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148. The President's Policy (1866)


Johnson became president upon the death of Lincoln. He was a resident of Tennessee, and a Democrat before the Civil War; but he became a pronounced Unionist, and by his unequivocal opposition to secession placed himself in the ranks of the Republican or Union party. Lincoln made him military governor of Tennessee, and because of his record as a War Democrat the Republican convention named him for vice-president. He made no recantation of his Democratic principles, and by reason of his belief in states' rights soon found himself opposed to the reconstruction measures of the Republican Congress, a strife in which the president failed to preserve a dignity worthy of his high position. This extract is from his famous "Washington's Birthday" speech. For Johnson, see Frank Moore, Speeches of Andrew Johnson, with a Biographical Introduction. — Bibliography as in No. 145 above.


HE resolutions, as I understand them, are complimentary of the policy which has been adopted and pursued by the Administration since it came into power. I am free to say to you on this occasion that it is extremely gratifying to me to know that so large a portion of our fellow-citizens endorse the policy which has been adopted and which is intended to be carried out.

This policy has been one which was intended to restore the glorious Union to bring those great States, now the subject of controversy, to their original relations to the Government of the United States.

I assume nothing here to-day but the citizen-one of you who has been pleading for his country and the preservation of the Constitution. These two parties have been arrayed against each other, and I stand before you as I did in the Senate of the United States in 1860. I denounced there those who wanted to disrupt the Government. I remarked, though, that there were two parties. One would destroy the Government to preserve slavery. The other would break up the Government to destroy slavery. The objects to be accomplished were different, it is true, so far as slavery was concerned; but they agreed in one thing the destruction of the Government, precisely what I was always opposed to; and whether the disunionists came from the South or from the North, I stand now where I did then, vindicating the Union of these States and the Constitution of our country. The rebellion manifested itself in the South. I stood by the Government. I said I was for the Union with slavery. I said I was for the Union without slavery. In either alternative I was for the Government and the Constitution. The Government has stretched forth its strong arm, and with

its physical power it has put down treason in the field. . . . Now, what had we said to those people? We said: "No compromise; we can settle this question with the South in eight and forty hours."

I have said it again and again, and I repeat it now, "Disband your armies, acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States, give obedience to the law, and the whole question is settled."

What has been done since? Their armies have been disbanded. They come now to meet us in a spirit of magnanimity and say, "We were mistaken; we made the effort to carry out the doctrine of secession and dissolve this Union, and having traced this thing to its logical and physical results, we now acknowledge the flag of our country, and promise obedience to the Constitution, and the supremacy of the law."

I say, then, when you comply with the Constitution, when you yield to the law, when you acknowledge allegiance to the Government, I say let the door of the Union be opened and the relation be restored to those that had erred and had strayed from the fold of our fathers.

Who has suffered more than I have? I ask the question. I shall not recount the wrongs and the sufferings inflicted upon me. It is not the course to deal with a whole people in a spirit of revenge. I know there has been a great deal said about the exercise of the pardon power, as regards the Executive; and there is no one who has labored harder than I to have the principals, the intelligent and conscious offenders, brought to justice and have the principle vindicated that "treason is a crime."

But as for the great mass who have been forced into the rebellion - misled in other instances let there be clemency and kindness, and a trust and a confidence in them. . . . The rebellion is put down by the strong arm of the Government, in the field. But... we are now almost inaugurated into another rebellion . . . there is an attempt now to concentrate all power in the hands of a few at the Federal head, and thereby bring about a consolidation of the Republic which is equally. objectionable with its dissolution. . . . By a resolution reported by a committee upon whom and in whom the legislative power of the Government has been lodged, that great principle in the Constitution which authorizes and empowers the legislative department, the Senate and House of Representatives, to be the judges of elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members, has been virtually taken away from the two respective branches of the National Legislature, and conferred upon a committee, who must report before the body can act on the

question of the admission of members to their seats. By this rule they assume a State is out of the Union, and to have its practical relations restored by that rule, before the House can judge of the qualifications of its own members. What position is that? You have been struggling for four years to put down a rebellion. You contended at the beginning of that struggle that a State had not a right to go out. You said it had neither the right nor the power, and it has been settled that the States had neither the right nor the power to go out of the Union. And when you determine by the executive, by the military, and by the public judgment, that these States cannot have any right to go out, this committee turns around and assumes that they are out, and that they shall not come in.

I am free to say to you as your Executive that I am not prepared to take any such position. I am opposed to the Davises, the Toombses, the Slidells, and the long list of such. But when I perceive on the other hand men . . . still opposed to the Union, I am free to say to you that I am still with the people. I am still for the preservation of these States for the preservation of this Union, and in favor of this great Government accomplishing its destiny. . . .

The gentleman calls for three names. I am talking to my friends and fellow-citizens here. Suppose I should name to you those whom I look upon as being opposed to the fundamental principles of this Government, and as now laboring to destroy them. I say Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania; I say Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts; I say Wendell Phillips, of Massachusetts. . . .


. . . I know, my countrymen, that it has been insinuated — nay, said directly, in high places — that if such a usurpation of power had been exercised two hundred years ago, in particular reigns, it would have cost an individual his head. What usurpation has Andrew Johnson been guilty of? My only usurpation has been committed by standing between the people and the encroachments of power.

They may talk about beheading, but when I am beheaded I want the American people to be the witness. . . . Are they not satisfied with one martyr? Does not the blood of Lincoln appease the vengeance and wrath of the opponents of this Government? Is their thirst still unslaked?

y want more blood? Have they not honor and courage enough the removal of the Presidential obstacle otherwise than through of the assassin? . . . But... if blood is to be shed vindicate the Union and the pr

of this Government

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in its original purity and character, let it be so; but when it is done, let an altar of the Union be erected, and then, if necessary, lay me upon it, and the blood that now warms and animates my frame shall be poured out in a last libation as a tribute to the Union, and let the opponents of this Government remember that when it is poured out, the blood of the martyr will be the seed of the church. The Union will grow. It will continue to increase in strength and power, though it may be cemented and cleansed with blood. . . .

Have you heard them at any time quote my predecessor, who fell a martyr to his cause, as coming in controversy with anything I advocated? An inscrutable Providence saw proper to remove him to, I trust, a better world than this, and I came into power. Where is there one principle in reference to this restoration that I have departed from? Then the war is not simply upon me, but it is upon my predecessor. . . . Daily National Intelligencer (Washington), February 23, 1866.

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149. The Congressional Theory (1866)


When the Thirty-Ninth Congress met in December, 1865, a joint committee on reconstruction, of fifteen members, was appointed in accordance with a resolution offered in the House by Thaddeus Stevens, the mainspring of the reconstruction measures (see No. 152 below). The committee was directed to "inquire into the condition of the States which formed the so-called Confederate States of America, and report whether they or any of them are entitled to be represented in either house of Congress, with leave to report by bill or otherwise." From this committee came resolutions which in a modified form were ultimately embodied in the fourteenth amendment; and on June 18, 1866, a majority of the committee made the report from which this extract is taken. It was accompanied by a large amount of testimony to prove the persistence of disloyal sentiments in the South. - Bibliography as in No. 145 above.

T is the opinion of your committee —


I. That the States lately in rebellion were, at the close of the war, disorganized communities, without civil government, and without constitutions or other forms, by virtue of which political relations could legally exist between them and the federal government.

II. That Congress cannot be expected to recognize as valid the election of representatives from disorganized communities, which, from the very nature of the case, were unable to present their claim to repre

sentation under those established and recognized rules, the observance of which has been hitherto required.

III. That Congress would not be justified in admitting such communities to a participation in the government of the country without first providing such constitutional or other guarantees as will tend to secure the civil rights of all citizens of the republic; a just equality of representation; protection against claims founded in rebellion and crime; a temporary restoration of the right of suffrage to those who have not actively participated in the efforts to destroy the Union and overthrow the government, and the exclusion from positions of public trust of, at least, a portion of those whose crimes have proved them to be enemies to the Union, and unworthy of public confidence.

Your committee will, perhaps, hardly be deemed excusable for extending this report further; but inasmuch as immediate and unconditional representation of the States lately in rebellion is demanded as a matter of right, and delay and even hesitation is denounced as grossly oppressive and unjust, as well as unwise and impolitic, it may not be amiss again to call attention to a few undisputed and notorious facts, and the principles of public law applicable thereto, in order that the propriety of that claim may be fully considered and well understood. . .

To ascertain whether any of the so-called Confederate States "are entitled to be represented in either house of Congress," the essential inquiry is, whether there is, in any one of them, a constituency qualified to be represented in Congress. . . .

We now propose to re-state, as briefly as possible, the general facts and principles applicable to all the States recently in rebellion :

First. The seats of the senators and representatives from the so-called Confederate States became vacant in the year 1861, during the second session of the thirty-sixth Congress, by the voluntary withdrawal of their incumbents, with the sanction and by direction of the legislatures or conventions of their respective States. This was done as a hostile act against the Constitution and government of the United States, with a declared intent to overthrow the same by forming a southern confederation. This act of declared hostility was speedily followed by an organization of the same States into a confederacy, which levied and waged war, by sea and land, against the United States. . . . From the time these confederated States thus withdrew their representation in Congress and levied war against the United States, the great mass of their people became and were insurgents, rebels, traitors, and all of them assumed and

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