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THE QUESTION OF RECONSTRUCTION.
MOVEMENTS TOWARDS RECONSTRUCTION. THE REBELLION AND LABOR.-THE PRESIDENT ON BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATIONS.ADVANCING ACTION CONCERNING THE NEGRO RACE.
THE Proclamation, which accompanied the Annual Message of the President, embodied the first suggestions of the administration on the important subject of reconstructing the governments of those States, which had joined in the secession movement. The matter had been canvassed somewhat extensively by the public press, and by prominent politicians, in anticipation of the overthrow of the rebellion, and the view taken of the subject had been determined, to a very considerable extent, by the sentiments and opinions of the different parties as to the object and purpose of the war. The supporters of the administration did not all hold precisely the same ground on this subject. As has already been seen, in the de bates of the Congress of 1862-3, a considerable number of the friends of the government, in both houses, maintained that, by the act of secession, the revolted States had put themselves outside the pale of the Constitution, and were henceforth to be regarded and treated, not as members of the Union, but as alien enemies:*-that their State organizations and
* President Lincoln's view of this position is stated in the following note addressed by him to the publishers of the North American Review, which contained an article upon his policy of administration:
“EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, January 16, 1864. "Messrs. CROSBY & NICHOLS:
"Gentlemen :-The number for this month and year of the North American Review was duly received, and for which, please accept my thanks. Of course I am not the most impartial judge; yet, with due
State boundaries had been expunged by their own act; and that they were to be re-admitted to the jurisdiction of the Constitution, and to the privileges of the Union, only upon such terms and conditions as the Federal government of the loyal States might prescribe. On the other hand it was held that the acts of secession, passed by the several State governments, were absolutely null and void, and that while the persons who passed them, and those who aided in giving them effect, by taking up arms against the United States, had rendered themselves liable individually to the penalties of treason, they had not, in any respect, changed the relations of their States,
allowance for this, I venture to hope that the article entitled 'The President's Policy' will be of value to the country. I fear I am not worthy of all which is therein kindly said of me personally.
"The sentence of twelve lines, commencing at the top of page 252, I could wish to be not exactly what it is. In what is there expressed, the writer has not correctly understood me. I have never had a theory that secession could absolve States or people from their obligations. Precisely the contrary is asserted in the inaugural address; and it was because of my belief in the continuation of those obligations that I was puzzled, for a time, as to denying the legal rights of those citizens who remained individually innocent of treason or rebellion. But I mean no more now than to merely call attention to this point. "Yours respectfully,
The sentence referred to by Mr. Lincoln is as follows:
Even so long ago as when Mr. Lincoln, not yet convinced of the danger and magnitude of the crisis, was endeavoring to persuade himself of Union majorities at the South, and carry on a war that was half peace, in the hope of a peace that would have been all war, while he was still enforcing the Fugitive Slave law, under some theory that secession, however it might absolve States from their obligations, could not escheat them of their claims under the Constitution, and that slaveholders in rebellion had alone among mortals, the privilege of having their cake and eating it at the same time,-the enemies of free government were striving to persuade the people that the war was an abolition crusade. To rebel without reason was proclaimed as one of the rights of man, while it was carefully kept out of sight that to suppress rebellion is the first duty of government.
THE PRESIDENT'S VIEWS OF RECONSTRUCTION.
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." By 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 I a member of Congress here, I would vote against admitting any such man to a seat. Yours, very truly,
Hon. G. F. SHEPLEY.
INITIAL MOVEMENTS IN LOUISIANA.
The election was held; and Messrs. Flanders and Hahn 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 authority 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.