American History – Reconstruction – Part 5           

Tenure of office act and the military reconstruction act

  1. In December 1866, congress took immediate steps to secure supremacy of congress legislature in the government and reduce the president to a position of figure head.
  2. The tenure of office act was passed by which the congress attempted to restrict the president’s power to remove federal office holders without consent of the senate.
  3. The Military reconstruction act in 1967 tried to limit his power as commander in chief of army and the navy.
  4. President should issue orders through navy and army.
  5. The general grants were used as a tool by Radicals.
  6. Though these acts were unconstitutional they proceeded with it as Radicals had no scruples about observing the constitution.

Reconstruction acts of 1867

First reconstruction acts were passed outlining the administrative and legal routines. It provided the following

  1. Ten states of south were divided into five military districts with a major general in command.
  2. When registration was completed, constitutional conventions elected by Negros and loyal whites were to frame constitutions providing for Negro suffrage.
  3. Southern whites were unable to register, so power came to carpetbaggers, scalawags and Negros.
  4. The constitution was made by men who had little or no experience in government matters.
  5. Radicals in congress gave votes to Negros and denied it to whites to send republican members to congress.
  6. The union league was set up to teach Negros their responsibilities to Republican Party.
  7. Constitutions with constitutional conventions were accepted by congress.
  8. Qualified voters should take pledge that they’d ratify the fourteenth amendment and Negros will have right to vote.
  9. After ratification they could apply for representation in congress.

Reign of Radicals

These acts were more significant than a punishment to the southern states for their failure in ratification of the 14th amendment.

It was a political protest against the spread of slavery transformed by financiers of the north.

Congress challenges the president


  1. There was no more difficulty for congress in passing bills over the president’s veto.
  2. The radicals wanted to punish the president as they punished the south.
  3. They determined to humiliate Johnson and remove constitutional check on his policies.
  4. They planned to impeach Johnson when if he’d evade these acts.
  5. But Johnson was discreet enough and he enforced the acts.
  6. They tried to impeach him when a controversy arose between Secretary of war Edwin M Stratton but the president was saved. Though he retained office, he was figure head only.


Congressional reconstruction had begun in south

  1. Five military commanders were appointed and thy assumed offices.
  2. The task of registering the voters was done quickly as possible.
  3. A high percentage of Negros registered and there were 703,000 Negros and only 627,000 whites.
  4. The conventions were set by carpetbaggers, scalawags and Negroes who had very little political experience.
  5. State legislatures ratified 14th amendment applied for readmission in union.
  6. All states except Mississippi, Texas, Georgia and Virginia were readmitted in 1868.
  7. When last congressmen were seated, the union was complete and reconstruction was legally at an end.
  8. But south felt that reconstruction could be said to have taken place only when carpetbag-Scalawag government had been overthrown and gained control over state government.


Criticism: the reconstruction governments of the south were a travesty on democracy and disgrace to the party.

  1. Taxes skyrocketed because many of them were illiterate, had no property and they indulged in extravagance and got increased salaries.
  2. In most states it was increased by 200%, Louisiana by 800% and in Mississippi 1400%.
  3. Land owners who couldn’t pay had to forfeit large blocks of land which was nothing short of confiscation.
  4. State and national debt increased rapidly.
  5. However, the reconstruction governments had done some good.
  6. Public works were more extensive than before the war.
  7. Roads, bridges and public buildings were constructed in all states.
  8. Real progress had been made in system of free public schools.
  9. Often money was spent foolishly, as taxes were raised to repair war damages, rebuild railways and factories and schools for Negros and whites.
  10. In North Carolina, the public debt more than doubled in two years, tax rate in Louisiana in 1870 was three times the rate in Pennsylvania.