« PreviousContinue »
certain to provide for getting rid of slavery if the time were extended to twenty-three years, as the bill proposed, than if she were required to set free all her slaves at once. The Senators from the Slave States generally opposed the measure, on the ground that Congress had no authority under the Constitution to appropriate any portion of the public money for such a purpose. The bill was finally passed in the Senate, but it failed to pass the House.
Two members of Congress from the State of Louisiana were admitted to seats in the House of Representatives under circumstances which made that action of considerable importance. Immediately after the occupation of New Orleans by the national forces under General Butler, the President had appointed General Shepley military governor of the State of Louisiana. The rebel forces were driven out from the city of New Orleans, and some of the adjoining parishes; and when, during the ensuing summer, the people were invited to resume their allegiance to the Government of the United States, over 60,000 came forward, took the oath of allegianco, and were admitted to their rights as citizens. On the 3d of December General Shepley, acting as military governor of the State, ordered an election for members of Congress in the two districts into which the city of New Orleans is dividedeach district embracing also some of the adjoining parishes. In one of these districts B. F. Flanders was elected, receiving 2,370 votes, and all others 273, and in the other Michael Hahn was elected, receiving 2,799 votes out of 5,117, the whole number cast. A committee of the House, to which the application of these gentlemen for admission to their seats had been referred, reported, on the 9th of February, in favor of their claim. It was represented in this report that the requirements of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana had in all respects been complied with, the only question being, whether a military governor, appointed by the President of the United States, could properly and rightfully perform the functions of the civil governor of the State. The committee held that he could, and cited a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, not only recognizing the power of the President to appoint a military governor, but also recognizing both his civil and military functions as of full validity and binding obligation. On the other hand, it was maintained that representatives can be elected to the Federal Legislature only in pursuance of an act of the State Legislature, or of an act of the Federal Congress. In this case neither of these requirements had been fulfilled. The House, however, admitted both these gentlemen to their seats, by a vote of 92 to 44.
Before adjourning, Congress passed an act, approved on the 3d of March, authorizing the President, " in all domestic and foreign wars," to issue to private armed vessels of the United States, letters of marque and reprisal,--said authority to terminate at the end of three years from the date of the act. Resolutions were also adopted, in both Houses, protesting against every proposition of foreign interference, by proffers of mediation or otherwise, as "unreasonable and inadmissible,” and declaring the “unalterable purpose of the United States to prosecute the war until the rebellion shall be overcome.” These resolutions, offered by Mr. Sumner, received in the Senate 31 votes in their favor, while but 5 were cast against them, and in the House 103 were given for their passage,
and 28 against it.
The session closed on the 4th of March, 1863. Its proceedings had been marked by the same thorough and fixed determination to carry on the war, by the use of the most vigorous and effective measures for the suppression of the rebellion, and by the same full and prompt support of the President, which had characterized the preceding Congress.
While some members of the Administration party, becoming impatient of the delays which scemed to mark the progress of the war, were inclined to censure the caution of the President, and to insist upon bolder and more sweeping assaults upon the persons and property of the people of the Rebel States, and especially upon the institution of slavery-and while, on the other hand, its more open opponents denounced every thing like severity, as calculated to exasperate the South and prolong the war, the great body of the members, like the great body of the people, manifested a steady and firm reliance on the patriotic purpose and the calm sagacity evinced by the President in his conduct of public affairs.
SUSPENSION OF THE WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS, THE DRAFT.
Ar the very outbreak of the rebellion, the Administration was compelled to face one of the most formidable of the many difficulties which have embarrassed its action. Long before the issue had been distinctly made by the rebels in the Southern States, while under the protecting toleration of Mr. Buchanan's administration the conspirators were making preparations for armed resistance to the Government of the United States, evidences were not wanting that they relied upon the active co-operation of men and parties in the Northern States, whose political sympathies had always been in harmony with their principles and their action. As early as in January, 1861, while the rebels were diligently and actively collecting arms and other munitions of war, by purchase in the Northern States, for the contest on which they had resolved, Fernando Wood, then Mayor of New York, had apologized to Senator Toombs, of Georgia, for the seizure by the police of New York of “ arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia,” and had assured him that “ if he had the power he should summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property." The departments at Washington, the army and the navy, all places of responsibility and trust under the Government, and all departments of civil and political activity in the Northern States, were found to be largely filled by persons in active sympathy with the secession movement, and ready at all times to give it all the aid and comfort in their power. Upon the advent of the new Administration, and when active measures began to be taken for the suppression of the rebellion, the Government found its plans betrayed and its movements thwarted at every turn. Prominent presses and politicians, moreover, throughout the country, began, by active hostility, to indicate their sympathy with those who sought, under cover of opposition to the Administration, to overthrow the Government, and it became speedily manifest that there was sufficient of treasonable sentiment throughout the North to paralyze the authorities in their efforts, aided only by the ordinary machinery of the law, to crush the secession movement.
Under these circumstances it was deemed necessary to resort to the exercise of the extraordinary powers with which, in extraordinary emergencies, the Constitution had clothed the Government. That instrument had provided that “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus should not be suspended; unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety might require it.” By necessary implication, whenever, in such cases either of rebellion or invasion, the public safety did require it, the privilege of that writ might be suspended; and, from the very necessity of the case, the Government which was charged with the care of the public safety, was empowered to judge when the contingency should occur. The only question that remained was, which department of the Government was to meet this responsibility. If the act was one of legislation, it could only be performed by Congress and the President; if it was in its nature executive, then it might be performed, the emergency requiring it, by the President alone. The pressing einergency of the case, moreover, went far towards dictating the decision. Congress had adjourned on the 4th of March, and could not be again assembled for some months; and infinite, and perhaps fatal mischief might be done during the interval, if the Northern allies of the rebellion were allowed with impunity to prosecute their plans.