Rebecca Welch Weigel, Jennifer Welch
Performing Arts, U.S. History, Political Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Homework/Assignment, Primary Source
Middle School, High School
  • 13th Amendment
  • Amnesty Proclamation
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877)
  • Constitutional Theater
  • Presidential Reconstruction
  • Radical Reconstruction
  • Reconstruction Era
  • Thaddeus Stevens
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

    2. Reconstruction vs. Restoration

    2. Reconstruction vs. Restoration


    Through the play Now's The Time and the accompanying curriculum, students will explore the Reconstruction Era through the life of Thaddeus Stevens and his colleagues as they sought to push for radical change in the making of a "new" America.

    Now's The Time Lesson Plan 2: Scene Two

    STEVENS: The president’s policy of “restoration” is replanting the seeds of rebellion, which, within the next quarter of a century, will germinate and produce the same bloody strife which has just ended.

    JOHNSON: We can now proclaim,“The Constitution as it is! The Union as it was!”


    1. Students will be able to articulate the key tenets of Johnson's Amnesty Proclamation.
    2. Students will examine the role of the Presidential pardon during Johnson's tenure in the Reconstruction Era.
    3. Students will outline the arguments that Thaddeus Stevens makes in his speech on Reconstruction.
    4. Students will compare and contrast the plans for Presidential Reconstruction and Radical Reconstruction.
    5. Students will be able to define terms including: reparations, amnesty, pardon, confiscation and Copperheads.
    6. Students will reflect upon how the reconstruction plan supported by Radical Republicans sought to make revolutionary changes to the U.S. Constitution in regards to political representation and suffrage.


    • President Andrew Johnson 
    • Thaddeus Stevens
    • Presidential Reconstruction
    • Restoration
    • Radical Reconstruction
    • 13th Amendment
    • Amnesty Proclamation
    • Reparations
    • Amnesty
    • Pardon
    • Confiscation 
    • Taxation
    • Debt
    • Three-Fifths Compromise
    • Copperheads


    President Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation

    Reconstruction: Speech of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens– City of Lancaster Sept. 7th, 1865


    PART 1:

    Primary Source Analysis and Group Discussion

    The class will be divided into six small groups. Each group will be tasked with summarizing the arguments in their assigned document either Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation or Stevens’ Reconstruction Speech to the City of Lancaster. Students will regroup as a class for a teacher-led discussion to compare and contrast the documents. 

    PART 2:


    Students will then read Scene Two in Now’s The Time and identify how the playwright incorporated Johnson's and Stevens's views into the scene. What other information is communicated throughout the scene to demonstrate the divide between Stevens and Johnson?

    ACTIVITY 2: Political Cartoons

    Students will look for political cartoons that were published during Reconstruction and that address the issues of Reconstruction vs Restoration. After identifying a cartoon, students should write a brief paragraph explaining the significance of the cartoon and how it relates to this particular debate between the Radical Republican and Johnson’s Reconstruction plan. Students should answer the following questions:

    1. Who is the author/creator of the political cartoon?
    2. What publication published this cartoon?
    3. When was it published?
    4. Where was it published?
    5. What is the subject?
    6. Who is the target of the political cartoon?
    7. What political figures are featured in the cartoon?
    8. What imagery can you find that relates to symbols of the United States? Ex: Flag, Statue of Liberty, U.S. Constitution, etc.
    9. What is the cartoon critiquing?
    10. What message is the cartoon trying to convey?

    EXTENSION ACTIVITY: Understanding Political Disagreement

    Ask students to identify a current political issue. Students will explore the primary views articulated by political leaders at the local, state, or national level. Students will be asked to prepare a short report that answers the following questions:

    1. What is the political issue?
    2. What specific policy proposals are being considered?
    3. What is the disagreement?
    4. Is there disagreement within political parties? 
    5. Who are the political leaders that are tied to the issue?
    6. How do different leaders communicate their positions?
    7. What is your position on this political issue?






    Now's The Time Script: Scene Two


    Date: 1865

    Location: Philadelphia

    Characters: Stevens, Smith, President Andrew Johnson, George T. Downing, Irish Soldier, Ensemble.


    A crowd gathers and waits for a lively 19th century political debate to begin. A brass band plays“The Battle Cry of Freedom” over the low buzz of the crowd. Downing, Smith and others in the throng are Stevens supporters (on one side of the stage), other crowd members (loosely gathered on the other side) are Johnson supporters. Johnson and Stevens are at podiums on a large raised stage. The crowd is excited, waving flags and  banners that say, “The Union Forever!” Red, white and blue bunting drapes the stage. The band music and crowd noise fade.


    Lights up on Johnson and Stevens on separate podiums. Spot on Stevens.



    The president’s policy of “restoration” is replanting the seeds of rebellion, which, within the next quarter of a century, will germinate and produce the same bloody strife which has just ended.

    Some say stripping the rebels of their estates and driving them to honest labor would be harsh and severe. But I say the whole fabric of southern society must be changed, and it never will be  if this opportunity is lost. 



    --No land for the traitors!


    ENSEMBLE, SMITH, DOWNING/ pro-Stevens 

    Stevens supporters applaud, cheer and whistle.



    We have a duty handed to us by this nation’s founders. They found it impossible to agree upon a Constitution without tolerating – nay, without guaranteeing slavery. They trusted time to work a speedy cure. They had some excuse. But we have no excuse if we do not thoroughly eradicate slavery forever. Indeed, now is the time for the Second Founding of our great Union,  a second chance to get it right--



    The Second Founding! 


    --A new Union!


    Cheering from Stevens supporters.

    An Irish-American soldier in his 20s enters, interrupting Stevens. The Soldier is wearing a tattered Union uniform, probably the best garment he owns, and speaks with a light Irish brogue. A battered canteen dangles from his side. 



    Wait! Wait! Wait!  This is a political showdown. Like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, remember? It’s a great American tradition. Settle in – wave your flags! Stomp and cheer! Now over here (Soldier points with both hands) we have President Johnson with his “Restoration of the South.” And over there (Soldier points again)--- Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and his outrageous  “Reconstruction” plan  – which really means de-con-struction and starting over. You don’t want to miss this. You’re quite an audience out there; we need you to step up.  (Pointing the audience on the Johnson side of the stage. ) You! Over here -- you’re for  Johnson -- you shout out with me and my boys.


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER (anonymous voice from crowd)

    Who are you?

    The soldier stands at attention, salutes, and points to a patch on his jacket.


    Veteran of the Irish Brigade, New York’s 69th. Union army. Anyway, if you’re a radical, you’re part of the Stevens Gang, over there (Soldier points toward the Stevens side of the house.) -- And whichever side you’re on, you know what to do, right? When your man scores a point, you sound off. If you want to knock off the other one, I’m not going to stop you. Yep, I’m a Johnson man-- but I’m here mostly for the excitement. On with the show! 

    Soldier motions to the crowd and audience to join him as he moves, shouting, into the center of the crowd between Stevens and Johnson.


    SOLDIER (Con’t.)

    Johnson! Johnson!



    Johnson! Johnson! /Johnson!     

    Spot on Johnson.



    /The first question is whether the land within the southern states should be held as conquered territory, under military authority --as Mr. Thaddeus Stevens and his radicals in Congress insist. I oppose that. Military governments, established for an indefinite period, divide the people into the vanquishers and the vanquished, and spur hatred rather than restore affection. Even more important to my principles, the policy of military rule over a conquered territory implies that the States whose inhabitants may have taken part in the rebellion had ceased to exist. I reject that. I believe no state ever actually left the Union. Their functions were merely suspended. 



    (Chanting ) Stevens! Stevens! /Stevens! Let’s hear from Mr. Stevens!



    /In Reconstruction, there can be no reform if the southern states have never left the Union. But reform must be effected –the foundation of their institutions must be broken up and relaid, or all our blood and treasure have been spent in vain. This can only be done by holding and treating them as a conquered people in conquered territory, not as citizens of the former states. Under the Constitution, Congress – not the president-- has full power to legislate for territories.


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER/ (pro-Stevens)

    No rebels in the Union!


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER (pro-Stevens)

    No traitors!



    Let the president speak! He talks sense!



    I have acted to restore the rightful roles of the national and state governments. Under my direction, provisional governors have been appointed for the States, conventions called, governors elected, legislatures assembled, and Senators and Representatives chosen--


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER/(pro-Stevens)

    --That’s up to Congress!  



    Ignore those agitators!


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER/ (pro-Stevens)



    ENSEMBLE MEMBER/(pro-Stevens)



    ENSEMBLE (several/pro-Johnson)

    Lock them up! / Lock them up!/Lock--



    /The courts have been reopened / the post office and custom houses put back to work. 

    And to try to remove all danger, I have felt it incumbent on me to assert one other presidential power --the power of pardon. President Lincoln last year pardoned hundreds of confederates; I plan to pardon thousands more ---


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER (Pro-Stevens)

    No more pardons! No more!



    --yes, thousands of pardons – and, I also plan to restore to its rightful owners the land confiscated by the federal government and given to the Negroes—



    --He can’t do that! Congress already gave that land to the freedmen!


    Soldier moves closer to Smith and Downing.



    Of course he can!


    ENSEMBLE MEMBER/(pro-Stevens)

    Johnson should be sued!



    He can’t be sued. He’s the President!



    The President is not above the law. 



    He is the law! Listen!



    --Then all parties, I have no doubt, will be able to work together in harmony…Further reuniting us beyond all power of disruption will be the ratification of the 13th amendment. This amendment removes slavery, and makes of us once more a united people, renewed and strengthened, bound more than ever to mutual affection and support. With this amendment adopted, the Southern states will resume their place in Congress and thereby complete the work of restoration. We can now proclaim, “The Constitution as it is! The Union as it was!”


    ENSEMBLE  (Pro-Johnson)

    Cheers and whistles. 



    I must address the president’s comments about the land given to the freedmen. It is property seized from the rebels, the plantation owners who made their wealth from the labor of the human beings they enslaved. Then they committed treason, starting a long war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives of people loyal to our country. In my judgment, we shall not even approach justice until we have given every adult freedman a homestead on the land where he was born and toiled and suffered. Until they have this, we shall receive – and we deserve-- the censure of mankind and the curse of Heaven. 



    Cheering and whistles interrupt Stevens.


    STEVENS (Con’t.) 

    --Now I want to discuss representation. Under the president’s policy of Restoration, every rebel state will send rebel representatives to Congress -- former slaveholders, secessionists and traitors, and they will control Congress and the White House. This is another reason we cannot let Andrew Johnson’s Restoration plan prevail!  Instead let us build on the broad platform of “reconstructing” the government out of the conquered territory into new and free states where every person, regardless of race, shares equally in the fruits of liberty. Together let us fight this last and greatest battle for freedom!


    Supporters of both Stevens and Johnson in the crowd break into yells, cheers, whistles, and shouts of “Stevens!” and “Johnson!”

    Light down. Spot up on Soldier downstage.


    My family, we come here poor from Ireland – County Kilkenny to be exact – and nobody never gave us nothing. My dad died from the coal mining, I’m sure of it. Coughed his way to the grave. Our mum brought us – all 8 kids – to New York to save us from that. We lived in the Five Points – the dumps --  until she died of the cholera. I didn’t want to go to war, but I had no good work, so I figured why not go. My pals were signing up and I went with them. Don’t get me wrong – I got nothing against the Negroes... I never went near them draft riots during the war. They was killing people, especially the coloreds, and then it spread. It wasn’t right. But I can understand – the rich folk paid $300 and their boys got off. It’s always like that, ain’t it? The rich start the war, the poor fight it. I can’t explain how those riots got so out of hand.  Something just exploded in the poor whites, feeling like there wasn’t nothing for us.  

    Beat. Soldier puts his canteen away and straightens his uniform, preparing to exit.


    SOLDIER (Con’t.)

    I’m sick of the Radicals. I didn’t fight for the Union to see the blacks take over and run this country, but that’s the way things are going, if you ask me. Slavery was wrong,  but now it’s over. They got their freedom, now let ‘em go out and work -- become real Americans.


    Blackout. Soldier exits.


    Now's The Time Video: Lesson Two

    Now's The Time Video: Lesson Two