The National Debate Over Reconstruction; Impeachment; and the Election of Grant

The breach between President and Congress inaugurated a period of bitter debate over Reconstruction. Congress failed in 1868 to remove Johnson from office, but the election of Ulysses S. Grant as his successor guaranteed that Reconstruction as established by the Republican party would continue.

Despite strong appeals to racial prejudice and the principle of states rights by Johnson's supporters, the Northern electorate gave Republicans a resounding triumph in the elections of 1866.

The following March, Congress enacted the Reconstruction Act over Johnson's veto, placing the South under temporary military rule. The law extended the vote to Southern black men, while temporarily depriving many white leaders of the rights to vote and hold office.

The Reconstruction Act launched the period of Congressional, or Radical, Reconstruction, which lasted until 1877.

The conflict between President Johnson and Congress did not end with the passage of the Reconstruction Act.

When, in February, 1868, Johnson removed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, in violation of the recently-enacted Tenure of Office Act, he was impeached by the House of Representatives.

The Senate failed by one vote to remove him from office. Shortly after the trial, the Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant, the North's greatest war hero, for president.

Grant defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour in the election of 1868.

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Copyright 2003
he Meaning of Freedom: Black and White Responses to Slavery From Free Labor to Slave Labor Rights and Power: The Politics of Reconstruction The Ending of Reconstruction Epilogue: The Unfinished Revolution Resources Credits for this Exhibit Introduction