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Is the South ready for restoration? online

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After four years of costly and triumphant war, the question is now before
the people whether we shall throw away or secure the results for which
that war was waged unto its bitter end. A majority of Congress, as the
legislative branch of the government, has pronounced in favor of requiring
such guarantees for the future as may be necessary to insure to our chil-
dren the blessings for which we have made such painful and weary sacri-
fices. In this, Congress has believed that it was responding to the wishes-
of its constituency, and it is for that constituency to declare through the
ballot-box whether or not Congress has been mistaken. A weightier deci-
sion never was in the hands of a free people, and it behooves them to pon-
der well the facts of the case before they give their verdict.

The Question at Issue.

Stripped of irrelevant externals, the question to be decided is simply
whether or not the States lately in rebellion shall be at once and without
further probation admitted to the enjoyment of full political rights as equal
members in the common government. As, in such case, they would hold
the balauce of power between the Union and Democratic parties, they would
exercise not only a share of power proportioned to their numbers, but
an absolute controlling influence which would determine the character of
of our legislation and our institutions for the future, until some niisgov-
ernment should lead to another catastrophe as awful as that fronj which
we are just emerging. It is therefore of the last importance th#t we
should ascertain, as correctly as possible, the spirit which now animates
them, that we may estimate the manner in which would be exerted the
control over the destinies of the Republic, which we should be thus en-
trusting to those who have scarcely as yet desisted from their desperate
efforts to destroy it.


The Position of the President.

Fortunately, Mr. Johnson has so frankly defined his position and purposes
that neither his former friends nor his former enemies can mistake or
misrepresent them.

In the Democratic celebration held at Dayton, Ohio, in honor of the

veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, Mr. Yallandigham, in praising the

President, remarked that —

" He had a slight suspicion that just now a political draft on the White
House bearing his (Mr. V.'s) name would be as readily honored as one bearing
the name of Stevens, Sumner or Schenck." Of the President's speech of the
22d, lie said it was a most timely speech, showing not only that he " meant to
fight the infernal Thugs who have arrayed themselves against his policy," but
that " he was one of the half dozen men in the United States who understood
that the devil of fanaticism is to be fought with fire. He had a firm hope that
the President would go on as he had begun."

With equally unerring instinct, the Philadelphia Age, a consistent apo-
logist for Southern treason, in its issue of Feb. 21st, stated —

" We have not abandoned or modified a single honest opinion that it might
be made to harmonize with a declaration of the Executive. We have not
applauded him merely because his policy was calculated to vindicate the wis-
dom of the constitutional and conservative views held by the Democratic party.
He has not acted as a partizan, nor have we sought to appropriate him as one.
We have been no swifter to speak his praiso than he has been to do deeds which
justify it."

And in the South his name is coupled with that of Jefferson Davis, as

a leader, to be honored and revered. In the Mobile Daily Times, of

April 25th, there is a report of a dinner of the Mobile Cadets, at which

" The second regular toast was ' The President of the United States.' This
was received with deafening cheers, three times three, and every lo3'al breast
glowed with pride, as the glorious name of Andrew Johnson was re-echoed
throughout the vast assemblage. When this first explos on had subsided, Col.
John Forsyth rose to respond to the toast These remarks were re-
ceived with unanimous applause, and the third regular toast was then read:
'Jefferson Davis and his Speedy Liberation.'

"Admiral Kaphael Semmes, the guest of the sad, yet pleasant feast, was
called on in answer to the toast, 'Our Honored Guest.'

" The Admiral, in felicitous terms, and with a dubious smile on his lips,
spoke of the flattering but rather pressing invitation he had received to visit
Washington on 'private business.' .... He said that, conscious of having at
no time violated the usages of war, he felt strong in his innocence, but as a
resigned Christian, was submissively bowing his head under the passing storm.

"He was soon encouraged by his counsel, who had almost daily access to
the President, and from him came words of hope which soothed his mental
torments at being separated from his beloved family and devoted friends.

" He dwelt on the liberality of the President, on the difficulties which assail-
ed him, of the perils of hid situation, surrounded by the hostile array of radi-
cals and demagogues, but yet expressed undying faith in his firmness, his
courage, his talent, and his final triumph over the enemies of the country and
constitutional freedom.

" To the President, and to him alone, had the Admiral appealed for justice,
and to him alone was he indebted for that tardy justice which, however, the
momentous events of the last period could not allow to be rendered him

Neither Democrats nor Rebels are wasting their praise and their sup-
port. Oq the 22d of February, a motley crowd of Democrats and recon-
structed rebels assembled iuGrover's Theatre, in Washington, and adopted
a series of resolutions which embodied the most advanced doctrines of the
Copperheads :

" Resolved, That .... any delinquent State, from the moment it returns
to its allegiance, and resumes its rightful position as a member of the Federal
Government, becomes entitled to the exercise of all its rights under the Con-
stitution, including that of being represented in each branch of Congress,
which it enjoyed before the commission of its offence.

" I? soloed, That the only lawful ground on which any member of either
House of Congress can be prevented from taking his seat on an equal footing
with any other member, must be that his election, or the returns thereof, have
not been in accordance with law, and that in deciding upon such qualifications
none other can be considered than those prescribed in the Constitution of the
United States."

The meeting adjourned in a body to lay these resolutions before Mr.

Johnson, who accepted them as "complimentary to the policy which has

been adopted by the administration, and has been steadily pursued since

it came into power;" and he proceeded to define his position still more

clearly :

" When those who rebelled comply with the Constitution ; when they give
sufficient evidence of loyalty ; when they show they can be trusted ; when they
yield obedience to the law that you and I acknowledge obedience to, I say ex-
tend to them the right hand of fellowship, and let peace and union be restored.
.... I am for admitting into the councils all the representatives who are
unmistakably and unquestionably loyal. A man who acknowledges allegiance
to the Government, and who swears to support the Constitution, must necessarily
be loyal. A man cannot take that oath in goodjailh unless he is loyal."

The oath of allegiance which was the sport of every guerilla in Virginia
and Kentucky and Missouri; the oath of allegiance which, a dozen times
repeated, had never caused Davis and Cobb and Breckenridge and Floyd
and Slidell to shrink from the work of overturning a government of which
they formed part; the oath of allegiance from which they hold that they
may at any time be released by the action of their states ; the oath of alle-
giance which sits so lightly on the conscience of a Southern gentleman that
General Lee could not recollect whether he had ever taken it to the Con-
federacy or not — this oath of allegiance is the sole guarantee to be exacted
of unrepentant rebels claiming a right to control the Government which
they had failed to subvert in arms.

And Mr. Johnston thus proceeds to argue the question :

''The Constitution expressly provides that no State without its consent shall
be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate ; and it also provides that each
State shall have at least one representative in the House of Representatives.
But yet the position is taken that certain States shall not be represented. We
impose taxes upon them ; we send our tax-gatherers into every region and por-
tion of the States. These people are fit subjects of government for the collec-
tion of taxes, but when they ask to participate in the legislation of the country,
they are met at the door and told no, you must pay taxes, you must bear bur-
dens of government, but you cannot participate in its legislation which is to
affect you through all time to come. Is this justice ? Is it fair 1"

In bis veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Bill,, he had already asserted that
the authority of each House to determine the qualifications of its own
members " cannot be construed as including the right to shut out, in time
of peace, any State to the representation to which it is entitled by the Con-
stitution at present," and he proceeded to declare that most, if not all, of the
States lately in rebellion, " have already been fully restored and are to be
deemed as entitled to enjoy their constitutional rights as members of the

These are the views avowed by the President, the Democrats and the
reconstructed rebels. They have thus far been successfully withstood by
the Union majority of Congress, supported by the loyal masses who car-
ried the war to a triumphant issue. It is for the people to say whether
that resistance shall be withdrawn or not.

The Duty of the North.

In considering this momentous question, it is idle to speculate on the
Various theories as to the exact legal status of the States lately in revolt.
Whether they are still in the Union as States, or whether they have ever
been out, or whether they are reduced to the condition of territories, may
be an interesting subject of debate for constitutional lawyers, but is of lit-
tle practical importance. Mr. Lincoln, with his rare natural sagacity,
wisely brushed all such cobwebs aside when he pronounced that they were
out of their practical relations to the Union, and that the problem was
how to get them back with due regard to the common safety.

In considering this, the sole question should be whether those States are
in a temper to permit them to exercise, for the advantage of the whole
country, the enormous power which the state of parties would place in their
hands. No feelings of enmity provoked by a causeless rebellion should
be allowed to sway our judgment. They are our brethren ; fate has indis-
solubly united our destinies by planting us in a territory which admits of
no natural division. For good or for evil we must dwell together, and he
who would wantonly create or maintain ill-feelings towards those who have
been so fearfully punished for the crime of ISO I, is an enemy to his race. If
they repent ; if they turn for forgiveness to the Government whose ruin they
madly sought ; if they abjure the heresies which precipitated such miseries
upon us all ; if they frankly accept the situation, burn their false idols and
resolve to be as energetic and persistent in upholding as they were in de-
stroying ; if they transfer their allegiance from the narrow boundaries of
particular States to the wider claims of a glorious nationality ; if they ad-
mit past errors ; if they are willing to cultivate the kindly and fraternal
feelings for us which are so confidently claimed of us for them — then we
will joyfully bury the hatchet, welcome them back to their places in the
capitol of the nation, and allow no memory of the past to sully the bright
prospect of the future.


This is then the point on which hinges everything else. The President,
the Democracy and the leaders of the late Confederacy affirm vehemently
that the lately rebel states are in That fraternal and loyal frame of mind
that renders longer exclusion both unjust and impolitic. Congress, which
has laboriously examined the subject, feels much less confident. Let us
endeavor to ascertain from Southern organs of opinion which is most
nearly right.


If we can conceive President Johnson to be familiar with the condition
of any portion of the South, it must be with that of his own State, which
he ruled as military governor for two years ; and if there is any portion of
the South which can be trusted it is Tennessee, where unionism never
ceased to struggle against treason, and where long possession by the Federal
forces apparently gave time to stamp oul the embers of rebellion. In his
Freedmen's Bureau veto message, the President thus pleaded the cause of
his State :

"The State of Tennessee, for instance, whose authorities engaged in rebellion,
was restored to all her constitutional relations to the Union by the patriotism
and energy of her injured and betrayed people. Before the war was brought
to a termination, they had placed themselves in relation with the general
government, had established a state government of their own, and as they were
not included in the Emancipation Proclamation, they, by their own act, had
amended their constitution so as to abolish slaver}* within the limits of their
State. I know no reason, for example, why the State of Tennessee should not
fully enjoy all her constitutional relations to the United States."

To deprive ourselves of the cooperation of such a community would
surely seem to be a wrong, and yet when we hear of the authorities of
Memphis siding with a bloodthirsty mob in the indiscriminate slaughter of
unarmed negroes, and the conflagration of schoolhouses and churches, we
begin to doubt whether the people of Tennessee are yet in a frame of mind
to govern themselves or to take part in governing us. These doubts are
not lessened on finding that Governor Brownlow, but a few weeks before
Mr. Johnson penned his veto message, remarked in a speech at Nashville,
on the occasion of opening a colored school there:

" I advise the teachers, male and female, to be exceedingly prudent and
eautious, and do nothing offensive to the predominant party here.

" You may think it a little strange that I give 6uch counsel. I do it because
if Gen. Thomas were to take away his soldiers, and pull up stakes and leave
here, you would not be allowed to occupy this schoolroom a week; not a week!
and if Gen. Thomas and his military lorees were to go away and leave us, this
Legislature, at the head of which I am placed, would be broken up by a mob in
forty-eight hours.

"Our high civil and military functionaries may travel through the South
hurriedly and otherwise, and go back to Washington and report that all is well
and reconstructed ; and those of you who are green enough to believe it, can
believe it, but pardon me when I tell you that I don't believe a word of it.

"Had a man been placed here of less prudence, less goodness of temper, less
sense, and less sense of justice than Gen. Fisk, this institution and this Bureau


■would have failed ; and he may console himself to-day, that, if our blessed
Savi'iur were to come to Davidson County, with shoulder-straps on, and three
or four stars on his shoulders, and bring with him a military staff" of the old
apostles, he could not give satisfaction to the rebels of Davidson County."

Possibly, Governor Brownlow's rugged unionism may be too uncom-
promising. Let us then see what are the opinions of the Hon. B. "W.
Stokes, one of the Tennessee members elect, the unconstitutional denial
of whose seats is so deplored by Mr. Johnson and the Democracy. In a
speech made during the Connecticut canvass, after stating that at one
time Congress bad been on the point of admitting Tennessee, he proceeded :

" Then one branch of the Legislature was disorganized, and the rebel element,
not being willing to submit to the rule of the majority, sought to break up and
destroy the Government. They left the house without a quorum, and it is still
without a quorum. And I say that while the Government was in that condition,
there is not a man of you who would think that State should be recognized.
We therefore do not complain of the delay. We know that admission now
■would destroy the Union element of those States. Congress is doing right in
holding them back. When the rebel armies first surrendered there was every-
where a disposition toward loyalty, but I stand here to-night to say there is
now a feeling as deep and bitter toward the Union men of the South, as there
ever was in 18G0 or 1861. And the facts have proved that Congress, in its
cool and deliberate treatment of the matter, deserves the thanks of all Union
men in giving opportunity for these rebels to show their hands. Time will
show that Congress was right. But all these things will be settled wisely and
safely ; and when loyal men get control of these governments, there will then
be no difficulty, and all these questions will be satisfactorily settled/'

Jf this, then, is the condition of Tennessee, what must be that of States
which were defiantly rebellious to the last ? It would be easy to adduce
similar testimony with regard to each one in its turn, but perhaps the best
mode of proceeding in our investigation will be to take up the subject
systematically, and consider the temper of the South with respect to the
various conditions precedent to restoration.


In all systems of morals and ethics it is a universal rule that absolution
must be earned by repentance. A rebellion which Mr. Vice-President
Stephens had assured them was utterly without cause, against a govern-
ment which had never made itself felt except by its benefits; a wanton,
rebellion which had cost both sides half a million of lives and nearly ten
thousand millions of dollars — this was surely a crime to be repented of in
sackcloth and ashes. In the name of humanity, it should be stigmatized
as the foulest crime in history, and the future peace of the nation demands
that the depth of its guilt should know no attempt at palliation. Those
who regard it as merely a venial political error should have no place in the
councils of the nation.

Among the few South Carolinians who called themselves Union men,
the Hon. B. F. Perry was conspicuous, and Mr. Johnson could find none
so trustworthy to carry out his reconstruction policy, when he appointed

him Provisional Governor of South Carolina. Mr. Perry, under date of
April 15th, has printed a letter to Horace Greeley, in which he pleads the
cause of his section. Let us see what view he takes of the secession which
he condemned from the first, and we can then judge how it is regarded
by those who hailed it as the most promising of blessings :

" And what great unpardonable crime have the Secessionists themselves been
guilty of? They believed in that sacred principle set forth in our Declaration
of Independence, that every people have the right of self-government, and the
right to change and alter their form of government as they may see proper.
This was the head and front of their offending, nothing more. They expressed
their purpose of living separately from the Northern States! That was all!
They did not seek to invade the North or govern the North. It was not their
purpose to wage war against the Northern States, but to live quietly and peace-
ably by them as neighbors and friends. They had been taught by their greatest
statesmen for half a century past that they had the right to peaceably secede
from the Federal Government. And they attempted to exercise this right.
That is all ! Tor this attempt they have been conquered and 6ubdued, their
property taken from them, and their country desolated? Is this not punish-
ment enough for a simple error of judgment ?"

Neither Congress nor the loyal people of the North desire the further
punishment of the South, but it is for us a simple matter of prudence to
consider the safety of lodging a controlling political power with those
whose "Union" men deem secession "a simple error of judgment."

If, however, we want to know what are the views still held by original
secessionists, we may find them in the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion, which,
in an article commending President Johnson and his policy to the support
of the South, remarks :

" We do not repent of the course which, four years ago, we entered upon ;
we leave it to posterity to say that we did right. Why Providence denied us
success we know not now, but we shall know hereafter : and even now we
watch with interest, from day to day, the unfolding of the divine purposes con-
cerning the country which he has decreed shall be one, though many wise and
good men thought different. How singular the turn that affairs have taken,
and how completely providential ! The good-natured buffoon whom the good
people of the North chose to place in the chair of Washington and Jackson, was
removed when his mission was accomplished, and the hearts of Southern men,
already depressed by the great misfortune that was fresh upon them, sank
deeper at the thought that a ruler was then set over them whose little finger

would be thicker than his predecessor's loins If Southern men

do not admire and applaud such a man as this, it is because the God that made
them has reconstructed them in a manner hitherto unheard of — taking away
their old heart, and giving them instead a heart of dirt. They are not the
people to give a half-hearted approval, nor if they were, are these the times fur
it, or is Andrew Johnson the man to whom it is due."


So far, indeed, from secession being regarded as a cause for repentance,
it is still clung to as a political truth, made holy by the blood of its martyrs ;
and the want of success in the forcible attempt to establish it is looked
upon merely as a reason why peaceful legislative means should be resorted
to in future in the effort to dismember the Union. Mr. Stephens was no


original secessionist, and Georgia thought, perhaps, that therefore she was
earning restoration in electing Lim to represent her in the United States
Senate. Yet Mr. Stephens could not refrain, in his speech of Feb. 22d,
before the Legislature of his State, from asserting that the South hid been
consistently loyal to the Constitution of the United States, and that having
failed in establishing by arms their interpretation of it, there only remained
to continue the effort in the halls of legislation :

"Whatever may be said of the loyalty or disloyalty of any in the late most
lamentable conflict of arms, I think I may venture safely to say that there was,
on the part of the great mass of the people of Georgia, and of the entire South,

no disloyalty to the principles of the Constitution of the United States

With us, it was simply a question of where our allegiance was due in the main-
tenance of those principles ; which authority was paramount in the last resort,

State or Federal Our only alternative now is to give up all hopes of

constitutional liberty, or retrace our steps and to look for its vindication and
maintenance in the forums of reason and justice, instead of on the arena of
arms ; in the courts and halls of legislation, instead of on the fields of battle.
I am frank and candid in setting you right here. Our surest hopes, in my
judgment, of these ends are in the restoration policy of the President of the
United States."

The ideas, rather cautiously insinuated than openly expressed by Mr.
Stephens, are more boldly enunciated by the Galveston News :

"We are not ashamed to confess that we expected the doctrine of peaceable
secession to be admitted on the basis of professions which we publish elsewhere
in this issue ; that we believed the age of conquest to have passed away. Mis-
taken as we were, it yet remains to be determined whether the South has not suf-
fered for having fallen behind the time, and whether the parties on the other side,
both actors and interested spectators, will not finally be compelled to reach
through many throes the political idea involved in the course of the seceding
States. The time will come when political issues as fundamental as those
raised by the South must be decided without war, and the worst judgment
then passed upon her will embody nothing more than the charge of having been

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Online LibraryAfrican American Pamphlet Collection (Library of CIs the South ready for restoration? → online text (page 1 of 3)