“I must save our lives! I must trust to the——”
I found the States suffering from the effects of a civil war. Resistance to the General Government appeared to have exhausted itself. The United States had recovered possession of its forts and arsenals, and their armies were in the occupation of every State which had attempted to secede. Whether the territory within the limits of those States should be held as conquered territory, under Military authority emanating from the President as head of the Army, was the first question that presented itself for decision. Military Governments, established for an indefinite period, would have offered no security for the early suppression of discontent; would have divided the people into the vanquishers and the vanquished; and would have envenomed hatred rather than have restored affection. Once established, no precise limit to their continuance was conceivable. They would have occasioned an incalculable and exhausting expense. * * * The powers of patronage and rule which would have been exercised, under the President, over a vast and populous and naturally wealthy region, are greater than, under a less extreme necessity, I should be willing to entrust to any one man. They are such as, for myself, I should never, unless on occasion of great emergency, consent to exercise. The wilful use of such powers, if continued through a period of years, would have endangered the purity of the General Administration and the liberty of the States which remained loyal. * * * The policy of military rule over conquered territory would have implied that the States whose inhabitants may have taken part in the rebellion had, by the act of those inhabitants, ceased to exist. But the true theory is, that ALL PRETENDED ACTS OF SECESSION WERE, FROM THE BEGINNING, NULL AND VOID. THE STATES CAN NOT COMMIT TREASON, nor screen the individual citizens who may have committed treason, any more than they can make valid treaties, or engage in lawful commerce with any foreign power. The States attempting to secede placed themselves in a condition where their vitality was IMPAIRED, BUT NOT EXTINGUISHED--THEIR FUNCTIONS SUSPENDED, BUT NOT DESTROYED.
Reports had been circulated in the North, and found ready credence with a great many, that the people of the South were as a rule, insubordinate and indisposed to accept the changed conditions there, and that insubordination and turmoil were the rule. To ascertain the facts in this regard, during the later months of 1865 Mr. Johnson commissioned General Grant and others to make a tour of inspection and investigation of the condition of affairs in the Southern States, especially as to their disposition with reference to the acceptance by the people of those States, of their changed relations to the Union, and to report to him the results of their observations.
On the 10th of December, 1865, on motion of Mr. Cowan, of Pennsylvania, the following resolution was adopted by the Senate:
Resolved, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby requested to furnish the Senate information of the state of that portion of the Union lately in rebellion; whether the rebellion has been suppressed and the United States put again in possession of the States in which it existed; whether the United States courts are restored, post offices re-established and the revenue collected; and also whether the people of those States have reorganized their State governments, and whether they are yielding obedience to the laws and Government of the United States. And at the same time furnish to the Senate copies of such reports as he may have received from such officers or agents appointed to visit that portion of the Union.
December 19th, 1865, in response to this resolution of the Senate, the President transmitted the following Message to the Senate inclosing Gen. Grant's Report:
In reply to the resolution adopted by the Senate on the 12th inst., I have the honor to state that the rebellion waged by a portion of the people against the properly constituted authorities of the Government of the United States has been suppressed; that the United States are in possession of every State in which the insurrection existed; and that, as far as could be done, the courts of the United States have been restored, postoffices re-established, and steps taken to put into effective operation the revenue laws of the country. As the result of the measures instituted by the Executive, with the view of inducing a resumption of the functions of the States comprehended in the inquiry of the Senate, the people in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee, have reorganized their respective State Governments, and 'are yielding their obedience to the laws and Government of the United States' with more willingness and greater promptitude than under the circumstances could reasonably have been anticipated. The proposed amendment to the Constitution, providing for the abolition of slavery forever within the limits of the country, has been ratified by each one of those States, with the exception of Mississippi, from which no official information has yet been received; and in nearly all of them measures have been adopted or are now pending, to confer upon freedmen rights and privileges which are essential to their comfort, protection and security. In Florida and Texas, the people are making considerable progress in restoring their State Governments, and no doubt is entertained that they will at the Federal Government. In that portion of the Union lately in rebellion, the aspect of affairs is more promising than, in view of all the circumstances, could have been expected. The people throughout the entire South evince a laudable desire to renew their allegiance to the Government, and to repair the devastations of war by a prompt and cheerful return to peaceful pursuits. An abiding faith is entertained that their actions will conform to their professions, and that, in acknowledging the supremacy of the Constitution and laws of the United States, their loyalty will be given unreservedly to the Government; whose leniency they cannot fail to appreciate, and whose fostering care will soon restore them to a condition of prosperity. It is true, that in some of the States the demoralizing effects of war are to be seen in occasional disorders; but these are local in character, not frequent in occurrence, and are really disappearing as the authority of the civil law is extended and sustained. * * * From all the information in my possession, and from that which I have recently derived from the most reliable authority, I am induced to cherish the belief that sectional animosity is surely and rapidly merging itself into a spirit of nationality, and that representation, connected with a properly adjusted system of taxation, will result in a harmonious restoration of the relations of the States and the National Union.
The following is General Grant's Report transmitted to Congress with the foregoing Message:
Headquarters Armies of the United States, Washington, D. C., Dec. 18, 1865.