The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

back to the Andrew Johnson Home Page
back to the intro to this section

Domestic Intelligence
Harper's Weekly,
June 23, 1866, page 387

go to the previous article in this section
go to the next article in this section

The Final Report of the Reconstruction Committee
On the 8th of June Mr. Fessenden laid before the Senate the final report of the Reconstruction Committee.

According to this report the Confederate States, at the close of the war, were in utter exhaustion and without governments. The President had no power except to execute the laws of the land as Chief Magistrate. The laws gave him no authority over the subject of reorganization. By the Constitution he was Commander-in-chief of the army and navy. It was his duty, under the law of nations and the army regulations, to restore order, to preserve property, and to protect the people against violence from any quarter, until provision should be made for their government. He might, as President, assemble Congress, and submit the whole matter to the law-making power, or he might continue military supervision and control until Congress should assemble on its regularly appointed day. As to the Governors appointed by the President it could not be contended that they possessed or could exercise any but military authority. They had no power to organize civil Governments, nor to exercise any authority except that which inhered in their persons under their commissions; neither had the President, as Commander-in-chief, any other than military power. But he was in exclusive possession of the military authority. It was for him to decide how far he would exercise it, when and on what terms he would withdraw it. He might, perhaps, permit the people to assemble and to initiate local governments, and to execute such local laws as they might choose to form, not inconsistent with nor in opposition to the laws of the United States, and, satisfied they might safely be left to themselves, he might withdraw the military force altogether and have the people of any or all of these States to govern themselves without his interference.

The Committee maintain no portion of the people of the country, whether in a State or Territory, have the right, while remaining on its soil, to withdraw from or reject the authority of the United States. They say it is quite evident, from all the facts, and, indeed, from the whole mass of testimony submitted by the President, that in no instance was any regard paid to any other consideration than obtaining immediate admission to Congress under the barren form of an election, in which no precautions were taken to secure regularity of proceedings or the assent of the people. No Constitution has been legally adopted, except, perhaps, in the State of Tennessee, and such elections as were held were without authority of law. The Committee are accordingly forced to the conclusion that the States referred to have not placed themselves in a condition to claim representation in Congress, unless all the rules which have since the foundation of the Government been deemed essential in such cases shall be disregarded. While it appears that nearly all are willing to submit, at least for the time being, to Federal authority, it is equally clear that the ruling motive is a desire to obtain the advantages which will be derived from a representation in Congress. Officers of the Union army on duty, and Northern men who go South to engage in business, are generally detested and proscribed. Southern men who adhered to the Union are bitterly hated and heartlessly persecuted.

From the time these Confederate States thus withdrew from their representation in Congress and levied war against the United States, the great mass of their people became and were insurgents and traitors, and all of them assumed and occupied the political, legal, and practical relation of enemies of the United States. They persisted in their hostility until they were utterly defeated. The burden now rests upon them, before claiming to be reinstated in their power, conditions to show that they are qualified to resume Federal relations. In order to do this they must prove that they have re-established with the consent of the peoples republican forms of government, in harmony with the Constitution and laws of the United States, that all hostile purposes have ceased, and should give adequate guarantees against future treason and rebellion, which will prove satisfactory to the Government against which they rebelled, and by whose arms they were subdued. They have forfeited all civil and political rights under the Federal Constitution, and can only be restored thereto by the permission and authority of that constitutional power against which they rebelled, and by which they were subdued.

The question then before Congress is, whether these conquered enemies shall at their own pleasure participate in Congressional legislation, without acceding to such conditions as, in the opinion of Congress, the security of the country and its institutions demand. This would be only a transference of the conflict from the fields of battle to the halls of legislation.

The conclusion of the Committee, therefore, is, that the so-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 requested; that this can only be found in such changes of the organic laws as shall determine the civil rights and privileges of the citizens in all parts of the Republic, shall base 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 the rebellion, and for manumitted slaves, together with an express grant of power in Congress to enforce these provisions. To this end, they offer a joint resolution for amending the Constitution of the United States, and the two several bills designated to carry the same into effect.

Articles Relating to Johnson's First Vetoes:
A Long Step Forward
January 27, 1866, page 50

February 10, 1866, page 83

Education of the Freedmen
February 10, 1866, page 83

The Veto Message
March 3, 1866, page 130

The Freedmen’s Bureau
March 10, 1866, page 146

The President’s Speech
March 10, 1866, page 147

The Political Situation
April 14, 1866, page 226

The Civil Rights Bill
April 14, 1866, page 226

The Civil Rights Bill
April 21, 1866, page 243

The Congressional Plan of Reorganization
May 12, 1866, page 290

The Trial of the Government
May 26, 1866, page 322

Making Treason Odious
June 2, 1866, page 338

The Final Report of the Reconstruction Committee
June 23, 1866, page 387

The Report of the Congressional Committee
June 23, 1866, page 386

The Case Stated
August 4, 1866, page 482

Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to