Republicans' Reconstruction Dilemmas and Solutions
T he President's December 1865 State of the Union message measured the widening gap between White House and Capitol Hill. Johnson appealed to the southern states to afford the protections of state law equally to their freedmen. But he denied that the nation had any role to play in securing civil rights.
A few days earlier, on December 4, the President had ordered his North Carolina "Provisional Governor" and subordinates, as much creatures of national war powers as any of Lincoln's military governors, to transfer duties to the popularly selected, presidentially pardoned or amnestied state and local officials, including judges. Soon after similar orders were issued for Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Such policies raised immediate attendant questions concerning Negroes' status in the lily-white state court systems built by the President since Lee's surrender. His commands had reshaped the southern states' constitutions into antisecession and abolition postures. He had enfranchised electorates and authorized the reestablished officialdoms. His State of the Union disclaimers against further national intercessions in the southern states seemed to mean that only the President enjoyed a right so to function. Further, his speech implied that having conducted a Reconstruction because a war had existed and been won, only he