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THE PIERPOINT ISSUE.
but a small fraction of the Commonwealth, it exercised the functions of State administration, and, among others, called a convention' to assemble on the thirteenth of February, 1864, for the purpose of amending the State constitution. Though it consisted of less than twenty members, this convention promulgated a new constitution on the eleventh of April, by one clause of which slavery and involuntary servitude in the State were forever abolished. But a long and bitter controversy almost immediately sprang up, between the Pierpoint administration and the national military authorities in the State. The President sustained the civil authority of the Pierpoint regime. We shall see that constitutional precedents were practically ignored in Virginia, and it may as well be said here, that though Congress at last refused to recognize the validity of the Alexandrian government, it was that government whose act of ratification of the Thirteenth
1 Act of December 21, 1863. 2 Article IV, Section 19. 3 The clause was adopted March 10, 1864; ayes fifteen, nays
See the Journal of the Constitutional Convention, which convened at Alexandria on the 13th of February, 1864. Alexander D. Turner, Printer to the State, 1864, 52 pages. For the discussion of the amendment, pp. 17, 18.
4 The question arose between the civil authorities and the military authorities in Butler about the liquor traffic in Norfolk and vicinity. The civil authorities wished to continue the collection of licenses imposed by the existing Virginia Laws; the military authorities undertook to give a few firms the monopoly of the importations, in order to keep it in better control. Out of this dispute, which involved most important constitutional principles, came many later questions affecting reconstruction in Virginia. For an account of the matter see Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, Vol. IX, pp. 441, 445. See also Lincoln's letters to General Butler, August 9, December 21, 1864. Works, Vol. II, pp. 619, 621.
5 See Lincoln's letter to General Butler of December 21, 1864, with enclosure of August 9. Works, Vol. II, pp. 619, 620.
FEDERAL COURT IN LOUISIANA.
Amendment was recognized as the will of the people of Virginia. The Pierpoint government was the nucleus of loyalty in the State, and the President would not abandon it.
The principle which all along actuated the President to recognize, and so far as possible, to protect loyalty, wherever it might be found, led him, as early as October, 1862, to give a helping hand to Louisiana. By an executive order he appointed Charles A. Peabody, of New York, provisional judge, with authority to hear and determine all cases within the jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts of the United States in Louisiana,—the appointment to continue during the pleasure of the President. The provisional court thus established, with its prosecuting attorney, marshal and clerk, was paid out of the contingent fund of the War Department, and its jurisdiction was co-extensive with the city of New Orleans and whatever portion of the State of Louisiana might be under the authority of the United States. It was to take the place of the judicial authority of the Union, which had been temporarily swept away with the secession of the State. 1
At the November election, Michael Hahn and Benjamin F. Flanders were elected to Congress, and admitted to seats, so that the federal relations of the State were continued. The loyal minority, some of whom had boldly opposed secession in the convention of 1861, had, with unchanged sentiments, kept alive a spirit of loyalty in the State, and were now the nucleus around which a loyal government might be organized. In the following June
1 Executive order establishing Provisional Government in Louisiana October 20, 1862. Lincoln's Works, II, 248, 249.
2 The secession ordinance passed January 26, 1861, by 112 ayes to 107 nays. Journal of the Convention, p. 18. Conspicuous among
RECONSTRUCTION IN LOUISIANA,
the President was asked by a committee, claiming to represent the planters of the State, to order an election for the purpose of choosing a State government that should enjoy all the rights and privileges existing prior to the act of secession, and be in full allegiance to the United States. The evident purpose of the request was to enlist the support of the national government to restore Louisiana to its place in the Union, as though no act of rebellion had occurred.
In declining to comply with the request, the President answered that the people of Louisiana should not lack any support within his power to give them for a fair election of both federal and State officers. Though careful not to commit the Government to a false step, the President was intent upon recognizing and aiding the loyal citizens of the State. Early in August, when about one-third of the State was restored to federal authority, the President outlined his wishes. Though he was clear as to what Louisiana should do, it was quite another thing for him to assume the direction of the matter. He would be glad if the State would make a new constitution, recognize the emancipation proclamation, and adopt emancipation in parishes to which it did not apply. While the State was amending its government "it would not be objectionable for her to adopt some practical system, by which the two races could gradually live themselves out of the old relations to each other, and both come out better prepared for the new.
Education for young blacks should be in
its loyal minority was James G. Taliaferro, who refused allegiance to the secession government and the Confederacy, and who, as we shall see, was conspicuous in the reconstruction convention of 1868.
Letter of the Committee to Lincoln and his reply, June 19, 1863. Lincoln's Works, II, 35.
cluded in the plan.” The power, or element of "contract” might be sufficient for this probationary period; and, by its simplicity and flexibility, might be the better.
Meanwhile a registry of citizens, preparatory to the election of a constitutional convention was in progress in the State, under the authority of Shipley, the military governor.2 But it was necessary that the convention and the amended constitution should not be the work, merely, of United States officers and troops. In disloyal parishes and among the planters in those occupied by national troops, belief and hope, almost equally strong, would not tolerate the thought of emancipation. When the war was over, would not the institution of slavery be left as it was before? Three months passed, the situation remaining quite unchanged, when the President wrote to General Banks, urging that no more time be lost. Without waiting for more territory, those in charge of the register should go to work and give the President a tangible nucleus, which the remainder of the State might rally around, as fast as it could, and which the President "would at once recognize and sustain as the true State government.” Otherwise the adverse element might preoccupy the ground and a few professedly loyal men might draw the disloyal about them, “colorably set up a State government, repudiate the Emancipation Proclamation, and establish slavery.” Such a government the President could not recognize. Louisiana would be "a house divided against itself.” And again Lincoln declared, that, though his word was given on the question of permanent freedom to the slaves, he would support a plan that made “a rea
1 Letter to General Banks, August 5, 1863. Lincoln's Works, II, 380.
2 See page 35.
CONDITION OF LOUISIANA.
sonable temporary arrangement in relation to the landless and homeless freed people.”l
Though the proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction outlined a policy, the essentials of which were the oath and the loyalty of at least one-tenth of the voters at the Presidential election of 1860, the President later declared, that the proclamation was not a Procrustean bed, to which exact conformity was to be indispensable.? Affairs in Louisiana differed from those in Arkansas or Virginia; the labor already done in the State should not be thrown away.
Sincere Union men, "each yielding something in minor matters,” should be working together. It soon came to light that the trouble in Louisiana was the aggressive conduct of the military governor, and his purpose to use the national troops in the organization of the civil authority of the State, instead of merely for protecting the loyal citizens while organizing it themselves. The President, as soon as possible, overcame this by ordering General Banks to take the situation as he found it, and give a free State reorganization of Louisiana in the shortest possible time.”3
As in the case of Arkansas, the President had declared that one mind must rule, so now, in Louisiana, General Banks should be "master in every controversy, as well in recognizing a State government as in military matters."4 A week later Banks submitted a sagacious plan for reorganizing the State. It showed a large practical understanding of civil affairs, and a nice appreciation of the character of the people with whom he was dealing. They
1 Lincoln's letter to General Banks, November 5, 1863. Lincoln's Works, II, 435, 436.
2 Lincoln's letter to Thomas Cottman, December 15, 1863. Works, II, 458.
3 Lincoln to Banks, December 24, 1863. Works, II, 465, 466. * Id. and letter to Banks, December 29th, Id., p. 466.