« PreviousContinue »
This volume is intended to be a Record of the Legislation, and the general Political History of the United States, for the last four years—a period of unexampled activity and of singularly deep interest and inportance, whether reference be had to the vast material interests involved in the stupendous struggle, or the precedents, principles, and measures which the Convulsion has produced. It is further intended to be a Record rather of those salient facts which embody or illustrate principles, than of those which relate to men or parties, and hence have transient and inferior sig. nificance.
So abundant have been the materials, that compression has been a necessity. Selection has been made with the purpose of presenting, fully and fairly, the facts as they are, and the agencies by which they came-viewing all else as subordinate.
The first Ninety pages are devoted to the period of Secession, and contain a narrative of the successive steps in the movement in each State, in chronological order; also, the elaborate justifying papers of the South Carolina Convention, with counter-selections from other authorities; together with a condensation of the various propositions of Adjustment made in or out of Congress and the vote upon each taken in either body, and the various Official Papers of the day tending to show the relations of the parties, the wrongs complained of, and the remedies proposed. Closely examining this Record, it is difficult for a candid person to escape the conviction that Adjustment was hopeless—Revolution having been the pre-determined purpose of the reckless men who had obtained control of the State machinery of most of the slaveholding States. This conviction will be strengthened by study of what has since transpired.
It will be remembered that the Thirty-Sixth Congress proposed permanently to settle the security of slavery in the slaveholding States by an annendment of the Constitution, which was adopted by a two-thirds vote in each House. And that it completely disposed of the Territorial feature of the difficulties by agreeing upon, and almost unanimously passing, bills organizing Territories covering the entire area owned by the Government. The record of these two important historical facts is given within. They have great significance in establishing the character of the Rebellion.
The copy of the Constitution of the United States is believed to be strictly accurate in text and punctuation, which, it is understood, can be said of only one other copy in print—that in the work known as Hickey's Constitution. The statement of the differences between it and the Rebel Constitution has been made with extreme care. The common index to the two instruments shows, at a glance, wherein they differ, and will be found both interesting and convenient
the whole chapter possessing special value to large classes of persons.
In presenting the facts upon each subject of legislation, the general plan has been: first, to state the result reached, with the final votes; and, then, such proceedings, in the intermediate stages, as are of adequate importance, or necessary to explain the position of Members. This preparation involved constant selection, concerning which there may be differences of opinion-some thinking that too much detail on one subject is given; others, too little of another. In all cases the rule stated, governed. As far as it has been possible to obtain the Rebel legislation on the same or corresponding subjects, it has been added, with such of their orders and proclamations as were connected with them. A comparison of the two, and the dates of enactment or issue, will prove of service in dispelling delusions and correcting general misconceptions.
Besides the legislation proper, the volume contains, in a classified form, all the Messages, Proclamations, Orders, Correspondence, and Addresses of the President; the Diplomacy of the Secretary of State; valuable letters and papers from the Secretaries of the Treasury, of War, of the Navy, of the Interior, and from the Postmaster General; Opinions of the Attorney General upon commanding public questions; those of the Orders of Commanding Officers which are within the scope of the work; the Decisions of the Courts; and such other data as properly belong therein—the whole forming a multitudinous mass of facts, to any one of which the classification adopted, and the copious index appended, will, it is hoped, make it easy to refer.
The votes by Yeas and Nays have been carefully compared with the Official Journals of Congress. In preparing these lists, the names of those persons have, for comparison's sake, been italicised, who were elected by, or were at the time generally co-operating with, the Democratic party. All others are in roman.
Under “Our Foreign Relations” will be found much of permanent value, as well as of current interest and dispute.
The chapter on the “Conspiracy of Disunion" contains several very interesting documents, chief of which are the extract from U. S. Senator Maclay's journal of 1789, recording, probably, the first threat of disunion uttered in Congress, and upon a subject which remained a matter of complaint in some quarters down to the period of Secession; and the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Police Commissioners of Baltimore in 1861, one of the most flagrant as well as one of the latest outbursts of treason. Other portions of this chapter will richly bear examination.
I greatly regret that want of space has required the omission of many other facts, gathered from our political history, tending to reveal the true character of this foul conspiracy against Liberty, this crime against humanity.
The lists of the organization of the Rebel “ Provisional ” and “Permanent" Government have been made up from every accessible source, and, though not complete, are more nearly so than any other yet published north of the Potomac, and as Dearly so as present facilities afford. They are the result of careful and extensive examination. As a matter of interest, the names of those of the conspirators who were once members of the Congress of the Union have been put in italic.
This work was undertaken a few months ago without a realizing sense of the labor it involved. I can scarcely hope to have escaped errors, both of omission and commission, but have striven to make it fair, impartial, and truthful. It deals with the most momentous events of this Century, which will be studied while civil Government exists. I trust that the volume will be of service to those consulting it, and that its general effect will be to help strengthen the purpose of the American people to maintain their Unity, their Freedom, and their Power.
EDWARD MCPHERSON. August 11, 1864.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
I have revised the entire work, and corrected every error ascertained. The Appendix has expanded greatly beyond the original design. Much of the matter in it is quite inaccessible, and the delays and uncertainties of procuring it led almost insensibly to an enlargement, and also somewhat disturbed the methodical arrangement elsewhere preserved. The historic papers of the South Carolina Convention, as now printed, are from official copies, and differ very suggestively from current versions, in numerous material points. The votes on Secession Ordinances, and subsequently on the Extinction of Slavery, in several of the rebellious States, form a pleasing contrast.
The copious chapter on “ The Church and the Rebellion " has been gathered with great care, and will serve to show their mutual relations and influence, as well as the singularly diverse views which have prevailed in Church courts. The contributions from the Bureau of Military Justice illustrate the practical working of the Emancipation policy, and will amply justify attention. To the action of the last session of Congress, and the record of the Presidential canvass which preceded it—of the result of which an official tabular statement is furnished-every student of American politics will have constant occasion to refer. On the great unsettled question of Reconstruction, the full record is presented.
It would be improper, in issuing this enlarged, and it is hoped improved edition, not to express my thanks for the kind reception given the first by the Press and the Public. March 24, 1865.