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2023-12-03 01:57:07source:Hit the web Classification:system

Again, on the 12th of April, 1865, only two days before his death, he referred to and presented this policy of amnesty and reconstruction. That speech may be called his last speech, his dying words to his people. It was after Richmond had been evacuated. It was the day after they had received the news of Lee's surrender. Washington City was illuminated. A large crowd came in front of the White House and Mr. Lincoln spoke to them from one of the windows. He referred to the organization of Louisiana under his plan of amnesty and reconstruction, and in speaking of it he gave the history of his policy. He said:

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In my annual message of December, 1863, and accompanying the Proclamation, I presented a plan of reconstruction, as the phrase goes, which I promised if adopted by any State, would be acceptable and sustained by the Executive Government of this Nation. I distinctively stated that this was a plan which might possibly be acceptable, and also distinctively protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States.

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The new constitution of Louisiana, (said Mr. Lincoln) declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the Proclamation to that part previously exempted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed people, and is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. As it applied to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet approved the plan of the message. * * * Now, we find Mr. Lincoln, just before his death; referring in warm and strong terms to his policy of amnesty and reconstruction, and giving it his endorsement; giving to the world that which had never been given before--the history of that plan and policy--stating that it had been presented and endorsed by every member of that able and distinguished Cabinet of 1863. Mr. Lincoln may be said to have died holding out to the Nation his policy of amnesty and reconstruction. It was held out by him at the very time the rebels laid down their arms. Mr. Lincoln died by the hand of an assassin and Mr. Johnson came into power. He took Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet as he had left it and he took Mr. Lincoln's policy of amnesty and reconstruction as he had left it, and as he had presented it to the world only two days before his death. MR. JOHNSON HAS HONESTLY AND FAITHFULLY ATTEMPTED TO ADMINISTER THAT POLICY, which had been bequeathed by that man around whose grave a whole world has gathered as mourners. I refer to these for the purpose of showing that Mr. Johnson's policy is not a new one, but that he is simply carrying out a policy left to him by his lamented predecessor--a policy that had been ENDORSED BY THE WHOLE NATION IN THE REELECTION OF MR. LINCOLN.

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An impression has gotten abroad in the North that Mr. Johnson has devised some new policy by which improper facilities are granted for the restoration of the rebel States and that he is presenting improperly and unnecessarily hurrying forward the work of reconstruction, and that he is offering improper facilities for restoring those who have been engaged in rebellion, to the possession of their civil and political rights. It is one of my purposes here this evening to show that so far as his policy of amnesty and reconstruction is concerned, he has absolutely presented nothing new, that he has simply presented, and is SIMPLY CONTINUING THE POLICY WHICH MR. LINCOLN PRESENTED TO THE NATION ON THE 8TH OF DECEMBER, 1863.

The following are extracts from Mr. Johnson's Message to Congress, in December, 1865, on the re-assembling of that body--the first session of the 39th Congress. Indicating, as it did, a policy of reconstruction at variance with the views of the Congressional leaders, it may be said to have been another incident out of which arose the conditions that finally, led to his impeachment. Mr. Johnson said:

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: