« PreviousContinue »
ment, was created at this session, and Hon. Hugh McCulloch, of Indiana, appointed to the office of Comptroller of the Currency. In the War Department, the Bureau of Military Justice was established, at the head of which Hon. Joseph Holt, of Kentucky, was appointed, as Judge Advocate General, with the rank of brigadier-general. An additional loan of $400,000,000 was authorized; the enrollment act was materially modified, by repealing the commutation clause (releasing any drafted man on the payment of three hundred dollars), and otherwise rendering it more efficient; important amendments were made in the pension laws; and acts were passed for the punishment of guerrillas, for increasing the efficiency of the navy, and in aid of the proposed international telegraph by British and Russian America to Asia.
In his annual message, with the accompanying proclamation of amnesty, President Lincoln had, somewhat at length and in detail, given his views as to the best means of restoring practical relations between the insurrectionary States and the National Government. These views were in accord with those hitherto acted upon, and approved by every branch of the Government, although, coupled as they were with proffers of amnesty, they were extended to embrace particular suggestions not before presented. The methods of reorganization proposed were recommendations merely, properly guarded, and the purpose of prescribing any invariable rule of action in the premises, was distinctly disavowed. As already seen,* the President, in this proclamation of amnesty with certain conditions, was not only exercising the prerogative belonging to the pardoning power conferred on him by the Constitution, but was also carrying out the formally expressed will of Congress. Early in the session (December 15, 1863), Mr. Davis, of Maryland, moved the reference of so much of the President's message as related to this subject to a committee of nine, which was agreed to, the mover being appointed chairman. On the 4th of May following, a bill and preamble were reported by Mr. Davis, embodying a fixed and elaborate plan of "reconstruction." It provided for the appointment of a Provisional * Ante page 459
Governor by the President, in each State declared to be in
This bill passed the House on the day it was reported, yeas 74, nays 66. Among the latter were several Administration members. The preamble, giving a key-note to the spirit and purpose of the bill, was in these words:
WHEREAS, The so-called Confederate States are a public enemy, waging an unjust war, whose injustice is so glaring that they have no right to claim the mitigation of the extreme rights of war which are accorded by modern usage to an enemy who has a right to consider the war a just one; and whereas none of the States which, by a regularly recorded majority of
its citizens, have joined the so-called Southern Confederacy, can be considered and treated as entitled to be represented in Congress, or to take any part in the political government of the Union.
This was rejected, ayes 57, nays 75.
In the Senate, on the 1st of July, Mr. Brown, of Missouri, moved the following substitute for the entire bill which was carried, yeas 20, nays 13:
That when the inhabitants of any State have been declared in a state of insurrection against the United States, by proclamation of the President, by force and virtue of the act entitled "An act to provide for the collection of duties on imports, and for other purposes," approved July 13, 1861, they shall be, and are hereby declared to be, incapable of casting any vote for electors of President or Vice President of the United States, or of electing Senators or Representatives in Congress, until said insurrection in said State is suppressed or abandoned, and said inhabitants have returned to their obedience to the Government of the United States, nor until such return to obedience shall be declared by proclamation of the President, issued by virtue of an act of Congress, hereafter to be passed, authorizing the same.
The bill having been returned to the House, as thus amended, the amendment was non-concurred in. The Senate ultimately receded from its amendment, yeas 18, nays 14, thus concurring in the passage of the bill as it first came from the House. It is manifest, from the action taken on this bill, that it was not unobjectionable to the majority of the Senate, and that, on free discussion of its prominent details, it could not certainly command a majority in the House on a full vote. That it could ever have received a two-thirds vote in both houses, had it been returned by the Executive with objections, probably its most zealous supporter never imagined. It so happened that the bill, passed just at the close of the session, only reached the President about an hour before the actual adjournment, when numerous other bills were awaiting his signature, allowing him hardly time to even read it with care, much less to prepare a veto message. Much of it he fully approved. Other parts he thought seriously objectionable. Committed, too, as he
already had been, publicly, to the recognition of the new State governments of Louisiana and Arkansas, he could not, in good faith, repudiate his promises to the people of those States, as would have been done by approving the Davis bill. Only a dictatorial and factious spirit could call in question the President's unrestricted right to withhold his signature, or the purity of the motive which led him to do so. Not less evidently was it proper for him to publish the bill, with a statement of his reasons for the course he had taken, and to give it a place with his own suggestions made in the amnesty proclamation, reserving his former action in regard to Louisiana and Arkansas, and declining to make compliance with the terms of this bill indispensable in any case. He had long before appointed military governors in Tennessee and North Carolina. The power to do so clearly belonged to him, as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy. But it was questionable, to say the least, whether Congress could constitutionally exercise any "provisional " local jurisdiction in the States, as proposed.
On the 8th of July, 1864, President Lincoln issued the following proclamation, on the subject, accompanied by the Davis Reconstruction bill:
WHEREAS, At the late session, Congress passed a bill "to guarantee to certain States, whose governments have been usurped or overthrown, a republican form of government," a copy of which is hereunto annexed:
AND WHEREAS, The said bill was presented to the President of the United States for his approval less than one hour before the sine die adjournment of said session, and was not signed by him:
AND WHEREAS, The said bill contains, among other things, a plan for restoring the States in rebellion to their proper practical relation in the Union, which plan expresses the sense of Congress upon that subject, and which plan it is now thought fit to lay before the people for their consideration:
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that, while I am (as I was in December last, when by proclamation I propounded a plan for restoration) unprepared, by a formal approval of this bill, to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration; and, while I am also unprepared to declare that the free State constitutions and governments already
adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana shall be set aside and held for nought, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal citizens who have set up the same as to further effort, or to declare a constitutional competency in Congress to abolish slavery in States, but am at the same time sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery throughout the nation may be adopted, nevertheless I am fully satisfied with the system for restoration contained in the bill as one very proper plan for the loyal people of any State choosing to adopt it, and that I am, and at all times shall be, prepared to give the Executive aid and assistance to any such people, so soon as the military resistance to the United States shall have been suppressed in any such State, and the people thereof shall have sufficiently returned to their obedience to the Constitution and laws of the United States, in which cases Military Governors will be appointed, with directions to proceed according to the bill.
It was not unnatural that the mover of this bill should be unpleasantly affected by its failure to become a law. He had matured, to his own entire satisfaction, a method of " reconstruction "the vexed question which had been so much and so prematurely discussed-and it had received the indorsement of both Houses of Congress. He could not doubt its perfect sufficiency as a solution of the problem; yet his work had. become of no effect for the lack of the President's signature.
Mr. Davis, however, was mistaken in supposing that the people attached any special value to his scheme, or that any appeal he could make to them would avert their ready and intuitive conclusion that he, rather than President Lincoln, was in the wrong. Such an appeal was, nevertheless, determined upon. At a moment when the country was growing impatient and apprehensive over severe losses in the field, without the decisive victories hoped for, when the Opposition was exultant in the prospect of a Presidential triumph in November, and when all cordial supporters of the Baltimore nominations were earnest and united in their efforts to avoid a possible defeat of the cause, Mr. Davis' arraignment of the President was issued. The paper was published on the 5th of August; Senator Wade also giving it his signature. In its imputation. of bad motives, in its sweeping denunciations and in its angry