Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 17.djvu/241
The Monument to General Robert E, Lee. 233
Mr. Lincoln, in his message of July 4th, already referred to. after recapitulating some of the things he had done, says :
"Those measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon what appeared to be a popular demand and public necessity, trusting then as now, that Congress would readily ratify them.**
Let me endeavor to sum up the whole matter as it was presented to the people of the border States for their acceptance, or rather, as it was announced to them, for their obedience.
ASSUMES ABSOLUTE POWER.
The President in effect said to them :
" I this day assume absolute power. I take into my hands the control of the purse and of the sword of the United States. I sus- pend the writ of habeas corpus^ and shall arrest and detain at my pleasure any person whom I may consider dangerous to the public safety.
- I assume all these powers, and shall use them to compel the
. States of the South, which have seceded, to return to the Union, to maintain popular government, and to avenge wrongs.
- All these things I do in obedience to a popular demand, and I
now require your submission and support.'*
I think it is impossible to recognize in this picture of absolutism a trace of American constitutional government. I do not think that an attempt has been made to assert such powers over men of English speech and English blood since Charles the First passed from the royal banqueting hall to death. Certainly not since William of Orange landed at Torbay.
The President of the United States assumed absolute power in compliance with a popular demand, and called for an army to do what that pQpular demand required.
Among the things to be done was one which the Supreme Court had declared that the Government of the United States had no power to do, and another was something which, under all free governments, is left to the civil magistrate and not to the soldier — to avenge wrongs.
All who lived during those exciting times will bear witness to the truth of Mr. Lincoln's statement that what he did was in compliance with a popular demand.
The people of the North had been roused to fury and clamored for the blood of their political enemies. Every measure of the Ad-