A document that allowed the white population of the South controlling the abolition of slavery, pardoned the rebel Confederates and excluded former slaves from the businesses of the government.
President Andrew Johnson, who came to power after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, wanted to accomplish what his predecessor did not have a chance to. The main purpose of creating this document was to rebuild both the South and the Union. After the Civil War ended, the Reconstruction needed to take place. The North wanted the Southerners to get punished for Lincoln’s death, however, almost all of them got pardoned. The President believed that every state had the right to decide for the most suitable course of Reconstruction themselves. Practically all the land in possession of the government was returned to its original owners, who had it before the war erupted. However, none of the lands was given to the freedmen.
Even though slavery was abolished at that time, African Americans were still mistreated. The South quickly implemented Black Codes throughout the state in an attempt to limit the rights of freedmen at all levels possible. Those laws, however, granted them with more freedom than before the war, but were restrictive at the same time, which was an attempt to force them to work on plantations as dependent laborers. They were not allowed to vote or get decent labor contracts; it was extremely hard for them to get an education, because of the lack of necessary funds for it. Fair shares of these laws were made by state governments the majority of which were represented by Confederate officials pardoned by Johnson. African Americans were also vulnerable at the time, as there was no protection for them.
In 1866, Johnson made a proposition that it would be better to establish a colony for freedmen in another country, just as the former President had suggested. He offered a pardon to Confederate prisoners and also let former executives and soldiers create new state governments (as that was what Lincoln wanted to do before the assassination). He kept trying to give them the right to get into the Union, given the fact that their state governments had to accept the 13th amendment that abolished slavery. It is also important that the President did not involve African Americans in the Reconstruction process and vetoed legislation that was supposed to secure their civil rights. Former Confederates were ready to join the Union again, which did not go well with most of the Republicans since the Southerners were hesitant about getting rid of slavery and not giving African Americans the right to vote. This led to the final confrontation between Johnson and Radical Republicans. The latter were huge advocates for the abolition of slavery before the war and, after the war ended, for the extension of freedmen’s rights. Concerned with the President’s selfish plan of Reconstruction, Congress passed both 14th and 15th Amendments. They were stating that everybody – no matter the gender, race or social status – was equal before the law and everybody had the permission to vote. It happened largely to the fact that many Republicans claimed that there was no point in the abolition of slavery unless African Americans got the protection of their civil rights. And this is how the first Civil Rights Law was proposed.