Francis Fessenden.

Life and public services of William Pitt Fessenden, United States senator from Maine 1854-1864; secretary of the Treasury 1864-1865; United States senator from Maine 1865-1869 online

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the President to violate his oath of office, overturn the
government by force of arms, and drive the representa-
tives of the people from their seats in Congress. The na-
tional banner is openly insulted, and the national airs
scoffed at, not only by an ignorant populace, but at pub-
lic meetings, and once, among other notable instances, at
a dinner given in honor of a notorious rebel who had
violated his oath and abandoned his flag. The same indi-
vidual is elected to an important office in the leading city
of his State, although an unpardoned rebel, and so offen-
sive that the President refuses to allow him to enter upon
his official duties. In another State the leading general
of the rebel armies is openly nominated for governor by
the speaker of the House of Delegates, and the nomi-
nation is hailed by the people with shouts of satisfaction,
and openly indorsed by the press.

Looking still further at the evidence taken by your
committee, it is found to be clearly shown by witnesses
of the highest character, and having the best means of
observation, that the Freedmen's Bureau, instituted for



90 WILLIAM PITT FESSENDEN

the relief and protection of freedmen and refugees, is
almost universally opposed by the mass of the population,
and exists in an efficient condition only under miUtary
protection, while the Union men of the South are earnest
in its defense, declaring -with one voice that without its
protection the colored people would not be permitted to
labor at fair prices, and could hardly live in safety. They
also testify that without the protection of the United
States troops, Union men, whether of Northern or South-
ern origin, would be obliged to abandon their homes.
The feeling in many portions of the country towards
emancipated slaves, especially among the uneducated and
ignorant, is one of vindictive and malicious hatred. This
deep-seated prejudice against color is assiduously culti-
vated by the public journals, and leads to acts of cruelty,
oppression, and murder, which the local authorities are at
no pains to prevent or punish. There is no general dispo-
sition to place the colored race, constituting at least two
fifths of the population, upon terms even of civil equaUty.
While many instances may be found where large planters
and men of the better class accept the situation, and
honestly strive to bring about a better order of things,
by employing the freedmen at fair wages and treating
them kindly, the general feeling and disposition among
all classes are yet totally averse to the toleration of any
class of people friendly to the Union, be they white or
black; and this aversion is not unfrequently manifested
in an insulting and offensive manner.

The witnesses examined as to the willingness of the
people of the South to contribute, under existing laws, to
the payment of the national debt, prove that the taxes
levied by the United States will be paid only on compulsion
and with great reluctance, while there prevails, to a consid-
erable extent, an expectation that compensation will be



RECONSTRUCTION 91

made for slaves emancipated and property destroyed dur-
ing the -war. The testimony on this point comes from
officers of the Union army, officers of the late rebel army,
Union men of the Southern States, and avowed secession-
ists, almost all of whom state that, in their opinion, the
people of the rebellious States would, if they should see a
prospect of success, repudiate the national debt.

While there is scarcely any hope or desire among lead-
ing men to renew the attempt at secession at any future
time, there is still, according to a large number of wit-
nesses, including A. H. Stephens, who may be regarded
as good authority on that point, a generally prevailing
opinion which defends the legal right of secession, and
upholds the doctrine that the first allegiance of the people
is due to the States and not to the United States. This
beUef evidently prevails among leading and prominent
men as well as among the masses everywhere, except in
some of the northern counties of Alabama and the eastern
counties of Tennessee.

The evidence of an intense hostility to the federal
Union, and an equally intense love of the late Confeder-
acy, nurtured by the war, is decisive. While it appears
that nearly all are willing to submit, at least for the time
being, to the federal authority, it is equally clear that the
ruling motive is the desire to obtain the advantages which
will be derived from a representation in Congress. Officers
of the Union army on duty and Northern men who go
South to engage in business are generally detested and
proscribed. Southern men who adhered to the Union are
bitterly hated and relentlesly persecuted. In some local-
ities prosecutions have been instituted in state courts
against Union officers for acts done in the line of official
duty, and similar prosecutions are threatened elsewhere
as soon as the United States troops are removed. All such



92 WILLIAM FITT FESSENDEN

demonstrations show a state of feeling against which it
is unmistakably necessary to guard.

The testimony is conclusive that after the collapse of
the Confederacy the feeling of the people of the rebellious
States was that of abject submission. Having appealed to
the tribunal of arms, they had no hope except that, by the
magnanimity of their conquerors, their lives, and possibly
their property, might be preserved. Unfortunately, the
general issue of pardons to the persons who had been
prominent in the Rebellion, and the feeling of kindliness
and conciliation manifested by the Executive, and very
generally indicated through the Northern press, had the
effect to render whole communities forgetful of the crime
they had committed, defiant towards the federal gov-
ernment, and regardless of their duties as citizens. The
conciliatory measures of the government do not seem to
have been met even half way. The bitterness and de-
fiance exhibited towards the United States under such
circumstances is without a parallel in the history of the
world.

In return for our leniency we receive only an insulting
denial of our authority. In return for our kind desire for
the resumption of fraternal relations we receive only an
insolent assumption of rights and privileges long since
forfeited. The crime we have punished is paraded as a
virtue, and the principles of the repubhcan government
which we have vindicated at so terrible a cost are de-
nounced as unjust and oppressive.

If we add to this evidence the fact that, although peace
has been declared by the President, he has not, to this
day, deemed it safe to restore the writ of habeas corpus,
to relieve the insurrectionary States of martial law, nor
to withdraw the troops from many localities, and that
the commanding general deems an increase of the army



RECONSTRUCTION 93

indispensable to the preservation of order and the protec-
tion of loyal and well-disposed people in the South, the
proof of a condition of feeling hostile to the Union and
dangerous to the government throughout the insurrec-
tionary States would seem to be overwhelming.

With such evidence before them, it is the opinion of
your committee —

1. That the States lately in rebellion were, at the close
of the war, disorganized communities, without civil gov-
ernment and without constitutions or other forms, by
virtue of which political relations could legally exist be-
tween them and the federal government.

2. That Congress cannot be expected to recognize as
valid the election of representatives from disorganized
communities, which, from the very nature of the case,
were unable to present their claim to representation under
those estabhshed and recognized rules, the observance of
which has been hitherto required.

3. That Congress would not be justified in admitting
such communities to a participation in the government of
the country without first providing such constitutional or
other guarantees as will tend to secure the civil rights of
all citizens of the republic ; a just equality of representa-
tion ; protection against claims founded in rebellion and
crime; a temporary restoration of the right of suffrage
to those who have not actively participated in the efforts
to destroy the Union and overthrow the government and
the exclusion from positions of public trust of, at least,
a portion of those whose crimes have proved them to
be enemies to the Union and unworthy of public confi-
dence.

Your committee, will perhaps hardly be deemed ex-
cusable for extending this report further ; but inasmuch
as immediate and unconditional representation of the



94 WILLIAM PITT FESSENDEN

States lately in rebellion is demanded as a matter of right,
and delay and even hesitation is denounced as grossly
oppressive and unjust as well as unwise and impolitic, it
may not be amiss again to call attention to a few undis-
puted and notorious facts, and the principles of public law
applicable thereto, in order that the propriety of that
claim may be fully considered and well understood.

The State of Tennessee occupies a position distinct from
all the other insurrectionary States, and has been the sub-
ject of a separate report which your committee have not
thought it expedient to disturb. Whether Congress shall
see fit to make that State the subject of separate action,
or to include it in the same category with all others, so
far as concerns the imposition of preliminary conditions,
it is not within the province of this committee either to
determine or advise.

To ascertain whether any of the so-called Confederate
States " are entitled to be represented in either house of
Congress," the essential inquiry is, whether there is, in
any one of them, a constituency qualified to be repre-
sented in Congress. The question how far persons claim-
ing seats in either house possess the credentials necessary
to enable them to represent a duly qualified constituency
is one for the consideration of each house separately, after
the preliminary questions shall have been finally deter-
mined.

We now propose to restate, as briefly as possible, the
general facts and principles applicable to all the States
recently in rebellion.

First. The seats of the senators and representatives
from the so-called Confederate States became vacant in
the year 1861, during the second session of the Thirty-
sixth Congress, by the voluntary withdrawal of their in-
cumbents, with the sanction and by the direction of the



RECONSTRUCTION 95

legislatures or conventions of their respective States. This
was done as a hostile act against the Constitution and
government of the United States, -with a declared intent
to overthrow the same by forming a Southern confedera-
tion. This act of declared hostility was speedily followed
by an organization of the same States into a confederacy,
which levied and waged war by sea and land, against the
United States. This war continued more than four years,
within which period the rebel armies besieged the national
capital, invaded the loyal States, burned their towns and
cities, robbed their citizens, destroyed more than 250,000
loyal soldiers, and imposed an increased national burden
of not less than $3,500,000,000, of which seven or eight
hundred mUHons have already been met and paid. From
the time these confederated States thus withdrew their
representation in Congress and levied war against the
United States, the great mass of their people became and
were insurgents, rebels, traitors, and all of them assumed
and occupied the political, legal, and practical relation of
enemies of the United States. This position is established
by acts of Congress and judicial decisions, and is recog-
nized repeatedly by the President in public proclamations,
documents, and speeches.

Second. The States thus confederated prosecuted their
war against the United States to final arbitrament, and
did not cease until all their armies were captured, their
military power destroyed, their civil officers, state and
Confederate, taken prisoners or put to flight, every vestige
of state and Confederate government obliterated, their
territory overrun and occupied by the federal armies, and
their people reduced to the condition of enemies con-
quered in war, entitled only by pubUc law to such rights,
privileges, and conditions as might be vouchsafed by the
conqueror. This position is also established by judicial



96 WILLIAM PITT FESSENDEN

decisions, and is recognized by the President in public
proclamations, documents, and speeches.

Third. Having voluntarily deprived themselves of re-
presentation in Congress for the criminal purpose of
destroying the federal Union, and having reduced them-
selves, by the act of levying war, to the condition of
public enemies, they have no right to complain of tem-
porary exclusion from Congress ; but, on the contrary,
having voluntarily renounced the right to representation,
and disqualified themselves by crime from participating
in the government, the burden now rests upon them, before
claiming to be reinstated in their former condition, to
show that they are qualified to resume federal relations.
In order to do this they must prove that they have estab-
lished, with the consent of the people, republican forms
of government in harmony with the Constitution and
laws of the United States, that all hostile purposes have
ceased, and should give adequate guarantees against
future treason and rebellion — guarantees which shall
prove satisfactory to the government against which they
rebelled, and by whose arms they were subdued.

Fourth. Having, by this treasonable withdrawal from
Congress, and by flagrant rebellion and war, forfeited all
civil and political rights and privileges under the federal
Coustitution, they can only be restored thereto by the per-
mission and authority of that constitutional power against
which they rebelled and by which they were subdued.

Fifth. These rebellious enemies were conquered by
the people of the United States, acting through all the
coordinate branches of the government, and not by the
executive department alone. The powers of conqueror
are not so vested in the President that he can fix and
regulate the terms of settlement and confer congressional
representation on conquered rebels and traitors. Nor can



RECONSTRUCTION 97

he in any way qualify enemies of the government to
exercise its law-making power. The authority to restore
rebels to political power in the federal government can
be exercised only with the concurrence of all the depart-
ments in which political power is vested ; and hence the
several proclamations of the President to the people of
the Confederate States cannot be considered as extending
beyond the purposes declared, and can only be regarded as
provisional permission by the commander-in-chief of the
army to do certain acts, the effect and vahdity whereof
is to be determined by the constitutional government, and
not solely by the executive power.

Sixth. The question before Congress is, then, whether
conquered enemies have the right, and shall be permitted
at their own pleasure and on their own terms, to partici-
pate in making laws for their conquerors ; whether con-
quered rebels may change their theatre of operations from
the battlefield, where they were defeated and overthrown,
to the halls of Congress, and through their representatives
seize upon the government which they fought to destroy;
whether the national treasury, the army of the nation, its
navy, its forts and arsenals, its whole civil administration,
its credit, its pensioners, the widows and orphans of those
who perished in the war, the public honor, peace, and
safety, shall all be turned over to the keeping of its recent
enemies without delay, and without imposing such condi-
tions as, in the opinion of Congress, the security of the
country and its institutions may demand.

Seventh. The history of mankind exhibits no example
of such madness and folly. The instinct of self-preserva-
tion protests against it. The surrender by Grant to Lee
and by Sherman to Johnston would have been disasters of
less magnitude, for new armies would have been raised, new
battles fought, and the government saved. The anti-co-



98 WILLIAM PITT FESSENDEN

ercive policy which, under pretext of avoiding bloodshed,
allowed the Eebellion to take form and gather force, would
be surpassed in infamy by the matchless wickedness that
would now surrender the halls of Congress to those so re-
cently in rebellion until proper precautions shall have been
taken to secure the national faith and the national safety.

Eighth. As has been shown in this report, and in the
evidence submitted, no proof has been afforded to Con-
gress of a constituency in any one of the so-called Confed-
erate States, unless we except the State of Tennessee,
quahfied to elect senators and representatives in Congress.
No state constitution or amendment to a state constitution
has had the sanction of the people. All the so-called
legislation of state conventions and legislatures has been
had under military dictation. If the President may, at his
will and under his own authority, whether as military
commander or chief executive, qualify persons to appoint
senators and elect representatives, and empower others to
appoint and elect them, he thereby practically controls
the organization of the legislative department. The con-
stitutional form of government is thereby practically de-
stroyed, and its powers absorbed in the Executive. And
while your committee do not for a moment impute to the
President any such design, but cheerfully concede to him
the most patriotic motives, they cannot but look with alarm
upon a precedent so fraught with danger to the republic

Ninth. The necessity of providing adequate safeguards
for the future, before restoring the insurrectionary States
to a participation in the direction of public affairs, is
apparent from the bitter hostility to the government and
people of the United States yet existing throughout the
conquered territory, as proved incontestably by the testi-
mony of many witnesses and by undisputed facts.

Tenth. The conclusion of your committee therefore is



RECONSTRUCTION 99

that the so-called Confederate States are not, at present,
entitled to representation in the Congress of the United
States; that before allowing such representation, adequate
security for future peace and safety should be required ;
that this can be found only in such changes of the organic
law as shall determine the civil rights and privileges of
all citizens in all parts of the republic, shall place repre-
sentation on an equitable basis, shall fix a stigma upon
treason, and protect the loyal people against future claims
for the expenses incurred in support of rebellion and for
manumitted slaves, together with an express grant of
power in Congress to enforce those provisions. To this
end they offer a joint resolution for amending the Con-
stitution of the United States, and the two several bills
designed to carry the same into effect, before referred to.

Before closing this report your committee beg leave
to state that the specific recommendations submitted by
them are the result of mutual concession, after a long and
careful comparison of conflicting opinions. Upon a ques-
tion of such magnitude, infinitely important as it is to the
future of the repubhc, it was not to be expected that all
should think alike. Sensible of the imperfections of the
scheme, your committee submit it to Congress as the best
they could agree upon, in the hope that its imperfections
may be cured and its deficiencies supplied by legislative
wisdom ; and that, when finally adopted, it may tend to re-
store peace and harmony to the whole country and to place
our republican institutions on a more stable foundation.

W. P. Fbssbnden. Elihu B. Washburne.

James W. Geimes. Justin S. Morrill.

Ira Harris. Jno. A. Bingham.

J. M. Howard. Roscob Conkling.

George H. Williams. George S. Boutwbll.

Thaddbxts Stevens. Henry T. Blow.



CHAPTER VIII

RADICAL AND CONSERVATIVE SENATORS

1866-1868

The preceding chapter has been confined to Senator
Fessenden's part in solving the question of reconstruction,
but during the same period many duties of a miscella-
neous nature were cast upon him. This year (1866) ■wit-
nessed changes in the Senate which deeply afEected Mr.
Fessenden. He lost by death two of his firmest and most
intimate friends, Senators Collamer and Foot of Vermont.
Both were members of the Senate throughout the anti-
slavery contests before the civil war and during the
weary years of the Rebellion. Mr. Fessenden pronounced
one of the obituary addresses upon Mr. Collamer. After
speaking of his peculiarities of intellect and character, he
said that " no one could better than himself bear testi-
mony to his kindness of heart, his readiness to impart
imformation, and give the advantage of his learning and
wisdom to those about him whenever sought or needed.
Seated by his side, session after session, for many years,
he habitually asked his advice, and sought his aid, when-
ever embarrassed by doubt or difficulty. He venerated
and loved the man as one regarded an older brother upon
whose superior knowledge and wisdom and unselfish
singleness of heart he feels that in all emergencies he
may safely rely."

Mr. Foot was born in the same year as Mr. Fessenden.
Their friendship had been, from the beginning, of the
closest nature. Mr. Foot had returned to the Senate in



DEATH OF SENATOR FOOT 101

December in apparent health, to be suddenly struck down
with a fatal disease. His death was almost dramatic, as
he was in full possession of his faculties, conscious that
he must die, and in this condition he took leave of his
friends. The scene at his deathbed has been described
by the clergyman in attendance. " When Mr. Fessenden
approached him, he eagerly stretched out his hand, saying,
' My dear friend Fessenden, the man by whose side I
have sat so long, whom I have regarded as the model of
a statesman and parliamentary leader, on whom I have
leaned, and to whom I have looked more than to any
other living man for guidance and direction in public
affairs, the strong tie which has so long bound us together
must now be severed. But, my dear Fessenden, if there
is a memory after death, that memory will be active, and
I shall recall to mind the whole of our intercourse on
earth.' Mr. Fessenden could not speak as he stooped over
and kissed the brow of his dying friend, then turned away
in silence."

In one of his letters he thus alludes to the death of
Mr. Foot : " Perhaps the death of my friend Foot has
somewhat affected my spirits. You have probably seen,
or soon will see in the papers, Mr. Sunderland's account
of his closing hours. No death scene could be more
remarkable. No man has ever been so dear to me among
all the men with whom I have been associated in public
affairs. He attached himself to me from the first hour,
and his friendship was constant and unwavering. No hasty
word ever passed between us. His death came upon us
all so unexpectedly that it has made a profound impres-
sion. I can say with truth, that gladly would I give all
the little honors I have won to secure a deathbed like
his."

Mr. Fessenden's eulogy on Senator Foot, delivered in



102 WILLIAM PITT FESSENDEN

the Senate, was marked by unusual feeling. His descrip-
tion of him is here given : —

" A stranger, Mr. President, upon entering this cham-
ber and casting his eyes around the Senate, could not but
be struck with the imposing presence of our departed
friend and associate, and attracted by the rare union of
mildness and dignity in his expressive features. If he rose
to speak, the commanding yet pleasing tones of his voice
and the noble grace of his demeanor, the elegance of his
language and his clear and forcible statement would deepen
the first impression. If called to the chair, as he was more
often than any other, that seemed to be the place he was
made to fill. There was exhibited his remarkable love of
order, his impartiality, his sense of senatorial propriety,
his entire fitness to preside over and control the deUbera-
tions of what should be a grave, decorous, and dignified
body of thoughtful men, charged with great trusts, and
ahve to their importance. Whatever was in the least degree
unbecoming was offensive to his feelings and his taste;
but however these might be offended, he never for a mo-
ment forgot what was due to the Senate and to himself,
as its officer. Would that his precepts and his example in



Online LibraryFrancis FessendenLife and public services of William Pitt Fessenden, United States senator from Maine 1854-1864; secretary of the Treasury 1864-1865; United States senator from Maine 1865-1869 → online text (page 8 of 30)