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The Sequel of Appomattox, A Chronicle of the Reunion of the States by Walter Lynwood Fleming

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When the armies of the Union and of the Confederacy were disbanded in 1865,
two matters had been settled beyond further dispute: the Negro was to be free,
and the Union was to be perpetuated. But, though slavery and state sovereignty
were no longer at issue, there were still many problems which pressed for
solution. The huge task of reconstruction must be faced. The nature of the
situation required that the measures of reconstruction be first formulated in
Washington by the victors and then worked out in the conquered South. Since
the success of these policies would depend in a large measure upon their
acceptability to both sections of the country, it was expected that the North
would be influenced to some extent by the attitude of the Southern people,
which in turn would be determined largely by local conditions in the South.
The situation in the South at the close of the Civil War is, therefore, the
point at which this narrative of the reconstruction naturally takes its

The surviving Confederate soldiers came straggling back to communities, which
were now far from being satisfactory dwelling places for civilized people.
Everywhere they found missing many of the best of their former neighbors. They
found property destroyed, the labor system disorganized, and the inhabitants
in many places suffering from want. They found the white people demoralized
and sometimes divided among themselves and the Negroes free, bewildered, and
disorderly, for organized government had lapsed with the surrender of the
Confederate armies.

Beneath a disorganized society lay a devastated land. The destruction of
property affected all classes of the population. The accumulated capital of
the South had disappeared in worthless Confederate stocks, bonds, and
currency. The banks had failed early in the war. Two billion dollars invested
in slaves had been wiped out. Factories, which had been running before the war
or were developed after 1861 in order to supply the blockaded country, had
been destroyed by Federal raiders or seized and sold or dismantled because
they had furnished supplies to the Confederacy. Mining industries were
paralyzed. Public buildings which had been used for war purposes were
destroyed or confiscated for the uses of the army or for the new freedmen's
schools. It was months before courthouses, state capitols, school and college
buildings were again made available for normal uses. The military school
buildings had been destroyed by the Federal forces. Among the schools which
suffered were the Virginia Military Institute, the University of Alabama, the
Louisiana State Seminary, and many smaller institutions. Nearly all these had
been used in some way for war purposes and were therefore subject to
destruction or confiscation.

The farmers and planters found themselves "land poor." The soil remained, but
there was a prevalent lack of labor, of agricultural equipment, of farm stock,
of seeds, and of money with which to make good the deficiency. As a result, a
man with hundreds of acres might be as poor as a Negro refugee. The desolation
is thus described by a Virginia farmer:

"From Harper's Ferry to New Market, which is about eighty miles . . . the
country was almost a desert . . . . We had no cattle, hogs, sheep, or horse or
anything else. The fences were all gone. Some of the orchards were very much
injured, but the fruit trees had not been destroyed. The barns were all
burned; chimneys standing without houses, and houses standing without roof, or
door, or window."

Much land was thrown on the market at low prices--three to five dollars an
acre for land worth fifty dollars. The poorer lands could not be sold at all,
and thousands of farms were deserted by their owners. Everywhere recovery from
this agricultural depression was slow. Five years after the war Robert Somers,
an English traveler, said of the Tennessee Valley:

"It consists for the most part of plantations in a state of semi- ruin and
plantations of which the ruin is for the present total and complete . . . .
The trail of war is visible throughout the valley in burnt-up gin-houses,
ruined bridges, mills, and factories . . . and in large tracts of once
cultivated land stripped of every vestige of fencing. The roads, long
neglected, are in disorder, and having in many places become impassable, new
tracks have been made through the woods and fields without much respect to

Similar conditions existed wherever the armies had passed, and not in the
country districts alone. Many of the cities, such as Richmond, Charleston,
Columbia, Jackson, Atlanta, and Mobile had suffered from fire or bombardment.

There were few stocks of merchandise in the South when the war ended, and
Northern creditors had lost so heavily through the failure of Southern
merchants that they were cautious about extending credit again. Long before
1865 all coin had been sent out in contraband trade through the blockade. That
there was a great need of supplies from the outside world is shown by the
following statement of General Boynton:

"Window-glass has given way to thin boards, in railway coaches and in the
cities. Furniture is marred and broken, and none has been replaced for four
years. Dishes are cemented in various styles, and half the pitchers have tin
handles. A complete set of crockery is never seen, and in very few families is
there enough to set a table .... A set of forks with whole tines is a
curiosity. Clocks and watches have nearly all stopped . . . . Hairbrushes and
toothbrushes have all worn out; combs are broken . . . . Pins, needles, and
thread, and a thousand such articles, which seem indispensable to
housekeeping, are very scarce. Even in weaving on the looms, corncobs have
been substituted for spindles. Few have pocketknives. In fact, everything that
has heretofore been an article of sale in the South is wanting now. At the
tables of those who were once esteemed luxurious providers you will find
neither tea, coffee, sugar, nor spices of any kind. Even candles, in some
cases, have been replaced by a cup of grease in which a piece of cloth is
plunged for a wick."

This poverty was prolonged and rendered more acute by the lack of
transportation. Horses, mules, wagons, and carriages were scarce, the country
roads were nearly impassable, and bridges were in bad repair or had been
burned or washed away. Steamboats had almost disappeared from the rivers.
Those which had escaped capture as blockade runners had been subsequently
destroyed or were worn out.. Postal facilities, which had been poor enough
during the last year of the Confederacy, were entirely lacking for several
months after the surrender.

The railways were in a state of physical dilapidation little removed from
destruction, save for those that had been captured and kept in partial repair
by the Federal troops. The rolling stock had been lost by capture, by
destruction to prevent capture, in wrecks, which were frequent, or had been
worn out. The railroad companies possessed large sums in Confederate currency
and in securities which were now valueless. About two-thirds of all the lines
were hopelessly bankrupt. Fortunately, the United States War Department took
over the control of the railway lines and in some cases effected a temporary
reorganization which could not have been accomplished by the bankrupt
companies. During the summer and fall of 1865, "loyal" boards of directors
were appointed for most of the railroads, and the army withdrew its control.
But repairs and reconstruction were accomplished with difficulty because of
the demoralization of labor and the lack of funds or credit. Freight was
scarce and, had it not been for government shipments, some of the railroads
would have been abandoned. Not many people were able to travel. It is recorded
that on one trip from Montgomery to Mobile and return, a distance of 360
miles, the railroad which is now the Louisville and Nashville collected only
thirteen dollars in fares.

Had there been unrestricted commercial freedom in the South in 1865-66, the
distress of the people would have been somewhat lessened, for here and there
were to be found public and private stores of cotton, tobacco, rice, and other
farm products, all of which were bringing high prices in the market. But for
several months the operation of wartime laws and regulations hindered the
distribution of even these scanty stores. Property upon which the Confederate
Government had a claim was, of course, subject to Confiscation, and private
property offered for sale, even that of Unionists, was subject to a 25 percent
tax on sales, a shipping tax, and a revenue tax. The revenue tax on cotton,
ranging from two to three cents a pound during the three years after the war,
brought in over $68,000,000. This tax, with other Federal revenues, yielded
much more than the entire expenses of reconstruction from 1865 to 1868 and of
all relief measures for the South, both public and private. After May 1865,
the 25 percent tax was imposed only upon the produce of slave labor. None of
the war taxes, except that on cotton, was levied upon the crops of 1866, but
while these taxes lasted, they seriously impeded the resumption of trade.

Even these restrictions, however, might have been borne if only they had been
honestly applied. Unfortunately, some of the most spectacular frauds ever
perpetrated were carried through in connection with the attempt of the United
States Treasury Department to collect and sell the confiscable property in the
South. The property to be sold consisted of what had been captured and seized
by the army and the navy, of "abandoned" property, as such was called whose
owner was absent in the Confederate service, and of property subject to
seizure under the confiscation acts of Congress. No captures were made after
the general surrender, and no further seizures of "abandoned" property were
made after Johnson's amnesty proclamation of May 29, 1865. This left only the
"confiscable" property to be collected and sold.

For collection purposes the states of the South were divided into districts,
each under the supervision of an agent of the Treasury Department, who
received a commission of about 25 percent. Cotton, regarded as the root of the
slavery evil, was singled out as the principal object of confiscation. It was
known that the Confederate Government had owned in 1865 about 150,000 bales,
but the records were defective and much of it, with no clear indication of
ownership, still remained with the producers. Secretary Chase, foreseeing the
difficulty of effecting a just settlement, counseled against seizure, but his
judgment was overruled. Secretary McCulloch said of his agents: "I am sure I
sent some honest cotton agents South; but it sometimes seems doubtful whether
any of them remained honest very long." Some of the natives, even, became
cotton thieves. In a report made in 1866, McCulloch describes their methods:
"Contractors, anxious for gain, were sometimes guilty of bad faith and
peculation, and frequently took possession of cotton and delivered it under
contracts as captured or abandoned, when in fact it was not such, and they had
no right to touch it . . . . Residents and others in the districts where these
peculations were going on took advantage of the unsettled condition of the
country, and representing themselves as agents of this department, went about
robbing under such pretended authority, and thus added to the difficulties of
the situation by causing unjust opprobrium and suspicion to rest upon officers
engaged in the faithful discharge of their duties. Agents, . . . frequently
received or collected property, and sent it forward which the law did not
authorize them to take . . . . Lawless men, singly and in organized bands,
engaged in general plunder; every species of intrigue and peculation and theft
were resorted to."

These agents turned over to the United States about $34,000,000. About 40,000
claimants were subsequently indemnified on the ground that the property taken
from them did not belong to the Confederate Government, but many thousands of
other claimants have been unable to prove that their property was seized by
government agents and hence have received nothing. It is probable that the
actual Confederate property was nearly all stolen by the agents. One agent in
Alabama sold an appointment as assistant for $25,000, and a few months later
both the assistant and the agent were tried by a military court for stealing
and were fined $90,000 and $250,000 respectively in addition to being

Other property, including horses, mules, wagons, tobacco, rice, and sugar
which the natives claimed as their own, was seized. In some places the agents
even collected delinquent Confederate taxes. Much of the confiscable property
was not sold but was turned over to the Freedmen's Bureau* for its support.
The total amount seized cannot be satisfactorily ascertained. The Ku Klux
minority report asserted that 3,000,000 bales of cotton were taken, of which
the United States received only 114,000. It is certain that, owing to the
deliberate destruction of cotton by fire in 1864-65, this estimate was too
high, but all the testimony points to the fact that the frauds were
stupendous. As a result the United States Government did not succeed in
obtaining the Confederate property to which it had a claim, and the country
itself was stripped of necessities to a degree that left it not only destitute
but outraged and embittered. "Such practices," said Trowbridge, "had a
pernicious effect, engendering a contempt for the Government and a murderous
ill will which too commonly vented itself upon soldiers and Negroes." * See
pp. 89 et seq.

The South faced the work of reconstruction not only with a shortage of
material and greatly hampered in the employment even of that but still more
with a shortage of men. The losses among the whites are usually estimated at
about half the military population, but since accurate records are lacking,
the exact numbers cannot be ascertained. The best of the civil leaders, as
well as the prominent military leaders, had so committed themselves to the
support of the Confederacy as to be excluded from participation in any
reconstruction that might be attempted. The business of reconstruction,
therefore, fell of necessity to the Confederate private soldiers, the lower
officers, nonparticipants, and lukewarm individuals who had not greatly
compromised themselves. These politically and physically uninjured survivors
included also all the "slackers" of the Confederacy. But though there were
such physical and moral losses on the part of those to whom fell the direction
of affairs, there was also a moral strengthening in the sound element of the
people who had been tried by the discipline of war.

The greatest weakness of both races was their extreme poverty. The crops of
1865 turned out badly, for most of the soldiers reached home too late for
successful planting, and the Negro labor was not dependable. The sale of such
cotton and farm products as had escaped the treasury agents was of some help,
but curiously enough much of the good money thus obtained was spent
extravagantly by a people used to Confederate rag money and for four years
deprived of the luxuries of life. The poorer whites who had lost all were
close to starvation. In the white counties which had sent so large a
proportion of men to the army, the destitution was most acute. In many
families the breadwinner had been killed in war. After 1862, relief systems
had been organized in nearly all the Confederate States for the purpose of
aiding the poor whites, but these organizations were disbanded in 1865. A
Freedmen's Bureau official traveling through the desolate back country
furnishes a description which might have applied to two hundred counties, a
third of the South: "It is a common, an every-day sight in Randolph County,
that of women and children, most of whom were formerly in good circumstances,
begging for bread from door to door. Meat of any kind has been a stranger to
many of their mouths for months. The drought cut off what little crops they
hoped to save, and they must have immediate help or perish. By far the greater
suffering exists among the whites. Their scanty supplies have been exhausted,
and now they look to the Government alone for support. Some are without homes
of any description."

Where the armies had passed, few of the people, white or black, remained; most
of them had been forced as "refugees" within the Union lines or into the
interior of the Confederacy. Now, along with the disbanded Confederate
soldiers, they came straggling back to their war-swept homes. It was
estimated, in December 1865, that in the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and
Georgia, there were five hundred thousand white people who were without the
necessaries of life; numbers died from lack of food. Within a few months,
relief agencies were at work. In the North, especially in the border states
and in New York, charitable organizations collected and forwarded great
quantities of supplies to the Negroes and to the whites in the hill and
mountain counties. The reorganized state and local governments sent food from
the unravaged portions of the Black Belt to the nearest white counties, and
the army commanders gave some aid. As soon as the Freedmen's Bureau was
organized, it fed to the limit of its supplies the needy whites as well as the

The extent of the relief afforded by the charity of the North and by the
agencies of the United States Government is not now generally remembered,
probably on account of the later objectionable activities of the Freedmen's
Bureau, but it was at the time properly appreciated. A Southern journalist,
writing of what he saw in Georgia, remarked that "it must be a matter of
gratitude as well as surprise for our people to see a Government which was
lately fighting us with fire and sword and shell, now generously feeding our
poor and distressed. In the immense crowds which throng the distributing
house, I notice the mothers and fathers, widows and orphans of our soldiers .
. . . Again, the Confederate soldier, with one leg or one arm, the crippled,
maimed, and broken, and the worn and destitute men, who fought bravely their
enemies then, their benefactors now, have their sacks filled and are fed."

Acute distress continued until 1867; after that year there was no further
danger of starvation. Some of the poor whites, especially in the remote
districts, never again reached a comfortable standard of living; some were
demoralized by too much assistance; others were discouraged and left the South
for the West or the North. But the mass of the people accepted the discipline
of poverty and made the best of their situation.

The difficulties, however, that beset even the courageous and the competent
were enormous. The general paralysis of industry, the breaking up of society,
and poverty on all sides bore especially hard on those who had not previously
been manual laborers. Physicians could get practice enough but no fees;
lawyers who had supported the Confederacy found it difficult to get back into
the reorganized courts because of the test oaths and the competition of
"loyal" attorneys; and for the teachers there were few schools. We read of
officers high in the Confederate service selling to Federal soldiers the pies
and cakes cooked by their wives, of others selling fish and oysters which they
themselves had caught, and of men and women hitching themselves to plows when
they had no horse or mule.

Such incidents must, from their nature, have been infrequent, but they show to
what straits some at least were reduced. Six years after the war, James S.
Pike, then in South Carolina, mentions cases which might be duplicated in
nearly every old Southern community: "In the vicinity," he says, "lived a
gentleman whose income when the war broke out was rated at $150,000 a year.
Not a vestige of his whole vast estate remains today. Not far distant were the
estates of a large proprietor and a well-known family, rich and distinguished
for generations. The slaves were gone. The family is gone. A single scion of
the house remains, and he peddles tea by the pound and molasses by the quart,
on a corner of the old homestead, to the former slaves of the family and
thereby earns his livelihood."

General Lee's good example influenced many. Commercial enterprises were
willing to pay for the use of his name and reputation, but he wished to farm
and could get no opportunity. "They are offering my father everything," his
daughter said, "except the only thing he will accept, a place to earn honest
bread while engaged in some useful work." This remark led to an offer of the
presidency of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, which he
accepted. "I have a self-imposed task which I must accomplish," he said, "I
have led the young men of the South in battle; I have seen many of them fall
under my standard. I shall devote my life now to training young men to do
their duty in life."

The condition of honest folk was still further troubled by a general spirit of
lawlessness in many regions. Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana
recognized the "Union" state government, but the coming of peace brought legal
anarchy to the other states of the Confederacy. The Confederate state and
local governments were abolished as the armies of occupation spread over the
South, and for a period of four or six months there was no government except
that exercised by the commanders of the military garrisons left behind when
the armies marched away. Even before the surrender, the local governments were
unable to make their authority respected, and soon after the war ended, parts
of the country became infested with outlaws, pretend treasury agents, horse
thieves, cattle thieves, and deserters. Away from the military posts only
lynch law could cope with these elements of disorder.

With the aid of the army in the more settled regions, and by extra-legal means
elsewhere, the outlaws, thieves, cotton burners, and house burners were
brought somewhat under control even before the state governments were
reorganized, though the embers of lawlessness continued to smolder.

The relations between the Federal soldiers stationed in the principal towns
and the native white population were not, on the whole, so bad as might have
been expected. If the commanding officer were well disposed, there was little
danger of friction, though sometimes his troops got out of hand. The regulars
had a better reputation than the volunteers. The Confederate soldiers were
surfeited with fighting, but the "stay-at-home" element was often a cause of
trouble. The problem of social relations between the conquerors and the
conquered was troublesome. The men might get along well together, but the
women would have nothing do with the "Yankees," and ill feeling arose because
of their antipathy. Carl Schurz reported that "the soldier of the Union is
looked upon as a stranger, an intruder, as the 'Yankee,' the 'enemy.' . . .
The existence and intensity of this aversion is too well known to those who
have served or are serving in the South to require proof."

In retaliation the soldiers developed ingenious ways of annoying the whites.
Women, forced for any reason to go to headquarters, were made to take the oath
of allegiance or the "ironclad" oath before their requests were granted; flags
were fastened over doors, gates, or sidewalks in order to irritate the
recalcitrant dames and their daughters. Confederate songs and color
combinations were forbidden. In Richmond, General Halleck ordered that no
marriages be performed unless the bride, the groom, and the officiating
clergyman took the oath of allegiance. He explained this as a measure taken to
prevent "the propagation of legitimate rebels."

The wearing of Confederate uniforms was forbidden by military order, but by
May 1865, few soldiers possessed regulation uniforms. In Tennessee the State
also imposed fines upon *wear wearers of the uniform. In the vicinity of
military posts, buttons and marks of rank were usually ordered removed and the
gray clothes dyed with some other color. General Lee, for example, had the
buttons on his coat covered with cloth. But frequently the Federal commander,
after issuing the orders, paid no more attention to the matter and such
conflicts as arose on account of the uniform were usually caused by officious
enlisted men and the Negro troops. Whitelaw Reid relates the following

"Nothing was more touching, in all that I saw in Savannah, than the almost
painful effort of the rebels, from generals down to privates, to conduct
themselves so as to evince respect for our soldiers, and to bring no severer
punishment upon the city than it had already received. There was a brutal
scene at the hotel, where a drunken sergeant, with a pair of tailor's shears,
insisted on cutting the buttons from the uniform of an elegant gray-headed old
brigadier, who had just come in from Johnston's army; but he bore himself
modestly and very handsomely through it. His staff was composed of
fine-looking, stalwart fellows, evidently gentlemen, who appeared intensely
mortified at such treatment. They had no clothes except their rebel uniforms,
and had, as yet, had no time to procure others, but they avoided disturbances
and submitted to what they might, with some propriety, and with the general
approval of our officers, *have resented."

The Negro troops, even at their best, were everywhere considered offensive by
the native whites. General Grant, indeed, urged that only white troops be used
to garrison the interior. But the Negro soldier, impudent by reason of his new
freedom, his new uniform, and his new gun, was more than Southern temper could
tranquilly bear, and race conflicts were frequent. A New Orleans newspaper
thus states the Southern point of view: "Our citizens who had been accustomed
to meet and treat the Negroes only as respectful servants, were mortified,
pained, and shocked to encounter them . . . wearing Federal uniforms and
bearing bright muskets and gleaming bayonets . . . . They are jostled from the
sidewalks by dusky guards, marching four abreast. They were halted, in rude
and sullen tones, by Negro sentinels."

The task of the Federal forces was not easy. The garrisons were not large
enough nor numerous enough to keep order in the absence of civil government.
The commanders in the South asked in vain for cavalry to police the rural
districts. Much of the disorder, violence, and incendiarism attributed at the
time to lawless soldiers appeared later to be due to discharged soldiers and
others pretending to be soldiers in order to carry out schemes of robbery. The
whites complained vigorously of the garrisons, and petitions were sent to
Washington from mass meetings and from state legislatures asking for their
removal. The higher commanders, however, bore themselves well, and in a few
fortunate cases Southern whites were on most amicable terms with the garrison
commanders. The correspondence of responsible military officers in the South
shows how earnestly and considerately each, as a rule, tried to work out his
task. The good sense of most of the Federal officers appeared when, after the
murder of Lincoln, even General Grant for a brief space lost his head and
ordered the arrest of paroled Confederates.

The church organizations were as much involved in the war and in the
reconstruction as were secular institutions. Before the war every religious
organization having members North and South, except the Catholic Church and
the Jews, had separated into independent Northern and Southern bodies. In each
section church feeling ran high, and when the war came, the churches supported
the armies. As the Federal armies occupied Southern territory, the church
buildings of each denomination were turned over to the corresponding Northern
body, and Southern ministers were permitted to remain only upon agreeing to
conduct "loyal services, pray for the President of the United States and for
Federal victories" and to foster "loyal sentiment." The Protestant Episcopal
churches in Alabama were closed from September to December 1865, and some
congregations were dispersed by the soldiers because Bishop Wilmer had
directed his clergy to omit the prayer for President Davis but had substituted
no other. The ministers of non-liturgical churches were not so easily
controlled. A Georgia Methodist preacher directed by a Federal officer to pray
for the President said afterwards: "I prayed for the President that the Lord
would take out of him and his allies the hearts of beasts and put into them
the hearts of men or remove the cusses from office." Sometimes members of a
congregation showed their resentment at the "loyal" prayers by leaving the
church. But in spite of many irritations, both sides frequently managed to get
some amusement out of the "loyal" services. The church situation was, however,
a serious matter during and after the reconstruction, and some of its later
phases will have to be discussed elsewhere.

The Unionist, or "Tory," of the lower and eastern South found himself, in
1865, a man without a country. Few in number in any community, they found
themselves, upon their return from a harsh exile, the victims of ostracism or
open hostility. One of them, William H. Smith, later Governor of Alabama,
testified that the Southern people "manifest the most perfect contempt for a
man who is known to be an unequivocal Union man; they call him a 'galvanized
Yankee' and apply other terms and epithets to him." General George H. Thomas,
speaking of a region more divided in sentiment than Alabama, remarked that
"Middle Tennessee is disturbed by animosities and hatreds, much more than it
is by the disloyalty of persons towards the Government of the United States.

Those personal animosities would break out and overawe the civil authorities,
but for the presence there of the troops of the United States . . . . They are
more unfriendly to Union men, natives of the State of Tennessee, or of the
South, who have been in the Union army, than they are to men of Northern

In the border states, society was sharply divided, and feeling was bitter. In
eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and parts of Arkansas and
Missouri, returning Confederates met harsher treatment than did the Unionists
in the lower South. Trowbridge says of east Tennessee: "Returning rebels were
robbed; and if one had stolen unawares to his home, it was not safe for him to
remain there. I saw in Virginia one of these exiles, who told me how
homesickly he pined for the hills and meadows of east Tennessee, which he
thought the most delightful region in the world. But, there was a rope hanging
from a tree for him there, and he dared not go back. 'The bottom rails are on
top,' said he, 'that is the trouble.' The Union element, and the worst part of
the Union element, was uppermost." Confederates and Confederate sympathizers
in Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, were disfranchised. In
West Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, "war trespass" suits were brought
against returning Confederates for military acts done in war time. In Missouri
and West Virginia, strict test oaths excluded Confederates from office, from
the polls, and from the professions of teaching, preaching, and law. On the
other hand in central and western Kentucky, the predominant Unionist
population, themselves suffering through the abolition of slavery, and by the
objectionable operations of the Freedmen's Bureau and the unwise military
administration, showed more sympathy for the Confederates, welcomed them home,
and soon relieved them of all restrictions.

Still another element of discord was added by the Northerners who came to
exploit the South. Many mustered-out soldiers proposed to stay. Speculators of
all kinds followed the withdrawing Confederate lines and with the conclusion
of peace spread through the country, but they were not cordially received.
With the better class, the Southerners, especially the soldiers, associated
freely if seldom intimately. But the conduct of a few of their number who
considered that the war had opened all doors to them, who very freely
expressed their views, gave advice, condemned old customs, and were generally
offensive, did much to bring all Northerners into disrepute. Tactlessly
critical letters published in Northern papers did not add to their popularity.
The few Northern women felt the ostracism more keenly than did the men.
Benjamin C. Truman, an agent of President Johnson, thus summed up the
situation: "There is a prevalent disposition not to associate too freely with
Northern men or to receive them into the circles of society; but it is far
from unsurmountable. Over Southern society, as over every other, woman reigns
supreme, and they are more embittered against those whom they deem the authors
of all their calamities than are their brothers, sons, and husbands." But, of
the thousands of Northern men who overcame the reluctance of the Southerners
to social intercourse, little was heard. Many a Southern planter secured a
Northern partner or sold him half his plantation to get money to run the other
half. For the irritations of 1865, each party must take its share of

Had the South assisted in a skillful and adequate publicity, much disastrous
misunderstanding might have been avoided. The North knew as little of the
South as the South did of the North, but the North was eager for news. Able
newspaper correspondents like Sidney Andrews of the Boston Advertiser and the
Chicago Tribune, who opposed President Johnson's policies, Thomas W. Knox of
the New York Herald, who had given General Sherman so much trouble in
Tennessee, Whitelaw Reid, who wrote for several papers and tried cotton
planting in Louisiana, and John T. Trowbridge, New England author and
journalist, were dispatched southwards. Chief of the President's investigators
was General Carl Schurz, German revolutionist, Federal soldier, and soon to be
radical Republican, who held harsh views of the Southern people; and there
were besides Harvey M. Watterson, Kentucky Democrat and Unionist, the father
of "Marse" Henry; Benjamin C. Truman, New England journalist and soldier,
whose long report was perhaps the best of all; Chief Justice Chase, who was
thinking mainly of "How soon can the Negro vote?"; and General Grant, who made
a report so brief that, notwithstanding its value, it attracted little
attention. In addition a constant stream of information and misinformation was
going northward from treasury agents, officers of the army, the Freedmen's
Bureau, teachers, and missionaries. Among foreigners who described the
conquered land were Robert Somers, Henry Latham, and William Hepworth Dixon.
But few in the South realized the importance of supplying the North with
correct information about actual conditions. The letters and reports, they
thought, humiliated them; inquiry was felt to be prying and gloating.
"Correspondents have added a new pang to surrender," it was said. The South
was proud and refused to be catechized. From the Northern point of view, the
South, a new and strange region with strange customs and principles, was of
course, not to be considered as quite normal and American, but there was on
the part of many correspondents a determined attempt to describe things as
they were. And yet the North persisted in its unsympathetic queries when it
seemed to have a sufficient answer in the reports of Grant, Schurz, and

Grant's opinion was short and direct: "I am satisfied that the mass of
thinking men of the South accept the present situation of affairs in good
faith . . . . The citizens of the Southern States are anxious to return to
self-government within the Union as soon as possible." Truman came to the
conclusion that "the rank and file of the disbanded Southern army . . . are
the backbone and sinew of the South . . . . To the disbanded regiments of the
rebel army, both officers and men, I look with great confidence as the best
and altogether the most hopeful element of the South, the real basis of
reconstruction and the material of worthy citizenship." General John Tarbell,
before the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, testified that "there are, no
doubt, disloyal and disorderly persons in the South, but it is an entire
mistake to apply these terms to a whole people. I would as soon travel alone,
unarmed, through the South as through the North. The South I left is not at
all the South I hear and read about in the North. From the sentiment I hear in
the North, I would scarcely recognize the people I saw, and, except their
politics, I liked so well. I have entire faith that the better classes are
friendly to the Negroes."

Carl Schurz on the other hand was not so favorably impressed. "The loyalty of
the masses and most of the leaders of the southern people," he said, "consists
in submission to necessity. There is, except in individual instances, an
entire absence of that national spirit which forms the basis of true loyalty
and patriotism." Another government official in Florida was quite doubtful of
the Southern whites. "I would pin them down at the point of the bayonet," he
declared, "so close that they would not have room to wiggle, and allow
intelligent colored people to go up and vote in preference to them. The only
Union element in the South proper . . . is among the colored people. The
whites will treat you very kindly to your face, but they are deceitful. I have
often thought, and so expressed myself, that there is so much deception among
the people of the South since the rebellion, that if an earthquake should open
and swallow them up, I was fearful that the devil would be dethroned and some
of them take his place."

The point of view of the Confederate military leaders was exhibited by General
Wade Hampton in a letter to President Johnson and by General Lee in his advice
to Governor Letcher of Virginia. General Hampton wrote: "The South
unequivocally 'accepts the situation' in which she is placed. Everything that
she has done has been done in perfect faith, and in the true and highest sense
of the word, she is loyal. By this I mean that she intends to abide by the
laws of the land honestly, to fulfill all her obligations faithfully and to
keep her word sacredly, and I assert that the North has no right to demand
more of her. You have no right to ask, or expect that she will at once profess
unbounded love to that Union from which for four years she tried to escape at
the cost of her best blood and all her treasures." General Lee in order to set
an example applied through General Grant for a pardon under the amnesty
proclamation and soon afterwards he wrote to Governor Letcher: "All should
unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the
blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote
harmony and good-feeling; qualify themselves to vote; and elect to the State
and general legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their
abilities to the interests of the country and the healing of all dissensions;
I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities,
and have endeavored to practice it myself."

Southerners of the Confederacy everywhere, then, accepted the destruction of
slavery and the renunciation of state sovereignty; they welcomed an early
restoration of the Union, without any punishment of leaders of the defeated
cause. But they were proud of their Confederate records though now legally
"loyal" to the United States; they considered the Negro as free but inferior,
and expected to be permitted to fix his status in the social organization and
to solve the problem of free labor in their own way. To *embarrass the easy
and permanent realization of these views there was a society disrupted,
economically prostrate, deprived of its natural leaders, subjected to a
control not always wisely conceived nor effectively exercised, and, finally,
containing within its own population unassimilated elements which presented
problems fraught with difficulty and danger.


The Negro is the central figure in the reconstruction of the South. Without
the Negro there would have been no Civil War. Granting a war fought for any
other cause, the task of reconstruction would, without him, have been
comparatively simple. With him, however, reconstruction meant more than the
restoring of shattered resources; it meant the more or less successful attempt
to obtain and secure for the freedman civil and political rights, and to
improve his economic and social status. In 1861, the American Negro was
everywhere an inferior, and most of his race were slaves; in 1865, he was no
longer a slave, but whether he was to be serf, ward, or citizen was an
unsettled problem; in 1868, he was in the South the legal and political equal,
frequently the superior, of the white; and before the end of the
reconstruction period he was made by the legislation of some states and by
Congress the legal equal of the white even in certain social matters.

The race problem which confronted the American people had no parallel in the
past. British and Spanish-American emancipation of slaves had affected only
small numbers or small regions, in which one race greatly outnumbered the
other. The results of these earlier emancipations of the Negroes and the
difficulties of European states in dealing with subject white populations were
not such as to afford helpful example to American statesmen. But since it was
the actual situation in the Southern States rather than the experience of
other countries which shaped the policies adopted during reconstruction, it is
important to examine with some care the conditions in which the Negroes in the
South found themselves at the close of the war.

The Negroes were not all helpless and without experience "when freedom cried
out."* In the Border States and in the North there were, in 1861, half a
million free Negroes accustomed to looking out for themselves. Nearly 200,000
Negro men were enlisted in the United States army between 1862 and 1865, and
many thousands of slaves had followed raiding Federal forces to freedom or had
escaped through the Confederate lines. State emancipation in Missouri,
Maryland, West Virginia, and Tennessee, and the practical application of the
Emancipation Proclamation where the Union armies were in control ended slavery
for many thousands more. Wherever the armies marched, slavery ended. This was
true even in Kentucky, where the institution was not legally abolished until
the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. Altogether more than a million
Negroes were free and to some extent habituated to freedom before May 1865.

*A Negro phrase much used in referring to emancipation.

Most of these war-emancipated Negroes were scattered along the borders of the
Confederacy, in camps, in colonies, in the towns, on refugee farms, at work
with the armies, or serving as soldiers in the ranks. There were large working
colonies along the Atlantic coast from Maryland to Florida. The chief centers
were near Norfolk, where General Butler was the first to establish a
"contraband" camp, in North Carolina, and on the Sea Islands of South
Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, which had been seized by the Federal fleet
early in the war. To the Sea Islands also were sent, in 1865, the hordes of
Negroes who had followed General Sherman out of Georgia and South Carolina.
Through the border states from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and along both
sides of the Mississippi from Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans, there were
other refugee camps, farms, and colonies. For periods varying from one to four
years these free Negroes had been at work, often amid conditions highly
unfavorable to health, under the supervision of officers of the Treasury
Department or of the army.

Emancipation was therefore a gradual process, and most of the Negroes, through
their widening experience on the plantations, with the armies, and in the
colonies, were better fitted for freedom in 1865 than they had been in 1861.
Even their years of bondage had done something for them, for they knew how to
work and they had adopted in part the language, habits, religion, and morals
of the whites. But slavery had not made them thrifty, self-reliant, or
educated. Frederick Douglass said of the Negro at the end of his servitude:
"He had none of the conditions of self-preservation or self-protection. He was
free from the individual master, but he had nothing but the dusty road under
his feet. He was free from the old quarter that once gave him shelter, but a
slave to the rains of summer and to the frosts of winter. He was turned loose,
naked, hungry, and destitute to the open sky." To prove that he was free the
Negro thought he must leave his old master, change his name, quit work for a
time, perhaps get a new wife, and hang around the Federal soldiers in camp or
garrison, or go to the towns where the Freedmen's Bureau was in process of
organization. To the Negroes who remained at home--and, curiously enough, for
a time at least many did so--the news of freedom was made known somewhat
ceremonially by the master or his representative. The Negroes were summoned to
the "big house," told that they were free, and advised to stay on for a share
of the crop. The description by Mrs. Clayton, the wife of a Southern general,
will serve for many: "My husband said, 'I think it best for me to inform our
Negroes of their freedom.' So he ordered all the grown slaves to come to him,
and told them they no longer belonged to him as property, but were all free.
'You are not bound to remain with me any longer, and I have a proposition to
make to you. If any of you desire to leave, I propose to furnish you with a
conveyance to move you, and with provisions for the balance of the year.' The
universal answer was, 'Master, we want to stay right here with you.' In many
instances the slaves were so infatuated with the idea of being, as they said,
'free as birds' that they left their homes and consequently suffered; but our
slaves were not so foolish."*

* "Black and White under the Old Regime", p. 158,

The Negroes, however, had learned of their freedom before their old masters
returned from the war; they were aware that the issues of the war involved in
some way the question of their freedom or servitude, and through the
"grapevine telegraph," the news brought by the invading soldiers, and the talk
among the whites, they had long been kept fairly well informed. What the idea
of freedom meant to the Negroes it is difficult to say. Some thought that
there would be no more work and that all would be cared for by the Government;
others believed that education and opportunity were about to make them the
equal of their masters. The majority of them were too bewildered to appreciate
anything except the fact that they were free from enforced labor.

Conditions were most disturbed in the so-called "Black Belt," consisting of
about two hundred counties in the most fertile parts of the South, where the
plantation system was best developed and where by far the majority of the
Negroes were segregated. The Negroes in the four hundred more remote and less
fertile "white" counties, which had been less disturbed by armies, were not so
upset by freedom as those of the Black Belt, for the garrisons and the larger
towns, both centers of demoralization, were in or near the Black Belt. But
there was a moving to and fro on the part of those who had escaped from the
South or had been captured during the war or carried into the interior of the
South to prevent capture. To those who left slavery and home to find freedom
were added those who had found freedom and were now trying to get back home or
to get away from the Negro camps and colonies which were breaking up. A stream
of immigration which began to flow to the southwest affected Negroes as far as
the Atlantic coast. In the confusion of moving, families were broken up, and
children, wife, or husband were often lost to one another. The very old people
and the young children were often left behind for the former master to care
for. Regiments of Negro soldiers were mustered out in every large town and
their numbers were added to the disorderly mass. Some of the Federal garrisons
and Bureau stations were almost overwhelmed by the numbers of blacks who
settled down upon them waiting for freedom to bestow its full measure of
blessing, and many of the Negroes continued to remain in a demoralized
condition until the new year.

The first year of freedom was indeed a year of disease, suffering, and death.
Several partial censuses indicate that in 1865-66 the Negro population lost as
many by disease as the whites had lost in war. Ill-fed, crowded in cabins near
the garrisons or entirely without shelter, and unaccustomed to caring for
their own health, the blacks who were searching for freedom fell an easy prey
to ordinary diseases and to epidemics. Poor health conditions prevailed for
several years longer. In 1870, Robert Somers remarked that "the health of the
whites has greatly improved since the war, while the health of the Negroes has
declined till the mortality of the colored population, greater than the
mortality of the whites was before the war, has now become so markedly
greater, that nearly two colored die for every white person out of equal
numbers of each."

Morals and manners also suffered under the new dispensation. In the crowded
and disease-stricken towns and camps, the conditions under which the roving
Negroes lived were no better for morals than for health, for here there were
none of the restraints to which the blacks had been accustomed and which they
now despised as being a part of their servitude. But in spite of all the
relief that could be given there was much want. In fact, to restore former
conditions the relief agencies frequently cut off supplies in order to force
the Negroes back to work and to prevent others from leaving the country for
the towns. But the hungry freedmen turned to the nearest food supply, and
"spilin de gypshuns" (despoiling the Egyptians, as the Negroes called stealing
from the whites) became an approved means of support. Thefts of hogs, cattle,
poultry, field crops, and vegetables drove almost to desperation those whites
who lived in the vicinity of the Negro camps. When the ex-slave felt obliged
to go to town, he was likely to take with him a team and wagon and his
master's clothes if he could get them.

The former good manners of the Negro were now replaced by impudence and
distrust. There were advisers among the Negro troops and other agitators who
assured them that politeness to whites was a mark of servitude. Pushing and
crowding in public places, on street cars and on the sidewalks, and impudent
speeches everywhere marked generally the limit of rudeness. And the Negroes
were, in this respect, perhaps no worse than those European immigrants who act
upon the principle that bad manners are a proof of independence.

The year following emancipation was one of religious excitement for large
numbers of the blacks. Before 1865, the Negro church members were attached to
white congregations or were organized into missions, with nearly always a
white minister in charge and a black assistant. With the coming of freedom the
races very soon separated in religious matters. For this there were two
principal reasons: the Negro preachers could exercise more influence in
independent churches; and new church organizations from the North were seeking
Negro membership. Sometimes Negro members were urged to insist on the right
"to sit together" with the whites. In a Richmond church a Negro from the
street pushed his way to the communion altar and knelt. There was a noticeable
pause; then General Robert E. Lee went forward and knelt beside the Negro; and
the congregation followed his example. But this was a solitary instance. When
the race issue was raised by either color, the church membership usually
divided. There was much churchgoing by the Negroes, day and night, and church
festivities and baptisms were common. The blacks preferred immersion and,
wanted a new baptism each time they changed to a new church. Baptizings in
ponds, creeks, or rivers were great occasions and were largely attended.
"Shouting" the candidates went into the water and "shouting" they came out.
One old woman came up screaming, "Freed from slavery! freed from sin! Bless
God and General Grant!"

In the effort to realize their new-found freedom, the Negroes were heavily
handicapped by their extreme poverty and their ignorance. The total value of
free Negro property ran up into the millions in 1860, but the majority of the
Negroes had nothing. There were a few educated Negroes in the South, and more
in the North and in Canada, but the mass of the race was too densely ignorant
to furnish its own leadership. The case, however, was not hopeless; the Negro
was able to work and in large territories had little competition; wages were
high, even though paid in shares of the crop; the cost of living was low; and
land was cheap. Thousands seemed thirsty for an education and crowded the
schools which were available. It was too much, however, to expect the Negro to
take immediate advantage of his opportunities. What he wanted was a long
holiday, a gun and a dog, and plenty of hunting and fishing. He must have
Saturday at least for a trip to town or to a picnic or a circus; he did not
wish to be a servant. When he had any money, swindlers reaped a harvest. They
sold him worthless finery, cheap guns, preparations to bleach the skin or
straighten the hair, and striped pegs which, when set up on the master's
plantation, would entitle the purchaser to "40 acres and a mule."

The attitude of the Negroes' employers not infrequently complicated the
situation which they sought to better. The old masters were, as a rule,
skeptical of the value of free Negro labor. Carl Schurz thought this attitude
boded ill for the future: "A belief, conviction, or prejudice, or whatever you
may call it," he said, "so widely spread and apparently deeply rooted as this,
that the Negro will not work without physical compulsion, is certainly
calculated to have a very serious influence upon the conduct of the people
entertaining it. It naturally produced a desire to preserve slavery in its
original form as much and as long as possible . . . or to introduce into the
new system that element of physical compulsion which would make the Negro
work." The Negro wished to be free to leave his job when he pleased, but, as
Benjamin C. Truman stated in his report to President Johnson, a "result of the
settled belief in the Negro's inferiority, and in the necessity that he should
not be left to himself without a guardian, is that in some sections he is
discouraged from leaving his old master. I have known of planters who
considered it an offence against neighborhood courtesy for another to hire
their old hands, and in two instances that were reported the disputants came
to blows over the breach of etiquette." The new Freedmen's Bureau insisted
upon written contracts, except for day laborers, and this undoubtedly kept
many Negroes from working regularly, for they were suspicious of contracts.
Besides, the agitators and the Negro troops led them to hope for an eventual
distribution of property. An Alabama planter thus described the situation in
December 1865:

"They will not work for anything but wages, and few are able to pay wages.
They are penniless but resolute in their demands. They expect to see all the
land divided out equally between them and their old masters in time to make
the next crop. One of the most intelligent black men I know told me that in a
neighboring village, where several hundred blacks were congregated, he does
not think that as many as three made contracts, although planters are urgent
in their solicitations and offering highest prices for labor they can possibly
afford to pay. The same man informed me that the impression widely prevails
that Congress is about to divide out the lands, and that this impression is
given out by Federal soldiers at the nearest military station. It cannot be
disguised that in spite of the most earnest efforts of their old master to
conciliate and satisfy them, the estrangement between races increases in its
extent and bitterness. Nearly all the Negro men are armed with repeaters, and
many of them carry them openly, day and night."

The relations between the races were better, however, than conditions seemed
to indicate. The whites of the Black Belt were better disposed toward the
Negroes than were those of the white districts. It was in the towns and
villages that most of the race conflicts occurred. All whites agreed that the
Negro was inferior, but there were many who were grateful for his conduct
during the war and who wished him well. But others, the policemen of the
towns, the "loyalists," those who had little but pride of race and the vote to
distinguish them from the blacks, felt no good will toward the ex-slaves. It
was Truman's opinion "not only that the planters are far better friends to the
Negroes than the poor whites, but also better than a majority of the Northern
men who go South to rent plantations." John T. Trowbridge, the novelist, who
recorded his impressions of the South after a visit in 1865, was of the
opinion that the Unionists "do not like niggers." "For there is," he said,
"more prejudice against color among the middle and poorer classes--the Union
men of the South who owned few or no slaves--than among the planters who owned
them by scores and hundreds." The reports of the Freedmen's Bureau are to the
same effect. A Bureau agent in Tennessee testified: "An old citizen, a Union
man, said to me, said he, 'I tell you what, if you take away the military from
Tennessee, the buzzards can't eat up the niggers as fast as we'll kill them.'"

The lawlessness of the Negroes in parts of the Black Belt and the disturbing
influences of the black troops, of some officials of the Bureau, and of some
of the missionary teachers and preachers, caused the whites to fear
insurrections and to take measures for protection. Secret semi-military
organizations were formed which later developed into the Ku Klux orders. When,
however, New Year's Day 1866 passed without the hoped-for distribution of
Property, the Negroes began to settle down.

At the beginning of the period of reconstruction, it seemed possible that the
Negro race might speedily fall into distinct economic groups, for there were
some who had property and many others who had the ability and the opportunity
to acquire it; but the later drawing of race lines and the political
disturbances of reconstruction checked this tendency. It was expected also
that the Northern planters who came South in large numbers in 1865-66 might,
by controlling the Negro labor and by the use of more efficient methods, aid
in the economic upbuilding of the country. But they were ignorant of
agricultural matters and incapable of wisely controlling the blacks; and they
failed because at one time they placed too much trust in the Negroes and at
another treated them too harshly and expected too much of them.

The question of Negro suffrage was not a live issue in the South until the
middle of 1866. There was almost no talk about it among the Negroes; they did
not know what it was. President Lincoln in 1864 and President Johnson in 1865
had merely mentioned the subject, though Chief Justice Chase and prominent
radical members of Congress, as well as numerous abolitionists, had framed a
Negro suffrage platform. But the Southern whites, considering the matter an
impossibility, gave it little consideration. There was, however, both North
and South, a tendency to see a connection between the freedom of the Negroes
and their political rights and thus to confuse civil equality with political
and social privileges. But the great masses of the whites were solidly opposed
to the recognition of Negro equality in any form. The poorer whites,
especially the "Unionists" who hoped to develop an opposition party, were
angered by any discussion of the subject. An Alabama "Unionist," M. J.
Saffold, later prominent as a radical politician, declared to the Joint
Committee on Reconstruction: "If you compel us to carry through universal
suffrage of colored, men . . . it will prove quite an *incubus upon us in the
organization of a national union party of white men; it will furnish our
opponents with a very effective weapon of offense against us."

There were, however, some Southern leaders of ability and standing who, by
1866, were willing to consider Negro suffrage. These men, among them General
Wade Hampton of South Carolina and Governor Robert Patton of Alabama, were of
the slaveholding class, and they fully counted on being able to control the
Negro's vote by methods similar to those actually put in force a quarter of a
century later. The Negroes were not as yet politically organized were not even
interested in politics, and the master class might reasonably hope to regain
control of them. Whitelaw Reid published an interview with one of the Hamptons
which describes the situation exactly:

"A brother of General Wade Hampton, the South Carolina Hotspur, was on board.
He saw no great objection to Negro suffrage, so far as the whites were
concerned; and for himself, South Carolinian and secessionist though he was,
he was quite willing to accept it. He only dreaded its effect on the blacks
themselves. Hitherto they had in the main, been modest and respectful, and
mere freedom was not likely to spoil them. But the deference to them likely to
be shown by partisans eager for their votes would have a tendency to uplift
them and unbalance them. Beyond this, no harm would be done the South by Negro
suffrage. The old owners would cast the votes of their people almost as
absolutely and securely as they cast their own. If Northern men expected in
this way to build up a northern party in the South, they were gravely
mistaken. They would only be multiplying the power of the old and natural
leaders of Southern politics by giving every vote to a former slave.
Heretofore such men had served their masters only in the fields; now they
would do no less faithful service at the polls. If the North could stand it,
the South could. For himself, he should make no special objection to Negro
suffrage as one of the terms of reorganization, and if it came, he did not
think the South would have much cause to regret it."

To sum up the situation at this time: the Negro population at the close of the
war constituted a tremendous problem for those in authority. The race was
free, but without status, without leaders, without property, and without
education. Probably a fourth of them had some experience in freedom before the
Confederate armies surrendered, and the servitude of the other three millions
ended very quickly and without violence. But in the Black Belt, where the bulk
of the black population was to be found, the labor system was broken up, and
for several months the bewildered freedmen wandered about or remained at home
under conditions which were bad for health, morals, and thrift. The Northern
Negroes did not furnish the expected leadership for the race, and the more
capable men in the South showed a tendency to go North. The unsettled state of
the Negroes and their expectation of receiving a part of the property of the
whites kept the latter uneasy and furnished the occasion of frequent
conflicts. Not the least of the unsettling influences at work upon the Negro
population were the colored troops and the agitators furnished by the
Freedmen's Bureau, the missions, and the Bureau schools. But at the beginning
of the year 1866, the situation appeared to be clearing, and the social and
economic revolution seemed on the way to a quieter ending than might have been


The war ended slavery, but it left the problem of the freed slave; it
preserved the Union in theory, but it left unsolved many delicate problems of
readjustment. Were the seceded States in or out of the Union? If in the Union,
what rights had they? If they were not in the Union, what was their status?
What was the status of the Southern Unionist, of the ex-Confederate? What
punishments should be inflicted upon the Southern people? What authority,
executive or legislative, should carry out the work of reconstruction? The end
of the war brought with it, in spite of much discussion, no clear answer to
these perplexing questions.

Unfortunately, American political life, with its controversies over colonial
government, its conflicting interpretations of written constitutions, and its
legally trained statesmen, had by the middle of the nineteenth century
produced a habit of political thought which demanded the settlement of most
governmental matters upon a theoretical basis. And now in 1865, each prominent
leader had his own plan of reconstruction fundamentally irreconcilable with
all the others, because rigidly theoretical. During the war the powers of the
executive had been greatly expanded and a legislative reaction was to be
expected. The Constitution called for fresh interpretation in the light of the
Civil War and its results.

The first theory of reconstruction may be found in the Crittenden-Johnson
resolutions of July 1861, which declared that the war was being waged to
maintain the Union under the Constitution and that it should cease when these
objects were obtained. This would have been subscribed to in 1861 by the Union
Democrats and by most of the Republicans, and in 1865 the conquered
Southerners would have been glad to reenter the Union upon this basis; but
though in 1865 the resolution still expressed the views of many Democrats, the
majority of Northern people had moved away from this position.

The attitude of Lincoln, which in 1865 met the views of a majority of the
Northern people though not of the political leaders, was that "no State can
upon its mere motion get out of the Union," that the States survived though
there might be some doubt about state governments, and that "loyal" state
organizations might be established by a population consisting largely of
ex-Confederates who had been pardoned by the President and made "loyal" for
the future by an oath of allegiance. Reconstruction was, Lincoln thought, a
matter for the executive to handle. But that he was not inflexibly committed
to any one plan is indicated by his proclamation after the pocket veto of the
Wade-Davis Bill and by his last speech, in which he declared that the question
of whether the seceded States were in the Union or out of it was "merely a
pernicious abstraction." In addition, Lincoln said:

"We are all agreed that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper
practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government,
civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that
proper practical relation. I believe that it is not only possible, but in fact
easier, to do this without deciding or even considering whether these States
have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at
home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us
all join in doing the acts necessary to restore the proper practical relations
between these States and the Union, and each forever after innocently indulge
his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the States from without
into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been
out of it."

President Johnson's position was essentially that of Lincoln, but his attitude
toward the working out of the several problems was different. He maintained
that the states survived and that it was the duty of the executive to restore
them to their proper relations. "The true theory," said he, "is that all
pretended acts of secession were from the beginning null and void. The States
cannot commit treason nor screen individual citizens who may have committed
treason any more than they can make valid treaties or engage in lawful
commerce with any foreign power. The states attempting to secede placed
themselves in a condition where their vitality was impaired, but not
extinguished; their functions suspended, but not destroyed." Lincoln would
have had no severe punishments inflicted even on leaders, but Johnson wanted
to destroy the "slavocracy," root and branch. Confiscation of estates would,
he thought, be a proper measure. He said on one occasion: "Traitors should
take a back seat in the work of restoration .. . . My judgment is that he [a
rebel] should be subjected to a severe ordeal before he is restored to
citizenship. Treason should be made odious, and traitors must be punished and
impoverished. Their great plantations must be seized, and divided into small
farms and sold to honest, industrious men." The violence of Johnson's views
subsequently underwent considerable modification but to the last he held to
the plan of executive restoration based upon state perdurance. Neither Lincoln
nor Johnson favored a change of Southern institutions other than the abolition
of slavery, though each recommended a qualified Negro suffrage.

There were, however, other theories in the field, notably those of the radical
Republican leaders. According to the state-suicide theory of Charles Sumner,
"any vote of secession or other act by which any State may undertake to put an
end to the supremacy of the Constitution within its territory is inoperative
and void against the Constitution, and when sustained by force it becomes a
practical ABDICATION by the State of all rights under the Constitution, while
the treason it involves still further works an instant FORFEITURE of all those
functions and powers essential to the continued existence of the State as a
body politic, so that from that time forward the territory falls under the
exclusive jurisdiction of Congress as other territory, and the State, being
according to the language of the law felo de se, ceases to exist." Congress
should punish the "rebels" by abolishing slavery, by giving civil and
political rights to Negroes, and by educating them with the whites.

Not essentially different, but harsher, was Thaddeus Stevens's plans for
treating the South as a conquered foreign province. Let the victors treat the
seceded States "as conquered provinces and settle them with new men and
exterminate or drive out the present rebels as exiles." Congress in dealing
with these provinces was not bound even by the Constitution, "a bit of
worthless parchment," but might legislate as it pleased in regard to slavery,
the ballot, and confiscation. With regard to the white population, he said: "I
have never desired bloody punishments to any great extent. But there are
punishments quite as appalling, and longer remembered, than death. They are
more advisable, because they would reach a greater number. Strip a proud
nobility of their bloated estates; reduce them to a level with plain
republicans; send them forth to labor, and teach their children to enter the
workshops or handle a plow, and you will thus humble the proud traitors."
Stevens and Sumner agreed in reducing the Southern States to a territorial
status. Sumner would then take the principles of the Declaration of
Independence as a guide for Congress, while Stevens would leave Congress
absolute. Neither considered the Constitution as of any validity in this

As a rule the former abolitionists were in 1865 advocates of votes and lands
for the Negro, in whose capacity for self-rule they had complete confidence.
The view of Gerrit Smith may be regarded as typical of the abolitionist

"Let the first condition of peace with them be that no people in the rebel
States shall ever lose or gain civil or political rights by reason of their
race or origin. The next condition of peace be that our black allies in the
South--those saviours of our nation--shall share with their poor white
neighbors in the subdivisions of the large landed estates of the South. Let
the only other condition be that the rebel masses shall not, for say, a dozen
years, be allowed access to the ballot-box, or be eligible to office; and that
the like restrictions be for life on their political and military leaders . .
. . The mass of the Southern blacks fall, in point of intelligence, but
little, if any, behind the mass of the Southern whites . . . . In reference to
the qualifications of the voter, men make too much account of the head and too
little of the heart. The ballot-box, like God, says: "Give me your heart." The
best-hearted men are the best qualified to vote; and, in this light, the
blacks, with their characteristic gentleness, patience, and affectionateness,
are peculiarly entitled to vote. We cannot wonder at Swedenborg's belief that
the celestial people will be found in the interior of Africa; nor hardly can
we wonder at the legend that the gods came down every year to sup with their
favorite Africans."

One of the most statesmanlike proposals was made by Governor John A. Andrew of
Massachusetts. If, forgetting their theories, the conservatives could have
united in support of a restoration conceived in his spirit, the goal might
have been speedily achieved. Andrew demanded a reorganization, based upon
acceptance of the results of the war, but carried through with the aid of
"those who are by their intelligence and character the natural leaders of
their people and who surely will lead them by and by. "These men cannot be
kept out forever, said he, for the capacity of leadership is a gift, not a
device. They whose courage, talents, and will entitle them to lead, will lead
. . . . If we cannot gain their support of the just measures needful for the
work of safe reorganization, reorganization will be delusive and full of
danger. They are the most hopeful subjects to deal with. They have the brain
and the experience and the education to enable them to understand . . . the
present situation. They have the courage as well as the skill to lead the
people in the direction their judgments point . . . . Is it consistent with
reason and our knowledge of human nature, to believe the masses of Southern
men able to face about, to turn their backs on those they have trusted and
followed, and to adopt the lead of those who have no magnetic hold on their
hearts or minds? It would be idle to reorganize by the colored vote. If the
popular vote of the white race is not to be had in favor of the guarantees
justly required, then I am in favor of holding on--just where we are now. I am
not in favor of a surrender of the present rights of the Union to a struggle
between a white minority aided by the freedmen on one hand, against the
majority of the white race on the other. I would not consent, having rescued
those states by arms from Secession and rebellion, to turn them over to
anarchy and chaos."

The Southerners, Unionists as well as Confederates, had their views as well,
but at Washington these carried little influence. The former Confederates
would naturally favor the plan which promised best for the white South, and
their views were most nearly met by those of President Lincoln. Although he
held that in principle a new Union had arisen out of the war, as a matter of
immediate political expediency he was prepared to build on the assumption that
the old Union still existed. The Southern Unionists cared little for theories;
they wanted the Confederates punished, themselves promoted to high offices,
and the Negro kept from the ballot box.

Even at the beginning of 1866, it was not too much to hope that the majority
of former Republicans would accept conservative methods, provided the
so-called "fruits of the war" were assured--that is, equality of civil rights,
the guarantee of the United States war debt, the repudiation of the
Confederate debt, the temporary disfranchisement of the leading Confederates,
and some arrangement which would keep the South from profiting by
representation based on the non-voting Negro population. But amid many
conflicting policies, none attained to continuous and compelling authority.

The plan first put to trial was that of President Lincoln. It was a definite
plan designed to meet actual conditions and, had he lived, he might have been
able to carry it through successfully. Not a theorist, but an opportunist of
the highest type, sobered by years of responsibility in war time, and fully
understanding the precarious situation in 1865, Lincoln was most anxious to
secure an early restoration of solidarity with as little friction as possible.
Better than most Union leaders he appreciated conditions in the South, the
problem of the races, the weakness of the Southern Unionists, and the
advantage of calling in the old Southern leaders. He was generous and
considerate; he wanted no executions or imprisonments; he wished the leaders
to escape; and he was anxious that the mass of Southerners be welcomed back
without loss of rights. "There is," he declared, "too little respect for their
rights," an unwillingness, in short, to treat them as fellow citizens.

This executive policy had been applied from the beginning of the war as
opportunity offered. The President used the army to hold the Border States in
the Union, to aid in "reorganizing" Unionist Virginia and in establishing West
Virginia. The army, used to preserve the Union might be used also to restore
disturbed parts of it to normal condition. Assuming that the "States" still
existed, "loyal" state governments were the first necessity. By his
proclamation of December 8, 1863, Lincoln suggested a method of beginning the
reconstruction: he would pardon any Confederate, except specified classes of
leaders, who took an oath of loyalty for the future; if as many as ten percent
of the voting population of 1860, thus made loyal, should establish a state
government the executive would recognize it. The matter of slavery must,
indeed, be left to the laws and proclamations as interpreted by the courts,
but other institutions should continue as in 1861.

This plan was inaugurated in four States which had been in part controlled by
the Federal army from nearly the beginning of the war: Tennessee (1862),
Louisiana (1862), Arkansas (1862), and Virginia after the formation of West
Virginia (1863). For each state Lincoln appointed a military governor: for
Tennessee, Andrew Johnson; for Arkansas, John S. Phelps; for Louisiana,
General Shepley. In Virginia he recognized the "reorganized" government, which
had been transferred to Alexandria when the new State of West Virginia was
formed. The military governors undertook the slow and difficult work of
reorganization, however, with but slight success owing to the small numbers of
Unionists and of Confederates who would take the oath. But by 1864, "ten
percent" state governments were established in Arkansas and Louisiana, and
progress was being made in Tennessee.

Congress was impatient of Lincoln's claim to executive precedence in the
matter of reconstruction, and in 1864, both Houses passed the Wade-Davis Bill,
a plan which asserted the right of Congress to control reconstruction and
foreshadowed a radical settlement of the question. Lincoln disposed of the
bill by a pocket veto and, in a proclamation dated July 8, 1864, stated that
he was unprepared "to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of
restoration," or to discourage loyal citizens by setting aside the governments
already established in Louisiana and Arkansas, or to recognize the authority
of Congress to abolish slavery. He was ready, however, to cooperate with the
people of any State who wished to accept the plan prepared by Congress and he
hoped that a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery would be adopted.

Lincoln early came to the conclusion that slavery must be destroyed, and he
had urgently advocated deportation of the freedmen, for he believed that the
two races could not live in harmony after emancipation. The nearest he came to
recommending the vote for the Negro was in a communication to Governor Hahn of
Louisiana in March 1864: "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 time 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."

Throughout the war President Lincoln assumed that the state organizations in
the South were illegal because disloyal and that new governments must be
established. But just at the close of the war, probably carried away by
feeling, he all but recognized the Virginia Confederate Government as
competent to bring the state back into the Union. While in Richmond on April
5, 1865, he gave to Judge Campbell a statement of terms: the national
authority to be restored; no recession on slavery by the executive; hostile
forces to disband. The next day he notified General Weitzel, in command at
Richmond, that he might permit the Virginia Legislature to meet and withdraw
military and other support from the Confederacy. But these measures met strong
opposition in Washington, especially from Secretary Stanton and Senator Wade
and other congressional leaders, and on the 11th of April, Lincoln withdrew
his permission for the legislature to meet. "I cannot go forward," he said,
"with everybody opposed to me." It was on the same day that he made his last
public speech, and Sumner, who was strongly opposed to his policy, remarked
that "the President's speech and other things augur confusion and uncertainty
in the future, with hot contumacy." At a cabinet meeting on the 14th of April,
Lincoln made his last statement on the subject. It was fortunate, he said,
that Congress had adjourned, for "we shall reanimate the States" before
Congress meets; there should be no killing, no persecutions; there was too
much disposition to treat the Southern people "not as fellow citizens."

The possibility of a conciliatory restoration ended when Lincoln was
assassinated. Moderate, firm, tactful, of great personal influence, not a
doctrinaire, and not a Southerner like Johnson, Lincoln might have "prosecuted
peace" successfully. His policy was very unlike that proposed by the radical
leaders. They would base the new governments upon the loyalty of the past plus
the aid of enfranchised slaves; he would establish the new regime upon the
loyalty of the future. Like Governor Andrew he thought that restoration must
be effected by the willing efforts of the South. He would aid and guide but
not force the people. If the latter did not wish restoration, they might
remain under military rule. There should be no forced Negro suffrage, no
sweeping disfranchisement of whites, no "carpetbaggism."

The work of President Johnson demands for its proper understanding some
consideration of the condition of the political parties at the close of the
war, for politics had much to do with reconstruction. The Democratic party,
divided and defeated in the election of 1860, lost its Southern members in
1861 by the secession and remained a minority party during the remainder of
the war. It retained its organization, however, and in 1864 polled a large
vote. Discredited by its policy of opposition to Lincoln's administration, its
ablest leaders joined the Republicans in support of the war. Until 1869, the
party was poorly represented in Congress although, as soon as hostilities
ended, the War Democrats showed a tendency to return to the old party. As to
reconstruction, the party stood on the Crittenden-Johnson resolutions of 1861,
though most Democrats were now willing to have slavery abolished.

The Republican party--frankly sectional and going into power on the single
issue of opposition to the extension of slavery--was forced by the secession
movement to take up the task of preserving the Union by war. Consequently, the
party developed new principles, welcomed the aid of the War Democrats, and
found it advisable to drop its name and with its allies to form the Union or
National Union party. It was this National Union party which in 1864 nominated
Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, and Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, on the same
ticket. Lincoln's second Cabinet was composed of both Republicans and War
Democrats. When the war ended, the conservative leaders were anxious to hold
the Union party together in order to be in a better position to settle the
problems of reconstruction, but the movement of the War Democrats back to
their old party tended to leave in the Union party only its Republican
members, with the radical leaders dominating.

In the South the pressure of war so united the people that party divisions
disappeared for a time, but the causes of division continued to exist, and two
parties, at least, would have developed had the pressure been removed. Though
all factions supported the war after it began, the former Whigs and Douglas
Democrats, when it was over, liked to remember that they had been "Union" men
in 1860 and expected to organize in opposition to the extreme Democrats, who
were now charged with being responsible for the misfortunes of the South. They
were in a position to affiliate with the National Union party of the North if
proper inducements were offered, while the regular Democrats were ready to
rejoin their old party. But the embittered feelings resulting from the murder
of Lincoln and the rapid development of the struggle between President Johnson
and Congress caused the radicals "to lump the old Union Democrats and Whigs
together with the secessionists--and many were driven where they did not want
to go, into temporary affiliation with the Democratic party." Thousands went
very reluctantly; the old Whigs, indeed, were not firmly committed to the
Democrats until radical reconstruction had actually begun. Still other
"loyalists" in the South were prepared to join the Northern radicals in
advocating the disfranchisement of Confederates and in opposing the granting
of suffrage to the Negroes.

The man upon whom fell the task of leading these opposing factions, radical
and conservative, along a definite line of action looking to reunion had few
qualifications for the task. Johnson was ill-educated, narrow, and vindictive
and was positive that those who did not agree with him were dishonest. Himself
a Southerner, picked up by the National Union Convention of 1864, as Thaddeus
Stevens said, from "one of those damned rebel provinces," he loved the Union,
worshiped the Constitution, and held to the strict construction views of the
State Rights Democrats. Rising from humble beginnings, he was animated by the
most intense dislike of the "slavocracy," as he called the political
aristocracy of the South. Like many other American leaders he was proud of his
humble origin, but unlike many others he never sloughed off his backwoods
crudeness. He continually boasted of himself and vilified the aristocrats, who
in return treated him badly. His dislike of them was so marked that Isham G.
Harris, a rival politician, remarked that "if Johnson were a snake, he would
lie in the grass to bite the heels of rich men's children." His primitive
notions of punishment were evident in 1865 when he advocated imprisonment,
execution, and confiscation; but like other reckless talkers he often said
more than he meant.

When Johnson succeeded to the presidency, the feeling was nearly universal
among the radicals, according to Julian, that he would prove a godsend to the
country, for "aside from Mr. Lincoln's known policy of tenderness to the
rebels, which now so jarred upon the feelings of the hour, his well known
views on the subject of reconstruction were as distasteful as possible to
radical Republicans." Senator Wade declared to the President: "Johnson, we
have faith in you. By the gods, there will be no trouble now in running the
Government!" To which Johnson replied: "Treason is a crime and crime must be
punished. Treason must be made infamous and traitors must be impoverished."
These words are an index to the speeches of Johnson during 1863-65. Even his
radical friends feared that he would be too vindictive. For a few weeks he was
much inclined to the radical plans, and some of the leaders certainly
understood that he was in favor of Negro suffrage, the supreme test of
radicalism. But when the excitement caused by the assassination of Lincoln and
the break-up of the Confederacy had moderated somewhat, Johnson saw before him
a task so great that his desire for violent measures was chilled. He must
disband the great armies and bring all war work to an end; he must restore
intercourse with the South, which had been blockaded for years; he must for a
time police the country, look after the Negroes, and set up a temporary civil
government; and finally he must work out a restoration of the Union. Sobered
by responsibility and by the influence of moderate advisers, he rather quickly
adopted Lincoln's policy. Johnson at first set his face against the movements
toward reconstruction by the state governments already organized and by those
people who wished to organize new governments on Lincoln's ten percent plan.
As soon as possible the War Department notified the Union commanders to stop
all attempts at reconstruction and to pursue and arrest all Confederate
governors and other prominent civil leaders. The President was even anxious to
arrest the military leaders who had been paroled but was checked in this
desire by General Grant's firm protest. His cabinet advisers supported Johnson
in refusing to recognize the Southern state governments; but three of
them--Seward, Welles, and McCulloch--were influential in moderating his zeal
for inflicting punishments. Nevertheless,he soon had in prison the most
prominent of the Confederate civilians and several general officers. The
soldiers, however, were sent home, trade with the South was permitted, and the
Freedmen's Bureau was rapidly extended.

Previous to this Johnson had brought himself to recognize, early in May, the
Lincoln "ten percent" governments of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas, and
the reconstructed Alexandria government of Virginia. Thus only seven states
were left without legal governments, and to bring those states back into the
Union, Johnson inaugurated on May 29, 1865, a plan which was like that of
Lincoln but not quite so liberal. In his Amnesty Proclamation, Johnson made a
longer list of exceptions aimed especially at the once wealthy slave owners.
On the same day he proclaimed the restoration of North Carolina. A provisional
governor, W. W. Holden, was appointed and directed to reorganize the civil
government and to call a constitutional convention elected by those who had
taken the amnesty oath. This convention was to make necessary amendments to
the constitution and to "restore said State to its constitutional relations to
the Federal Government." It is to be noted that Johnson fixed the
qualifications of delegates and of those who elected them, but, this stage
once passed, the convention or the legislature would "prescribe the
qualifications of electors . . . a power the people of the several States
composing the Federal Union have rightfully exercised from the origin of the
government to the present time." The President also directed the various
cabinet officers to extend the work of their departments over the Confederate
States and ordered the army officers to assist the civil authorities. During
the next six weeks, similar measures were undertaken for the remaining six
states of the Confederacy.

To set up the new order, army officers were first sent into every county to
administer the amnesty oath and thus to secure a "loyal" electorate. In each
state the provisional governor organized out of the remains of the Confederate
local regime a new civil government. Confederate local officials who could and
would take the amnesty oath were directed to resume office until relieved; the
laws of 1861, except those relating to slavery, were declared to be in force;
the courts were directed to use special efforts to crush lawlessness; and the
old jury lists were destroyed and new ones were drawn up containing only the
names of those who had taken the amnesty oath. Since there was no money in any
state treasury, small sums were now raised by license taxes. A full staff of
department heads was appointed, and by July 1865, the provisional governments
were in fair working order.

To the constitutional conventions, which met in the fall, it was made clear,
through the governors, that the President would insist upon three conditions:
the formal abolition of slavery, the repudiation of the ordinance of
secession, and the repudiation of the Confederate war debt. To Governor Holden
he telegraphed: "Every dollar of the debt created to aid the rebellion against
the United States should be repudiated finally and forever. The great mass of
the people should not be taxed to pay a debt to aid in carrying on a rebellion
which they in fact, if left to themselves, were opposed to. Let those who had
given their means for the obligations of the state look to that power they
tried to establish in violation of law, constitution, and will of the people.
They must meet their fate." With little opposition these conditions were
fulfilled, though there was a strong feeling against the repudiation of the
debt, much discussion as to whether the ordinance of secession should be
"repealed" or declared "now and always null and void," and some quibbling as
to whether slavery was being destroyed by state action or had already been
destroyed by war.

In the old state constitutions, very slight changes were made. Of these the
chief were concerned with the abolition of slavery and the arrangement of
representation and direct taxation on the basis of white population. Little
effort was made to settle any of the Negro problems, and in all states the
conventions left it to the legislatures to make laws for the freedmen. There
was no discussion of Negro, suffrage in the conventions, but President Johnson
sent what was for him a remarkable communication to Governor Sharkey of

"If you could extend the elective franchise to all persons of color who can
read the Constitution of the United States in English and write their names,
and to all persons of color who own real estate valued at not less than two
hundred and fifty dollars and pay taxes thereon, you would completely disarm
the adversary and set an example the other states will follow. This you can do
with perfect safety, and you would thus place Southern States in reference to
free persons of color upon the same basis with the free states . . . . And as
a consequence the radicals, who are wild upon Negro franchise, will be
completely foiled in their attempts to keep the Southern states from renewing
their relations to the Union by not accepting their senators and

In deciding upon a basis of representation, it was clear that the majority of
delegates desired to lessen the influence of the Black Belt and place the
control of the government with the "up country." In the Alabama convention
Robert M. Patton, then a delegate and later governor, frankly avowed this
object, and in South Carolina, Governor Perry urged the convention to give no
consideration to Negro suffrage, "because this is a white man's government,"
and if the Negroes should vote they would be controlled by a few whites. A
kindly disposition toward the Negroes was general except on the part of
extreme Unionists, who opposed any favors to the race. "This is a white man's
country" was a doctrine to which all the conventions subscribed.

The conventions held brief sessions, completed their work, and adjourned,
after directing that elections be held for state and local officers and for
members of Congress. Before December the appointed local officials had been
succeeded by elected officers; members of Congress were on their way to
Washington; the state legislatures were assembling or already in session; and
the elected governors were ready to take office. It was understood that as
soon as enough state legislatures ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to make it
a part of the Constitution, the President would permit the transfer of
authority to the new governors. The legislature of Mississippi alone was
recalcitrant about the amendment, and before January 1866, the elected
officials were everywhere installed except in Texas, where the work was not
completed until March. When Congress met in December 1865, the President
reported that all former Confederate States except Texas were ready to be
readmitted. Congress, however, refused to admit their senators and
representatives, and thus began the struggle which ended over a year later
with the victory of the radicals and the undoing of the work of the two

The plan of the Presidents was at best only imperfectly realized. It was found
impossible to reorganize the Federal Administration in the South with men who
could subscribe to the "ironclad oath," for nearly all who were competent to
hold office had favored or aided the Confederacy. It was two years before more
than a third of the post offices could be opened. The other Federal
departments were in similar difficulties, and at last women and
"carpetbaggers" were appointed. The Freedmen's Bureau, which had been
established coincidently with the provisional governments, assumed
jurisdiction over the Negroes, while the army authorities very early took the
position that any man who claimed to be a Unionist should not be tried in the
local courts but must be given a better chance in a provost court. Thus a
third or more of the population was withdrawn from the control of the state
government. In several states the head of the Bureau made arrangements for
local magistrates and officials to act as Bureau officials, and in such cases
the two authorities acted in cooperation. The army of occupation, too, exerted
an authority which not infrequently interfered with the workings of the new
state government. Nearly everywhere there was a lack of certainty and
efficiency due to the concurrent and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions of
state government, army commanders, Bureau authorities, and even the President
acting upon or through any of the others.

The standing of the Southern state organizations was in doubt after the
refusal of Congress to recognize them. Nevertheless, in spite of this
uncertainty they continued to function as states during the year of
controversy which followed; the courts were opened and steadily grew in
influence; here and there militia and patrols were reorganized; officials who
refused to "accept the situation" were dismissed; elections were held; the
legislatures revised the laws to fit new conditions and enacted new laws for
the emancipated blacks. To all this progress in reorganization, the action of
Congress was a severe blow, since it gave notice that none of the problems of
reconstruction were yet solved. An increasing spirit of irritation and
independence was observed throughout the states in question, and at the
elections the former Confederates gained more and more offices. The year was
marked in the South by the tendency toward the formation of parties, by the
development of the "Southern outrages" issue, by an attempt to frustrate
radical action, and finally by a lineup of the great mass of the whites in
opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment and other radical plans of Congress.

The Joint Committee on Reconstruction, appointed when Congress refused to
accept the work of President Johnson, proceeded during several months to take
testimony and to consider measures. The testimony, which was taken chiefly to
support opinions already formed, appeared to prove that the Negroes and the
Unionists were so badly treated that the Freedmen's Bureau and the army must
be kept in the South to protect them; that free Negro labor was a success but
that the whites were hostile to it; that the whites were disloyal and would,
if given control of the Southern governments and admitted to Congress,
constitute a danger to the nation and especially to the party in power.

To convince the voters of the North of the necessity of dealing drastically
with the South a campaign of misrepresentation was begun in the summer of
1865, which became more and more systematic and unscrupulous as the political
struggle at Washington grew fiercer. Newspapers regularly ran columns headed
"Southern Outrages," and every conceivable mistreatment of blacks by whites
was represented as taking place on a large scale. As General Richard Taylor
said, it would seem that about 1866 every white man, woman, and child in the
South began killing and maltreating Negroes. In truth, there was less and less
ground for objection to the treatment of the blacks as time went on and as the
several agencies of government secured firmer control over the lawless
elements. But fortunately for the radicals their contention seemed to be
established by riots on a large scale in Memphis and New Orleans where Negroes
were killed and injured in much greater number than whites.

The rapid development of the radical plans of Congress checked the tendency
toward political division in the South. Only a small party of rabid Unionists
would now affiliate with the radicals, while all the others reluctantly held
together, endorsed Johnson's policy, and attempted to affiliate with the
disintegrating National Union party. But the defeat of the President's
policies in the elections of 1866, the increasing radicalism of Congress as
shown by the Civil Rights Act, the expansion of the Freedmen's Bureau, the
report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, and the proposal of the
Fourteenth Amendment led farsighted Southerners to see that the President was
likely to lose in his fight with Congress.

Now began, in the latter half of 1866, with some cooperation in the North and
probably with the approval of the President, a movement in the South to
forestall the radicals by means of a settlement which, although less severe
than the proposed Fourteenth Amendment, might yet be acceptable to Congress.
One feature of the settlement was to be some form of Negro suffrage, either by
local action or by constitutional amendment. Those behind this scheme were
mainly of the former governing class. Negro suffrage, they thought, would take
the wind out of the radical sails, the Southern whites would soon be able to
control the blacks, representation in Congress would be increased, and the
Black Belt would perhaps regain its former political hegemony. It is hardly
necessary to say that the majority of the whites were solidly opposed to such
a measure. But it was hoped to carry it under pressure through the legislature
or to bring it about indirectly through rulings of the Freedmen's Bureau.

Coincident with this scheme of partial Negro suffrage an attempt was made by
the conservative leaders in Washington, working with the Southerners, to
propose a revised Fourteenth Amendment which would give the vote to competent
Negroes and not disfranchise the whites. A conference of Southern governors
met in Washington early in 1867 and drafted such an amendment. But, it was too

Meanwhile the Fourteenth Amendment submitted by Congress had been brought
before the Southern legislatures, and during the winter of 1866-67 it was
rejected by all of them. There was strong opposition to it because it
disfranchised the leading whites, but perhaps the principal reason for its
rejection was that the Southern people were not sure that still more severe
conditions might not be imposed later.

While the President was "restoring" the states which had seceded and
struggling with Congress, the Border States of the South, including Tennessee
(which was admitted in 1866 by reason of its radical state government), were
also in the throes of reconstruction. Though there was less military
interference in these than in the other states, many of the problems were
similar. All had the Freedmen's Bureau, the Negro race, the Unionists, and the
Confederates; in every state, except Kentucky, Confederates were persecuted,
the minority was in control, and "ring" rule was the order of the day; but in
each state there were signs of the political revolution which a few years
later was to put the radicals out of power.

The executive plan for the restoration of the Union, begun by Lincoln and
adopted by Johnson, was, as we have seen, at first applied in all the states
which had seceded. A military governor was appointed in each state by the
President by virtue of his authority as commander in chief. This official,
aided by a civilian staff of his own choice and supported by the United States
army and other Federal agencies, reorganized the state administration and
after a few months turned the state and local governments over to regularly
elected officials. Restoration should now have been completed, but Congress
refused to admit the senators and representatives of these states, and entered
upon a fifteen months' struggle with the President over details of the methods
of the reconstruction. Meanwhile the Southern States, though unrepresented in
Congress, continued their activities, with some interference from Federal
authorities, until Congress in 1867 declared their governments nonexistent.

The work begun by Lincoln and Johnson deserved better success. The original
plan restored to political rights only a small number of Unionists, the
lukewarm Confederates, and the unimportant. But in spite of the threatening
speeches of Johnson, he used his power of pardon until none except the most
prominent leaders were excluded. The personnel of the Johnson governments was
fair. The officials were, in the main, former Douglas Democrats and Whigs,
respectable and conservative, but not admired or loved by the people. The
conventions and the legislatures were orderly and dignified and manifested a
desire to accept the situation.

There were no political parties at first, but material for several existed. If
things had been allowed to take their course, there would have arisen a normal
cleavage between former Whigs and Democrats, between the upcountry and the low
country, between the slaveholders and the nonslaveholders. The average white
man in these governments was willing to be fair to the Negro but was not
greatly concerned about his future. In the view of most white people, it was
the white man who was emancipated. The white districts had no desire to let
the power return to the Black Belt by giving the Negro the ballot, for the
vote of the Negroes, they believed, would be controlled by their former

Johnson's adoption of Lincoln's plan gave notice to all that the radicals had
failed to control him. He and they had little in common; they wished to uproot
a civilization, while he wished to punish individuals; they were not troubled
by constitutional scruples, while he was the strictest of State Rights
Democrats; they thought principally of the Negro and his potentialities, while
Johnson was thinking of the emancipated white man. It is possible that Lincoln
might have succeeded, but for Johnson the task proved too great.


The Negroes at the close of the war were not slaves or serfs, nor were they
citizens. What was to be done with them and for them? The Southern answer to
this question may be found in the so- called "Black Laws," which were enacted
by the state governments set up by President Johnson. The views of the
dominant North may be discerned in part in the organization and administration
of the Freedmen's Bureau. The two sections saw the same problem from different
angles, and their proposed solutions were of necessity opposed in principle
and in practice.

The South desired to fit the emancipated Negro race into the new social order
by frankly recognizing his inferiority to the whites. In some things racial
separation was unavoidable. New legislation consequently must be enacted,
because the slave codes were obsolete; because the old laws made for the small
free Negro class did not meet present conditions; and because the emancipated
blacks could not be brought conveniently and at once under laws originally
devised for a white population. The new laws must meet many needs; family
life, morals, and conduct must be regulated; the former slave must be given a
status in court in order that he might be protected in person and property;
the old, the infirm, and the orphans must be cared for; the white race must be
protected from lawless blacks and the blacks from unscrupulous and violent
whites; the Negro must have an opportunity for education; and the roving
blacks must be forced to get homes, settle down, and go to work.

Pending such legislation the affairs of the Negro remained in control of the
unpopular Freedmen's Bureau--a "system of espionage," as Judge Clayton of
Alabama called it, and, according to Governor Humphreys of Mississippi, "a
hideous curse" under which white men were persecuted and pillaged. Judge
Memminger of South Carolina, in a letter to President Johnson, emphasized the
fact that the whites of England and the United States gained civil and
political rights through centuries of slow advancement and that they were far
ahead of the people of European states. Consequently, it would be a mistake to
give the freedmen a status equal to that of the most advanced whites. Rather,
let the United States profit by the experience of the British in their
emancipation policies and arrange a system of apprenticeship for a period of
transition. When the Negro should be fit, let him be advanced to citizenship.

Most Southern leaders agreed that the removal of the master's protection was a
real loss to the Negro which must be made good to some extent by giving the
Negro a status in court and by accepting Negro testimony in all cases in which
blacks were concerned. The North Carolina committee on laws for freedmen
agreed with objectors that "there are comparatively few of the slaves lately
freed who are honest" and truthful, but maintained that the Negroes were
capable of improvement. The chief executives of Mississippi and Florida
declared that there was no danger to the whites in admitting the more or less
unreliable Negro testimony, for the courts and juries would in every case
arrive at a proper valuation of it. Governors Marvin of Florida and Humphreys
of Mississippi advocated practical civil equality, while in North Carolina and
several other States there was a disposition to admit Negro testimony only in
cases in which Negroes were concerned. The North Carolina committee
recommended the abolition of whipping as a punishment unfit for free people,
and most States accepted this principle. Even in 1865, the general disposition
was to make uniform laws for both races, except in regard to violation of
contracts, immoral conduct, vagrancy, marriage, schools, and forms of
punishment. In some of these matters the whites were to be more strictly
regulated; in others, the Negroes.

There was further general agreement that in economic relations both races must
be protected, each from the other; but it is plain that the leaders believed
that the Negro had less at stake than the white. The Negro was disposed to be
indolent; he knew little of the obligations of contracts; he was not honest;
and he would leave his job at will. Consequently Memminger recommended
apprenticeship for all Negroes; Governor Marvin suggested it for children
alone; and others wished it provided for orphans only. Further, the laws
enacted must force the Negroes to settle down, to work, and to hold to
contracts. Memminger showed that, without legislation to enforce contracts and
to secure eviction of those who refused to work, the white planter in the
South was wholly at the mercy of the Negro. The plantations were scattered,
the laborers' houses were already occupied, and there was no labor market to
which a planter could go if the laborers deserted his fields.

What would the Negro become if these leaders of reconstruction were to have
their way? Something better than a serf, something less than a citizen--a
second degree citizen, perhaps, with legal rights about equal to those of
white women and children. Governor Marvin hoped to make of the race a good
agricultural peasantry; his successor was anxious that the blacks should be
preferred to European immigrants; others agreed with Memminger that after
training and education he might be advanced to full citizenship.

These opinions are representative of those held by the men who, Memminger
excepted, were placed in charge of affairs by President Johnson and who were
not especially in sympathy with the Negroes or with the planters but rather
with the average white. All believed that emancipation was a mistake, but all
agreed that "it is not the Negro's fault" and gave no evidence of a
disposition to perpetuate slavery under another name.

The legislation finally framed showed in its discriminatory features the
combined influence of the old laws for free Negroes, the vagrancy laws of
North and South for whites, the customs of slavery times, the British West
Indies legislation for ex-slaves, and the regulations of the United States War
and Treasury Departments and of the Freedmen's Bureau--all modified and
elaborated by the Southern whites. In only two states, Mississippi and South
Carolina, did the legislation bulk large in quantity; in other states
discriminating laws were few; in still other states none were passed except
those defining race and prohibiting intermarriage.

In all of the state laws there were certain common characteristics, among
which were the following: the descendant of a Negro was to be classed as a
Negro through the third generation,* even though one parent in each generation
was white; intermarriage of the races was prohibited; existing slave marriages
were declared valid and for the future marriage was generally made easier for
the blacks than for the whites. In all states the Negro was given his day in
court, and in cases relating to Negroes his testimony was accepted; in six
states he might testify in any case. When provision was made for schooling,
the rule of race separation was enforced. In Mississippi the "Jim Crow car,"
or separate car for Negroes, was invented. In several states the Negro had to
have a license to carry weapons, to preach, or to engage in trade. In
Mississippi, a Negro could own land only in town; in other states he could
purchase land only in the country. Why the difference? No one knows and
probably few knew at the time. Some of the legislation was undoubtedly hasty
and ill-considered.

* Fourth in Tennessee.

But the laws relating to apprenticeship, vagrancy, and enforced punitive
employment turned out to be of greater practical importance. On these subjects
the legislation of Mississippi and South Carolina was the most extreme. In
Mississippi orphans- orphans were to be bound out, preferably to a former
master, if "he or she shall be a suitable person." The master was given the
usual control over apprentices and was bound by the usual duties, including
that of teaching the apprentice. But the penalties for "enticing away"
apprentices were severe. The South Carolina statute was not essentially
different. The vagrancy laws of these two states were in the main the same for
both races, but in Mississippi the definition of vagrancy was enlarged to
include Negroes not at work, those "found unlawfully assembling themselves
together," and "all white persons assembling themselves with freedmen." It is
to be noted that nearly all punishment for petty offenses took the form of
hiring out, preferably to the former master or employer. The principal petty
offenses were, it would seem, vagrancy and "enticing away" laborers or
apprentices. The South Carolina statute contains some other interesting
provisions. A Negro, man or woman, who had enjoyed the companionship of two or
more spouses, must by April 1, 1866, select one of them as a permanent
partner; a farm laborer must "rise at dawn," feed the animals, care for the
property, be quiet and orderly, and "retire at reasonable hours;" on Sunday
the servants must take turns in doing the necessary work, and they must be
respectful and civil to the "master and his family, guests, and agents;" to
engage in skilled labor the Negro must obtain a license. Whipping and the
pillory were permitted in Florida for certain offenses, and in South Carolina
the master might "moderately correct" servants under eighteen years of age.
Other punishments were generally the same for both races, except the hiring
out for petty offenses.

From the Southern point of view none of this legislation was regarded as a
restriction of Negro rights but as a wide extension to the Negro of rights
never before possessed, an adaptation of the white man's laws to his peculiar
case. It is doubtful whether in some of the states the authorities believed
that there were any discriminatory laws; they probably overlooked some of the
free Negro legislation already on the statute books. In Alabama, for example,
General Wager Swayne, the head of the Freedmen's Bureau, reported that all
such laws had either been dropped by the legislature or had been vetoed by the
governor. Yet the statute books do show some discriminations. There is a
marked difference between earlier and later legislation. The more stringent
laws were enacted before the end of 1865. After New Year's Day had passed and
the Negroes had begun to settle down, the legislatures either passed mild laws
or abandoned all special legislation for the Negroes. Later in 1866, several
states repealed the legislation of 1865.

In so far as the "Black Laws" discriminated against the Negro they were never
enforced but were suspended from the beginning by the army and the Freedmen's
Bureau. They had, however, a very important effect upon that section of
Northern opinion which was already suspicious of the good faith of the
Southerners. They were part of a plan, some believed, to reenslave the Negro
or at least to create by law a class of serfs. This belief did much to bring
about later radical legislation.

If the "Black Laws" represented the reaction of the Southern legislatures to
racial conditions, the Freedmen's Bureau was the corresponding result of the
interest taken by the North in the welfare of the Negro. It was established
just as the war was closing and arose out of the various attempts to meet the
Negro problems that arose during the war. The Bureau had always a dual nature,
due in part to its inheritance of regulations, precedents, and traditions from
the various attempts made during war time to handle the many thousands of
Negroes who came under Federal control, and in part to the humanitarian
impulses of 1865, born of a belief in the capacity of the Negro for freedom
and a suspicion that the Southern whites intended to keep as much of slavery
as they could. The officials of the Bureau likewise were of two classes: those
in control were for the most part army officers, standing as arbiters between
white and black, usually just and seldom the victims of their sympathies but
the mass of less responsible officials were men of inferior ability and
character, either blind partisans of the Negro or corrupt and subject to
purchase by the whites.

In view of the fact that the Freedmen's Bureau was considered a new
institution in 1865, it is rather remarkable how closely it followed in
organization, purpose, and methods the precedents set during the war by the
officers of the army and the Treasury. In Virginia, General Butler, in 1861,
declared escaped slaves to be "contraband" and proceeded to organize them into
communities for discipline, work, food, and care. His successors in Virginia
and North Carolina, and others in the Sea Islands of Georgia and South
Carolina, extended his plan and arranged a labor system with fixed wages,
hours, and methods of work, and everywhere made use of the captured or
abandoned property of the Confederates. In Tennessee and Arkansas, Chaplain
John Eaton of Grant's army employed thousands in a modified free labor system;
and further down in Mississippi and Louisiana Generals Grant, Butler, and
Banks also put large numbers of captured slaves to work for themselves and for
the Government. Everywhere, as the numbers of Negroes increased, the army
commanders divided the occupied Negro regions into districts under
superintendents and other officials, framed labor laws, cooperated with
benevolent societies which gave schooling and medical care to the blacks, and
developed systems of government for them.

The United States Treasury Department, attempting to execute the confiscation
laws for the benefit of the Treasury, appears now and then as an employer of
Negro labor on abandoned plantations. Either alone or in cooperation with the
army and charitable associations, it even supervised Negro colonies, and
sometimes it assumed practically complete control of the economic welfare of
the Negro. This Department introduced in 1864 an elaborate lessee and trade
system. The Negro was regarded as "the ward of the nation," but he was told
impressively that "labor is a public duty and idleness and vagrancy a crime."
All wanted him to work: the Treasury wanted cotton and other crops to sell;
the lessees and speculators wanted to make fortunes by his labor; and the army
wanted to be free from the burden of the idle blacks. In spite of all these
ministrations, the Negroes suffered much from harsh treatment, neglect, and
unsanitary conditions.

During 1863 and 1864, several influences were urging the establishment of a
national bureau or department to take charge of matters relating to the
African race. Some wished to establish on the borders of the South a paid
labor system, which might later be extended over the entire region, to get
more slaves out of the Confederacy into this free labor territory, and to
prevent immigration of Negroes into the North, which, after the Emancipation
Proclamation, was apprehensive of this danger. Others wished to relieve the
army and the treasury officials of the burden of caring for the blacks and to
protect the latter from the "northern harpies and bloodhounds" who had
fastened upon them the lessee system.

The discussion lasted for two years. The Freedmen's Inquiry Commission, after
a survey of the field in 1863, recommended a consolidation of all efforts
under an organization which should perpetuate the best features of the old
system. But there was much opposition to this plan in Congress. The Negroes
would be exploited, objected some; the scheme gave too much power to the
proposed organization, said others; another objection was urged against the
employment of a horde of incompetent and unscrupulous officeholders, for "the
men who go down there and become your overseers and Negro drivers will be your
broken-down politicians and your dilapidated preachers, that description of
men who are too lazy to work and just a little too honest to steal."

As the war drew to a close, the advocates of a policy of consolidation in
Negro affairs prevailed, and on March 3, 1865, an act was approved creating in
the War Department a Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. This
Bureau was to continue for one year after the close of the war, and it was to
control all matters relating to freedmen and refugees, that is, Unionists who
had been driven out of the South. Food, shelter, and clothing were to be given
to the needy, and abandoned or confiscated property was to be used for or
leased to freedmen. At the head of the Bureau was to be a commissioner with an
assistant commissioner for each of the Southern States. These officials and
other employees must take the "ironclad" oath.

It was planned that the Bureau should have a brief existence, but the
institution and its wards became such important factors in politics that on
July 16, 1866, after a struggle with the President, Congress passed an act
over his veto amplifying the powers of the Bureau and extending it for two
years longer. This continuation of the Bureau was due to many things: to a
belief that former slaveholders were not to be trusted in dealing with the
Negroes; to the baneful effect of the "Black Laws" upon Northern public
opinion; to the struggle between the President and Congress over
reconstruction; and to the foresight of radical politicians who saw in the
institution an instrument for the political instruction of the blacks in the
proper doctrines.

The new law was supplementary to the Act of 1865, but its additional
provisions merely endorsed what the Bureau was already doing. It authorized
the issue of medical supplies, confirmed certain sales of land to Negroes, and
provided that the promises which Sherman made in 1865 to the Sea Island
Negroes should be carried out as far as possible and that no lands occupied by
blacks should be restored to the owners until the crops of 1866 were gathered;
it directed the Bureau to cooperate with private charitable and benevolent
associations, and it authorized the use or sale for school purposes of all
confiscated property; and finally it ordered that the civil equality of the
Negro be upheld by the Bureau and its courts when state courts refused to
accept the principle. By later laws the existence of the Bureau was extended
to January 1, 1869, in the unreconstructed States, but its educational and
financial activities were continued until June 20, 1872.

The chief objections to the Bureau from the conservative Northern point of
view were summed up in the President's veto messages. The laws creating it
were based, he asserted, on the theory that a state of war still existed;
there was too great a concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals
who could not be held responsible; with such a large number of agents ignorant
of the country and often working for their own advantage injustice would
inevitably result; in spite of the fact that the Negro everywhere had a status
in court, arbitrary tribunals were established, without jury, without regular
procedure or rules of evidence, and without appeal; the provisions in regard
to abandoned lands amounted to confiscation without a hearing; the Negro, who
must in the end work out his own salvation, and who was protected by the
demand for his labor, would be deluded into thinking his future secure without
further effort on his part; although nominally under the War Department, the
Bureau was not subject to military control; it was practically a great
political machine; and, finally, the states most concerned were not
represented in Congress.

The Bureau was soon organized in all the former slaveholding States except
Delaware, with general headquarters in Washington and state headquarters at
the various capitals. General O. O. Howard, who was appointed commissioner,
was a good officer, softhearted, honest, pious, and frequently referred to as
"the Christian soldier." He was fair-minded and not disposed to irritate the
Southern whites unnecessarily, but he was rather suspicious of their
intentions toward the Negroes, and he was a believer in the righteousness of
the Freedmen's Bureau. He was not a good business man; and he was not beyond
the reach of politicians. At one time he was seriously disturbed in his duties
by the buzzing of the presidential bee in his bonnet. The members of his staff
were not of his moral stature, and several of them were connected with
commercial and political enterprises which left their motives open to

The assistant commissioners were, as a rule, general officers of the army,
though a few were colonels and chaplains.* Nearly half of them had during the
war been associated with the various attempts to handle the Negro problem, and
it was these men who shaped the organization of the Bureau. While few of them
were immediately acceptable to the Southern whites, only ten of them proved
seriously objectionable on account of personality, character, or politics.
Among the most able should be mentioned Generals Schofield, Swayne, Fullerton,
Steedman, and Fessenden, and Colonel John Eaton. The President had little or
no control over the appointment or discipline of the officials and agents of
the Bureau, except possibly by calling some of the higher army officers back
to military service.

* They numbered eleven at first and fourteen after July 1866, and were changed
so often that fifty, in all, served in this rank before January 1, 1869, when
the Bureau was practically discontinued.

As a result of General Grant's severe criticism of the arrangement which
removed the Bureau from control by the military establishment, the military
commander was in a few instances also appointed assistant commissioner. Each
assistant commissioner was aided by a headquarters staff and had under his
jurisdiction in each state various district, county, and local agents, with a
special corps of school officials, who were usually teachers and missionaries
belonging to religious and charitable societies. The local agents were
recruited from the members of the Veteran Reserve Corps, the subordinate
officers and non-commissioned officers of the army, mustered-out soldiers,
officers of Negro troops, preachers, teachers, and Northern civilians who had
come South. As a class these agents were not competent persons to guide the
blacks in the ways of liberty or to arbitrate differences between the races.
There were many exceptions, but the Southern view as expressed by General Wade
Hampton had only too much foundation: "There MAY be," he said, "an honest man
connected with the Bureau." John Minor Botts, a Virginian who had remained
loyal to the Union, asserted that many of the agents were good men who did
good work but that trouble resulted from the ignorance and fanaticism of
others. The minority members of the Ku Klux Committee condemned the agents as
being "generally of a class of fanatics without character or responsibility."

The chief activities of the Bureau included the following five branches:
relief work for both races; the regulation of Negro labor; the administration
of justice in cases concerning Negroes; the management of abandoned and
confiscated property; and the support of schools for the Negroes.

The relief work which was carried on for more than four years consisted of
caring for sick Negroes who were within reach of the hospitals, furnishing
food and sometimes clothing and shelter to destitute blacks and whites, and
transporting refugees of both races back to their homes. Nearly a hundred
hospitals and clinics were established, and half a million patients were
treated. This work was greatly needed, especially for the old and the infirm,
and it was well done. The transportation of refugees did not reach large
proportions, and after 1866 it was entangled in politics. But the issue of
supplies in huge quantities brought much needed relief though at the same time
a certain amount of demoralization. The Bureau claimed little credit, and is
usually given none, for keeping alive during the fall and winter of 1865-1866
thousands of destitute whites. Yet more than a third of the food issued was to
whites, and without it many would have starved. Numerous Confederate soldiers
on the way home after the surrender were fed by the Bureau, and in the
destitute white districts a great deal of suffering was relieved and prevented
by its operations. The Negroes, dwelling for the most part in regions where
labor was in demand, needed relief for a shorter time, but they were attracted
in numbers to the towns by free food, and it was difficult to get them back to
work. The political value of the free food issues was not generally recognized
until later in 1866 and in 1867.

During the first year of the Bureau an important duty of the agents was the
supervision of Negro labor and the fixing of wages. Both officials and
planters generally demanded that contracts be written, approved, and filed in
the office of the Bureau. They thought that the Negroes would work better if
they were thus bound by contracts. The agents usually required that the
agreements between employer and laborer cover such points as the nature of the
work, the hours, food and clothes, medical attendance, shelter, and wages. To
make wages secure, the laborer was given a lien on the crop; to secure the
planter from loss, unpaid wages might be forfeited if the laborer failed to
keep his part of the contract. When it dawned upon the Bureau authorities that
other systems of labor had been or might be developed in the South, they
permitted arrangements for the various forms of cash and share renting. But it
was everywhere forbidden to place the Negroes under "overseers" or to subject
them to "unwilling apprenticeship" and "compulsory working out of debts." The
written contract system for laborers did not work out successfully. The
Negroes at first were expecting quite other fruits of freedom. One Mississippi
Negro voiced what was doubtless the opinion of many when he declared that he

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