Southern History Series: President Andrew Johnson’s Third Annual Message

In his Third Annual Message to Congress on December 3, 1867, President Andrew Johnson denounced the Radical Republicans and their plan for Congressional Reconstruction. He warned that Africanizing the South would create “such a tyranny as this continent has never yet witnessed,” an upside down world in which blacks would be empowered over Whites in the South, and anticipated the mayhem it would unleash. Johnson was impeached by the Radical Republicans in the House, but the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary to convict him and remove him from office.

“It is manifestly and avowedly the object of these laws to confer upon Negroes the privilege of voting and to disfranchise such a number of white citizens as will give the former a clear majority at all elections in the Southern States. This, to the minds of some persons, is so important that a violation of the Constitution is justified as a means of bringing it about.

The morality is always false which excuses a wrong because it proposes to accomplish a desirable end. We are not permitted to do evil that good may come. But in this case the end itself is evil, as well as the means. The subjugation of the States to Negro domination would be worse than the military despotism under which they are now suffering. It was believed beforehand that the people would endure any amount of military oppression for any length of time rather than degrade themselves by subjection to the Negro race. Therefore they have been left without a choice. Negro suffrage was established by act of Congress, and the military officers were commanded to superintend the process of clothing the Negro race with the political privileges torn from white men.

The blacks in the South are entitled to be well and humanely governed, and to have the protection of just laws for all their rights of person and property. If it were practicable at this time to give them a Government exclusively their own, under which they might manage their own affairs in their own way, it would become a grave question whether we ought to do so, or whether common humanity would not require us to save them from themselves. But under the circumstances this is only a speculative point. It is not proposed merely that they shall govern themselves, but that they shall rule the white race, make and administer State laws, elect Presidents and members of Congress, and shape to a greater or less extent the future destiny of the whole country. Would such a trust and power be safe in such hands?

The peculiar qualities which should characterize any people who are fit to decide upon the management of public affairs for a great state have seldom been combined. It is the glory of white men to know that they have had these qualities in sufficient measure to build upon this continent a great political fabric and to preserve its stability for more than ninety years, while in every other part of the world all similar experiments have failed. But if anything can be proved by known facts, if all reasoning upon evidence is not abandoned, it must be acknowledged that in the progress of nations Negroes have shown less capacity for government than any other race of people. No independent government of any form has ever been successful in their hands. On the contrary, wherever they have been left to their own devices they have shown a constant tendency to relapse into barbarism. In the Southern States, however, Congress has undertaken to confer upon them the privilege of the ballot. Just released from slavery, it may be doubted whether as a class they know more than their ancestors how to organize and regulate civil society. indeed, it is admitted that the blacks of the South are not only regardless of the rights of property, but so utterly ignorant of public affairs that their voting can consist in nothing more than carrying a ballot to the place where they are directed to deposit it. I need not remind you that the exercise of the elective franchise is the highest attribute of an American citizen, and that when guided by virtue, intelligence, patriotism, and a proper appreciation of our free institutions it constitutes the true basis of a democratic form of government, in which the sovereign power is lodged in the body of the people. A trust artificially created, not for its own sake, but solely as a means of promoting the general welfare, its influence for good must necessarily depend upon the elevated character and true allegiance of the elector. It ought, therefore, to be reposed in none except those who are fitted morally and mentally to administer it well; for if conferred upon persons who do not justly estimate its value and who are indifferent as to its results, it will only serve as a means of placing power in the hands of the unprincipled and ambitious, and must eventuate in the complete destruction of that liberty of which it should be the most powerful conservator. I have therefore heretofore urged upon your attention the great danger …

I repeat the expression of my willingness to join in any plan within the scope of our constitutional authority which promises to better the condition of the Negroes in the South, by encouraging them in industry, enlightening their minds, improving their morals, and giving protection to all their just rights as freedmen. But the transfer of our political inheritance to them would, in my opinion, be an abandonment of a duty which we owe alike to the memory of our fathers and the rights of our children.

The plan of putting the Southern States wholly and the General Government partially into the hands of Negroes is proposed at a time peculiarly unpropitious. The foundations of society have been broken up by civil war. Industry must be reorganized, justice reestablished, public credit maintained, and order brought out of confusion. To accomplish these ends would require all the wisdom and virtue of the great men who formed our institutions originally. I confidently believe that their descendants will be equal to the arduous task before them, but it is worse than madness to expect that Negroes will perform it for us. Certainly we ought not to ask their assistance till we despair of our own competency.

The great difference between the two races in physical, mental, and moral characteristics will prevent an amalgamation or fusion of them together in one homogeneous mass. If the inferior obtains the ascendency over the other, it will govern with reference only to its own interests for it will recognize no common interest–and create such a tyranny as this continent has never yet witnessed. Already the Negroes are influenced by promises of confiscation and plunder. They are taught to regard as an enemy every white man who has any respect for the rights of his own race. If this continues it must become worse and worse, until all order will be subverted, all industry cease, and the fertile fields of the South grow up into a wilderness. Of all the dangers which our nation has yet encountered, none are equal to those which must result from the success of the effort now making to Africanize the half of our country.

I would not put considerations of money in competition with justice and right; but the expenses incident to “reconstruction” under the system adopted by Congress aggravate what I regard as the intrinsic wrong of the measure itself. It has cost uncounted millions already, and if persisted in will add largely to the weight of taxation, already too oppressive to be borne without just complaint, and may finally reduce the Treasury of the nation to a condition of bankruptcy. We must not delude ourselves. It will require a strong standing army and probably more than $200,000,000 per annum to maintain the supremacy of Negro governments after they are established. The sum thus thrown away would, if properly used, form a sinking fund large enough to pay the whole national debt in less than fifteen years. It is vain to hope that Negroes will maintain their ascendency themselves. Without military power they are wholly incapable of holding in subjection the white people of the South.”

Andrew Johnson was an East Tennessee Unionist and U.S. Senator from Tennessee who stuck to the Union after the secession of Tennessee and became Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President.

Johnson represented the poor Whites of East Tennessee who opposed secession, hated slavery and resented the planter class, but who opposed racial equality. After he became president, Johnson attempted to restore the ex-Confederate states to the Union on the basis of their acceptance of the abolition of slavery and the rejection of secession. He naively assumed like other Southern Unionists that the war had been about slavery and secession and now that the war was over the Union as it had existed before the war could be restored. He was quickly reminded of who he had cast his lot with.

There is a lot of truth to the joke that Appalachia joined the Confederacy during Reconstruction. It isn’t uncommon today to see Confederate flags in places like eastern Kentucky and northeast Tennessee which had voted against secession. Greater Appalachia had a worse experience with exploitation by Northern capital during Reconstruction and the New South than the old plantation belts in the Deep South. The region felt much more Southern around 1910 than it had in 1861. In retrospect, the impeachment of Johnson as an Appalachian president by the Black Republicans can be seen as the beginning of the solidification of the Deep South, Greater Appalachia and Tidewater into Dixie.

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14 Comments

  1. One thing I disagree with some fellow Christians on is the idea that the faith is mainly what brought Europe to the height of civilizations. If that were so, Latin America would be close to us in development, and its people near us in intelligence. The truth of the matter is, of course, there are innate differences between groups. Many American blacks were also raised in this Christianized civilization, but can’t run towns or cities. Anyone want to move to Detroit or Baltimore, for just two examples? Where we of European descent get into trouble is when we turn our backs on our own history, and descend into “progressivism,” or the denial of reality about general human nature and the particular abilities of groups within humanity.

    I suggest that we stop calling acknowledging such obvious truths “race” realism, though. It’s all part of an easily proven realism. “Racism” is a linguistic weapon made up by Trotsky, after all. Ignore the labels, and just put facts under the general “truth” label.

    • <<<If that were so, Latin America would be close to us in development, and its people near us in intelligence. The truth of the matter is, of course, there are innate differences between groups. Many American blacks were also raised in this Christianized civilization, but can’t run towns or cities<<<

      Rich,

      You are assuming that white America is well run and developed. (and whenever it's not, then the Blacks or the Mexicans made us do it), correct?

      What is 'white' America good at? Shooting pornography? Shooting drugs? Shooting people and invading their countries and making them into bigger shit-holes than when before we arrived? We are really good at that. Is it your theory that maybe the Mexicans and the Blacks make us do those evil things?

      AND Where does homosexual culture come from ? Isn't that a 'white thing'? don't believe me? Hunter has been featuring how even Trump is pressuring Africa to go homo! Where does LGBT emanate from ? Britain, Canada,US, Australia., NORTH ATLANTIC (as in Viking) treaty organization…NOT AFRICA!!

      That's why I am afraid that anyone who says the stuff you do, must really think homosexuality is OK since it is brought to us by the Anglo Saxon world and not the African world. Or perhaps you think that morals don't matter, as long as we have I phones and technology and MIGHT? 'Yes! our victories on the battle field prove white superiority!'

      Your view (of Mexico) mimics how the North viewed the Antebellum South. Low-tech, low-industry, illiterate, in-bred, superstitious, stupid, smelly. , mongrelized (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/12/22/a-lot-of-southern-whites-are-a-little-bit-black/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9d7645aa875f) You think we beat the Mexicans in 1848 because we were mighty white? well then you must admit that the Northern States–who were whiter than us, even Ivory Soap white– were MIGHTY WHITER when they did the same thing to the South! Grant and Sherman came down here and knocked the living snot out of us. The Union troops were like victorious Teutonics in comparison to the South they laid waste. And Mr. Lincoln's plan was either to ship the Blacks back to Africa, or let them 'root hog or die' here. We are talking about the pitiless extinction of an'inferior' race…you can't get much more Teutonic than that!

      Its ironic that people like you feel sympathy for the Confederacy and not for the north. Actually maybe not ironic since , sadly, most you identitarians don't step out of your safe spaces. Coloring-book historians like Blight and McPherson and PBS and History Channel and HBO and SPLC say the South=racist North=not racist and people like you sit in your moms' basements and swallow it credulously.

      You really think Confederates were interested in a white ethno-state? Where did Confederate ex-patriots run to? GREENLAND? DENMARK? look it up sometime…our people that left went went south and felt quite comfortable mixing in with the brown people. Their communities exist to this day….and they are racially mixed. Deal with it.

      • You put a lot of assumptions into your response. You attribute thoughts and ideas to me that I did not have or express. Actually, you seem quite a bit unhinged. Respond to what was written, and then I’ll reply. Until then, try a rabies shot or two.

        • >>>>One thing I disagree with some fellow Christians on is the idea that the faith is mainly what brought Europe to the height of civilizations. If that were so, Latin America would be close to us in development, and its people near us in intelligence<<<<

          Ok, Rich!

          Lemme start again. In your world, what is the height of white civilization that makes us so rich in comparison to our colored neighbors? Maybe our prison system? America incarcerates 5 times what the rest of the world does. Is that white Americas ‘big secret’ to civilization that colored countries are too stupid think of?

          Maybe our secret is abortion? It’s all the white countries that legalize and promote it
          https://reproductive rights.org/sites/default/files/documents/AbortionMap2014.PDF .
          That is certainly a way for whites to afford a second car and keep the wife employable and impress the dark countries with our per capital income! it works great until you get old and have to beg the 'Great White Father' in Washington to send some (colored) stranger to wipe your backside….

          I would mention the final judgment and what happens to people that murder children but somehow it seems that you might not be too intimidated by that threat. From your original remark, our Lord and Savior seems more of an after-thought for you and your superior white civilization. Your weasel words definitely implied that white folk would have gotten along just fine without Him.

          • I don’t know why you would be so incredibly stupid as to “think” that because I made an obviously truthful statement about Western civilization that I would make the juvenile and ridiculous statement that everything about it is perfect. Another moronic assumption on your part. (Don’t think I didn’t notice that you never pointed out what would make black or Hispanic civilizations superior to Western civilization.)

            Say, you think ethnostates are a bad idea? Tell that to the incredibly large majority of hispanics living in Latin America, or those Asian countries filled with, you know, ASIANS. Or those African countries populated with all those (astonishing, isn’t it) black people. The horror! Are ALL those people Nazis? Notify the ADL, stat!

            You’re an obvious troll with just-as-obvious limited scope. You ignored my identification as a Christian at the start. So why would I favor abortion or homosexuality? How could either topic possibly be related only to whites? Guess you missed that AIDS originated in Africa. Speaking of Africa, Zimbabwe and South Africa (among many others) are such paradises now that whitey isn’t in charge, right? Not to mention that blacks (folks of, you know, African descent) are committing crimes at much, much higher rates than whites in the US. Oh yeah, Hispanics also commit crimes at higher rates than mean old whitey.

            Homosexuality started in the Anglo-Saxon world? I had a good laugh over that one, dipstick! What an incredibly ignorant and ahistorical thing to write. Have you ever read the Old Testament, or any Greek history? Asian history? Any anthropology of any kind, you emptyheaded tool? You are uninformed and warped.

            Please outline all the great civilizational and scientific advances made by Latin American cultures, while you’re at it. Where are those great “colored” countries? Name some for me. I’d settle for one with water and sewage treatment that approaches the US. (Hint: there isn’t one.) Infrastructure is a civilizational mark, and the people you defend are failing big time on that one.

            Do you want to live outside the Western world? Or countries close to our civilizational orbit? We made “colored” countries into “bigger” shitholes, you wrote. That means you already thought of them as shitholes. (My, what “racist” terms and assumptions you use throughout your rants.) Which is why denizens of the “dark countries” pour over our borders. Those nations are dysfunctional wrecks. Aren’t they? Prove me wrong. Or are you merely trying to drag us down to their level? Or yours?

      • “What is ‘white’ America good at? Shooting pornography? Shooting drugs? Shooting people and invading their countries and making them into bigger shit-holes than when before we arrived? We are really good at that. Is it your theory that maybe the Mexicans and the Blacks make us do those evil things?

        AND Where does homosexual culture come from ?”

        You’re probably just a troll, but jewish producers and financiers are primarily responsible for the porn problem in this country. Whites do have a drug problem, I’ll give you that. Jewish neo-cons are responsible for pushing those invasions you’re talking about. Also, “kneelingcatholic” is a very appropriate handle for someone bringing up “homosexual culture”.
        Whites are very good at building and maintaining modern infrastructure and technology which allow you to live a very comfortable life. Go live in Haiti or Somalia and see how you get by.

        • Hello, Powell! (And Rich)

          I thank you for finally giving me something concrete to work with…. Rich wanted to beat his chest about white superiority and then wouldn’t name any specifics… oh wait now he has joined you in naming ‘infrastructure’. Good, I can address that for both of you under point 2.

          1. Regarding homosexuality: My point stands. The LGBT foreign policy push is promoted by white countries. PERIOD. Just for an example -the HAGUE lists the top 18 countries for transgender militaries…none are from Africa, none are from Central Armerica, one, Bolivia, is from South America. That makes 17/18 white countries. Feel free to go and find your own data to refute this and say ‘Hollywood is Homo because of the Nigerans’. but you know already that I’m right. America and her five eyes allies are behind the world-wide homo movement.

          2. Infrastructure

          Now here’s where you and Rich go Full-Yankee on me. This is the main reason given as to why the South lost. ‘Yankees were soooo smart that they built superior infrastructure, they knew how to, like, build stuff?! Poor three toothed crackers couldn’t even figure out how to, you know, put pipes together!’

          Sirs, just because southerners had poorer infrastructure didn’t mean they were stupider… they just had different priorities back then. My gramma HATED air conditioning and superhighways. It doesn’t mean she was stupid…she just didn’t place a high priority on ‘infrastructure’. . Her people HATED railroads…their idea of paradise was to raise ‘poor’ cattle on a few acres of snake infested dirt. I don’t think you could invite such people to your white paradise.

          And since you asked about inventions, the Antebellum South did not invent very much. Not even the cotton gin. Fact is..most big idea inventions are generated by a vigorous military-industrial complex…or a war. Any country that lacks the above, is going to have fewer inventions.

          I’m afraid the real difference between you and me is that I truly wish the South would have won. And I detest your Yankee arguments. Certainly if the south won, then southerners, whites included, would have continued having more of a ‘Mexican’ infrastructure . Oh The horror!! President Davis even wanted us to go back to riding camels !

          Oh yeah, you keep asking me about Mexican inventions…. how ‘the ranch’ and ‘the cowboy’ and ‘barbacoa’ Not impressed? Yankees never are.

          • God, what a total idiot you are. Southerners weren’t insulted by me, yet you stupidly go back to the “poor crackers” thing. What the hell did my OP have to do with the Civil War? Refight it in your own head. The reverberations will keep you awake, I’ve no doubt. You couldn’t make a dent in any of the factual arguments I made, or answer any questions, beyond that of the “ranch.” I was thinking of substantial things like the telephone or the computer, or philosophy or physics, but whoa! The cowboy? Beats Pythagoras and Newton all hollow, doesn’t it? You insisted homosexuality was an Anglo-Saxon invention. Not who promoted it. You should read your own words sometimes. Your reading comprehension is obviously poor, so it might not work for you to do that. It was laughably easy to disprove you, yet you come back with more stupidity about how it’s PROMOTION that’s being done. My disproving of your “invention” b.s. stands, as does my words about how I don’t approve of homosexuality. Reading is fundamental. I also mentioned in the OP about my disapproval of progressivism, the ideology that promotes homosexuality and abortion. Something else you don’t seem to understand, even though it was explained in clear English. You had nothing to say about the negative facts I brought up the other races you wanted to defend. Pathetic. You’re wasting my time, which is all trolls know how to do.

            To sum up, you proved nothing, except that you don’t understand even your own words, and you can’t seem to get what others write. As a troll, you get an “F.” Time for me to go do something more productive, like watching paint dry.

        • >>>you don’t understand even your own words, and you can’t seem to get what others write. As a troll, you get an “F<<<

          Rich,
          I apologize for misunderstanding you. I didn’t realize that you were not a Southerner. I thought, mistakenly, that Hunter’s blog only catered to ‘lost causers’ like me.

          I ASSUMED that you and Powell shared my sorrow over Dixie’s demise. But then you insisted on touting Yankee ingenuity as proof of white superiority. Perhaps a valid argument, but it serves just as well to prove the superiority of Northern Whites over Southern Whites. Southern ‘infrastructure’ was third world and the number of inventors which haled from Dixie was outnumbered by Yankees at about 20:1. We had Cyrus McCormack and George Washington Carver and some slave that invented a cornseed planter. They had scores.

          I also should have realized where you were coming from when you belittled our Lord’s central place in western civilization. No southerner would do that.

          • I was willing to let your sophomoric sophistry go without further response, but I just had to tell you: turning my comments about Hispanics into being about Mexicans was an obvious tell that you’re just another beaner. Not answering anything I said, but repeating the same things over and over as if repetition makes something authoritative is also a sign of a lower-IQ mind that can’t grapple with nuance. Another sign that you’re just another beaner. You’re no rebel. Your writing style is also an obvious tell as to who you are. I enjoyed telling you off, and enjoyed that you had no comebacks to any of the facts I wrote. Insulting you was easy, and a pleasure. Please come back anytime, jumping beaner.

  2. He naively assumed, like other Southern Unionists, that the war had been about slavery and secession and now that the war was over, the Union as it had existed before the war could be restored. He was quickly reminded of who he had cast his lot with.

    This naivety about Yankees has been a problem for Dixie since George Washington’s time.

    It’s the cause of not a few or insignificant number of our sociopolitical problems vis-â-vis the North.

  3. HW, while we sometimes disagree on political strategy, your historical writing is enthralling. Thank you.

  4. Damn, Rich!

    You’re forgetting who the troll is here. You’re not supposed to be ‘it’!!

    But, since you want to continue I’ll make a couple of additional comments….

    1. ‘Beaner’ is a yankee term. Anglos down here don’t use it. But since you aren’t from down here, I’ll cut you some slack.
    2. You are stuck on this infrastructure+yankee–inventions-proves-white-supremacy argument. I apologize for not making myself clear….THAT IS NOT A VALID ARGUMENT because…

    a. It also proves that northern whites were RACIALLY SUPERIOR to antebellum southern whites
    b. And it proves that Jews and Asians are RACIALLY SUPERIOR to northern whites

    I accept neither ‘a’ nor ‘b’ , so why would I accept as valid your argument that proves both ‘a’ and ‘b’?

    There are cultures that value innovations and cultures that detest innovations. If Rich make innovation his measure of superiority, then the former will always appear superior to the latter.

    If you want to believe that Jews and Asians are superior to Anglos , blacks and Mexicans, that’s fine with me as long just as you don’t think they therefore get to treat us like checkers on a checkerboard.

    The Southern way is to leave people to live close to where their ancestors are buried….even if those ancestors might not be Ango-Saxons. If you are good with that, then I have no quarrel with you.

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