September 7, 1866
THE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY.
Without preface, I proceed at once to the discussion of the great question to be determined in the momentous political struggle which now engages the attention of the American people.
THE CLASSES OF PEOPLE IN REBEL STATES.
How ought the nation to deal with the people of the States lately in rebellion? No scheme of reconstruction will be found in its practical working to be humane, and just, and wise, unless it is planned with particular reference to the different elements of which the population of those States is composed. That population consists of disloyal white people, loyal white people, and loyal colored people. In the South there is a class or caste which, by its wealth, intelligence and social consideration, forms the opinions and controls the political action of the masses of the people, to an extent greater than is seen in any other part of the United States. We therefore naturally divide disloyal white people into the leaders and their followers, the masses of the people. The masses consist of ignorant and unthinking, but well-meaning people, and also of a class, which is very large in all the slave States. I mean the ruffian class. The men who, in slave-holding communities have been brutalized by the occupations which slavery made necessary. The slave-traders, the keepers of slave-pens, the slave-drivers and slave-catchers. The men who have been educated in violence and cruelty to humans beings of both sexes and of all ages. From the hostility of this class, which has lost its occupation by the freedom of the slave, the loyal people of the South need special and powerful protection.
ONLY TWO PLANS OF RECONSTRUCTION.
There are now only two plans of reconstruction before the country. The plan of those who supported the war measures of Mr. Lincoln’s administration, which may be called the Union plan, and the plan which originated with those who opposed the war measures of Mr. Lincoln, and which may be called the rebel plan. There was another plan before the country which in some of its features was like the Union plan; in others, it resembled the rebel plan, and it had some provisions peculiar to itself. This plan, which may properly be called the Administration plan, never had many supporters outside of the influence of Executive patronage, and has now been, as I shall hereafter show, for all practical purposes, abandoned.
Before discussing the details of either of the proposed plans, I ask your attention to a brief inquiry as to the leading ideas which must be embodied in any just plan. Among Union men, prior to the cessation of actual hostilities, there was no substantial difference of opinion as to the general principles on which the treatment of the people of the rebellious States ought to be based. They were announced at a very early period of the rebellion.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON’S FORMER OPINIONS.
Soon after the conspiracy to take the Southern States out of the Union had been fully developed; after our flag, floating over an unarmed vessel, carrying provisions to the garrison of Fort Sumter had been fired on, at Charleston, and after the dock-yards, arsenals and forts of the United States had been seized, but before a single blow had been struck in defense of the rights of the Nation, a Southern Senator, Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, made a speech in the Senate of the United States, in which he said: “Show me who has been engaged in these conspiracies, who has fired on our flag, who has given instructions to take our forts, and customhouses, and arsenals, and dock-yards, and I will show you a traitor. Were I President, I would do as Thomas Jefferson did in 1806 with Aaron Burr. I would have them arrested, and if convicted within the meaning and scope of the Constitution, by the eternal God I would execute them.”
I quote the former opinions of President Johnson, not for any purpose so unimportant as to show an inconsistency between his present course and his former declarations, but because what he said during the war derives significance from the fact that a Vice President, able, faithful, and every way worthy, was set aide to give place to Mr. Johnson, because he in a way so conspicuous and pronounced had given utterance to the settled convictions of the Union men of the country.
This was his definition of treason: “Treason is a crime; not a mere political difference; not a mere contest between two parties, in which one succeeded, and the other has simply failed. Surely the Constitution sufficiently defines treason. It consists in levying war against the United States, and in giving their enemies aid and comfort. With this definition, it requires no great acumen to ascertain who are traitors. When the Government of the United States does ascertain who are the intelligent and conscious traitors, the penalty should be paid.” In another speech he said: “Is he (the traitor) to participate in the work of reorganization? Shall he who brought this misery upon the State be permitted to control its destiny? I say that traitors should take a back seat in the work of restoration. I say that the traitor has ceased to be a citizen, and in joining the rebellion, has become a public enemy. He forfeited his right to vote with loyal men when he sought to destroy our Government.”
“These rebel leaders have a strong personal reason for holding out to save their necks from the halter; and these leaders must feel the power of the Government! Treason must be made odious and traitors must be punished and impoverished.”
After the war ended, and within a week after the oath of office as President had been administered to him by Chief Justice Chase, President Johnson was called on by a delegation of Indianians. The address to the President was made by a gentleman who, as the Governor of his State during the whole war, under circumstances of difficulty and danger not equalled in any other loyal State, discharged his high trust with such a patriotic devotion to duty, with ability so great and success so signal, that in a single term of office he acquired a national reputation as one of our ablest living statesmen.
In his reply to Governor Morton, President Johnson said: “In reference to what my administration will be while I occupy my present position, I must refer you to the past. And in reference to this diabolical and fiendish rebellion, all I have to do is ask you to go back and take my course in the past, and from that determine what my future will be. Mine has been but one straight-forward and unswerving course, and I see no reason now why I should depart from it.
“I have heretofore said that traitors must be made odious: that treason must be made odious; that traitors must be punished and impoverished. They must not only be punished, but their social power must be destroyed; if not they will still maintain an ascendancy, and may again become numerous and powerful, for ‘when traitors become numerous enough, treason becomes respectable.’
“While I say that the penalties of the law, in a stern and inflexible manner, should be executed upon conscious, intelligent and influential traitors—the leaders who have deceived thousands…while I say as to the leader’s punishment, I also say leniency, conciliation and amnesty as to the thousands whom they have misled and deceived.”
OPINIONS OF THE UNION PEOPLE.
These extracts from speeches of President Johnson, made before he was a candidate, while he was a candidate, and after he was elected, may be taken as containing the sentiments of the Union party. They show that at the end of the war the Union men of the country believed that sound policy in dealing with the people of the rebellious States required, as to leading rebels, punishment, exclusion from political office, and, in particular, a denial of all participation in the work of restoring civil government. As to the well-meaning rebel people, conciliation, forgiveness and pardon. As to the loyal white people, honors, political power, and especially the exclusive right to participate in restoring civil government. As to the loyal colored people, freedom, and protection in the full enjoyment of the inalienable rights of man. There were, probably, some good Union men who wanted more than this. I fear there were a few who would have been satisfied with less than this; but that I am not mistaken in my judgment as to the convictions of the great body of the Union people, of all classes, North and South in the army and at home, I ask no higher evidence than the action of our martyred President.
PRESIDENT LINCOLN’S RECONSTRUCTION.
We know that his goodness of heart seemed, sometimes, in the language of my friend Judge Johnston, “to swallow up almost every other virtue.” But, kind and forgiving as he was, in the work of reconstruction which he undertook, we do not find him far behind the popular will. I shall give only results. Mr. Lincoln reorganized, as far as circumstances allowed, five States. West Virginia, formed out of part of the rebel State of Virginia, was organized upon such principles, and by such measures, that by the votes of loyal men alone, a State government, loyal in all its branches, was established. Leading rebels were driven from the State, their property was confiscated, and the proceeds placed in the treasury of the nation. Slavery was abolished; and from that day to this West Virginia has had loyal Governors, loyal Legislatures, loyal Senators, and an unbroken delegation of loyal Representatives. She now remains as loyal as Vermont, and true to her motto—“Montana Liberi.” Her mountains are the homes of freemen. This was Mr. Lincoln’s first State. The remaining part of Virginia which was within our lines, was also organized by Mr. Lincoln, With too small a population taking part in civil government to be entitled to representation, a State government to be entitled to representation, a State government was nevertheless organized, loyal in all its branches, and loyal Senators and Representatives to Congress were elected. This is Mr. Lincoln’s second State. The most powerful State that went into rebellion, was probably Tennessee. Mr. Lincoln, by the aid of the loyal people only, reorganized the State on such principles that slavery was abolished, rebels disenfranchised, a loyal Governor and a loyal Legislature elected, and an unbroken delegation of loyal Senators and Representatives sent to Congress. Better still, she has shown her determination to continue loyal, by adopting the Union amendment to the Constitution, and is therefore the first of the States that went into the rebellion, to be restored to her proper practical relations with the Union, represented in both Houses of Congress. This was Mr. Lincoln’s third state. Arkansas was reorganized by loyal men, a loyal Governor and a loyal Legislature was elected, and although by a constituency, perhaps not sufficient in number, she elected also an unbroken loyal delegation to Congress. This is a fourth State organized by Mr. Lincoln. Louisiana was in like manner organized by Mr. Lincoln, on a loyal basis. Slavery was abolished, a free State organized, loyal in all branches of its government, and which remained loyal until after the close of Mr. Lincoln’s administration. This is a fifth state organized by Mr. Lincoln. In the reorganization of rebel States during Mr. Lincoln’s administration these facts appear. The new governments were placed in the hands of loyal men. Rebels were excluded from participation in the work of restoration. Leading rebels were banished. Slavery was abolished voluntarily, and the natural rights of the freedmen secured by appropriate legislation.
MR. JOHNSON’S RECONSTRUCTION.
After the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, the task of continuing the work of restoring civil government in the rebellious States devolved upon President Johnson. He undertook the work of reorganization in seven States. Without now stopping to inquire as to the principles on which he acted, or as to the particular measures which he adopted, let us examine the result of his labors. The first was North Carolina, an old Whig State, its population and politicians extremely conservative, opposed strongly to nullification in the days of Calhoun, were carried away by what Gen. Grant calls “the foolish notion of State rights,” a decided majority of the people hostile to rebellion at the beginning, and having a considerable number of intelligent and able men who remained steadfast in their fidelity to the Union throughout the whole war. With all these advantages for the re-establishment of a State government on a loyal basis, the result is that North Carolina has a rebel Governor, a rebel Legislature, a rebel Judiciary, and has chosen an unbroken delegation of rebel Senators and rebel Representatives to the Congress of the United States. I need not name the other six States. It is enough to say that with two or three unimportant exceptions, the history, in all its details, of North Carolina in this matter, may be read as the history of each of the other States which President Johnson undertook to reorganize. All of them have chosen for Governors men who were leading rebels, and rebels fill their legislative and judicial offices. Twelve of the fourteen United States Senators chosen by these States were leading rebels, and the men chosen to represent them in the House of Representatives stand, rebels twenty-two; men of supposed loyalty, two, and four yet to be chosen from Texas, all of whom are likely to be rebels. The restoration of two States begun by Mr. Lincoln, was continued by President Johnson, Louisiana and Virginia. Under Mr. Lincoln they had loyal Legislatures, loyal men elected to Congress. Under the plan of President Johnson both States now have rebel Legislatures and rebel Congressional delegations. At the late election in Arkansas, the loyal men elected under Mr. Lincoln have been defeated under Mr. Johnson’s policy, and the rebels now hold that State. From this it appears that the result of what is usually called the President’s policy in dealing with the people of the rebellious States, is, that in all of those States except West Virginia and Tennessee which repudiated his policy, loyal men have been compelled to take back seats, while the places of honor and of political power have been filled by rebels.
THE PRINCIPLES OF JOHNSON’S PLAN.
Having seen the result, let us now look at the plan by which it was accomplished. In the first place, how were the rebels, leaders and followers, to be treated? By the amnesty proclamation the rebel people generally were to be pardoned on taking an oath to support the Constitution and the laws and proclamations of the Government in regard to slavery, and the excepted classes, which may be taken to mean the leading rebels, were to take the same oath, and thereupon were to receive pardons, also, if the President, on special application, chose to grant them. In practice, the President has granted these pardons, so far as the public is informed, in all cases where the applicant was suspected of no other crime except merely the crime of treason. This part of the plan, therefore, was practically considered a full pardon to all rebels, leaders and followers, who would take an oath to support the present Constitution of the United States, and the proclamations abolishing slavery. The next feature of the plan was, that all pardoned rebels should participate in restoring civil government on the same terms with loyal citizens. This part of the administration plan differed from both the Union plan and the rebel plan. By the Union plan leading rebels, whether pardoned or not, can hold no office, State or national. This is a substantial difference. By the rebel plan all rebels can participate in the government on the same terms with loyal men, without any pardon at all. This is merely a formal difference. The next and most important feature of the plan we are considering, is the terms on which the rebellious States were to be fully restored to representation and to all their other practical relations with the General Government.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON REQUIRES CONDITIONS.
The President required that four principal conditions should be complied with: First—The amendment to the national Constitution, abolishing slavery should be ratified. Second—The ordinances of secession should be declared unlawful and void. Third—The rebel debt should be repudiated. Fourth—The laws of the nation should be obeyed, especially the act approved July 2, 1862, which excludes from Congress any man who took part in the rebellion. These provisions of the Administration plan differed widely and radically from the rebel plan. The friends of the rebel plan denounce all conditions as despotism and usurpation, and are particularly hostile to amendments to the Constitution, and to the oath of loyalty. On the other hand, the Union plan agrees perfectly in principle with this part of the Administration plan. The supporters of the Union plan find here the precedent for requiring Constitutional amendments as conditions and for their fixed determination sacredly maintain the loyal oath. To the first three of these conditions the rebel leaders in the South did not seriously object. Slavery had been in fact destroyed, and most of them were easily induced to ratify the constitutional amendment recognizing the fact. South Carolina, as might have been expected was, however, in the language of Mr. Seward, “querulous and unreasonable,” and with two of three of other States, annexed to her ratification her own interpretation of the meaning of the amendment. As to the second condition, the scheme of secession having failed, the ordinances passed to accomplish it were without much opposition in some form got rid of, although, it is to be observed, some of the States did not do it in the form dictated by the President. As to repudiating the rebel debt, that was in harmony with what many of these people have done with obligations of a more sacred character. But South Carolina with her accustomed “waywardness,” although the President, in his letter to Governor Perry, begged, as it were upon his knees, that she should not throw away and defeat so much that had been well done, has thus far failed to comply with this condition, giving as her reason for not doing it, that her rebel debt is “so very small!” Thus we see that the rebels generally complied with those conditions precedent of the Administration plan, which merely recognizes existing facts.
THE ELECTION OF LOYAL MEN.
We now come to the fourth condition—that which required the election as members of Congress of men who were qualified according to law. In order to understand the value and importance of this condition, let us see precisely what the law is. More than four years ago a law was passed, with the approval of President Lincoln, “excluding from Congress, and from every Federal office, all persons who voluntarily gave aid to the rebellion,” and before any man can take his seat as a member of Congress he must take the following oath:
“I, , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto; that I have neither sought, nor accepted, nor attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatever, under any authority or pretended authority in hostility to the United States; that I have not yielded a voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto. And I do further swear that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely; without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter; So help me, God.”
Obedience to this law was a condition of restoration having a higher sanction than any other the rebels were required to comply with, except obedience to the Constitution itself. It was approved, as we have seen, by President Lincoln. It was approved by President Johnson in, I know not how many speeches, addresses, letters and messages, both before and after he became President. It was approved by two different Congresses during the rebellion, and by every member of the Congress assembled since the rebellion, who professed even to belong to the Union party. It was distinctly approved by the loyal people of the country at two successive Congressional elections, and at one Presidential election. Moreover the attention of the people of the rebellious States was specially and repeatedly called to the law, and they were urged to give heed to it. President Johnson sent a dispatch, August 22, 1865, to all of his provisional Governors, in which he said: “I feel it due to you to impress upon you the importance of encouraging and strengthening to the fullest extent the men of your State, who have never faltered in their allegiance to the Government.
As late as last February, President Johnson, addressing a delegation of rebel Virginians, said: “After having passed through the great struggle in which we have been engaged, we should be placed upon much more acceptable ground in resuming all our relations to the General Government, if we presented men unmistakably and unquestionably loyal to fill the places of power.”
THE REBELS REPUDIATE THIS CONDITION.
We all remember that these rebel leaders at the end of the war were profuse of professions of returning loyalty; that they were prepared “to accept the situation in perfect good faith,” and to yield sincere and hearty obedience to the constitution and the laws. And now, how did they behave in regard to this plain requirement of the law? All the advice, expostulations, and entreaties of the President and his Secretary of State were in vain. In reply to it all these people proclaimed, by their election of Representatives and by their choice of Senators, that rather than obey the law, rather than elect Union men who could take the lawful oath, rather than be represented by men unmistakably and unquestionably loyal, they would go unrepresented altogether. In one or two of the ten States which are now unrepresented it is probable that they did not cast votes enough at the election to entitle anybody to take a seat in Congress. In the other States, as we have already seen, with a few exceptions, they elected for their Representatives and Senators leading rebels, the leader and chief spokesman of whom is a pardoned prisoner and an unpardoned traitor, who held a higher civil office in the late Confederate States Government than any other man except Jefferson Davis.
THE LAW, NOT CONGRESS, DENIES REPRESENTATION TO REBELS.
We often hear from unthinking or uncandid people that Congress prevents ten States from having their due representation in Congress. Even General Dix said something of this sort at Philadelphia. Senator Hendricks, of Indiana, strongly partisan as he is, is compelled to admit, in the elaborate speech he lately delivered at the capital of his State, and I quote his words, that “rebels are not excluded by the action of the present Congress; they stand excluded by the law.” If every man duly elected from the rebel States, claiming to have been loyal, was admitted to a seat in Congress, more than nine-tenths of those States and of their people, would still be wholly unrepresented. There is much talk of taxation without representation. The truth is that these people deprived themselves of representation by going into the rebellion, and now, actuated by the same spirit as they were then, they continue to deprive themselves of that right by refusing to obey the law.
THE REBELS DEMAND CONDITIONS.
Certain conditions were required of these people. They comply with some of them. As to this essential condition—obedience to the law of the country—they refuse compliance; they become exacting; they become arrogant; they say, by their conduct, to the Government and to the loyal people of the country: We are the conquerors; we make conditions; it is for us to dictate terms. If you wish the proper relations between us and the Union to be fully restored you must change your law. We will not consent to be represented in your Congress except by men whom you call traitors. If you want your Union restored we demand that you repeal the law which prescribes the loyal oath. You must allow rebels to take part in the work of restoration.
MASSACHUSETTS LED CAPTIVE BY SOUTH CAROLINA.
South Carolina, making this arrogant demand, goes to Philadelphia, and strangely enough finds Massachusetts men ready to do her bidding. To celebrate their victory the delegates of South Carolina lock arms with their captives from Massachusetts and parade them in triumph amid storms of applause, in the hall filled with rebels and rebel sympathizers. It is possible that South Carolina was truly represented on that occasion, but the world well knows that “Old Massachusetts,” the Massachusetts of Lexington, of Concord and of Bunker Hill, was not there. It may be that hereafter, when repentance and forgiveness have restored peace and harmony to our country, that, in some distant day, some man who represented South Carolina in that scene may represent her again in the Union; but it is pleasant to know that the men who there disgraced Massachusetts will never be called by her people to fill any office of dignity or power while the sun shines or water runs.
THE LAW EXCLUDING REBELS FROM OFFICE.
The rebellious people of the South having, with such great unanimity, refused to elect Senators and Representatives to Congress who were qualified according to law as the Administration plan required, the question at once arose: Who shall yield—the nation or the rebels; the victors or the vanquished? The peace party of the North, under the same influence which controlled it during the war, promptly took sides with the rebels. By their votes and speeches in Congress they denounced the loyal oath, declared it to be tyrannical and unconstitutional, and began, in the usual way, an agitation looking to its repeal. The Union party was equally prompt and explicit in taking sides against the rebels and in favor of the law. Upon the first opportunity after the meeting of Congress in December last, Mr. Hill, a Union member of the House from Indiana, submitted this resolution:
“Resolved, That the act of July 2, 1862, prescribing an oath to be taken and subscribed by persons elected or appointed to office under the Government of the United States before entering upon the duties of such office, is of binding force and effect on all departments of the public service, and should in no instance be dispensed with.”
A Democrat from Ohio, Mr. Finck, moved that it be tabled, which was disagreed to—yeas 32, nays 126—and the resolution was passed—every Union man save one voting for it and every Democrat voting against it. Among those voting for the resolution were Mr. Raymond, General Rousseau, and all the other members who subsequently became known as the special friends of the President. What course the President himself would pursue, was not for a long time clearly apparent. There were passages in his speeches and veto messages during the winter and spring, which, taken by themselves, indicated a purpose on his part to stand by the loyal oath. The same speeches and messages, however, contained repeated and violent attacks upon Congress for refusing representation to eleven Southern States, when it was perfectly well known by him and by the country that, with a few exceptions, those States had elected no members of either House qualified to take their seats, unless the loyal oath was repealed or disregarded. Besides, we heard neither from him or his supporters any complaint of the refractory spirit of the rebels, which has prevented them from yielding a cheerful obedience to the law. All complaints and accusations were aimed at Congress. In his annual message, the President, speaking of his policy of restoration, had said:
“I know very well that this policy is attended with some risk; that for its success it requires as least the acquiescence of the States which it concerns; that it implies an invitation to those States, by renewing their allegiance to the United States, to resume their functions as States of the Union. But it is a risk that must be taken; in choice of difficulties, it is the smallest risk; and to diminish, and, if possible, to remove all danger, I have felt it incumbent on me to assert one other power of the General Government—the power of pardon. As no State can throw a defense over the crime of treason, the power of pardon is exclusively vested in the Executive Government of the United States. In exercising that power, I have taken every precaution to connect it with the clearest recognition of the binding force of the laws of the United States.”
The President here avows his intention to exercise the pardoning power in such a way as to obtain from the rebel States their acquiescence in his policy, and their clear recognition of the binding force of the laws of the United States. And yet the prominent actors in disregarding the law which prescribes the loyal oath, including the disloyal men who sought and procured their own election as Senators and Representatives here, so far as the public knows, found no difficulty on that account, in obtaining pardons from the President. Other indications were not wanting that the tendency of the President was to yield to the demand of the rebels and their Northern allies.
THE FREEDMEN’S BUREAU BILL.
During Mr. Lincoln’s Administration there had grown up, partly under the first Freemen’s Bureau Act, and partly under military orders, sanctioned by the usages of war, a system of dealing with loyal white refugees and freedmen, which seemed necessary for their protection and safety in the existing unsettled condition of the Southern country. This system President Johnson continued until long after actual hostilities had ceased. It was deemed advisable by those charged with the administration of this system, that it should have the express authority of law. In this opinion it was understood the President concurred. A bill was accordingly prepared, having for its model the system which up to that time had been carried into effect chiefly by means of military orders. Its main provisions were not compulsory. It conferred extensive powers upon the President, which he might use or not, according to his discretion. It was not expressly limited as to the time of its continuance, but it was understood on all sides to be a temporary measure, to bridge over the period of confusion and disorder, which always follows a civil war, and until the relation between capital and free labor had been fully established in the place of the relation of master and slave. This bill was met by the President’s veto.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS BILL.
In many of the Southern States laws were enacted in regard to the punishment of freedmen, and as to their right to make contracts, to hold real estate, to sue and testify in the courts, which were of such character, that if they were enforced, the colored people would be free only in name. In several instances military commanders, with the approval of the President, have prevented the execution of these laws. In order to put an end to this sort of treatment of the freedmen, the Civil Rights Bill was proposed. It secured to colored people in the South the same rights which they enjoyed in Ohio, under a policy adopted almost twenty years ago by a Democratic legislature, and which Mr. Pendleton, in his letter on the subject, say “has been found so consistent with justice to the Negroes and the interests of the white, that no one, certainly no party, in Ohio would be willing to abandon it.” This bill was also vetoed.
THE JOHNSON PARTY OPPOSED TO THE LOYAL OATH.
The speeches and messages of the President on these bills indicated his conversion to the rebel plan of protecting Southern Unionists and freedmen—that is that they were to have such protection only as might be granted by the laws of the rebel States, administered by rebel officials. This left but one important step to take to completely commit his administration to the rebel plan of restoration, viz: to abandon the condition that Representatives and Senators from the rebel States must be, in the President’s words, “unmistakably and unquestionably loyal.” This step he has never ventured clearly and publicly to take. But the Philadelphia Convention settled that question. The fatal step has, in fact, been taken. The rebels know that they are to have their own way. The Nation is to yield. Nothing will keep rebels out of Congress but the election by the people of men determined to maintain and enforce Mr. Lincoln’s loyal oath. The Philadelphia Convention on this subject passed the following resolution:
“Fourth—We call upon the people of the United States to elect to Congress none but the men who admit the fundamental right of representation, and who will receive to seats loyal Representatives from every State in allegiance to the United States, and submit to the consideration of each House to judge of the election returns and qualifications of its own members.”
This resolution is intentionally ambiguous, but it will deceive nobody who does not wish to be deceived. The peace men and rebels, who were a large majority of that Convention, openly declare that a “loyal Representative” is one who is ready now to support the Constitution of the United States, and that no inquiry should be made as to his loyalty during the rebellion. They say that the word “loyal” refers to the present or the future, not to the past, In this sense it was adopted by the Convention, and accepted by the President and his friends. If votes can be gained by claiming that it refers to past loyalty—to loyalty during the rebellion—no doubt the claim will be made, but the simple truth is, under that resolution, Mr. Stephens, late Vice President of the rebel Confederacy, and about seventy other rebels, intend to obtain seats in the Congress of the United States.
THE REBEL PLAN.
The last remaining feature of the Administration plan of dealing with the people of the rebellious States having thus been abandoned, let us examine briefly the rebel plan. It has the support, in all its parts, of the men who during the war were peace men at the North, and rebels at the South. It has the advantage of being consistent with itself and with the previous history of its authors and friends. Those who in the North opposed the war were, during the whole struggle, in very close sympathy with the people engaged in the rebellion; their sympathy for the loyal white people was not strong, and they were bitterly hostile to the loyal colored people both North and South. Their plan is in harmony with all this. According to it, the rebels are hereafter 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, are to be repealed, revoked or abolished. The rebellious States are to be represented in Congress by the rebels they have chosen, without hindrance from any test oath. All appointments in the army, in the navy, and in the civil service, are to be made from men who were rebels on the same terms as from men who were loyal. The people 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 are to be protected alone in those States by State laws, executed by State authorities, as if they were in the loyal States. The Union party objects to this plan, because it is wrong in principle, wrong in its details, and fatally wrong as a precedent and example for the future. It treats treason as no crime, and loyalty as no virtue. 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 States they so faithfully labored to save. It abandons the four millions of loyal colored people, who lost the protection which owners give their property, when they were made free to save the nation’s life, to such treatment as the ruffian class of the South, educated in the barbarism of slavery and the atrocities of the rebellion, may choose to give them. It leaves the obligations of the nation to her creditors, and to the maimed soldiers and to the widows and orphans of the war, to be fulfilled by men who hate the cause in which those obligations were incurred. It claims to be a plan which restores the Union without requiring the conditions, but in conceding to the conquered rebels the repeal the laws important to the nation’s welfare, it grants a condition which they demand, while it denies to the loyal victors conditions which they deem of priceless value.
THE UNION PLAN.
Instead of this mode of dealing with the people of the rebellious States, the Union party presents a plan which, also, has the merit of being in perfect harmony with the opinions and history of that party during the whole war. We have already seen that the leading objects of desire with the Union party have been:
1. The removal of every relic of slavery from the Federal Constitution, and from the institutions and laws of all the States.
2. That loyalty should be respected and treason made odious.
3. That the national obligations to the patriotic people who furnished men and means to crush the rebellion should be faithfully fulfilled.
The Union party undertakes to accomplish these objects by an amendment of the national Constitution. No other form of guarantee has any title to be called irreversible. The Constitutions and laws of the States and the resolutions of conventions afford no security to the nation. They are as changeable as the wishes and purposes of the men who make them. The creditor who takes security does not leave it in the possession and control of his doubtful debtor, but places it in his own safe and keeps the key himself. The nation, accepting pledges from the States lately in rebellion, will place them in the national Constitution, where they will remain until removed by the nation’s consent. I do not stop to prove the right of the nation to require conditions clinched by constitutional amendment. Among Union men this is not an open question. Governor Cox, in his admirable speech at Columbus, said truly that every person, from the President to the humblest citizen who has claimed to belong to the Union party, has agreed that “terms involving some change in the organic law of the land must be accepted by the lately rebellious States as the condition of complete restoration.” The terms embodied in the constitutional amendment proposed by the Union party are few in number, easily understood and manifestly just.
The first two sections of the amendment get rid of the last vestige of slavery which, under the color of law, still lingers in any part of the United States. The first section is as follows:
“SECTION 1. All personal born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
This secures to any person born or naturalized in the United States the equal protection of the laws in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property. In Ohio, for twenty years, this protection has been extended to every citizen, under State laws, and notwithstanding the efforts often made by thoughtless or wicked persons to create prejudice against colored people, no political party in the State ventures to commit itself in favor of a change. No argument is therefore needed here to prove that in return for the allegiance required of every citizen of the nation, wherever oppression and unjust State legislation deprives such citizen of protection in the enjoyment of his natural rights, it is the duty of the United States to hold up before him the broad shield of the Constitution. No Union man can object to this section of the amendment.
“SECTION 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians, not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for the President and Vice-President of the United States, or the members of the legislative thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”
This removes the unjust and unequal distribution of political power between the North and South, originally caused by the constitutional provision in regard to slave representation. By that provision three-fifths of the slaves were added to the number of the other people in the slave States in ascertaining their representative population. This gave those States, by the census of 1860, eighteen more Representatives in Congress, and eighteen more votes in electing a President and Vice President than their free population would entitle them to. As those slaves are now free they will be counted the same as other people—thus the effect of the rebellion will be to reward the rebellious communities by an addition of twelve Representatives to the Southern States. Those States will then have thirty Representatives—as many as Ohio and Indiana combined—for their colored people, whom they pronounce totally and permanently unfit to be intrusted with the most paltry part of political power in their own States, counties or towns. By this system a white man, in many of the Southern States, will have as much political power as two or three white men in a Northern State. It was said at the beginning of the war, by the rebel press, that one Southern man could whip five Yankees, but the result proved that one Southern man is equal only to one Yankee, and representation ought hereafter to be established on that basis. Simple justice requires that the vast colored population of the South, who exercise no political power whatever, shall not be counted against the white population of the North for the purpose of increasing the political power of the late rebels. Let this section be adopted, and every voter in the land will have the same political power with any other voter; and this is “equal and exact justice to all.”
PERJURED TRAITORS EXCLUDED FROM OFFICE.
The third section reads as follows:
“SECTION 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or Elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof, But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
This makes loyalty respected and treason odious by disqualifying leading rebels from holding any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State; thus leaving the place of honor and power within the reach of the loyal men of the South. The form of this provision is such that it applies only to men who have taken the oath to support the Constitution and afterward broken it. These are for the most part the old political leaders—the men chiefly responsible for the rebellion. The younger men, the men under thirty or thirty-five years of age, have very few of them been guilty of this perjury. Since the winter of 1860-1861—a period of six years—no man in the rebels States has been sworn to support the Constitution of the United States on taking office. Lapse of time, therefore, will soon relieve from the operation of this section the active part of the Southern people. Men who to the guilt of treason have added, also, the guilt of perjury are to be punished by being forever excluded from office. This is the only punishment which the legislation of the last Congress seeks to inflict upon the perjured traitors who plotted the destruction of the Republic. Yet the President, who for the last five years has been breathing threatenings and slaughter against the rebels—declaring to audiences in every State from Nashville to Washington, that leading rebels must be executed and their estates confiscated—now says, in his reply to the Philadelphia Committee, that the legislation of Congress “has partaken of the character of penalties, retaliation, and revenge.” Strange language from the lips of the President toward a coordinate branch of the Government, even if it were warranted by the facts. But when we remember the punishments which have followed the overthrow of rebellions in other countries; when we remember the punishments and confiscations inflicted on the tories of the revolution, in Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina and especially when we remember the atrocious cruelties visited upon loyal men at the South, and the punishment which was threatened them if the rebellion was successful, we can not but be amazed at such an assertion in the face of the nation’s unparalleled, and, I had almost said, inexcusable clemency.
THE LOYAL AND NOT THE REBEL DEBT TO PAID.
The fourth section is as follows:
“SECTION 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States or any State shall assume to pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”
This section, while it makes sacred the loyal obligations, puts into the most solemn and enduring form the nation’s condemnation of the rebellion, by making void every obligation incurred in its behalf. The chief objection made against this section is that it is not necessary. But the intentions of the rebellious people are only too manifest. They mean to demand compensation for their emancipated slaves, and, if that is refused, they will make that refusal their apology for the repudiation of every national obligation to creditors, and the nation’s defenders and their families. It is said that the Philadelphia Convention framed a just and proper resolution on this subject, and that the rebel delegates made no objections. I appeal from the base-locked lips of the rebel delegates to the outspoken and authoritative declarations of the rebel press. I appeal to the official action, in their own States, of those delegates themselves. Governor Orr, of South Carolina, a moderate rebel, so moderate that Wade Hampton, who was not a candidate, came within a few votes of defeating him for Governor, was in that Convention. In his message to the Legislature of his State, he said: “I therefore cherish the hope that Congress will, as soon as the public debt is provided for, make some just and equitable arrangement to make the citizens of the South some compensation for the slaves manumitted by the United States authorities.” He cites the fact that “an appropriation was made by Congress to indemnify slave owners in the fact District of Columbia, when slavery was abolished there in 1862,” as the precedent for the claim which he encourages the people of South Carolina to make. The State of Georgia, to her act abolishing slavery, annexed this significant proviso: “Provided, That acquiescence in the action of the Government of the United States is not intended to operate as a relinquishment, or waiver, or estoppel of such claim for compensation of loss sustained by reason of the emancipation of slaves, as any citizen of Georgia may hereafter make upon the justice and magnanimity of that Government.” These quotations are enough to put the people of the nation upon their guard. This claim for emancipated slaves, amounting to from fifteen hundred to three thousand millions of dollars—equal, perhaps, to the whole of the present national debt—will surely be made, unless security shall be taken against it, and that security placed in a constitutional provision, of which the nation will hold the key.
CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER.
This is a short and imperfect presentation of the Union plan of restoration. The chief objection to it remains to be considered. It is said that the South will never accept of these terms, but, on the contrary, will require the nation to change its laws, so that her seventy rebel Senators and Representatives, soon to be increased, by her full Negro representation, to eighty or ninety, will be admitted without question to the Congress of the United States. This presents the sole issue. The rebels say, “Peace, harmony and restored Union you can have by giving up your just demands, and yielding to the unjust requirements of the South!” This is the old familiar story. For many years the people of the North believed it. For the sake of harmony and union they yielded to every arrogant demand until, at last, they learned that every concession was the parent of increased arrogance, and new threats of discord and disunion. Their manhood and sense of justice were at length aroused, and in opposition to slavery extension and slavery dictation, they elected Abraham Lincoln President.. The slaveholders rebelled and, during four years, waged against their own Government a war of unparalleled atrocities. Overthrown and beaten in that war, prostrate and utterly helpless at its close, they now assume the air and bearing of conquerors, and propose to dictate terms. The Seward-Johnson party advises the people, for the sake of peace and union, to submit to this demand. The Union party is prepared to make great sacrifices in the future as in the past for the sake of peace and for the sake of union, but submission to what is wrong can never be the foundation of real peace or a lasting Union. They can have no other sure foundation but the principles of eternal justice. The Union men therefore say to the South, “We ask nothing but what is right, we will submit to nothing that is wrong.” With undoubting confidence we submit the issue to the candid judgment of the patriotic people of the country, under the guidance of that Providence which has hitherto blessed and preserved the nation.