Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/16

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

the fact that President Lincoln, just before his tragic and to the South most calamitous death, had begun to put in operation a plan to rehabilitate and restore to their places in the Union the several Southern States, and after his death the task was recommenced by his successor, Andrew Johnson.

Whatever might have been the disposition of the Northern politicians toward Lincoln's movements for Southern reinstatement, when it was undertaken by Andrew Johnson, it created such a state of fury and hate that his impeachment and expulsion from office was immediately attempted by Congress. In a trial of impeachment a committee from the House of Representatives makes the accusations, while the Senate sitting as a court under the presidency of the Chief Justice, hears the evidence and votes upon the guilt or innocence of the accused. A two-thirds vote is required to convict, and in this case one vote was lacking to secure conviction. Thus, by the narrowest possible margin President Johnson escaped impeachment, and he constantly stood as a stern and unflinching opposer of all the radical schemes attempted by Congress against the Southern States and people, so that although he could not prevent the legislation that imposed the infamous Reconstruction measures upon the South, he was able at least to prevent the wholesale enslavement of the white people of the South and the plunder of their property.

Being unable to wreak their hate in mass upon the Southern people there still remained the possibility of resorting to individual outrages. One of these expedients was to try Jefferson Davis for treason and to condemn him to death and execute him. When all the great lawyers of the North had vainly searched the Constitution and laws for some warrant to make Davis a traitor, the bloody inquisitors, determined to have a victim at last, were reduced to the expedient of making one of Captain Henry Wirz, the Commandant of the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Ga.

In August, 1865, a special order was issued from the War Department, summoning a court martial to try Captain Henry Wirz and other prisoners. That military court made a report. of which the following is an extract: