Wade-Davis Bill

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The Wade–Davis Bill of 1864 was a program proposed for the Reconstruction of the South written by two Radical Republicans, Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Representative Henry Winter Davis of Maryland. In contrast to President Abraham Lincoln's more lenient Ten Percent Plan, the bill made re-admittance to the Union for former Confederate states contingent on a majority in each Southern state to take the Ironclad oath to the effect they had never in the past supported the Confederacy. The bill passed both houses of Congress on July 2, 1864, but was pocket vetoed by Lincoln and never took effect. The Radical Republicans were outraged that Lincoln did not sign the bill. Lincoln wanted to mend the Union by carrying out the Ten Percent Plan. He believed it would be too difficult to repair all of the ties within the union if the bill was passed.[1]



The Wade–Davis Bill emerged from a plan introduced in the Senate by Ira Harris of New York in February, 1863.[2] It proposed to base the Reconstruction of the South on the government's power to guarantee a republican form of government. The Wade–Davis Bill was also important for national and congressional power. Although federally imposed conditions of reconstruction retrospectively seem logical, there was a widespread belief that southern Unionism would return the seceded states to the Union after the South's military power was broken. This belief was not fully abandoned until later in 1863. The provisions, critics complained, were virtually impossible to meet, thus making it likely there would be permanent national control over the southern states.[3]

Senate voting

Those voting for passage in the Senate were (18): Messrs. Anthony (R), Chandler (R), Clark (R), Conness (R), Foot (R), Harlan (R), Harris (R), Howe, Lane of Kansas (R), Morgan (R), Pomeroy (R), Ramsey (R), Sherman (R), Sprague (R), Sumner (R), Wade (R), Wilkinson (R), Wilson(R).

Those voting against passage were (14): Messrs. Buckalew (D), Carlile (U), Davis (UU), Doolittle (R), Henderson (UU), Hendricks (D), Lane of Indiana (R), McDougall (D), Powell (D), Riddle (D), Saulsbury (D), Ten Eyck (R), Trumbull (R), Van Winkle (UU).[4]

Lincoln's veto

One of Lincoln's objections was that the idea that the Southern states needed to "re-join" the Union permeated the whole bill. The philosophy of the war from Lincoln's point of view was that the Southern states were not constitutionally allowed to secede in the first place and therefore were still part of the Union, even though their return to a full participation in the Union would require the fulfillment of some conditions. But he didn't think the war was being waged against "treasonous" States as such (since the refusal of the Union to recognize their right to secede made the ordinances of secession null) but merely to "compel the obedience of rebellious individuals". The problem was that the language of the bill was at times undermining the Northern rationale for the war by plainly asserting for instance that the Southern states were not part of the Union anymore.[5]

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