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Reuniting the Union: A Chronology Next
Digital History ID 3096


December 1863:
The 10 Percent Plan
President Lincoln announces a plan for reconstructing those Confederate states already under Union control. He offers to pardon Confederates who take an oath to support the Union. When ten percent of a state's citizens eligible to vote in 1860 swear an oath of allegiance and a state has abolished slavery, he promises to readmit the state to the Union.

By the end of the war, Lincoln publicly calls for limited black suffrage in the South.
July 1864:
The Wade-Davis Bill

Many Congressional Republicans believe that the 10 Percent Plan is too lenient since it does nothing to end the economic and political power of the planter class or protect the civil rights of ex-slaves. They also feel that the president has overstepped his authority by issuing a plan for reconstruction without consulting Congress.

Congressional Republicans outline their plan for reconstructing the union. The Wade-Davis Bill requires each state to abolish slavery, repudiate their acts of secession, and refuse to honor wartime debts. It also stipulates that a majority, rather than 10 percent, of voters in 1860 take an oath of allegiance before a state can be reorganized. Finally, it specifies that anyone who wants to vote in a constitutional convention in a former Confederate state must swear that he never voluntarily supported the Confederacy.

Lincoln refuses to sign the Wade-Davis Bill because, he wrote, he is not ready "to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration."

March 1865:
Freedman's Bureau
To coordinate efforts to protect the rights of former slaves and provide them with education and medical care, Congress creates the Freedmen's Bureau. One of the bureau's most important functions is to oversee labor contracts between ex-slaves and employers.

April 4, 1865:
Lincoln's Assassination
Lincoln's assassination makes Vice President Andrew Johnson president.

May 1865:
Johnson Announces His Plan for Reconstruction

Johnson grants immediate amnesty to former Confederates who own less than $20,000 worth of property. Other ex-Confederates may petition him for presidential pardons, which he freely grants. His plan to readmit the former Confederate states requires them to convene conventions to disavow their acts of secession, abolish slavery, and repudiate their war debts.

By December, all the ex-Confederate states seek readmission except Texas. But South Carolina refuses to condemn its act of secession; Mississippi refuses to ratify the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery; and several states refuse to repudiate their war debt.

November 1865:
Black Codes
Beginning with Mississippi, the ex-Confederate states adopt "Black Codes," legal codes that deny African Americans the right to purchase or even rent land. The more stringent codes also deny African Americans the right to bear arms, meet together after sunset, and marry whites. Vagrancy laws allow authorities to arrest blacks "in idleness" (including many children) and assign them to a chain gang or auction them off to a planter for as long as a year. Some laws allowed white citizens to arrest any black person for such offenses as "insulting gestures" and "malicious mischief."

December 1865:
Johnson Declares the Union Restored

Despite the failure to fully comply with his provisions for readmission to the Union, President Johnson announces that the Union is restored. But Congress refuses to seat the former Congressional representatives from the former Confederate states.

Arguing that the former Confederate states had forfeited their statehood and returned to the status of territories, a joint committee of six Senators and nine Representatives declares that only Congress, and not the president, can readmit them to the Union.

December 1865:
The States Ratify the 13th Amendment
The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery.
February 1866:
Congress Attempts to Protect Ex-Slaves by Expanding the Power of the Freedmen's Bureau
Reacting to the Black Codes, Congress attempts to protect the rights of the freedmen by increasing the power of the Freedmen's Bureau, giving it the power to try people who deprive freedmen of civil rights in military court. The bill is passed over President Johnson's veto.

April 1866:
Congress Passes the Civil Rights Act of 1866
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, adopted over President Johnson's veto, enumerates the rights of citizens of the United States, including the right to make contracts, sue, give evidence in court, and purchase and sell property.

June 1866:
Congress Submits the 14th Amendment to the States for Ratification

Fearing that the Supreme Court might declare the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional, Congress proposes the 14th Amendment, which guarantees the citizenship of African Americans. This is necessary because of the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision. It also cancels all Confederate debts, prohibits any government from providing compensation for the loss of slaves, and prohibits former Confederate officeholders from holding public office. Although the amendment does not guarantee African Americans the right to vote, it reduces the Congressional representation of states that deny suffrage.

President Johnson urges southern legislatures to reject the amendment.

Summer 1866:
Whites Riot in Memphis and New Orleans
Rioting in Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana, in which many African Americans are killed, convinces many Northerners that stronger measures are needed to protect the freedmen.

Fall 1866:
Republicans Capture Two-Thirds of Both Houses of Congress
In the fall elections of 1866, Republicans win majorities in every northern legislature and a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, assuring the party of enough votes to override any presidential veto.
March 1867:
Congress Divides the South into Military Districts Subject to Martial Law

Over President Johnson's veto, Congress adopts a new program for reconstruction. The First Reconstruction Act divides the former Confederate states into five military districts subject to martial law. It requires the ex-Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment, adopt new state constitutions disqualifying former Confederate officials from holding public office, and guarantee black men the right to vote.

Some 703,000 African Americans are registered as voters. In five states--Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina--black voters make up a majority.

February-May 1868:
Impeachment of President Johnson

To prevent the president from obstructing its reconstruction program, Congress passes several laws restricting presidential powers. These include legislation that prevents him from appointing Supreme Court justices and that restricts his authority over the army. The Tenure of Office Act bars him from removing, without Senate approval, officeholders that had been appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate.

In August 1867, Johnson tests the Tenure of Office Act by removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. In February 1868, the House votes to impeach him by a vote of 126-47. In May, 35 Senators vote for conviction and 19 against, one vote short of removing the president from office.

Summer 1868:
Confederate States Readmitted to the Union and Georgia Expels Blacks from Its State Legislature
In the summer of 1868, seven former Confederate states--Alabama (July 13, 1868), Arkansas (June 22, 1868), Florida (June 25, 1868), Georgia* (July 21, 1868), Louisiana (July 9, 1868), North Carolina (July 4, 1868), and South Carolina (July 9, 1868) are readmitted to the Union. In September, Georgia expels three black senators and 25 black representatives from its state legislature, prompting Congress to re-impose federal military rule in the state and barring Georgia's representatives from holding seats. *Georgia was readmitted to the Union on July 15, 1870.

November 1868:
Grant Elected President
Ulysses S. Grant is elected president by only 306,000 votes out of 5.7 million cast. His victory depends on 500,000 black votes.
February 1869:
Congress Proposes the 15th Amendment
By 1868, only eight northern states permit African Americans to vote. Nevertheless, in February 1869, Congress proposes the 15th Amendment, which forbids states from depriving a citizen of the vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The Amendment is ratified in March 1870.
May 1870 and April 1871:
The Force Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act
To suppress violent intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan and other secret organizations and to enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments, Congress passes the Force Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act outlawing the use of force to prevent people from voting.
Collapse of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company
Many former slaves invested their savings in the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company, which had been chartered by the Federal government to teach the value of thrift. It fails following the financial panic of 1873, and the federal government does nothing to bail out depositors.
March 1875:
The Civil Rights Act of 1875
This law guarantees equal rights in public places and prohibits the exclusion of blacks from juries. A clause that would prohibit segregated schools is defeated.
Disputed Presidential Election of 1876
In return for southern conservative support for Republican Rutherford Hayes's inauguration as president, the Republican Party agrees to withdraw all federal troops from the South, officially ending Reconstruction. The Republicans also promise federal aid for southern railroad construction and flood control along the Mississippi River.



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