Who Controls the Readmission of States?
Although their main purpose was to reunite the nation, Reconstruction policies actually created new divisions between the President and Congress. A critically divisive issue was how the southern states should be readmitted into the Union.
Johnson Opposes Tight Restrictions
“As eleven States are not at this time represented in either branch of Congress, it would seem to be [the President's] duty on all proper occasions to present their just claims to Congress…. [I]f they are all excluded from Congress, if in a permanent statute they are declared not to be in full constitutional relations to the country, they may think they have cause to become a unit in feeling and sentiment against the Government.”
—President Andrew Johnson, 1866
Stevens Favors Tight Restrictions
“The late war between two acknowledged belligerents … broke all the ties that bound them together. The future condition of the conquered power depends on the will of the conqueror…. Hence a law of Congress must be passed before any new State can be admitted…. Until then no member can be lawfully admitted into either House…. Then each House must judge whether the members … possess the requisite qualifications.”
—Thaddeus Stevens, 1865
1. Why did Johnson favor immediate readmission?
2. Why did Stevens want tight restrictions?
3. What decision would you have made? Why?