The Liberal Republican Dilemma over Reconstruction, 1865–1868

Andrew L. Slap

in The Doom of Reconstruction

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780823227099
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823234998 | DOI:

Series: Reconstructing America

The Liberal Republican Dilemma over             Reconstruction, 1865–1868

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This chapter discusses the liberal republicans' goals for Reconstruction—restoring republican government, incorporating freed slaves into Southern society with basic protections, and changing the basis of that society—and the reasons they failed to implement their program fully. The liberal republicans had a dilemma: How was it possible to have the strong federal government necessary for implementing Reconstruction without destroying the republican institutions they considered so essential? How could they institute changes and create republican institutions without using the strong-armed tactics that they opposed? In the end, the intransigence of President Andrew Johnson and white Southerners generally in the face of attempts at change led liberal republicans to support a more extensive Reconstruction that made it necessary to use seemingly tyrannical power. Ultimately, they concluded that the South had been reconstructed as much as it could be without destroying republican government in the country, and the compromise they reached was unsatisfying.

Keywords: Andrew Johnson; Reconstruction; white Southerners; republican institutions; tyrannical power

Chapter.  8088 words. 

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