Abraham Lincoln's Presidency

Start Free Trial

What similarities exist between Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction plans?

Quick answer:

Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction plans were similar in that they both had similar requirements for former Confederate states to be reunited into the Union. This required ten percent of voters to take a loyalty oath and for the states to ratify the 13th Amendment. They also granted amnesty to most Confederates.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The most fundamental similarity between the Reconstruction plans of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson was their common insistence on the primacy of presidential power. Both men believed that the president should manage the process of Reconstruction. Congress had other ideas, though. One faction in Congress, the Radical Republicans, had strong convictions about Reconstruction. Congress always had the power to admit territories as states into the Union, so it claimed the right to manage the readmission of the states in the South, too. The Supreme Court also could play a role; it had passed the key Dred Scott decision before the war on the slavery question.

Neither Lincoln nor Johnson wanted vengeance. Their conciliatory policies welcomed rebels back into the united nation. This is unusual because defeated rebels were typically—according to historical precedents—put to death or imprisoned after failed rebellions.

Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 before he could implement much of his plan for Reconstruction. Had Lincoln not been killed, it is probable that Reconstruction would have been largely handled by him as president. He was the respected and successful wartime leader, and he would have been able to persuade Congress and run Reconstruction. Johnson, on the other hand, lacked Lincoln's stature and flexibility; he was not even a Republican. Because of Johnson's limitations and misjudgments, Reconstruction was ultimately managed by Congress.

Lincoln's and Johnson's plans were both conciliatory and moderate in their treatment of the South, but Johnson was considerably easier on the former Confederacy. Lincoln's Ten Percent Plan called for readmission of Southern states after a mere 10% of voters pledged allegiance to the United States. Congress insisted that half of the voters needed to pledge loyalty first. Johnson, upon becoming president, did not even adhere to Lincoln's 10% threshold. Southern states easily and quickly formed governments under Johnson's plan. Johnson also did not protect black people's rights as Lincoln had done. Lincoln would have worked with Radical Republicans to safeguard and buttress the right of former slaves, but Johnson did not really care about them.

Southern states responded to Johnson's leniency by passing the so-called black codes, which created differential punishments for formerly enslaved people versus the wider population. Also, black people were intimidated by the Ku Klux Klan and killed in race riots in the South. Enraged Radical Republicans took over the Reconstruction process and impeached Johnson partially due to his incompetence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both President Abraham Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson intended Reconstruction to be a way to reunite the divided country as seamlessly as possible. This put them at odds with the Radical Republicans in Congress who wanted to punish the South. President Lincoln proposed a relatively lenient plan in which southern states would be readmitted to the Union once ten percent of their eligible voters publicly swore loyalty to the United States. They would then be permitted to elect state legislators and draft a new state constitution. Furthermore, amnesty would be granted to nearly all former Confederates.

As a southerner himself, President Johnson also favored a plan that was kind to the former Confederate states. He implemented Lincoln's ten percent plan and issued a widespread amnesty to all but the top-ranking Confederate leaders. Johnson took Reconstruction a step further than Lincoln and returned all confiscated Confederate property to its former owners (aside from their slaves). Like Lincoln, Johnson required the former rebellious states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery before they would be readmitted into the Union.

This lenient approach to the former rebellious states drew ire from many members of Congress who passed legislation over several of President Johnson's vetoes in order to implement a more heavy-handed version of Reconstruction.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were similarities between Andrew Johnson's and Abraham Lincoln's plans of reconstruction. Both were ultimately plans based in reconciliation between the South and the North, as opposed to the harsher vision held by the Radical Republicans.

While the Civil War was still being fought, Lincoln unveiled the "Ten Percent Plan," which envisioned a path toward Reconstruction. According to these plans, Southerners would be granted a pardon, assuming they gave an oath of loyalty to the United States, though this would not be extended to the Confederate leadership. Former Confederate States would be reincorporated into the Union as soon as ten percent of its citizens had taken this oath. Later, in 1864, Lincoln vetoed the Wade-Davis Bill, which would have required a majority of each state's population to have sworn loyalty. That being said, it might be worth questioning just how much this plan was itself related to wartime contingency, as a tactical maneuver against the Confederacy.

After Lincoln's death, Johnson carried out the first phase of Reconstruction. He issued a blanket pardon to all Southern whites outside of Confederate leadership (and he also gave out numerous pardons to them). Like Lincoln, he would also get into conflict with the Radical Republicans, and that conflict would ultimately culminate with the impeachment hearings against him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

President Abraham Lincoln and President Andrew Johnson both developed plans for Reconstruction. They believed the President should be developing and directing the Reconstruction process. There were similarities in their plans.

Both plans offered amnesty to southerners under certain conditions. President Lincoln’s plan, called the Ten Percent Plan, offered amnesty to white southerners who said they would be loyal to the United States. However, this didn’t include ex-Confederate leaders. President Johnson also offered amnesty to white southerners if they promised to be loyal to the United States. Ex-Confederate leaders could get amnesty, but they had to apply directly to President Johnson to receive it.

Another similarity was the both plans required the rejecting of slavery. In President Lincoln’s plan, the states would have to write new constitutions that banned slavery. In President Johnson’s plan, states had to ratify the 13th amendment in their new state constitutions.

Both plans didn’t address the suffrage of the slaves. President Lincoln's plan encouraged the new state governments to give the former slaves the right to vote. President Johnson's plan wanted the states to decide the process of suffrage for former slaves.

Finally, compared to Radical Republican Reconstruction, both plans were considered to easier on the South. The Radical Republicans had a very harsh plan for the reconstruction of the South. President Lincoln and President Johnson had plans that were easier in how the South would be treated.

While neither of these plans proposed by President Lincoln and President Johnson was implemented, there were similarities in both plans.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial