Describe the major differences between President Lincoln’s and Congress’s plans for 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 States would be readmitted to the Union once they created a new state government that abolished slavery, repealed the state’s ordinance of secession, and repudiated Confederate debts.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.

Further Reading:
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lincoln's plan, formulated in the midst of the war, is mainly remembered for what became known as the "Ten Percent Plan," whereby a state could form a civilian government and apply for readmission to the Union after ten percent of its registered voters had sworn allegiance to the federal government. The president also proposed that all but the highest-ranking Confederate leaders should be pardoned, i.e., that they would not be prosecuted for treason, a capital offense, at the end of the war. Republicans in Congress, convinced that Lincoln's plan was too lenient, passed the Wade-Davis Bill, which completely abolished slavery, required a majority of adult men in a state to swear allegiance before that state could be readmitted, and barred those who had willingly served in the Confederate government, including army officers, from voting. These important differences laid the framework for the political struggle between Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor, and Congress. Johnson's approach, like Lincoln's, was remarkably lenient toward southern whites, and almost totally indifferent toward the new population of black freedmen. Republicans in Congress, on the other hand, advocated full rights, including voting rights, and economic assistance for African-Americans. Their views won out in the short term, but in the long term, white southern political leaders were successful in regaining control of the politics and economy of the South.