The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
»First Vetoes

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Harper's Weekly,
May 12, 1866, page 290

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The Congressional Plan of Reorganization
The propositions of the Reconstruction Committee will strike every thoughtful citizen as perfectly reasonable. They seem to us to justify the hope of the most truly intelligent and patriotic persons that Congress would propose no policy upon which the whole Union party of the country, including the President, might not agree. Some concessions of opinion were inevitable upon all sides. Those who held with Mr. Thaddeus Stevens that there should be general confiscation, or with Mr. Sumner that impartial suffrage should be immediately established throughout the country, or with the President that no farther conditions whatever were necessary, must have seen that the opinion of the country did not support them, and that all must meet upon some firm and moderate middle ground such as the Committee now offer.

The objection to what is called the President’s policy is plain and conclusive. It is that, by allowing the late rebel States to resume their full relations in the Union immediately, and without further provision, those States would have actually gained political power by the rebellion. This gain arises from the fact that every colored man, as a slave, counted as three-fifths of a man in the basis of representation; but as a freeman he counts as five-fifths. In a State like South Carolina, therefore, where the colored population is half or even more than half of the whole, and where that half is disfranchised, every voter has practically twice the power of a voter in a State like Connecticut. This is an absurdity and injustice so conspicuous as to demand instant adjustment.

On the other hand, the objection to the imposition of equal suffrage by the National Government as a precedent condition of resumption of full rights in the Union is practical and twofold. In the first place, it is hardly to be presumed that the States which prohibit equal suffrage, or deny it to a colored skin altogether, would insist upon its adoption by the suspended States; and, in the second place, such a proposition would have been very widely regarded as a radical blow at the most sacred of State rights, and a consummation of centralization. Moreover, there are many of the most faithful and liberty-loving Union men, who are the steady advocates of equal suffrage, and who, under the circumstances, do not doubt the entire competency of Congress to require this or any other condition which might seem to it necessary, but who doubt the wisdom of this method, and question the expediency of such a requirement, and who could not therefore heartily sustain it.

But we see no good reason for supposing that all reasonable and patriotic men should not sincerely unite upon the propositions presented. They have reference exclusively to national relations. They do not interfere in the State economy, except in defense of national rights. They declare simply, in the first place, that no State shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States. Such a proposition is its own irresistible argument. A citizen of this country should be equally a citizen every where in it; this is plain, and therefore all his civil rights as a citizen of the United States should be sacred wherever the national flag floats. Can the President, with all his war convictions of the sanctity of States, object to so obviously just a provision?

In the second place, whenever the elective franchise shall be denied to any portion of the male citizens of a State who are of age, except for crime or participation in the rebellion, the basis of representation shall be reduce in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens not less than twenty-one years of age. In other words, if South Carolina shall choose to disfranchise 100,000 of her citizens because of their color, or New York shall choose to do the same thing because of want of property, then each of those States shall suffer in the national representation just in that proportion. Such a provision stimulates every State to enlarge the suffrage, and to extend education in order to make the suffrage safe. It is strictly harmonious with the President’s expressed wish to base representation upon the number of voters.

In the third place, the Committee recommend that until the 4th of July, 1870, four years hence, all persons who voluntarily adhered to the rebellion shall be excluded from voting at national elections. This article we presume is introduced to embody the President’s desire that "treason shall be made odious," and that in the great work of reorganization the late rebel leaders shall "take back seats." In his frequent and vehement expression of that desire the President unquestionable spoke for the loyal country, and his sentiments are still further incorporated in the proposed bill to render certain of those leaders ineligible to office under the government of the United States. This third proposition is the one which seems to us likely to occasion most difference of opinion. That it is in strict accordance with President Johnson’s frequent suggestions is true, but it is a point of doubtful policy, not essential to the general plan, and, it seems to us, might be safely omitted.

The fourth proposition is a matter of course, that neither the United States nor any State shall assume to pay any debt incurred in aid of the rebellion, or for any claim for compensation of loss of slaves, and Congress is authorized to enforce the provisions of this article.

These are the propositions of the Committee, which we trust will be unanimously adopted by the Union vote in Congress, because they are perfectly just and moderate, and because they do not claim to reap more than has been sown. They simply define and secure the legitimate result of the war as recognized by the general conviction of the loyal country, and as it has been often strongly stated by President Johnson. They contain nothing vindictive, and if the Government of the United States has any right whatever to do any thing whatever to prevent the late rebel States from gaining political power by their rebellion, it may challenge the whole world and its late domestic enemies to show any thing unprecedented, unjust, or ungenerous in the settlement it proposes. We believe that the vast body of the Union party of the country which carried the war successfully to the end, and which triumphantly elected Lincoln and Johnson, will most cordially sustain this policy of reorganization and gladly appeal to the country to ratify it. And however anxious the President may be to see loyal men from the late disturbed States admitted to Congress, we shall be very slow to believe that he will refuse his sincere co-operation to a plan which does not conflict with any of his known opinions, and which secures the admission of loyal members to Congress with the heart-felt welcome and congratulation of the whole loyal country.

That the proposed settlement of the committee should be greeted with sneers and anger by those who have persistently declared that Congress is a bloody, factious, revolutionary body is natural. These objectors have counted upon overthrowing the President and destroying the Union party by fomenting every real or asserted difference between them. But here is the utter refutation of their calumnies. Here is the plain proof that Congress seeks only the speediest reorganization of the Union upon the most temperate and reasonable conditions. For we assume that there will be little delay in ratifying the report; and then, so great and unprecedented is the occasion, we trust that the Legislatures of the States will be immediately summoned in special session to act upon the proposed amendment, that Congress and the country and the world may know the will of the loyal people of the United States upon this most vital point of national policy.

Articles Relating to Johnson's First Vetoes:
A Long Step Forward
January 27, 1866, page 50

February 10, 1866, page 83

Education of the Freedmen
February 10, 1866, page 83

The Veto Message
March 3, 1866, page 130

The Freedmen’s Bureau
March 10, 1866, page 146

The President’s Speech
March 10, 1866, page 147

The Political Situation
April 14, 1866, page 226

The Civil Rights Bill
April 14, 1866, page 226

The Civil Rights Bill
April 21, 1866, page 243

The Congressional Plan of Reorganization
May 12, 1866, page 290

The Trial of the Government
May 26, 1866, page 322

Making Treason Odious
June 2, 1866, page 338

The Final Report of the Reconstruction Committee
June 23, 1866, page 387

The Report of the Congressional Committee
June 23, 1866, page 386

The Case Stated
August 4, 1866, page 482

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