Page images
PDF
EPUB

as such, to the federal government. The governments of those States had been for a time subverted :—but they might at any time be re-established upon a republican basis, under the authority and protection of the United States. The Proclamation proceeded, in the main, upon the latter theory. The President had the power, under the Constitution, and by specific legislation of Congress, to grant pardons upon such conditions as he might deem expedient. In the exercise of this power, President LINCOLN released from legal penalties, and restored to the rights of citizenship all, in each State, with certain specified exceptions, who should take and abide by a prescribed oath ; and then he proclaimed his purpose to recognize them as the citizens of such State, and as alone competent to organize and carry on the local government; and he pledged the power of the general government to protect such republican State governments as they might establish, “ against invasion, and against domestic violence.” Ву way of precaution against a usurpation of power by strangers, he insisted on the same qualifications for voting as had been required by the Constitution and laws of the State previous to secession and to provide against usurpation of power by an insignificant minority, he also required that the new government should be elected by at least one tenth as many voters as had voted in the State at the Presidential election of 1860. In the oath, which he imposed as essential to citizenship, the President required a pledge to sustain the Constitution of the United States, the laws of Congress and the Executive Proclamations and acts on the subject of slavery, so long and so far as the same should not be declared invalid and of no binding obligation, by the Supreme Court of the United States. These were the foundations of the broad and substantial basis laid by the President for the restoration of the Union, and the re-establishment of loyal republican governments in the several seceded States.

Various indications in the Southern States, had satisfied the President that the time had come when the work of reconstruction might safely and wisely be thus commenced. In Tennessee, where the rebels had never maintained any permanent foothold, but where the government at Washington had found it necessary to commit the local authority to Andrew Johnson, as Provisional Governor, there had been a very strong party in favor of restoring the State to its former position as a member of the Federal Union. But in Louisiana, the movements in the same direction had been earlier and more decided than in any other Southern State. The occupation of New Orleans by the national forces, and the advent of General Butler as Commander of that Military Department, on the 1st of May, 1862, speedily satisfied a very considerable portion of the inhabitants, who had property at stake in the City and State, that the rebel authority could never be restored; and preparations were accordingly made to hold an election in the fall of that year for Members of the Congress of the United States. General Shepley had been appointed Military Governor of the State, and to him the President, in November, addressed the following letter on that subject :

EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, November 21, 1862. DEAR SIR:-Dr. Kennedy, bearer of this, has some apprehension that Federal officers, not citizens of Louisiana, may be set up as candidates for Congress in that State. In my view there could be no possible object in such an election. We do not particularly need members of Congress from those States to enable us to get along with legislation here. What we do want is the conclusive evidence that respectable citizens of Louisiana are willing to be members of Congress and to swear support to the Constitution, and that other respectable citizens there are willing to vote for them and send them. To send a parcel of Northern men here as representatives, elected as would be understood (and perhaps really so), at the point of the bayonet, would be disgraceful and outrageous; and were Ia member of Congress here, I would vote against admitting any such man to a seat.

Yours, very truly,

A. LINCOLN. Hon. G. F. SHEPLEY.

The election was held, and Messrs. Flanders and Habn were chosen and admitted to their seats at the ensuing session, as has been already seen.

On the 23d of May, 1863, the various Union associations of New Orleans applied to the Military Governor of the State for anthority to call a Convention of the loyal citizens of Louisiana, for the purpose of framing a new State Constitution, and of re-establishing civil government under the Constitution of the United States. What they especially desired of him was that he should order a registration of the loyal voters of the State, and appoint commissioners of registration in each parish to register the names of all citizens who should take the oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and repudiate allegiance to the Rebel Confederacy. General Shepley, in reply, recognized fully the great importance of the proposed movement, but thought it of the utmost consequence that it should proceed as the spontaneous act of the people of the State, without the slightest appearance or suspicion of having been in any degree the result of military dictation. He consented to provide for the registration of such voters as might voluntarily come forward for the purpose of being enrolled, but deferred action upon the other points submitted to him until he could receive definite instructions on the subject from the Government at Washington.

In June, a Committee of Planters, recognizing the propriety of some movement for the re-establishment of civil authority in the State, and not concurring in the policy of those who proposed to form a new Constitution, applied to the President, asking him to grant a full recognition of the rights of the State as they existed before the act of secession, so that they might return to their allegiance under the old Constitution of the State, and that he would order an election for State officers, to be held on the 1st Monday of November.

To this application the President made the following reply:

EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, June 19, 1863. GENTLEMEN :-Since receiving your letter, reliable information has reached me that a respectable portion of the Louisiana people desire to amend their State Constitution, and contemplate holding a Convention for that object. This fact alone, it scems to me, is a sufficient reason why the General Government should not give the committee the authority you seek to act under the existing State Constitution. I may add, that while I do not perceive how such a committee could facilitate our military operations in Louisiana, I really apprehend it might be so used as to embarrass them.

As to an election to be held in November, there is abundant time without any order or proclamation from me just now. The people of Louisiana shall not lack an opportunity for a fair election for both Federal and State officers by want of any thing within my power to give them. Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.

After the appearance of the President's proclamation, the movement towards reconstruction in Louisiana assumed greater consistency, and was carried forward with greater steadiness and strength. On the 8th of January a very large Free State convention was held at New Orleans, at which resolutions were adopted indorsing all the acts and proclamations of the President, and urging the immediate adoption of measures for the restoration of the State to its old place in the Union. On the 11th, General Banks issued a proclamation, appointing an election for State officers on the 22d of February, who were to be installed on the 4th of March, and another election for delegates to a convention to revise the Constitution of the State on the first Monday in April. The old Constitution and laws of Louisiana were to be observed, except so far as they relate to Slavery, “which," said General Banks, “ being inconsistent with the present condition of public affairs, and plainly inapplicable to any class of persons within the limits of the State, must be suspended, and they are now declared inoperative and void." The oath of allegiance required by the President in his proclamation, with the condition affixed to the elective franchise by the Constitution of Louisiana, was prescribed as constituting the qualification of voters.

Under this order, parties were organized for the election of State officers. The friends of the national government were divided, and two candidates were put in nomination for governer, Hon. Michael Hahn being the regular nominee, and representing the supporters of the policy of the President, and Hon. B. F. Flanders being put in nomination by those who desired a more radical policy than the President had proposed. Both took

very decided ground against the continued existence of slavery within the State. Hon. C. Roselius was nominated by that portion of the people who concurred in the wish for the return of Louisiana to the Union, and were willing to take the oath of allegiance prescribed by the President, but who nevertheless disapproved of the general policy of the Administration, especially on the subject of slavery. The election resulted in the election of Mr. Hahn.

In Arkansas, where a decided Union feeling has existed from the outbreak of the rebellion, the appearance of the proclamation was the signal for a movement to bring the State back into the Union. On the 20th of January, a delegation of citizens from that State had an interview with the President, in which they urged the adoption of certain measures for the re-establishment of a legal State government, and especially the ordering of an election for governor. In consequence of this application, and in substantial compliance with their request, the President wrote the following letter to General Steele, who commanded in that Department:

EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 1864. Major-General STEELE:

Sundry citizens of the State of Arkansas petition me that an election may be held in that State, at which to elect a governor; that it be assumed at that election and thenceforward, that the Constitution and laws of the State, as before the rebellion, are in full force, except that the Constitution is so modified as to declare that there shall be neither slavery

« PreviousContinue »