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Last Public Speech.
Difficulties of Reconstruction.
different persons supposed to be interested in seeking a reconstruction of a State Government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, and General Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his military coöperation, would reconstruct substantially on that plan, I wrote him' and some of them to try it. They tried it, and the result is known.
"Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana Government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated; but, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced. "I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceded States, so called, are in the Union or out of it. It would, perhaps, add astonishment to his regret were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to make that a question, I have purposely forborne any public expression upon it, as it appears to me that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it while it thus remains practically material could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends.
"As yet, whatever it may become hereafter, that question is bad, as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all, a merely pernicious abstraction. We all agree that the seceded States, so-called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the Government, civil and military, in regard to those States, is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact easier to do this without deciding or even considering whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it; finding themselves safely
Difficulties of Reconstruction.
at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad.
Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these States and the Union, and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
"The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new Louisiana Government rests, would be more satisfactory to all if it contained 50,000, 30,000, or even 20,000, instead of only about 12,000, as it does.
“It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored men. I would myself prefer that it were conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers. Still the question is not whether the Louisiana Government, as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, will it be wiser to take it as it is, and help to improve it, or to reject and disperse it? Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State Government?
"Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free State constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the Constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the Nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetual freedom in the Statecommitted to the very beings and nearly all the things the Nation wants-and they ask the Nation's recognition and
Last Public Speech.
its assistance to make good their committal. Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We, in fact, say to the white man, 'You are worthless, or worse; we will neither help you nor be helped by you.' To the blacks we say, 'This cup of liberty which your old masters there hold to your lips we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined way when, where, and how.' If this course, by discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have so far been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize and sustain the new Government of Louisiana, the converse of all this is made true.
The Louisiana Government.
"We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it, to a complete success. The colored man, too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will be not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it than by running backward over them? Concede that the new Government of Louisiana is only what it should be, as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg, than by smashing it. [Laughter.]
"Again, if we reject Louisiana, we also reject our vote in favor of the proposed amendment to the National Constitution. To meet this proposition, it has been argued that no more than three-fourths of those States which have not attempted secession are necessary to validly ratify the amendment I do not commit myself against this, further than to say that such a ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently questioned, while a ratification by three
Last Public Speech.
fourths of all the States would be unquestioned and unquestionable.
"I repeat the question. Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State Government? What has been said of Louisiana will apply severally to other States; yet so great peculiarities pertain to each State, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same State, and withal so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed. As to details and collaterals, such an exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible.
"In the present situation, as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act when satisfied that action will be proper."
The Louisiana Government.
On the 11th of April, also, appeared the following proclamation:
"WHEREAS, By my proclamation of the 19th and 27th days of April, 1861, the ports of the United States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas were declared to be subject to blockade, but whereas the said blockade has, in consequence of actual military occupation by this Government, since then been conditionally set aside or released in respect to the ports of Norfolk and Alexandria, in the State of Virginia, Beaufort, in the State of North Carolina, Port Royal, in the State of South Carolina, Pensacola and Fernandina, in the State of Florida, and New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana; and whereas, by the 4th section of the act of Congress approved on the 13th of July, 1861, entitled 'an act further to provide for the collection of duties on imports, and for other
Proclamation on Maritime Rights,
Proclamation closing certain Ports.
purposes,' the President, for the reasons therein set forth, is authorized to close certain ports of entry.
"Now, therefore, be it known that I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim that the ports of Richmond, Tappahannock, Cherry Stone, Yorktown, and Petersburg, in Virginia; of Camden, Elizabeth City, Edenton, Plymouth, Washington, Newbern, Ocracoke, and Wilmington, in North Carolina; of Charleston, Georgetown, and Beaufort, in South Carolina; of Savannah, St. Marys, Brunswick, and Darien, in Georgia; of Mobile, in Alabama; of Pearl river, Shieldsboro', Natchez, and Vicksburg, in Mississippi; of St. Augustine, Key West, St. Marks, Port Leon St. Johns, Jacksonville, and Apalachicola, in Florida; of Teche and Franklin, in Louisiana; of Galveston, La Salie, Brazos de Santiago, Point Isabel, and Brownsville, in Texas, are hereby closed, and all rights of importation, warehousing, and other privileges shall, in respect to the ports aforesaid, cease until they shall again have been opened by order of the President; and if, while said ports are so closed, any ship or vessel from beyond the United States, or having on board any articles subject to duties, shall attempt to enter any such port, the same, together with its tackle, apparel, furniture, and cargo, shall be forfeited to the United States.
"In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
"Done at the City of Washington this eleventh day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-ninth.
"ABRAHAM LINCOLN. "WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State."
And on the same day the following:
"WHEREAS, for some time past vessels-of-war of the United