tv Lectures in History Historical Interpretations of Reconstruction CSPAN August 31, 2021 10:52am-12:13pm EDT
so what are the issues of reconstruction that really are still pertinent today? okay. here's an image from harper's weekly. and it sort of personifies, i think, some of the central issues involved in this period of reconstructing the union. some of the questions that had raises. so have a look at it. i don't know how clear it is for you. you may not be able to read all the writing. but here is clearly a freedman, he has, you know, something in his hand, a piece of paper. and on that you may not be able to read is written "equal rights." that's union army officer, the office of the u.s. marshal that he's, you know, somewhat seems to be seeking protection, and there are a bunch of southern whites there with placards saying kkk, call home your troops. they want federal troops to leave the south, et cetera. just looking at that image, can you think of what may have been some of the issues of reconstruction? anyone? ryan. >> probably was the like need for federal troops to secure rights in the south because they feared that confederates would
retake or take back and try to like force slavery almost back on the newly freedmen and in all but name. >> excellent. excellent. you know, that's exactly what i think the picture illustrates, right? that there may be a danger that once the federal troops leave that southern whites would want to go back to the way things were. so then what was the war fought about? that is a real danger. and the fact that the rights of black people are so connected with the presence of the federal government, of these troops in the south, tells you something about the issues of reconstruction. black citizenship, you know, what would freedom mean for black people? they are no longer slaves. are they going to be citizens? are they going to be given equal rights? what is their status in the american republic? the presence of the federal government, of the union army, the u.s. marshals office there, quite clearly, we are getting a new sense of the nation state, of the federal government. old ideas about federalism, which is the principle of dividing political power between the federal government and the
state governments are going to be revisited, right? these states, they seceded from the union. what will the status of these rebel states now be? the federal government is sort of a symbol of the victorious union. how are they going to negotiate these rights again? will the expansion of the national government or the federal government as the face of the victorious union be connected to the issue of black rights? clearly here, that seems to be is the imagery. this is an image right from the middle of reconstruction. this is the issue that is being represented in the north. that the federal government is closely connected to this issue of black rights and that the issue of federalism does involve a renegotiation virtually or a reimagining of what is states rights. what are the powers of the federal government, renegotiation of that relationship. why do you think states rights would be somewhat discredited
now? any ideas? the idea of states' rights, the states have certain rights. remember, who are the people who have evoked states' rights before? and for what purpose? before the war. yeah, abbey. wait for the mic. make sure the mic is close to you so that everyone can hear your intelligent questions and responses. >> maybe, i mean, before the civil war, it was southern planter politicians evoking states' rights, but that was fundamentally to do with slavery. so some politicians like in the secession of south carolina, in their statement, they evoked states' rights in terms of sovereignty between the states, but now the federal government has like won, that idea can't stand anymore because now they're having to be reintroduced.
the federal government has precedent. >> absolutely. very good. that's exactly why states' rights is somewhat discredited, that idea. because first, it had been used to defend slavery by southern states. they didn't want the federal government to interfere with slavery, okay, and second, it was also used to secede from the union. the right of the state to secede from the union in order to protect slavery. so states' rights is really a connected with the institution of slavery and with secession and civil war.
when i introduce the period to you, i said this is the period when you have far reaching federal laws being passed on civil rights, in fact, there are cases being fought in the supreme court today that evoke the laws of the reconstruction era. far reaching amendments to the constitution. you may not have heard of the 14th amendment to the u.s. constitution. but it has been so important in our times, right?
the right to privacy, marriage equality, you know, roe v. wade. all of those decisions that have been made that have been constantly expanding rights in the united states for different groups evoke the 14th amendment. so it's really this moment in history that forms our modern notions of equality and citizenship and what democracy in america should look like. right? and so yes, it's extremely important period, but it's also a contested period. you can see that in the picture. you can see the contestation there. does the defeated south look or the defeated confederacy people who form that, does it look as if they have accepted defeat, at least in this northern representation? is there going to be peace after the war? no. right? this looks like a contestation. why would the army even be needed in the south? right? to protect black rights if there was not going to be contestation. this notion that there was no peace after the war, that somehow the issues that define the war were still being contested in the south is something that is really
even though you have these challenges coming up, you know, in terms of popular culture, they are dominant. there's a journalist who writes a book called "a tragic era." and he basically recaps the dunning school for a broader audience. students pretty much dominated reconstruction historyography, just like the mythology seemed to dominate interpretations of the civil war for a long time. about states' rights, not about slavery. state's right to do what? to defend slavery. so this kind of pernicious sort of interpretation was really dominant for a very, very long time. a few challenges started coming up with the rise of the progressive school of historians. you remember the progressive
school of historians? the mcpherson article on the civil war that talked about the civil war was a second american revolution. this idea was first put forward by the progressive school. they used it to talk about the triumph of the industrial north versus the agrarian south, and mcpherson and others show that in fact we can keep that idea of the revolution but what we can't do is see it as some sort of economic conflict between the north and south. the real conflict was over slavery. and the revolution was getting end of slavery, getting rid of slavery, right? so the progressive school of historians said, oh, you know, this whole race talk, you know, that was not really the real issue of reconstruction. just as they saw the civil war as the result of differing economic interests, they saw reconstruction and republicans as trying to enforce northern capitalism onto the south. that these were the -- they were also looking for the economic self-interests of people. what was the real economic -- race is just a window dressing for the real economic interests
of the north and south. you get a double dose. you have been reading, and rightly so, you read a short history of reconstruction, but did you manage to read that article on the radical republicans? what does he say? does he say that radical republicans are really arguing about, you know, if you have your book handy, you can even go quickly, check it out. are there agents of northern capitalism? do they have a unified economic policy that they want to implement in the south? you can have the mic here. >> so he said that there wasn't really a unified economic policy in the republican party, and that reconstruction -- or rather black rights and moving reconstruction forward was really the main policy, much more so than economic policy and
economic policy took a back burner, i guess. >> absolutely. very good. he says what unites northern republicans at this time is no economic policy. some of them are -- now we're hearing a lot of protection of tariffs again. some are for tariffs, some are for free trade. they don't have any unified policy. the thing that unites them is a civic ideology of rights and citizenship that they want to make sure is extended to former slaves. maybe the moderates want to go with civil rights. but that's the ideology that holds the republican party together, the way antislavery did before the civil war. if they had an economic policy, it was what they called free labor ideology or what he calls free labor ideology, that people should be treated as free labor. they should have certain rights in the marketplace. they should be paid wages for their work. they should be allowed to leave their employer to find better wages and better conditions in another place. that they should not be enslaved, basically.
right? and that ideology may be some kind of economic ideology, but in terms of implemented some kind of economic ideology on the south, as many progressive historians argue, into a sort of colonial status, was simply not what happened. now, besides these two -- you can understand also why the progressive school of historians said this, right? they, of course, were dominant during the progressive era. and if you think of your u.s. history survey, progressive era is the era trying to address the problems of the gilded age, of rapacious capitalism, there's conflict, strike, mass immigration. this is a time when the idea that government should regulate the economy, we should have clean food, clean air, clean water, child labor is not a great thing, those sorts of things come into being. that was the progressive reforms, that government has a role to play. and you can understand why the
progressive school of historians influenced by that kind of reform attitude at that time are talking about economic issues far more than the issue of the war, which was slavery and race and questions about rights. there's one person who dissents against this view. not the progressive view so much, maybe a little the progressive view, too, but who dissented the dunning school, which remains the dominant view. by the way, the dunning school, even though you have these challenges coming up, you know, in terms of popular culture, they are dominant. there's a journalist who writes a book called "a tragic era." and he basically recaps the dunning school for a broader audience. there are "the birth of a nation" which is basically the
dunning school, the first hollywood classic, is about reconstruction. right? has anyone seen "the birth of a nation"? yeah. you don't want to see it. talk about the propaganda of history, right? what was insidious about the dunning school was that its view percolated into the popular culture. into film, the first hollywood classic, which premiered, by the way, in the white house. because the first southerner elected after the civil war was woodrow wilson. and wilson was a southerner. he was a progressive on economic issues. but when it came to race, he was really retrograde. not only did he premiere "the birth of a nation" which was all about black men being rapist and the ku klux klan is redeeming the south, and it's just like pretty horrendous to watch, kind of painful, if you have the
time, you can have a look at it. it caricatures the radicals, especially thaddeus stevens. woodrow wilson, who is progressive mostly in economic policy and maybe to a certain extent in international relations, is really retrogressive, and it comes to race. he institutes segregation in washington, d.c. he fires all black federal government officers pause he doesn't want any black people in the federal government. he establishes the league of nations, of course, or helps establish it, even though it's voted down by the u.s. congress. but you know, he has this idea of national self-determination for everyone. and the moment people said, well, does this apply to asia and africa? he's like, of course not, i meant only for europeans. when it comes to race, he's extremely, extremely retrogressive. but that is how pernicious the
dunning school was. it was in the white house. it was in hollywood. it was everywhere. that was the picture of reconstruction. that was dominant. and there's one dissenting voice here, and that is the famous black intellectual historian, activist, one of the founders of the naacp, w.e.b. dubois. dubois wrote a book called "black reconstruction in america" and the very title shows you that he wanted to center the role of african-americans in this whole drama about reconstruction. read the subtitle, right? an essay to what a history of the part which black folk played in the attempt to reconstruct democracy in america. from 1860 to 1880. from the civil war to well after reconstruction is over in 1880. he published this in 1935. and he's not only centered african-americans in this story, he's saying this is not just a matter of reconstructing the union. it's a matter of reconstructing american democracy. its value, its ideals. and when black people are
demanding citizenship and equal rights, they're imagining the interracial democracy that we live in today. so we're really coming up with a whole new conception of american democracy, and it is very contested in the 19th century and continues to be contested until today. you know, who is an american citizen? should people have equal rights? you would imagine that these questions were settled with the civil war. but in fact, they're extremely contested in the period after the war and afterwards. he's saying in demanding equality, black people are helping to reconstruct american democracy. that was his idea. but more importantly, dubois at the end of this mammoth book that he writes about reconstruction has a chapter called the propaganda of history. where he really takes the dunning school to task. he literally quotes them. and the extremely racist views
about black people. and the fact that they literally drove, you know, they wrote bad history. they just wrote what southerners had said about reconstruction and pretty much reproduced that. and he actually has a wonderful quote that i'm going to read out to you. he says in his book in this chapter in the propaganda of history, the magnificent figures of charles summoner and thaddeus stevens, these were the radicals. you read thaddeus stevens, right? have been besmirched beyond recognition. they're portrayed as these vindictive people. we have been cajoling and flattering the south and slurring the north because the south is determines to rewrite history. and the north is not interested in history. but in wealth. here he's condemning the republican party's abandonment of the reconstruction project, its conversion from the party of
antislavery to the party of big business during the gilded age. a flood of appeal from the white south re-enforced this reaction. appeal would no longer the arrogant bluster of slave oligarchy, but the simple moving annals of the plight of a conquered people. that's how the birth of a nation, dunning, these were defeated people and we were just mean, vin victive, and revengeful to them. the rebound of the nation made it nearly inconceivable in 1876 at the end of reconstruction that ten years earlier, most men believed in human equality. right? so there's a real indictment of the historical profession, and the way in which historians had written about reconstruction. dubois' book was not even reviewed in the american historical review, which is like the leading journal of our profession, but he had the last
laugh, because guess what, in the 1960s during the civil rights era, his view of reconstruction became dominant. people saw the dunning school for what it was. this is also after the second world war when racism is intellectually and politically, at least, unfashionable. naziism has made racism suspect, and race, ideas about race suspect. the american historical profession as a whole is sort of reckoning with reconstruction in different ways. and many people who write in the '60s, like black and white historians, kenneth stam, john hope franklin, they all write or resurrect dubois' views of reconstruction. it's also interesting that it is really in a 1940 essay that harvard k. beal writing an essay on reconstruction in the american historical review praises dubois. he criticizes him, but he praises his view as going
beyond, you know, the ways in which the dunning school had written about reconstruction. where he said sectional animosity still animated it. now, this view of dubois, i mean, in a way, his intellectual heir is eric foner, and he wrote his opus in the 1980s. you're reading an abridged version of this magnum opus which read as a manuscript when i was his graduate student at columbia. what's interesting about foner is he updates dubois for our times to an extent. you're reading all his view of reconstruction, really, that's the standard view now in american history of reconstruction. he sees african-americans as central players in the drama of reconstruction. but he also looks at the expansion of the nation state, of the constitutional and political crises that take place. the fights over the meanings of
freedom. you remember that chapter you read about the meanings of freedom and how former slaves thought about freedom. does anyone want to take a stab at that? any ideas about how foner talks about how freedom is being contested during this time? that that is the central issue really, black freedom after reconstruction? you remember how he talks about black people reconstructing their families, their marriages, their communities, their churches? but also thinking about economic independence, et cetera. abbey. >> in terms of like
african-americans, is it because they had lost so much during slavery, one of their -- foner talks about how they try to establish families, as you said, by looking for their own families and legalizing their marriages, so like their personal freedoms became very political because things which they weren't able to do now became things which were regarded as like foundations for freedom and how they could engage in their own freedom, even if it didn't seem like they were doing much to the white dominant society. >> absolutely. really good point. these are what we could consider basic civil rights, the ability to have a family, to get married to someone. you think about the whole debate of marriage equality, something you probably grew up with. that's a basic civil right that many gay people demanded. they said, you know, we should not be stigmatized for who we
are. we need this basic civil right. and on the basis of the 14th amendment, indeed, marriage equality was proclaimed. that's exactly in a way what former slaves are contending for, their basic civil rights. their basic security as citizens in this country, and most importantly, for foner, their political rights. they're looking for economic independence, et cetera, and we'll talk more about the contestation over land and labor and the reconstruction south, but political rights, this is the origins of what he calls black politics. black people want politicized, whether it's the politicization of everyday life, as he calls it. they're not willing to act as slaves. meaning the idea that black people should move out of the smock when a white person passes by, and this would lead to fights, violent fights in the south, after the civil war. or the idea that they should be deferential and cowering as if they were slaves was something that racial etiquette no longer applied, and black people were
quick to assert their rights as citizens. to demand access to schools, to demand access to the ballot box, to demand access to public accommodations. things that had been completely -- they had been deprive offend. this is why freedom is contested in the south, because everyone is trying to define what rights do black people have now. what kinds of freedoms do they have? and this is exactly the point of contestation. so even though foner called it an unfinished revolution, unfinishes because reconstruction is overthrown and it would take 100 years for these acts and amendments that are passed in the 1860s to be implemented in america through another great mass social movement, the civil rights movement of the 1960s. so you can see that it takes a very long time to even implement these rights, and that's why it's so radical. you know, it's radical because in the 19th century, people aren't really talking about black equality, yet that is the topic. and it takes so long for these very basic rights of black
citizenship to be implemented in this country. now, besides this synthesis that eric foner has done of reconstruction, there have been other historians writing about reconstruction. in the 1970s and '80s, there were a number of people who in the aftermath of the civil rights movement say reconstruction wasn't radical enough, it didn't go far enough. land wasn't redistributed. people were constrained by the u.s. constitution. the federal government could not exercise its powers to the extent that was needed because of the constraints of states' rights ideas and federalism, of divided government, et cetera. there are all kinds of ways to say this period was not radical, but in fact, the people who lived through it, former slaves, confederates, northerners, felt it was terribly radical. they all write about living in revolutionary time. where changes are coming so fast and so quick and the country has to sort of keep up with it. now, in the aftermath of foner's reconstruction, there have been
current reevaluations. articles have come out on writing the freedom narrative. books have come out, beyond freedom, saying, you know, this was a period that was also disappointing. that there were a lot of failures, that we need to look at other things. that this kind of linear narrative of slavery to freedom and progress, you know, doesn't really work. and we have to look at all kinds of other problems during the reconstruction period. people talk about, you know, how the plains indians are dispossessed immediately after reconstruction. how the indian wars are being fought in the west, how america emerges as an imperial power, you know, the war in the philippines, et cetera. the putting down of philippine independence. this is not as radical as we thought. but these reevaluations many times, you know, they come with a long reconstruction framework, meaning they don't just sometimes look at the period of reconstruction. they look at the period well after reconstruction. they look at issues that did not
really have much to do with the kinds of issues we have been talking about, black rights, citizenship, et cetera. well, maybe the expansion of the nation state. american nation state grew so big and powerful that it could become imperial. that's another popular way of looking at it now. but, of course, none of these ideas have really replaced foner's book. no alternative synthesis is there for reconstruction. it still remains the gold standard in reconstruction torography. let's talk more about the specific issues of the period. jansen referred to andrew johnson. andrew johnson created one of the first political crises of reconstruction. the first constitutional crises of reconstruction. you know, lincoln is often seen as, you know, the greatest president of the united states. i think he and washington go up there, but lincoln usually always gets -- whenever they have these rankings, and it's an irony of history that lincoln
was preceded by a president who is always ranked at the bottom, james buchanan, and then succeeded by a president who always belongs at the bottom, too, andrew johnson. now, andrew johnson, you know, when he was put on the presidential ticket of the republican party in 1864, this was the election the lincoln party was going to lose after the emancipation proclamation. the idea was you would have a unity ticket, you would have a southerner on the ticket. and it was clear by 1864, the south was going to lose. at least most people think these are the dying embers of federalist resistance, and johnson is put -- he replaces hannibal hamlin of maine as lincoln's vice president because
he was a senator from tennessee, and he was such a staunch unionist that when his state seceded from the union, he refuses to leave the senate. all other congressmen left. johnson is the only one who didn't leave. he's an unconditional unionist. he's staunch. he says no, i'll stick with the union. when the union actually occupies tennessee, he becomes the war-time governor of tennessee. he is from nonslave holding origins. very humble origins even though he owns slaves, a few slaves. he's seen as somebody who is even more rags to riches than lincoln because he represents this kind of poor whites, the nonslave holding rights of eastern tennessee, many of whom were staunch unionists at that
time. and they were -- it was a predominantly nonslave holding era. we talked about plantation belt and nonplantation belt. here we have johnson. right? he's a man seen as a staunch unionist. he goes around saying i'll make treason odious. people think he's going to be hard on the southern secessionists. he says things to black people like i'll be your moses. lincoln never said that. right? i'll be your moses. i'll lead you to freedom. they think he's going to be for black rights and black freedom. but johnson is a huge disappointment. he's a staunch states' rights democrat, really. he was never really part of the republican party. joins the republican party during the civil war, but his states' right democratic roots are very strong. and he's very reluctant to use federal power to enforce black rights, certainly. or to have any federal part in the reconstruction of the south.
what's interesting about johnson, of course, is he's a staunch racist. and this comes out during his presidency. he cannot even contemplate about black people as equals. he's southern. he's white. he hates the planter class. because he's a poor southern white. but he hates black people even more. and during reconstruction when you look at the policies of his presidential reconstruction, you can see this. he at one point even meets a delegation led by frederick douglass, who remember, has met lincoln, has been received politely by lincoln. johnson meets him, and he calls him the darky delegation, right? when they leave, his secretary recalls this nowadays we have hot mics that catch people say, you know, politicians sometimes are caught saying things that are really crude and awful. sometimes they just say it openly, but his secretary recorded this. and johnson said about this black delegation that had come to plead with him for black rights, the right to vote, et cetera, led by the great frederick douglass, these are his exact words and i pardon my
french because he's a pretty crude guy. one of the crudest american presidents, actually. he says those damn sons of bitches thought they had me in a truth. i know that damned douglass, he's just like any, quote, nigger, and he would sooner cut a white man's throat than not. this is the president of the united states talking about a black delegation headed by frederick douglass coming to him. rarely have we seen presidents talk in that manner, right? and so his racism is acute. and johnson very quickly, he has this sort of amnesty proclamations where he, you know, the moment he comes to power, one republican says this is rich for a man who has been made president by an assassin's bullet to be so arrogant. congress is not in session. he issues these proclamations saying southern states can
re-enter the union. that as long as they accept that, you know, they are against secession, they accept that slavery is dead, and they repudiate, this is something put in later, they repudiate the federal debt, they can re-enter the union. no conditions put on them, no conditions for black right, civil rights. they can just come in to the union. it's a very lenient policy, right? and absolutely no conditions put on southerners. there's this myth that johnson is simply continuing lincoln's policy of presidential election. in fact, there were plans of war-time reconstruction that lincoln had put forward. if his famous 10% plan, and this was just a wartime measure for those areas conquered by the uni, particularly louisiana, i he said if just 10% of the population is loyal, they can re-enter the union. there were hardly any conditions for black and civil rights, and radicals in congress were upset
about that and they had their own bill called the wig davis bill when they said is going to give black people some civil rights. but even they didn't give black men the right to vote, and lincoln simply pocket vetoed that. that doesn't mean lincoln was opposed to black rights. remember his last speeches? it is in support of black rights. he writes a letter to the governor of louisiana saying consider giving the right to vote to those who are very intelligent, those who have served in the union army, those who are educated. he's clearly a person who is moving towards black rights. johnson never does. in fact, he digs into his position that this is just simply an impossibility. right? the other way that lincoln is different is that he is a party leader. he emerges from the republican
party, and he leads the party very successfully through the war, and in the last year of the war, he works with republicans in congress to achieve quite a bit. the most important actually was the passage of the friedman's bureau bill in 1865. this is a federal government agency. this is what southerners said, this is a federal government being overreaching, right? this is a federal government agency. its official name is bureau of refugees, freedmen, and abandoned lands. it would oversee the transition from slavery to freedom in the south. and it was there not just to protect the rights of freed people, but it was actually giving food and shelter and sometimes opening up its hospitals and sometimes schools, too, even to southern whites. right? but it was portrayed as this awful overreach by most southerners, by most southern
whites as this overreach of the government that was only helping black people. actually, they were doing a whole lot of things and they ended up being identified mainly with the freed people, called the freedmen's bureau. what diz this picture show you? this is a contemporary picture of the freedmen's bureau. it's in a short history of reconstruction, too. it has two views of the freedmen's bureau. what does this tell you? he's a man, he's in a uniform. he could be a freedmen's bureau agent or a union army person they relied on. what does this tell you about the role of the freedmen's bureau in the post civil war south? any takers? ryan. sorry, tasha. i'll let tasha go first because she hasn't spoken first. go ahead. there's the mic. >> kind of that it was trying to, like, halt the division between the blacks and whites, like keep the peace for the most
part. just because there was no other federal agency, and obviously, johnson wasn't doing the job. >> absolutely. very good point. of course, this time, johnson has not yet been elected, but yes. this is the idea that the freedmen's bureau would act like an arbiter, even, between, you know, southern whites and black people demanding their rights. right? that it would be like this impartial, neutral agency. but it was not viewed that way. for black people, it became an alternate source of authority. if your former master or your, you know, local state authorities abused you, whipped you, and hundreds of instances of complaints coming to the freedmen's bureau. people's children being whipped, them being whipped, denied wages, et cetera. you could appeal. you could appeal to the freedmen's bureau. right? it was the first social welfare
agency formed by the united states government. right? it literally was going to go down south. it had hundreds of agents. sometimes the agents were pretty racist and took the side of whites even, but as a whole, the freedmen's bureau was an alternative source of authority, and southern whites hated it. they hated people intervening in their, quote, domestic affairs. in the way that they wanted to run their states. despite being, of course, defeated in the civil war. blacks welcomed it. dubois wrote essays on the freedmen's bureau, showing how important it had been for african-americans to be able to appeal to the government to protect their rights. so freedmen's bureau really became identified with black rights in the south because they helped implement fair wage contracts, et cetera, also while they were still there.
now, what happens, of course, is that lincoln cooperates with the republicans to pass the freedmen's bureau bill in 1865. this is the first step towards reconstruction. so in terms of lincoln's plans are reconstruction, we'll never know because he was killed. but he actually, you know, helps form this agency, works with republicans in congress to do this. the second thing that he works with congress on, does anyone know? does anyone remember that? it's the first reconstruction amendment. does anyone remember what that amendment was? ryan? >> the 13th amendment, right, the one abolishing slavery? >> absolutely. he works with congress to abolish slavery. the 13th amendment to the constitution in 1865, that people should be -- that slavery shouldn't exist in this country except if you were actually duly convicted in a court of law. the second section of this amendment is really important.
it says that congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment. so clearly, the 13th amendment saying congress should be deciding on how to implement black freedom. they should pass laws in congress to implement this. what does johnson think? uh-uh. johnson's not buying this. he's a states' rights guy, as jansen says. he does not think congress should have anything to do with reconstruction. he's disbanded black union army troops, he's issuing his plan for reconstruction, for instance. penalizes the planter class. as a poor white, he resents slave owner planters. he said anyone owning more than $20,000 of property shall not be pardoned. i'll grant amnesty and pardon to other whites. but what happens? these people, representatives of the planter class, come to johnson, and he issues wholesale pardons to them, 14,000 people. he just pardons immediately. what happens with, you know, the new governments being formed in
the south? under johnson's plan? not many of them were secessionists, but they're kind of discredited. they were unionists and i put that in quotes because these unionists had opposed the secession of their states, but they had all gone with their state and many had fought for the confederacy and occupied high office in the confederacy. the most important was alexander stevens, the vice president of the confederacy. so the state governments formed in the south are full of these former confederates. some still wearing their confederate army uniforms as generals. they're sending these same guys back to congress and to johnson's plan. alexander stevens is elected senator from georgia. anyone, that notion of vindictive and harsh republicans, in any other country, they would be jailed, and some were jailed for crimes committed against the united states government. jefferson davis was jailed for some time, but none of them
really suffered. jefferson davis writes this huge memoir after he's released saying it was all about states' rights, nothing to do with slavery, the civil war. they're all there to propagate their own views and they're really not punished that harsh. did you have a question? jeremy. and then i'll come to you, ryan. >> yeah, the 13th amendment, like, originally stated there shall be no slavery except as a punishment for crime. so how significant do you think that played for, like, the south's part as far as like enforcing the black codes and that type of thing? >> yeah, very good question, jeremy. we're going to be talking about black codes, right? southerners use all kinds of legal and constitutional loopholes besides violence, like plain out violence, to undermine reconstruction and the project for black rights. so you know, people use criminality, this is when they start convicted black people for
minor crimes. and then using them as convict labor. so you know, there are theories about mass incarceration. this is where it all starts. actually, the formers or the people who wrote this 13th amendment, did not have that in mind at all. right? this is just a common english exception to any rights and privileges given, meaning i can, if you're duly convicted of a crime, you can be imprisoned. your rights can be taken away from your temporarily. that's a common sort of exception. the black codes is not coming out so much from the 13th amendment. these are codes, and i'm going to be talking about this. i'm going to be talking about this under johnson's plan, because these state governments that are dominated by unionists, but all who went with their states, all end up implementing these black codes, which causes a real problem. so i'm going to be talking about that very shortly. ryan, you had a question,
quickly, right? >> i think the politics of johnson are very interesting, but i'm kind of confused in his motives. so before -- during the war, he's so harsh on treaties and so angry against the secessionists. then following the war, he seems to ally himself with them. would you say that's more because he wanted their support in his re-election and he was more power hungry? because he seems to change his politics even. you know, in shifting to a lot less harsh. but would you say that's more because he's power hungry and wants to be re-elected or because he had those views and couldn't express them during the war? >> that's a good question, you know, clearly, he does try to form a separate party because his party basically disowns him. the republicans are like, my god, as he starts implementing his policies, they realize he's going against everything that not just the republican party,
that the north was standing for. he tries to form a union party with democrats and conservative republicans, and he plays the race card. he thinks he can unite northern whites and southerners on the race card. but guess what? this time it doesn't work. and so maybe part of it is that. but part of it is also that johnson was a unionist, right? he thought the union should be upheld. but his vision of the union never included black rights. he was now an antislavery guy. he was from the south. so he was for the union, and there were a lot of people like that, northern democrats like that, who were for the union, didn't want anything to do with black rights. so you know, johnson, his racism is what really impels him. you will see this in his actions. and this is the failure of johnsonian reconstruction. he is not a continuation of lincoln. people said, oh, presidential and congressional reconstruction. yes, there was a conflict of interests involved between the president of the united states and the congress, who will control reconstruction. but lincoln worked with the congress, right?
he worked with his party, with the republican party. johnson was really a man without a party. and he does these things like he revokes these land grants that have been made by the freedmen's bureau, and remember the field order number 15, all the abandoned lands they had had freed people settle on, sherman's 40 acres and a mule, all that land, he takes that and gives it back to the planters. southern whites are complaining they don't want black soldiers. they don't want black union army troops around. he disbands them or they're sent out west. he is clearly working on his own plan for reconstruction. congress, when it reconvenes, and these are the things he's doing, his proclamations come pretty soon after lincoln's death in may, 1865. congress, when it reconvenes in december 1865 forms this joint committee on reconstruction, joint committee of the house and senate to decide what to do with
reconstruction. they hear testimony in the -- the testimony of violence in the south, of contention in the south, from freed people, et cetera. and they're trying to come up with some plan that johnson could agree with. could be onboard with. and the moderates, these are the moderates, not the radicals. they put together two bills. the freedmen's bureau bill, which is to extend the life of the freedmen's bureau. it's enacting in 1865. they want to extend its life so it can continue to try to maintain some semblance of order and peace and give some relief to southerners also in the aftermath of war. and they enact the civil rights of 1866. which for the first time defines national citizenship in american history. what does it mean to be a citizen of the united states? before the civil war, pretty much each state decided who is a citizen and who is not. so some states in the northern, for instance, new england, gave black men the right to vote.
most northern states did not. so you could pretty much decide as a state what rights you give a person. it's only during reconstruction that you have a national idea of citizenship. yes, there were federal laws that regulated immigration. but the 1719 immigration law, naturalization law, only whites can enter the country. it was a racial law. here, you have a very different view of civil rights and national citizenship. it is to give black people some basic rights, you know, the right to sue, to hold property, to enter into contracts. these were important. you think of them as minor rights, but actually they were important rights if you were to be paid adequate wages for your work, et cetera. so it was important for black people to get these basic civic rights. the radicals are going further, saying give them the right to vote. that's what citizenship is
about. black men, at least, no one is talking about women except the feminists, should have the right to vote. we should give them the right to vote. these are the bills to go up to johnson, and johnson vetoes both. why is the civil rights act passed? because of the black code, something jeremy mentioned, right? these johnson state governments in the south pass what are known as black codes. they're literally updated versions of the slave codes of the south. now, southerners who had been defeated and maybe under lincoln or somebody who was more statesman like, might have accepted their defeat if certain demands are put on them, but johnson has been so lenient that they decide, hey, we have our man in the white house. civil war? forget about that. we're going to win the peace, and they pass these black codes. and the black codes are pretty awful. they recognize the end of
slavery. right? they say okay, you know, slavery has ended. but they try to restrict black rights and black freedom and put black people to as close a state to slavery as possible. and several of these were egregious. the mississippi black code was probably the worst. they enacted vagrancy laws saying if a black person is found not working for someone, he can be arrested and fined. in order to pay his fine, he's released to a plantation to work for a planter. if a black person is tilling his own land or is self-employed, he's defined as a vagrant. they vase black people to enter into year-long contracts to work in plantations. so get to sort of commandeer black labor the way they had under slavery. enticement laws, meaning if i have signed a contract with a black person for his labor, if another person comes to him and offers him more money to work for him, he can't do it.
that's a criminal offense. that's enticing my laborer. now is that the free market? wage labor? that is not how it works, right. would you work for the guy who pays you the most. but that is not allowed. what is the apprenticeship laws do? they literally took black children out of their families and apprentice them. the black families were seen as unfit. they weren't going to school, etc. the mississippi law was so bad that it even did not allow black people to own land. right? they could -- they didn't own land, they'd be forced to work for the whites, in the
plantations. every legal or political trick to constrict black freedom and have them working virtually as slaves is what they were doing. black people could be fined and imprisoned for, quote, sudishes speech. and whites, they were not allowed to own arms or knives or anything. and whites who gave them liquor or arms or traded with them could be imprisoned or fined. it was literally, like, the slave code. regulated black freedom so drastically as to make a mockery of it, right? alex has a question. >> do you think that the 13th amendment, with the exception to, as a punishment, they can use slavery, playing with the black codes throughout the south because they could institute slavery as a punishment and
punish blacks for little crimes? you think that played a big part in the black codes? >> not really. i think the question that jeremy was asking too. you could say that the black codes overreached. they went beyond because 13th amendment is punishment for a crime. this is regulation of black right that is not even visualized in the 13th amendment. they would convict black people for various petty crimes and this is the result of the south and many people today trace the origins of mass incarceration in the united states back for that reason. eventually they would do that. but yeah. i mean, they heard they were following the law. they recognized the end of slavery but they don't call it slavery, but it could be slavery by another name or worse than
slavery. and to the still rights act, the department is hearing this. the committee is gathering testimony from the south, hearing waulgts what's happening and the civil rights act is a reaction to that. but anyone who thinks johnson was a continuation of lincoln, he vetoes the rights act. this is a federal government agency, this is big government overreach, it's unconstitutional. >> one thing i also thought was interesting was the reasoning for that could be his -- i mean, he's racist as well, burt he had a strong notion that only the unwealthy white population should be ruling and should have political power. so, i think he thought the freedman's bureau offered too much political power to the black population, which could be his reasoning for that.
>> it is sort of connected, i would say. because you could say that, for johnson, slave owners and black slaves are two sides of the same coin. he saw them as somehow connected. but when he reimplemented his reconstruction policy, he was extremely -- remember those that were pardoned overnight, he loved that they came grauvling to him, begging for pardons and he pardoned them all. he probably decided his racism outweighed his hatred or envy of the planter class, is one way one could understand his actions. because he does not see the freedman's bureau as helping. he sees this as a fight that southern whites have to face. and you can see this in his veto message to the civil rights act, which is not giving them what radicals are asking for and black people are demanding at this time, the right to vote. it's giving them the very basic
civil rights that would insure they're no longer slaves. in his message, which is an amazing, read johnson's veto. men of its echoes are still there today. he uses this notion -- he began saying is this a white man's government? are we giving rights to the chinese immigrants in california? inateival americans not subject to taxation? what are we coming to? it's a purely race-based argument. he even comes up with a notion of reverse discrimination. that if we give black people rights, we're infringing on southern rights. it's the way many of the defenders portrayed him. it's a purely racist argument. saying that and this noegds that if you give some people their
rights, you're inflicting it on other people. this is not the notion of human rights as we understand it today. it's this very peroqial view. he says you're discriminating against whites by giving black people rights. that's his argument. and its echoes can be found in the 17th, 18th, reverse discrimination. this notion that somehow, if you try to rectify previous wraungz, in this case, 250 years of slavery, that you are somehow inflicting that on others. and this is a direct quote from his civil rights veto. "in fact the distinction of races and color is by the bill, made to operate in favor of the colored and against the white race." that's the kernel of his reasoning.
it's not even state's rights, right? his whole argument is extremely racist. and his plan is completely, you know, sort of put into disrepute in the north because of what happens in the south in may and july 1866. the famous memphis and new orleans riots are not really race riots but really southern whites attacking blacks. burning their home schools, killing them. it begins with a black carriage -- it's a traffic accident. and it escalates into a complete program on black people in memphis. and what's shocking is the local police forces cannot be relied on to restore order. they join with the white riders and attack black people, resulting in the death of friction black men, five black women are raped. union army troops have to be called tine restore order.
a few months later, in new orleans, the constitutional convention meets to discuss reconstruction and radical republicans are asking that they consider black rights or pretty what what lincoln had written to michael hahn, the governor of louisiana, consider giving black men the right to vote. what happens here? there's an attack on the convention, on the constitutional convention, the state convention, and in the end, 34 blacks and three white radical republicans are killed. and the union army again has to be called in to restore order because they start attacking black schools, black communities. and philip sheridan, the union army general, arrives in new orleans to restore order and said it's massacre, they're just massacring people, right? this evokes a huge action in the north. because people are thinking wait a minute, didn't we just fight a
war for four or five years with a lot of loss of life and blood and treasure? and we're back to square one. this is not peace. these issues are still being contested. johnson does not budge. while people in the republican congress are hearing what's happening, people in the north. he's like no, i'm going to make the 1866 elections about verses republicans. he was drunk at his own inauguration. at the second inaugural address, he was drunk. he was so badly drunk he had to be held up. so, he completely demeans his office by campaigning against his own party. against the republican party. going to the north and he plays the race card, repeatedly. he thinks he can unite white
northerners with white southerners on race, saying this is a mongrel democracy, black rights, black supremacy. did they mean social equality? would your daughter marry a black man? and he demeans himself and so crude that people in the crowd start shouting back at him and he engages them. sometimes he's hooted at literally, people don't want to hear him because northern public opinion is not being swayed by him playing the race card. things that work were not working at this time. swing around the circle, by the way, in case we're thinking. he did a swing around the circle in the north, which is a complete disaster. >> so, i'm hearing this and thinking about what you said about stevens and all the confederates entering congress.
was there any strong reaction by the republicans in congress against these confederates rejoining the government? >> very good question. because in fact, when the johnsons, you know, representatives show up, congress does not admit them. they realize now that these governments, with their black codes, the riots, they're not going to be -- that they needed a proper reconstruction of the south that included african-americans because basically they've been completely excluded, right? and this is the started of congressional reconstruction, right? and this is what johnson's basically doing at this point, which is simply not being able to comprehend, that a reconstruction of the south would include black people in any way. yeah? >> i just think it's really interesting especially when he would engage with the crowds. i think my favorite part is when
they go hang jeff davis and he goes why not thaddeus stevens? he openly advocated for the execution of one of his own party members. that's such political suicide. i don't understand how the president could even think that was a good idea. >> exactly. whether it was stupidity, racism, i guess you could impeach him in all of those things. imagine telling a northern crowd that, let's hang northern republican congressman, instead of the confederates, who committed rebellion against the union. and i'm glad you brought that up because that's exactly what happens. somehow his attempt to play the race card does not really work because guess what? this is what the north is seeing. you see this. it's a black family and it's got the kkk and these are the organizations going to be formed in 1866.
he bet the forest and other exconfederates are forming these vigilante groups to terrorize black people, basically, into submission. and you see a white wearing a confederate uniforms and the kkk joining hands, a cowering black family. johnson's motto, the union as it was this is a white man's government and here it's written worse than slavery. here's a black man hanging from a tree. black schoolhouse being burned. this is what the north is seeing. right? so, you can imagine that, with all this news coming from the south -- and a german american immigrant, from the -- to the south to report on him, what are the conditions of the south? johnson realizes he doesn't want that report. so, he refuses to publish it.
but the congress publish's shirts report. he calls them encourageables. he says johnson has, in a way, had encouraged them to be even more on these issues . that, in fact, they were not ready for black freedom or black rights and they had not accepted defeat in the war. that they were still hanging on to the ideas that they had fought for. and so, people in the north at this time, this is what they're seeing and they, pretty much, decide that johnson's plan is not the way to go. and i will, in my next class, talk more about congressional reconstruction, the men who led that, and the measures that you're reading this week, right? read the speeches of trumbull, of george julian and patty stevens that are there in your book. read the 14th amendment.
we'll talk about that. but that's the corner stone of radical reconstruction, congressional reconstruction and the reconstruction acts of 1867, that basically, remands the south back. they reject these johnson-state governments with their black codes w the racial terror that is spreading in the south at this time and they say you've got to go back. you have to give black people the right to vote, you have to form new state governments and then you will be readmitted to the union. you will not be readmitted to the union under these conditions. and because of johnson, the republican party has moved towards the radical vision. because then it was the civil rights bill that johnson vetoed ends up with a plan for black suffrage and most northern
states don't give black men the right to vote. including connecticut, by the way. connecticut has not only taken away the right to vote from black men with the spread of johnsonian democracy, a referendum came for black men to have the right to vote and it was defeated. the percentage of people in the north to get the right to vote kept increasing. but whenever it came up in the north, it was normally defeated. in wisconsin, minnesota, and connecticut. so, when radical reconstruction begins, it's not only redefining democracy and rights in the south, it is doing that for the nation as a whole, right? and the 14th and 16th amendment put forward a notion of an interracial democracy that simply did not exist before in
the united states. and guess what? those issues, those ideas we are still talking about that today. we are still contesting those. so, when you go back, after today's clas, i really do want you to read those speeches, read the 14th amendment, read the reconstruction act of 1867. and you will figure out whether this was a period in which the vindictive north tried to impose rule in the south or a period in which black rights, and black citizenship flowered for a brief moment in history. one last question. know ahead. you have one minute. yeah. i have a question about the kkk. so, i know this is, like, you're allowed the freedom of assembly and all that, if you're an organization but if they're
doing what they're doing, wouldn't that be against the constitution? you're infringing on people's rights, so you shouldn't exist as an organization? >> exactly. the bill of rights, that gives us the basic protections, that's part of our constitution but black people were never seen as part of it. very few people believed it including african-americans under those protections, right? in fact, according to many abolitionests, african-americans couldn't be held as slaves because you're violating all things in the bill of rights but southerners are like this does not apply to blacks. the bill of rights is all about individual rights. during reconstruction, they start giving positive rights in terms of the right to vote becomes a definition of citizenship. before that, the right to vote wasn't. a lot of people couldn't vote in
the united states. african-americans couldn't, women couldn't at that point. each generation literally, in a way, had to reimagine the constitution and broaden its boundaries to include all of this. you could say that southerners could think we have slavery under the constitution, why can't we have the kkk? because black people aren't citizens. if they acclaim to go out of their space that we have as menial labor for us, we will react and we don't want them to have any rights. we don't want them to participate in government, etc. they didn't see it as unconstitutional. johnson thought he was for the constitution. this is a white man's government and indeed, in the 1868 presidential elections, i'll talk about and finely the republican party is able to dump johnson and have eulysses grant.
and this is a white man's country and a white man's government. that's the slogan of their party. they didn't mince words. they actually said what they meant. and this happens a lot. on neoconfederate website, etc., this is not about this, it's about that. but you should go back to the documents. that's why i give you so many documents to read because those people are very clear what they stand for. we stand for slavery, we stand for white supremacy. they're very clear about it and they thought they were doing the constitutional thing, you know? which is why, in a way, the radicals end up rewriting the constitution, or at least amending it to a substantial degree to make it quite clear that african-americans are included within the protections of the u.s. constitution and the
and now on lectures in history on cspan 3, william randolph hurst, yellow journalism and the lead up to the spanish american war in the end of the 19th century. good morning, welcome. we're going to talk about one of the media myths. it is around the supposed vow of william randolph hurst to fernish the war of spain at the middle of the 19th century. this has become, over the years, an all-purpose media anecdote. useful in describing any number of media sins and