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FREEDMEN ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Harper's Weekly, December 5, 1863, page 770 (The Lounger)
There are two policies of the restoration of the Union. One is that of the Copperheads, and the other that of the Administration and the Union men of the country. The first proposes that whenever the rebel leaders lay down their arms and take the oath to the constitution the National armies shall be disbanded. The other proposes that, until the country has received some satisfactory proof that the rebellion is destroyed, and not merely smothered, it shall hold the rebel district by arms.
For instance, we advance into Georgia. The rebel army, let us suppose, surrenders. The people take the oath. A provisional Governor is appointed by the National authority, and he orders an election. Who shall vote? "Why, of course," cry the Copperheads, "those who are voters under the State Constitution!" Very well. The election is held, and a tool of Stephens or of Toombs, or Robert Toombs himself, is elected Governor. What will you do? Shall the Government order General Grant to evacuate George? Is the State restored to the Union and peace secured? Or if in Mississippi Jefferson Davis—under another name, but equally false to the Government—is elected Governor according to the forms of the State Constitution, is he to be recognized and the troops withdrawn?
No citizen of the United States acts so absurdly in his smallest private matters. Does any body suppose that collectively those citizens will play the fool? Have they been sending their sons and brothers to be murdered for nothing? Do they mean to put a premium upon treason and rebellion? If the Constitution did not enable them to settle the question as it should be settled, their common sense would supersede the Constitution. The Copperhead theory of the Constitution is simply that of the rebels. It is, in their view, an instrument to prevent the maintenance of the United States Government, and to secure the success of rebellion. All the dreary twaddle about the sovereignty of States is but an echo of Calhoun’s theory, which was expressly devised to cover disunion and destroy the National supremacy.
The plan which already commends itself to public approval is that of the Administration. It proposes first to occupy the rebel States by force of the national arms; then to appoint a provisional governor, who may order an election. By what authority? By that of the United States. And the same authority—not the State Constitution—will decree when, where, and under what conditions, that election shall be held. If it result in the election of men who conform to these conditions, they become the rightful government of the State, because they represent the people of the State who are loyal to the United States. If these people are but a tenth of the inhabitants, and can not enforce their authority upon the rest, the United States Government helps them by force of arms, as it is bound to do by the Constitution. When that loyal State authority shall inform the Government of the United States that it is able to maintain itself the national force will be withdrawn.
Now the paramount condition of the election must be the oath against slavery, and this for two reasons. First, because the only sensible hope of quiet lies in the release of the people of the South from the control of a slaveholding aristocracy; and, second, because the overthrow of the system is the end to political intrigue at the North based upon slavery. There is no doubt whatever that so long as that absurd contradiction of the American principle, and conscience, and policy endures, just so long the peace of the country will be threatened. Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, a Southerner, a slaveholder, a Democrat, expresses the sense of the American people in saying: "Slavery has been the destroying element which tried to put down the Government, and the Government should put it down immediately and forever."
Harper's Weekly, February 13, 1864, page 98 (Editorial)

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