Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XXX
JOHNSON VETOES THE FREEDMANS BUREAU BILL

THE Radicals were warming to their work and they were growing bolder. They were in search for means with which to subvert the governments of the Southern states, and to humble and humiliate the Southern white men. The more they reflected upon their aims and planned the accomplishment of their purpose, the more apparent it was becoming that Andrew Johnson was standing in their way.

The Freedman's Bureau had been created on March 3rd, 1865; it was to terminate one year after the suppression of the Rebellion.1 The purpose of the original measure was humane, it furnished some needy relief to the freed slaves, but it furnished, as bureaus usually do, an even greater measure of relief to the numerous commissioners, bureaucrats and agents who controlled it. Its power to lease to each freedman forty acres of the "abandoned lands" of Southern white men, had succeeded in inculcating among the negroes the belief that the "new Jerusalem" had come, and that they need never work again. Large numbers of the negroes quit work altogether and congregated in the cities.2

One of the matters to which Grant, during his Southern tour had directed his attention, was the operation of this new experiment. It was his opinion that its affairs had "not been conducted with good judgment or economy, and that the belief widely spread among the freedmen of the Southern states that the lands of their former owners will at least in part be divided among them has come from the agents of this bureau." This belief, he thought, was seriously interfering with the willingness of the freedmen to make contracts for the coming year.3 But the Radicals were now plotting for a Freedman's Bureau of even greater power. They

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