With the death of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson took over the presidency at a time when the government was trying to establish a reconstruction policy. Lincoln and Congress had been debating different approaches to allowing the southern states full membership. Johnson, however, brought his own ideas to the argument. Everyone expected he would be hard on the planter elite, but he went the other direction. His belief was that because secession was illegal none of the states have ever left. If they had never left, why do they need readmission. He felt if they accept that secession was illegal and that slavery was over they would be accepted back. He wanted a general pardon to all but the highest of leaders and a restoration of land back to the original owners.