The Struggle between President Johnson and Congress over Reconstruction

By Charles Ernest Chadsey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
THE CONGRESSIONAL THEORY FULLY DEVELOPED.

1. The second session of the 39th Congress opened with its members in a far different frame of mind from that in which they had assembled in 1865. Then they had approached their work with hesitation; their plans were not formulated; they could not know how far the country would sustain them in their opposition to the President. Now, in the flush of victory, their policy sustained, the President discredited, with their two-thirds majority in both houses unbroken, they were prepared to proceed to enact legislation which not only should secure that which had been accomplished already, but also should settle finally the problem of reconstruction, and place the President in a position where he could do no harm.1

Much curiosity had been felt as to the attitude which Johnson would take in his annual message. He believed thoroughly in the righteousness of his cause, and had such implicit confidence in the unerring judgment of the people that he had deemed it impossible that his policy would be repudiated. The results of the election were a great disappointment to him, and some had believed that he would introduce into the message the abuse which he had so unsparingly inflicted upon Congress during the campaign. The message, however, contained nothing approaching virulence, but on the contrary was a document eminently

____________________
1
Scott, Reconstruction during the Civil War, 290 ff.

-107-

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