XI Reconstructing the Nation
Lincoln’s differences with Congress over Reconstruction fl ared into political warfare after his assassination in April 1865. His successor, Andrew Johnson, lacked the tact and political skill needed to lead the nation during the diffi cult postwar years. A Tennessee Democrat and opponent of secession, he had stayed in the Senate when his state seceded. Johnson served with distinction as military governor of Tennessee, and he was nominated as Lincoln’s running mate on the National Union Party ticket in 1864. Republicans felt comfortable with a vice president who had urged Tennesseans to abolish slavery “because in the emancipation of slaves we break down an odious and dangerous aristocracy. I think we are freeing more whites than blacks in Tennessee.” So it came as a shock when Johnson issued an amnesty proclamation in May 1865 pardoning former rebels who took an oath of future allegiance to the United States. The only persons excluded from the offer were high-ranking Confederate offi cials and persons owning more than $20,000 worth of taxable property. But those excluded from the general amnesty could apply to the president for individual pardons which would be considered separately. At the stroke of a pen, Johnson wiped the slate clean for the vast majority of southerners.