Andrew Johnson


How did Johnson spar with Congress during his presidency?

Johnson and the thirty-ninth Congress—composed of the so-called “Radical Republicans”—sparred mightily over the period of Reconstruction—the period of time given to the rebuilding of the Union after the Civil War. Johnson favored a quick process by which the former Confederate states would be re-admitted to the Union. Johnson also did not support some of the civil rights measures passed by Congress that were designed to ensure a measure of equality to the recently freed slaves.

Johnson vetoed the renewing of the Freedmen’s Bureau, an agency that provided federal assistance to recently freed individuals. Johnson felt that this measure—like other federal civil rights legislation—invaded the sovereignty, or power, of the state governments.

Johnson also sought to block passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and later the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Once again, Johnson believed that the federal Congress had exceeded its powers and invaded the states’ sphere.


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