What Was Freedom's Price? Essays

What Was Freedom's Price? Essays

What Was Freedom's Price? Essays

What Was Freedom's Price? Essays

Excerpt

In the day of jubilee a refrain echoed and richocheted throughout the American South--"Praise God! We're Free! Free at last!" And the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief, "It's over. . . . We are done with slavery." There was some impressive evidence in the fall of 1865 that even southerners were relieved to be done with slavery and expressions of loyalty from what appeared to be a new southern leadership convinced President Andrew Johnson that southerners could and should be trusted with their own reconstruction. Southerners would, he insisted, be fair and just with the freedmen as they legislated economic recovery and racial readjustment. But, the enactment of the black codes by southern legislatures which severely restricted the social, economic, and political activity of southern blacks compromised Johnson's credibility and undermined Presidential Reconstruction. Radical Republicans, who advocated a more punitive Reconstruction than did the President, made the black codes a major political issue in the fall elections of 1866. Republican congressional candidates also emphasized the southern President's role in the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment, his truculent attitude toward Congress, and his determination to allow the South as much latitude as possible in their own Reconstruction. Following that election, which resulted in a Radical- controlled and veto-proof Congress, the President lost control of Reconstruction policy and Congress enacted a series of laws . . .

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