Abraham Lincoln had thought about the process of restoring the Union from the earliest days of the war. His guiding principles were to accomplish the task as rapidly as possible and ignore calls for punishing the South.
In late 1863, Lincoln announced a formal plan for reconstruction:
A general amnesty would be granted to all who would take an oath of loyalty to the United States and pledge to obey all federal laws pertaining to slavery
- High Confederate officials and military leaders were to be temporarily excluded from the process
- When one tenth of the number of voters who had participated in the 1860 election had taken the oath within a particular state, then that state could launch a new government and elect representatives to Congress.
The states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee rapidly acted to comply with these terms. Despite an early position showing a vindictive streak, Andrew Johnson continued Lincoln's plan for reconstruction when he took office after Lincoln's assassination. Civil governments were set up, except in the state of Texas, after conventions in each state officially abolished slavery, repudiated their debts, and canceled the acts of secession. Representatives were elected to serve in Congress.
However, the Lincoln plan was not acceptable to Congress, which rejected the representatives.