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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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