Compare and contrast presidential and congressional ("Radical") Reconstruction.

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martinjmurphy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were basically 3 plans for Reconstruction, Lincoln’s plan, Johnson’s plan, and the Radical Republican plan.


Lincoln’s plan was known as the 10% Plan. It was simple. With a few exceptions, Lincoln offered pardons to any Confederate who swore allegiance to the Union and the Constitution.  When the number of people who took an oath of allegiance equaled 10% of the number of voters who participated in the election of 1860, the state would be readmitted to the Union after organizing a new state government which abolished slavery.  Lincoln was assassinated before this plan could be put into effect.


Johnson’s plan was also lenient towards the southern states.  He would grant pardons to anyone taking a loyalty oath to the U.S. except for high ranking Confederate political and military leaders, and people owning property worth more than $20,000. States would be readmitted to the Union once they created a new state government that abolished slavery, repealed the state’s ordinance of secession, and repudiated Confederate debts.  This was put into effect when Congress was in recess.  Johnson’s Plan did not really address the fortunes of newly freed slaves and southern states began to pass “black codes”’ or laws which severely limited the civil rights of freedmen. When Congress reconvened, it refused to recognize Johnson’s plan by refusing to seat any person elected to Congress from any former Confederate state. It then began to pass its own laws concerning the southern states.


The Congressional Plan, or Radical Republican Plan, was meant to aid newly freed slaves (known as freedmen) and to punish the South.  It first passed several laws helping newly freed slaves, such as The Civil Rights Act (whose provisions would later be found in the 14th Amendment).  It also extended the life of the Freedmen’s Bureau.  It then passed a series of laws known as The Reconstruction Acts.  These laws were vetoed by Johnson, but the vetoes were easily overridden and these laws were put into effect.  The Reconstruction Acts basically divided the South into 5 military districts with the military commander of the district given complete authority.  No state would be allowed back into the Union until it ratified the 14th Amendment and guaranteed the right to vote for African American men. And later, for some states, the 15th Amendment had to be ratified, too.  The 14th Amendment punished Confederate supporters and gave citizenship to former slaves.  It also said that no state could deny to anyone, including African Americans, the equal protection of the law and due process of law.  The 15th amendment stated that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race.  Eventually all states were readmitted under this plan.

saintfester eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Presidential Reconstruction refers to the plan of Andrew Johnson, our 17th president, to rebuild and reconstitute the south following the Civil War. Johnson believed that he only needed to find unrepentant Confederates out and force Confederate states to sign the 13th Amendment before they were readmitted to the Union. Republicans in congress were outraged by what they viewed as a total lack of sympathy for the plight of newly-freed African- Americans. Johnson, a former slave owner himself, ignored the reports of Black Codes, race riots, lynching’s, and mass poverty coming out of southern states. Eventually congress breaks his power by attempting to impeach him and then by taking over Reconstruction themselves.

Congressional Reconstruction refers to the period of time before Grant came into office when Republicans in Congress guided the process of Reconstruction. First, they passed the Freedman’s Bureau Bill, which established helpful Freedman’s Bureau offices across the south to help support newly freed slaves. They also passed the Military Reconstruction Act which tried to stop the widespread racial violence towards blacks in the south by dividing the former Confederate states into districts, each one with a general and an army in charge. They also passed the 14th Amendment which helped protect the voting rights of newly freed slaves.

Congressional Reconstruction technically ended with the election of Grant in 1868, but he worked with Republicans in congress to expand their polices during his time in office.