The postwar Radical Republicans were motivated by three main factors:
On the political front, the Republicans wanted to maintain their wartime agenda, which included support for:
- Revenge a desire among some to punish the South for causing the war
Concern for the freedmen some believed that the federal government had a role to play in the transition of freedmen from slavery to freedom
- Political concerns the Radicals wanted to keep the Republican Party in power in both the North and the South.
If the South were to fall back into Democratic hands, these programs would suffer. This threat brought many Republicans around to supporting the vote for blacks ( 15th Amendment ). Grateful freedmen voting Republican would help to maintain the status quo.
- Pro-business national banking system
- Liberal land policies for settlers
- Federal aid for railroad development
The postwar Congress pushed through a number of measures designed to assist the freedmen, but also demonstrate the supremacy of Congress over the president. These measures included the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the 14th Amendment, the Tenure of Office Act and the Army Appropriations Act.
The culmination of this process occurred in 1867 and 1868, when Congress passed a series of Reconstruction Acts; these measures were implemented and constituted the final restoration program for the South. The Radical Republicans in Congress, however, were not satisfied until they dealt with their chief tormenter in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
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