The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 109/The President and his Accomplices

The Atlantic Monthly  (1866) 
The President and his Accomplices by Edwin Percy Whipple


Andrew Johnson has dealt the most cruel of all blows to the respectability of the faction which rejoices in his name. Hardly had the political Pecksniffs and Turveydrops contrived so to manage the Johnson Convention at Philadelphia that it violated few of the proprieties of intrigue and none of the decencies of dishonesty, than the commander-in-chief of the combination took the field in person, with the intention of carrying the country by assault. His objective point was the grave of Douglas, which became by the time he arrived the grave also of his own reputation and the hopes of his partisans. His speeches on the route were a volcanic outbreak of vulgarity, conceit, bombast, scurrility, ignorance, insolence, brutality, and balderdash. Screams of laughter, cries of disgust, flushings of shame, were the various responses of the nation he disgraced to the harangues of this leader of American "conservatism." Never before did the first office in the gift of the people appear so poor an object of human ambition, as when Andrew Johnson made it an eminence on which to exhibit inability to behave and incapacity to reason. His low cunning conspired with his devouring egotism to make him throw off all the restraints of official decorum, in the expectation that he would find duplicates of himself in the crowds he addressed, and that mob diffused would heartily sympathize with Mob impersonated. Never was blustering demagogue led by a distempered sense of self-importance into a more fatal error. Not only was the great body of the people mortified or indignant, but even his "satraps and dependents," even the shrewd politicians—accidents of an Accident and shadows of a shade—who had labored so hard at Philadelphia to weave a cloak of plausibilities to cover his usurpations, shivered with apprehension or tingled with shame as they read the reports of their master's impolitic and ignominious abandonment of dignity and decency in his addresses to the people he attempted alternately to bully and cajole. That a man thus self-exposed as unworthy of high trust should have had the face to expect that intelligent constituencies would send to Congress men pledged to support his policy and his measures, appeared for the time to be as pitiable a spectacle of human delusion as it was an exasperating example of human impudence.

Not the least extraordinary peculiarity of these addresses from the stump was the immense protuberance they exhibited of the personal pronoun. In Mr. Johnson's speech, his "I" resembles the geometer's description of infinity, having "its centre everywhere and its circumference nowhere." Among the many kinds of egotism in which his eloquence is prolific, it may be difficult to fasten on the particular one which is most detestable or most laughable; but it seems to us that when his arrogance apes humility it is deserving perhaps of an intenser degree of scorn or derision than when it riots in bravado. The most offensive part which he plays in public is that of "the humble individual," bragging of the lowliness of his origin, hinting of the great merits which could alone have lifted him to his present exalted station, and representing himself as so satiated with the sweets of unsought power as to be indifferent to its honors. Ambition is not for him, for ambition aspires; and what object has he to aspire to? From his contented mediocrity as alderman of a village, the people have insisted on elevating him from one pinnacle of greatness to another, until they have at last made him President of the United States. He might have been Dictator had he pleased; but what, to a man wearied with authority and dignity, would dictatorship be worth? If he is proud of anything, it is of the tailor's bench from which he started. He would have everybody to understand that he is humble,—thoroughly humble. Is this caricature? No. It is impossible to caricature Andrew Johnson when he mounts his high horse of humility and becomes a sort of cross between Uriah Heep and Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. Indeed, it is only by quoting Dickens's description of the latter personage that we have anything which fairly matches the traits suggested by some statements in the President's speeches. "A big, loud man," says the humorist, "with a stare and a metallic laugh. A man made out of coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him. A man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face, that it seemed to hold his eyes open and lift his eyebrows up. A man with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a balloon, and ready to start. A man who could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was continually proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of humility."

If we turn from the moral and personal to the menial characteristics of Mr. Johnson's speeches, we find that his brain is to be classed with notable cases of arrested development. He has strong forces in his nature, but in their outlet through his mind they are dissipated into a confusing clutter of unrelated thoughts and inapplicable phrases. He seems to possess neither the power nor the perception of coherent thinking and logical arrangement. He does not appear to be aware that prepossessions are not proofs, that assertions are not arguments, that the proper method to answer an objection is not to repeat the proposition against which the objection was directed, that the proper method of unfolding a subject is not to make the successive statements a series of contradictions. Indeed, he seems to have a thoroughly animalized intellect, destitute of the notion of relations, with ideas which are but the form of determinations, and which derive their force, not from reason, but from will. With an individuality thus strong even to fierceness, but which has not been developed in the mental region, and which the least gust of passion intellectually upsets, he is incapable of looking at anything out of relations to himself,—of regarding it from that neutral ground which is the condition of intelligent discussion between opposing minds. In truth, he makes a virtue of being insensible to the evidence of facts and the deductions of reason, proclaiming to all the world that he has taken his position, that he will never swerve from it, and that all statements and arguments intended to shake his resolves are impertinences, indicating that their authors are radicals and enemies of the country. He is never weary of vaunting his firmness, and firmness he doubtless has, the firmness of at least a score of mules; but events have shown that it is a different kind of firmness from that which keeps a statesman firm to his principles, a political leader to his pledges, a gentleman to his word. Amid all changes of opinion, he has been conscious of unchanged will, and the intellectual element forms so small a portion of his being, that, when he challenged "the man, woman, or child to come forward" and convict him of inconstancy to his professions, he knew that, however it might be with the rest of mankind, he would himself be unconvinced by any evidence which the said man, woman, or child might adduce. Again, when he was asked by one of his audiences why he did not hang Jeff Davis, he retorted by exclaiming, "Why don't you ask me why I have not hanged Thad Stevens and Wendell Phillips? They are as much traitors as Davis." And we are almost charitable enough to suppose that he saw no difference between the moral or legal treason of the man who for four years had waged open war against the government of the United States, and the men who for one year had sharply criticised the acts and utterances of Andrew Johnson. It is not to be expected that nice distinctions will be made by a magistrate who is in the habit of denying indisputable facts with the fury of a pugilist who has received a personal affront, and of announcing demonstrated fallacies with the imperturbable serenity of a philosopher proclaiming the fundamental laws of human belief. His brain is entirely ridden by his will, and of all the public men in the country its official head is the one whose opinion carries with it the least intellectual weight. It is to the credit of our institutions and our statesmen that the man least qualified by largeness of mind and moderation of temper to exercise uncontrolled power should be the man who aspired to usurp it. The constitutional instinct in the blood, and the constitutional principle in the brain, of our real statesmen, preserve them from the folly and guilt of setting themselves up as imitative Caesars and Napoleons, the moment they are trusted with a little delegated power.

Still we are told, that, with all his defects, Andrew Johnson is to be honored and supported as a "conservative" President engaged in a contest with a "radical" Congress! It happens, however, that the two persons who specially represent Congress in this struggle are Senators Trumbull and Fessenden. Senator Trumbull is the author of the two important measures which the President vetoed; Senator Fessenden is the chairman and organ of the Committee of Fifteen which the President anathematizes. Now we desire to do justice to the gravity of face which the partisans of Mr. Johnson preserve in announcing their most absurd propositions, and especially do we commend their command of countenance while it is their privilege to contrast the wild notions and violent speech of such lawless radicals as the Senator from Illinois and the Senator from Maine, with the balanced judgment and moderate temper of such a pattern conservative as the President of the United States. The contrast prompts ideas so irresistibly ludicrous, that to keep one's risibilities under austere control while instituting it argues a self-command almost miraculous.

Andrew Johnson, however, such as he is in heart, intellect, will, and speech, is the recognized leader of his party, and demands that the great mass of his partisans shall serve him, not merely by prostration of body, but by prostration of mind. It is the hard duty of his more intimate associates to translate his broken utterances from Andy-Johnsonese into constitutional phrase, to give these versions some show of logical arrangement, and to carry out, as best they may, their own objects, while professing boundless devotion to his. By a sophistical process of developing his rude notions, they often lead him to conclusions which he had not foreseen, but which they induce him to make his own, not by a fruitless effort to quicken his mind into following the steps of their reasoning, but by stimulating his passions to the point of adopting its results. They thus become parasites in order that they may become powers, and their interests make them particularly ruthless in their dealings with their master's consistency. Their relation to him, if they would bluntly express it, might be indicated in this brief formula: "We will adore you in order that you may obey us."

The trouble with these politicians is, that they cannot tie the President's tongue as they tied the tongues of the eminent personages they invited from all portions of the country to keep silent at their great Convention at Philadelphia. That Convention was a masterpiece of cunning political management; but its Address and Resolutions were hardly laid at Mr. Johnson's feet, when, in his exultation, he blurted out that unfortunate remark about "a body called, or which assumed to be, the Congress of the United States," which, it appears, "we have seen hanging on the verge of the government." Now all this was in the Address of the Convention, but it was not so brutally worded, nor so calculated to appall those timid supporters of the Johnson party who thought, in their innocence, that the object of the Philadelphia meeting was to heal the wounds of civil war, and not to lay down a programme by which it might be reopened. Turning, then, from Mr. Johnson to the manifesto of his political supporters, let us see what additions it makes to political wisdom, and what guaranties it affords for future peace. We shall not discriminate between insurgent States and individual insurgents, because, when individual insurgents are so overwhelmingly strong that they carry their States with them, or when States are so overwhelmingly strong that they force individuals to be insurgents, it appears to be needless. The terms are often used interchangeably in the Address, for the Convention was so largely composed of individual insurgents that it was important to vary a little the charge that they usurped State powers with the qualification that they obeyed the powers they usurped. At the South, individual insurgents constitute the State when they determine to rebel, and obey it when they desire to be pardoned. An identical thing cannot be altered by giving it two names.

The principle which runs through the Philadelphia Address is, that insurgent States recover their former rights under the Constitution by the mere fact of submission. This is equivalent to saying that insurgent States incurred no guilt in rebellion. But States cannot become insurgent, unless the authorities of such States commit perjury and treason, and their people become rebels and public enemies; perjury, treason, and rebellion are commonly held to be crimes; and who ever heard, before, that criminals were restored to all the rights of honest citizens by the mere fact of their arrest?

The doctrine, moreover, is a worse heresy than that of Secession; for Secession implies that seceded States, being out of the Union, can plainly only be brought back by conquest, and on such terms as the victors may choose to impose. No candid Southern Rebel, who believes that his State seceded, and that he acted under competent authority when he took up arms against the United States, can have the effrontery to affirm that he had inherent rights of citizenship in "the foreign country" against which he plotted and fought for four years. The so-called "right" of secession was claimed by the South as a constitutional right, to be peaceably exercised, but it passed into the broader and more generally intelligible "right" of revolution when it had to be sustained by war; and the condition of a defeated revolutionist is certainly not that of a qualified voter in the nation against which he revolted. But if insurgent States recover their former rights and privileges when they submit to superior force, there is no reason why armed rebellion should not be as common as local discontent. We have, on this principle, sacrificed thirty-five hundred millions of dollars and three hundred thousand lives, only to bring the insurgent States into just those "practical relations to the Union" which will enable us to sacrifice thirty-five hundred millions of dollars more, and three hundred thousand more lives, when it suits the passions and caprices of these States to rebel again. Whatever they may do in the way of disturbing the peace of the country, they can never, it seems, forfeit their rights and privileges under the Constitution. Even if everybody was positively certain that there would be a new rebellion in ten years, unless conditions of representation were exacted of the South, we still, according to the doctrine of the Johnsonian jurists, would be constitutionally impotent to exact them, because insurgent States recover unconditioned rights to representation by the mere fact of their submitting to the power they can no longer resist. The acceptance of this principle would make insurrection the chronic disease of our political system. War would follow war, until nearly all the wealth of the country was squandered, and nearly all the inhabitants exterminated. Mr. Johnson's prophetic vision of that Paradise of constitutionalism, shadowed forth in his exclamation that he would stand by the Constitution though all around him should perish, would be measurably realized; and among the ruins of the nation a few haggard and ragged pedants would be left to drone out eulogies on "the glorious Constitution" which had survived unharmed the anarchy, poverty, and depopulation it had produced. An interpretation of the Constitution which thus makes it the shield of treason and the destroyer of civilization must be false both to fact and sense. The framers of that instrument were not idiots; yet idiots they would certainly have been, if they had put into it a clause declaring "that no State, or combination of States, which may at any time choose to get up an armed attempt to overthrow the government established by this Constitution, and be defeated in the attempt, shall forfeit any of the privileges granted by this instrument to loyal States." But an interpretation of the Constitution which can be conceived of as forming a possible part of it only by impeaching the sanity of its framers, cannot be an interpretation which the American people are morally bound to risk ruin to support.

But even if we should be wild enough to admit the Johnsonian principle respecting insurgent States, the question comes up as to the identity of the States now demanding representation with the States whose rights of representation are affirmed to have been only suspended during their rebellion. The fact would seem to be, that these reconstructed States are merely the creations of the executive branch of the government, with every organic bond hopelessly cut which connected them with the old State governments and constitutions. They have only the names of the States they pretend to be. Before the Rebellion, they had a legal people; when Mr. Johnson took hold of them, they had nothing but a disorganized population. Out of this population he by his own will created a people, on the principle, we must suppose, of natural selection. Now, to decide who are the people of a State is to create its very foundations,—to begin anew in the most comprehensive sense of the word; for the being of a State is more in its people, that is, in the persons selected from its inhabitants to be the depositaries of its political power, than it is in its geographical boundaries and area. Over this people thus constituted by himself, Mr. Johnson set Provisional Governors nominated by himself. These Governors called popular conventions, whose members were elected by the votes of those to whom Mr. Johnson had given the right of suffrage; and these conventions proceeded to do what Mr. Johnson dictated. Everywhere Mr. Johnson; nowhere the assumed rights of the States! North Carolina was one of these creations; and North Carolina, through the lips of its Chief Justice, has already decided that Mr. Johnson was an unauthorized intruder, and his work a nullity, and even Mr. Johnson's "people" of North Carolina have rejected the constitution framed by Mr. Johnson's Convention. Other Rebel communities will doubtless repudiate his work, as soon as they can dispense with his assistance. But whatever may be the condition of these new Johnsonian States, they are certainly not States which can "recover" rights which existed previous to their creation. The date of their birth is to be reckoned, not from any year previous to the Rebellion, but from the year which followed its suppression. It may, in old times, have been a politic trick of shrewd politicians, to involve the foundations of States in the mists of a mythical antiquity; but we happily live in an historical period, and there is something peculiarly stupid or peculiarly impudent in the attempt of the publicists of the Philadelphia Convention to ignore the origins of political societies for which, after they have obtained a certain degree of organization, they claim such eminent traditional rights and privileges. Respectable as these States may be as infant phenomena, it will not do to Methuselahize them too recklessly, or assert their equality in muscle and brawn with giants full grown.

It is evident, from the nature of the case, that Mr. Johnson's labors were purely experimental and provisional, and needed the indorsement of Congress to be of any force. The only department of the government constitutionally capable to admit new States or rehabilitate insurgent ones is the legislative. When the Executive not only took the initiative in reconstruction, but assumed to have completed it; when he presented his States to Congress as the equals of the States represented in that body; when he asserted that the delegates from his States should have the right of sitting and voting in the legislature whose business it was to decide on their right to admission; when, in short, he demanded that criminals at the bar should have a seat on the bench, and an equal voice with the judges, in deciding on their own case, the effrontery of Executive pretension went beyond all bounds of Congressional endurance.

The real difference at first was not on the question of imposing conditions,—for the President had notoriously imposed them himself,—but on the question whether or not additional conditions were necessary to secure the public safety. The President, with that facility "in turning his back on himself" which all other logical gymnasts had pronounced an impossible feat, then boldly look the ground, that, being satisfied with the conditions he had himself exacted, the exaction of conditions was unconstitutional. To sustain this curious proposition he adduced no constitutional arguments, but he left various copies of the Constitution in each of the crowds he recently addressed, with the trust, we suppose, that somebody might be fortunate enough to find in that instrument the clause which supported his theory. Mr. Johnson, however, though the most consequential of individuals, is the most inconsequential of reasoners; every proposition which is evident to himself he considers to fulfil the definition of a self-evident proposition; but his supporters at Philadelphia must have known, that, in affirming that insurgent States recover their former rights by the fact of submission, they were arraigning the conduct of their leader, who had notoriously violated those "rights." They took up his work at a certain stage, and then, with that as a basis, they affirmed a general proposition about insurgent States, which, had it been complied with by the President, would have left them no foundation at all; for the States about which they so glibly generalized would have had no show of organized governments. The premises of their argument were obtained by the violation of its conclusion; they inferred from what was a negation of their inference, and deduced from what was a death-blow to their deduction.

It is easy enough to understand why the Johnson Convention asserted the equality of the Johnson reconstructions of States with the States now represented in Congress. The object was to give some appearance of legality to a contemplated act of arbitrary power, and the principle that insurgent States recover all their old rights by the fact of submission was invented in order to cover the case. Mr. Johnson now intends, by the admission of his partisans, to attempt a coup d'état on the assembling of the Fortieth Congress, in case seventy-one members of the House of Representatives, favorable to his policy, are chosen, in the elections of this autumn, from the twenty-six loyal States. These, with the fifty Southern delegates, would constitute a quorum of the House; and the remaining hundred and nineteen members are, in the President's favorite phrase, "to be kicked out" from that "verge" of the government on which they now are said to be "hanging." The question, therefore, whether Congress, as it is at present constituted, is a body constitutionally competent to legislate for the whole country, is the most important of all practical questions. Let us see how the case stands.

The Constitution, ratified by the people of all the States, establishes a government of sovereign powers, supreme over the whole land, and the people of no State can rightly pass from under its authority except by the consent of the people of all the States, with whom it is bound by the most solemn and binding of contracts. The Rebel States broke, in fact, the contract they could not break in right. Assembled in conventions of their people, they passed ordinances of secession, withdrew their Senators and Representatives from Congress, and began the war by assailing a fort of the United States. The Secessionists had trusted to the silence of the Constitution in relation to the act they performed. A State in the American Union, as distinguished from a Territory, is constitutionally a part of the government to which it owes allegiance, and the seceded States had refused to be parts of the government, and had forsworn their allegiance. By the Constitution, the United States, in cases of "domestic violence" in a State, is to interfere, "on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive when the Legislature cannot be convened." But in this case legislatures, executives, conventions of the people, were all violators of the domestic peace, and of course made no application for interference. By the Constitution, Congress is empowered to suppress insurrections; but this might be supposed to mean insurrections like Shays's Rebellion in Massachusetts and the Whiskey Insurrection in Pennsylvania, and not to cover the action of States seceding from the Congress which is thus empowered. The seceders, therefore, felt somewhat as did the absconding James II. when he flung the Great Seal into the Thames, and thought he had stopped the machinery of the English government.

Mr. Buchanan, then President of the United States, admitted at once that the Secessionists had done their work in such a way that, though they had done wrong, the government was powerless to compel them to do right. And here the matter should have rested, if the government established by the Constitution was such a government as Mr. Johnson's supporters now declare it to be. If it is impotent to prescribe terms of peace in relation to insurgent States, it is certainly impotent to make war on insurgent States. If insurgent States recover their former constitutional rights in laying down their arms, then there was no criminality in their taking them up; and if there was no criminality in their taking them up, then the United States was criminal in the war by which they were forced to lay them down. On this theory we have a government incompetent to legislate for insurgent States, because lacking their representatives, waging against them a cruel and unjust war. And this is the real theory of the defeated Rebels and Copperheads who formed the great mass of the delegates to the Johnson Convention. Should they get into power, they would feel themselves logically justified in annulling, not only all the acts of the "Rump Congress" since they submitted, but all the acts of the Rump Congresses during the time they had a Confederate Congress of their own. They may deny that this is their intention; but what intention to forego the exercise of an assumed right, held by those who are out of power, can be supposed capable of limiting their action when they are in?

But if the United States is a government having legitimate rights of sovereignty conferred upon it by the people of all the States, and if, consequently, the attempted secession of the people of one or more States only makes them criminals, without impairing the sovereignty of the United States, then the government, with all its powers, remains with the representatives of the loyal people.By the very nature of government as government, the rights and privileges guaranteed to citizens are guaranteed to loyal citizens; the rights and privileges guaranteed to States are guaranteed to loyal States; and loyal citizens and loyal States are not such as profess a willingness to be loyal after having been utterly worsted in an enterprise of gigantic disloyalty. The organic unity and continuity of the government would be broken by the return of disloyal citizens and Rebel States without their going through the process of being restored by the action of the government they had attempted to subvert; and the power to restore carries with it the power to decide on the terms of restoration. And when we speak of the government, we are not courtly enough to mean by the expression simply its executive branch. The question of admitting and implicitly of restoring States, and of deciding whether or not States have a republican form of government, are matters left by the Constitution to the discretion of Congress. As to the Rebel States now claiming representation, they have succumbed, thoroughly exhausted, in one of the costliest and bloodiest wars in the history of the world,—a war which tasked the resources of the United States more than they would have been tasked by a war with all the great powers of Europe combined,—a war which, in 1862, had assumed such proportions, that the Supreme Court decided that it gave the United States the same rights and privileges which the government might exercise in the case of a national and foreign war. The inhabitants of the insurgent States being thus judicially declared public enemies as well as Rebels, there would seem to be no doubt at all that the victorious close of actual hostilities could not deprive the government of the power of deciding on the terms of peace with public enemies. The government of the United States found the insurgent States thoroughly revolutionized and disorganized, with no State governments which could be recognized without recognizing the validity of treason, and without the power or right to take even the initial steps for State reorganization. They were practically out of the Union as States; their State governments had lapsed; their population was composed of Rebels and public enemies, by the decision of the Supreme Court. Under such circumstances, how the Commander-in-Chief, under Congress, of the forces of the United States could re-create these defunct States, and make it mandatory on Congress to receive their delegates, has always appeared to us one of those mysteries of unreason which require faculties either above or below humanity to accept. In addition to this fundamental objection, there was the further one, that almost all of the delegates were Rebels presidentially pardoned into "loyal men," were elected with the idea of forcing Congress to repeal the test oath, and were incapacitated to be legislators even if they had been sent from loyal States. The few who were loyal men in the sense that they had not served the Rebel government, were still palpably elected by constituents who had; and the character of the constituency is as legitimate a subject of Congressional inquiry as the character of the representative.

It not being true, then, that the twenty-two hundred thousand loyal voters who placed Mr. Johnson in office, and whom he betrayed, have no means by their representatives in Congress to exert a controlling power in the reconstruction of the Rebel communities, the question comes up as to the conditions which Congress has imposed. It always appeared to us that the true measure of conciliation, of security, of mercy, of justice, was one which would combine the principle of universal amnesty, or an amnesty nearly universal, with that of universal, or at least of impartial suffrage. In regard to amnesty, the amendment to the Constitution which Congress has passed disqualifies no Rebels from voting, and only disqualifies them from holding office when they have happened to add perjury to treason. In regard to suffrage, it makes it for the political interest of the South to be just to its colored citizens, by basing representation on voters, and not on population, and thus places the indulgence of class prejudices and hatreds under the penalty of a corresponding loss of political power in the Electoral College and the National House of Representatives. If the Rebel States should be restored without this amendment becoming a part of the Constitution, then the recent Slave States will have thirty Presidential Electors and thirty members of the House of Representatives in virtue of a population they disfranchise, and the vote of a Rebel white in South Carolina will carry with it more than double the power of a loyal white in Massachusetts or Ohio. The only ground on which this disparity can be defended is, that as "one Southerner is more than a match for two Yankees," he has an inherent, continuous, unconditioned right to have this superiority recognized at the ballot-box. Indeed, the injustice of this is so monstrous, that the Johnson orators find it more convenient to decry all conditions of representation than to meet the incontrovertible reasons for exacting the condition which bases representation on voters. Not to make it a part of the Constitution would be, in Mr. Shellabarger's vivid illustration, to allow "that Lee's vote should have double the elective power of Grant's; Semmes's double that of Farragut's; Booth's—did he live—double that of Lincoln's, his victim!"

It is also to be considered that these thirty votes would, in almost all future sessions of Congress, decide the fate of the most important measures. In 1862 the Republicans, as Congress is now constituted, only had a majority of twenty votes. In alliance with the Northern Democratic party, the South with these thirty votes might repeal the Civil Rights Bill, the principle of which is embodied in the proposed amendment. It might assume the Rebel debt, which is repudiated in that amendment. It might even repudiate the Federal debt, which is affirmed in that amendment. We are so accustomed to look at the Rebel debt as dead beyond all power of resurrection, as to forget that it amounts, with the valuation of the emancipated slaves, to some four thousand millions of dollars. If the South and its Northern Democratic allies should come into power, there is a strong probability that a measure would be brought in to assume at least a portion of this debt,—say two thousand millions. The Southern members would be nearly a unit for assumption, and the Northern Democratic members would certainly be exposed to the most frightful temptation that legislators ever had to resist. Suppose it were necessary to buy fifty members at a million of dollars apiece, that sum would only be two and a half per cent of the whole. Suppose it were necessary to give them ten millions apiece, even that would only be a deduction of twenty-five per cent from a claim worthless without their votes. The bribery might be conducted in such a way as to elude discovery, if not suspicion, and the measure would certainly be trumpeted all over the North as the grandest of all acts of statesmanlike "conciliation," binding the South to the Union in indissoluble bonds of interest. The amendment renders the conversion of the Rebel debt into the most enormous of all corruption funds an impossibility.

But the character and necessity of the amendment are too well understood to need explanation, enforcement, or defence. If it, or some more stringent one, be not adopted, the loyal people will be tricked out of the fruits of the war they have waged at the expense of such unexampled sacrifices of treasure and blood. It never will be adopted unless it be practically made a condition of the restoration of the Rebel States; and for the unconditioned restoration of those States the President, through his most trusted supporters, has indicated his intention to venture a coup d'état. This threat has failed doubly of its purpose. The timid, whom it was expected to frighten, it has simply scared into the reception of the idea that the only way to escape civil war is by the election of over a hundred and twenty Republican Representatives to the Fortieth Congress. The courageous, whom it was intended to defy, it has only exasperated into more strenuous efforts against the insolent renegade who had the audacity to make it.

Everywhere in the loyal States there is an uprising of the people only paralleled by the grand uprising of 1861. The President's plan of reconstruction having passed from a policy into a conspiracy, his chief supporters are now not so much his partisans as his accomplices; and against him and his accomplices the people will this autumn indignantly record the most overwhelming of verdicts.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.