Misrepresenting Mississippi

(January 4,, 2017) As I continue through the YouTube lectures posted by Columbia University’s history professor Eric Foner, I came to one about President Andrew Johnson’s attempt to implement “Presidential Reconstruction” in a futile effort to pre-empt “Congressional Reconstruction” that the Republicans would later adopt.

Johnson’s plan, which he hoped to have a fait accompli by December 1865, required that the Rebel states elect delegates to conventions to adopt constitutions and resolutions to: (1) ratify the 13th Amendment ending slavery, (2) repeal their secession ordinances, and (3) repudiate the Confederate debt. This was more than Lincoln had required in his December, 1863 “10% plan,” which was the only official plan that the martyred President ever announced.

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Although Mississippi did not promptly ratify the amendment, Foner erroneously implies that the state failed to quickly abolish slavery and foot-dragged for 140 years by saying:

Mississippi refused to ratify the 13th Amendment. They thought about it a long, long, time. Eventually, the state…did ratify the 13th Amendment, but it did not happen until 1995. So it took them a long time to accept that: “Slavery is gone. I’m sorry.” [audience laughter.]

Professor Foner failed to mention that the Mississippi state constitution of August, 1865 outlawed slavery. It was adopted by a vote of 87-to-11.*

*Henry, The Story of Reconstruction, 79; Mississippi State Constitution: August 1865,
35

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