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Reconstruction Period Research Forum

JOHNSON & his Reconstruction Experiment

PRESIDENT JOHNSON AND HIS EXPERIEMENT OF RECONSTRUCTION?It is hardly necessary to say that the question involved in the re-organization of the states lately in rebellion, and their readmission into the Union, are among the most important and difficult that have devolved upon any administration since the organization of the government. The Constitution provides for the suppression of rebellion, the punishment of treason, and for maintaining the authority of the government; but it throws no light upon the delicate and perplexing questions that require a solution in restoring to their legitimate place in the Union, those States tat have forfeited their rights under the Constitution by secession, rebellion and war.

Providentially called to the Presidential chair, Mr. Johnson found himself at once burdened with the gravest responsibilities, and confronted with most weighty and embarrassing questions that were pressing for settlement. In common with all loyal men he ardently desired the pacification of the country, and early settlement of the vexed questions growing out of the rebellion, an d re admission of the seceded States into the Union at the earliest period consistent with the public safety. Several methods were open for the government to pursue in dealing with the insurgent States. They might have been treated as territories and governed accordingly. It would undoubtedly have been the simplest, and in the opinion of not a few, the wisest plan. It would have given the Southern people a probation believed by many to be greatly needed; it would have insured protection to the freedmen, prevented all conflict of authority growing out of the doctrine of State Rights; and in the government of the territories ample precedents could have been found for modes of procedure. That the government had a perfect right to take this course we have no doubt. The objections to it were that it would be a exercise of dangerous power, would require extended military occupation, always hazardous to liberty, and would place the loyal under the same disabilities as the disloyal.
?Another plan was to proclaim universal amnesty and allow the States to resume their relations to the government without let or hindrance, and thus have the Union as it was. None but rebels and their devoted friends advocated this course.
?The plan which President Johnson has seen fit to adopt, with provisional governors, Constitutional Conventions, and partial military and partial civil rule, was an experiment yet it was hoped it would restore harmonious relations and bring back the States into the Union, at the earliest moment, relive the government of onerous burdens, and soonest bring about a just and satisfactory settlement of all questions at issue between the government and people of the South.
?It is yet too early to decide upon the merits and wisdom of the experiment; but is must be confessed that the results of the elections already held, the doings of the conventions thus far, with the spirit and temper manifested by the late rebels have not been assuring to the loyal people of the country. And the course of the President, under the circumstances, excites alarm in the minds of the truly loyal who do not mean that the immense efforts and costly sacrifices to preserve the government from destruction, and purify it from the sin and shame of slavery, shall have been made in vain; nor that the freedmen shall be left to the tender mercies of their late owners with no guarantee for their protection. Indemnity for the past will not be required, but security for the future will be insisted on. They do not yet perceive that the Southern people have given evidence that power can be safely placed in their hands; and until a different spirit is manifested, they are unwilling to restore to them the rights and privileges which they enjoyed before their rebellion.
?But President Johnson evidently believes that the Southern people may be safely trusted with power. His extreme leniency, the character of some of his appointments, his virtual endorsement of the doings of the Mississippi Convention, his permission to allow that State to arm the young men who distinguished themselves as rebel soldiers, his evident intention of withdrawing the government forces from the Southern States, his ignoring the question of negro suffrage, his profuse granting of pardons some to the worst and meanest rebels his suspension of the confiscation laws, and his great complacency to Southern delegations, all indicate that he has full faith in the loyalty of the Southern people and is satisfied that it will be safe to restore to them their forfeited rights on the single condition that they abandon slavery.
?The President spoke brave words before and soon after he became the executive head of the nation, but now his words and acts are such as commend him heartily to the favor of the late rebels and their friends, who bitterly opposed the are, while they excite the fears and pain the hearts of those who have borne the burden and that of the day in the great struggle for freedom and nationality.
?Vice Presidents elevated to the Presidency have not been fortunate in retaining the support of their party, or in securing the confidence of the country. One Tylerized his party, and another signed the infamous fugitive slave law, which finished his political career forever; and should the President pursue a course not in accordance with the views of those who elected him, he can hardly expect a different fate from his not very illustrious predecessors. We trust that Mr. Johnson is honest and patriotic, and desires the highest good of the country; but the best men are rarely the same in power as out; and few who have been elevated to the Presidency have been so unambitious as not to desire a re-election, and it is not impossible that he may desire such a reconstitution of parties as will favor his chances for the succession.
?The loyal people on early settlement of all our difficulties, and only require such guarantees from the seceded States as a prudent foresight and the future safety of the country demand. But if the President pursues a different course, and is ready to receive unrepentant rebels with no guarantee for their future good behavior; many an earnest patriot will exclaim from the depths of his heart, Would to God Abraham Lincoln had lived.?
The Willimantic Journal
Date: October 5 1865
Description: Page 2- Johnson and Reconstruction, Election resultsfor Willimantic and other areas, Hampton

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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