost; the planter gave his tenant all he asked for, whenever it pleased him to ask. The farm stock was driven to camp-meetings and frolics while the grass was killing the cotton. Mills and factories were built and negro laborers employed, but the negroes, because of a lack of quickness and sensitiveness of touch, proved to be unfit for factory work. Besides, the noise of the machinery made them sleepy, and it was beyond their power to report for work at a regular hour each morning. At first, the negroes showed great confidence in the northern man and were glad to work for him, but too much was required of them, and after a year or two the disgust was mutual. The revulsion of feeling following failure and disappointment and ostracism injured the South by creating hostile opinion in the North. Nearly all the northern men went home, but the less desirable ones remained to assist in the political reconstruction of the state, when many of them became state officials.

work time (Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1867 Feb. 2, pp. 72-73. ; LOC:

a time to labor

The above stories are two tiny snapshots of the complex change in Southern society from slavery to free labor, and it would seem that people’s prejudices made the problem more complicated. In his book on Reconstruction Eric Foner details the complexity and some of the prejudices in a section entitled Masters Without Slaves[1] Mr. Foner writes about the Northerners who moved South and invested their money in cotton production. The Yankees were generally welcomed at first:

… most Southern planters recognized that Northern investment, ironically, was raising land prices and rescuing many former slaveholders from debt – in a word. stabilizing their class. What most annoyed Southern whites was the newcomers’ sublime confidence that they knew better than former slaveowners how to supervise free black labor. “They believed, in their supercilious folly,” one planter later wrote, “that they could get along with the free negroes as laborers, and teach the Southerners how to manage them.”

Southern planters predicted that the newcomers would soon complain about the character of black labor, and they were not far wrong. …

The blacks preferred a more irregular pace of work and wanted to “direct their own labor.”[2]

The February 2, 1867 Harper’s Weekly piece concluded that even with free labor cotton growing should be a profitable business, but the current growing season was the worse since 1846. Mr. Foner says that 1866 and 1867 were terrible years for cotton because of the weather and the army worm. “Many planters suffered devastation losses in these years.”[3]
A current study finds that blacks spend more time not working at work than whites (although they labor more than Hispanics). Daniel Hamermesh, one of the researchers, was quickly “labelled a racist in an online forum popular among economists.” That’s not fair because Mr. Hammeresh sort of puts blacks and Hispanics on a pedestal – he wants everyone to work less. [4] Are the critics racist in a way because they assume the white work ethic is superior?A?h6>

Also, I have learned that some people might consider my title racist
Thomas Nast, a cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly, highlighted southern white mistreatment of blacks. According to the Library of Congress Mr. Nast also produced a Grand Caricaturam, a series of paintings on American History. One of his paintings portrayed King Cotton as dependent on slavery.
King Cotton (by Thomas Nast; LOC:

a king without a country?


[Gettysburg, Pa. Alfred R. Waud, artist of Harper's Weekly, sketching on battlefield] (by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, 1863 July; LOC:

Waud I see

Rice culture on the Ogeechee, near Savannah, Georgia / Sketched by A.R. Waud. ( Illus. in: Harper's weekly, v. XI, no. 523 (1867 January 5), p. 8. ; LOC:

growing rice in Georgia

Also from the Library of Congress: Timothy H. O’Sullivan’s photograph of Alfred R. Waud “taking pictures” at Gettysburg in 1863; rice cultivation in Georgia. The map can be found at Project Gutenberg
  1. [1] Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. New York: HarperPerennial, 2014. Updated Edition. Print. pages 128-142.
  2. [2] ibid pages 137-138.
  3. [3] ibid pages 140-141.
  4. [4] “United States: Working and race; Colouring in.” The Economist 4 February 2017: 26-27. Print.
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