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Did President Lincoln and President Johnson Feel the Same Way About Helping Freed Slaves?


When Abraham Lincoln ran for President in 1864 he chose Andrew Johnson, a Democratic senator from Tennessee, as his Vice Presidential candidate. Lincoln wanted Southern support and hoped that by selecting Johnson he would appeal to Southerners who never wanted to leave the Union.

The views of the Vice President rarely matter too much, unless something happens to the President. Following Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson’s views now mattered a great deal. Would he follow Lincoln’s moderate approach to reconciliation? Would he support limited black suffrage as Lincoln did? Would he follow the Radical Republicans and be harsh and punitive toward the South?

President Lincoln had the idea of creating a Freedmen’s Bureau to help former slaves move from a life of slavery to being a free citizen. President Lincoln’s idea for the Bureau was to create ways for former slaves in the south to get vote, purchase land, get an education.  Unfortunately, President Johnson believed the Southern states should decide the course that was best for them. He also felt that African-Americans were unable to manage their own lives. He certainly did not think that African-Americans deserved to vote and allowed powerful whites to control freed slaves through harsh laws that came to be known as the BLACK CODES which would later change to Jim Crow Laws.

President Lincoln and President Johnson had very different ideas about Reconstruction and helping former slaves through the Freedmen’s Bureau. President Lincoln felt it was the responsibility of the federal government to help assist former slaves to their new lives in Freedom.  President Johnson, however, eventually allowed the states that fought in the Civil War to keep slavery to decide the best ways to help former slaves.  Unfortunately these choices led to very little progress for African Americans living in the South after the  Civil War.

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