The Logical Results of the War
THE LOGICAL RESULTS OF THE WAR
Mr. President and Fellow-Citizens:—No discerning man can survey the present situation of affairs in this Republic without perceiving that, although the war is over, the country is not yet at peace. There is a fierce contest going on between the Executive and Legislative branches of the National Government, in which the masses of the people are called upon to take sides. In the South we see symptoms of dangerous fermentation sporadically breaking out in bloody deeds. In the North the war of opinions is carried on with passionate violence. A gathering of men, euphoneously styling itself “The National Union Convention,” has already called upon the people of the South not to submit if the policy adopted by the Congress of the United States should prevail. Everywhere the air is heavy with threats and apprehensions.
This state of things, surprising and alarming as it may appear, is by no means without precedent. Look over the history of the world, and you will find that every great reformatory movement in society, every revolution in favor of popular rights, every sudden onward stride in the progress of civilization, has had to pass through two distinct periods: first, the struggle for its achievement, and then the struggle for the preservation of its results; the first, the period of action; the second, the period of reaction.
When the struggles of the first period are over and the victory seems decided, the discomfited forces of society gradually wake up from the torpor of their defeat; the energies and vigilance of the victors are relaxed by a sanguine delusion of security and the generous emotions engendered by success. The defeated party presently rallies for an attempt to recover what it has lost, the victors are off their guard, and the results of the victory are again put in question. These results will be safe only if the victors have been wise enough to have them firmly imbedded in political forms of institutions so well fixed and fortified that the tide of the reaction, however furious, cannot shake or move them. But these results may again be lost or grievously impaired, if the victors in foolish confidence have neglected to surround them with impregnable safeguards. New, protracted and dangerous struggles will inevitably be the consequence. History teaches us this lesson on thousands of its most instructive pages, and no true statesman will close his eyes against it.
That period of reaction after our glorious victory for National Union and human liberty has now come upon us and it is the more formidable and dangerous as one of the great powers of the state has made himself its agent and champion. I shall attempt to analyze its nature and the situation in which it has placed us, with fairness, but without reserve; and I invite you to follow my reasoning with that intellectual honesty which shrinks from no conclusions of logic.
When the civil war had come to a close, the problem presented itself of what is commonly called reconstruction. The principal difficulty of that problem consisted then, and consists now, in this: The political system of this Republic rests upon the right of the people to control their local concerns in their several States by the operations of self-government, subject to certain restrictions imposed by the National Constitution, and in the right to coöperate with one another in the government of the whole. This system was not to be changed in the work of reconstruction; but it was evident also that if reconstruction was to accomplish only the mere setting in motion again of the machinery of government as it had been previous to the war, and nothing else, it would have forthwith invested the very people who had been in rebellion against the Government with the power in a great measure to control the very results which had been won, and against which they had struggled; and this would have been a surrender of the consequences of our victory to the discretion of the defeated.
Here was a difficulty which struck the mind of every candid man at first sight. The immediate and unconditional restoration of the rebel States to the absolute control of their home affairs and to power in the General Government, was so obviously incompatible with the best interests and sacred obligations of the Republic, so manifestly against all common-sense, that when one of the greatest heroes of the war, led astray by a too generous error of judgment, admitted it as one of the stipulations of an armistice, the people, startled out of their equanimity by the mistake, raised a general outcry against him all over the loyal States; the President himself repudiated the proposition with the utmost promptness and decision, and some of the journals which now advocate a similar policy were among the loudest in their expressions of indignant denunciation, calling it either madness or treason. The hero I speak of undoubtedly soon saw his error, and the country remembers nothing but the gratitude it owes him.
In fact, all those who had been faithful to the National cause during the war substantially agreed, at its close, on two points with almost unbroken unanimity: First, that as speedily as possible all the attributes of our democratic system of government should be restored; but, second, that the rebel States could not be reinstated in the full control of their local affairs, in their full participation in the government of the Republic, until, by the imposition of irreversible stipulations, it should have been rendered impossible for them to subvert or impair any of the results of the war, or to violate any of the obligations the Republic had taken upon herself. This appeared so reasonable, and, in fact, so absolutely a dictate of common-sense, that no man with any pretensions to patriotism or statesmanship objected to it.
Least of all did Andrew Johnson object to it. No man insisted more strenuously that the participants in the rebellion must be punished and stripped of all political power and social influence, and that the government of the States, as well as of the Nation, must be confided exclusively to the tried and ever-faithful friends of the Republic. Nay, he was so fierce and radical in those days that many of us began to be seriously alarmed lest, by shedding the blood of too many victims, by too severe exactions, by too merciless and sweeping a proscription, he offend the humane spirit of this age, and cast a shadow upon the fair escutcheon of this Republic. We have learned to know him better by this time. Nobody fears that he will hang too many traitors now. He tells us that he is going the round of the circle, and is just now at the other end; and we have every reason to believe it. But let that pass.
Cast a look back upon the days immediately following the close of the war—those days of promise! How easy was it then to accomplish all that would have saved the Nation from the throes of the struggle we are to-day engaged in! Then the people of the rebel States had not yet rallied from the torpor of the defeat. Far from thinking of another fight, they thought of nothing but of the necessity of submission. In tremulous anxiety they awaited the verdict of the conqueror. They expected nothing better than that we should dictate the terms of peace. If anybody had told them that we would not, they would not have believed him. They dreamed of nothing but punishment, of wholesale hanging and confiscation; and the imposition of any sort of government that would permit them to live and to retain what they had saved from the disasters of the war, would have been welcomed by them as an act of grace and favor. Nothing appeared to them more natural than that the participants in the rebellion should be excluded from office, influence and power—nay, from the franchise even; and that the functions of government should be confined to the tried and faithful friends of the National cause. Even negro suffrage, universal, unrestricted, would then have been accepted as one of the bitter but irresistible consequences of the war.
Let it not be said that, in thus describing the condition of the Southern people at that time, I am gloating over the prostration of a defeated enemy, or that it would have been ungenerous to take advantage of their helplessness. Whatever the President's friends may think, I am one of those who still consider the rebellion one of the great crimes in history; and victorious Liberty, firmly planting her heel upon the neck of defeated crime, would have been no unwelcome sight to me.
Yes, how easy would it have been then at that moment to accomplish all that was needful. While the South was thus passive, in the North also all that insidious opposition which had dogged the Government during the war, vanished before the glory of our victory. When the Southern lion of treason was struck down, the Northern curs of treason took to their kennels. The Government stood unhampered. There was not a sensible man in the North who did not expect, nay, who did not desire, that the Government should and would assert the rights of victory and leave nothing undone to give the Republic the fullest measure of security for the future; and to all the hopeful germs of liberty, justice, equality and progressive civilization which sleep in our political system, the freest scope of development.
Hardly anybody doubted that this would be done. It was looked upon as a foregone conclusion. And if the Government had resolutely adopted even the boldest policy of reform, all the generous and patriotic elements of American society would have coöperated with cheerful alacrity.
I repeat, how easy it would have been then to fortify the great results of the war, with all their promise of glorious development, in Constitutional safeguards so strong and impregnable that the reactionary movement, however violent, would have dashed itself to atoms against them! Nay, seeing its utter hopelessness, it would perhaps not even have been seriously attempted. How easy would it have been to lay broad and deep the foundations on which the political life of this Republic might have developed itself to the full realization of those sublime ideals of universal liberty, equal rights and impartial justice, which stand as the supreme guiding stars in the heart of every true friend of the human kind.
In the life of nations, as in the life of individuals, we see here and there standing out in bold relief, moments of great opportunity—moments when by simply following the manifest logic of events mighty consummations may be reached, which, if the auspicious hour be suffered to pass, will sometimes require ages of bitter and dangerous struggles to accomplish. Such a moment of great opportunity had arrived for the American Republic immediately after the close of the civil war. Truly, it did not require a bold and daring genius or profound statesman at the head of affairs to seize it. It required simply a man who would faithfully follow the common impulse of the hour. It required only a man of sincere sympathy with the best ideas of this great age; not a great man, but merely an honest man. Alas, that our good President was dead! That at such a moment Abraham Lincoln's great heart, his true and tender sympathies with the lowly children of humanity, his pure and unerring instincts of right and liberty, his unselfish purpose to be equally just to all, should have been lost to us! If he had lived, whatever hesitations we might have had to pass through, no man who knew him will doubt that the peace of the country would have been safe and the triumph of liberty and justice certain. Alas, that the good President is dead! We have learned to measure the greatness of our loss by what he left behind him.
The first great opportunity was thrown away, and the man who cheated the Nation out of it has committed a crime against the glory and happiness of the American Republic which the flatteries of millions of sycophants will not be sufficient to gloss over, and which centuries of repentance cannot wash out. And how was the great opportunity thrown away?
President Johnson took the work of reconstruction into his own hands and began to develop a scheme of policy. He issued proclamations appointing provisional governors for the rebel States, and ordered them to call State conventions. Was not the work of reconstruction to be placed exclusively into the hands of loyal men? Of course is was; Andrew Johnson had said so! He had solemnly declared that if there were but five thousand men of tried loyalty in a State, theirs must be the government.
But political power in the States naturally belongs to those who have the right to vote and to be voted for. Andrew Johnson began by prescribing the qualifications of voters. The loyal blacks were at once excluded from the suffrage; the right of voting was to be confined to the loyal whites. But who were the loyal whites? The President issued a proclamation of amnesty and declared that all participants in the rebellion should be regarded as loyal men if they would take the oath of allegiance, fourteen specially enumerated classes excepted. Thus, while the ballot-box was withheld from the loyal blacks, it was placed in the hands of a vast majority of those who had stood up against the Government of the Republic. Then the President opened his special pardon bank, and one after another the leaders of the rebellion were declared loyal, and enabled to place themselves once more at the head of their political followers.
A child might have foreseen the consequences. The true Union element was everywhere helplessly overwhelmed by rebel majorities. The conventions and legislatures fell into the hands of those who had stood against us in the civil war. The elective executive offices of the States were presently exercised by the leaders in the rebellion, and the whole machinery of the State governments was restored to their control.
Thus the reaction was fairly started. It commenced when the President first opened to the late rebels the road to power, and gained in strength as that power was obtained. It is true Andrew Johnson himself deemed it necessary to impose upon them conditions precedent to their full restoration. He demanded that their State conventions should declare the secession ordinances null and void, which, however, not all of them did. But that was a mere matter of form—good as far as it went. Such declarations in words, however, would never prevent another rebellion. He demanded that they should repudiate the rebel debt, a demand which was but partially complied with. But not insisting upon a provision to be embodied in the Federal Constitution, the President left it open to have a repeal at any time of the State laws by which the rebel debt was set aside. He demanded of them that their legislatures should ratify the Constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery; but he left it to them to fix by State law the social and political status of the emancipated slaves, thus to reduce them to slavery again in all but the name, and to prevent the development of free labor.
There the President stopped. These demands partially complied with, he pronounced the rebel States fit to be restored to their full Constitutional rights and privileges, and declared himself satisfied; and not only that, he insisted that he being satisfied everybody else should be satisfied also, and presently he declared everybody a traitor whose satisfaction was not complete. But the late rebels were indeed satisfied. In their most sanguine dreams they had never expected such magnanimity—a magnanimity which put the Nation's friends at the mercy of the Nation's enemies! They were indeed satisfied; and no sooner had their satisfaction inspired them with the desire to give cheers for Andrew Johnson than their gratitude went so far as to couple them with cheers for Jefferson Davis.
The reactionary movement chose for its first objective point persons obnoxious to the rebel element; first, the freed negroes; and then, as the President's policy gradually developed itself and became more encouraging, the white Union men of the South and Northern settlers. The South had fought for slavery; the emancipation of the slaves was for the rebels the most grievous result of their failure, and every freed negro reminded them of their defeat. Against the freedmen, therefore, the first fury of the reactionary movement directed itself. At that period I was myself in the South, and I know of what I affirm. I myself visited the hospitals and the prisons; I myself saw the lifeless bodies, the mangled limbs, the mutilated heads, of not a few of the victims. I myself listened to their sorrowful tales and those of their friends. I will not go into details. I will not attempt to draw the veil from that dark drama of blood and horror which makes the heart sick; for if ever the history of the countless murders and acts of fiendish persecution then perpetrated in the South should be traced and told, case after case, a picture of atrocities would reveal itself to the eyes of the world—a picture so revolting that the nineteenth century would blush for itself, and it would seriously be doubted whether it were best for humanity to take that country from the savage Indian and surrender it to the more barbarous rule of white men who call themselves civilized.
I say I was myself in the South shortly after the close of the war and when the President's policy was bearing its first fruits. President Johnson had honored me with a confidential mission to investigate the condition of things in the late rebel States, and I endeavored to show myself worthy of that confidence by honestly reporting what I had seen and heard and what I conscientiously understood to be true. Subsequently it appeared to me as if I had misunderstood the nature of my mission. But I dare to assert that every truthful man who knows what has occurred in the South will testify that if the official statements I have made convey erroneous impressions at all, they do so only by their studied mildness. My report has not had the good fortune of winning the applause or of exercising an influence upon the mind of him who sent me; but I console myself with the confident belief that in this country no individual, however powerful, can seal the eyes of the people by merely closing his own.
I have heard it said that the acts of barbarous persecution to which the freedmen were, and, for aught I know, are still exposed, were merely isolated occurrences, and do not authorize general conclusions. Can it be that in a community where public opinion stigmatizes the murder of a negro as a crime, assassination is permitted to stalk abroad with impunity in open daylight? Still I will waive this point, and say that the character of the majority shall be judged only by the majority's acts.
It was not by the crimes committed upon individual freedmen alone that the reaction against emancipation manifested itself. While murder affected only the individual, legislation affected the class; and it was by legislation enacted by the majority as represented in conventions and legislatures that the war against free labor was systematized. And what do we behold? Here is Mississippi declaring the penal and criminal laws formerly enacted against slaves in full force against freedmen, and by special acts depriving the freedmen of the right to acquire real property, and thus to own homes for themselves and their children. Here is Alabama, her legislation placing upon the freedmen similar disabilities. Here is South Carolina—the same South Carolina which the other day walked arm in arm with Massachusetts—with a black code, reëstablishing even the names of “master” and “servant,” only transferring the whipping business from the master to the town magistrate. Here is North Carolina, with her old black laws still unrepealed. Here is Louisiana, with a labor code which delivers the plantation laborer almost helpless into the hands of the planter. Here is Virginia, with a vagrant law calculated to make the freedman a vagrant, and the vagrant a slave again.
In my official report, I predicted that if the reactionary movement in the South be left unchecked, it would result in the introduction, by legislation, or, in the absence of laws, by practical appliances, of some system of labor intermediate between free labor and slavery, but having more of the attributes of the latter than of the former. Has not my prediction been verified by fact? To be sure, the President affects not to believe it, for it is a truth hardly recommendatory of his policy. But I do not ask the President to believe me. He himself testifies to the truth of what I have said, by his own acts. All over the South his military officers, his agents acting under his orders and by his authority, have been busy for some time setting aside and overruling State laws and judicial proceedings, because they were too glaringly incompatible with the decree of emancipation. It appears the President must, after all, have had an inkling of what was going on. I bring to the President the President's own testimony. Will he condescend to believe himself? or does he, perhaps, know himself so well as to have no faith in his own character for truth and veracity?
And what does all this prove? It proves that the people lately in rebellion, as soon as they saw their State governments once more in their hands, saw also a chance to turn their power to account in a reactionary movement against emancipation. It shows that they were determined not to permit the emancipated slave to become a true freeman, nor a system of true free labor to supplant that of slavery. It shows that they used their power in that direction as far as the General Government suffered them to go; and Heaven knows, President Johnson, although anxious to keep up appearances, suffered them to go far enough.
But the reactionary movement did not confine itself to the blacks; the whites, too, came in for their share. No sooner did the people lately in rebellion see the road to political power reopened to them by the President's reconstruction policy than they malignantly turned upon those Southern men who had refused to espouse the cause of the rebellion, and those Northerners who, during and after the war, imported into the South their capital, intelligence, enterprise and civilization. You see the people lately in rebellion not only not permitting the loyalists of the South to control the powers of Government, but refusing even to share it with them. Fidelity to the South—that is, participation in the rebellion—has become an absolute requisite for political trust, influence and power; identification with the National cause, a badge of disgrace; and the tried loyalists of the South, the same men into whose hands the President promised to place the work of reconstruction, to the exclusion of rebels, find themselves rudely ostracised from political life.
Nor does the reaction stop there. Hardly had the President's policy had time to be understood when a malignant spirit of hostility began to follow the Northern emigrant in all the relations of life. Every man was spotted who refused to sell his loyal principles along with his calico; and the Southern Union men, in the same measure as they had been faithful to the Government, were sneered at, howled at, spit upon as traitors to the Southern cause, and soon found themselves the outcasts of Southern society. And presently the torch and the pistol came again into play. Houses were burned to smoke out men of loyal sentiments. Democratic committees gave, and are now giving, men who fought under the flag of the country, notice to quit under penalty of death; and to the many cowardly murders committed in secret are now added wholesale butcheries in broad daylight and under the inspiration of the constituted authorities. Did you listen to tales of horror and woe coming from the lips of the faithful men now here appealing to your sympathy? And why are they here? Because, as even one of the President's court organs sneeringly asserted—and certainly Andrew Johnson himself would not impeach the veracity of his own mouthpiece—because this very convention of Southern Unionists would not have been permitted to meet in any one of the rebel States! Here they are—the men who most faithfully clung to the Republic in the hour of her greatest need—here they are, ostracized from political life, cast out from Southern society, persecuted by murderous malignity even to their very firesides; many of them driven away by bloodthirsty rebel mobs, exiles again from their homes, because they stood by their country.
Can it be that in the great struggle for the Union the tried and self-sacrificing Unionists of the South are the worst-defeated party? Shameful, incredible as it may seem, yet so it is. Under the heels of the rebellion when the rebellion broke out, they are still more under the heels of the rebels since the rebellion is vanquished; for then they looked up with hope, and now they look down almost with despair. Here they are, taking refuge under the shield of the loyal North, to enjoy the poor privilege of giving expression to their grief.
And there is the South: those who but recently fought against us, again wielding the powers of government in their States; flaunting before our eyes the declaration that in rising to destroy the Union they did no wrong; boasting of the rebellion as the pride and glory of their history; insolently defying and sneering at those who conquered them; making complicity in treason a test for political distinction; spitting upon tried loyalty to the National cause as a mark of disgrace; seeking to legislate and whip into servitude and misery those whom we have emancipated; persecuting as intruders those of us who have gone to live with them; tolerating no opinion which is not their own; driving away and murdering like outlaws the most faithful friends of the Union and of liberty; repeating the horrors of Fort Pillow on the streets of Memphis and New Orleans, and all this in the name of Southern rights and Andrew Johnson! Not only “the South for Southerners” is the cry, for the Southern Union men are Southerners also, but “the South for rebels.” Such are the fruits of the reaction sprung from the President's policy. Do you recognize them! It is slavery; slavery dead only in name, but its spirit revived by the treacherous policy of one who had sworn that it should never rise again. There it is, ambitious of power, impatient of restraint, overbearing in its ascendancy, brutal in its resentments, merciless with its murderous resentment, writing again its signature on the pages of American history in characters of blood.
I know the President's friends will say that I exaggerate. I wish I had exaggerated. But let them read the testimony of our military commanders whom a protracted residence in the South has enabled to form a judgment; let them scan the list of Southern State officers and inquire into their past career and their present doings; let them look over the records of Southern legislatures and study the character of their enactments; let them search the Southern press as an exponent of Southern sentiment; let them run their eyes over the lists of killed and wounded Union men, white as well as black, whom the reaction has already laid low; let them read General Sheridan's dispatches, which the President was so exceedingly slow in bringing to the knowledge of the people; let them listen to the words of those true men of the South who have laid the woful story of their sorrows before us; nay, let them for one moment be honest with themselves, and grant an audience to the misgivings of their own hearts, and within themselves they will hear a voice giving a lie to the whitewashing talk with which they strive to deceive the people.
Thus the reaction in the Southern States is almost complete. “Almost,” I say; not quite. Whatever encouragement the President may have given them, and however far they may have been urged on by it, still they labored under one restraint. There was something which operated as a check and prevented still wilder abuses of power. When they had gained supreme control in their States, there was still another thing to be gained, and that was their old controlling power in the government of the Nation. They had their governors, they had their legislatures, their judges, their municipal officers—but their seats in Congress were still to be won. They had conquered all the ground except one position, but that position was the key to the battlefield. While all other points were surrendered to them by treacherous complicity, that one position was garrisoned by a host of faithful men; for, thank Heaven, the spirit of the loyal people which gave victory to the National arms gave also to the country a Congress true to the cause of freedom.
Against that rock the waves of the reaction have so far dashed in vain. Even the late rebels, strong as were their impulses, and great their confidence in the subserviency of their new friend, Andrew Johnson, knew well that the great American Republic was not yet absolutely ruled by the dictatorial assumptions of the President, and that to gain admission to Congress, the will of Congress, representing the people, would have to be consulted. In order to accomplish this, they had to win our good opinion, and in order to win our good opinion they had to restrain themselves in their mad reactionary career. But even then, when common-sense might have told them that they must stoop to conquer, their fury proved stronger than the necessity of deception; and the South entered the Philadelphia wigwam with the blood of Memphis and New Orleans upon her garments.
And now, after all this, the loyal people are summoned to surrender what Congress has so firmly maintained. Suppose for a moment this were done; can the consequences be doubtful? If the people lately in rebellion have done what they did do while they knew that they could gain something by merely restraining themselves, what will they do when they have won all they want without restraining themselves?
Mark my words: You admit the late rebel States to representation and power in the National Government such as they are, unconditionally; you remove the brakes from the reactionary movement without having first secured and fortified the results of the war by amendments to the Federal Constitution; and I predict the reaction will go so far as to call in question all legislation that was had during the absence from Congress of the eleven rebel States. Whether so atrocious a movement will ultimately succeed, will rest with the people; but it is certain that if the President's policy prevail it will be attempted, and the attempt will not be checked before having plunged the Republic into disasters of the wildest confusion.
I speak deliberately, and I am sure no thoughtful student of history will deny that reactions, like revolutions, have an almost irresistible tendency to go to extremes, and will never stop until they reach them, unless they find insuperable obstacles in their way; and if there ever was a people on the face of the globe inclined to rush on to extremes with mad precipitation, it is the people of the rebel States.
Look the matter square in the face. Here is a Congress of which Southern men and Northern Johnson men form a majority; for such is the design of our opponents. The Southern delegations are there, unshackled by any of the Constitutional amendments now before the people. As a matter of course the test oath will at once be repealed. The South loudly demands the repeal; the President is in favor of it; and such being the case, where would the Johnson men find spirit enough to refuse it? The test oath repealed, the representative men of the South—that is, those who represented and led the South during the rebellion—will at once find their way to Congressional seats; and as by the emancipation of the slaves the representation of the Southern States will be largely increased, there will be more representative men of the South in Congress, and their power will be greater than ever before. Will the increase of their power be calculated to render them more modest in their pretensions?
Next in order comes the breaking down of all Congressional legislation for the protection of the emancipated slaves. All the obstacles which stand in the way of their reducing the freedmen to some sort of servile subjection will again be overturned without delay. The repeal of the Freedmen's Bureau and the civil-rights acts will be considered a matter of course; and it will give President Johnson, the modest man who would not be a dictator at any price, particular satisfaction to get rid of that power which enables him to protect the rights of the lowly children of the Republic, and which, for that reason, perhaps, he considers so dangerous a temptation. Woe to the negro, then, who, upon the solemn promise given by the Nation, attempted to be a freeman! Thrice woe, then, to the colored man who, when the country in the hour of danger called him under arms, took up his musket and with gallant devotion staked his life for the life of the Republic! All the pent-up resentments which the disastrous struggles and the bitter disappointments of years have accumulated in the Southern heart will come down upon his doomed head without restraint or moderation, and the Government for which he had sacrificed his blood will have withdrawn its protecting arm from him, and he will stand there a bloody monument of American treachery.
Next in order will come the demand of compensation for the Emancipated slaves and the damage done by our armies while operating against the rebels in the Southern States. Does anybody doubt that such extravagant claims will be preferred? Why, of the men elected to Congress in the Southern States last year, a vast majority were elected upon the distinct pledge that this demand for compensation would be preferred and insisted upon. Every Southern man will tell you that the Southern members, with the exception of a few members from Tennessee, and perhaps Arkansas, will be a solid unit upon that very question; and, in fact, if the rebel States be readmitted unconditionally, such as they are, will it not be natural? How many thousand millions they will demand, who knows? At any rate, they will demand enough to have a good many millions to spare, with which to buy up the necessary number of Northern doughfaces. And you will keep in mind that I am reasoning upon the supposition that the majority in Congress be composed of Southerners and Northern Johnson men, whose incorruptibility may be considered not quite above temptation since the consciences of so many of them have proved unable to resist mere visions of something to eat.
Next in order come the pensions paid to disabled soldiers and sailors and to the widows and orphans of those who lost their lives in the struggle against the rebellion. Will the late rebels consent to help pay pensions to those, or to the widows and orphans of those who subjugated them, while nothing is given to the rebel soldiers who defended them? Look into the Southern press; listen to the speeches of their candidates for office, and you will find the answer. No sooner will the rebel States be admitted, unconditionally such as they are, than the alternative will be put to us either to stop paying pensions to Northern invalids, widows and orphans, or to pay them likewise to those whose claims are based upon services rendered to the rebel cause. Can such a thing be thought of? The tender-hearted Johnsonites, who wept together with their Southern friends at the Philadelphia Convention, will hardly be capable of refusing to Southern heroes the pittance of fifty or sixty millions a year, whatever Northern taxpayers may think of it.
Finally, we arrive at the National debt. That the Southern people should be loath to pay the cost of the whipping they have received is natural enough. They cannot reasonably be expected to do so willingly. Such is human nature, and such is certainly Southern human nature. Let that Southern human nature be restored to power and influence in the National Government, and what reasonable man will doubt that every possible impediment will be thrown in the way of all legislation necessary to provide for the satisfaction of the just claims of our National creditors, unless we consent to assume the rebel debt also? I do not pretend to say that the masses of the South would be in favor of paying the rebel debt. What they would be most in favor of would be to pay no debt at all. But the creditors of the late Confederate Government would indeed be very much in favor of giving some value to their Confederate bonds, and being the most influential men of the South, they will not find it difficult to persuade the Southern masses that if any debt is to be paid at all the Confederate debt is entitled to payment as well as any other, if not even more. Who doubts that the people lately in rebellion will be very well convinced of this. Then operations will commence for the assumption of the rebel debt. The Southern members of Congress will be an almost solid unit for it. It will be necessary to buy up Northerners enough to make a majority. Do you think this impossible? The Confederate debt is estimated at about four billion dollars. Suppose the Confederate creditors combine and set one hundred million, or two hundred million, or five hundred million dollars, of their Confederate bonds apart as a general corruption fund; suppose an agent of the Confederate bondholder approaches a Northern doughface in this wise: “Sir, I offer you a million dollars in Confederate bonds at one cent on the dollar, the payment to be made by you ten days after the assumption of the Confederate debt by the United States. Now, sir, I offer you this as a fair business transaction, and not as a bribe.” Suppose this offer be made, is it not probable that a good many of those who are willing to sell their souls for a post-office will take it and vote for the assumption of the Confederate debt? To refuse anything to a Southern man is already a task of tremendous difficulty to a Northern doughface; but to refuse that something with a million dollars attached to it, would not that appear to most of our Johnson men an unjustifiable act of vindictiveness, calculated to alienate the hardly reconciled feelings of our erring, but now so sweetly repentant brethren?
It is true a Northern representative, after having voted for such a measure, would never again be able to confront his constituents; but what of that? With a million or so in his pocket, a Northern doughface who never could stand up against the frown of his Southern masters, will feel quite independent in the face of the contempt of his countrymen. He is accustomed to it anyhow, and the money will sweeten the sensation. Here is a premonitory symptom of what is to come; no sooner had the news of the Philadelphia Johnson Convention reached the Stock Exchange of London than there was an immediate rise in Confederate bonds. Who is stupid enough not to understand this? And what would be the consequence of assumption? Every augmentation of our National debt will proportionately diminish the value of our securities. The assumption of the rebel debt will be equivalent to the repudiation of at least half of our National obligations; our National creditors will be robbed of their just dues; our National faith will be broken; and the Republic will stand ruined in her credit and covered with eternal disgrace.
Do not dismiss this as a mere wild alarm. Read the history of representative governments, and you will find that more than one financial scheme has been carried through, just as foul as this, and apparently far more hopeless. And what may we not look for at a moment like this, when the President openly uses the whole patronage of the Government as a machinery of corruption, and familiarizes his followers with the idea that conscience is a marketable commodity?
Truly, these are no wild alarms, and the country may indeed congratulate itself, if, after the supposed success of the Johnson policy, the reaction stops even there. It is not only possible, but probable, that with one gigantic sweep they will attempt to brush away all the legislation passed by Congress during the absence of the eleven rebel States, and all that was done by the Southern conventions and legislatures called and organized upon the basis of the provisional governments instituted by the President. We see already the premonitory symptoms. The President himself, by questioning in his veto messages the legality of Congressional legislation in the absence of the eleven States, has directed the reaction into that channel and indicated the current it must take. One of the President's principal spokesmen, Mr. Ewing, of Ohio, has published an elaborate argument intended to prove that bills passed by the present Congress over the President's veto have not the validity of laws; and a supreme [court] Judge in North Carolina openly pronounces the convention called in that State by order of the President, an illegal and revolutionary body, and the constitution adopted by it null and void. Is it possible not to perceive where such arguments must lead us? And is there a single result of the war, except the slaughtering of half a million of men and rivers of blood and tears, which they do not involve?
But I hear it said that the people of the rebel States do not at all contemplate such things. Have they not shown the insincerity of their repentance and the meekness of their disposition at the Philadelphia Convention? “Oh,” exclaims Senator Doolittle, in a fine burst of tearful sentimentality, “Oh, if the whole American people could have seen, as we saw, South Carolina and Massachusetts walking arm-in-arm!” Let me tell that ecstatic Senator that the whole American people have seen the performance and have seen right through it too. A meeting called for consultation; a consultation in which the managers did not dare to permit anybody to express an honest opinion for fear of bursting up the whole concern; a frank exchange of views, where everybody acted as a special policeman to keep everybody else still. And by a jugglery so contemptible, by a dumb puppet-show so clumsy, these gentlemen think they can deceive a people so wide-awake as the Yankees. Nay, the humbug was even too transparent for Southern eyes. Look over the Southern press and you will see that they either scornfully repudiate the whole performance as an act of barefaced hypocrisy, or, on the supposition that there are people in the North who absolutely insist on being bamboozled, accept and approve it as a trap in which fools can be caught by Copperheads.
But I am told that, in a Congress organized upon the Johnson plan, the representatives of the rebel States will at all events constitute only a minority, and that, if they carry the reactionary movement too far, the Northern Johnson men will resist them. Ah, their virtue has already shown most wonderful powers of resistance! Look at their representative men. Here is Mr. Doolittle. When the civil-rights bill was passed in the Senate, Mr. Doolittle happened to be absent. The next day he took the floor declaring that he would have voted Aye had he been present, and asked the privilege of recording his vote in favor of that excellent measure. At that time it was understood that the President approved of it. A few days afterward the President vetoed the bill. Mr. Doolittle made haste to record his vote in favor of sustaining the veto and has ever since been denouncing that excellent measure as one of the abominations of the age. There is his independence of conviction! Here is Mr. Raymond. He voted for the Constitutional amendment now before the people. He expressed his hope that the President would accept it and recommend it to the Southern States for adoption. The President not long afterward declared himself against the Constitutional amendment; and we see Mr. Raymond, in his address laid before the Philadelphia Convention, inform the Southern people that they would be cowards and unworthy of freedom if they submitted to so cruel an outrage. Ah, there is virtue in the Johnson men! They resist the South? How many of the renegade Republicans are there who have not time and again given the lie to their professions of the day before, and who do not now every hour eat up their own words along with their “bread and butter”? And they are to be relied upon as the men to stem a reactionary current which they themselves have helped to set and keep in motion. If you want to know how far they are capable of sinking, look and see how far they have sunk already. When the news of the New Orleans riots and the connection of the President with that revolting butchery flashed over the country, the heart of every honest man was palpitating with indignation. Was it not then time for these fast friends of Andrew Johnson to tell him, “We have followed you so far, but we cannot go with you into deeds of blood?” But what did they do? Not one of them had spirit enough to condemn openly what must have sickened their inmost hearts. With indecent haste they rushed forward to approve the President's acts and to whitewash the assassins of Louisiana. Nay, for men who are capable of so monstrous a self-debasement, there is no depth of infamy into which they will not be ready to descend.
And thus the reactionary movement rushes on. The atrocities it has already achieved, after having won the machinery of the State governments, I have described to you. I have endeavored to unfold before you its prospective program, to be carried when the late rebel States are unconditionally restored to power in the National Government. And now we behold the President of the United States prostituting the whole power of his office, by using it as a machinery of intimidation and bribery, putting up at auction the patronage of the Government, the price to be paid in consciences, and leaving, as he himself says, his Presidential dignity behind him—indeed, he leaves it so far behind that the two will never again come together—promenading his bad grammar and clownish egotism across the country to bully a brave and noble people into acquiescence; behind him the encouraging shouts of the rebel States; around him all the disloyal elements of the North, which, during the war, conspired for the overthrow of the Republic, together with a bevy of political hirelings, who carry their principles in their pockets, and are ready to sell out, along with their better convictions, the whole great future of their country; and the whole of this disgusting company, President, rebels, Copperheads and renegades, vying with each other in threats of another civil war if their nefarious designs are successfully resisted.
Such is the situation of affairs at this moment; such the difficulties which surround us; such the dangers which threaten us. Can these difficulties be overcome? Can these dangers be averted? We have no time to stop and discuss whether and how, they can be, for every patriotic heart in the country will respond, “They must be.”
It is true the first golden opportunity after the victory of our arms, when we might have accomplished with ease what now may cost us the fiercest struggles, that first great opportunity has been treacherously frittered away, never to return; but it is not too late yet. A faithful Congress is still guarding the key position of the battlefield, and nobody need despair as long as behind a faithful Congress there stands a faithful people.
I stated at the beginning of my remarks that in order to render the reaction harmless, the great results achieved by the war must be so firmly imbedded into our political institutions as to be impregnable by any sudden movement. This can only be done by throwing the safeguard of the Constitution around them. A mere law can be repealed by a simple accidental majority in the legislatures without any Congress; a mere party platform may be pushed aside by the very men who made it, even without the formality of a vote; but a Constitutional provision cannot be over come unless two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the States concur in striking it out.
The Thirty-ninth Congress proceeded upon this idea. It embodied some of the safeguards to be built up around the results of our great National struggle, in a Constitutional amendment which is now submitted to the people for approval.
The provisions of that Constitutional amendment are known to you. It declares citizens all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and provides that such citizens shall be protected in the enjoyment of equal civil rights in whatever State they may reside. It fixes the basis of representation so that if, in any State the franchise be denied to any class of citizens, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the number of Representatives shall be reduced in proportion. It provides that the leaders of rebellion shall not be eligible to political office, unless Congress, by a two-thirds vote, remove the disability. Finally, it provides that the validity of the National debt of the United States, including debts incurred by the payment of pensions or bounties, shall not be questioned, and that no rebel debt shall be assumed and no claim for the loss of emancipated slaves be held legal and paid.
I will confess that as a general plan of reconstruction, as a foundation for the future political development of this great Republic, this Constitutional amendment never appeared to me broad enough. I believe not only in the ability, but also in the right, of man to govern himself. I believe that the only safe basis for democratic institutions to rest upon, consists in the integrity of self-government, and the integrity of self-government consists in no man's being excluded from participation in it by disabilities which he cannot overcome. I believe that to place the government of the late rebel States upon a reliable loyal foundation, you must enfranchise all the loyal men, black as well as white, thus effecting a safe reconstruction of the whole Republic by enlarging the democratic basis of our political system. I believe that the Republic owes it to the emancipated slaves whom she promised to make truly and forever free, either to protect them by the arm of the Federal Government, or to enable them to protect themselves, and that the development of free labor and the cause of democratic government requires the enfranchisement of the negro just as much as the negro needs it for his own protection. I believe that this Republic will have achieved true glory and secured lasting peace only when she metes out impartial justice to all her children. This would have been, in my opinion, not only the safest basis of reconstruction, but the most glorious achievement of this age, and the best warrant for the future development of our National strength, prosperity and greatness. If for this I am villified as an advocate of negro suffrage, I am willing to take the abuse and to stand by my convictions.
That the Constitutional amendment falls short of this, I heartily deplore. Still, I fondly hope that we shall yet reach the great consummation, and the very obstreperousness of the rebel States may hasten it on. But such as the Constitutional amendment is, as far as it goes, is it not in itself good? Is it not necessary? What objection can there be to it? Is it wrong that the civil rights of American citizens should be placed directly under the shield of the National Constitution? Is it not perfectly proper and just that if the people of a State exclude the negroes from the right of suffrage, they should not have the advantage of counting them in the basis of representation — an advantage which would give one rebel soldier in South Carolina three times as much political power as is wielded by a Union soldier in Massachusetts.
Is it not proper that if Massachusetts and South Carolina are to walk arm-in-arm, they should at least be equals at the ballot-box? Who but those who want to see the National debt repudiated will object to its being secured by a Constitutional provision? Is not this absolutely necessary in the face of the dangers which threaten us? Or is it, perhaps, wrong and unwise that by excluding the instigators of the rebellion from political office, we should make it impossible for those who but yesterday strove to destroy the Republic, to govern it again to-morrow? To be sure, Mr. Johnson's friends say that to keep such gentlemen out of office is a great outrage. Is it not significant that Mr. Johnson's friends never call it an outrage when the rebels keep Union men out of office because they are Union men?
Show me in the history of the world a single example of a great rebellion, the suppression of which was attended with such mildness and magnanimity. If there were any proof wanted to demonstrate the greatness of that magnanimity, it would be found in the fact that the same men whose lives were forfeited by the law, and who but yesterday escaped the halter, are to-day vociferously complaining of our cruelty because we do not just yet want them to rule us to-morrow. Nay, the provisions of the Constitutional amendment are so evidently just and proper that it has neither been attacked on its own merits by the President, who certainly is not disinclined to attack every thing that comes from that body which “hangs upon the verge of the government,” nor even by the distinguished gentlemen who did all the speaking for the Philadelphia Convention.
But here we encounter the great staple argument of the Johnson party. It is that, however proper, just and necessary the provisions of the Constitutional amendment may be, the Government has no right to make its ratification a condition precedent to the readmission of the rebel States; they always have been States; they have never ceased to be States; they are States now; and as such they are entitled to all the rights and privileges of other States. I will not follow our opponents into a metaphysical disquisition on the nature of a State, for it is not necessary for the purpose of proving the utter absurdity of their position.
Who does not know that a great civil war is subject to the same rules of public law as a foreign war? Is it not a principle of common-sense as well as a principle approved by every publicist of note since the world has had a literature, that the victor in a civil war, as well as in an international conflict, has a right to protect himself against immediate and prospective danger? Is it not the very height of insanity to say that the Government of the United States has no right to provide for the future security of the Republic because the defeated rebels regain all their rights at the moment of their failure, and by the very fact of their defeat? Here is Vattel, book 3, section 201, 44, 45:
“When the conqueror has subdued a hostile nation, he may, if prudence so require, render her incapable of doing mischief with the same ease in the future. . . . If the safety of the State lies at stake, our precaution and foresight cannot be extended too far. Must we delay to avert our ruin until it becomes inevitable? . . . An injury gives a right to provide for our future safety by depriving the unjust aggressor of the means of injuring us.”
Would it not be an act of folly unprecedented in the history of nations to neglect so absolutely necessary a precaution in our case? Is it possible that men with any pretensions to sanity should attempt to deny the justice of a principle so self-evident; a principle equally approved by common-sense and public law? That President Johnson should ever have taken so absurd a position I can explain only upon one theory. He frequently tells us in his unfortunately not unfrequent speeches that he commenced his political career as a village alderman, at Greenville, Tennessee, and that he then rose, step by step, until he reached the Presidency of the United States. It seems, when the President finds himself in a tangle, he is still in the habit of applying to the Dogberry of Greenville for a Constitutional argument.
But the President's own acts give the lie to his theories. Has he not himself imposed upon the rebel States conditions precedent to readmission? Did he not order them to ratify the Constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery and to repudiate the rebel debt, expressly telling them that they would not be readmitted until they should have done so? And if he can do that why not Congress? Has the alderman of Greenville grown so big as to absorb in himself all the powers of the Government, leaving nothing to the representatives of the people?
But he did not stop even there. He appointed governors and ordered them to call State conventions. He kept the governors of his appointment still in office after the people of the rebel States had elected their own. Nay, when their elected governors were already in office, and the legislatures working, he set aside laws passed by those legislatures and approved by those governors, on his own authority, by mere executive order; and after all this, he still dares to speak of those States as being entitled to just the same rights as New York or Massachusetts. Would he have dared to attempt similar things in Pennsylvania? I apprehend the sturdy yeomanry of the Keystone State would have shown him the difference between their State and conquered Mississippi in the twinkling of an eye. Nay, if his theory were correct, if the conquered communities of the South were really entitled to the same rights and privileges as the loyal States of the Union, he would, by his very acts of flagrant interference with the legitimate rights of the States, have committed a high crime against the Constitution of the United States, and Jack Rogers of New Jersey ought to have moved his impeachment long ago to give Senator Cowan of Pennsylvania an opportunity to pronounce him guilty.
Here I will leave Mr. Johnson and his friends to their self-imposed task of proving that the great men who made the Constitution were such consummate fools as to render the Government of the United States Constitutionally unable, after having conquered a great rebellion, to provide for the future security of the Republic by imposing conditions upon the defeated enemy. They are profound Constitutional lawyers, I presume, and I wish them joy.
In the meantime, I trust no honest and patriotic man will find it difficult to understand this aspect of the question. In the course of the war the Government wanted money, and called upon the people for loans under the distinct and solemn promise that the lender should have his interest and principal as provided by law. This constituted our obligation to the National creditor. The Government wanted aid and coöperation inside of the rebellious States, and called upon the Union men of the South to come forward, under the distinct understanding that they should not be abandoned to the tender mercies of the rebels. This constituted our National obligations to the Union men of the South. The Government wanted to weaken the enemy and increase its forces in the field, and it called upon the negro to take part in the conflict, under the distinct and solemn promise that his race should be forever and truly free. This constituted our National obligation to the negro.
Great as is my respect for our fundamental law, I do not hesitate to affirm that these obligations, as to their binding force, stand upon a level with the Constitution itself. If there were nothing in the Constitution of the United States providing means, or expressly indicating a mode in which those obligations shall be fulfilled, would it not still be the great duty of the Republic to fulfil them? If it was Constitutional to make those promises, must it not be equally Constitutional to clear away all obstacles which might prevent us from keeping them? If it is our duty to pay the National debt and to secure their rights to the loyalists and freedmen of the South, is it not also our duty, not only to do all that is necessary to that end, but also to prevent such obstacles being thrown in our way as might render our ability to fulfil our obligations uncertain? It is clear, therefore, that if the unconditional readmission of the rebel States might become in the least degree prejudicial to our National obligations, it is not only the right, but it is the sacred duty, of the Government to keep the rebel States from representation and power in our National concerns, until they shall have bound themselves, by the strongest and most irreversible guarantees, to respect the great obligations the Republic has to perform. If we have a President whose moral perceptions are so obtuse that he does not understand that duty, every true American should sink upon his knees and thank Heaven that we have a Congress which does.
Let no man deceive himself. It is in vain to resort to Constitutional quibbles. It is in vain to speak upon the mutual aversion of the races. It is in vain to say: “Let us trust the rebels; they have been so clever at the Philadelphia Convention they will at last do justice to the National creditor, to the Southern Union man and to the negro; let us try the experiment, and put power into their hands.” It is in vain to speak of favorable possibilities. We have no right to make experiments with the lives, liberties and property of our friends. We have no right to content ourselves with a vague prospect that the investment of the rebels with political power may possibly not result in a breach of our National obligations. We have no right to be satisfied with anything short of the positive assurance that our National obligations are Constitutionally beyond the reach of the reconstructed rebels, so that if they have the desire, they have not the power, to do mischief. We ourselves have to vouch for the discharge of these solemn obligations, and it would be downright treachery to delegate even the smallest part of them to other people whose intentions are uncertain. We have given our promise for value received in money and in blood. It was under the banner of the Stars and Stripes that this bargain was fairly struck, and that banner will bear a blot of eternal disgrace unless the compact be honestly carried out.
I declare here before the American people, and I call to witness every honest man on the face of the globe, if, after having taken the money of the National creditor, upon the distinct promise that his interest should be fairly secured; if, after having called upon the Southern loyalist for coöperation, upon the distinct promise that his rights should be protected; if, after having summoned the negro to the battlefield, upon the distinct and solemn promise that his race should be forever and truly free; if, after having done all this, the Government of this Republic restores the rebel States to the full enjoyment of their rights and the full exercise of their power in the Union, without previously exacting such irreversible stipulations and guarantees as will fully, and beyond peradventure, secure the National creditor, the Southern Union man and the emancipated negro against those encroachments upon their rights which the reaction now going on is bringing with it, it will be the most unnatural, the most treacherous, the most dastardly act ever committed by any nation in the history of the world. It will be such an act as will render every man who participates in it unfit forever to sit in the company of gentlemen.
You remember the scorn and contempt with which the rebels spoke about the “mean-spirited Yankee.” Do this, betray those who stood by you in the hour of need, and at that moment you will deserve it all. Do this, and your bitterest enemy in the South will have a right to ask the negro, “Did we not tell you the Yankees would cheat you?” And the negro will have to reply, “You did; and you were right.” Not because they hated you, but because they despised you, the people of the South ventured upon the rebellion. Do this, betray your friends into the hands of their enemies, and they will despise you more than ever before, and you will have to say to yourselves that you deserve it.
And yet a policy like this I have heard designated as the “Lincoln and Johnson policy.” In the name of common decency, in the name of the respect we owe to the memory of our martyred President, I solemnly protest against this insidious coupling of names. The Lincoln policy! I knew Abraham Lincoln well; and at times when many earnest and true men were dissatisfied with his ways, and when I myself could not resist an impulse of impatience, yet I never lost my faith in him, because I knew him well. The workings of his mind were slow; but the pure and noble sympathies of his heart, true as the magnet needle, always guided them to the polar star of universal justice. He was not one of those bold reformers who will go far ahead of the particular requirements of the hour; he laboriously endeavored to comprehend what the situation demanded, and when he once clearly understood it, at once he planted his foot, and no living man ever saw Abraham Lincoln make a step backward. His march was ahead, and each dawning day found him a warmer advocate of the progressive ideas of our great age.
I have heard it said, and it is one of the staple arguments of Mr. Johnson's friends, that Abraham Lincoln would never have imposed upon the rebel States a condition precedent to restoration because it was not in the Baltimore platform. If Mr. Lincoln had been assassinated in the year 1862, they might, with equal justice, have said, because emancipation was not in the Chicago platform of 1860, he would never have been in favor of emancipation. I undertake to say he would have been as firm an advocate of impartial suffrage to-day as he was of emancipation, had he lived to see how necessary the one is to secure and complete the other. True, he never ranted about the hanging and impoverishing of traitors, but in his soul slept the sublime ideal of merciful justice and just mercy. He would not have thought of taking bloody revenge on the Union's enemies, but he would never have ceased to think of being just to the Union's friends. Abraham Lincoln and this “policy”! He would rather have suffered himself to be burnt at the stake than to break or endanger the pledge he had given to the Southern Union man when he called upon him for assistance, and to the negro soldier, when he summoned him to the field of battle; and if he could rise from the dead and walk among us to-day, we would see him imploring mercy upon the accursed souls of his assassins. But even his large heart, with its inexhaustible mine of human kindness, would have no prayer for those who strive to undo, or culpably suffer to be undone, the great work which was the crowning glory of his life.
Let Andrew Johnson's friends look for arguments wherever they choose, but let the grave of the great martyr of liberty be safe against their defiling touch. In the name of the National heart I protest against the infamous trick of associating Abraham Lincoln with a policy which drove into exile the truest men of the South, and culminated in the butchery of New Orleans. If Andrew Johnson has chosen his pillory, let him stand there alone, enveloped in the incense of bought flattery, adored by every villain in the land, and loaded down with the maledictions of the down-trodden and degraded.
Americans, the lines are drawn, and the issues of the contests are clearly made up.
You want the Union fully restored. We offer it to you—a Union based upon universal liberty, impartial justice and equal rights, upon sacred pledges faithfully fulfilled, upon the faith of the Nation nobly vindicated; a Union without a slave and without a tyrant; a Union of truly democratic States; a Union capable of ripening to full maturity all that is great and hopeful in the mind and heart of the American people; a Union on every square foot of which free thought may shine out in free utterance; a Union between the most promising elements of progress, between the most loyal impulses in every section of this vast Republic; in one word, a Union between the true men of the North and the true men of the South.
The reactionists, with their champion, Andrew Johnson, also offer you a Union—a Union based upon deception unscrupulously practiced, upon great promises treacherously violated, upon the National faith scandalously broken; a Union whose entrails are once more to be lacerated by the irrepressible struggle between slavery and liberty; a Union in a part of which the rules of speech will be prescribed by the terrorism of the mob, and free thought silenced by the policeman's club and the knife of the assassin; a Union tainted with the blood of its truest friends and covered with the curses of its betrayed children; a Union between the fighting traitors of the South and the scheming traitors of the North; a Union between the New York rioters of 1863 and the Memphis and New Orleans rioters of 1866.
You want magnanimity to a beaten foe. We offer it to you. We demand no blood, no persecution, no revenge. We only insist that when the Republic distributes the charitable gift of pardon and grace, the safety and rights of her faithful children are entitled to the first consideration. We are ready to grasp the hand of the South. We only want first to ascertain whether the blood of our slaughtered friends is already dried on it. Peace and good-will to all men is the fondest wish of our heart and we are anxious to give and secure it even to the bitterest of our enemies as soon as they show an honest willingness to grant it to all of our friends.
The reactionists, with their champion, Andrew Johnson, speak, too, of magnanimity. Magnanimity! What magnanimity is this which consists in forgiveness to the Union's enemies and forgetfulness to the Union's friends? which puts the dagger into the hands of the former with which to strike at the lives of the latter? Magnanimity, indeed! It is mercy in the prostituting embrace of treason; it is persecution and murder in the garb of grace.
Are the American people sunk so deeply—can they be so completely lost to all sense of decency and honor—that such an insult to their common-sense, and to the generous impulses of their hearts, should be offered to them with impunity? Or is it possible that those who but yesterday would have defied the world in arms, should to-day, with craven pusillanimity, recoil before the difficulties which the revived hopes of defeated traitors oppose to their onward march? I appeal to your understandings. Let the clear, practical eye of the American be turned upon the task immediately before us, and see how simple it is. You have but to speak and the dangers which surround you will vanish. Let the National will rise up from the ballot-boxes of November with a strength which laughs at resistance, and with a clearness of utterance which admits of no doubt, and the reaction which now surges against you like a sea of angry waves will play around your feet like the harmless rivulet set running by an April shower. Even Andrew Johnson's damaged intellect will quickly perceive that, although he may succeed in buying up a few forlorn wretches, it is a hopeless enterprise to debauch the great heart of the American people. He will learn in season that it would indeed be highly imprudent for him to think of dictatorship, and that if he ventured too far in his treacherous course, the American people are not incapable of remembering what he has so strenuously impressed upon their minds, that “treason must be made odious,” and that “traitors must be punished.” The late rebels will soon understand that those who defeated them in the field still live; and that it will be a wise thing for the South to lose no time in accommodating themselves to a necessity from which there is no escape. Nay, even to our friend, Henry Ward Beecher, it may finally become clear that by boldly and unflinchingly insisting upon what is right, the Union can just as quickly, and far more firmly, be restored than by accepting with fidgety impatience that which is wrong. But above all, our loyal friends in the South, white and black, whose cry for help is to-day thrilling the heart of every just man in the land, will raise their heads with proud confidence, feeling that they do not stand alone among their enemies, but that as they, in the gloomiest hours of danger, were true to the Republic, the Republic, so help her, God, will be true to them.
Yes, let the National will once more make itself understood to friend and foe, and the dangers which are now hanging over us like a black cloud will quickly clear away. Before its thunder tones the armed legions of the rebellion could not stand; before it the iniquitous designs of the reaction will soon vanish in utter hopelessness. Andrew Johnson's wretched brigade will be dispersed as by a whirlwind; the arm of the daring demagogue, which is now so defiantly lifted against the popular conscience, will fall palsied by his side, and the truly loyal men of America will quickly, justly and firmly restore the shaken fabric of the Union.
We have passed through gloomy days of late; days of grievous disappointment, of deep humiliation, of sorrowful anxiety. But when the other night I stood upon the balcony of the Union League House and saw the countless multitude surging below, a multitude greater in number than the hosts which marched with Sherman to the sea, or the Army of the Potomac when it swept over the ramparts of Richmond, and that multitude, as once our batallions were summoned to the battlefield by the paternal voice of Abraham Lincoln, now following the solemn call of the same voice issuing from the grave; and when I saw from that ocean of human faces radiating forth the electric light of intelligence and love of liberty; and when I thought that the volcanic bursts of enthusiasm there were but one throb of the patriotic emotions which are to-day again swelling the great heart of the loyal North, then my soul felt itself lifted out of the gloom of dark apprehensions and I ceased to fear for the future of the Republic. Then it became certain again to my mind, that the great people of the New World, who fought a four years' battle of conscience, have not forgotten their exalted mission on earth, and that the very gates of hell cannot shake their mighty determination to wield, with a firm hand, the National power, until justice is done to all, and until, with safety to all, the Republic can be set afloat upon the broadest channel of self-government.
We have already heard the triumphant morning gun of Vermont, booming with increased volume. Far off San Francisco has merrily responded; old Maine in the North stands ready to send us a cheering echo, and all over the land our hosts are mustering with the inspiring confidence that to march on is to conquer.
Our time has come. Forward into line, Republicans! This is to be the final battle of the war. Let it be the greatest victory of right and justice.
- Speech delivered at Philadelphia, Sept. 8, 1866.