THE SEQUEL OF APPOMATTOX
A CHRONICLE OF THE REUNION OF THE STATES
By Walter Lynwood Fleming
CHAPTER I. THE AFTERMATH OF WAR
When the armies of the Union and of the Confederacy were disbanded in 1865, two matters had been settled beyond further dispute: the Negro was to be free, and the Union was to be perpetuated. But, though slavery and state sovereignty were no longer at issue, there were still many problems which pressed for solution. The huge task of reconstruction must be faced. The nature of the situation required that the measures of reconstruction be first formulated in Washington by the victors and then worked out in the conquered South. Since the success of these policies would depend in a large measure upon their acceptability to both sections of the country, it was expected that the North would be influenced to some extent by the attitude of the Southern people, which in turn would be determined largely by local conditions in the South. The situation in the South at the close of the Civil War is, therefore, the point at which this narrative of the reconstruction naturally takes its beginning.
The surviving Confederate soldiers came straggling back to communities, which were now far from being satisfactory dwelling places for civilized people. Everywhere they found missing many of the best of their former neighbors. They found property destroyed, the labor system disorganized, and the inhabitants in many places suffering from want. They found the white people demoralized and sometimes divided among themselves and the Negroes free, bewildered, and disorderly, for organized government had lapsed with the surrender of the Confederate armies.
Beneath a disorganized society lay a devastated land. The destruction of property affected all classes of the population. The accumulated capital of the South had disappeared in worthless Confederate stocks, bonds, and currency. The banks had failed early in the war. Two billion dollars invested in slaves had been wiped out. Factories, which had been running before the war or were developed after 1861 in order to supply the blockaded country, had been destroyed by Federal raiders or seized and sold or dismantled because they had furnished supplies to the Confederacy. Mining industries were paralyzed. Public buildings which had been used for war purposes were destroyed or confiscated for the uses of the army or for the new freedmen's schools. It was months before courthouses, state capitols, school and college buildings were again made available for normal uses. The military school buildings had been destroyed by the Federal forces. Among the schools which suffered were the Virginia Military Institute, the University of Alabama, the Louisiana State Seminary, and many smaller institutions. Nearly all these had been used in some way for war purposes and were therefore subject to destruction or confiscation.
The farmers and planters found themselves "land poor." The soil remained, but there was a prevalent lack of labor, of agricultural equipment, of farm stock, of seeds, and of money with which to make good the deficiency. As a result, a man with hundreds of acres might be as poor as a Negro refugee. The desolation is thus described by a Virginia farmer:
"From Harper's Ferry to New Market, which is about eighty miles... the country was almost a desert.... We had no cattle, hogs, sheep, or horse or anything else. The fences were all gone. Some of the orchards were very much injured, but the fruit trees had not been destroyed. The barns were all burned; chimneys standing without houses, and houses standing without roof, or door, or window."
Much land was thrown on the market at low prices—three to five dollars an acre for land worth fifty dollars. The poorer lands could not be sold at all, and thousands of farms were deserted by their owners. Everywhere recovery from this agricultural depression was slow. Five years after the war Robert Somers, an English traveler, said of the Tennessee Valley:
"It consists for the most part of plantations in a state of semi-ruin and plantations of which the ruin is for the present total and complete.... The trail of war is visible throughout the valley in burnt-up gin-houses, ruined bridges, mills, and factories... and in large tracts of once cultivated land stripped of every vestige of fencing. The roads, long neglected, are in disorder, and having in many places become impassable, new tracks have been made through the woods and fields without much respect to boundaries."
Similar conditions existed wherever the armies had passed, and not in the country districts alone. Many of the cities, such as Richmond, Charleston, Columbia, Jackson, Atlanta, and Mobile had suffered from fire or bombardment.
There were few stocks of merchandise in the South when the war ended, and Northern creditors had lost so heavily through the failure of Southern merchants that they were cautious about extending credit again. Long before 1865 all coin had been sent out in contraband trade through the blockade. That there was a great need of supplies from the outside world is shown by the following statement of General Boynton:
"Window-glass has given way to thin boards, in railway coaches and in the cities. Furniture is marred and broken, and none has been replaced for four years. Dishes are cemented in various styles, and half the pitchers have tin handles. A complete set of crockery is never seen, and in very few families is there enough to set a table.... A set of forks with whole tines is a curiosity. Clocks and watches have nearly all stopped.... Hairbrushes and toothbrushes have all worn out; combs are broken.... Pins, needles, and thread, and a thousand such articles, which seem indispensable to housekeeping, are very scarce. Even in weaving on the looms, corncobs have been substituted for spindles. Few have pocketknives. In fact, everything that has heretofore been an article of sale in the South is wanting now. At the tables of those who were once esteemed luxurious providers you will find neither tea, coffee, sugar, nor spices of any kind. Even candles, in some cases, have been replaced by a cup of grease in which a piece of cloth is plunged for a wick."
This poverty was prolonged and rendered more acute by the lack of transportation. Horses, mules, wagons, and carriages were scarce, the country roads were nearly impassable, and bridges were in bad repair or had been burned or washed away. Steamboats had almost disappeared from the rivers. Those which had escaped capture as blockade runners had been subsequently destroyed or were worn out.. Postal facilities, which had been poor enough during the last year of the Confederacy, were entirely lacking for several months after the surrender.
The railways were in a state of physical dilapidation little removed from destruction, save for those that had been captured and kept in partial repair by the Federal troops. The rolling stock had been lost by capture, by destruction to prevent capture, in wrecks, which were frequent, or had been worn out. The railroad companies possessed large sums in Confederate currency and in securities which were now valueless. About two-thirds of all the lines were hopelessly bankrupt. Fortunately, the United States War Department took over the control of the railway lines and in some cases effected a temporary reorganization which could not have been accomplished by the bankrupt companies. During the summer and fall of 1865, "loyal" boards of directors were appointed for most of the railroads, and the army withdrew its control. But repairs and reconstruction were accomplished with difficulty because of the demoralization of labor and the lack of funds or credit. Freight was scarce and, had it not been for government shipments, some of the railroads would have been abandoned. Not many people were able to travel. It is recorded that on one trip from Montgomery to Mobile and return, a distance of 360 miles, the railroad which is now the Louisville and Nashville collected only thirteen dollars in fares.
Had there been unrestricted commercial freedom in the South in 1865-66, the distress of the people would have been somewhat lessened, for here and there were to be found public and private stores of cotton, tobacco, rice, and other farm products, all of which were bringing high prices in the market. But for several months the operation of wartime laws and regulations hindered the distribution of even these scanty stores. Property upon which the Confederate Government had a claim was, of course, subject to Confiscation, and private property offered for sale, even that of Unionists, was subject to a 25 percent tax on sales, a shipping tax, and a revenue tax. The revenue tax on cotton, ranging from two to three cents a pound during the three years after the war, brought in over $68,000,000. This tax, with other Federal revenues, yielded much more than the entire expenses of reconstruction from 1865 to 1868 and of all relief measures for the South, both public and private. After May 1865, the 25 percent tax was imposed only upon the produce of slave labor. None of the war taxes, except that on cotton, was levied upon the crops of 1866, but while these taxes lasted, they seriously impeded the resumption of trade.
Even these restrictions, however, might have been borne if only they had been honestly applied. Unfortunately, some of the most spectacular frauds ever perpetrated were carried through in connection with the attempt of the United States Treasury Department to collect and sell the confiscable property in the South. The property to be sold consisted of what had been captured and seized by the army and the navy, of "abandoned" property, as such was called whose owner was absent in the Confederate service, and of property subject to seizure under the confiscation acts of Congress. No captures were made after the general surrender, and no further seizures of "abandoned" property were made after Johnson's amnesty proclamation of May 29, 1865. This left only the "confiscable" property to be collected and sold.
For collection purposes the states of the South were divided into districts, each under the supervision of an agent of the Treasury Department, who received a commission of about 25 percent. Cotton, regarded as the root of the slavery evil, was singled out as the principal object of confiscation. It was known that the Confederate Government had owned in 1865 about 150,000 bales, but the records were defective and much of it, with no clear indication of ownership, still remained with the producers. Secretary Chase, foreseeing the difficulty of effecting a just settlement, counseled against seizure, but his judgment was overruled. Secretary McCulloch said of his agents: "I am sure I sent some honest cotton agents South; but it sometimes seems doubtful whether any of them remained honest very long." Some of the natives, even, became cotton thieves. In a report made in 1866, McCulloch describes their methods: "Contractors, anxious for gain, were sometimes guilty of bad faith and peculation, and frequently took possession of cotton and delivered it under contracts as captured or abandoned, when in fact it was not such, and they had no right to touch it.... Residents and others in the districts where these peculations were going on took advantage of the unsettled condition of the country, and representing themselves as agents of this department, went about robbing under such pretended authority, and thus added to the difficulties of the situation by causing unjust opprobrium and suspicion to rest upon officers engaged in the faithful discharge of their duties. Agents,... frequently received or collected property, and sent it forward which the law did not authorize them to take.... Lawless men, singly and in organized bands, engaged in general plunder; every species of intrigue and peculation and theft were resorted to."
These agents turned over to the United States about $34,000,000. About 40,000 claimants were subsequently indemnified on the ground that the property taken from them did not belong to the Confederate Government, but many thousands of other claimants have been unable to prove that their property was seized by government agents and hence have received nothing. It is probable that the actual Confederate property was nearly all stolen by the agents. One agent in Alabama sold an appointment as assistant for $25,000, and a few months later both the assistant and the agent were tried by a military court for stealing and were fined $90,000 and $250,000 respectively in addition to being imprisoned.
Other property, including horses, mules, wagons, tobacco, rice, and sugar which the natives claimed as their own, was seized. In some places the agents even collected delinquent Confederate taxes. Much of the confiscable property was not sold but was turned over to the Freedmen's Bureau* for its support. The total amount seized cannot be satisfactorily ascertained. The Ku Klux minority report asserted that 3,000,000 bales of cotton were taken, of which the United States received only 114,000. It is certain that, owing to the deliberate destruction of cotton by fire in 1864-65, this estimate was too high, but all the testimony points to the fact that the frauds were stupendous. As a result the United States Government did not succeed in obtaining the Confederate property to which it had a claim, and the country itself was stripped of necessities to a degree that left it not only destitute but outraged and embittered. "Such practices," said Trowbridge, "had a pernicious effect, engendering a contempt for the Government and a murderous ill will which too commonly vented itself upon soldiers and Negroes."
* See pp. 89 et seq.
The South faced the work of reconstruction not only with a shortage of material and greatly hampered in the employment even of that but still more with a shortage of men. The losses among the whites are usually estimated at about half the military population, but since accurate records are lacking, the exact numbers cannot be ascertained. The best of the civil leaders, as well as the prominent military leaders, had so committed themselves to the support of the Confederacy as to be excluded from participation in any reconstruction that might be attempted. The business of reconstruction, therefore, fell of necessity to the Confederate private soldiers, the lower officers, nonparticipants, and lukewarm individuals who had not greatly compromised themselves. These politically and physically uninjured survivors included also all the "slackers" of the Confederacy. But though there were such physical and moral losses on the part of those to whom fell the direction of affairs, there was also a moral strengthening in the sound element of the people who had been tried by the discipline of war.
The greatest weakness of both races was their extreme poverty. The crops of 1865 turned out badly, for most of the soldiers reached home too late for successful planting, and the Negro labor was not dependable. The sale of such cotton and farm products as had escaped the treasury agents was of some help, but curiously enough much of the good money thus obtained was spent extravagantly by a people used to Confederate rag money and for four years deprived of the luxuries of life. The poorer whites who had lost all were close to starvation. In the white counties which had sent so large a proportion of men to the army, the destitution was most acute. In many families the breadwinner had been killed in war. After 1862, relief systems had been organized in nearly all the Confederate States for the purpose of aiding the poor whites, but these organizations were disbanded in 1865. A Freedmen's Bureau official traveling through the desolate back country furnishes a description which might have applied to two hundred counties, a third of the South: "It is a common, an every-day sight in Randolph County, that of women and children, most of whom were formerly in good circumstances, begging for bread from door to door. Meat of any kind has been a stranger to many of their mouths for months. The drought cut off what little crops they hoped to save, and they must have immediate help or perish. By far the greater suffering exists among the whites. Their scanty supplies have been exhausted, and now they look to the Government alone for support. Some are without homes of any description."
Where the armies had passed, few of the people, white or black, remained; most of them had been forced as "refugees" within the Union lines or into the interior of the Confederacy. Now, along with the disbanded Confederate soldiers, they came straggling back to their war-swept homes. It was estimated, in December 1865, that in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, there were five hundred thousand white people who were without the necessaries of life; numbers died from lack of food. Within a few months, relief agencies were at work. In the North, especially in the border states and in New York, charitable organizations collected and forwarded great quantities of supplies to the Negroes and to the whites in the hill and mountain counties. The reorganized state and local governments sent food from the unravaged portions of the Black Belt to the nearest white counties, and the army commanders gave some aid. As soon as the Freedmen's Bureau was organized, it fed to the limit of its supplies the needy whites as well as the blacks.
The extent of the relief afforded by the charity of the North and by the agencies of the United States Government is not now generally remembered, probably on account of the later objectionable activities of the Freedmen's Bureau, but it was at the time properly appreciated. A Southern journalist, writing of what he saw in Georgia, remarked that "it must be a matter of gratitude as well as surprise for our people to see a Government which was lately fighting us with fire and sword and shell, now generously feeding our poor and distressed. In the immense crowds which throng the distributing house, I notice the mothers and fathers, widows and orphans of our soldiers. ... Again, the Confederate soldier, with one leg or one arm, the crippled, maimed, and broken, and the worn and destitute men, who fought bravely their enemies then, their benefactors now, have their sacks filled and are fed."
Acute distress continued until 1867; after that year there was no further danger of starvation. Some of the poor whites, especially in the remote districts, never again reached a comfortable standard of living; some were demoralized by too much assistance; others were discouraged and left the South for the West or the North. But the mass of the people accepted the discipline of poverty and made the best of their situation.
The difficulties, however, that beset even the courageous and the competent were enormous. The general paralysis of industry, the breaking up of society, and poverty on all sides bore especially hard on those who had not previously been manual laborers. Physicians could get practice enough but no fees; lawyers who had supported the Confederacy found it difficult to get back into the reorganized courts because of the test oaths and the competition of "loyal" attorneys; and for the teachers there were few schools. We read of officers high in the Confederate service selling to Federal soldiers the pies and cakes cooked by their wives, of others selling fish and oysters which they themselves had caught, and of men and women hitching themselves to plows when they had no horse or mule.
Such incidents must, from their nature, have been infrequent, but they show to what straits some at least were reduced. Six years after the war, James S. Pike, then in South Carolina, mentions cases which might be duplicated in nearly every old Southern community: "In the vicinity," he says, "lived a gentleman whose income when the war broke out was rated at $150,000 a year. Not a vestige of his whole vast estate remains today. Not far distant were the estates of a large proprietor and a well-known family, rich and distinguished for generations. The slaves were gone. The family is gone. A single scion of the house remains, and he peddles tea by the pound and molasses by the quart, on a corner of the old homestead, to the former slaves of the family and thereby earns his livelihood."
General Lee's good example influenced many. Commercial enterprises were willing to pay for the use of his name and reputation, but he wished to farm and could get no opportunity. "They are offering my father everything," his daughter said, "except the only thing he will accept, a place to earn honest bread while engaged in some useful work." This remark led to an offer of the presidency of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, which he accepted. "I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish," he said, "I have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many of them fall under my standard. I shall devote my life now to training young men to do their duty in life."
The condition of honest folk was still further troubled by a general spirit of lawlessness in many regions. Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana recognized the "Union" state government, but the coming of peace brought legal anarchy to the other states of the Confederacy. The Confederate state and local governments were abolished as the armies of occupation spread over the South, and for a period of four or six months there was no government except that exercised by the commanders of the military garrisons left behind when the armies marched away. Even before the surrender, the local governments were unable to make their authority respected, and soon after the war ended, parts of the country became infested with outlaws, pretend treasury agents, horse thieves, cattle thieves, and deserters. Away from the military posts only lynch law could cope with these elements of disorder.
With the aid of the army in the more settled regions, and by extra-legal means elsewhere, the outlaws, thieves, cotton burners, and house burners were brought somewhat under control even before the state governments were reorganized, though the embers of lawlessness continued to smolder.
The relations between the Federal soldiers stationed in the principal towns and the native white population were not, on the whole, so bad as might have been expected. If the commanding officer were well disposed, there was little danger of friction, though sometimes his troops got out of hand. The regulars had a better reputation than the volunteers. The Confederate soldiers were surfeited with fighting, but the "stay-at-home" element was often a cause of trouble. The problem of social relations between the conquerors and the conquered was troublesome. The men might get along well together, but the women would have nothing do with the "Yankees," and ill feeling arose because of their antipathy. Carl Schurz reported that "the soldier of the Union is looked upon as a stranger, an intruder, as the 'Yankee,' the 'enemy.'... The existence and intensity of this aversion is too well known to those who have served or are serving in the South to require proof."
In retaliation the soldiers developed ingenious ways of annoying the whites. Women, forced for any reason to go to headquarters, were made to take the oath of allegiance or the "ironclad" oath before their requests were granted; flags were fastened over doors, gates, or sidewalks in order to irritate the recalcitrant dames and their daughters. Confederate songs and color combinations were forbidden. In Richmond, General Halleck ordered that no marriages be performed unless the bride, the groom, and the officiating clergyman took the oath of allegiance. He explained this as a measure taken to prevent "the propagation of legitimate rebels."
The wearing of Confederate uniforms was forbidden by military order, but by May 1865, few soldiers possessed regulation uniforms. In Tennessee the State also imposed fines upon *wear wearers of the uniform. In the vicinity of military posts, buttons and marks of rank were usually ordered removed and the gray clothes dyed with some other color. General Lee, for example, had the buttons on his coat covered with cloth. But frequently the Federal commander, after issuing the orders, paid no more attention to the matter and such conflicts as arose on account of the uniform were usually caused by officious enlisted men and the Negro troops. Whitelaw Reid relates the following incident:
"Nothing was more touching, in all that I saw in Savannah, than the almost painful effort of the rebels, from generals down to privates, to conduct themselves so as to evince respect for our soldiers, and to bring no severer punishment upon the city than it had already received. There was a brutal scene at the hotel, where a drunken sergeant, with a pair of tailor's shears, insisted on cutting the buttons from the uniform of an elegant gray-headed old brigadier, who had just come in from Johnston's army; but he bore himself modestly and very handsomely through it. His staff was composed of fine-looking, stalwart fellows, evidently gentlemen, who appeared intensely mortified at such treatment. They had no clothes except their rebel uniforms, and had, as yet, had no time to procure others, but they avoided disturbances and submitted to what they might, with some propriety, and with the general approval of our officers, have resented."
The Negro troops, even at their best, were everywhere considered offensive by the native whites. General Grant, indeed, urged that only white troops be used to garrison the interior. But the Negro soldier, impudent by reason of his new freedom, his new uniform, and his new gun, was more than Southern temper could tranquilly bear, and race conflicts were frequent. A New Orleans newspaper thus states the Southern point of view: "Our citizens who had been accustomed to meet and treat the Negroes only as respectful servants, were mortified, pained, and shocked to encounter them... wearing Federal uniforms and bearing bright muskets and gleaming bayonets.... They are jostled from the sidewalks by dusky guards, marching four abreast. They were halted, in rude and sullen tones, by Negro sentinels."
The task of the Federal forces was not easy. The garrisons were not large enough nor numerous enough to keep order in the absence of civil government. The commanders in the South asked in vain for cavalry to police the rural districts. Much of the disorder, violence, and incendiarism attributed at the time to lawless soldiers appeared later to be due to discharged soldiers and others pretending to be soldiers in order to carry out schemes of robbery. The whites complained vigorously of the garrisons, and petitions were sent to Washington from mass meetings and from state legislatures asking for their removal. The higher commanders, however, bore themselves well, and in a few fortunate cases Southern whites were on most amicable terms with the garrison commanders. The correspondence of responsible military officers in the South shows how earnestly and considerately each, as a rule, tried to work out his task. The good sense of most of the Federal officers appeared when, after the murder of Lincoln, even General Grant for a brief space lost his head and ordered the arrest of paroled Confederates.
The church organizations were as much involved in the war and in the reconstruction as were secular institutions. Before the war every religious organization having members North and South, except the Catholic Church and the Jews, had separated into independent Northern and Southern bodies. In each section church feeling ran high, and when the war came, the churches supported the armies. As the Federal armies occupied Southern territory, the church buildings of each denomination were turned over to the corresponding Northern body, and Southern ministers were permitted to remain only upon agreeing to conduct "loyal services, pray for the President of the United States and for Federal victories" and to foster "loyal sentiment." The Protestant Episcopal churches in Alabama were closed from September to December 1865, and some congregations were dispersed by the soldiers because Bishop Wilmer had directed his clergy to omit the prayer for President Davis but had substituted no other. The ministers of non-liturgical churches were not so easily controlled. A Georgia Methodist preacher directed by a Federal officer to pray for the President said afterwards: "I prayed for the President that the Lord would take out of him and his allies the hearts of beasts and put into them the hearts of men or remove the cusses from office." Sometimes members of a congregation showed their resentment at the "loyal" prayers by leaving the church. But in spite of many irritations, both sides frequently managed to get some amusement out of the "loyal" services. The church situation was, however, a serious matter during and after the reconstruction, and some of its later phases will have to be discussed elsewhere.
The Unionist, or "Tory," of the lower and eastern South found himself, in 1865, a man without a country. Few in number in any community, they found themselves, upon their return from a harsh exile, the victims of ostracism or open hostility. One of them, William H. Smith, later Governor of Alabama, testified that the Southern people "manifest the most perfect contempt for a man who is known to be an unequivocal Union man; they call him a 'galvanized Yankee' and apply other terms and epithets to him." General George H. Thomas, speaking of a region more divided in sentiment than Alabama, remarked that "Middle Tennessee is disturbed by animosities and hatreds, much more than it is by the disloyalty of persons towards the Government of the United States. Those personal animosities would break out and overawe the civil authorities, but for the presence there of the troops of the United States.... They are more unfriendly to Union men, natives of the State of Tennessee, or of the South, who have been in the Union army, than they are to men of Northern birth."
In the border states, society was sharply divided, and feeling was bitter. In eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and parts of Arkansas and Missouri, returning Confederates met harsher treatment than did the Unionists in the lower South. Trowbridge says of east Tennessee: "Returning rebels were robbed; and if one had stolen unawares to his home, it was not safe for him to remain there. I saw in Virginia one of these exiles, who told me how homesickly he pined for the hills and meadows of east Tennessee, which he thought the most delightful region in the world. But, there was a rope hanging from a tree for him there, and he dared not go back. 'The bottom rails are on top,' said he, 'that is the trouble.' The Union element, and the worst part of the Union element, was uppermost." Confederates and Confederate sympathizers in Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, were disfranchised. In West Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, "war trespass" suits were brought against returning Confederates for military acts done in war time. In Missouri and West Virginia, strict test oaths excluded Confederates from office, from the polls, and from the professions of teaching, preaching, and law. On the other hand in central and western Kentucky, the predominant Unionist population, themselves suffering through the abolition of slavery, and by the objectionable operations of the Freedmen's Bureau and the unwise military administration, showed more sympathy for the Confederates, welcomed them home, and soon relieved them of all restrictions.
Still another element of discord was added by the Northerners who came to exploit the South. Many mustered-out soldiers proposed to stay. Speculators of all kinds followed the withdrawing Confederate lines and with the conclusion of peace spread through the country, but they were not cordially received. With the better class, the Southerners, especially the soldiers, associated freely if seldom intimately. But the conduct of a few of their number who considered that the war had opened all doors to them, who very freely expressed their views, gave advice, condemned old customs, and were generally offensive, did much to bring all Northerners into disrepute. Tactlessly critical letters published in Northern papers did not add to their popularity. The few Northern women felt the ostracism more keenly than did the men. Benjamin C. Truman, an agent of President Johnson, thus summed up the situation: "There is a prevalent disposition not to associate too freely with Northern men or to receive them into the circles of society; but it is far from unsurmountable. Over Southern society, as over every other, woman reigns supreme, and they are more embittered against those whom they deem the authors of all their calamities than are their brothers, sons, and husbands." But, of the thousands of Northern men who overcame the reluctance of the Southerners to social intercourse, little was heard. Many a Southern planter secured a Northern partner or sold him half his plantation to get money to run the other half. For the irritations of 1865, each party must take its share of responsibility.
Had the South assisted in a skillful and adequate publicity, much disastrous misunderstanding might have been avoided. The North knew as little of the South as the South did of the North, but the North was eager for news. Able newspaper correspondents like Sidney Andrews of the Boston Advertiser and the Chicago Tribune, who opposed President Johnson's policies, Thomas W. Knox of the New York Herald, who had given General Sherman so much trouble in Tennessee, Whitelaw Reid, who wrote for several papers and tried cotton planting in Louisiana, and John T. Trowbridge, New England author and journalist, were dispatched southwards. Chief of the President's investigators was General Carl Schurz, German revolutionist, Federal soldier, and soon to be radical Republican, who held harsh views of the Southern people; and there were besides Harvey M. Watterson, Kentucky Democrat and Unionist, the father of "Marse" Henry; Benjamin C. Truman, New England journalist and soldier, whose long report was perhaps the best of all; Chief Justice Chase, who was thinking mainly of "How soon can the Negro vote?"; and General Grant, who made a report so brief that, notwithstanding its value, it attracted little attention. In addition a constant stream of information and misinformation was going northward from treasury agents, officers of the army, the Freedmen's Bureau, teachers, and missionaries. Among foreigners who described the conquered land were Robert Somers, Henry Latham, and William Hepworth Dixon. But few in the South realized the importance of supplying the North with correct information about actual conditions. The letters and reports, they thought, humiliated them; inquiry was felt to be prying and gloating. "Correspondents have added a new pang to surrender," it was said. The South was proud and refused to be catechized. From the Northern point of view, the South, a new and strange region with strange customs and principles, was of course, not to be considered as quite normal and American, but there was on the part of many correspondents a determined attempt to describe things as they were. And yet the North persisted in its unsympathetic queries when it seemed to have a sufficient answer in the reports of Grant, Schurz, and Truman.
Grant's opinion was short and direct: "I am satisfied that the mass of thinking men of the South accept the present situation of affairs in good faith.... The citizens of the Southern States are anxious to return to self-government within the Union as soon as possible." Truman came to the conclusion that "the rank and file of the disbanded Southern army... are the backbone and sinew of the South.... To the disbanded regiments of the rebel army, both officers and men, I look with great confidence as the best and altogether the most hopeful element of the South, the real basis of reconstruction and the material of worthy citizenship." General John Tarbell, before the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, testified that "there are, no doubt, disloyal and disorderly persons in the South, but it is an entire mistake to apply these terms to a whole people. I would as soon travel alone, unarmed, through the South as through the North. The South I left is not at all the South I hear and read about in the North. From the sentiment I hear in the North, I would scarcely recognize the people I saw, and, except their politics, I liked so well. I have entire faith that the better classes are friendly to the Negroes."
Carl Schurz on the other hand was not so favorably impressed. "The loyalty of the masses and most of the leaders of the southern people," he said, "consists in submission to necessity. There is, except in individual instances, an entire absence of that national spirit which forms the basis of true loyalty and patriotism." Another government official in Florida was quite doubtful of the Southern whites. "I would pin them down at the point of the bayonet," he declared, "so close that they would not have room to wiggle, and allow intelligent colored people to go up and vote in preference to them. The only Union element in the South proper... is among the colored people. The whites will treat you very kindly to your face, but they are deceitful. I have often thought, and so expressed myself, that there is so much deception among the people of the South since the rebellion, that if an earthquake should open and swallow them up, I was fearful that the devil would be dethroned and some of them take his place."
The point of view of the Confederate military leaders was exhibited by General Wade Hampton in a letter to President Johnson and by General Lee in his advice to Governor Letcher of Virginia. General Hampton wrote: "The South unequivocally 'accepts the situation' in which she is placed. Everything that she has done has been done in perfect faith, and in the true and highest sense of the word, she is loyal. By this I mean that she intends to abide by the laws of the land honestly, to fulfill all her obligations faithfully and to keep her word sacredly, and I assert that the North has no right to demand more of her. You have no right to ask, or expect that she will at once profess unbounded love to that Union from which for four years she tried to escape at the cost of her best blood and all her treasures." General Lee in order to set an example applied through General Grant for a pardon under the amnesty proclamation and soon afterwards he wrote to Governor Letcher: "All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good-feeling; qualify themselves to vote; and elect to the State and general legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country and the healing of all dissensions; I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself."
Southerners of the Confederacy everywhere, then, accepted the destruction of slavery and the renunciation of state sovereignty; they welcomed an early restoration of the Union, without any punishment of leaders of the defeated cause. But they were proud of their Confederate records though now legally "loyal" to the United States; they considered the Negro as free but inferior, and expected to be permitted to fix his status in the social organization and to solve the problem of free labor in their own way. To embarrass the easy and permanent realization of these views there was a society disrupted, economically prostrate, deprived of its natural leaders, subjected to a control not always wisely conceived nor effectively exercised, and, finally, containing within its own population unassimilated elements which presented problems fraught with difficulty and danger.
CHAPTER II. WHEN FREEDOM CRIED OUT
The Negro is the central figure in the reconstruction of the South. Without the Negro there would have been no Civil War. Granting a war fought for any other cause, the task of reconstruction would, without him, have been comparatively simple. With him, however, reconstruction meant more than the restoring of shattered resources; it meant the more or less successful attempt to obtain and secure for the freedman civil and political rights, and to improve his economic and social status. In 1861, the American Negro was everywhere an inferior, and most of his race were slaves; in 1865, he was no longer a slave, but whether he was to be serf, ward, or citizen was an unsettled problem; in 1868, he was in the South the legal and political equal, frequently the superior, of the white; and before the end of the reconstruction period he was made by the legislation of some states and by Congress the legal equal of the white even in certain social matters.
The race problem which confronted the American people had no parallel in the past. British and Spanish-American emancipation of slaves had affected only small numbers or small regions, in which one race greatly outnumbered the other. The results of these earlier emancipations of the Negroes and the difficulties of European states in dealing with subject white populations were not such as to afford helpful example to American statesmen. But since it was the actual situation in the Southern States rather than the experience of other countries which shaped the policies adopted during reconstruction, it is important to examine with some care the conditions in which the Negroes in the South found themselves at the close of the war.
The Negroes were not all helpless and without experience "when freedom cried out."* In the Border States and in the North there were, in 1861, half a million free Negroes accustomed to looking out for themselves. Nearly 200,000 Negro men were enlisted in the United States army between 1862 and 1865, and many thousands of slaves had followed raiding Federal forces to freedom or had escaped through the Confederate lines. State emancipation in Missouri, Maryland, West Virginia, and Tennessee, and the practical application of the Emancipation Proclamation where the Union armies were in control ended slavery for many thousands more. Wherever the armies marched, slavery ended. This was true even in Kentucky, where the institution was not legally abolished until the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Altogether more than a million Negroes were free and to some extent habituated to freedom before May 1865.
* A Negro phrase much used in referring to emancipation.
Most of these war-emancipated Negroes were scattered along the borders of the Confederacy, in camps, in colonies, in the towns, on refugee farms, at work with the armies, or serving as soldiers in the ranks. There were large working colonies along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Florida. The chief centers were near Norfolk, where General Butler was the first to establish a "contraband" camp, in North Carolina, and on the Sea Islands of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, which had been seized by the Federal fleet early in the war. To the Sea Islands also were sent, in 1865, the hordes of Negroes who had followed General Sherman out of Georgia and South Carolina. Through the border states from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and along both sides of the Mississippi from Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans, there were other refugee camps, farms, and colonies. For periods varying from one to four years these free Negroes had been at work, often amid conditions highly unfavorable to health, under the supervision of officers of the Treasury Department or of the army.
Emancipation was therefore a gradual process, and most of the Negroes, through their widening experience on the plantations, with the armies, and in the colonies, were better fitted for freedom in 1865 than they had been in 1861. Even their years of bondage had done something for them, for they knew how to work and they had adopted in part the language, habits, religion, and morals of the whites. But slavery had not made them thrifty, self-reliant, or educated. Frederick Douglass said of the Negro at the end of his servitude: "He had none of the conditions of self-preservation or self-protection. He was free from the individual master, but he had nothing but the dusty road under his feet. He was free from the old quarter that once gave him shelter, but a slave to the rains of summer and to the frosts of winter. He was turned loose, naked, hungry, and destitute to the open sky." To prove that he was free the Negro thought he must leave his old master, change his name, quit work for a time, perhaps get a new wife, and hang around the Federal soldiers in camp or garrison, or go to the towns where the Freedmen's Bureau was in process of organization. To the Negroes who remained at home—and, curiously enough, for a time at least many did so—the news of freedom was made known somewhat ceremonially by the master or his representative. The Negroes were summoned to the "big house," told that they were free, and advised to stay on for a share of the crop. The description by Mrs. Clayton, the wife of a Southern general, will serve for many: "My husband said, 'I think it best for me to inform our Negroes of their freedom.' So he ordered all the grown slaves to come to him, and told them they no longer belonged to him as property, but were all free. 'You are not bound to remain with me any longer, and I have a proposition to make to you. If any of you desire to leave, I propose to furnish you with a conveyance to move you, and with provisions for the balance of the year.' The universal answer was, 'Master, we want to stay right here with you.' In many instances the slaves were so infatuated with the idea of being, as they said, 'free as birds' that they left their homes and consequently suffered; but our slaves were not so foolish."*
* "Black and White under the Old Regime", p. 158,
The Negroes, however, had learned of their freedom before their old masters returned from the war; they were aware that the issues of the war involved in some way the question of their freedom or servitude, and through the "grapevine telegraph," the news brought by the invading soldiers, and the talk among the whites, they had long been kept fairly well informed. What the idea of freedom meant to the Negroes it is difficult to say. Some thought that there would be no more work and that all would be cared for by the Government; others believed that education and opportunity were about to make them the equal of their masters. The majority of them were too bewildered to appreciate anything except the fact that they were free from enforced labor.
Conditions were most disturbed in the so-called "Black Belt," consisting of about two hundred counties in the most fertile parts of the South, where the plantation system was best developed and where by far the majority of the Negroes were segregated. The Negroes in the four hundred more remote and less fertile "white" counties, which had been less disturbed by armies, were not so upset by freedom as those of the Black Belt, for the garrisons and the larger towns, both centers of demoralization, were in or near the Black Belt. But there was a moving to and fro on the part of those who had escaped from the South or had been captured during the war or carried into the interior of the South to prevent capture. To those who left slavery and home to find freedom were added those who had found freedom and were now trying to get back home or to get away from the Negro camps and colonies which were breaking up. A stream of immigration which began to flow to the southwest affected Negroes as far as the Atlantic coast. In the confusion of moving, families were broken up, and children, wife, or husband were often lost to one another. The very old people and the young children were often left behind for the former master to care for. Regiments of Negro soldiers were mustered out in every large town and their numbers were added to the disorderly mass. Some of the Federal garrisons and Bureau stations were almost overwhelmed by the numbers of blacks who settled down upon them waiting for freedom to bestow its full measure of blessing, and many of the Negroes continued to remain in a demoralized condition until the new year.
The first year of freedom was indeed a year of disease, suffering, and death. Several partial censuses indicate that in 1865-66 the Negro population lost as many by disease as the whites had lost in war. Ill-fed, crowded in cabins near the garrisons or entirely without shelter, and unaccustomed to caring for their own health, the blacks who were searching for freedom fell an easy prey to ordinary diseases and to epidemics. Poor health conditions prevailed for several years longer. In 1870, Robert Somers remarked that "the health of the whites has greatly improved since the war, while the health of the Negroes has declined till the mortality of the colored population, greater than the mortality of the whites was before the war, has now become so markedly greater, that nearly two colored die for every white person out of equal numbers of each."
Morals and manners also suffered under the new dispensation. In the crowded and disease-stricken towns and camps, the conditions under which the roving Negroes lived were no better for morals than for health, for here there were none of the restraints to which the blacks had been accustomed and which they now despised as being a part of their servitude. But in spite of all the relief that could be given there was much want. In fact, to restore former conditions the relief agencies frequently cut off supplies in order to force the Negroes back to work and to prevent others from leaving the country for the towns. But the hungry freedmen turned to the nearest food supply, and "spilin de gypshuns" (despoiling the Egyptians, as the Negroes called stealing from the whites) became an approved means of support. Thefts of hogs, cattle, poultry, field crops, and vegetables drove almost to desperation those whites who lived in the vicinity of the Negro camps. When the ex-slave felt obliged to go to town, he was likely to take with him a team and wagon and his master's clothes if he could get them.
The former good manners of the Negro were now replaced by impudence and distrust. There were advisers among the Negro troops and other agitators who assured them that politeness to whites was a mark of servitude. Pushing and crowding in public places, on street cars and on the sidewalks, and impudent speeches everywhere marked generally the limit of rudeness. And the Negroes were, in this respect, perhaps no worse than those European immigrants who act upon the principle that bad manners are a proof of independence.
The year following emancipation was one of religious excitement for large numbers of the blacks. Before 1865, the Negro church members were attached to white congregations or were organized into missions, with nearly always a white minister in charge and a black assistant. With the coming of freedom the races very soon separated in religious matters. For this there were two principal reasons: the Negro preachers could exercise more influence in independent churches; and new church organizations from the North were seeking Negro membership. Sometimes Negro members were urged to insist on the right "to sit together" with the whites. In a Richmond church a Negro from the street pushed his way to the communion altar and knelt. There was a noticeable pause; then General Robert E. Lee went forward and knelt beside the Negro; and the congregation followed his example. But this was a solitary instance. When the race issue was raised by either color, the church membership usually divided. There was much churchgoing by the Negroes, day and night, and church festivities and baptisms were common. The blacks preferred immersion and, wanted a new baptism each time they changed to a new church. Baptizings in ponds, creeks, or rivers were great occasions and were largely attended. "Shouting" the candidates went into the water and "shouting" they came out. One old woman came up screaming, "Freed from slavery! freed from sin! Bless God and General Grant!"
In the effort to realize their new-found freedom, the Negroes were heavily handicapped by their extreme poverty and their ignorance. The total value of free Negro property ran up into the millions in 1860, but the majority of the Negroes had nothing. There were a few educated Negroes in the South, and more in the North and in Canada, but the mass of the race was too densely ignorant to furnish its own leadership. The case, however, was not hopeless; the Negro was able to work and in large territories had little competition; wages were high, even though paid in shares of the crop; the cost of living was low; and land was cheap. Thousands seemed thirsty for an education and crowded the schools which were available. It was too much, however, to expect the Negro to take immediate advantage of his opportunities. What he wanted was a long holiday, a gun and a dog, and plenty of hunting and fishing. He must have Saturday at least for a trip to town or to a picnic or a circus; he did not wish to be a servant. When he had any money, swindlers reaped a harvest. They sold him worthless finery, cheap guns, preparations to bleach the skin or straighten the hair, and striped pegs which, when set up on the master's plantation, would entitle the purchaser to "40 acres and a mule."
The attitude of the Negroes' employers not infrequently complicated the situation which they sought to better. The old masters were, as a rule, skeptical of the value of free Negro labor. Carl Schurz thought this attitude boded ill for the future: "A belief, conviction, or prejudice, or whatever you may call it," he said, "so widely spread and apparently deeply rooted as this, that the Negro will not work without physical compulsion, is certainly calculated to have a very serious influence upon the conduct of the people entertaining it. It naturally produced a desire to preserve slavery in its original form as much and as long as possible... or to introduce into the new system that element of physical compulsion which would make the Negro work." The Negro wished to be free to leave his job when he pleased, but, as Benjamin C. Truman stated in his report to President Johnson, a "result of the settled belief in the Negro's inferiority, and in the necessity that he should not be left to himself without a guardian, is that in some sections he is discouraged from leaving his old master. I have known of planters who considered it an offence against neighborhood courtesy for another to hire their old hands, and in two instances that were reported the disputants came to blows over the breach of etiquette." The new Freedmen's Bureau insisted upon written contracts, except for day laborers, and this undoubtedly kept many Negroes from working regularly, for they were suspicious of contracts. Besides, the agitators and the Negro troops led them to hope for an eventual distribution of property. An Alabama planter thus described the situation in December 1865:
"They will not work for anything but wages, and few are able to pay wages. They are penniless but resolute in their demands. They expect to see all the land divided out equally between them and their old masters in time to make the next crop. One of the most intelligent black men I know told me that in a neighboring village, where several hundred blacks were congregated, he does not think that as many as three made contracts, although planters are urgent in their solicitations and offering highest prices for labor they can possibly afford to pay. The same man informed me that the impression widely prevails that Congress is about to divide out the lands, and that this impression is given out by Federal soldiers at the nearest military station. It cannot be disguised that in spite of the most earnest efforts of their old master to conciliate and satisfy them, the estrangement between races increases in its extent and bitterness. Nearly all the Negro men are armed with repeaters, and many of them carry them openly, day and night."
The relations between the races were better, however, than conditions seemed to indicate. The whites of the Black Belt were better disposed toward the Negroes than were those of the white districts. It was in the towns and villages that most of the race conflicts occurred. All whites agreed that the Negro was inferior, but there were many who were grateful for his conduct during the war and who wished him well. But others, the policemen of the towns, the "loyalists," those who had little but pride of race and the vote to distinguish them from the blacks, felt no good will toward the ex-slaves. It was Truman's opinion "not only that the planters are far better friends to the Negroes than the poor whites, but also better than a majority of the Northern men who go South to rent plantations." John T. Trowbridge, the novelist, who recorded his impressions of the South after a visit in 1865, was of the opinion that the Unionists "do not like niggers." "For there is," he said, "more prejudice against color among the middle and poorer classes—the Union men of the South who owned few or no slaves—than among the planters who owned them by scores and hundreds." The reports of the Freedmen's Bureau are to the same effect. A Bureau agent in Tennessee testified: "An old citizen, a Union man, said to me, said he, 'I tell you what, if you take away the military from Tennessee, the buzzards can't eat up the niggers as fast as we'll kill them.'"
The lawlessness of the Negroes in parts of the Black Belt and the disturbing influences of the black troops, of some officials of the Bureau, and of some of the missionary teachers and preachers, caused the whites to fear insurrections and to take measures for protection. Secret semi-military organizations were formed which later developed into the Ku Klux orders. When, however, New Year's Day 1866 passed without the hoped-for distribution of Property, the Negroes began to settle down.
At the beginning of the period of reconstruction, it seemed possible that the Negro race might speedily fall into distinct economic groups, for there were some who had property and many others who had the ability and the opportunity to acquire it; but the later drawing of race lines and the political disturbances of reconstruction checked this tendency. It was expected also that the Northern planters who came South in large numbers in 1865-66 might, by controlling the Negro labor and by the use of more efficient methods, aid in the economic upbuilding of the country. But they were ignorant of agricultural matters and incapable of wisely controlling the blacks; and they failed because at one time they placed too much trust in the Negroes and at another treated them too harshly and expected too much of them.
The question of Negro suffrage was not a live issue in the South until the middle of 1866. There was almost no talk about it among the Negroes; they did not know what it was. President Lincoln in 1864 and President Johnson in 1865 had merely mentioned the subject, though Chief Justice Chase and prominent radical members of Congress, as well as numerous abolitionists, had framed a Negro suffrage platform. But the Southern whites, considering the matter an impossibility, gave it little consideration. There was, however, both North and South, a tendency to see a connection between the freedom of the Negroes and their political rights and thus to confuse civil equality with political and social privileges. But the great masses of the whites were solidly opposed to the recognition of Negro equality in any form. The poorer whites, especially the "Unionists" who hoped to develop an opposition party, were angered by any discussion of the subject. An Alabama "Unionist," M. J. Saffold, later prominent as a radical politician, declared to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction: "If you compel us to carry through universal suffrage of colored, men... it will prove quite an *incubus upon us in the organization of a national union party of white men; it will furnish our opponents with a very effective weapon of offense against us."
There were, however, some Southern leaders of ability and standing who, by 1866, were willing to consider Negro suffrage. These men, among them General Wade Hampton of South Carolina and Governor Robert Patton of Alabama, were of the slaveholding class, and they fully counted on being able to control the Negro's vote by methods similar to those actually put in force a quarter of a century later. The Negroes were not as yet politically organized were not even interested in politics, and the master class might reasonably hope to regain control of them. Whitelaw Reid published an interview with one of the Hamptons which describes the situation exactly:
"A brother of General Wade Hampton, the South Carolina Hotspur, was on board. He saw no great objection to Negro suffrage, so far as the whites were concerned; and for himself, South Carolinian and secessionist though he was, he was quite willing to accept it. He only dreaded its effect on the blacks themselves. Hitherto they had in the main, been modest and respectful, and mere freedom was not likely to spoil them. But the deference to them likely to be shown by partisans eager for their votes would have a tendency to uplift them and unbalance them. Beyond this, no harm would be done the South by Negro suffrage. The old owners would cast the votes of their people almost as absolutely and securely as they cast their own. If Northern men expected in this way to build up a northern party in the South, they were gravely mistaken. They would only be multiplying the power of the old and natural leaders of Southern politics by giving every vote to a former slave. Heretofore such men had served their masters only in the fields; now they would do no less faithful service at the polls. If the North could stand it, the South could. For himself, he should make no special objection to Negro suffrage as one of the terms of reorganization, and if it came, he did not think the South would have much cause to regret it."
To sum up the situation at this time: the Negro population at the close of the war constituted a tremendous problem for those in authority. The race was free, but without status, without leaders, without property, and without education. Probably a fourth of them had some experience in freedom before the Confederate armies surrendered, and the servitude of the other three millions ended very quickly and without violence. But in the Black Belt, where the bulk of the black population was to be found, the labor system was broken up, and for several months the bewildered freedmen wandered about or remained at home under conditions which were bad for health, morals, and thrift. The Northern Negroes did not furnish the expected leadership for the race, and the more capable men in the South showed a tendency to go North. The unsettled state of the Negroes and their expectation of receiving a part of the property of the whites kept the latter uneasy and furnished the occasion of frequent conflicts. Not the least of the unsettling influences at work upon the Negro population were the colored troops and the agitators furnished by the Freedmen's Bureau, the missions, and the Bureau schools. But at the beginning of the year 1866, the situation appeared to be clearing, and the social and economic revolution seemed on the way to a quieter ending than might have been expected.
CHAPTER III. THE WORK OF THE PRESIDENTS
The war ended slavery, but it left the problem of the freed slave; it preserved the Union in theory, but it left unsolved many delicate problems of readjustment. Were the seceded States in or out of the Union? If in the Union, what rights had they? If they were not in the Union, what was their status? What was the status of the Southern Unionist, of the ex-Confederate? What punishments should be inflicted upon the Southern people? What authority, executive or legislative, should carry out the work of reconstruction? The end of the war brought with it, in spite of much discussion, no clear answer to these perplexing questions.
Unfortunately, American political life, with its controversies over colonial government, its conflicting interpretations of written constitutions, and its legally trained statesmen, had by the middle of the nineteenth century produced a habit of political thought which demanded the settlement of most governmental matters upon a theoretical basis. And now in 1865, each prominent leader had his own plan of reconstruction fundamentally irreconcilable with all the others, because rigidly theoretical. During the war the powers of the executive had been greatly expanded and a legislative reaction was to be expected. The Constitution called for fresh interpretation in the light of the Civil War and its results.
The first theory of reconstruction may be found in the Crittenden-Johnson resolutions of July 1861, which declared that the war was being waged to maintain the Union under the Constitution and that it should cease when these objects were obtained. This would have been subscribed to in 1861 by the Union Democrats and by most of the Republicans, and in 1865 the conquered Southerners would have been glad to reenter the Union upon this basis; but though in 1865 the resolution still expressed the views of many Democrats, the majority of Northern people had moved away from this position.
The attitude of Lincoln, which in 1865 met the views of a majority of the Northern people though not of the political leaders, was that "no State can upon its mere motion get out of the Union," that the States survived though there might be some doubt about state governments, and that "loyal" state organizations might be established by a population consisting largely of ex-Confederates who had been pardoned by the President and made "loyal" for the future by an oath of allegiance. Reconstruction was, Lincoln thought, a matter for the executive to handle. But that he was not inflexibly committed to any one plan is indicated by his proclamation after the pocket veto of the Wade-Davis Bill and by his last speech, in which he declared that the question of whether the seceded States were in the Union or out of it was "merely a pernicious abstraction." In addition, Lincoln said:
"We are all agreed that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe that it is not only possible, but in fact easier, to do this without deciding or even considering whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restore the proper practical relations between these States and the Union, and each forever after innocently indulge his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it."
President Johnson's position was essentially that of Lincoln, but his attitude toward the working out of the several problems was different. He maintained that the states survived and that it was the duty of the executive to restore them to their proper relations. "The true theory," said he, "is that all pretended acts of secession were from the beginning null and void. The States cannot commit treason nor screen individual citizens who may have committed treason any more than they can make valid treaties or engage in lawful commerce with any foreign power. The states attempting to secede placed themselves in a condition where their vitality was impaired, but not extinguished; their functions suspended, but not destroyed." Lincoln would have had no severe punishments inflicted even on leaders, but Johnson wanted to destroy the "slavocracy," root and branch. Confiscation of estates would, he thought, be a proper measure. He said on one occasion: "Traitors should take a back seat in the work of restoration.... My judgment is that he [a rebel] should be subjected to a severe ordeal before he is restored to citizenship. Treason should be made odious, and traitors must be punished and impoverished. Their great plantations must be seized, and divided into small farms and sold to honest, industrious men." The violence of Johnson's views subsequently underwent considerable modification but to the last he held to the plan of executive restoration based upon state perdurance. Neither Lincoln nor Johnson favored a change of Southern institutions other than the abolition of slavery, though each recommended a qualified Negro suffrage.
There were, however, other theories in the field, notably those of the radical Republican leaders. According to the state-suicide theory of Charles Sumner, "any vote of secession or other act by which any State may undertake to put an end to the supremacy of the Constitution within its territory is inoperative and void against the Constitution, and when sustained by force it becomes a practical ABDICATION by the State of all rights under the Constitution, while the treason it involves still further works an instant FORFEITURE of all those functions and powers essential to the continued existence of the State as a body politic, so that from that time forward the territory falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress as other territory, and the State, being according to the language of the law felo de se, ceases to exist." Congress should punish the "rebels" by abolishing slavery, by giving civil and political rights to Negroes, and by educating them with the whites.
Not essentially different, but harsher, was Thaddeus Stevens's plans for treating the South as a conquered foreign province. Let the victors treat the seceded States "as conquered provinces and settle them with new men and exterminate or drive out the present rebels as exiles." Congress in dealing with these provinces was not bound even by the Constitution, "a bit of worthless parchment," but might legislate as it pleased in regard to slavery, the ballot, and confiscation. With regard to the white population, he said: "I have never desired bloody punishments to any great extent. But there are punishments quite as appalling, and longer remembered, than death. They are more advisable, because they would reach a greater number. Strip a proud nobility of their bloated estates; reduce them to a level with plain republicans; send them forth to labor, and teach their children to enter the workshops or handle a plow, and you will thus humble the proud traitors." Stevens and Sumner agreed in reducing the Southern States to a territorial status. Sumner would then take the principles of the Declaration of Independence as a guide for Congress, while Stevens would leave Congress absolute. Neither considered the Constitution as of any validity in this crisis.
As a rule the former abolitionists were in 1865 advocates of votes and lands for the Negro, in whose capacity for self-rule they had complete confidence. The view of Gerrit Smith may be regarded as typical of the abolitionist position:
"Let the first condition of peace with them be that no people in the rebel States shall ever lose or gain civil or political rights by reason of their race or origin. The next condition of peace be that our black allies in the South—those saviours of our nation—shall share with their poor white neighbors in the subdivisions of the large landed estates of the South. Let the only other condition be that the rebel masses shall not, for say, a dozen years, be allowed access to the ballot-box, or be eligible to office; and that the like restrictions be for life on their political and military leaders.. .. The mass of the Southern blacks fall, in point of intelligence, but little, if any, behind the mass of the Southern whites.... In reference to the qualifications of the voter, men make too much account of the head and too little of the heart. The ballot-box, like God, says: 'Give me your heart.' The best-hearted men are the best qualified to vote; and, in this light, the blacks, with their characteristic gentleness, patience, and affectionateness, are peculiarly entitled to vote. We cannot wonder at Swedenborg's belief that the celestial people will be found in the interior of Africa; nor hardly can we wonder at the legend that the gods came down every year to sup with their favorite Africans."
One of the most statesmanlike proposals was made by Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts. If, forgetting their theories, the conservatives could have united in support of a restoration conceived in his spirit, the goal might have been speedily achieved. Andrew demanded a reorganization, based upon acceptance of the results of the war, but carried through with the aid of "those who are by their intelligence and character the natural leaders of their people and who surely will lead them by and by. These men cannot be kept out forever," said he, "for the capacity of leadership is a gift, not a device. They whose courage, talents, and will entitle them to lead, will lead .... If we cannot gain their support of the just measures needful for the work of safe reorganization, reorganization will be delusive and full of danger. They are the most hopeful subjects to deal with. They have the brain and the experience and the education to enable them to understand... the present situation. They have the courage as well as the skill to lead the people in the direction their judgments point.... Is it consistent with reason and our knowledge of human nature, to believe the masses of Southern men able to face about, to turn their backs on those they have trusted and followed, and to adopt the lead of those who have no magnetic hold on their hearts or minds? It would be idle to reorganize by the colored vote. If the popular vote of the white race is not to be had in favor of the guarantees justly required, then I am in favor of holding on—just where we are now. I am not in favor of a surrender of the present rights of the Union to a struggle between a white minority aided by the freedmen on one hand, against the majority of the white race on the other. I would not consent, having rescued those states by arms from Secession and rebellion, to turn them over to anarchy and chaos."
The Southerners, Unionists as well as Confederates, had their views as well, but at Washington these carried little influence. The former Confederates would naturally favor the plan which promised best for the white South, and their views were most nearly met by those of President Lincoln. Although he held that in principle a new Union had arisen out of the war, as a matter of immediate political expediency he was prepared to build on the assumption that the old Union still existed. The Southern Unionists cared little for theories; they wanted the Confederates punished, themselves promoted to high offices, and the Negro kept from the ballot box.
Even at the beginning of 1866, it was not too much to hope that the majority of former Republicans would accept conservative methods, provided the so-called "fruits of the war" were assured—that is, equality of civil rights, the guarantee of the United States war debt, the repudiation of the Confederate debt, the temporary disfranchisement of the leading Confederates, and some arrangement which would keep the South from profiting by representation based on the non-voting Negro population. But amid many conflicting policies, none attained to continuous and compelling authority.
The plan first put to trial was that of President Lincoln. It was a definite plan designed to meet actual conditions and, had he lived, he might have been able to carry it through successfully. Not a theorist, but an opportunist of the highest type, sobered by years of responsibility in war time, and fully understanding the precarious situation in 1865, Lincoln was most anxious to secure an early restoration of solidarity with as little friction as possible. Better than most Union leaders he appreciated conditions in the South, the problem of the races, the weakness of the Southern Unionists, and the advantage of calling in the old Southern leaders. He was generous and considerate; he wanted no executions or imprisonments; he wished the leaders to escape; and he was anxious that the mass of Southerners be welcomed back without loss of rights. "There is," he declared, "too little respect for their rights," an unwillingness, in short, to treat them as fellow citizens.
This executive policy had been applied from the beginning of the war as opportunity offered. The President used the army to hold the Border States in the Union, to aid in "reorganizing" Unionist Virginia and in establishing West Virginia. The army, used to preserve the Union might be used also to restore disturbed parts of it to normal condition. Assuming that the "States" still existed, "loyal" state governments were the first necessity. By his proclamation of December 8, 1863, Lincoln suggested a method of beginning the reconstruction: he would pardon any Confederate, except specified classes of leaders, who took an oath of loyalty for the future; if as many as ten percent of the voting population of 1860, thus made loyal, should establish a state government the executive would recognize it. The matter of slavery must, indeed, be left to the laws and proclamations as interpreted by the courts, but other institutions should continue as in 1861.
This plan was inaugurated in four States which had been in part controlled by the Federal army from nearly the beginning of the war: Tennessee (1862), Louisiana (1862), Arkansas (1862), and Virginia after the formation of West Virginia (1863). For each state Lincoln appointed a military governor: for Tennessee, Andrew Johnson; for Arkansas, John S. Phelps; for Louisiana, General Shepley. In Virginia he recognized the "reorganized" government, which had been transferred to Alexandria when the new State of West Virginia was formed. The military governors undertook the slow and difficult work of reorganization, however, with but slight success owing to the small numbers of Unionists and of Confederates who would take the oath. But by 1864, "ten percent" state governments were established in Arkansas and Louisiana, and progress was being made in Tennessee.
Congress was impatient of Lincoln's claim to executive precedence in the matter of reconstruction, and in 1864, both Houses passed the Wade-Davis Bill, a plan which asserted the right of Congress to control reconstruction and foreshadowed a radical settlement of the question. Lincoln disposed of the bill by a pocket veto and, in a proclamation dated July 8, 1864, stated that he was unprepared "to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration," or to discourage loyal citizens by setting aside the governments already established in Louisiana and Arkansas, or to recognize the authority of Congress to abolish slavery. He was ready, however, to cooperate with the people of any State who wished to accept the plan prepared by Congress and he hoped that a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery would be adopted.
Lincoln early came to the conclusion that slavery must be destroyed, and he had urgently advocated deportation of the freedmen, for he believed that the two races could not live in harmony after emancipation. The nearest he came to recommending the vote for the Negro was in a communication to Governor Hahn of Louisiana in March 1864: "I barely suggest, for your private consideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in, as for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. But this is only a suggestion, not to the public, but to you alone."
Throughout the war President Lincoln assumed that the state organizations in the South were illegal because disloyal and that new governments must be established. But just at the close of the war, probably carried away by feeling, he all but recognized the Virginia Confederate Government as competent to bring the state back into the Union. While in Richmond on April 5, 1865, he gave to Judge Campbell a statement of terms: the national authority to be restored; no recession on slavery by the executive; hostile forces to disband. The next day he notified General Weitzel, in command at Richmond, that he might permit the Virginia Legislature to meet and withdraw military and other support from the Confederacy. But these measures met strong opposition in Washington, especially from Secretary Stanton and Senator Wade and other congressional leaders, and on the 11th of April, Lincoln withdrew his permission for the legislature to meet. "I cannot go forward," he said, "with everybody opposed to me." It was on the same day that he made his last public speech, and Sumner, who was strongly opposed to his policy, remarked that "the President's speech and other things augur confusion and uncertainty in the future, with hot contumacy." At a cabinet meeting on the 14th of April, Lincoln made his last statement on the subject. It was fortunate, he said, that Congress had adjourned, for "we shall reanimate the States" before Congress meets; there should be no killing, no persecutions; there was too much disposition to treat the Southern people "not as fellow citizens."
The possibility of a conciliatory restoration ended when Lincoln was assassinated. Moderate, firm, tactful, of great personal influence, not a doctrinaire, and not a Southerner like Johnson, Lincoln might have "prosecuted peace" successfully. His policy was very unlike that proposed by the radical leaders. They would base the new governments upon the loyalty of the past plus the aid of enfranchised slaves; he would establish the new regime upon the loyalty of the future. Like Governor Andrew he thought that restoration must be effected by the willing efforts of the South. He would aid and guide but not force the people. If the latter did not wish restoration, they might remain under military rule. There should be no forced Negro suffrage, no sweeping disfranchisement of whites, no "carpetbaggism."
The work of President Johnson demands for its proper understanding some consideration of the condition of the political parties at the close of the war, for politics had much to do with reconstruction. The Democratic party, divided and defeated in the election of 1860, lost its Southern members in 1861 by the secession and remained a minority party during the remainder of the war. It retained its organization, however, and in 1864 polled a large vote. Discredited by its policy of opposition to Lincoln's administration, its ablest leaders joined the Republicans in support of the war. Until 1869, the party was poorly represented in Congress although, as soon as hostilities ended, the War Democrats showed a tendency to return to the old party. As to reconstruction, the party stood on the Crittenden-Johnson resolutions of 1861, though most Democrats were now willing to have slavery abolished.
The Republican party—frankly sectional and going into power on the single issue of opposition to the extension of slavery—was forced by the secession movement to take up the task of preserving the Union by war. Consequently, the party developed new principles, welcomed the aid of the War Democrats, and found it advisable to drop its name and with its allies to form the Union or National Union party. It was this National Union party which in 1864 nominated Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, and Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, on the same ticket. Lincoln's second Cabinet was composed of both Republicans and War Democrats. When the war ended, the conservative leaders were anxious to hold the Union party together in order to be in a better position to settle the problems of reconstruction, but the movement of the War Democrats back to their old party tended to leave in the Union party only its Republican members, with the radical leaders dominating.
In the South the pressure of war so united the people that party divisions disappeared for a time, but the causes of division continued to exist, and two parties, at least, would have developed had the pressure been removed. Though all factions supported the war after it began, the former Whigs and Douglas Democrats, when it was over, liked to remember that they had been "Union" men in 1860 and expected to organize in opposition to the extreme Democrats, who were now charged with being responsible for the misfortunes of the South. They were in a position to affiliate with the National Union party of the North if proper inducements were offered, while the regular Democrats were ready to rejoin their old party. But the embittered feelings resulting from the murder of Lincoln and the rapid development of the struggle between President Johnson and Congress caused the radicals "to lump the old Union Democrats and Whigs together with the secessionists—and many were driven where they did not want to go, into temporary affiliation with the Democratic party." Thousands went very reluctantly; the old Whigs, indeed, were not firmly committed to the Democrats until radical reconstruction had actually begun. Still other "loyalists" in the South were prepared to join the Northern radicals in advocating the disfranchisement of Confederates and in opposing the granting of suffrage to the Negroes.
The man upon whom fell the task of leading these opposing factions, radical and conservative, along a definite line of action looking to reunion had few qualifications for the task. Johnson was ill-educated, narrow, and vindictive and was positive that those who did not agree with him were dishonest. Himself a Southerner, picked up by the National Union Convention of 1864, as Thaddeus Stevens said, from "one of those damned rebel provinces," he loved the Union, worshiped the Constitution, and held to the strict construction views of the State Rights Democrats. Rising from humble beginnings, he was animated by the most intense dislike of the "slavocracy," as he called the political aristocracy of the South. Like many other American leaders he was proud of his humble origin, but unlike many others he never sloughed off his backwoods crudeness. He continually boasted of himself and vilified the aristocrats, who in return treated him badly. His dislike of them was so marked that Isham G. Harris, a rival politician, remarked that "if Johnson were a snake, he would lie in the grass to bite the heels of rich men's children." His primitive notions of punishment were evident in 1865 when he advocated imprisonment, execution, and confiscation; but like other reckless talkers he often said more than he meant.
When Johnson succeeded to the presidency, the feeling was nearly universal among the radicals, according to Julian, that he would prove a godsend to the country, for "aside from Mr. Lincoln's known policy of tenderness to the rebels, which now so jarred upon the feelings of the hour, his well known views on the subject of reconstruction were as distasteful as possible to radical Republicans." Senator Wade declared to the President: "Johnson, we have faith in you. By the gods, there will be no trouble now in running the Government!" To which Johnson replied: "Treason is a crime and crime must be punished. Treason must be made infamous and traitors must be impoverished." These words are an index to the speeches of Johnson during 1863-65. Even his radical friends feared that he would be too vindictive. For a few weeks he was much inclined to the radical plans, and some of the leaders certainly understood that he was in favor of Negro suffrage, the supreme test of radicalism. But when the excitement caused by the assassination of Lincoln and the break-up of the Confederacy had moderated somewhat, Johnson saw before him a task so great that his desire for violent measures was chilled. He must disband the great armies and bring all war work to an end; he must restore intercourse with the South, which had been blockaded for years; he must for a time police the country, look after the Negroes, and set up a temporary civil government; and finally he must work out a restoration of the Union. Sobered by responsibility and by the influence of moderate advisers, he rather quickly adopted Lincoln's policy. Johnson at first set his face against the movements toward reconstruction by the state governments already organized and by those people who wished to organize new governments on Lincoln's ten percent plan. As soon as possible the War Department notified the Union commanders to stop all attempts at reconstruction and to pursue and arrest all Confederate governors and other prominent civil leaders. The President was even anxious to arrest the military leaders who had been paroled but was checked in this desire by General Grant's firm protest. His cabinet advisers supported Johnson in refusing to recognize the Southern state governments; but three of them—Seward, Welles, and McCulloch—were influential in moderating his zeal for inflicting punishments. Nevertheless, he soon had in prison the most prominent of the Confederate civilians and several general officers. The soldiers, however, were sent home, trade with the South was permitted, and the Freedmen's Bureau was rapidly extended.
Previous to this Johnson had brought himself to recognize, early in May, the Lincoln "ten percent" governments of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and the reconstructed Alexandria government of Virginia. Thus only seven states were left without legal governments, and to bring those states back into the Union, Johnson inaugurated on May 29, 1865, a plan which was like that of Lincoln but not quite so liberal. In his Amnesty Proclamation, Johnson made a longer list of exceptions aimed especially at the once wealthy slave owners. On the same day he proclaimed the restoration of North Carolina. A provisional governor, W. W. Holden, was appointed and directed to reorganize the civil government and to call a constitutional convention elected by those who had taken the amnesty oath. This convention was to make necessary amendments to the constitution and to "restore said State to its constitutional relations to the Federal Government." It is to be noted that Johnson fixed the qualifications of delegates and of those who elected them, but, this stage once passed, the convention or the legislature would "prescribe the qualifications of electors... a power the people of the several States composing the Federal Union have rightfully exercised from the origin of the government to the present time." The President also directed the various cabinet officers to extend the work of their departments over the Confederate States and ordered the army officers to assist the civil authorities. During the next six weeks, similar measures were undertaken for the remaining six states of the Confederacy.
To set up the new order, army officers were first sent into every county to administer the amnesty oath and thus to secure a "loyal" electorate. In each state the provisional governor organized out of the remains of the Confederate local regime a new civil government. Confederate local officials who could and would take the amnesty oath were directed to resume office until relieved; the laws of 1861, except those relating to slavery, were declared to be in force; the courts were directed to use special efforts to crush lawlessness; and the old jury lists were destroyed and new ones were drawn up containing only the names of those who had taken the amnesty oath. Since there was no money in any state treasury, small sums were now raised by license taxes. A full staff of department heads was appointed, and by July 1865, the provisional governments were in fair working order.
To the constitutional conventions, which met in the fall, it was made clear, through the governors, that the President would insist upon three conditions: the formal abolition of slavery, the repudiation of the ordinance of secession, and the repudiation of the Confederate war debt. To Governor Holden he telegraphed: "Every dollar of the debt created to aid the rebellion against the United States should be repudiated finally and forever. The great mass of the people should not be taxed to pay a debt to aid in carrying on a rebellion which they in fact, if left to themselves, were opposed to. Let those who had given their means for the obligations of the state look to that power they tried to establish in violation of law, constitution, and will of the people. They must meet their fate." With little opposition these conditions were fulfilled, though there was a strong feeling against the repudiation of the debt, much discussion as to whether the ordinance of secession should be "repealed" or declared "now and always null and void," and some quibbling as to whether slavery was being destroyed by state action or had already been destroyed by war.
In the old state constitutions, very slight changes were made. Of these the chief were concerned with the abolition of slavery and the arrangement of representation and direct taxation on the basis of white population. Little effort was made to settle any of the Negro problems, and in all states the conventions left it to the legislatures to make laws for the freedmen. There was no discussion of Negro, suffrage in the conventions, but President Johnson sent what was for him a remarkable communication to Governor Sharkey of Mississippi:
"If you could extend the elective franchise to all persons of color who can read the Constitution of the United States in English and write their names, and to all persons of color who own real estate valued at not less than two hundred and fifty dollars and pay taxes thereon, you would completely disarm the adversary and set an example the other states will follow. This you can do with perfect safety, and you would thus place Southern States in reference to free persons of color upon the same basis with the free states.... And as a consequence the radicals, who are wild upon Negro franchise, will be completely foiled in their attempts to keep the Southern states from renewing their relations to the Union by not accepting their senators and representatives."