How did Andrew Johnson's plan for the Reconstruction compare to Congress's plan?

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Johnson was primarily concerned with assimilating the South back into the Union as soon as possible. Unlike most Congressional Republicans, he didn't see Southerners as traitors and rebels who needed to be punished for seceding and starting the Civil War. To that end, his Reconstruction plan was aimed at reconciliation...

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Johnson was primarily concerned with assimilating the South back into the Union as soon as possible. Unlike most Congressional Republicans, he didn't see Southerners as traitors and rebels who needed to be punished for seceding and starting the Civil War. To that end, his Reconstruction plan was aimed at reconciliation between (white) Northerners and Southerners rather than concerning itself with preventing the South from starting another war or the protection of civil rights.

Speaking of which, in stark contrast to the plans of the Radical Republicans, Johnson's version of Reconstruction completely ignored the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of African-Americans. Johnson was determined that they would play no part in the new governments of the South, which would be exclusively run by white members of the old Southern elite.

Johnson's proposals also hindered any chance of African-American empowerment through the acquisition of land. He ordered virtually all Southern land in the hands of the Federal government returned back to its (white) pre-war owners, thus dashing the hopes of economic autonomy for former slaves.

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There were significant differences between Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan and the plan put forth by the Republicans in Congress, which was known as the Radical Republican plan. Andrew Johnson wanted to provide amnesty and a return of property to individuals who promised to be loyal to the country. However, the former leaders of the Confederacy had to apply directly to the President in order to be granted amnesty. Only individuals who had been pardoned could vote for delegates that would write the new state constitutions that needed to be developed. Those constitutions needed to reject secession and ratify the Thirteenth Amendment. Unfortunately, President Johnson’s plan didn’t grant too many rights to the former slaves.

The Radical Republicans wanted to completely change the South. Their plan called for granting all African American males the right to vote while denying voting rights to former Confederate leaders. They also wanted to take land from the plantation owners and give it to the former slaves. Their plan wanted to provide federal funds for African American schools.

Since the Radical Republicans controlled the Reconstruction process, they were able to accomplish many of their goals. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gave African Americans full citizenship. The Radical Republicans also gave the Freedmen’s Bureau the power to prosecute people who violated the rights of the African Americans. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were passed, which stated that anybody born in the United States would be a citizen of the country and prevented the denial of voting rights based on race or having been a slave in the past. The Reconstruction Act of 1867 placed the South under military rule. The military oversaw the rebuilding of the South and the writing of new state constitutions. The Radical Republican plan was far more stringent on the South than Andrew Johnson’s plan would have been.

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President Andrew Johnson’s plan for Reconstruction was much more lenient than the plan that Congress eventually passed that is known as “Radical Reconstruction.”  Johnson, like President Lincoln before him, was much less inclined to treat the South harshly than the Radicals were.

Johnson did not believe that Reconstruction was really even necessary.  He did not believe that the Southern states had ever really left the Union (since there was no right to secede) and he did not believe in equal rights for African Americans.  Therefore, he proposed a plan similar to Lincoln’s.  He amnestied all Southerners who were not rich and had not been senior officials in the Confederacy.  He then pardoned many who did not qualify for amnesty.  He did ask states to abolish slavery and to repudiate Confederate war debts, but that was all.

The Radical Republicans, by contrast, really wanted to be tough on the South.  Therefore, they created a plan that put military governments in place in the South.  They required the Southern states to give African Americans the vote and to ratify the 14th Amendment.  They did not give amnesty to nearly as many ex-Confederates as Johnson would have.

In short, the Congressional/Radical plan was much tougher on the South than Johnson’s lenient plan.

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