How to Set the Law in Motion
I n March 1867 congressional Republicans felt impelled almost unanimously to supplement, not replace, 1866's litigation approach to construction with the Military bill, including Negro suffrage. Carl Schurz best describes their reasoning: "after a faithful and somewhat perplexed wrestle with the complicated problem of reconstruction, [congressmen] finally landed--or it might be said, were stranded--at the conclusion that, to enable the negro to protect his own rights as a free man by the exercise of the ballot was after all the simplest way out of the tangle."1
The Republican problem was to find this "simplest way" in light of opposition from the President and southern whites to the 1866 formula. Military government over the ex-rebel region would have been simple indeed, as would total abandonment of new national duties, the most retrogade Democrats' solution. But incapable of descending to the latter alternative, Republican congressmen temporized on the former. George Julian understood Congress's reason for keeping to a muddy middle: "nothing could stay the prevailing impatience of Congress for speedy legislation looking to the early return of the rebel districts to their places [as states] in the Union."2
This constitutional imperative and the moderating effect of____________________
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Publication information: Book title: A More Perfect Union:The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution. Contributors: Harold M. Hyman - Author. Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1973. Page number: 491.
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