Andrew Johnson: Plebeian and Patriot

By Robert W. Winston | Go to book overview
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In a speech in lighter vein, in which Seward often indulged, he declared that Congress was quarreling with President Johnson though it had had its way. This reminded him of an irate individual who had won his lawsuit but continued out of sorts. "Damn it," the man said, "I won my case but I didn't win it my way." Mr. Seward's wish, in this matter, was undoubtedly father to his thought.

The differences between the President and Congress were basic. It must be admitted that Johnson opposed any fundamental change in the Constitution. Therefore, the Freedmen's Bureau bill and the Civil Rights bill he vetoed on principle. He saw clearly that the first of these bills was only the advance guard "of a long procession of others that were even more obnoxious to him. . . . He knew it was impossible to avoid the issue eventually and he determined to meet it firmly at the outset."1 The President's mistake was in thinking the Freedmen's Bureau bill a measure for which the Radicals alone were responsible. "As a matter of fact there were very few Republicans who did not desire such modification of the President's policy as would give protection and assistance to the newly emancipated negroes."2

Congress would never have consented that the Southern States return to the Union by simply abolishing slavery, repealing secession ordinances, and repudiating confederate debts. Indeed, as we have already seen, Congress assailed Lincoln's Louisiana Plan of reconstruction. Certainly the committee, dominated by Thad Stevens, would have demanded more than the Louisiana plan and would have insisted that such demands be put in the Constitution. Even the conserva

Congressional Globe, February 21, 1866.
Kendrick, Committee of Fifteen, p. 235.


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