August 5, 1867
President Lincoln began his
memorable address at the dedication of the
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a New Nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
This was Abraham Lincoln’s opinion of what was accomplished and what was meant by the Declaration of Independence. His idea was that it gave birth to a Nation, and that it dedicated that Nation to equal rights.
Now, so far as the performance of duty in the present condition of our country is concerned, “this is the whole law and the prophets.” The United States are not a confederacy of independent and sovereign States, bound together by a mere treaty or compact, but the people of the United States constitute a Nation, having one flag, one history, “one country, one constitution, one destiny.” Whoever seeks to divide this Nation into two sections—into a North and a South, or into four sections, according to the cardinal points of the compass, or into thirty of forty independent sovereignties—is opposed to the Nation, and the Nation’s friends should be opposed to him.
“The unity of government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. . . .The name of American, which belongs to you in your National capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have, in a common cause, fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels and joint efforts—of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”
The sentiment of Nationality is
the sentiment of the Declaration of Independence; it is the sentiment of the
fathers; it is the sentiment which carried us through the war of the Revolution, and through the war of the late Rebellion; and
it is a sentiment which the people of the
The great idea to which the Nation, according to Mr. Lincoln, was dedicated by the fathers is expressed in the Declaration in these familiar phrases: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
An intelligent audience will not wish to hear discussion as to the import of these sentences. Their language is simple, their meaning plain, and their truth undoubted. The equality declared by the fathers was not an equality of beauty, of physical strength, or of intellect, but an equality of rights. Foolish attempts have been made by those who hate the principles of the fathers to destroy the great fundamental truth of the Declaration, by limiting the application of the phrase “all men” to the men of a single race.
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most
sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people, who never
offended him, capturing and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere,
or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of
infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of
In this sentence the word “men”
is written by
Unfortunately for our country, that King, and others who “waged cruel war against human nature itself,” had already succeeded in planting in the bosom of American society an element implacably hostile to human rights, and destined to become the enemy of the Union, whenever the American people, in their National capacity, should refuse assent to any measures which the holders of slaves should deem necessary or even important for the security or prosperity of their “peculiar institution.”
I need not, upon this occasion, repeat what is now familiar history—how, by the invention of the cotton-gin, and the consequent enormous increase of the cotton crop, slave labor in the cotton States, and slave breeding in the Northern slave States, became so profitable that the slaveholders were able, for many years, largely to influence, if not control, every department of the National Government. The slave power became something more than a phrase—it was a definite, established, appalling fact. The Missouri controversy, South Carolina nullification, the Texas controversy, the adoption of the comprise measures of 1850, and the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854, were all occasions when the country was compelled to see the magnitude, the energy, the recklessness, and the arrogance of the slave power.
Precisely when the men who
wielded that power determined to destroy the
Great political parties, whether sectional or otherwise, do not come by accident, nor are they the invention of political intrigue. A faction born of a clique may have some strength at one or two elections, but the wisest political wire-workers can not, by merely “taking thought,” create a strong and permanent party. The result of the Philadelphia Convention lat summer probably taught this truth to the authors of that movement. Great political movements always have some adequate cause.
Now, on what did the conspirators
who plotted the destruction of the
In a country where discussion was
free, sooner or later, parties were sure to be formed on the issues presented
by the slaveholders. The supporters of
At last the crisis came. In 1860, Mr. Lincoln, who was unfriendly to
slavery and faithful to the
Prior to 1860 the party calling itself Democratic had gathered under one name and one organization almost the whole of the secessionists of the South, and a large body of the people of the North, many of whom had no sympathy either with secession or slavery. In 1860 the secessionists were so arrogant in their demand that the great body of the Democratic party in the North refused to yield to them, and supported Mr. Douglass in opposition both to Mr. Lincoln, and to the disunion and slavery candidate, Mr. Breckinridge. But it was well known that many leading Democrats who supported Mr. Douglass leaned strongly toward the southern Calhoun democracy, and that their sympathies were with slaveholding, or at least with slaveholders.
The evidence of this is
abundantly furnished in their recorded opinions. The most distinguished and perhaps the most
influential Democrat now actively engaged in politics in
You will recollect how far the slaveholders had progressed in their great rebellion at that date. Mr. Pendleton himself says:
“To-day, sir, four States of this Union have, so far as their power
extends, seceded from it. Four States,
as far as they are able, have annulled the grants of power made to the Federal
Government; they have resumed the powers delegated by the Constitution; they
have canceled, so far as they could, every limitation upon the full exercise of
all their sovereign rights. They do not
claim our protection; they ask no benefit from our laws; they seek none of the
advantages of the confederation. On the
other hand, they renounce their allegiance; they repudiate our authority over
them, and they assert that they have assumed—some of them that they have
resumed—their position among the family of sovereignties, among the nations of
the earth. . . . To-day, even while I am speaking,
Mr. Pendleton might also have said that prior to that date, forts, arsenals, dock-yards, mints, and other places and property belonging to the United States, had been seized by organized and armed bodies of rebels; the collection of debts due in the South to Northern creditors had been stopped; South Carolina had declared any attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter by the United States would be regarded by the State as an act of hostility against her and equivalent to a declaration of war; the Star of the West, an unarmed vessel, with the American flag floating at her mast-head, carrying provisions to the famishing garrison of Fort Sumter, had been fired on and driven from Charleston harbor; in short, at that date the rebels were engaged in actual war against the Nation, and the only reason why blood had not been shed was that the National government had failed in its duty to defend the Nation’s property, and to maintain the sacredness of the National flag.
At that crisis Mr. Pendleton
delivered and sent forth a speech bearing this significant motto: “But, sir, armies, money, blood, can not
“Now, sir, what force of arms can compel a State to do that which she has agreed to do? What force of arms can compel a State to refrain from doing that which her State government, supported by the sentiment of her people, is determined to desist in doing. . . Sir, the whole scheme of coercion is impracticable. It is contrary to the genius and spirit of the Constitution.”
These extracts sufficiently and fairly show Mr. Pendleton’s notion of the duty and authority of the Nation in that great crisis. He held the States rights doctrines of Calhoun and Breckinridge, and not the National principles of Washington and Jackson.
As to the treatment of rebels already in arms, and as to the “demands” of the slave power, consider this advice which he gave to Congress and the people:
“If these Southern States can not be conciliated; if you, gentlemen, can not find it in your hearts to grant their demands, if they must leave the family mansion, I would signalize their departure by tokens of love; I would bid them farewell so tenderly that they would be forever touched by the recollection of it; and if in the vicissitudes of their separate existence they should desire to come together with us again in one common government, there should be no pride to be humiliated, there should be no wound inflicted by my hand to be healed. They should come and be welcome to the places they now occupy.”
Thus we see there were those who, with honeyed phrases and soft words, would have looked smilingly on, while the great Republic—the pride of her children, the hope of the ages—built by fathers at such an expense of suffering, of treasure, and of blood, was stricken by traitors’ hands from the roll of living Nations, and while an armed oligarchy should establish in its stead a nation founded on a denial of human rights, and under whose sway south of the Potomac more than half of the territory of the old Thirteen Colonies—soil once fertilized by the best blood of the Revolution—should, for generations to come, continue to be tilled by the unrequited toil of slaves.
The best known, the boldest, and
perhaps the ablest leader of the peace Democracy in the North is Mr.
Vallandigham. He was chairman of the
committee on resolutions in the last Democratic State Convention in
“And now let me add that I did say, . . . in a public speech, at the
Cooper Institute, on the 2d of November, 1860, that if any one or more of the
States of this Union should at any time secede, for reasons of the sufficiency
and justice of which, before God and the great tribunal of history, they alone
may judge, much as I should deplore it, I never would, as a representative in
Congress of the United States, vote one dollar of money whereby one drop of
American blood should be shed in a civil war. . . . And I now deliberately
repeat and reaffirm it, resolved, though I stand alone, though all others yield
and fall away, to make it good to the last moment of my public life.” Here was another strong man of large
influence solemnly pledged to allow the
On the 23d of January, 1861, the Democratic party held a State Convention at Columbus. Remember, at that date the air was thick with threats of war from the South. The rebels were organizing and drilling; arms robbed from the National arsenals were in their hands; and the question upon all minds was whether the Republic should perish without having a single blow struck in her defense, or whether the people of the loyal North should rise as one man, prepared to wage war until treason and, if need be, slavery went down together. On this question, that convention was bound to speak. Silence was impossible. There were present war Democrats and peace Democrats, but the superior numbers, or more probably the superior tactics and strategy, of the peace men triumphed.
The present candidate of the Democratic party for Governor of Ohio, Judge Thurman, a gentleman of character and ability, a distinguished lawyer and judge, and a politician of long experience, succeeded in passing through the convention this resolution:
“Resolved, That the two hundred thousand Democrats of Ohio send to the people of the United States, both North and South, greeting; and when the people of the North shall have fulfilled their duties to the constitution and to the South, then, and not until then, will it be proper for them to take into consideration the question of the right and propriety of coercion.”
In support of this famous resolution, Judge Thurman addressed the convention, and, among other things, is reported to have said:
“A man is deficient in understanding who thinks the cause of disunion is
that the South apprehended any overt act of oppression in
When we reflect on what the rebels had done and what they were doing when this resolution was passed, it seems incredible that sane men, having a spark of patriotism, could for one moment have tolerated its sentiments. The rebels had already deprived the United States of its jurisdiction and property in about one-fourth of its inhabited territory, and were rapidly extending their insurrection so as to include within the rebel lines all of the slave States. The lives and property of Union citizens in the insurgent States were at the mercy of traitors, and the National flag was everywhere torn down, and shameful indignities and outrages heaped upon all who honored it.
This resolution speaks of fulfilling the duties of the people of the North to the South. The first and highest duty of the people of the North to themselves, to the South, to their country, and to God, was to crush the rebellion. All speeches and resolutions against either the right or the propriety of coercion merely gave encouragement, “moral aid and comfort,” more important than powder and ball, to the enemies of the Nation.
Do I state too strongly the mischievous, the fatal tendency of these proceedings? The resolution adopted by the peace Democracy of Ohio is addressed in terms “to the people of all the States, North and South,” and in fact was sent, I am informed, to the governors of all the States.
In the South, Union men were
laboring by every means in their power to prevent secession. Their most cogent argument was that the
National government would defend itself by war against rebellion. To this, the rebel reply was, “There will be
no war. Secession will be peaceable. The
peace party of the North will prevent coercion.
If there is fighting, it will be as Ex-President Pierce writes to
Jefferson Davis, ‘The fighting will not be along Mason and
For the evidence of the
correctness of this opinion, the rebels could point confidently to such speeches
and resolutions as those we are now considering. Governor Orr, of
“I know there is an apprehension widespread in the North and West that, after the reconstruction of the Southern States, we shall fall into the arms of our old allies and associates, the old Democratic party. I say to you, gentlemen, however, that I would give no such pledges. We have accounts to settle with that party, gentlemen, before I, at least, will consent to affiliate with it. Many of you will remember that, when the war first commenced, great hopes and expectations were held out by our friends in the North and West that there would be no war, and that if it commenced, it would be North of Mason and Dixon’s line, and not in the South.”
Without pausing to inquire how much strength accrued to the rebellion in its earlier stages by the encouragement it received from sympathizers in the North, let us pass on to the spring and summer of 1861, after the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, and when the armies of the Union and of the rebellion were facing each other upon the line of operations extending from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. The most superficial observer could not fail to discover these facts.
In the South, where slavery was
strongest, the rebellion was strongest.
Where there were few slaveholders, there were few rebels.
The counterpart of this was found
everywhere in the North. In counties and
districts where the majority of the people had been accustomed to defend or
excuse the practice of slaveholding and the aggressions of the slaveholders,
there was much sympathy with the rebellion and strong opposition to the
war. Men who abused and hated negroes did not usually hate rebels. On the other hand, anti-slavery counties and
districts were quite sure to be
They believed, with Douglass, in the last letter he ever wrote, that “it was not a party question, nor a question involving partisan policy; it was a question of government or no government, country or no country, and hence it became the imperative duty of every Union man, every friend of constitutional liberty, to rally the support of our common country, its government and flag, as the only means of checking the progress of revolution, and of preserving the Union of the States.”
They believed the words of
Douglass’ last speech: “This is no time for a detail of causes. The conspiracy is now known. Armies have been raised,
war is levied to accomplish it. There
are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the
As the war progressed, the great
political parties of the country underwent important changes, both of
organization and policy. In the North,
the Republican party, the great body of the American
At the beginning of the war, the
creed of the Union party consisted of one idea—it labored for one object—the
restoration of the
Slowly, gradually, after repeated disasters and disappointments, the eyes of the Union leaders were opened to the fact that slavery and rebellion were convertible items; that the Confederacy, according to its Vice-President, Alexander H. Stephens, was founded upon “exactly the opposition idea” from that of Jefferson and the fathers. “Its foundations,” said he, “are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” Mr. Lincoln and the Union party, struggling faithfully onward, finally reached the solid ground that the American government was founded on the broad principles of right, justice, and humanity, and that, for this Nation, “Union and liberty” were indeed “one and inseparable.”
The leaders of the peace
Democracy were for a time overwhelmed by the popular uprising which followed
the attack on
Their success in the autumn
elections of 1862 encouraged them to enter upon the pathway in which they have
plodded along consistently if not prosperously ever since. Opposition to the war measures of Mr.
Lincoln’s administration, and in particular to every measure tending to the
enfranchisement and elevation of the African race, became their settled
policy. By this policy they were placed
in harmony with their former associates, the rebels of the South. The rebels were fighting to destroy the
The abolition of slavery in the
I need not go beyond the record
of leaders of the Ohio Democracy of to-day for proof what I am saying. Mr. Pendleton, usually so
gentlemanly and prudent in speech, lost his balance after the victories of the
peace Democracy in 1862. At the
Democratic jubilee in
“I came up to see if there were any Butternuts in
Of course, Mr. Pendleton was applauded by his audience; and he returned to his place in the House of Representatives at Washington prepared to give expression to his views with the same plainness and boldness which marked the utterances of his colleague, Mr. Vallandigham.
On the 31st of
January, 1863, he made an elaborate speech against the enlistment of negroes into the service of the
“I should be false to you, my fellow-representatives, if I did not tell you that there is an impression, growing with great rapidity, upon the minds of the people of the Northwest that they have been deliberately deceived into this war—that their patriotism and love of country have been engaged to call them into the army, under the pretense that the war was to be for the Union and the Constitution, when, in fact, it was to be an armed crusade for the abolition of slavery. I tell you, sir, that unless this impression is speedily arrested it will become universal; it will ripen into conviction, and then it will be beyond your power to get from their broad plains another man, or from their almost exhausted coffers another dollar.”
In the same speech he says:
“I said two years ago, on this floor, that armies, money, war can not
Need I pause to inquire who would receive encouragement, or whose spirits would be depressed, on reading these remarkable sentences? Imagine them read by the rebel camp-fires, or at the firesides of the rebel people. What hope, what exultation we should behold in the faces of those who heard them! On the other hand, at Union camp-fires, or by the loyal fire-sides of the North, what sorrow, what mortification, what depression such statements would surely carry wherever they were heard and believed!
The course of the peace Democracy of Ohio during the memorable contest of 1863, between Brough and Vallandigham, is too well known to require attention now. Judge Thurman was one of the committee who constructed the platform of the convention which nominated Mr. Vallandigham, and was the ablest member of the Senate Central Committee which had charge of the canvass in his behalf during his exile.
The key-note to that canvass was
given by Mr. Vallandigham himself in a letter written from
“If this civil war is to terminate only by the subjugation or submission of the South to force and arms, the infant of to-day will not live to see the end of it. No, in another way only can it be brought to a close. Traveling a thousand miles and more, through nearly half of the Confederate States, and sojourning for a time at widely different points, I met not one man, woman, or child, who was not resolved to perish rather than yield to the pressure of arms, even in the most desperate extremity. And whatever may and must be the varying fortune of the war, in all which I recognize the hand of Providence pointing visibly to the ultimate issue of this great trial of the States and people of America, they are better prepared now every way to make good their inexorable purpose than at any period since the beginning of the struggle. These may be unwelcome truths; but they are addressed only to candid and honest men.”
The assumption of the certain
success of the rebellion, and that the war for the
In the elections of 1863, the
peace Democracy of Ohio and other States sustained defeats which have no
parallel in our political history. But,
notwithstanding their reverses, the year 1864, the year of the presidential
election, found the
At the National Convention at
“Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that, after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under pretense of military necessity, or war power higher than the constitution, the constitution has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private rights have been alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of all the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.”
This resolution does not seem to
require explanation or comment. But as
General McClellan’s letter accepting the nomination for president did not
square well with this part of the party platform, Mr. Vallandigham, in a speech
“I am speaking now
of the fact that this convention pronounced this war a failure,
and giving you the reasons why it is a failure. . . . What has been gained by
this campaign? More lives have been
lost, more hard fighting has been done, more courage
has been exhibited by the Federal as well as the Southern soldiers than in any
former campaign, and what has been accomplished? General Grant is nearer to
“What will you have now? Four years
more of war? What guaranties of success
have you? Do you want two million more
of men to go forth to this war as the Crusaders went to the sepulcher at
All this logic, this eloquence, this taxing the imagination to portray the horrors of war, failed to deceive the people; Lincoln was re-elected; the war went on, and a few short months witnessed the end of the armed rebellion, and the triumph of liberty and of Union.
Now came the work of reconstruction. The leaders of the Peace Democracy, who had failed in every measure, in every plan, in every opinion, and in every prediction relating to the war, were promptly on hand, and with unblushing cheek were prepared to take exclusive charge of the whole business of reorganization and reconstruction. They had a plan all prepared—a plan easily understood, easily executed, and which they averred would be satisfactory to all parties. Their plan was in perfect harmony with the conduct and history of its authors and friends during the war. They had been in very close sympathy with the men engaged in the rebellion, while their sympathy for loyal white people at the South was not strong, and they were bitterly hostile to loyal colored people both North and South. Their plan was consistent with all this.
According to it, the rebels were to be treated in the same manner as if they had remained loyal. All laws, State and National, all orders and regulations of the military, naval, and other departments of the government, creating disabilities on account of participation in the rebellion, were to be repealed, revoked, or abolished. The rebellious states were to be represented in Congress by the rebels without hindrance from any test oath. All appointments in the army, in the navy, and in the civil service, were to be made from men who were rebels, on the same terms as from men who were loyal. The people and governments in the rebellious States were to be subjected to no other interference or control from the military or other departments of the general government than exists in the States which remain loyal. Loyal white men and loyal colored men were to be protected alone in those States by State laws, executed by State authorities, as if they were in the loyal States.
There were to be no amendments to
the constitution, not even an amendment abolishing slavery. In short, the great rebellion was to be
ignored or forgotten, or, in the words of one of their orators, “to be
generously forgiven.” The war, whose
burdens, cost, and carnage they had been so fond of exaggerating, suddenly sank
into what the Rev. Petroleum V. Nasby calls “the late unpleasantness,” for
which nobody but abolitionists were to blame.
Under this plan the States could soon re-establish slavery where it had
been disturbed by the war. Jefferson
But the loyal people, who under
the name of the Union party fought successfully through the war of the
rebellion, objected to this plan as wrong in principle, wrong in its details,
and fatally wrong as an example for the future.
It treats treason as no crime and loyalty as no virtue; it contains no
guarantees, irreversible or otherwise, against another rebellion by the same
parties and on the same grounds. It
restores to political honor and power in the government of the Nation men who
have spent the best part of their lives in plotting the overthrow of that
government, and who for more than four years levied public war against the
United States; it allows Union men in the South, who have risked all—and many
of whom have lost all but life in upholding the Union cause—to be excluded from
every office, State and National, and in many instances to be banished from the
State they so faithfully labored to save; it abandons the four millions of
colored people to such treatment as the ruffian class of the South,
In the meantime, President
Johnson having declared that “the rebellion, in its revolutionary progress, had
deprived the people of the rebel States of all civil government,” proceeded by
military power to set up provisional State governments in those States, and to
require them to declare void all ordinances of secession, to repudiate the
rebel debt, and to adopt the thirteenth amendment of the constitution, proposed
by the Union party, abolishing slavery throughout the United States. The Peace Democracy opposed all condition,
and, instinctively unsound upon human rights, opposed the amendment abolishing
slavery. The elections of 1865 settled
that question against them, and deprived them of
At the session of Congress of 1865-66, the president, finding that his co-called State governments in the rebel States—created by military power alone and without the sanction of the legislative power of the government—had accepted his conditions; insisted that those States were fully restored to their former proper relations with the general government, and that they were again entitled to representation in the same manner with the loyal States. This plan accorded with the wishes of all unrepentant rebels, and as a matter of course received the support of their allies of the Peace Democracy.
The Union party, at the sacrifice of all of the power and patronage of the administration they had elected, firmly opposed and finally defeated this project. They required, before the complete restoration of the rebel States, that the fourteenth amendment of the constitution should be adopted, which was framed to secure civil rights to the colored people, equal representation between the free States and the former slave States, the disqualification for office of leading rebels, the payment of the loyal obligations to creditors, to maimed soldiers, and to widows and orphans, and the repudiation of the rebel debt, and of claims to payment for slaves. On the adoption of this amendment turned the elections of 1866. After the amplest debates before the people the Union party carried the country in favor of the amendment, electing more than three-fourths of the members of the House of Representatives. They also secured the adoption of the amendment in twenty-one out of the twenty-four States now represented, which have acted upon it by an average vote in the State legislature of more than four to one.
In striking contrast with this
was the action of the rebel States.
Now, in what condition were those ten rebel States? In the first place all political power in those States was in the hands of rebels, and for the most part of leading and unrepentant rebels. Their governors, their members of legislature, their judges, their county and city officers, and their members of Congress, with rare exceptions, were rebels. Such was their political condition.
What was their condition with respect to the preservation of order, the suppression of crime, and the redress of private grievances? After the suppression of the rebellion the next plain duty of the National government was to see that the lives, liberty, and property of all classes of citizens were secure, and especially to see that the loyal white and colored citizens who resided or might sojourn in those States did not suffer injustice, oppression, or outrage because of their loyalty. Loyal men, without distinction of race or color, were clearly entitled to the full measure of protection usually found in civilized countries, if in the nature of things it was possible for the Nation to furnish it.
Inquiring as to the condition of things in the South, I waive the uniform current of information derived from the press and other unofficial sources from all parts of the South, and rely exclusively on the official reports of army officers like Grant, Thomas, Sheridan, and Howard—officers of clear heads, of strong sense, and of spotless integrity, whose business it is to know the facts, and who all united in warning the Nation that Union men, either white or colored, were not safe in the South.
General Grant says that the class at the South who “will acknowledge no law but force” is sufficiently formidable to justify the military occupation of that territory.
General Sheridan, in an official
report, says the “trial of a white man for the murder of a freedman in Texas
would be a farce; and, in making this statement, I make it because truth
compels me, and for no other reason. . . . Over the killing of many freedmen
nothing is done.” General Sheridan cites
cases in which our National soldiers wearing the uniform of the Republic have
been deliberately shot “without provocation” by citizens, and the grand jury
refused to find a bill against the murderers.
General Ord reports in Arkansas fifty-two murders of freed persons by white men in the past three or four months, and no reports have been received that the murderers have been imprisoned or punished. . . . The number of murders reported is not half the number committed.” [sic]
General Sickles says that in South Carolina, “in certain counties, such as Newberry, Edgecombe, and Laurens, so much countenance was given to outrages on freedmen by the indifference of the civil authorities and by the population, who made themselves accomplices in the crimes, that other measures became necessary.”
General Sheridan, speaking of
General Thomas, in February last,
in relation to the display of the rebel flag in Rome, Georgia, said: “The sole
cause of this and similar offenses lies in the fact that certain citizens of
Rome, and a portion of the people of the States lately in rebellion, do not and
have not accepted the situation, and that is that the late civil war was a
rebellion, and history will so record it. . . . Everywhere in the States lately
in rebellion treason is respectable and loyalty odious. This the people of
Upon these official reports, showing not merely that atrocious crimes were everywhere committed against loyal people, but that the civil authorities did not even attempt to prevent them by the punishment of the perpetrators, it became the plain duty of Congress to adopt measures “to enforce peace and good order in the rebel States, until loyal and Republican State governments could be legally established.” How well this duty was performed will appear from a brief examination of the reconstruction acts which were passed by Congress in March last, and by the auspicious results which followed their adoption and execution.
By these acts, the ten rebel States were divided into five military districts, subject to the military authority of the United States; and it was made the duty of the president to assign military officers, not below the rank of brigadier-general, to command each of said districts, and to detail a sufficient military force to enable such officers to perform their duties. The duties of military commanders were defined as follows, in the 3d section of the act:
“SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of each officer assigned as aforesaid, to protect all persons in their rights of person and property, to suppress insurrection, disorder, and violence, and to punish, or cause to be punished, all disturbers of the public peace and criminals; and to this end he may allow local civil tribunals to take jurisdiction of and to try offenders; or when, in his judgment, it may be necessary for the trial of offenders, he shall have power to organize military commissions or tribunals for that purpose; and all interference, under color of State authority, with the exercise of military authority under this act shall be null and void.”
The act also sets forth the
manner in which the people of any one of the rebel States could form a State
constitution, and the terms on which the State would be fully restored to
proper relations with the
In pursuance of these acts, the district of Louisiana and Texas was placed under the command of General Sheridan; Arkansas and Mississippi under General Ord; Alabama, Georgia, and Florida under General Pope; North Carolina and South Carolina under General Sickles; and Virginia under General Schofield. The merits of this plan are obvious.
1. It places the rebels again under the control of the power which conquered them, and of the very officers to whom they surrendered.
2. It is well calculated to afford protection to all loyal people, white or colored, against those who would oppress or injure them on account of their loyalty.
3. It places the new State governments of the South upon the solid basis of justice and equal rights.
This plan received in Congress the support of many members of Congress who did not uniformly vote with the Union party, and was acceptable to some of its most distinguished adversaries. In the Senate, Reverdy Johnson, a Maryland Democrat, voted for it, and made effective speeches in its support. The loyal press of the North, without exception, upheld it.
In the South, its success was everywhere gratifying and unexampled. Its enemies had said that it would organize anarchy in the rebel States—that it would immediately inaugurate a war of races between whites and blacks—and compared the condition of the South under it to the condition of India under English oppression, and to Hungary under the despotism of Austria.
But the course of the public press, and the conduct, the letters, and speeches of public men in the rebel States, vindicated the wisdom and justice of the measure. I will quote only from rebel sources.
“FOR WHITE FOLKS AND COLORED FOLKS.—Every colored person may now go where and when he pleases. He is a free man and a full citizen. This is not all; by another bound they have become voters. They will take part in the government of the country. No people was ever so suddenly, so rapidly lifted up.
“Shall we all live happily together, or shall we hate each other, and quarrel and bear malice?
“Let us all try and get on together. The land is big enough. Let the whites accommodate themselves to the new state of things. Let them be polite and kind to all, and be always ready to accord to every man, whether white or colored, his full rights. We make bold to say that the behavior of the colored people of this State, since they were set free, has surprised all fair-minded white people. We do not believe the white people, under the same circumstances, would have behaved so well by twenty per cent. They have shown the greatest moderation. They have passed from plantation hands to freedom and the ballot without outward excitement.”
“This class of our population, as a general thing, manifest a disposition to prepare themselves for the altered political condition in which the events of the past two years have placed them. The sudden abolition of slavery did not, as most persons expected, turn their heads. They have been, in the main, orderly and well behaved. They have not presumed upon their newly-acquired freedom to commit breaches of the peace or to be guilty of any acts calculated to sow dissension between the two races. The utmost good feeling is felt by the white people of this city toward the negroes. There is not one particle of bitterness felt for them.”
“There is one other point on which there should be no misunderstanding as to our position—no loop on which to hang a possible misconstruction as to our views—and that is the abolition of slavery. The deed has been done, and I, for one, do honestly declare that I never wish to see it revoked. Nor do I believe that the people of the South would now remand the negro to slavery, if they had the power to do so unquestioned.
“Under our paternal care, from a mere handful, he grew to be a mighty host. He came to us a heathen; we made him a Christian. Idle, vicious, savage in his own country, in ours he became industrious, gentle, civilized. As a slave, he was faithful to us; as a freedman, let us treat him as a friend. Deal with him frankly, justly, kindly, and, my word for it, he will reciprocate your kindness. If you wish so see him contented, industrious, useful, aid him in his efforts to elevate himself in the scale of civilization, and thus fit him not only to enjoy the blessings of freedom, but to appreciate his duties.”
After stating the provisions of the “military bill,” as he calls the reconstruction law, he said to the colored people:
“But suppose the bill is pronounced unconstitutional; how then? I tell you what I am willing to see done. I am willing to give the right of suffrage to all who can read and who pay a certain amount of taxes; and I agree that this qualification shall bear on white and black alike. You would have no right to complain of a law which would put you on a perfect political equality with the whites, and which would put within your reach and that of your children the privilege enjoyed by any class of citizens.”
“We freely accept the
The Augusta Press,
alluding to the recent meeting of negroes at
“All good citizens all over the South entertain precisely the same kind feelings for the colored people that were exhibited by these eminent Carolinians, and it is unfortunate that these sentiments are not more widely manifested in meetings for public counsel with them. ‘Representative men’ in every community should be prompt and earnest in signifying their wish to co-operate with the colored people in the administration of the laws and the preservation of harmony and good will. To this end, we deem it our duty to urge that in every community public meetings be held, in which the two races may take friendly counsel together.”
In Florida, Hon. R.S. Mallory, a former Democratic United States Senator, is reported to have said, at a large meeting composed of whites and blacks, in Pensacola, that—
“The recent legislation of Congress ought to be submitted to in good
faith; that, as the negro was now entitled to vote, it
was the interest of the State that he should be
“Let us fully and frankly acknowledge, as well by deeds as by words, their
equality with us, before the law, and regard it as no less just to ourselves
and them than to our State and her best interests to aid in their
Governor Patton, of
“It seems to me that it is the true feeling of the Southern people to contribute their best influence in favor of an early organization of their respective States, in accordance with the requirements of the recent reconstruction act. Congress claims the right to control this whole question. In my humble judgment, it is unwise to contend longer against its power, or to struggle further against its repeatedly expressed will.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“The freedmen are now to vote the first time. We should cherish against them no ill-feeling. The elective franchise is conferred upon them; let them exercise it freely, and in their own way. No effort should be made to control their votes, except such as may tend to enable them to vote intelligently, and such as may be necessary to protect them against mischievous influences to which, from their want of intelligence, they may possibly be subjected. Above all things, we should discourage everything which may tend to generate antagonism between white and colored voters.”
“To those who think it most becoming men in my situation to keep quiet, I am free to say ‘that is very much my own opinion.’
“As I speak reluctantly, you will not be surprised if I say as little as possible.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“The negro is a fixture in this country.
He is not going out of it; he is not going to die out, and he is not
going to be driven out. Nor is his
exodus from the country desirable. I am
frank in saying if they, every one of them, could be packed in a balloon,
carried over the water, and emptied into Africa, I would not have it done,
unless, indeed, it were already arranged that the balloon should return by way
of Germany, Ireland, Scotland, etc., and bring us a return cargo of white
laborers. If the negro
is to stay here, and it is desirable to have him do so, what is the duty of the
intelligent white man toward him? Why,
“There are some laws on our statute-book respecting negroes
that are of no practical use, and will have to be done away with some day. The sooner we dispense with them the
better. But in the matter of
“The striking feature, and the one that our people should keep in view, is, that we are a conquered people. Recognizing this fact fairly and squarely, there is but one course left for wise men to pursue—accept the terms that are offered us by the conquerors. There can be no discredit to a conquered people for accepting the conditions offered by their conquerors. Nor is that any occasion for a feeling of humiliation. We have made an honest, and I hope that I may say, a creditable fight, but we have lost. Let us come forward, then, and accept the ends involved in the struggle.
“Our people earnestly desire that the constitutional government shall be re-established, and the only means to accomplish this is to comply with the requirements of the recent Congressional legislation.
. . . . . . . . . . .
“The military bill and amendments are peace offerings. We should accept them as such, and place ourselves upon them as the starting-point from which to meet future political issues as they arise.
“Like other Southern men, I naturally sought alliance with the Democratic party, merely because it was opposed to the Republican party. But, as far as I can judge, there is nothing tangible about it, except the issues that were staked upon the war and lost. Finding nothing to take hold of except prejudice, which can not be worked into good for any one, it is proper and right that I should seek some standpoint from which good may be done.”
Quotations like these from
prominent Democratic politicians, from rebel soldiers, and from influential
rebel newspapers, might be multiplied indefinitely. Enough have been given to show how completely
and how exactly the Reconstruction Acts have met the evil to be remedied in the
South. My friend, Mr. Hassaurek, in his
admirable speech at
“And, sir, this remedy at once effected the desired cure. The poor contraband is no longer the persecuted outlaw whom incurable rebels might kick and kill with impunity; but he at once became ‘our colored fellow-citizen,’ in whose well-being his former master takes the liveliest interest. Thus, by bringing the negro under the American system, we have completed his emancipation. He has ceased to be a pariah. From an outcast he has been transformed into a human being, invested with the great National attribute of self-protection, and the re-establishment of peace, and order, and security, the revival of business and trade, and the restoration of the Southern States on the basis of loyalty and equal justice to all, will be the happy results of this astonishing metamorphosis, provided the party which has inaugurated this policy remains in power to carry it out.”
The Peace Democracy generally
throughout the North oppose this measure. In
Union men do not question this
reasoning, but if it is urged as an objection to the plan of Congress, we
reply: There are now within the limits of the
They are more than
countrymen—they are citizens. Free
colored people were citizens of the colonies.
The Constitution of the
In the navy, colored American
sailors have fought side by side with white men from the days of Paul Jones to
the victory of the Kearsarge over the rebel pirate
Slaves were never voters. It was bad enough that our fathers, for the
sake of the
Our government has been called
the white man’s government. Not so. It is not the government of any class, or
sect, or nationality, or race. It is a
government founded on the consent of the governed, and Mr. Broomall, of
General Sherman was right when he
said, in his
Even our adversaries are compelled to admit the Jeffersonian rule, that “the man who pays taxes and who fights for the country is entitled to vote.”
Mr. Pendleton, in his speech
against the enlistment of colored soldiers, gave up the whole controversy. He said: “Gentlemen tell us that these
colored men are ready, with their strong arms and their brave hearts, to
maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to defend the integrity of the
The truth is,
impartial manhood suffrage is already practically decided. It is now merely a question of time. In the eleven rebel States, in five of the
New England States, and in a number of the Northwestern States, there is no
organized party able to successfully impose impartial suffrage. The Democratic party of
more than half of the States are ready to concede its justice and
“Color ought to have no more to do with the matter (voting) than
size. Only establish a right standard,
and then apply it impartially. A rule of
that sort is too firmly fixed in justice and equality to be shaken. It commends itself too clearly to the good
sentiment of the entire body of our countrymen to be successfully traversed by
objections. Once let this principle be
fairly presented to the people of the several States, with the knowledge on
their part that they alone are to have the disposal and settlement of it, and
we sincerely believe it would not be long before it would be adopted by every
State in the
“Democrats in the North, as well as the South, should be fully alive to
the importance of the new element thrust into the politics of the country. We suppose it to be morally certain that the
new constitution of the State of
“The word ‘white’ is not found in any of the original constitutions, save
only that of
“The doctrine of impartial suffrage is one of the earliest and most
essential doctrines of Democracy. It is
the affirmation of the right of every man who is made a partaker of the burdens
of the State to be represented by his own consent or vote in its
government. It is the first principle
upon which the liberties of
The plain and monstrous inconsistency and injustice of excluding one-seventh of our population from all participation in a government founded on the consent of the governed in this land of free discussion is simply impossible. No such absurdity and wrong can be permanent. Impartial suffrage will carry the day. No low prejudice will long be able to induce American citizens to deny a weak people their best means of self-protection for the unmanly reason that they are weak. Chief Justice Chase expressed the true sentiment when he said “the American Nation can not afford to do the smallest injustice to the humblest and feeblest of her children.”
Much has been said of the
antagonism which exists between the different races of men. But difference of religion, difference of
nationality, difference of language, and difference of rank and privileges are
quite as fruitful causes of antagonism and war as difference of race. The bitter strifes between Christians and
Jews, between Catholics and Protestants, between Englishmen and Irishmen,
between aristocracy and the masses are only too familiar. What causes increase and aggravate these
antagonisms, and what are the measures which diminish and prevent them, ought
to be equally familiar. Under the
partial and unjust laws of the Nations of the
Impartial suffrage secures also
The Union party believes that the
general welfare requires that measures should be adopted which will work great
changes in the South. Our adversaries
are accustomed to talk of the rebellion as an affair which began when the
To defeat this purpose, to secure
the rights of man, and to perpetuate the National Union, are the objects of the
Congressional plan of reconstruction.
That plan has the hearty support of the great generals (so far as their
opinions are known)—of Grant, of Thomas, of
In the South, as we have seen, the lessons of the war and the events occurring since the war have made converts of thousands of the bravest and of the ablest of those who opposed the National cause. General Longstreet, a soldier second to no living corps commander of the rebel army, calls it “a peace offering,” and advises the South in good faith to organize under it. Unrepentant rebels and unconverted Peace Democrats oppose it, just as they opposed the measures which destroyed slavery and saved the nation.
Opposition to whatever the Nation
approves seems to be the policy of the representative men of the Peace
Democracy. Defeat and failure comprise
their whole political history. In
laboring to overthrow reconstruction they are probably destined to further
defeat and further failure. I know not
how it may be in other States, but if I am not greatly mistaken as to the mind
of the loyal people of
They mean that the State of Ohio, in this great progress, “whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life,” shall tread no step backward.
Penetrated and sustained by a conviction that in this contest the Union party of Ohio is doing battle for the right, I enter upon my part of the labors of the canvass with undoubting confidence that the goodness of the cause will supply the weakness of its advocates, and command in the result that triumphant success which I believe it deserves.