The Struggle between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction

By Charles Ernest Chadsey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
THE ATTITUDE OF CONGRESS TOWARDS THE EXPERIMENT: DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONGRESSIONAL THEORY.

I. The Thirty-ninth Congress began its labors on December 4, 1865, well aware that the President had separated himself from the Republican party so far that it was improbable that the executive and legislative departments would be able to work in harmony. The Democrats were beginning to commend the administration, and had even gone so far in some instances as to indicate, in resolutions passed in their state conventions, their approval of Johnson's plan of reconstruction. Republicans, on the other hand, were becoming quite reserved in their expressions of approval, and began to show a decided sentiment in favor of manhood suffrage as involving less danger and more benefit to the Republic than any plan which even partially excluded the negro from the franchise. The legislation of the Southern States had convinced many that without the negro vote there would be no way to keep the old insurrectionary element from completely monopolizing their state governments.1

Congress with its large Republican majorities2 in both

____________________
1
Lalor, iii, 546.
2
Senate: Republicans, 40; Democrats, II; House: Republicans, 145; Democrats, 40. The work before Congress was well expressed by Schuyler Colfax in his speech made upon taking the Speaker's chair. Speaking of Congress he said: "Representing, in its two branches, the States and the people, its first and highest obligation is to guarantee to every State a republican form of government. The rebellion having overthrown constitutional State governments in many States, it is

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