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Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction: The Louisiana Experiment

Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction: The Louisiana Experiment

Peyton McCrary
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    Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction: The Louisiana Experiment
    Book Description:

    After victorious federal troops swept through southern Louisiana in 1862, the state became the testing ground for Abraham Lincoln's approach to reconstruction, and thus the focal point for the debate over post-war policy in Washington. Peyton McCrary offers a comprehensive account of the social and political upheavals in Louisiana, set against the background of a new interpretation of the revolutionary dimensions of the Civil War party system. He compares the moderate Republican regime set up by Lincoln with the antebellum social and political system, and contrasts it with the reactionary government established in 1865 under the aegis of Andrew Johnson and the Democratic Party. The author also explores the social history of the contract labor system, the evolution of the Freedmen's Bureau, and the growing participation of blacks in the Louisiana Republican movement.

    Drawing on extensive research in unpublished manuscripts, party records, and newspapers, and using sophisticated quantitative analysis of electoral and legislative behavior, Professor McCrary suggests a significant revision of earlier interpretations of Lincoln's reconstruction policies. He finds that the real architect of the gradualist approach with which the President was publicly identified was his commanding general in Louisiana, Nathaniel P. Banks, who was less open to the idea of Negro suffrage than was Lincoln himself.

    Originally published in 1979.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7019-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. PROLOGUE “Mr. Lincoln’s Model of Reconstruction”
    (pp. 3-18)

    The mist from the Potomac gave an eerie quality to the gas lights and torches that illuminated the White House on the evening of April 11, 1865. A crowd of several thousand jubilant citizens who had been celebrating the news of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox with two days of victory bonfires, torchlight processions, howitzer salutes, impromptu orations by cabinet officers, and bibulous revelries in the city’s taverns now gathered on the lawn of the executive mansion to hear the promised speech of President Abraham Lincoln. When the tall, gaunt figure of Lincoln appeared at the balcony the vast crowd...

  2. CHAPTER I The Old Regime: Society and Politics in Antebellum Louisiana
    (pp. 19-65)

    No revolution can be understood without an examination of the social order that preceded it. Louisiana’s was the most dramatic embodiment of the slaveholding society of the deep South. Every curious Northern or European traveler sought out the “Creole” metropolis of New Orleans and the rich alluvial hinterlands supplied with unwilling labor by the city’s slavetraders. Merchants dominated the urban economy and played a key role in its politics. In rural parishes (counties) the great planters controlled a disproportionate share of the wealth. The planter elite’s hegemony in local politics was rarely questioned, and the apportionment system enabled it to...

  3. CHAPTER II War and Social Change: Benjamin F. Butler and the Assertion of Federal Power
    (pp. 66-109)

    Reconstruction was the crucial question of national politics—at least as a theoretical issue—from the moment the states of the lower South seceded from the Union. The compromise proposals of Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, which received serious consideration by the Congress in the winter of 1860-1861, were designed to promote a voluntary reconstruction of the Union by giving in to Southern proslavery demands. Voluntary reconstruction was predicated on a belief that the large reservoir of Unionist sentiment in the departed states could force the secessionists to accept the Crittenden proposals. The establishment of an independent slaveholding Confederacy...

  4. CHAPTER III The Failure of Conciliation: Nathaniel P. Banks and the Planters
    (pp. 110-134)

    General Nathaniel P. Banks cut a striking figure as he stood on the upper deck of a military transport winding its way up the Mississippi toward New Orleans. Slim and handsome, with dark hair and mustache, the general appeared too young to have served two terms as governor of Massachusetts and one as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Watching with Banks as the ship glided past the great canefields and white-columned mansions of the Louisiana sugar country was Colonel David Hunter Strother, a Virginia Unionist who had served the general as a trusted scout in the recent Shenandoah...

  5. CHAPTER IV Between Slavery and Freedom: The Labor System of General Banks
    (pp. 135-158)

    The most difficult challenge of reconstruction was the question of what life would be Kke for black people in the rural areas where slavery had been the backbone of the plantation economy. The war made it impossible for the planter elite to enforce property rights in slaves (outside the areas of Confederate control, at least). From the perspective of Louisiana sugar planters, revolutionary change had already arrived. Under General Banks’ labor regulations, the army required owners to pay wages to their former slaves or lease the land to someone who would agree to pay the labor force. It also prohibited...

  6. CHAPTER V Reconstruction as a Problem in Party Building: Thomas J. Durant and the Free State Movement
    (pp. 159-185)

    The primary goal of political reconstruction, from a practical point of view, was the formation of a viable Republican Party in the South. This was a major challenge, considering that Abraham Lincoln had not even been on the ballot in most Southern states in 1860. Party formation in this case required either the conversion of voters who had supported another party before the war, or the mobilization of a constituency that had not participated in antebellum elections at all (the largest bloc of potential voters in this category, of course, was the black population). Throughout 1863 General Banks pursued a...

  7. CHAPTER VI The Suffrage Issue: General Banks Takes Command
    (pp. 186-211)

    The turning point in wartime reconstruction, at least in Louisiana, was December 1863, when President Lincoln issued his famous ten-percent plan for the reorganization of civil government in the South. His proclamation served as a catalyst for the split between radicals and moderates in the Louisiana free state movement, although that was not Lincoln's intention. General Banks used the proclamation to legitimize his own intervention in Louisiana politics, taking power out of the hands of the radical leadership and swinging the full support of the military behind the moderate minority. The central issue in the split was the conversion in...

  8. CHAPTER VII Radicals vs. Moderates: The Ideological Dimension of Unionist Politics
    (pp. 212-236)

    The schism in the ranks of the free state movement could have been bridged had General Banks and Michael Hahn been willing to compromise with the radicals in hammering out a new coalition. The strategy followed by the moderates ruled out such negotiations, however, for the Hahn forces had decided to seek an open confrontation with the leadership of the Free State General Committee. What ensued was a period of angry debate that revealed a surprisingly wide ideological gap between radicals and moderates, not so wide as their common differences with the conservatives, but important nonetheless. This internecine warfare in...

  9. CHAPTER VIII The Moderates in Power: The Constitutional Convention of 1864
    (pp. 237-270)

    At dawn on March 4, 1864, the citizens of New Orleans were awakened by a one-hundred-gun salute as the army of occupation opened the celebration of Michael Hahn’s inauguration day. Within a few hours the several thousand school children freed to attend the official ceremonies began to crowd into Lafayette Square opposite City Hall. The authorities had constructed an immense amphitheater of wooden seats in the square, encircling a platform fifty feet in diameter where the dignitaries would assemble. A band of three hundred instruments was playing for the waiting crowd, and two regiments in full dress marched in to...

  10. CHAPTER IX Lincoln vs. Sumner: The Louisiana Question in National Politics
    (pp. 271-304)

    The Louisiana question was the central focus for the national debate over reconstruction and freedmen’s affairs during the last year of the Civil War. President Lincoln’s commitment to the Hahn regime was the key to his controversial decision to pocket-veto the Wade-Davis reconstruction bill in July 1864, and opposition to his Louisiana policy was the major substantive issue dividing Lincoln from congressional radicals. Using the full influence of the presidential office after his successful reelection in November, Lincoln pressed for congressional recognition of the Louisiana government in the winter of 1864-1865, offering at one point to require Negro suffrage in...

  11. CHAPTER X Counterrevolution: The Return of the Confederates
    (pp. 305-341)

    In the spring of 1865 Andrew Johnson possessed extraordinary power to shape the reconstruction process in the defeated South. With Congress adjourned until December, control of the army of occupation lay in his hands; civil government was suspended in the former Confederate states, with the partial exceptions of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee, and the provost marshals of each command were performing the essential tasks of maintaining order. Any decisions about the restoration of local or state authority would be made by the President, with the advice of his cabinet. The direction Johnson’s reconstruction policy might take was anyone’s guess when...

  12. EPILOGUE The Politics of Revolution
    (pp. 342-356)

    The political distance between Louisiana’s “territorial delegate,” Henry Clay Warmoth, and the state’s last antebellum senators, John Slidell and Judah P. Benjamin, must be measured in light years. Warmoth’s name was anathema to the Democrats who regained control of Louisiana politics in 1865 under the aegis of Governor Madison Wells; they had remained loyal to the proslavery ideals. of Slidell, Benjamin, and the planter elite who had carried the state out of the Union four years earlier. The goal of the Democrats in 1865 was to restore as much as possible of the old system of racial control, to recoup...

  13. APPENDIX A Regression Analysis of Electoral Behavior in Antebellum Louisiana, 1840-1861
    (pp. 357-369)
  14. APPENDIX B The Occupational Background of Delegates to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1864
    (pp. 370-372)
  15. APPENDIX C A Scale Analysis of Voting Behavior in the Louisiana Constitutional Convention, 1864
    (pp. 373-380)
  16. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 381-400)

    In reconstructing the Louisiana experience during the 1860s I have relied almost entirely on my own analysis of the primary sources because I discovered at an early stage of the research that grave factual errors marred many of the existing secondary accounts of Civil War politics in the state. Thus it is appropriate to begin this essay with a discussion of the manuscript materials, published diaries and correspondence, government documents, newspapers, travel accounts, city directories, census returns (both published and unpublished), and electoral data on which my interpretation is based.

    Because there was no organized civil government or established party...