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made for the abolition of slavery in the Constitution, and it was sent
back to the Convention and the people by the Senate for a provision
that would assure gradual emancipation. Mr. Sumner desired a more
radical provision, but his amendment was opposed by men as ad-
vanced as Wade, of Ohio; Foot and Collamer, of Vermont, and Howe,
of Wisconsin. The bill passed the Senate July 14, 1802, by a vote of 23
to 17, all the Democrats, except Mr. Rice, of Minnesota, voting against
it. The Republicans who voted with the minority were Chandler and
Howard, of Michigan, because the people concerned had done nothing
voluntarily toward emancipating the slaves; Sumner and Wilson, of


Massachusetts, because the Senate had not adopted the anti-slavery
amendment; and Trumbull, of Illinois, and Cowan, of Pennsylvania,
because of the irregularity of the whole proceeding.

The measure did not come up in the House until the 9th of Decem-
ber. The debate was spirited, but of no great importance, because
the question w r as not so much one of constitutionality as of expe-
diency. The view of the strict coustructionists was voiced by the
venerable John J. Crittendeu, of Kentucky, who said this would be
" a new-made Union the old majestic body, cut and slashed by
passion, by war, coming to form another government, another Union."
This was the view that a great war should work no change in ideas
or conditions. Thaddeus Stevens expressed the view dictated by
sound common sense, discarding the notion that the consent of Vir-
ginia was in any way necessary to the proposed act. " Governor
Pierpont," he said, " is an excellent man, and I wish he were the
Governor elected by the people of Virginia. But according to my
principles operating at the present time, I can vote for the admission
of West Virginia without any compunctions of conscience only
with some doubt about the policy of it. None of the States now in
rebellion are entitled to the protection of the Constitution. These
proceedings are in virtue of the laws of war. We may admit West
Virginia as a new State, not by virtue of any provision of the Con-
stitution, but under our absolute power which the laws of war give us
in the circumstances in which we are placed. I shall vote for this bill
upon that theory, and upon that alone. I will not stultify myself by
supposing that we have any warrant in the Constitution for this pro-

" Let there not be two Virginias," pleaded Mr. Segar, who, by a
construction as broad as that against which he was contending, was
permitted to represent the district in which Fortress Monroe was
included; " let us remain one and united. Do not break up the rich
cluster of glorious memories and associations which gather over the
name and the history of this ancient and once glorious Common-

The bill was passed by 96 to 54 votes, all the Representatives voting
for it being Republicans. Among the Republicans who voted against
it wereConway, of Kansas; Francis Thomas, of Maryland, and Roscoe
Conkling, of New York. When West Virginia became a State Gov-
ernor Pierpont's Virginia capital was transferred from Wheeling to
Alexandria, and the fiction of a State Government was maintained
until President Johnson found it convenient to recognize the skeleton
in the effort to infuse new life into the old State of Virginia. The
attempt was a failure, not only because it was prematurely made,


but from the impossibility of building a stable structure on so feeble
a foundation. Mr. Stevens said all its archives, property, and effects
could be carried to Richmond in an ambulance. In Arkansas, Ten-
nessee, and Louisiana the reputed State governments, which Mr. Lin-
coln had ineffectually tried to galvanize into life, were now adopted
by President Johnson with results as unsatisfactory as in all the other

The failure of President Johnson's plan of Reconstruction was not
due so much to its character, or to the character of the men to whom
the task was committed, as to the advantage that was taken of an
effort that was prematurely made to re-establish slavery in the South
in substance if not in form. It soon became apparent that the assent
to the Thirteenth Amendment was intended to be a gross deception.
Northern opinion was derided in every Southern State, and the au-
thority of Congress was treated as if it was
without effect in the Slave States. The North
had conquered, and then the South proceeded
to do as it pleased. Unrepentant rebels acted
as if it was the United States that had tired
of the war not the Southern Confederacy
that had failed. Every Southern man who
accepted the results of the war honestly was
ostracized General Longstreet being a con-
spicuous example and the freedmen were
treated with a cruelty and injustice that were
unknown in the days when " Uncle Tom's Cab-
GEN. JAMES LONGSTREET. in " drew tears from Northern eyes, and

implanted hate in Southern hearts. The

vagrancy acts, adopted by the Southern Legislatures almost simul-
taneously and in defiance of Congress, were not only unjustifiable
but atrocious. A vagrant became only another name for a slave.
Vagrants in Alabama were " stubborn or refractory servants," and
" servants who loiter away their time." Every man or woman w r ith a
black skin was a servant. Mobile was given a charter that made the
municipal corporation the direct and active agent in re-enslaving the
blacks. By the terms of this new charter the mayor, aldermen, and
common council were empowered " to cause all vagrants," .
" all such as have no visible means of support," . . . "all who
can show 7 no reasonable cause of employment or business in the city,"
. . . " all who have no fixed residence or can not give a good ac-
count of themselves," . . . "or are loitering in or about tippling-
houses," " to give security for their good behavior for a reasonable
time and to indemnify the city against any charge for their support,


and in case of their inability or refusal to give security, to cause them
to be confined to labor for a limited time, not exceeding six calendar
months, which said labor shall be designated by the said mayor,
aldermen, and common council, for the benefit of said city."

When such enactments as this are recalled it is easy to see why
Johnson's " policy " and Reward's hopes were foredoomed to failure.

In Alabama a " vagrant " could be sold or hired for only six months
for the crime of being both poor and black, but in Florida the term
was made a whole year, and not only were negroes to be tried only in
courts specially established for the trial of negroes, but no present-
ment, indictment, or written pleading was required. Inability to pay
the costs in such proceedings was in itself sufficient ground for en-
slavement, not for the actual amount to be paid in labor, but for the
shortest term of service for which a white man would agree to pay
them. The Florida enactments, conceived in mere cruelty, are as-
tounding. For merely intruding himself " into any religious or other
public assembly of white persons or into any railroad car or other
vehicle set apart for w y hite persons," the wretched negro was to u stand
on the pillory for one hour, and then whipped with thirty-nine lashes
on the bare back." The possession of arms by a negro w r as rigorously
punished in all the States. The Louisiana Legislature, with an equal
disregard of English grammar and common humanity, decreed that
" every adult freed man or woman shall furnish themselves with a
comfortable home and visible means of support within twenty days
after the passage of this act," and that " any freed man or woman
failing to obtain a home and support as thus provided shall be im-
mediately arrested by any sheriff or constable in any parish, or by the
police officers in any city or town in said parish where said freedman
may be, and by them delivered to the Recorder of the parish, and by
him hired out, by public advertisement, to some citizen being the
highest bidder, for the remainder of the year." Besides such inhuman
enactments as these, the condition of the negro was rendered still
more intolerable by the imposition of odious and unjust taxes, that
were strenuously exacted. These laws, the full recital of which would
require a volume, were an integral part of President Johnson's
scheme, to which Congress would have given assent if the scheme had
been accepted. The only explanation of the madness that pervaded
the South after the close of the war is the imbruted condition in which
the slave system and an unsuccessful war for slavery had left the
Southern people.

To Mr. Seward, to whose eloquent pleadings in behalf of a mag-
nanimous policy for the South President Johnson's scheme of Recon-
struction was owing, these results could not fail to bring a deep sense


of disappointment, humiliation, and shame. To his friends he ex-
pressed his surprise and chagrin that the South should respond with
such shameless and vicious ingratitude to the magnanimous tenders
of sympathy and friendship from the National Administration. A
bolder man would have openly declared that the policy was a failure,
and insisted upon its abandonment. Instead of doing this, he sought
to avert consequences he had not foreseen through the Provisional
Governors of the President's selection, and almost before he was
aware of it he was engulfed in the whirlpool that surged around the
Administration. Holding himself responsible for the policy of mag-
nanimity that Johnson had substituted at his request for one of rigor
and punishment, he could not persuade himself to desert the admin-
istration he had started on the road to misfortune and discomfiture.
Like Marcy in the Cabinet of President Pierce, and Webster in the
Cabinet of President Tyler, he sought to mitigate a policy the con-
sequences of which it would be cruel to his memory to say he ap-
proved, and so remained at his post until retreat became impossible.
He had tried to become the masterful spirit of Lincoln's administra-
tion but failed, and submitted gracefully, to succeed in his proper
sphere. With Johnson he succeeded in imposing his ideas upon the
President only to fail. " Action has been devoured by his own dogs,"
Toombs said, when Seward was defeated for the Republican nomina-
tion at Chicago in 1860. Now he was indeed the cuckold for which
Actreon is the synonym it was no longer the full Republican hounds
by which he was devoured, but the bloodhounds of the Southern plan-
tations; and Andrew Johnson w r as his Diana, the Inexorable. He
sank from his pre-eminence as the Great Secretary to the position of
a mere satellite, when his opinionated and ambitious Chief went
" swinging around the circle."

" The Democratic plan of restoration was consistent with the Con-
stitution and the best," said a Democratic writer at the close of John-
son's administration; " Mr. Lincoln's the next best, and that of the
Republicans the worst."

If restoration with restrictions went so near nullifying the results
of the war in the first year of the peace, it is easy enough to see that
restoration without restrictions would have meant the resuscitation
of slavery.



Meeting of the Thirty-ninth Congress Dissatisfaction with the Presi-
dent's Policy Thaddeus Stevens Charles Sumner Their Lead-
ership New Men in the Two Houses Delegations from the
Southern States Mr. Stevens's Theory Henry J. Raymond, the
Champion of the Administration Hurtful Democratic Support
Shellabarger's Reply to Raymond The Specific Act The
Democratic Position Establishment of the Freedman's Bureau
Administration Republicans The Civil Rights Bill General
James H. Lane The Fourteenth Amendment The Tenure of
Office Bill The Reconstruction Acts Riot in New Orleans
The Fortieth Congress Military Government for the South.

HE profound disgust that President Johnson's Restoration
Policy had inspired in the Republican party was mani-
fested immediately upon the assembling of the 39th Con-
gress. So completely had the Peace Democracy been
beaten in the elections of 1864, that in the House Mr. Colfax was re-
elected Speaker by 139 votes to 36 for James Brooks, of New York.
The President's message, although it was unexpectedly moderate in
tone and indicated no purpose to break with the majority in the two
Houses, was received with scant courtesy. Indeed, the message had
not yet been received when the unmistakable unfriendliness of Con-
gress toward the Administration was shown in a number of ways.
Speaker Colfax, on assuming the chair in the House, instead of mak-
ing a mere colorless speech of thanks for the honor conferred upon
him, incorporated in what had always been a mere ceremonial address
some positive declarations touching the work before the body over
which he was called to preside. " In this great work," he said, " the
world should witness the most inflexible fidelity, the most earnest de-
votion to the principles of liberty and humanity, the truest patriotism,
and the wisest statesmanship." Mr. Stevens's motion for a Joint Com-
mittee on Reconstruction followed immediately upon the organiza-
tion of the House. The objection of Mr. Eldridge, of Wisconsin, to
the reception of the resolution was summarily disposed of by a motion
to suspend the rules, that was carried by 129 ayes to 35 noes. A sug-
gestion of Mr. Dawson, of Pennsylvania, that the resolution should
be postponed until after the receipt of the President's message went


unheeded, and the resolution was adopted by the same vote with
which it was received. In the Senate Mr. Sumner outlined a radical
policy of Reconstruction without reference to what the President
might or might not say on the subject. This precipitancy, and the
character of the men by whom it was promoted, was an unmistakable
index to the complete repudiation of all the acts of the Administration
by Congress that quickly followed, and was pressed with increasing-
vigor and bitterness while Johnson remained the Chief Executive.

The two men who made the onslaught on the policy that Seward had
advised and that Johnson had pursued were not so much types as
embodiments of the militant spirit of the North. Both had been
giants in repelling the aggressions of the slaveholders in Congress
at the time of the arrogant supremacy of the South Thaddeus Ste-
vens in the House and Charles Simmer in the Senate. The war found
them out of sympathy w r ith an Administration that, with all their
strength, they were not strong enough to antagonize openly while
the conflict lasted. Their arena was the floors of Congress, but all
eyes were directed to the battlefields of the Union from Sumter to
Appomattox, and these forums shrank into comparative insignificance
while battles remained to be fought and won. With surrender and
peace the opportunity came to them to assert the leadership for which
they had longed, and to crown their careers with the highest achieve-
ments of the statesman. Both were men of a high order of talent, but
both were lacking in some of the most necessary attributes of a suc-
cessful leader of men. They were good special pleaders, but not great
lawyers. They were both constructionists to the point of obstruction.
They were not logicians they were dogmatic propounders of a theory
that was right because they propounded it. They were great leaders,
but leaders without a party and without a following. Their places
were secure to them for so many years as the tributes of mere men
to demigods. They enjoyed all the advantages of popularity without
being popular. Of the two, Stevens w r as by far the abler. He had the
stronger will and the clearer perceptions. With Pluto's iron counte-
nance, he had the natural feet of Arion. His thunderbolts were the
darts of Jove. With all his inflexibility of character, he could be
genial and even generous. If he was without tender emotions, he was
always sternly just to the strong, but he hated the shams of the slave-
holding class as fiercely as the impoverished Southron hated the
grinning humility of the freedmen after the war. Sumner was not as
saturnine in appearance as Stevens, but he was scarcely less inflexible
in countenance and character. His best speeches were marred by the
pedantry of the recluse, and his efforts at practical legislation had
the faults and weaknesses of briefs drawn by a law r yer who had never


practiced. lu tJie Senate lie towered like Jove, " above them all by
his great looks and power imperial," but even when he took the initia-
tive, in fact, it was left to other Senators, with less of the mien of the
Grecian Jupiter, to clothe his propositions with simplicity of form.
With two such men in the lead the one in the House and the other
in the Senate the forensic contests in the 39th Congress could not
fail to become Titanic, and it was soon shown that there were Titans
in both Houses besides Tellus Stevens and Caelum Sumner.

The obstacles that confronted President Johnson's administration
in Congress were not so much in the principles by which the results
of his policy would have to be tested, as in the character of the results
themselves; not so much in the leaders of the opposition to his policy
in the two Houses, as in the elements that made the opposition Re-
publican; not so much in the forces opposed to the Johnson plan, as
in the elements that aligned themselves in its support. The condition
of the reconstructed States and the obnoxious legislation of the re-
constructed Legislatures, in themselves, made the recognition of the
Johnson plan, as an accomplished fact, impossible. The fact that the
President ignored this feature in his message only tended to anger
those whom it could not deceive. Among these men, especially in the
House, was an unusual number of new members who had been effi-
cient soldiers in the war. General Marston again represented New
Hampshire. General Banks, after a checkered military career, re-
sumed the seat he had left in 1857 to become Governor of Massachu-
setts. General John H. Ketcham, the only Congressman who never
made a speech and yet obtained an influential standing in the House,
appeared for the first time from New York. Ohio sent General Ruth-
erford B. Hayes, destined to become President of the United States.
From Wisconsin came General Halbert E. Paine on crutches, having
lost one of his legs in battle. In the Senate, in place of William A.
Richardson, the friend of Douglas, was Richard Yates, the distin-
guished War Governor of Illinois. Many of the Republican Repre-
sentatives who were beaten in the reaction of 1862 had been again
returned on the tidal wave that re-elected Lincoln in 1864. Among
these the most eminent were Roscoe Conkling, of New York, and John
A. Bingham and Samuel Shellabarger, of Ohio. General Schenck
and General Garfield were in their second terms, and James G. Blaine
was rapidly coming into prominence. Such men as these could not
stand idly by while Mr. Johnson and Mr. Seward frittered away the
results of the war. But more hurtful to the Administration than these
only less hurtful than the President's Democratic champions were
the men who came to Washington, either at the beginning of the
Congress or soon afterward, demanding the right to represent the


Southern States. As many as four of Johnson's Provisional Govern-
ors claimed seats in the Senate Lewis E. Parsons, of Alabama;
William Marvin, of Florida; William L. Sharkey, of Mississippi, and
Benjamin F. Perry, of South Carolina. Georgia got back into the
Union with both feet, sending as Senators in Congress Alexander 11.
Stephens and Herschel V. Johnson. The dismounted rebel brigadiers
appeared in the House wing of the Capitol with all the confidence of
conquerors General Cullen A. Battle, of Alabama; General Philip
Cook and General W. T. \Vofford, of Georgia; Colonel Arthur E. Rey-
uolds and Colonel Richard Pinson, of Mississippi; Colonel Josiah E.
Turner, Jr., of North Carolina; and Colonel John 1). Kennedy and
General Samuel McGowan, of South Carolina. The South had come
back to Washington to insist on the inalienable rights of Statehood,
and to rule the nation as it had ruled it before the war.

Instead of attempting to untie the Gordian knot of Statehood under
the Constitution in the manner of lawyers like Reverdy Johnson in
the Senate and William E. Niblack in the House, Mr. Stevens adopted
the Alexandrian method and severed it. He claimed that the States
that seceded from the Union must come back to it as new States or
remain as conquered provinces. " The separate action of the Presi-
dent or the Senate or the House," he said, " amounts to nothing
either in admitting new States or guaranteeing Republican forms of
government to lapsed or outlawed States." Then came the shot that
was aimed at the Executive, although the President was not men-
tioned by name or directly alluded to in any part of Mr. Stevens's
speech. u Whence springs the preposterous idea," he asked, " that
any one of these, acting separately, can determine the right of States
to send Representatives or Senators to the Congress of the Union? "
Mr. Stevens did not design at that time to extend the suffrage to the
blacks by Federal action, but by excluding the entire population from
the basis of representation in Congress to compel the States, in their
own interest, to extend the franchise. He gave notice, however, that
the freedmen were not to go unprotected. " We have," said he,
" turned, or are about to turn, loose four million slaves without a hut
to shelter them or a cent in their pockets. The diabolical laws of
slavery have prevented them from acquiring an education, under-
standing the commonest laws of contract, or of managing the ordi-
nary business of life. This Congress is bound to look after them until
they can take care of themselves. If we do not hedge them around
with protecting laws, if we leave them to the legislation of their old
masters, we had better have left them in bondage. Their condition
will be worse than that of our prisoners at Andersonville. If we fail
in this great duty now when we have the power, we shall deserve to
receive the e'xecration of history and of all future ages."



The cry that this is a white man's government, which had been
proclaimed in so many Democratic platforms during the war, he de-
nounced with great vigor and bitterness. " Sir," he said, " this doc-
trine of a white man's government is as atrocious as the infamous
sentiment that damned the late Chief Justice to everlasting fame, and
I fear to everlasting fire."

This speech of Mr. Stevens gave great offense to the Administration.
It was determined that it must be answered before it had time to
enter the mind and heart of the Republican masses answered by a
man who stood high in the councils of the party, who would speak
with authority for the large Republican element that was expected
to rally to the support of the
President. In the manner
in which the defense was at-
tempted, as well as in the
choice of the champion, it is
easy to recognize the deft
hand and keen brain of Mr.
Seward. The ungrateful
task, as it proved, fell upon
Henry J. Raymond, the ac-
complished editor of the
New York Times. Mr. Ray-
mond was still a compara-
tively young man, gifted,
admired, and ambitious. As
a newspaper writer he was
especially brilliant, and his
paper was characterized by
a literary culture and schol-
arly tone never before at-
tained by any American journal. In their mental traits and intellec-
tual graces the man and the paper were counterparts of each other.
Besides, Raymond was a politician of long experience. He had been a
member of the New York Assembly. He had been Lieutenant-Governor
of his State, and was a parliamentarian of rare tact and skill. He
began his journalistic career with Mr. Greeley on the Tribune, and for
a number of years their personal and political relations were very
close. It was not long after their business connection was severed
that they parted company politically. When the political firm of
Seward, Weed & Greeley w r as dissolved, it became Seward, Weed &
Raymond. The Times had avoided the political vagaries for which
the Tribune was famous, and as the Seward organ in New York Citv it



Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 61)