Andrew Johnson

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Andrew Johnson After President Lincoln was killed, Andrew Johnson became president. Johnson had the task of dealing with the reconstruction of the South. This task included black suffrage. His policy concerning the franchising of blacks was to allow each state to decide. Johnson did not favor blacks being allowed to vote in order to protect the poor Southern whites, but he did want blacks to be able to gain the right with time. The nation had very different views of Johnson. The South saw him as a pushover while the Radical Republicans disapproved of his actions due to the fact that they supported black suffrage.

Andrew Johnson's main issues with black suffrage were to help the poor Southern whites, to give the South time, and allow the states to decide who could vote. Johnson saw the newly freed blacks as incapable of voting. He told people, "…too many in this transition state, passing from bondage to freedom, who feel as if they should have nothing to do, and fall back upon the Government for support…" He also believed that ex-slaves would be influenced by their ex-owners.

If blacks only voted as their old owners would have then this would hurt the poor Southern whites that were looked down upon for not owning slaves. Johnson wanted this class to have a voice and not be overridden by the rich who would control the vote of the blacks. Johnson wanted the individual states to decide who was allowed to vote. By letting the state decide, he was actually giving the right to the whites. When he created the government of North Carolina, he gave the decision of who voted to people that took the oath of amnesty and voted before the secession. Because only whites could meet these requirements, he was not allowing the blacks to vote. Johnson was not completely against black suffrage. He wanted to give the South time to adjust to the changes and protect the poor Southern whites.

Andrew Johnson was not very respected as a president. The Rebels saw him as a pushover and used him for pardons, and the Radical Republicans did not approve of his actions dealing with the reconstruction. Christopher Memminger, a former Confederate secretary of the treasury, said, "The then president [Johnson] held up before us the hope of a "white man's government," and this led us to set aside Negro suffrage." This quote shows how Johnson pushed aside black suffrage for the poor Southern whites. Johnson favored the poor Southern whites. He did not enforce black suffrage to protect them and because he was told, black suffrage would cause him to lose the support of the south. Johnson was warned of the social impact that allowing blacks to vote would create. It would make a class of whites that were equal or less to blacks. These ideas were justified to him by the comparison of natural rights vs. political rights. Johnson was lead to believe that since blacks were free, they were guaranteed natural rights but not political rights. One of these political rights that they did not have was voting. This idea allowed Johnson to give the Southern states more time to adjust, and it allowed him to protect the poor Southern whites.

Johnson sacrificed black suffrage for the poor Southern whites. He used many things to allow him to justify his reasons to do this and make time for the South to adjust. The Radical Republicans did not approve of his actions, and Rebels saw him as a pushover and used him. Johnson did create time for the South and also made himself look better by giving the decision to the states, which basically made it impossible for blacks to gain the right to vote and protected the poor Southern whites.