Why did President Johnson advise southern states not to adopt the 14th amendment?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

President Johnson encouraged the southern states not to ratify the 14th amendment. President Johnson had been on a collision course with Congress ever since he vetoed two bills of Congress passed to deal with the black codes. Johnson vetoed giving the Freedmen’s Bureau more power. This bill would have created courts to prosecute people who violated the rights of African-Americans. He also vetoed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866. This bill would have given citizenship to African-Americans that would have been protected by the federal government. President Johnson believed Congress had gone way beyond its authority in passing these laws. He felt these laws were illegal because the South had no say in developing these laws.

Thus, when the 14th amendment was proposed, Johnson hoped to make the mid-term elections of 1866 a referendum on the 14th amendment and the actions of the Radical Republicans. He hoped people wouldn’t elect Radical Republicans to Congress. Johnson had his own Reconstruction plan that he hoped would be implemented. It was more lenient on the South than the Radical Republican plan. However, Radical Republicans were elected in large numbers.

President Johnson felt the 14th amendment took away too much power from the former Confederate leaders. They weren’t allowed to hold office unless pardoned by a two-thirds vote in Congress. He also felt the amendment was drafted without the input of the southern states.

Congress and President Johnson clashed over many issues related to Reconstruction. One of those events was the 14th amendment.

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