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to be denounced "for refusing, in the absence of any necessity, to occupy or retain, and to exercise powers greater than those which are exercised by any imperial magistrate in the world."
In March, 1866, the Civil Rights bill was sent to the President. It was designed to establish absolute equality of civil rights among all citizens of the United States.' The President returned the bill with a veto so strong and lucid that there was a suspicion that it had not come from the pen of the man whose speeches were generally meandering and dull in expression. But Congress was no more open to conviction than the President; it promptly passed the bill over the veto.
As yet relatively few Republicans were in favor of demanding full negro suffrage. They proposed the XIV. Amendment for the purpose of equalizing representa
Dunning, 91 ff., discusses the bill in a clear and scholarly manner. 2 In April, 1866, Professor Charles Eliot Norton and E. L. Godkin had a long interview with Seward. A careful report-written out immediately after the conversation-quotes Seward as saying:
"There ought to be no question about the readmission of the South. Those states are loyal, devoted, earnest, patriotic, humiliated, and repentant, eager to come back. Congress has no right to refuse them. It shows its distrust of the Constitution by its refusal. Every necessary preliminary has been complied with; the South has accepted every needful condition; there is nothing more to ask of it. It has as good a right to be represented in Congress as the North has, but Congress chooses to keep it out of the Union."
The North has nothing to do with the negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. They are God's poor; they always have been and always will be so everywhere. They are not of our race. They will find their place. They must take their level. The laws of political economy will determine their position and the relations of the two races. Congress cannot contravene those. I am ready to leave the interests of the most intelligent white man to the guardianship of his state, and where I leave the interests of the white I am willing to trust the civil rights of the black. The South must take care of its own negroes as the North did and does. I was born a slave-holder; my state took away my
tion in the House, to prevent ex-Confederate leaders from assuming control of political affairs in the South so as to interfere with congressional reconstruction, to guarantee the Federal debt incurred in the war, and to repudiate all Confederate obligations on the part of states or the nation. The Republicans were determined to make the acceptance of this amendment a precedent condition of admitting Senators and Representatives from the states of the late Confederacy.
On May 22, 1866, Seward spoke in Auburn on "The
slaves, and it did right, but I had to support them, and, indeed, have to support some of them up to this time.
"The North must get over this notion of interference with the affairs of the South. Some people talk about being afraid of the South if the southern members of Congress are allowed to take their seats. But what harm can they do? I am not afraid of them; I never was afraid of the South in my life, not even when it had power and wealth and united interests and patronage."
"I cannot imagine a base motive in politics any more than some men a base motive in domestic life. The states form one family. The South comes knocking at the door of the old home, and wants to be taken in, and will not the father hasten to open the door and welcome his repentant child?"
"The South longs to come home now, sir. Those who refuse to take them into the family again are in my opinion guilty of a great crime. It may be a sublimated consideration, but I confess it has great weight with me, that if I could not forgive the enemies of my country as I forgive my own enemies, I could not have the hope that I might enter kingdom come. There is a want of charity in this refusal to forgive which is worse than the sins against which it is manifested. At this time the North is showing the most evil disposition, and I would rather go South, where they are behaving well, than to Massachusetts, where they are behaving ill, and showing so bad and unforgiving a temper.
“But all this trouble is going to pass over. Things will come out all right. The people will not consent to follow the lead of Congress, for they love the Union, and mean to have it whole again.”
I have every confidence. I never held an opinion that was popular, and I have never failed to see the country come up to my opinions in time. This doctrine is not Massachusetts doctrine, but it
Question of Reconciliation." He argued that what the country needed was not reconstruction, but reconciliation, which would come as soon as the acting members of Congress admitted from the ex-Confederate states the members-elect that were loyal and qualified. The other leading contention was, that it could not be true, as charged, that the President was unfaithful to the party and its cardinal principles of public policy; for his disagreements with Congress on the Freedmen's Bureau bill, the Civil Rights bill, and one or two other subjects were "purely extraneous incidents, and have no necessary or real bearing upon the question of reconciliation.” He maintained that the President had "neither sought, nor made, nor accepted any occasion for disagreeing from Congress, and that, so far as the purely incidental legislation to which I have referred is concerned, he is as loyal to the principles of the Union party and to the national cause as Congress or any of the members can claim to be." The speech was excellent in temper, but light and unconvincing in argument. It lacked the virility and enthusiasm of his senatorial days. In a single sentence he tried to answer the demand of the North that the negro should be given equal rights: "There is no soundness at all in our political system, if the personal or civil rights of each member of the state, white or black, free born or emancipated, native born or naturalized, are not more secure under the administration of [a] state government, than they could be under the administration of the national government." Such sentiments called out the severe criticism of men that had once regarded him as a champion of liberty and equality, who was to use Plymouth rock as "the ful
is going to be the Massachusetts doctrine before long."-Published in the New York Evening Post, March 24, 1888.
1 The speech was not printed in his Works, but was published in pamphlet form.
crum by whose aid I may move the world-the moral world."1
After June, 1866, there was no hope of reconciliation between Congress and the President. Johnson was out of harmony with the Republican party, and his supporters must expect to find themselves allied with Democrats. It was not a pleasing prospect for a Republican Cabinet. William Dennison, the Postmaster - General, James Speed, the Attorney-General, and James Harlan, the Secretary of the Interior, withdrew in July.
Seward stood firmly and confidently by the policy that he had done much to shape. This was to be expected in view of all the circumstances. From the winter of 1860-61 he had almost continually counted on seeing the secessionists return speedily and in full repentance. He always cherished the amiable vanity of counting himself the most magnanimous of men; it was a part of his philosophy of practical politics, for the politician is concerned with the present and the future, not the past. Had he been ten years younger and in good physical condition, he would undoubtedly have been as energetic in the reconstruction movement as he had been in regard to military or diplomatic questions. But most of his old party friends were in sympathy with Congress; his personal misfortunes were many; he was crippled and scarred, and his vigor and ambition were not what they had been; and it was evident that his political career must end with his service in the Department of State. He was usually very charitable, and acted as if he had adopted for himself these immortal phrases of Lincoln's second inaugural address: "With malice toward none.
1 The New York Independent of May 31, 1866, heaped ridicule upon him, and said: "Mr. Seward once earned honor by remembering the negro at a time when others forgot him; he now earns dishonor by forgetting the negro when the nation demands that the negro should be remembered."
with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds." He showed no rancor, even in the forced contest with Congress, although he considered it "agitated and stormy," and its debates "troubled, and its entire action convulsive."1
In July, Tennessee, after ratifying the proposed XIV. Amendment, obtained admission to Congress for her delegation. Seward promptly assumed the rôle of the forgiving father and prepared a feast, which he described as follows:
"We had all the Tennesseean Representatives last night to dinner; and they seemed to appreciate the attention. had a calf served up in many ways, and they accepted it as "returned prodigals.' The feast went off to the strains of martial airs from the band; and the two green-backed birds from the sunny South, added, by clamorous loquacity, to the hilarity of the occasion."*
The Republican majority in Congress was so large that there was no hope for the President's policy unless a strong conservative movement could be organized. The support of the Democrats could be counted on, because they would be benefited by it. The convention that met in Philadelphia in the middle of August was the result of an attempt to unite, for the purpose of an early restoration of the Union, about the same class of men to whom Seward and Weed had appealed in the winter of 1860-61 to prevent the dissolution of the Union. Henry J. Raymond, who wrote the address, first heard of the convention from Weed. Seward, Weed, and Raymond were at least its strongest supporters. The intention was not to found a new party to put the Democrats in power, but merely to develop sentiment in favor of admitting the ten states without further con
1 3 Seward, 331.
23 Seward, 332.