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“Who in the nation can fill the place of Abraham Lincoln P” was the great question of loyal people after the first shock of bereavement, feeling that no one, in truth, could fittingly succeed to a place consecrated by the Great Emancipator to loyalty and liberty.
Andrew Johnson was made President of the United States by the power of Conspiracy and Assassination. The people submitted to that decree and with sad, anxious hearts, the loyal masses endeavored to support his administration. Many with faith and hope looked to him as a guide and protector—as the Chief Executive of a Republic whose duty it was to make treason odious, and to frown upon rebellion and tyranny. The record of Andrew Johnson's official acts under the administration of Lincoln were those of a patriot. His record during the rebellion under the eye of the Just President was such as to draw the hearts of the loyal people strongly to him, who doubted not that his future course would harmonize with the beneficent policy of his Predecessor. With confidence in the administration of Andrew Johnson, the loyal masses of New Orleans met in Lafayette Square, August 17th, 1865, to give expression to their trust in the Chief Magistrate.
Dostie was one of the prime movers in organizing that meeting. He wrote to many of the prominent Union men of the city, urging them to speak in favor of Johnson upon the occasion. The meeting was called to order by A. C. Hills, Esq., who nominated Judge Durell for President of the meeting. Among the vice-presidents chosen were Dr. A. P. Dostie, B. R. Plumley, E. Heath, J. Graham, M. F. Bonzano, Wm. H. Hire, Rev. J. W. Horton, Alfred Shaw, H. C. Wamoth, Judge Heistend, Dr. E. Goldman, Ex-Gov. Hahn, John Henderson, and S. S. Fish. The following were some of the resolutions adopted at that meeting:
“Resolved, That the unity of this country is indispensable to the perpetuation of a truly republican government; that the freedom for which our forefathers fought can only be secured to us by a steadfast adherence to the great principles of liberty, equality and fraternity; “Jęesolved, That to those who have promptly, honestly and in good faith, availed themselves of the Proclamation of Amnesty of President Lincoln, and who have by their countenance and support, aided the military authorities of the United States in their efforts to re-establish republican institutions in the insurrectionary States are entitled to the sympathy and regard of all good citizens, and to a full restitution of all political rights at as early a day as may be practicable. “Resolved, That in our opinion, no man who has ever held any office of trust or emolument—civil, naval or military—under the rebel authorities, should be permitted to hold office under the United States GovernInent. “Resolved, That in re-establishing civil Government in the Southern States, our only safety consists in making all loyal men equal before the law; and that any government established that does not realize this principle, is neither just nor equitable, and consequently not a republican Government.
“I’esolved, That while the loyal men of Louisiana were appalled at the brutal assassination, and sincerely mourn the loss of the wise, humane and noble President, Abraham Lincoln, they hereby express their confidence in the patriotism, ability and discretion of Andrew Johnson, President of the United States. That his long public career, unblemished by any stain of disloyalty, great in noble and successful devotion to the people’s interests, especially marked by his earnest opposition to treason, has given him the right to our warmest admiration and heartiest support; that we pledge to him our constant aid in the work of re-establishing good Government and loyalty in the Southern States.
“Resolved, That J. Madison Wells, acting Governor of the State, who received the united vote of the Free State Party, has proved false to the high trust reposed in him, in appointing to office men who signed the ordinance of secession, and registered enemies to the United States Government; that his course as Governor has been reactionary, calculated to work injury to the Union cause, and that he is no longer entitled to our confidence.”
Judge Durell addressed the meeting as follows:
“Fellow-Citizens—I thank you for the great honor this evening conferred on me. No greater occasion than this has offered itself during the past four years of battle than that which has called us together. When our great Republic has asserted its majesty and its power, beating down all the armies marshaled against it, and standing now in the morning of a new administration, called without respect to local divisions, but as equal lovers of our great country; called upon under such circumstances to come together and pledge our mutual faith—our mutual strength to the assertion of the unity of our country. This meeting is called to pledge to our nation at home and to the nations abroad our fixed de terminate will—fixed in the present as in the past—fixed in the future as in the present, to support the liberties and Government which our forefathers handed down to us. “Gentlemen, I will perform the duties of this evening with pleasure. [Applause.] Mr. Hills then read the following letters: “NEw ORLEANs, May 17, 1865. “Hon. A. P. Dostie : “Dear Sir–I regret that prior engagements, which cannot be cancelled, will prevent me from complying with your kind invitation to address the meeting to be held this evening, by the friends of President Johnson, and of ‘loyalty to national freedom and national Union.” It would afford me great pleasure to mingle with, and address the citizens whose names are signed to the call; for among them I recognize many who, during the reign of treason in this city, faithfully and wisely, though unostentatiously, adhered to the Union cause. Some participated with myself in the grand ‘Union Rally,” on the same spot, on the 8th of May, 1860, when secessionism first reared its head in this city. The spirit of rebellion having been overcome by the courage and selfsacrificing efforts of the Union armies, it is right that the loyal people should meet and take counsel as to the principles to guide them in the future. “The secessionists of Louisiana, the leaders who influenced and deluded the masses, the men who paraded our streets with blue cockades, and sneeringly denounced us as base ‘submissionists,” who compelled Unionists like yourself to leave their homes, and who by fraud wedded the administration of our State Government to the cause of treason, aud thus sought to rob us of our proud nationality—have a terrible responsibility resting upon them. Many are now returning. Some have profited by their folly and their crime, and ask us to forget and forgive the past. Let our conduct towards them be marked by a calm forbearance, worthy of our triumph. “The language of Andrew Johnson, addressed to the people of Tennessee, on the adoption of the Free State Constitution is equally and happily applicable to the condition of Louisiana. “‘The foundations of society, under the change in the Constitution, are in harmony with the principles of free government and the National Union; and if the people are true to themselves, true to the State, and loyal to the Federal Government, they will rapidly overcome the calamities of the war, and raise the State to a power and grandeur not heretofore even anticipated. Many of its vast resources lie undiscovered, and it requires intelligent enterprise and free labor alone, to develop them, and clothe the State with a richness and beauty, sur
passed by none of her sisters.” “Respectfully yours,
MICHAEL HAHN.” “NEw ORLEANs, May 16, 1865. “Dr. A. P. Dostie : “Dear Sir, Your compliment to me is very gratifying. I have the highest respect for President Johnson. The American people will soon know how to appreciate his elevated qualities as a patriot and statesman.