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The powers of the Feder government, the sims the sains and the Jernias o sise pere - these constate the mai parts of te system to show faids & the said at was dom and its This time of political forces, se harmonikus adjusted that each gave strength to the others did indeed se to make a government as nearly perfect as possible Hack was a citai part; the life of the nation " depended upon the preservation of one as much as the other; the government using the wond in its true American sense) would as certainly be destroyed by the overthrow of popular liberty, or the subjugation of the States, as hy successful resistance to Federal authority.
These notions of fidelity to the whole of the government and every part of it placed the Democracy, during the Civil War, in the most difficult attitude that can be conceived. They were obliged to fight secession, and fight it with the sword, if nothing else would do; for to them rebellion against the lawful authority of the United States was as the sin of witchcraft.” At the same time the best convictions of their hearts impelled them to defend their individual rights of life, liberty, and property, which were most wantonly and unjustly assailed by the abolitionists. Seeing their institutions attacked on both flanks at once by different enemies, most of them thought it best to simplify their duty by postponing their resistance to one until the other was conquered. They hoped that, when the Union was restored, the Constitution would be allowed to reassume its supremacy without further opposition. This hope was founded on very solemn declarations by the President (Lincoln) that he was a true friend of the Constitution, and meant no war except purely in defence of the United States. Besides, Congress, by a vote nearly unanimous in both Houses, assured the country that the war had not any revolutionary purpose whatever, but should be conducted solely to enforce the laws, and to maintain the supremacy of the Federal Constitution, with all the rights of the States unimpaired.
All these pledges were most perfidiously broken. The ultraabolitionists, at the close of the war, had a two-thirds majority in Congress, and could do what they pleased. They refused to keep faith. They insisted that the government was revolutionized ; that State rights had ceased to be; that personal liberty in the Southern States had been extinguished; that the people of the South, being conquered, bore to the conquerors no legal relation except that which existed between the King of Dahomey and the Guinea negroes whom he captured and sold; that they might be governed without law, and especially without regard to that fundamental law which the legislators were sworn to observe in all their acts. The Constitution, instead of being defended, had been shot to death on the battle-field. It was dead, and could not be pleaded to protect the weak, or restrain the evil passions of the strong party.
Upon this principle the Reconstruction Act of 1867 was based. It was simply a slave-code. Not one provision of the Constitution was left unviolated; all the rights which our forefathers, on this or the other side of the Atlantic, shed their blood to maintain, were insultingly overborne. If the Constitution still lived, this act of Congress was a gross breach of the oath which the members had taken to support it; if we suppose it dead, the act was a most indecent outrage on its corpse.
For a time the Southern people lived at the mercy of the military officers who were sent to keep the yoke tight upon their necks. Most of these being gentlemen of honor and humanity, - they did the work of oppression reluctantly and sometimes failed altogether. General Hancock, for instance, startled the authorities at Washington by a published letter in favor of civil liberty. It became plain that this “sabre sway” would not last long nor be perfectly effectual while it continued. The divine right of the negro to govern the white man was then asserted, and his ascendancy secured, by the Fifteenth Amendment, in the confident hope that his ballot would be a more effectual instrument of tyranny than the soldier's bullet.
The people would not have been wholly crushed, either by the soldier or the negro, if both had not been used to fasten upon them the domination of another class of persons whose rule was altogether unendurable. These we call carpet-baggers, not because the word is descriptive or euphonious, but because they have no other name whereby they are known among the children of men. They were unprincipled adventurers who sought their fortunes in the South by plundering the disarmed and defenceless people; some of them were the dregs of the Federal army, - the meanest of the camp-followers; many were fugitives from Northern justice; the best of them were those who went down after the peace, ready for any deed of shame that was safe and profitable. These, combining with a few treacherous "scalawags” and some leading negroes to serve as decoys for the rest, and backed by the power of the general government, became the strongest body of thieves that ever pillaged a people. Their moral grade was far lower, and yet they were much more powerful, than the robber bands that infested Germany after the close of the Thirty Years' War. They swarmed over all the States from the Potomac to the Gulf, and settled in hordes, not with intent to remain there, but merely to feed on the substance of a prostrate and defenceless people. They took whatever came within their reach, intruded themselves into all private corporations, assumed the functions of all offices, including the courts of justice, and in many places they even “run the churches.” By force and fraud they either controlled all elections or else pre| vented elections from being held. They returned sixty of themselves to one Congress, and ten or twelve of the most ignorant and venal among
them were at the same time thrust into the Senate. This false representation of a people by strangers and enemies who had not even a bona fide residence among them was the bitterest of all mockeries. There was no show of truth or honor about it. The pretended representative was always ready to vote for any measure that would oppress and enslave his so-called constituents; his hostility was unconcealed, and he lost no opportunity to do them injury.
Under all these wrongs and indignities the Caucasian men of the South were prudent, if not patient. No brave people accustomed to be free ever endured oppression so peacefully or so wisely. The Irish, with less provocation, were in a state of perpetual turbulence; the Poles were always conspiring against the milder rule of their Russian masters; but Southern men "made haste slowly to recover their liberties. They could not break the shackles of usurped control, but some of the links gradually rusted and fell away of themselves. The gross impolicy of desolating the fairest half of the country impressed itself more and more on the Northern mind. The mere expense, in money, of maintaining this vulgar tyranny became disgusting. The negroes gradually opened their eyes to the truth that they were as badly imposed upon as the whites. With consummate skill the natural leaders of the people hoarded every fresh acquisition of self-governing power. State after State deposed its corrupt governor by impeachment or otherwise, and brought its official criminals to justice, until all were redeemed except Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. A more particular look at the condition of the last-named State is needed because it was the principal theatre of the “Great Fraud."
The agricultural and commercial wealth of Louisiana made her a strong temptation to the carpet-baggers. Those vultures snuffed the prey from afar; and as soon as the war was over they swooped down upon her in flocks that darkened the air. The State was delivered into their hands by the military authorities, but the officers imposed some restraints upon their lawless cupidity. They hailed with delight the advent of negro suffrage, because to them it was merely a legalized method of stuffing the ballot-box, — and they stuffed it. Thenceforth and down to a very recent period they gorged themselves without let or hindrance.
The depredations they committed were frightful. They appropriated, on one pretence and another, whatever they could lay their hands on, and then pledged to themselves the credit of the State for uncounted millions more. The public securities ran down to half-price, and still they put their fraudulent bonds on the market and sold them for what they would fetch. The owners of the best real estate in town or country were utterly impoverished, because the burdens upon it were heavier than the rents would discharge. During the last ten years the city of New Orleans paid in the form of direct taxes more than the estimated value of all the property within her limits, and still has a debt of equal amount unpaid. It is not likely that other parts of the State suffered less. The extent of their spoliations can hardly be calculated, but the testimony of the carpet-baggers themselves against one another, the reports of committees sent by Congress to investigate the subject, and other information from sources entirely authentic, make it safe to say that a general conflagration, sweeping over all the State from one end to the other, and destroying every building and every article of personal property, would have been a visitation of mercy in comparison to the curse of such a government. This may seem at first blush like gross exaggeration, because it is worse than anything that misrule ever did before. The greediest of Roman proconsuls left something to the provinces they wasted; the Norman did not strip the Saxon quite to the skin; the Puritans under Cromwell did not utterly desolate Ireland. Their rapacity was confined to the visible things which they could presently handle and use. They could not take what did not exist. But the American carpet-bagger has an invention unknown to those old-fashioned robbers, which increases his stealing power as much as the steamengine adds to the mechanical force of mere natural muscles. He makes negotiable bonds of the State, signs and seals them “according to the forms of law,” sells them, converts the proceeds to his own use, and then defies justice "to go behind the returns.” By this device his felonious fingers are made long enough to reach into the pockets of posterity; he lays his lien on property yet uncreated; he anticipates the labor of coming ages and appropriates the fruits of it in advance; he coins the industry of future generations into cash, and snatches the inheritance from children whose fathers are unborn. Projecting his cheat forward by this contrivance and