In 1864, President Lincoln faced a difficult race for reelection. He and his advisors decided that he could improve his chances by choosing a vice presidential candidate who would balance the ticket. They decided that Johnson, as a Southerner and a Democrat, would appeal to many voters who did not support Lincoln, a Northerner and a Republican. Johnson eagerly accepted the nomination. After Lincoln won the election that November, Johnson was sworn in as vice president on March 4, 1865. Unfortunately, he had been ill for several weeks before this time, and he drank several
A facsimile of a ticket to Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial in 1868.
(Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.)
glasses of whiskey to steady his nerves before he appeared at the inauguration (swearing-in) ceremony. He then proceeded to give a rambling speech that many observers found disgraceful and offensive. But Lincoln defended his vice president, saying "I have known Andy Johnson for many years; he made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared; Andy ain't a drunkard."
The Civil War ended a few weeks later, when the Confederate Army surrendered to Union forces. For a brief time, people across the North celebrated their victory and looked forward to beginning the process of healing the nation. But on April 14, a deranged (insane) Confederate supporter shot Lincoln as he attended a play in Washington. The president died the next day, and the mood in the North quickly changed from relief and happiness to grief and anger. Johnson took charge of the country as it entered the difficult period of American history called Reconstruction.
The United States continued to struggle with important and complicated issues after the Civil War ended. For example, government officials had to decide whether to punish the Confederate leaders, what process to use to readmit the Southern states to the Union, and how much assistance to provide in securing equal rights for the freed slaves. From the beginning of his term of office, Johnson made it clear that he intended to control the process of Reconstruction. He believed that restoring the Union was his job rather than the U.S. Congress's. He began implementing his own Reconstruction programs during the summer of 1865, while Congress was in recess (Congress often adjourns to let its members take time off between legislative sessions).
A political cartoon shows Andrew Johnson being crushed by the U.S. Constitution, which allows for removal of federal officals in certain instances. (Reproduced by permission of Archive Photos.)
Johnson started out by following the course he believed Lincoln had planned to take. He pardoned many Confederate leaders and set lenient conditions for the Southern states to return to the Union. The former Confederate states
^^ Rutherford B. Hayes, the President Who Ended Reconstruction
When Rutherford B. Hayes became president in 1877, it marked the end of the difficult period in American history known as Reconstruction. The United States continued to deal with complicated issues after the Civil War ended. For example, Northern officials had to decide whether to punish Confederate leaders, how much assistance to provide in securing equal rights for freed slaves, and what process to use to readmit the Southern states to the Union.
Beginning in 1866, Republican members of the U.S. Congress put harsh policies in place to reduce the power of Southern landowners and give black men an opportunity to vote and hold public office. They sent federal troops into the South to enforce their policies. But white Southerners reacted strongly against these Reconstruction measures. In many cases, they used violence to intimidate blacks and prevent them from exercising their rights. This was the political climate when Hayes became president in a hotly contested election.
Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio, in 1822. His career began as an attorney in 1845. By the mid-1850s, Hayes became caught up in the national debate over slavery, adopting a moderate antislavery position. He hoped that the North and South could reach a compromise on the issue, but this soon proved impossible. When the Civil War began in 1861, Hayes joined the Union Army. As an officer in the Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, he earned the respect of his men and was wounded in combat several times. Toward the end of the war, members of Ohio's Republican Party nominated him to represent Cincinnati in the U.S. Congress. Hayes accepted the nomination, but refused to leave the army to come home and campaign. "An officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought to be scalped," he stated. He won anyway.
When the war ended in 1865, Hayes resigned from the army with the rank of major general. He took his seat in Congress that December, just as radical members of the Republican Party began fighting to take control of the Reconstruction process from Democratic president Andrew Johnson. Immediately after taking office, Johnson had pardoned (officially forgiven) many former Confederates and established lenient (easy) conditions for the Southern states to return to the Union. But Hayes and the Republicans worried that the president's policies would allow Confederates to return to power in the South and continue to discriminate against black people. As a result, Congress took charge of Reconstruction and sent federal troops into the South to enforce its policies.
In 1868, Hayes was elected governor of Ohio. In an age of widespread political corruption, his administration was known for its freedom from scandal. During his two terms in office, he reformed the state's prison system and helped found Ohio State University. In 1871, he declined
to run for a third term and instead attempted to regain his seat in Congress. He lost, but in 1875, he ran for governor again. Upon winning the election, he immediately became one of the leading candidates for his party's presidential nomination.
Hayes won the Republican nomination for president in the election of 1876. His opponent in the general election was the Democratic governor of New York, Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886). Most Northerners voted for Hayes, and most Southerners voted for Tilden. The election ended up being the closest in history. Tilden won the popular vote—4,284,020 people voted for him, compared to 4,036,572 for Hayes. But the actual winner of presidential elections is determined by an institution known as the electoral college. Each state receives a certain number of electoral votes depending on its population. When the electoral votes were counted, Tilden had 184 and Hayes had 165, and 20 votes were in dispute. A candidate needed 185 electoral votes to win the presidency, so neither man could be declared the winner.
The controversy came down to three Southern states that still had mixed-race Reconstruction governments intact— South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. Hayes needed the electoral votes of all three states in order to become president. Congress set up a special committee to examine the election results in these states. But it was difficult to tell for certain which candidate had won because of widespread violence during the elections.
Eventually, the parties arranged a compromise. The Democrats would allow Hayes to become president if he agreed to remove federal troops from the South. This meant that Republicans would lose control of the last three Southern states to white supremacists (people who believe that whites are superior to blacks). The arrangement became known as the Compromise of 1877. When Hayes removed federal troops from the South, this marked the end of Reconstruction.
Hayes served only one term as president. He died in 1893 after suffering a heart attack.
had to prepare new state constitutions that abolished slavery and met a number of other conditions. Then they could elect representatives to the federal government and be readmitted to the Union. But black people were not allowed to vote or to serve as representatives under the president's plan. Johnson was reluctant to impose the power of the federal government on the South in order to guarantee equality for blacks.
By the time Congress came back in session, Johnson's Reconstruction policies had been in effect for nearly six months. Many Republican members of Congress felt that the president was too lenient toward the South. They worried that his policies would allow Confederate leaders to return to power and continue to discriminate against black people. Congress set up a Committee on Reconstruction to study the effects of Johnson's policies. The committee heard numerous stories of discrimination and violence against blacks in the South. As a result, the U.S. Congress took control of the Reconstruction process in 1866 and sent federal troops into the Southern states to enforce their policies.
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