Abbildungen der Seite



Washington, April 11, 1865. We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace, whose joyous ex5 pression cannot be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must

those whose harder part, gives us the cause of rejoicing 10 be overlooked. Their honors must not be parceled out

with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor for plan or execution

is mine. To General Grant, his skilful officers and 15 brave men, all belongs. The gallant navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

By these recent successes the reinauguration of the national authority-reconstruction—which has had a

large share of thought from the first, is pressed much 20 more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with

great difficulty. Unlike a case of war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with—no one man has authority to give up the

rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin 25 with and mold from disorganized and discordant ele

ments. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to

the mode, manner and measure of reconstruction. As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that

to which I cannot properly offer an answer. In spite of 5 this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that

I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up and seeking to sustain the new State government of Louisiana.

In this I have done just so much as, and no more than, 10 the public knows. In the annual message of December,

1863, and in the accompanying proclamation, I presented a plan of reconstruction, as the phrase goes, which I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable

to, and sustained by the executive government of the 15 nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only

plan which might possibly be acceptable, and I also distinctly protested that the executive claimed no right to say when or whether members should be admitted to

seats in Congress from such States. This plan was in 20 advance submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly

approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then and in that connection apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted

parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the 25 suggestion about apprenticeship for freed people, and

that I should omit the protest against my own power in regard to the admission of members to Congress. But even he approved every part and parcel of the plan

which has since been employed or touched by the action 30 of Louisiana.

The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed people, and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the

plan. The message went to Congress, and I received 5 many commendations of the plan, written and verbal,

and not a single objection to it from any professed emancipationist came to my knowledge until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July, 10 1862, I had corresponded with different persons sup

posed to be interested [in] seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Or

leans, General Banks wrote me that he was confident 15 that the people, with his military coöperation, would re

construct substantially on that plan. I wrote to him and some of them to try it. They tried it, and the result is known. Such has been my only agency in get

ting up the Louisiana government. 20 As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated.

But as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public in

terest; but I have not yet been so convinced. I have 25 been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an

able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceded States, so called, are in the

Union or out of it. It would perhaps add astonishment 30 to his regret were he to learn that since I have found

professed Union men endeavoring to make that question, I have purposely forborne any public expression As appears to me, that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that question is bad as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all—a merely pernicious abstraction. 5

We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe that it is not 10 only possible, but in fact easier, to do this without deciding or even considering whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the 15 acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these States and the Union, and each forever after innocently indulge his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they 20 never having been out of it. The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all if it contained 50,000, 01 20,000, or even 20,000, instead of only about 12,000, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory 25 to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.

Still, the question is not whether the Louisiana gov- 30 ernment, as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, will it be wiser to take it as it is and help to improve it, or to reject and disperse it? Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the

Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State government? Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have sworn allegiance

to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power 5 of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free State constitution, giving the benefit' of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the legislature to confer the elective franchise

upon the colored man. Their legislature has already 10 voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently

passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These 12,000 persons are thus fully committed to the Union and to perpetual freedom in the State

committed to the very things, and nearly all the things, 15 the nation wants—and they ask the nation's recognition and its assistance to make good their committal.

Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We, in effect, say to

the white man: You are worthless or worse; we will • 20 neither help you, nor be helped by you. To the blacks

we say: This cup of liberty.which these, your old masters, hold to your lips we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered

contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and 25 how. If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both

white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have so far been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary,

we recognize and sustain the new government of Louis30 iana, the converse of all this is made true. We encour

age the hearts and nerve the arms of the 12,000 to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man, too, in seeing

« ZurückWeiter »