Imágenes de páginas
PDF

this that any man should be exonerated from the penalties and punishments of the crime of treason. The time has arrived when the American people should understand what crime is, and that it should punished, and its penalties enforced and inflicted. We say in our statutes and courts that burglary is a crime, that murder is a crime, that arson is a crime, and that treason is a crime; and the Constitution of United States, and the laws of the United States, say that treason shall consist iifivying war against them, and giving their enc es aid and comfort. I have just remarked that burglary isa crime and has its penalties, that murder is a crime and has its penalties, and so on through the long catalogue of crime.

To illustrate by a sad event, which is before the minds of all, and which has draped this land in mourning. Who is there here who would say if the assassin who has stricken from our midst one beloved and revered by all, and passed him from time to eternity, to that bourne whence no traveler returns, who, I repeat, who, here would say that the assassin, if taken, should not suffer the penalties of his crime? Then, if ou take the life of one individual for the mur er of another, and believe that his property should be confiscated, what should he done with one who is trying to assassinate this nation? What should be done with him or them who have attempted the life of a nation com osed of thirty millions of people?

e were livin at a time when the public mind had almost become oblivious of what treason is. The time has arrived, in countrymen, when the American people shou d be educated and taught what is crime, and that treason is a crime, and the highest crime known to the law and the Constitution. Yes, treason against a State, treason against all the States, treason a ainst the Government of the United States, is t e highest crime that can be committed, and those engaged in it should sufi'er all its penalties.

I know it is very easy to get up sympathy and sentiment where human blood is about to be shed, easy to acquire a reputation for leniency and kindness, but sometimes its effects and practical o erations produce misery and woe to the mass 0 mankind. Sometimes an individual whom the law has overtaken, and on whom its penalties are about to be imposed, will appeal and plead with the Executive for the exercise of clemency. But before its exercise he ought to ascertain what is mercy and what is not mercy. It is a very important question, and one which deserves the consideration of those who moralize upon crime and the morals of a nation, whether in some cases action should not be suspended here and transferred to Him who controls all. There, if innocence has been invaded, if wron has been done, the Controller and Giver of al good, one of whose attributes is mercy, will set it right.

It is not promulging anything thatI have not heretofore said to say that traitors mustbe made odious, that treason must be made odious, that traitors must be punished and impoverished.

They must not only be punished, but their social power must be destroyed. If not, they will still maintain an ascendancy, and may again

[graphic]

become numerous and powerful; for, in the words of a former Senator of the United States, “When traitors become numerous enough, treas son becomes respectable." And I say that, after making treason odious, every Union man and the Government should be remunerated out of the pockets of those who have inflicted this great suffering upon the country. But do not understand me as so. ing this in a spirit of anger, for, if I understan in own heart, the reverse isthe case; and, while say that the penalties of the law, in a stern and inflexible manner, should be executed upon conscious, intelligent, and influ- ' ential traitors—the leaders, who have deceived thousands upon thousands of laboring men who have been drawn into this rebellion—and while I say, as to the leaders, punishment, [ also say leniency, conciliation, and amnesty to the thousands whom they have misled and deceived ; and in reference to this, as I remarked, I might have adopted your speech.as in own.

As my honorable frien knows, I long since took the ground that this Government was sent upon a reat mission among the nations of the earth; t at it had a great work to perform, and that in starting it was started in perpetuity. Look back for one single moment to the Articles of Confederation, and then come down to 1787, when the Constitution was formed—what do you find? That we, “ the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect overnment," dtc. Provision is made for the admission of new States, to be added to old ones embraced within the Union. Now, turn to the Constitution : we find that amendments may be made, by a recommendation of two thirds of the members of Con

ress, if ratified by three fourths of the States. .

rovision is made-for the admission of new States; no provision is made for the secessionof old ones.

The instrument was made to be good in perpetuity, and you can take hold of it, not to break up the Government, but to go on perfecting it more and more as it runs down the stream of

tim

\a find the Government composed of integral parts. An individual is an integer, and a num

er of individuals form a State; and a State itself is an integer, and the various States form the Union, which is itself an integer—they all making up the Governmentof the United States. Now we come to the point of my argument, so far as concerns the perpetuity of the Government. We have seen that the Government is composed of parts, each essential to the whole, and the whole essential to each part. Now, if an individual (part of a State) declare war against the whole, in violation of the Constitution, he, as a citizen, has violated the law, and is responsible for the act as an individual. There may be more than one individual, it may go on till the become parts of States. Sometime the rebel ion may goon increasing in numhere till the State machinery is overturned, and the country becomes like a man that is paralyzed on one side. But we find in the Constitution a great panacea provided. It provides that the United States (that is, the great integer) shall guarantee to each State (the inte ers composin the whole) in this Union a republican form 0%

government. Yes, if rebellion had been rampant, and set aside the machinery of a State for a time, there stands the great law to remove the paralysis and revitalize it, and put it on its test again. When we come to understand our system of government, though it be complex, we see how beautifully one part moves in harmony with another; then we see our Government is to be a perpetuity, there being no rovision for pulling it down, the Union bein its vitalizing power, imparting life to the who e of the States that move around it like lanets round the sun, ~receiving thence li ht- an heat and motion.

Upon this idea 0 destroying‘States, my position has been heretofore well nown, and I see no cause to change it now, 'and I am glad to hear its reiteration on the present occasion. Some are satisfied with the idea that States are to be lost in territorial and other divisions; are to lose their character as States. But their life breath has been only suspended, and it is a high constitutional obli ation we have to secure each of these States in t e possession and enjoyment of a republican form of government. A State maybe in the Government with a peculiar institution, and by the operation of rebellion lose that feature- but it was a State when it went into rebellion, and when it comes out without the institution it is still a state.

I hold it as a solemn obligation in any one of these States where the rebel armies have been beaten back'or expelled—J care not how small the number of Union men, if enough to man the ship of State, I hold it, I say, a high duty to

protect and secure to them a republican form of.

government. This is no new opinion. It is expressed in conformity with my understanding of the enius and theory of our Government. Then ina justing and putting the Government upon its legs again, I t iink the progress of this work must ass intothehands of its friends. If aState is to e nursed until it again gets strength, it must be nursed by its friends, not smothered by its enemies.*

[graphic]

*On this and other points, President Johnson de*ed himself in his Nashville speech of June 9, 1864, from which these extracts are taken:

The question is, whether man is capable of self~government7 I hold with Jefferson that government was made for the convenience of man, and not man for overnment. The laws and constitutions were esigned as instruments to promote his welfare. -And hence, from this principle, I conclude that governments can and ought to be changed and amended to conform to the wants, to the requirements and pro ress of the people, and the enlightened spirit 0 the ago. Now, if any of your secessionists have lost faith in men's ca ability for selfgovernment, and feel unfit for t 6 exercise of this great right, go straight to rebeldom, take Jeff. Davis, Beauregard, and Bragg for your masters, and put their collars on your necks.

And let me say that now is the time to secure these fundamental principles, while the land is rent with anarchy and upheaves with the throes of a mighty revolution. While society is in this disordered state, and we are seeking security, let us fix the foundation of the Government on principles of eternal justice which will endure

[graphic]

Now, permit me to remark, that while I have opposed dissolution and disintegration on the one

[graphic]

for all time. There is an element in our midst who are for perpetuating the institution of slavery. Let me say to you, Tennesseeans and men from the Northern States, that slavery is dead. It was not murdered by me. I told you long ago what the result would bev if you en-l deavored to go out of the Union to save slavery; and that the result nld be bloodshed, rapine, devastated fields, p ndered villages and cities, and, therefore, I urged you to remain in the Union. In trying to save slaver , you killed it and lost your own freedom. dur slavery is dead, but I did not murder it. As Macbeth said to Banquo’s bloody ghost: “‘ Never shake thy gory locks at me; Thou canst not say I did it.’ " .

Slavery is dead, and you must pardon me if I do not mourn over its dead body; you can bury it out of sight. In restoring the State; leave out that disturbing and dangerous element, and use only those parts of the machinery which will move in harmony. I

But in calling a convention to restore ,the State, who shall restore and reestablish it? Shall the man who gave his influence and his means to destroy the Government? Is he to partici ate in the great work of reorganization? Shall lie who brought this misery upon the State be permitted to control its destinies? If this be so, then all this precious blood of our brave soldiers and officers so freely poured out will have been wantonly spilled. All the glorious victories won by our noble armies will go ‘for nought, and all the battle-fields which have been sown with dead heroes during the rebellion will have been made memorable in vain.

Why all this carnage and devastation? It was that treason might be put down and traitors punished. Therefore I say that traitors should take a back seat in the work of restoration. If there be but five thousand men in Tennessee loyal to the Constitution, loyal to freedom, loyal to justice, these true and faithful men should control the work of reorganization and reforma~ tion absolutely. I say that the traitor has ceased to be a citizen, and in joinin the rebellion has become a public enemy. e forfeited his right to vote with loyal men when he renounced his citizenship and sought to destroy our Government. We say to the most honest

and industrious forei ner who comes from En

land or Germany to well amon us, and to a d to the wealth of the country, “Sefore you can be a citizen you must stay here for five years." If we are so cautious about foreigners, w 0 voluntarily renounce their homes to live with us, what should we say to the traitor, who, although born and‘reared among us, has raised a parricidal hand a ainst the Government which always rotected him? My judgment is that he should e subjected to a severe ordeal before he is restored to citizenship. A fellow who takes the oath merely to save his property, and denies the validity of the oath, is a perjured man, and not ‘ to be trusted. Before these repentin rebels can be trusted, let them bring forth the fruits of repentance. He who helped to make all these

hand on the other I am equally opposed to consolidation, or the centralization of poweriu the hands of a few. Sir, all this has been extorted from me by the remarks you have offered, and as I have already remarked, I mighthave adopted our speech as my own. 4 I have detained you hanger than I expected, but Governor Morton is re,z onsible for that. scarcel know how to express my feeling in view of t e kindness you have manifested on this occasion. Perhaps I ought not to add what I am about to say, but human nature is human nature. Indiana first named me for the Vice Presidenc , though it was unsolicited by me. Indeed, there is not a man can say that I ever approached him on the subject. My eyes were turned to my own State. If I could restore her, the measure of my ambition was com lete. I thank the State of Indiana for the confi ence and re ard she manifested toward me, which has resulte in what is now before me, placing me in the position I now occupy.

In conclusion, I will repeat that the vigor of my youth has been spent in advocating those great principles at the foundation of our Government, and, therefore, 1 have been by many denounced as a demagogue, I striving to please the

[graphic]

widows and orphans, who draped the streets of Nashville in mourning, should suffer for his great crime. The work is in our own hands. We can destroy this rebellion. With Grant thundering on the Potomac before Richmond, and Sherman and Thomas on their march toward Atlanta, the day will ere long be ours. Will any madly per~ sist in rebellion? Su pose that an equal number be slain 'n every attle, it is plain that the result must‘?‘ the utter extermination of the rebels. Ah! ese rebel leaders have astrong personal reason for holding out to save their necks from the halter; and these leaders must feel the power of the Government! Treason must be made odious, and traitor must be punished and impoverished. Their great plantations must be seized, and divided into small farms, and sold to honest, industrious men. The day for protecting the lands and negroes of these authors of the rebellion is ast. It is high time it was. I have been most deeply pained at some things which have come under my observation. We get men in command who, under the influence of flattery, fawning, and caressing, grant erotect-ion to the rich traitor, while the poor

nion man stands out in the cold, often unable to get a receipt or a voucher for his losses. [Cries of “ That’s so!" from all parts of the crowd] The traitor can get lucrative contracts, while the loyal man is pushed aside, unable to obtain a recoenition of his just stripes and shoulder»straps. I want them all to hear what I say. I have been on a gridiron for two years at the sight of these abuses. I blame not the Government for these things, which are the work of weak or faitliless subordinates. Wrongs will be committed under every form of government and every administration. For myself, I mean to stand by the Government till the flag of the Union shall wave over ever city, town, hilltop, and cross-roads, in its fu 1 power and majosty.

[graphic]

people. I am free to say toyou that m hi hest ambition was to please the people, for be ieve that when I pleased them, 1 was pretty nearly right, and being in theright, I didn’t care who assailed me. But I was oing to say I have always advocated the principle, that government ‘ was made for man—not man for goverment ; even as the good Book says that the Sabbath was made for man—not man for the Sabbath.

So far as in me lies, those principles shall be carried out; and, in conclusion, I tender you my profound and sincere thanks for your respect and support in the performance of the arduous duties now devolving upon me.

To Virginia Refugees.

April 24, 1865—A large number of Southern refu ees had an interview, Hon. John C. Underwoo making an address; to which the Presi-. dent re lied; ‘ '

It is hardly necessary for me on this occasion to say that m sympathies and impulses in connection witht is nefarious rebellion beat in unison with yours. Those who have passed through this bitter ordeal, and who participated in it to a great extent, are more competent, as I think, to judge and determine the true policy which should be pursued. [Applause]

I have but little to say on this question in response to what has been said. It enunciates and expresses my own feelings to the fullest extent, and in much better language than I can at the present moment summon to my aid.

The most that I can say is, that entering upon the duties that have devolved upon me under circumstances that are erilous and responsible, and being thrown into the position I now occupy unexpectedly, in consequence of the sad event— the heinous assassination which has taken place— in view of all that is before me, and the circumstances that surround me, I cannot but feel that your encouragement and kindness are peculiarly acceptable and appropriate.

I do not think on have been familiar with my course, if you w o are from the South deem it necessary for me to make any professions as to the future on this occasion, or to express what my course will be upon questions that may arise. If my past life is no indication of what my future will be, my professions were both worth— less and empty; and in returning you my sincere thanks for this encouragement and sympathy, I can only reiterate what I have said before, and, in part, what has just been read.

As far as clemency and mercy are concerned, and the roper exercise of the pardonin power, I think {understand the nature and c aracter of the latter. In the exercise of clemency and mercy, that pardoning power should be exercised with caution. I do not give utterance to my opinions on this point in any s irit of revenge or wikind feelings. Mercy an clemency have been pretty large ingredients in my com pound. Having been the executive of a State, and thereby placed in a position in which it was necessary to exercise clemency and mercy, I have been char ed with going too far, being too lenient; and g1 have become satisfied that mercy withoutjnstice is a crime, and that when mercy and clemency are exercised by the executive it

should always be done in view of justice, and in that manner alone is properly exercised that great prero ative.

The time as come, as you who have had to drink this bitter cup are fully aware, when the American people should be made to understand the true nature of crime. Of crime, generally, our people have a high understanding, as well as of the necessity for its punishment; but in the catalogue of crimes there is one-and that the highest known to the law and theConstitution— of which, since the days of Jeflerson and Aaron Burr, they have become oblivious; that is TREA— SON. Indeed, one who has become distinguished in treason and in this rebellion said, that “when traitors become numerous enough, treason becomes respectable," and to become a traitor was to constitute a portion of the aristocracy of the cpuntry. _

God protect the people against such an aristocracy.

Yes, the time has come when the people should be taught to understand the length and breath, the depth and height of treason. An individual occu yin the highest position among us was lifte to t iat position by the free offering of the American eople—the highest position on the habitable gibbe. This man we have seen, revered, and loved ; one who, if he erred at all, erred ever on the side of clemency and mercy; that man we have seen treason strike through a fitting instrument; and we have beheld him fall likeabright star falling from its sphere.

Now, there is none but would say, if the question came up, what should be done with the individual who assassinated the chief magistrate of a nation—he is but a man, one man after all; but if asked what should 0 done with the assassin, what should be the penalty, the forfeit exacted, I know what response dwells in ever bosom. It is, that he should, ay the forfeit wit his life. And hence we see tIlJiat these are times when merc and clemency withoutj ustice become a crime. "he one should temper the other and brin about the proper mean. And if we would say siis when the case was the sim .le murder of one man by his fellow man, what s ould we say when asked what shall be done with him, or them, or those who have raised impious hands to take away the life ofa nation composed ofthirty millions of people? What would e the reply to that question? But while in mere we remember justice, in thelan uage that has een uttered, I say justice towar the leaders, the conscious leaders; but I also say amnesty, conciliation, clemency, and mercy to the thousands of our countrymen who you and I know have been deceived or driven into this infernal rebellion.

And so I retufli to where I started from, and again repeat, that it is time our people were taught to know that treason is a crime—not a mere political difierence, not a mere contest between two parties, in which one succeled, and the other has simply failed. They must know it is treason, for if they had succeeded, the life of the nation would have been reft from it, the Union would have been destroyed.

Surely the Constitution sufficiently defines treason. It consists in levying war against the United States, and in giving their enemies aid

[graphic]

and comfort. With this definition it requires the exercise of no great acumen to ascertain who are traitors. It requires no great perception to tell us who have levied war against the United States, nor does it require any great stretch of reasoning to ascertain who has given aid to the enemies of the United States. And when the Government of the United States does ascertain who are the conscious and intelligent traitors, the penalty and the forfeit should be paid.

I know how to appreciate the condition of being driven from one’s home. Ican sympathize with him whose all has been taken from him; with him who has been denied the place that gave his children birth; but let us, withal, in the restoration of true government, proceed temperater and dispassionately, and hope and pray that the time will come, as I believe, when we all'can return and remain at our homes, and treason and traitors be driven from our land; [applausefl when again law and order shall re] 11, and the banner of our country. be unfur ed over every inch of territory within the area of the United States.

In conclusion, let me thank you most profoundl for this encouragement and manifestation 0 your regard and respect, and assure on that I can give no greater assurance regardin the settlement of this question than that l inten to discharge my duty, and in that way which shall in the earliest possible 'hour bring back peace to our distracted country, and hope the time is not far distant when our people can all return to their homes and firesides, and resume their various avocations.

[graphic]

Interview with George L. Steams. Wssunzeros, D. 0., Oct. 3,1865b11%, A. M.

I have just returned from an inIrview with President Johnson, in which he talked for an hour on the process of reconstruction of rebel States. His manner was as cordial, and his conversation asfree as in 1863, when I met him daily in Nashvi le.

His countenance is healthier, even more so than when I first knew him.

I remarked that the people of the North were anxious that the recess of reconstruction shouldlbe thorough, an they wished to support him inthe arduous work, but their ideas were confused by the conflicting reports constantly circulated, and especially by the present position of the Democratic party. It is industrioust circulated in the Democratic clubs that he was going over to them. He laughingly replied. “Major, have you never known a man who for many years had differed from your views because you were in advance of him, claim them as his own when he came up to your standpoint ?"

I re lied, “I have, often." He said, “So have I, ’ and went on : “ The Democratic party finds its old position untenable, and is coming to ours; if it has come up to our position, I am glad of it. You and I need no preparation for this conversation; we can talk freely on this subject, for the thoughts are familiar to us; we can be perfectly frank with each other." He then commenced with saying that the States are in the Union, which is whole and indivisible.

Individuals tried to carry them out, but did not succeed, as a man may try to out his throat and be prevented by the bystanders; and on cannot say he cut his throat because he trie to do it.

Individuals may commit treason and be punished, and a large number of individuals ma constitute a rebellion, and be punished as traitors. Some States tried to get out of the Union, and we opposed it honestly, because we believed it to be Wrong; and we have succeeded in utting down the rebellion. The power of t ose persons who made the attempt has been crushed, and now we want to reconstruct the State governments, and have the power to do it. The State institutions are prostrated', laid out on the ground, and they must be taken up and ada ted to the progress of events; this cannot be one in a moment. We are making very rapid pro ress—so rapid I sometimes cannot realize it. It ap ears like a dream.

Ve must not be in too much of a hurry; it is better to let them reco'nstruct themselves than to force them to it; for if they go wrong the power is in our hands, and we can check them in any stage, to the end, and oblige them to correct their errors; we must be patient with them. I did not expect to keep out all who were excluded from the amnesty, or even a large number of them ; but I intended they should sue for pardon, and so realize the enormity of the crime they had committed. \

You could not have broached the subject of equal suffrage at the North seven years ago, and we must remember that the changes of the South have been more rapid, and they have been obliged to accept more unpalatable truth than the North has; we must give them time to digesta part, for we cannot expect such large a airs will be comprehended and digested at once. We must give them time to understand their new position.

I have nothing to conceal in these matters, and have no desire or willingness to take indirect

courses to obtain what we want.

Our Government is a grand and lofty structure; in searchin for its foundation we find it rests on the broa basis of popular rights. The elective franchise is not a natural right, but a political right. I am opposed to giving the

tates too much power, and also to a great consolidation of power in the central government.

If I interfered with the vote in the rebel States, to dictate that no negro shall vote, I might do the same for my own purposes in Pennsylvania. Our only safety lies in allowing each State to control the right of voting by its own law's, and we have the power to control the rebel States if they go wrong. If they rebel we have the army, and can control them by it, and, if necessary, by legislation also. If the General Government controls the ri ht to vote in the States, it may establish suc rules as will restrict the vote to a small number of persons, and thus create a central despotism.

M Josition here is different from what it won .d e if I was in Tennessee. ‘

There I should try to introduce negro suffrage graduall ; first those who had served in the army; t ose who could_read and write; and per

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

haps a property qualification for others, say $200 or $250.

It would not do to let the negro have universal suffrage now ;- it would breed a war of races.

There was a time in the Southern States when the slaves of large owners looked down upon non-slaveowners because they did notown slaves; the lar er the number of slaves the masters owned t e render they were,iand this has produced hostility between the mass of the whites and the negroes. ,The outrages are mostly from non-slaveholding whites a ainst the negro, and from the negro upon t e non-slavéliolding whites. ‘

The negro will vote with the late master, whom he does not hate, ratherthan with the nonslaveholding white, whom he does hate. Universal suflrage would create another war, not against us, but a war of races. .

Another thing: This Government is the freest and best on earth, and I feel sure is destined to last; but to secure this we must elevate and urify the ballot. I, for many years contende at the South that slavery was a political weakness; but others said it was political strength; they thoughtwe gained three-fifths representation by it; I contended that we lost two-fifths.

- If we had no slaves we should have had twelve Representatives more, according to the then ratio of representation. Congress apportionsrepresentation by States, not districts, and the State apportions by districts. ,

Many years ago I moved in the Legislature that the apportionment of Re resentatives to Congress in Tennessee should e by qualified voters.

The apportionment is now fixed until 1872; before t at time we inight change the basis of representation from population to qualified voters, North as well as South, and, in due course of time, the States, without regard to color, might extend the elective franchise to all who possessed certain mental, moral, or such other qualifications as might be determined by an enlightened public judgment.

Bosros, October 18, 1865.

The above report was returned to me by President Johnson with the following endorsement. . GEORGE L. SrEAnss.

I have read the within communication and. find it substantially correct.

I have made some verbal alterations.

[graphic][merged small]

October 10, 1865—The first colored regiment of District of Columbia. troops, recently returned from the South, marched to the Executive Mansion, and were addressed by the President, as follows:

MY FRIENDS: My object in presenting myself before you 'on this occasion is simply to thank you, members of one of the colored re iments which have been in the service of t e country to sustain and carry its banner and its laws triumphntl ' in every part of this broad land. I appear store you on the present occasion merely to tender you my thanks for the compliment you have paid me on your return home, to again be associated with your friends

« AnteriorContinuar »