The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957

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THE PASSAGE of the first Reconstruction Act on March
2, 1867, marked the climax of a long and bitter strug-
gle between the executive and legislative branches of
the federal government over the right to determine and to imple-
ment the policies by means of which the Southern States were to
be reconstructed. Prior to that date, the program had been the
almost exclusive property of the executive department. President
Abraham Lincoln originated his basic policy during the war
years and continued it until the time of his death. His successor,
Andrew Johnson, accepted the work done by Lincoln, and gen-
erally followed his course, though with certain specific modifica-
tions. The presidential program was essentially dedicated to the
immediate and relatively painless restoration of the Southern
States to their erstwhile position in the Union.
In the two years after the war during which the presidents
dominated the Reconstruction process, Congressional opposi-
tion was steadily building, and in the eventual struggle to wrest
control from the executive, the Radical-dominated Congress was
motivated by several impulses. There were, first of all, those who
felt strongly that Reconstruction was properly a function of
Congress; because of this, the ensuing tug of war was actually
one phase of the continuing struggle between the executive and
legislative branches over formulation of policy. In addition, there
were those who sincerely felt that the presidential program, with
its emphasis on leniency, was a mistake; that the South deserved
a more severe punishment for her misdeeds. There were also
those who saw in the Reconstruction program a tremendous
political potential, an opportunity to create Republican state
governments in the South, thus assuring the ascendency of their
party on the national scene. For whatever reasons, this opposi-

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 28, 2016.

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