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Harper's Weekly, October 14, 1865, page 642 (Editorial)
A correspondent asks, "What right has the Government of the United States to interfere with suffrage in a State?"
That is a question for the President to answer. He has interfered in the most absolute and summary manner. Although, according to a theory which has many friends, but which Mr. Lincoln considered "a pernicious abstraction," the rebel States have never been out of the Union, and are certainly not now in armed resistance to it; yet the President has set aside the Governors elected under their Constitutions, has designated who, and who alone, shall vote, and has imposed certain essential points upon the Constitutions which he, and not the State authorities, has determined shall be reformed.
The principle of this extraordinary action is supported by every loyal man. The President acts not by any express authority whatever, but from the necessity of the case and for the public safety. He justly assumes that as the people of the United States had undoubtedly the right to suppress the rebellion, and utterly disregard the voice of the rebel States in doing it, so they have exactly the same right to secure peace upon conditions which they deem indispensable. If they think that it is dangerous to the public welfare to allow a vast minority of the people of the rebel States to be politically outlawed, they will rightfully refuse to assent to the outlawry, and insist upon a republican form of government.
Either the Government—that is, the people—of the United States is at this present moment in a wrongful position toward the late rebel States, or it is in a rightful position, and is not restrained in its action by any State regulation whatever. If, for its own safety, it may rightfully prevent the voting of those whom the State Constitution admits, it may for the same purpose rightfully allow the voting of those whom the State Constitution excludes.
Those who insist upon supporting the President and who assert that under all circumstances, even the present, the States have the exclusive right of determining the suffrage, forget that the President’s course thus far is an absolute overthrow of that right. They profess to support him for doing precisely what he has not done. His action has been the most radical conceivable, for he has assumed to determine, temporarily, who are the State; that is, who are those who shall exercise political power.
And still further, those who insist upon the inviolable sanctity of the State right of determining the suffrage, and yet support the President, forget that he has not agreed that those whom he names as the source of political power in the State shall proceed without his super-vision and approval. On the contrary, instead of saying that they shall adopt what Constitution they please, and ipso facto it shall be the organic law of the State, he tells them plainly to bring it to Congress. For what purpose? Manifestly that Congress may determine whether the State may reorganize itself as the new Constitution proposes.
But if all State rights are unimpaired, what has Congress to do with the Constitution of a State in the Union? In a year or two New York will revise her Constitution. Will she do it in obedience to orders from the President? Will she submit it to Congress for approval? Of course not. Then, if Mississippi be a State of the Union exactly as New York is, why should Mississippi act under authority of the President and submit her action tot he approbation of Congress? For the same reason that an apple is not a pear. For the reason that she is not a State of the Union exactly as New York is. If she were the President’s action would lay him liable to impeachment.
All we ask is, that the country shall adhere to the principle of the President’s course; which is, that in the unprecedented circumstances of this case, the States lately in rebellion shall reorganize under the authority of the United States, and upon such conditions only as the United States approve. When the conditions have been approved, then, and not before, the late rebel States will be in the Union exactly as the loyal States are. It is possible, of course, that the President may differ with Congress and the country as to the necessary conditions to be required. We should be very sorry at such a difference, and certainly shall not anticipate it. Meanwhile we sincerely approve the principle upon which his administration has interfered with the claim of a State lately in rebellion to determine the question of suffrage in its own way.
Harper's Weekly, October 14, 1865, page 642 (Editorial)

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