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called Confederate States are not, at present, entitled to representation in the Congress of the United States; that, before allowing such representation, adequate security for future peace and safety should be required; that this can only be found in such changes of the organic law as shall determine the civil rights and privileges of all citizens in all parts of the republic, shall place representation on an equitable basis, shall fix a stigma upon treason, and protect the loyal people against future claims for the expenses incurred in support of rebellion and for manumitted slaves, together with an express grant of power in Congress to enforce these provisions. . .





House Reports, 39 Cong., I sess. (Washington, 1866), II, No. 30, xviii-xxi passim.

150. Arraignment of Reconstruction (1868)


Throughout the Civil War, Tilden, though nominally a War Democrat, objected to the extra-constitutional measures developed during the war, and from this attitude was led naturally to an opposition to the congressional theory and practice of reconstruction. When the speech from which this extract is taken was delivered, he was the recognized head of the Democratic party in New York, a position which he retained until his party selected him as its presidential candidate in 1876. — For Tilden, see John Bigelow, Life of Samuel J. Tilden. — Bibliography as in No. 145 above.


HE Republican party recoiled for a while on the fatal brink of the policy on which it at last embarked. It had not the courage to conciliate by magnanimity, and to found its alliances and its hopes of success upon the better qualities of human nature. It totally abandoned all relations to the white race of the ten States. It resolved to make

the black race the governing power in those States, and by means of them to bring into Congress twenty senators and fifty representatives practically appointed by itself in Washington.

The effect of a gain to the Republican party of twenty senators and fifty representatives is to strengthen its hold on the Federal Government against the people of the North. Nor is there the slightest doubt that the paramount object and motive of the Republican party is by these means to secure itself against a reaction of opinion adverse to it in our great populous Northern commonwealths. The effect of its system and its own real purpose is to establish a domination over us of the Northern States.

When the Republican party resolved to establish negro supremacy in the ten States in order to gain to itself the representation of those States in Congress, it had to begin by governing the people of those States by the sword. The four millions and a half of whites composed the electoral bodies. If they were to be put under the supremacy of the three millions of negroes, and twenty senators and fifty representatives were to be obtained through these three millions of negroes, it was necessary to obliterate every vestige of local authority, whether it had existed before the rebellion, or been instituted since by Mr. Lincoln or by the people. A bayonet had to be set to supervise and control every local organization. The military dictatorship had to be extended to the remotest ramifications of human society. That was the first necessity. The next was the creation of new electoral bodies for those ten States, in which, by exclusions, by disfranchisements and proscriptions, by control over registration, by applying test-oaths operating retrospectively and prospectively, by intimidation, and by every form of influence, three millions of negroes are made to predominate over four and a half millions of whites. These three millions of negroes . . . have been organized in compact masses to form the ruling power in these ten States. They have been disassociated from their natural relations to the intelligence, humanity, virtue, and piety of the white race, set up in complete antagonism to the whole white race, for the purpose of being put over the white race, and of being fitted to act with unity and become completely impervious to the influence of superior intellect and superior moral and social power in the communities of which they form a part.

Of course such a process has repelled, with inconsiderable exceptions, the entire white race in the ten States. It has repelled the moderate portion who had reluctantly yielded to secession. It has repelled those

who had remained Unionists. The first fruit of the Republican policy is the complete separation of the two races, and to some extent their antagonism.

If those three millions of negroes elect twenty senators and fifty representatives, they will have ten times as much power in the Senate of the United States as the four millions of whites in the State of New York. . . . These three millions of blacks will have twice the representation in the Senate which will be possessed by the five great commonwealths, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, - embracing thirteen and a half millions of our people.

Let me not be told that this enormous wrong is nothing more than an original defect of the Constitution. I answer that it derives most of its evil and its danger from the usurpations of the Republican party. . . .

Changes are dared and attempted by it with a success which, I trust, is but temporary, — changes which revolutionize the whole nature of our government.

1. . . . The Constitution left the States with exclusive power over the suffrage, and the States have always defined and protected the suffrage from change by their fundamental laws. Congress now usurps control over the whole subject in the ten States, and creates negro constituencies, and vests them with nearly a third of the whole representation in the Senate, and nearly a quarter of the whole representation in the House. The leaders of the Republican party also claim the power by Congressional act to regulate the suffrage in the loyal States, and, without the consent of the people of those States, to alter their constitutions, and involve them in a political partnership with inferior races.


2. Congress, by the methods and means I have traced, usurps control over the representation in the two branches of the national legislature, and packs those bodies with delegates, admitting or rejecting for party ends, and at length attempting to create a permanent majority by deputies from negro constituencies formed for that purpose. . .

4. Congress is systematically breaking down all the divisions of power between the co-ordinate departments of the Federal Government which the Constitution established, and which have always been considered as essential to the very existence of constitutional representative govern

ment. . . .

. . Congress has stripped the President of his constitutional powers over his subordinates in the executive function, and even over his own confidential advisers, and vested these powers in the Senate. It is now

exercising the power of removing from office the President elected by the people and appointing another in his place, under the form of a trial, but without the pretence of actual crime, or anything more than a mere difference of opinion.

It has menaced the Judiciary: at one time proposing to create by law an incapacity in the Supreme Court to act by a majority in any case where it should disagree with Congress; at another time proposing to divest that tribunal of jurisdiction, exercised by it from the foundation of the government, to decide between an ordinary law and the Constitution, which is the fundamental and supreme law. There is reason to believe also that a plan has been matured to overthrow the Court by the creation of new judges, to make a majority more subservient to Congress than the judges appointed by Mr. Lincoln are found to be.

These changes are organic. They would revolutionize the very nature of the government. They would alter every important part of its structure on which its authors relied to secure good laws and good administration, and to preserve civil liberty. They would convert it into an elective despotism. The change could not by possibility stop at that stage.

I avow the conviction, founded on all history and on the concurring judgment of all our great statesmen and patriots, that such a system, if continued, would pass into imperialism. I feel not less certain that the destruction of all local self-government in a country so extensive as ours, and embracing such elements of diversity in habits, manners, opinions, and interests, and the exercise by a single, centralized authority of all the powers of society over so vast a region and over such populations, would entail upon us an indefinite series of civil commotions, and repeat here the worst crimes and worst calamities of history.

Samuel J. Tilden, Writings and Speeches (edited by John Bigelow, New York, 1885), I, 399-407 passim.

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