Describe four major differences between President Lincoln’s plan for southern reconstruction and Congress’ plan for radical reconstruction

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction was far more conciliatory than that of the Radical Republicans. Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction in late 1863, long before the war was over; but long after a Union victory was virtually assured. His plan called for amnesty for all those who fought against the Union except for Confederate Officers and government officials, particularly those who had held Federal positions to aid in the rebellion. He also provided for the Southern states to form new governments when ten percent of each state's citizens who had voted in the 1860 election swore allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and received a presidential pardon. Lincoln's position was that the states had not left the Union, but were merely "in rebellion." He based his authority on his constitutional authority to enforce the laws of the country and his pardon power. 

The Radical Republicans in Congress were not so generous. Most were determined to remake the South in the image of the North, and destroy the old Planter aristocracy. They based their authority on the Constitutional mandate that Congress guarantee to each state a republican form of government which gave Congress the implied power to control reconstruction. As far as the status of the former Confederacy, Thad Stevens said that they were now "conquered provinces:' Charles Sumner said that they had committed political suicide and reverted to the status of unorganized territories.

Congress passed its own Reconstruction plan, the Wade-Davis Bill, which provided that a majority of white males must declare allegiance to the U.S. Constitution; only those who took an iron-clad oath of past loyalty could vote or serve in State constitutional conventions. New State constitutions must abolish slavery, repudiate any Confederate debt, and no former Confederate officials could hold office. Lincoln pocket vetoed the bill when it reached his desk.

Lincoln's last words on Reconstruction were on April 11, 1865 when he said that the southern States were "out of their proper relation with the Union," and the object was to get them into their "proper political relation." He stated in a cabinet meeting that the Radical Republicans possessed an attitude of hate and vindictiveness with which he could not sympathize. He died shortly thereafter, so one can only speculate on the outcome of Reconstruction had he survived.

 

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