The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»Military Reconstruction

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Harper's Weekly, March 2, 1867, page 130

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Mr. Eliot’s Louisiana bill was promptly passed by the House; nor was it surprising, for the report of the New Orleans Committee reveals the appalling situation resulting from the attempt to reorganize civil government by the late rebels. The thing most hated in the city of New Orleans is evidently steady fidelity to the Union. That the hatred is honest only makes it more deadly. The massacre of loyal men was deliberately planned and terribly executed. Nor can any one doubt that one of the conspirators, if not by position the ringleader, was Mayor Monroe, a fierce and notorious rebel whom the President pardoned into office.

Of the President’s part in the tragedy it is most painful to speak. Of the slightest sympathy with loyal men or of the least wish to inform himself of the facts, there is not a trace. Trampling upon his own theories, in defense of which he defied Congress, denounced by name Senators and Representatives, and stumped the country, he peremptorily called to account the person whom he acknowledged to be Governor of a State for a strictly local act. Knowing, as the country knew, what the spirit of the city Government was, and what the decision of the courts, he ordered that the military arm should support them. Disdaining the officer whom he had insisted that Congress and the country should recognize as Governor, he addressed himself to other officers with whom, even had they been what he claimed, he could constitutionally hold no communication whatever. And when the fearful slaughter of defenseless loyal men in the exercise of the plainest right of American citizens occurred, he who had promoted it– for the word is not too harsh– had no word of sympathy or sorrow, and went through the country trying to smear Congress with the innocent blood that cried to Heaven.

It is a very sad and solemn story. After half a year the details are not less fearful than when they were first known. They have steadily accused us who are responsible for the government of the country and for the ample defense of all our fellow-citizens. Except for the countenance of the President the New Orleans massacre had not taken place. Except for his persistent opposition to the will of the people in Congress, of his contempt for experience and for common sense, the universal disorder in the lately rebellious section would have been in the way of pacification. The old rebel spirit has counted upon him. Invited by him, it has scornfully rejected the Amendment. Relying upon him, it has outraged and murdered and continues to outrage and murder loyal citizens of every color. The doubt, confusion, and virtual anarchy in Texas and elsewhere have been developed and encouraged by his foolish insistence that an experiment which has long been a tragical failure is a triumphant success. The New Orleans report is an indictment of the whole Presidential policy. It is now seen to have been wrong in its theory and fatal in its results. It proposed to build loyal Governments upon disloyal men, and to leave the security of the rights of the freedmen to those who hated them for being free.

That the policy was not at once repudiated was due to reasons which we have heretofore explained. That it was wise to try the experiment when once it was begun we have always thought and still think. That its failure is total and terrible we have long distinctly declared. Mr. Eliot’s bill proposes to begin anew, and to build up a stable foundation. Its principle is, that the civil Government of Louisiana must spring from the loyal and not the rebel element of the population. Its chief defect, in our judgment, is the extent of the disfranchisement. There are thousands of people in the Southern States who believed in "the South" and fought more zealously for it than Toombs or Wigfall who are thoroughly disenchanted, who have sincerely acquiesced, and who would most willingly see the leaders punished. Mr. Eliot’s bill permits such to vote after a certain process; but it seems to us that it would have been wiser to exclude a certain specified class from the polls and from office, and to allow all the rest to vote. The reason is, that a vast disfranchised class of those who have been always honored as masters and leaders, is a dangerous class; while, by making it small, it is the interest of all others to support the Government.

But no bill could be entirely satisfactory, while this avoids many of the theoretical difficulties which trouble so many minds. Political metaphysics have been exhausted. Whether the late rebel States can or can not ratify an Amendment– whether if they can, they should not be represented– whether if they can, they may be required to ratify as a condition for enjoying an unconditional right, are the questions around which Congressional schoolmen have spun their webs, but without catching the conscience or common-sense of the country. That sense and conscience have determined that the rebel States shall be restored only when proper guarantees have been obtained; that loyal governments are no more to be expected of disloyal men than figs of thistles; and that innocent citizens of the United States shall be every where protected by the United States. If that is centralization, make the most of it. Mr. Eliot’s bill begins at the right end, and we hope that it will become law without much change.

Articles Related to Military Reconstruction:
News Items
January 19, 1867, page 35

January 26, 1867, page 50

Congress and Impeachment
February 16, 1867, page 98

The Probability of Impeachment
February 23, 1867, page 114

The Louisiana Bill
March 2, 1867, page 130

March 9, 1867, page 146

The Thirty-Ninth Congress
March 9, 1867, page 146

The Veto of the Reconstruction Bill

March 16, 1867, page 162

The Fortieth Congress

March 30, 1867, page 195

The Fortieth Congress

April 6, 1867, page 211

Sprats and Vetoes

April 6, 1867, page 210

Adjournment of Congress

April 13, 1867, page 226

Prometheus Bound

March 2, 1867, page 137

The Result

March 30, 1867, page 194

The Southern Commanders

April 6, 1867, page 218

The Debate upon Impeachment

March 23, 1867, page 178

We Accept the Situation (cartoon)

April 13, 1867, page 240

The Big Thing (cartoon)

April 20, 1867, page 256

The End of Impeachment
June 22, 1867, page 386


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