Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XIX
LINCOLN AND THE RADICALS FOR THE LAST TIME

THE final struggle over reconstruction between Lincoln and his Congress arose in 1865 over the recognition of Louisiana as a state and the counting of her electoral ballots, as well as those of Tennessee. Benjamin F. Flanders and Michael Hahn in the middle of the war had been elected Representatives in Congress and had both been seated.1 How could this have been done if Louisiana was not still within the Union? But this was 1863 when the full opposition to Lincoln's plan had not yet developed. In 1864 there was an election of state officers.2 Nearly twelve thousand white votes were polled,3--more than one-fifth of those cast in 1860.4 Michael Hahn was elected governor. Delegates to a Constitutional Convention were chosen and in April met at New Orleans.5

Twenty-four days earlier Lincoln wrote to Hahn: "Now you are about to have a convention which among other things will probably define the electoral franchise. I barely suggest for your private consideration whether some of the colored people may not be let in--as for instance, the very intelligent and especially those who have fought gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help, in some trying times to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom. But this is only a suggestion, not to the public, but to you alone."6

The Constitution, adopted five months later, abolished slavery within the state, and though restricting suffrage to white males, empowered the legislature to confer it on colored men in accordance with the suggestion Lincoln made.7

To General Hulbert, then in command at New Orleans, on November 14th, 1864, Lincoln wrote: "A very fair proportion of the people of Louisiana have inaugurated a new state govern-

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