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What are the similarities and differences between Lincoln's, Johnson's, and Congress's Reconstruction plans?

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Abraham Lincoln's plan of Reconstruction was conceived to reunite a divided country with a healing hand. His motives can best be summarized by the words from his second inaugural address, which advocated that the United States heal itself "with malice towards none, with charity for all." This plan was centered on the ten percent rule. This magnanimous provision stated that the former Confederate states would be welcomed back into the Union once ten percent of their voters publicly swore their loyalty to the country. The states would then be permitted to draft new state constitutions and elect their legislatures. Amnesty would be given to all but the highest-ranking Confederates who swore loyalty. Lincoln hoped that this generous and kind approach would encourage the rebels to accept defeat.

When Andrew Johnson became president after Lincoln's death, he took an even more lenient approach to Reconstruction. A southerner himself, Johnson was not so much concerned with protecting blacks as he was with reuniting the country. He kept the ten percent rule in place. However, he went a step further and returned all confiscated property to former rebels. Johnson required that each former Confederate state repeal its article of secession before being readmitted. His plan also required that southern legislatures directly appeal to the president in order for their states to rejoin the Union.

These presidential plans were far too lenient for many in Congress. A coalition known as the Radical Republicans sought to completely remake the South. This plan required half of the southern voters to swear loyalty to the United States. While all three plans required the former Confederate states to formally abolish slavery, Congressional Reconstruction required that the newly freed population have certain protections. They formed the Freedman's Bureau to help integrate former slaves into the fabric of society. They sent the federal army back into the South to protect the newly won liberties of the former slaves. This plan also required that the southern states ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

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The Lincoln, Johnson, and Congress Reconstruction plans were similar in that they all sought to restore the Union to the pre-war period.

  • The three plans required oaths of loyalty to be taken by those seeking pardon.
  • High Confederate officials were barred from being granted pardons.
  • Each state was required to abolish slavery and comply with the prevailing law.

The differences between the Lincoln, Johnson, and Congress Reconstruction plans include:

  • Although both the Lincoln and Johnson plan were open to readmission of the southern States, Congress claimed that the two administrations were too lenient and sought stiffer punishment for the States.
  • Congress rejected representatives accepted by the Lincoln and Johnson plans.

Johnson’s plan was similar to Lincoln's. He was hoping to achieve what his predecessor had set in motion. However, Congress remained strongly opposed to both plans in trying to assert their authority and interests.

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There were several plans for Reconstruction. I will explain each plan so you can identify the similarities and differences. The plans were different because each person or group proposing the plan had different objectives. For example, President Lincoln want to heal the country yet be sure some of the factors leading to the Civil War didn’t occur again. President Johnson was from the South. Some people felt that impacted his plan. Congress wanted to have a plan that was harsher on the South. Some in Congress, the Radical Republicans, really wanted to punish the South.

Lincoln’s Plan was known as the Ten Percent Plan. It required ten percent of the voters to pledge to be loyal to the United States. New constitutions would have to end slavery. Forgiveness would be offered to white southerners who agreed to be loyal to the United States. This provision didn’t include the former leaders of the Confederacy.

The Wade-Davis Bill was a plan proposed by Congress. It required 50% of white southerners to be loyal to our country. In the new state constitutions that would be written, slavery would be illegal. Former leaders of the Confederacy couldn’t hold office.

President Johnson had a plan because he believed the President should direct the Reconstruction process. Southerners would be forgiven and get their property back if they agreed to be loyal to the United States. The leaders of the Confederacy had to ask the President directly for forgiveness. New state constitutions would be written. Slavery would be illegal, and secession wouldn’t be allowed in these newly written constitutions.

The Radical Republicans in Congress had a plan that was quite harsh on the South. They wanted to give African-American males the right to vote. They wanted to prevent the former leaders of the Confederacy from voting. They also planned to give slaves land by taking it from the plantation owners. They also provide funding for schools. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were part of their plan. Slavery was illegal with the 13th amendment. All people born in the United States would be citizens of the United States was part of the 14th amendment. With the 15th amendment, people couldn’t be denied voting rights based on their race or color. The military was also in charge of Reconstruction in the South.

Eventually, it was the harsher Radical Republican plan that prevailed and became the plan of Reconstruction in the South.

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