After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace
A. J. Langguth
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A brilliant evocation of the post-Civil War era by the acclaimed author of Patriots and Union 1812. After Lincoln tells the story of the Reconstruction, which set back black Americans and isolated the South for a century.
With Lincoln’s assassination, his “team of rivals,” in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s phrase, was left adrift. President Andrew Johnson, a former slave owner from Tennessee, was challenged by Northern Congressmen, Radical Republicans led by Thaddeus Stephens and Charles Sumner, who wanted to punish the defeated South. When Johnson’s policies placated the rebels at the expense of the black freed men, radicals in the House impeached him for trying to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Johnson was saved from removal by one vote in the Senate trial, presided over by Salmon Chase. Even William Seward, Lincoln’s closest ally in his cabinet, seemed to waver.
By the 1868 election, united Republicans nominated Ulysses Grant, Lincoln's winning Union general. The night of his victory, Grant lamented to his wife, “I’m afraid I’m elected.” His attempts to reconcile Southerners with the Union and to quash the rising Ku Klux Klan were undercut by post-war greed and corruption during his two terms.
Reconstruction died unofficially in 1887 when Republican Rutherford Hayes joined with the Democrats in a deal that removed the last federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill with protections first proposed in 1872 by the Radical Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.
Trumbull, never comfortable with the Radicals in his party, had sided with them only after Andrew Johnson made compromise impossible. In recent months, Trumbull had bridled at Grant’s role in deposing Charles Sumner from his chairmanship. He wanted justice for Sumner, Trumbull said, although “I am not a special friend of the Senator from Massachusetts” and often had differed with him—“I am sorry to say, unpleasantly.” Grant had won out then. Confronted now with the Ku Klux Klan legislation,
to anyone who raised constitutional objections. Sumner declared that the Sermon on the Mount was a higher authority, and so was the Declaration of Independence—“earlier in time, loftier, more majestic, more sublime in character and principle.” Although Sumner’s amendment did not provide for enforcement, it would test the sincerity of those arguing for amnesty. Did they want true equality? Or were they conniving to let white Southerners rule over second-class blacks? Sumner was setting a trap for
also would not face the undeniable appeal of former House Speaker James G. Blaine. Clean government would be a potent campaign issue, and Blaine had been tarnished by a dubious railroad deal in Arkansas. Instead Republicans turned to Governor Hayes. As his vice president, they chose William A. Wheeler, a New York congressman who had not only voted against the retroactive pay raise of 1873 but returned his share to the U.S. Treasury. Without enthusiasm, The Nation magazine described the ticket as
Chicago, Seward’s vote far outstripped those of his challengers, and Weed’s confidence seemed justified. But Seward’s delegate count still fell short, and by the third ballot, the Republicans had turned to Lincoln as more electable in the Middle West. Despite his aching disappointment, Seward took his cue from Henry Clay, who had overcome his bitterness to campaign for William Henry Harrison in 1840 and for Zachary Taylor eight years later. In defeat, Seward remained true to his nature—calm,
authority but recommended Johnson’s support since it was bound to pass. Johnson disregarded his advice. When Seward fulfilled the obligation of his office by forwarding the amendment to the states for ratification, Johnson had seemed annoyed with him. At the same time, with the enthusiastic urging of Thurlow Weed, Seward had endorsed Johnson’s idea for the new Union Party, a fusion of Democrats and conservative Republicans. But when a Philadelphia convention was scheduled, Seward became wary and