Presidential Reconstruction

In May 1865, immediately following the assassination of President Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson and his administration created a plan for Reconstruction, which became known as Presidential Reconstruction. Here, several of the provisions of Johnson’s plan are laid out. This is Handout 5.4 (p. 95) of The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy.

The plan for Reconstruction created by President Andrew Johnson and his administration in May 1865 included the following provisions:

  • Former Confederates who pledged loyalty to the Union received amnesty and pardon; all of their property was restored, except slaves but including any land that had been provided to freedpeople in the closing months of the war.

Loyalty oath:

I, ____________ ____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm), in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States thereunder, and that I will in like manner abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.

  • Some former Confederates, including the highest officials in the Confederacy and those who owned more than $20,000 of property, had to apply to Johnson in person for pardon. (Johnson granted pardons to nearly all who applied.)
  • States could be restored fully into the Union after they wrote new constitutions that accepted the abolition of slavery, repudiated secession, and canceled the Confederate debt.
  • State conventions charged with writing new constitutions were not required to allow African Americans to participate.1


Related Content

Race in US History

The Political Struggle, 1865-1866

Students learn about President Andrew Johnson and the Congressional Republican's conflicting visions of how to rebuild the nation after the Civil War.

Race in US History
The Reconstruction Era

Part Three: The Political Struggle, 1865-1866

Scholars discuss the different visions for Reconstruction held by Congress and President Johnson.

The Reconstruction Era

Pardon/Franchise Engravings by Thomas Nast

Analyze a wood engraving by Thomas Nast that depicts the tension between the demands of healing and justice during the Reconstruction era.

Race in US History

The Reconstruction Acts of 1867

Examine measures of the Reconstruction Acts of 1867.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.