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CHAPTER XIII. .
FIRST WORDS ON RECONSTRUCTION.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY-ITS POWER AND POSITION-IN
ITIATORY STEP--MR. STEVENS STEAKS FOR HIMSELF-CONDITION OF THE REBEL STATES—CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY UNDER WHICH CONGRESS SHOULD ACT -ESTOPPEL—WHAT CONSTITUTES CONGRESS—THE FIRST DUTY-BASIS OF REPRESENTATION-DUTY ON EXPORTS-TWO IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES-MR. RAYMOND'S THEORY-REBEL STATES STILL IN THE UNION-CONSEQUENCES OF THE RADICAL THEORY — CONDITIONS TO BE REQUIRED — STATE SOVEREIGNTY_REBEL DEBT - PROHIBITION OF SLAVERY --Two POLICIES CONTRASTED—REPLY OF MR. JENCKES—DIFFERENCE IN TERMS, NOT IN SUBSTANCE -LOGIC OF THE CONSERVATIVES LEADS TO THE RESULTS OF THE RADICALS.
AVING traced the progress through Congress of the great
measures relating to civil rights and protection of the
freedmen, it is now proper to go back to an earlier period in this legislative history, and trace what was said and done upon a subject which, more than any other, awakened the interest and solicitude of the American people—the subject of Reconstruction.
The Republican party had a majority of more than one hundred in the House, and after all its losses, retained more than two thirds of the Senate. As a consequence of this great preponderance of power, the party possessing it was justly held responsible for the manner in which the country should pass the important political crisis consequent upon the termination of the war in the overthrow of the rebellion.
It became an important question for members of the Republican party in Congress to determine among themselves what line of policy they should pursue.
The appointment of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, was every-where regarded by the constituents of the majority as a most happy initiatory step. The whole country listened with eagerness to hear what words would be spoken in
Congress to give some clue to the course the committee would recommend. Words of no uncertain significance and weight were uttered at an early period in the session.
On the 18th of December, a fortnight after the opening of the session, Mr. Stevens announced his opinions on reconstruction with great boldness and distinctness. At the same time, seeing himself much in advance of many of his party, and fearing lest his opinions might alarm the less resolute, he declared: “I do not profess to speak their sentiments, nor must they be held responsible for them."
Mr. Stevens opened his speech with remarks on the condition of the rebel States. He said: “The President assumes, what no one doubts, that the late rebel States have lost their constitutional relations to the Union, and are incapable of representation in Congress, except by permission of the Government. It matters but little, with this admission, whether you call them States out of the Union, and now conquered territories, or assert that because the Constitution forbids them to do what they did do, that they are, therefore, only dead as to all national and political action, and will remain so until the Government shall breathe into them the breath of life anew and permit them to occupy their former position. In other words, that they are not out of the Union, but are only dead carcasses lying within the Union. In either case, it is very plain that it requires the action of Congress to enable them to form a State government and send Representatives to Congress. Nobody, I believe, pretends that with their old constitutions and frames of government they can be permitted to claim their old rights under the Constitution. They have torn their constitutional States into atoms, and built on their foundations fabrics of a totally different character. Dead men can not raise themselves. Dead States can not restore their own existence ' as it was.' Whose especial duty is it to do it? In whom does the Constitution place the power? Not in the judicial branch of Government, for it only adjudicates and does not prescribe laws. Not in the Executive, for he only executes and can not make laws. Not in the commander-in-chief of the armies, for he can only hold them under military rule until the sovereign legislative power of the conqueror shall give them law. .
“ There is fortunately no difficulty in solving the question. There are two provisions in the Constitution, under one of which
the case must fall. The fourth article says: 'New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union.' In my judgment, this is the controlling provision in this case. Unless the law of nations is a dead letter, the late war between two acknowledged belligerents severed their original compacts, and broke all the ties that bound them together. The future condition of the conquered power depends on the will of the conqueror. They must come in as new States or remain as conquered provinces. Congress—the Senate and House of Representatives, with the concurrence of the President-is the only power that can act in the matter. But suppose, as some dreaming theorists imagine, that these States have never been out of the Union, but have only destroyed their State governments so as to be incapable of political action, then the fourth section of the fourth article applies, which says, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government. Who is the United States? Not the judiciary; not the President; but the sovereign power of the people, exercised through their Representatives in Congress, with the concurrence of the Executive. It means the political Government—the concurrent action of both branches of Congress and the Executive. The separate action of each amounts to nothing either in admitting new States or guaranteeing republican governments to lapsed or outlawed States. Whence springs the preposterous idea that either the President, or the Senate, or the House of Representatives, acting separately, can determine the right of States to send members or Senators to the Congress of the Union ? "
Mr. Stevens then cited authorities to prove that “if the socalled Confederate States of America were an independent belligerent, and were so acknowledged by the United States and by Europe, or had assumed and maintained an attitude which entitled them to be considered and treated as a belligerent, then, during such time, they were precisely in the condition of a foreign nation with whom we were at war; nor need their independence as a nation be acknowledged by us to produce that effect."
Having read from a number of authorities to support his position, Mr. Stevens continued: “After such clear and repeated decisions, it is something worse than ridiculous to hear men of respectable standing attempting to nullify the law of nations, and declare the Supreme Court of the United States in error, because,