The Sequel of Appomattox


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 Mississippi:

Walter Lynwood Fleming