Page images


Press of

Providence, R. I.

Steel Plates by the



All Rights Reserved.


Benry B. Joy 8/16/46


Ir is said by a translator of Thucydides, that the sources from which the ancient historian gathered his narrative are very dissimilar to those at the disposal of the modern historian. The first were meagre and oral, the latter are often overwhelming to the compiler by the very mass of materials. Writers like Thucydides had certain aids, such as statues, buildings, columns from sepulchres, decrees of state, and traditions, but few written data comparable with modern libraries.

The author of this volume, unlike the ancient recorder, has had no need to draw upon his imagination in order to depict events, or give eloquence to his characters. He has had access to a multitude of books and other recorded evidences bearing upon his theme. He has also been quite near to the contending forces and persons, and in the very midst of many of the events which he narrates. He has written within reach of the Library of Congress, with its vast stores of material. He has had the same freedom of access to the House Library, and to collections of legislative and executive documents. No fact has been stated upon doubtful authority. All important statements have been made in the language of official reports of the executive departments of the government, of congressional investigating committees, of the witnesses examined before congressional or legislative committees, or of the proceedings of the state conventions and legislatures. In cases of conflicting testimony, the statements of witnesses or parties on each side have been considered or cited. No inference prejudicial to private character or public conduct has been drawn which has not been accompanied by indisputable facts.

In the preparation of portions of this work the writer has had the assistance of gentlemen with whom he is more or less associated in and out of Congress, and without whose aid he could not speak with such absolute certainty as to some of its verities.

The title

The Three Decades"-indicates the scope of the volume. The first decade begins with the organization of the Republican party at Pittsburgh, in the year 1855. This party was partly built upon the ruins of the Know Nothing and Whig parties; but the genius of the structure was the aggressive and intellectual anti-slavery zealotry which, though for a long time championed by few, had almost as long been a most potential factor in our politics. With this decade begins, practically, the era of sectionalism. It was marked by a sanguinary and prolonged internecine war. The year 1865 saw the termination of that war.

The second decade begins with the period of Reconstruction.

The third decade begins with that part of the period of Reconstruction when the unconstitutional exercise of the military power at the polls ceased. This was the one good result of the compromises which grew out of the Great Fraud perpetrated by means of the Electoral Commission.

From 1865 to 1885 there was a twenty years' struggle to restore the early and better order which had existed before the extremes of sectionalism began their baleful and bloody work.

It has been the unhappy fate of the passing generation to witness the fulfillment of Mr. Webster's prophetic vision. States have been "dissevered, discordant, belligerent." Our land has been "rent with civil feuds" and "drenched in fraternal blood." These eloquent words were uttered in 1830. They presaged the controversy upon slavery and its extension.

troversy led to the national disaster which he so much feared.

That con

It is no part of the plan of this work to embrace a full history of that controversy, nor of the subsequent war, and the action of the government. Leaving those events as concluded in the first decade, the second begins with the efforts of President Lincoln to restore the "dissevered" and "discordant" states to their proper Federal relations.

The generous policy of Mr. Lincoln was thwarted at its very inception by the majority in Congress. It was almost slain by the hand of an assassin. Another political phase came before its practicability could be tested. There is a prevalent notion that President Johnson adopted, and proposed to carry out, the policy of his predecessor; but it will be seen that he had a policy of his own, and that the plan of the Republican President was more liberal and comprehensive than that of his Democratic successor.

It is contemplated to give a condensed history of what was done under each of these Presidential policies, both in Washington and in the states;

[blocks in formation]

and of the overthrow of the provisional governments established under them by the military commanders appointed under the Act of March 2, 1867.

This Act was the initial measure of Congressional Reconstruction. was followed by the Act of March 23, of the same year, which gave particular directions to the military commanders in the Southern States to cause a registration of the voters therein, and to order the election of delegates to conventions which were to frame constitutions for these states.

The essential facts of these important proceedings in each of the reconstructed states are taken from the legislative journals, and are presented to the reader with an account of the partisan struggles, the legislation, and the official corruption which were precursory to the inauguration of universal liberty and equality in the Southern States.

The enforcement of the Reconstruction acts by the military commanders involved the subordination of the civil to the military power. All the more striking incidents of this despotic form of government were thus interpolated into our republican constitutional system. This was done despite of heroic protest, and in the latter half of the nineteenth century!

The establishment of the Freedman's Bureau for the protection, education, and encouragement of the newly emancipated and enfranchised negroes was a part of the work of Reconstruction. The operations of the Bureau have, therefore, received attention.

A history of Reconstruction cannot pass over the outrages perpetrated upon the negroes and many of the whites by the "Ku-Klux Klan" and other unlawful combinations. These organizations sprang up after the enfranchisement of the blacks, and the partial disfranchisement of the whites. Many shocking details are given, with careful statements of the number and character of the criminal acts of the "Klan."

The abuse of power in the Southern States, by governments formed under the leadership of Northern adventurers, has been exposed. Much might be added to this department of the history.

It may be said here that it has not been the purpose of the author, though a life-long adherent to the Democratic party, to set forth any particular theory of the Constitution. He does not seek to uphold or to advance the interests of any section of the country, or faction of the people. He has no ambitions to gratify by the distortion or suspension of the truths of history. His aim is to bring out all the material facts under their several heads, in the order of their occurrence. His criticisms consist only of such inferences as seem to be clearly warranted. Of course, in such a presentation, principles

and policies, modes of political thought, and creeds of interpretation will receive some illustration.

The author is moved to this congenial work because of the erroneous impressions created by a class of literature that is too often partial and malignant. The new generation find great perplexity in comprehending the issues treated in this work-issues that stirred the great Republic to the foundations of its polity and society. The mode adopted for the solution of these issues by military force and civil power should be studied from a non-partisan point of view, in order to reach just conclusions.

For nearly a quarter of a century the writer has been no inactive member of the popular branch of the Federal Legislature. For eight years he represented the capital district of Ohio. Four of these years preceded, and four were during the civil conflict. At the conclusion of this period of service he removed to the city of New-York. There, for a time, he was aloof from old political associations. He devoted himself to new pursuits, and formed new attachments. After a season he was returned as a Federal Representative from the city of New-York. From 1868 to 1885 he passed through the ordeal of a metropolitan member.

During these unexampled periods it has been the fortune of the writer to mingle with public men of every shade of opinion,- men in every variety of public and private employment, and of every quality and grade of character. He has drawn from decrees of state, and even the "columns of the sepulchres," as well as from the controversies of contending parties, the memorabilia for this history.

In this change from West to East-from the capital of the proudest Western state to the great metropolis of the country—the author never had occasion to change his first unwavering trust in his political faith. He never ceased to believe-what now in 1885 is apparent-that the party of constitutional limitations, strict construction, state sovereignty, and Federal unity would be found indispensable in the end to honest and united government. As this strange, eventful period of history is concluding, that party is reascending to political prominence, by the inauguration of its recently-elected chief magistrate, purified by the ordeal fires which only added to it invincible strength.

House of Representatives,

Washington, March 4, 1885.

« PreviousContinue »