Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

It was under these circumstances that I prepared the following suggestions, in the form of political axioms, for the public press, that the national authorities might be recalled to the great duties they had to perform for the future peace and safety of the republic, and for the permanent security of the rights of loyalty, which I am happy to say have not been without effect.

MR. BOTTS'S AXIOMS.

A few plain political axioms that can not be successfully disputed or denied, and which serve to solve the perplexed problem of the status of the states and the people of the states lately in rebellion against the authority of the United States :

1st. The right of secession is not only not authorized, but is expressly forbidden by the Constitution of the United States.

2d. It follows, that all ordinances of secession adopted by the states lately in rebellion were null and void in law.

3d. That the allegiance of the citizen is due to his state, and that there are thirty-six different allegiances in the United States, and not one man owing allegiance to the great central government, which is supreme over all, is a proposition too absurd to be argued.

4th. From which it results that no state has been out of the Union, and could not be carried out otherwise than by successful revolution; and to admit that any of the rebellious states are or have been out of the Union, would necessarily amount to an admission that the Union had been dissolved, and that we had been engaged in a foreign and not a civil war; all of which would materially impair the virtue and efficacy of that instrument, which is recognized and clåimed as the supreme law of the land.

5th. But while no body of men, however constituted, could take a state out of the Union except by force of arms, yet any attempt to do so by those owing allegiance to the United States assuredly constituted the great crime of high treason, if any such crime still exists under our institutions.

6th. The right of expatriation, or denationalization, however, has never been denied to the people of this country; and while they could not take a state out of the Union, it can not be denied that the citizens of the rebellious states could take themselves out at pleasure, either individually or collectively.

7th. Nor can it be disputed that the late so-called Confederate States did for four years constitute a government "de facto;" and it follows that all those who assisted in creating that de facto government, by voting in convention for an ordinance of secession or signing the same, or who voluntarily took the oath of allegiance to or held office, civil or military, under the said "de facto” government, which offices could only be held by citizens of a government then hostile to and at war with the United States, thereby alienated themselves from the government of the United States, and, by thus renouncing their allegiance, disclaimed all pretensions to its protection, and are therefore aliens to this government, and can only be restored to the rights of citizenship through the established laws of naturalization, or by a special act of legislation.

Sth. There can be no difference in law or in fact in the political status of those Southern persons who have taken the oath of allegiance to the “de facto” government of the so-called Emperor Maximilian, and those who have taken a similar oath, or otherwise made themselves citizens of the de facto" government of the so-called President Davis.

9th. These being the natural, lawful, and unavoidable consequences of secession, alienation, and treason, it follows that the functions of government in those states lately in rebellion have been suspended by the unconstitutional action of those temporarily in authority in those states; and that these state governments can only be restored through the action of the law-making power of the United States; and upon the suppression of the rebellion and the restoration of peace, the right to govern and control these states naturally, constitutionally, and inherently devolves on the loyal citizens thereof, who have fallen heirs to the estate, and who can not lawfully be subjected to the power and control of alien enemies to them and to the country; and that these loyal citizens have also a natural, constitutional, and inherent right, under the sanction of said law-making power, to resume their original position in the government and councils of the nation; and, therefore, all representatives to Congress who present themselves with the proper evidence of election, and who are prepared, honestly and in good faith, to comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States, should be admitted without unnecessary delay to a participation in the legislation of the nation; and to withhold this right is to place the loyal on the same platform with the disloyal -- the friends on a footing with the enemies of the country.

10th. The President is clothed with the power to grant reprieves and pardons to those who have committed offenses against the United States; buí as none are legally offenders, and as no man in this country can be legally punished for any offense, no matter how atrocious or aggravated the crime, until he has been tried and convicted of the offense with which he stands charged, so no reprieve or pardon (the exercise of which powers commence simultaneously) can be constitutionally granted before the party or parties have been tried and convicted according to law; and, therefore, all pardons heretofore granted to those lately in rebellion have been premature, and are null and void.

11th. It is patent to observing men that all attempts at reconstruction in many of the states, through the misplaced confidence and unappreciated kindness and magnanimity of the President, through the action of those who have occupied the relations of alien enemies to the United States, have not only failed in their anticipated effects, but are in many respects unsafe as a precedent, pernicious in their results, dangerous to our institutions, and should be commenced "de novo."

12th. Therefore, in all such states as have not, in the opinion of the law-making power, been finally reconstructed, it will be right and proper that a military or provisional governor of loyal antecedents should be appointed (except for the State of Virginia), with instructions to call a convention, to be composed of loyal men only, to be elected by those who are authorized to vote by their existing State Constitutions.

13th. The State of Virginia, although a large majority of her people were in rebellion, has been continuously and without interruption, through the action of a portion of her loyal citizens, recognized as a state government by every department of the government of the United States; with a governor regularly elected under the Constitution of 1851; with her representatives admitted to seats in each branch of Congress during the rebellion, she therefore stands in a different relation to the government from those States that have disclaimed all right to such representation, and that have had provisional governors since the war appointed by the President.

14th. But inasmuch as the Constitution of Virginia, now in operation, declares that the House of Delegates shall consist of not less than eighty, nor more than one hundred and four members, and the Senate shall never be less than one fourth that number; and inasmuch as the first Legislature that assembled under that provision of the Constitution consisted of only fourteen in one house and six in the other, and as the present Legislature now in session at Richmond was authorized and convened by the said " town council(as it has been aptly termed in the Senate of the United States), which possessed no such authority; and as the present Legislature is composed, in a large part, of those who were expressly forbidden by the Constitution under which they profess to act to hold any office whatever; and inasmuch as such Constitution imperatively requires an oath to be administered to each one before he shall be qualified to serve as a member of the Legislature, which oath has never been administered to any one member of the body, but has been totally disregarded and set aside; and inasmuch as they have proceeded without authority to remove all disabilities imposed upon themselves by the Constitution, and have at the . same time endeavored, by their legislative action, to make treason a virtue to be rewarded, and loyalty to the United States a crime to be punished, by removing from office every loyal citizen whom they could reach, and substituting in their stead those who have figured conspicuously in the rebel service, and who are disqualified by the Constitution from holding the offices which they have been selected to fill; therefore, it is clear that there has been no constitutionally organized legislative body in Virginia since their present Constitution was adopted in the year 1864, and that, by necessary consequence, all acts, and parts of acts, resolutions, elections, appointments, and other proceedings adopted by either of the bodies styling themselves “The Legislature of Virginia” since the adoption of the Alexandria Constitution, have been in violation of the plainest provisional requirements of that Constitution, and are absolutely null and void, and of no effect.

15th. In this condition of things it is imperatively necessary that the restoration of that state to its national rights should be commenced "de novoby the call of a Legislature by the governor of the state, to be composed of loyal men only, under such restrictions upon the eligibility to office as the Constitution provides, and under such enlargement of the qualification of suffrage as the military authorities may prescribe (that state being still under military control), as will render an election practicable.

THE GARNETT LETTERS- THE FIRST LETTER.

The following letter will explain itself. It was addressed to a gentleman that I knew to be a warm personal friend, and I had supposed sympathized in all my political views, but in this it seems I was mistaken. Whether the fault was mine or his, it is not proper here to inquire; but I addressed the letter to him through the public prints-having first asked his permission to do so—in reply to one just received from him.

This letter was intended as an explanation of the above axioms, and as illustrative of my views of the political sentiment and condition of Virginia at the time,

Alexandria, Va., February 16, 1866. MU&COL GARNETT, Esq. : DEAR SIR, --Your letter reached me last night, in which you say, “The report of the proceedings of the Alexandria meeting has been published here, and is doing you serious injury; the committee appointed to wait upon you reported that suffering from neuralgia prevented you addressing the meeting, and that you declined doing so with thanks, leaving it to be inferred that, if well, you would have accepted the invitation, and that you approved the object of the meeting. This has inspirited your enemies and dispirited your friends to a degree you can scarcely imagine. Your letter to me says you disapproved of the movement, but I am not authorized to publish it; it is due to yourself and your many warm friends that you should clearly define your position We can elect you to the Senate before the adjournment, with this difficulty removed; let it rest as it is, and there is no chance."

You will excuse me, my good friend, for saying that no man, in my opinion, ever had a body of as many warm friends as I know, and gratefully know, I have, who was so frequently called upon to defend himself before them for every idle and ridiculous conjecture that his enemies might whisper to his disadvantage. Let me state the facts of the case: I arrived here on that afternoon without the slightest knowledge that such a meeting was in contemplation; during the evening the committee appointed for that purpose called, and extended the invitation to attend the meeting and address them, to which I replied, “Why, gentlemen, it would be impossible for me to address the meeting without making myself an unacceptable guest, as I do not concur with

you

in I am inflexibly opposed to your whole scheme. I can not admit that there is any power in Congress to reduce a state to the condition of a territory; the Constitution provides for making a state out of a territory, but it nowhere provides for reducing a state to a territory." They then asked me if they should give that as my reply to the meeting. I said, "Oh no; that might be regarded as discourteous to the meeting; make some excuse for me: say I have the neuralgia, and am afraid to venture out," and I might have added, return them my thanks for the compliment.' If I did not, I should have done it; common civility required it, and I am obliged to the committee for supplying the omission if I did not; but it never entered into my mind that this most innocent occurrence would involve me in so much trouble with my friends elsewhere ; but that to decline an invitation to address a meeting, with thanksfor

your views.

A

« AnteriorContinuar »