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march have a broader sweep than any enacted penalties; and the right of conquest cuts deeper than any conceivable measure of confiscation. The law of war becomes supreme, and of that law "Va Victis" is the epitome. We have only to apply the principles of the decision above quoted to the work of reconstruction, to make sure that the punishment, for leaders at least, shall be severe enough to prevent for all future time the recurrence of a crime so terribly destructive to the national prosperity and the national honor. The people are willing to pardon; they will be as magnanimous in victory as they have been enduring in trial; but they will not consent to see those whose rebellion has cost the nation all this treasure and blood, this agony and shame, return at once, without penance or probation, to the full enjoyment of privileges and blessings preserved only by loyal sacrifices and sufferings. Schemes of reconstruction which make possible immunity for the great conspirators, or instant return to all political privileges for traitors as well as loyalists, will not be such as the people will approve or the nation can safely adopt. Nor will it answer, in overflowing leniency for past offenses, to neglect security for healthy political action in the future. Men who have deliberately betrayed trusts guarded by all the sanctity of an oath are not safely to be trusted as loyal and true citizens, whenever they may choose to renew an obligation once violated. But the state constitutions only can effectually debar any from suffrage, office, or trust; under the abeyance theory each State can demand recognition with her old constitution and laws; nor is it easy to find authority for requiring particular changes as conditions of recognition. Instead of retaining these old constitutions, redolent of the slave-pen, defiled in every part by the use of traitors, and infested in every joint and crevice by claims that loyal men must loathe but can never wholly extirpate, the erection and admission of new States demolishes all these relics of a shameful past, and secures new and spotless constitutions, each in harmony in every part with the spirit of the new era, and instinct and vital with freedom and loyalty.
There are many who shrink with horror from the idea that we have to-day fewer States than we had four years ago. This
conception of a State which exists only in a happy fiction of the intellect a mysterious and immortal piece of mechanism, without component parts, visible whole, or "local habitation," hanging, like Mahomet's coffin, "twixt heaven and earth," but always ready to yield a full set of offices whenever men can be found to cast a few ballots on a certain portion of the State's surface-however ludicrous it may be, still serves its purpose for those who daily cheer themselves with the thought that "not a State is lost; not a star is blotted from the flag." But are we any the better for calling that a State which is only a territory, held by hostile or trampled by contending armies? Is it less than cowardly thus to cling closely to the victory that we mean to win as if it were already won? Have we not kept our heads in the sand, after the wisdom of the ostrich, quite long enough? Dreams of States are not States. Recollections or hopes of States are not States. A paper constitution and an imaginary boundary do not constitute a Commonwealth, any more than a map in the office of a western land-shark constitutes a city. Beside New York or Massachusetts, such States are but the shadow of a phantom. And yet, under the abeyance theory, these same mythical members of the Union actually bind the great loyal States hand and foot, defeat the will of the people, and prevent the adoption of a greatly needed reform, even though it should receive the votes of every loyal and actual commonwealth! Clinging to these shadows we enumerate thirty-six States. If this theory be law, the votes of twenty-seven States are required to prohibit slavery by constitutional amendment. The ten States "in abeyance," in which we have not even a phantom legislature, make us helpless. Even if Louisiana, as organized under Gov. Hahn, be recognized as a State; and if, beside the vote of West Vir ginia, the Pierpont government be held competent to vote for old Virginia, there are yet enough, with a single negative vote from Delaware or New Jersey, to defeat the desire of those to whom the Union is worth sacrifice and bloodshed, in the interest of those who have not only voluntarily deprived themselves of all share and voice in the government, but are now actively waging war against it. Thus, to the very people who are
fighting to destroy the government, we concede the political power to prevent any reform, however necessary or however universally desired by those who fight to save it. No clearer illustration could be desired of the effect of a theory which confers upon public enemies civil rights and political privileges. While, if we hold that rebel States have ceased to have legal being, that creatures of law cannot exist in hostility to law, and that a community of public enemies cannot constitute a State within the meaning of the Constitution, more than three-fourths of the States that have actual existence stand ready to adopt the amendment, and the will of the nation can be the law of the land.
Nothing in the past action of Congress should embarrass the decision of this question. The admission of West Virginia can be justified at least as logically on the basis of the absolute territorial sovereignty resulting from the demise of Virginia, as by the consent of the Pierpont government, which would itself never have been recognized as a legal entity had it not been deemed necessary to provide local protection for this same district west of the mountains. Nor should precedents, blindly adopted with little thought of their bearing upon the future, pushed through by local, petty, and personal interests, and adopted as temporary expedients at a time when the character and magnitude of the rebellion were not understood, and when its overthrow within sixty days was predicted by some who hold high place as statesmen, be held binding and final decisions of questions as momentous and far-reaching in their consequences as any that can engage the attention of our rulers. In this view all action thus far taken in the case of Louisiana must be held premature and ill-considered. False in theory, it has been not less pernicious in its consequences. How much the "abeyance" theory has helped Louisiana thus far, can be learned by a very slight examination of the character of the men brought to the surface of the politi cal caldron. How much it has advanced military operations, let the Red River performances answer. What sort of a "State" has been produced by this hot-house culture, those can judge who know that its authority is bounded by the
range of our cannon, and that the loyal districts are but islets in a wide circumambient ocean of disloyalty. The question is already before Congress, and it is to be hoped that not only its special merits and demerits, but the whole theory of reconstruction, may now receive thorough consideration.
Nor should those in power be left unwatched or unaided. Now, more than ever, when the history of ages hangs upon the record of each passing day, may the wisest leader welcome the thoughts of any that have thoughts to give, and court the freest discussion of the questions upon which he has to act. The navigator in unknown waters will not spurn the suggestions of the common seaman whose earlier rovings may have led him thither, nor despise the caution of the youngest cabin boy, whose eyes detect through gloom or fog "breakers ahead." The general who leads his column through a strange and hostile country, will welcome the aid of the humblest private who can point out roads and foretell obstructions not found on his imperfect charts, and even from children by the wayside will not disdain to gather ideas of the opposing armies and their route. And neither navigator, traversing pathless and unexplored seas, nor general, penetrating forest and mountain wilds, has less of precedent or experience to aid him, than the statesmen whose task it is to guide us through the perils of a revolution for which history has no parallel; to determine questions not even dreamed of by the framers of the constitution; to adjust differences which involve the rights and prosperity and future welfare of millions of people; to deal with hereditary antagonisms, inborn prejudices, and hatreds burnt into the very fibre of the quivering flesh by the red-hot irons of civil strife; to effect the harmonious union of forces which have made earth shake with the tread of their advancing hosts, and whose conflicts have been likened by observers to the battles of the Titans and the strange legends of the old mythology; to handle the admixture of races the most diverse of the earth's population; and to lay the foundation and rear the framework of the majestic and glorious nationality that successful self-government will have made possible on this continent. With not too much of reverence for the past,
and yet with not too boastful a confidence in our own wisdom, let such a task be approached. And let us hope that He who has brought hither this strangely composite people, with its representatives of every nation under the sun, to work out here a great problem for mankind, and who has given strength for the conflict of arms, and sturdy patriotism and unfailing intelligence for the trial of political decision, will grant us wisdom and statesmanship for the work that is to come. "Qui transtulit sustinet."