Plans for Reconstruction

As the Civil War came to a close, it became obvious that there would be some difficulty in rejoining the South to the North. Tensions were still high, damage had been inflicted upon Southern lands, and the question of a national identity hung in the air. A plan for Reconstruction,the time period after the Civil War that was marked by a sense of rebuilding, was desperately needed.

Three different proposals were considered: President Lincoln’s, Vice President Andrew Johnson’s, and then the Radical Republican Plan. President Lincoln began formulating a reconstructive plan back in 1863, nearly two years before the Civil War ended. He first proposed his 10% Plan that year, which stated that when it came to a Southern state that had seceded, if 10% of the people who voted in the 1860 election voted to re-enter the Union and accepted Emancipation, they could come back into the Union. He saw this as a loyalty oath, and was sure to promise that any Confederate would receive a pardon. High Confederate officials and military leaders, however, would be excluded from this process.

Wade-Davis Bill of 1864, written by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Representative Henry Winter Davis from Maryland. As part of this proposal, at least 50% of the eligible voting population would have to take an oath of loyalty to the Union. Each state would also be required to abolish slavery to be considered for readmittance, and the new state government would not be able to feature any Confederate officials in any seats.

Lincoln’s Vice President, Andrew Johnson, had a somewhat different plan in mind. Johnson became president immediately after Lincoln was assassinated, and therefore had to continue his predecessor’s plan of action. Although Johnson was in favor of pardoning anyone who took the loyalty oath to the Union, he was not in favor of pardoning any high officials or wealthy farmers owning property valued at $20,000. What’s more, he wanted every state to not only abolish slavery, but repeal secession before they could be readmitted into the Union. Some states did not follow these directives, such as Mississippi, but by December of 1865, President Johnson officially declared that the Union had been restored.