tf bayard

This article is reprinted from Edward Spencer, An Outline Public Life and Services Of Thomas F. Bayard, Senator of the United States from the State Of Delaware,  1869-1880. With Extractions from His Speeches and the Debates Of Congress (1880) and is published in honor of Bayard’s birthday, October 29.

The war was fought for the Union. Whatever may have been the hopes or desires of some of the leaders, the people of the North contended for the Union alone. No other motive would have brought them to bear patiently the burdens of such a strife, and to pour out their blood on a hundred fields of battle, but that devotion to the Union which was intensified by the fear of its destruction until love almost became idolatry. And, when they conquered at last, they had a right to the prize they had so dearly won. Not merely justice and consistency, but good policy pointed to the same course. The war had swept a great part of the land with devastation, had wasted the population, paralysed many industries, made bankrupt eleven States, and loaded the rest with debt. The only road to renewed prosperity, north and south, lay in healing the wounds of the past; in such a course of action as would encourage industry, protect thrift, restore confidence, and bring back peace over all the land.

The South, beaten on the field of battle, had accepted in good faith the result of that arbitrament, and was ready to lay new foundations for a new future. All had to be organized anew. Capital was gone, credit almost gone, the labor of years and of generations swept away, and scarce anything left but the soil and the climate. Their whole system of labor was broken up, and the population of agricultural laborers, deceived by wild reports and false hopes held out to them by designing persons, could not be reorganized. Waiting the time when the lands of their former masters should be divided among them, they nocked to the towns, and there huddled in squalid misery and vice, expectant of the day when an act of Congress or a Presidential proclamation, such as had declared the abolition of slavery, should declare the abolition of the curse of Adam.

Sorely tried, but not despairing, the people set to work to rebuild their fallen fortunes under new conditions. Great estates, no longer manageable, were divided; a system of small farming introduced; capitalists from the North and from abroad, seeing the opportunity, began to invest their money in mines, in mills, in factories, in railroads, and thus to give employment to industry, and develop, as they never had been developed, the resources of the country. For the South, devoted too exclusively to the production of a few great staples, had scarcely touched the treasure of natural wealth with which Providence had so bountifully enriched her. Her mines, of unsurpassed richness, had never been explored. Her raw materials were sent a thousand miles to be worked up, and manufactured articles, which might have been made at home, brought at heavy cost from distant lands. Many of her richest valleys, untapped by railroads or canals, had been almost smothered in the superfluity of abundance for which there was no outlet. With all the drawbacks we have before mentioned, there is no doubt that prosperity would have returned, with magical quickness, had things been allowed to take their natural course.

But this prosperity, in which every American had an interest, was only to be had through the renewal of harmony between the States, the reign of peace, order, and law, and the restoration of the Southern States to their equal place in the constitutional Union. Every disadvantage, every disability laid upon those States were so many obstacles to this. And we believe that the sentiment of the whole country, so soon as the excitement left by the war had given place to calm reflection, was strongly in favor of this wise and liberal policy.

But this would by no means have suited the purposes of the radical leaders. A restored Union was the very last thing they wanted. As their party had owed its existence to agitation and sectional hate, so in peace and concord they foresaw its certain death. Destructive in its principles and in its origin, it had no policy to justify its continuance for an hour in a land of peace, order, and equal laws.

For parties, as for individuals, self-preservation is the first law of nature. To perpetuate the radical party, the “old war feeling” must be revived. The Union must not be restored, it must be “reconstructed.” And the measures which they devised for this reconstruction were such as deprived all those who had a real interest in the prosperity of the South of any share or influence in the government, and placed all office and power in the hands of negroes, renegades, or unscrupulous adventurers. They did not expect the Southern people to bear these things patiently: they expected and hoped for resistance; and every expression of impatience, every struggle to be rid of this crushing oppression and this plague of unclean and venomous parasites, was seized upon as a pretext for declamation about “renewing the rebellion,” “traitorous conspiracies,” etc., with the inference that only by continuing the radicals in power could the flames of civil war be kept from bursting out again. The whites must be disarmed, lest they should massacre the negroes; the negroes must be armed and organized to protect themselves against the whites. The “carpet-bag” governments, with their grotesque legislatures, plundered and helped to plunder the States, and, not content with stealing all that there was to steal, by means of fraudulent issues of bonds thrust their rapacious claws into the pockets of unborn generations. At all this carnival of misrule and wrong, the radical leaders rejoiced, because the indignant protests, the inevitable disquiet, could all be turned to profitable account.

Almost the earliest utterance of Mr. Bayard in the Senate was in opposition to these so-called reconstruction acts, on April 9, 1869. In it he thus points out the character and tendencies of this legislation:

“I do not propose to discuss the condition of the people of these three Southern States so called. I could not trust myself to do it, and run through the dreary, wretched catalogue of wrongs to which they have been subjected. It was truly said by the Senator from Oregon [Mr. Williams], in reply to a remark of the Senator from New York [Mr. Conkling], that it was too late upon this floor to talk of good faith to the people of the Southern States. Alas! sir, that is too true; for it would be idle to talk of keeping faith when the lips that profess it have violated it so often toward them.

“What are these communities against which your legislation has been leveled? They are States when you can use them for a party end. You remand them to the condition of conquered provinces when you think they may slip from your grasp and the sentiment of their people stands in defiance to the wishes of your party.

“I do not propose to speak of the effect of this law (if it be worthy of that name) upon the three communities to which it is addressed. Remembering the claims that are made for the progress of mankind, the beneficent influences of Christianity, the peculiar claims for moral and intellectual leadership so exclusively urged by gentlemen representing the dominant majority on the floor of this Senate, one might expect an enunciation of a policy founded upon some recognition of the true qualities which go to make a State. But no, sir. Instead of that, we have from the lips of this party of progress no announcement of a broad, or of a high, or of a Christian character; but there comes the same old stern pagan declaration, Voe victis! The history of legislation for the last four years in this country has proven that woe indeed is the portion of the conquered.

“But, sir, I rose to speak more of the effect of this amendment upon the other States, against whom no pretext raised by a condition of war and revolution can be urged. I speak for the State which I have the honor in part to represent on this floor, and I here declare that your proposed submission of the fifteenth amendment to the untrammeled vote of the different States is turned to dust and ashes when you yourselves create the votes that shall overcome the natural majority against you. Congress, by its own terms, usurps the power to cast the votes of three States in the interests of a partisan majority; and that you call a ratification under the Constitution of an amendment to the fundamental law. . . .

“If I know aught of the government under which we live, it is the elective franchise, it is the process of carrying on government by the elective system, that marks it from its first organization to its last act. It is a power that must be, in the very nature of things, the controlling power, because the election is your test of power, of law in every shape and at every stage of your country’s government. That power you propose to take from the States and deposit with the federal government; to consolidate the power of all powers, that which underlies and creates all powers; and that you propose to place in the hands of Congress. There never was a graver question, there never was an act which will affect the whole structure and genius of our government to the extent that this must, should it succeed in obtaining the consent of the people of this country.

“It has been demonstrated before this Senate in a manner that could not be and has not been replied to, by my honorable friend, the Senator from Ohio [Mr. Thurman], that by the amendment of the honorable Senator from Indiana [Mr. Morton] you do coerce the choice, not only of the Southern States, which is a barefaced act of simple power, but you coerce the sentiment of every Northern State under your pretended power of governing the Southern States. Talk of the free choice of Indiana, or Ohio, or New York! What is it when a Congress can by law insist that the votes of certain States shall be cast in opposition to it? All freedom is gone. Sir, when Congress adopts such a measure as this, it is doing nothing less than playing with cogged dice. It is the intention therefore, by a measure like this, to destroy, first, all shadow of freedom in the exercise of their opinions by the people of these three States, and next, having destroyed that, to make their votes the instrument whereby you crush out the sentiment of the Northern States. Per fas aut nefas seems to me to be the rule by which this amendment is to be forced upon the American people; and the great question will yet come up—it can not be long kept down —how any law, how any amendment obtained by means like this, can be held binding upon the conscience of a people who have either the sense or the manhood to remain free.

“It is, therefore, that I object to the whole of this measure, and I rise here in my place to protest against its passage. While affecting to direct it against those unhappy people whom the fortunes of war have placed in your hands, you use the power so lawlessly held, so ruthlessly exercised, to strike down freedom of choice in the very States which you profess to treat as equals, and entitled equally with yourselves in having a voice in saying how the government shall be conducted.

“And even when this is done, when these States ratify this amendment, giving your party the advantage of having three votes of those States, then what comes? Is the end yet to these people? Are they, even then, States entitled to representation? Not so, sir, for I understand another amendment has been presented and adopted, that again they must present themselves before their captors, again pass beneath their bow and spear, to learn what new terms may yet be exacted before they shall be admitted to representation in the two Houses of Congress. I do not suppose that any opposition of mine, or of those with whom I act in this body, can have any effect upon this vote; but justice to myself, and justice to my State, urged me to say what I have said, and I believe it to be true in respect to this measure now before the Senate, which I aver to be a most dishonest act of legislation.” (The bill passed the same day: yeas, 44; nays, 9).

In December of the same year a bill was before the Senate “to perfect the reconstruction of Georgia.” Georgia had already ratified the fourteenth amendment; but the Legislature had decided that negroes, though entitled to vote, were not eligible as members of its body. Senator Morton, therefore, offered an amendment to the effect that the legislature should be provisional only, until it had ratified the fifteenth amendment also, and members of Congress from Georgia had been admitted to their seats. Mr. Bayard, in reply, argued that the principle that Congress may usurp the powers of State legislatures is as flagrant a wrong and outrage to the Northern as to the Southern people; and that, in view of the continual aggressions of the federal power, they were creating a most dangerous precedent. He then proceeds:

“This whole question of suffrage, whether for negroes or for whites, or for white men or women, is, after all, the great question of our time in this country. It is the question that underlies all others. We have an elective government proceeding upon that principle and doctrine from its first to its last act; and that power is now sought by the fifteenth amendment to be consolidated into the hands of Congress, that the actual government shall obtain the control of the qualification of voters in all the various States. I regard it as most unhappy; I regard it as the most revolutionary measure in its effect that has ever yet been presented for passage to the Congress of the United States, or to the people of the States. If it were an ordinary amendment, my objection to the method by which its adoption is sought to be obtained would apply; but it is an extraordinary amendment—one that will change, in my opinion, the very character of our government. I say that it is monstrous that the people of the various States should not have the fullest and freest expression of their will on the subject. And yet, look at what in substance has been done and what is proposed to be done. It is to turn the question of choice into a mere farce. It is ‘your money or your life!’ to the Southern States, and the Northern States are to be made the victims of the weakness and inability of the Southern States to maintain themselves and their constitutional rights on this subject.

“Mr. President, I feel most deeply my inability, my want of preparation in the present case, to say what I should like to have the opportunity of saying in opposition to this bill. It is not that I believe that anything that may come from the feeble minority in this body, and I its feeblest member, could have any effect in staying legislation which has been decreed as a party necessity. I would most sincerely desire to have every act of mine and every vote of mine tested by the limitations of the federal Constitution. I would have no questionable measure passed, whether it stood for or against the accident of the hour with which my political affiliations were connected. It is with that reason and following that idea that I have occupied the attention of the Senate for the time I have on this subject.

“It is because I believe that this act is an unfair and an unjust act to the people of the community against which it is directed; it is remanding them back to military power only; it is adding conditions which at that time you had not considered or invented or prescribed for them. Unjust and unwarrantable as is this bill toward them, it tells with equal injustice against the people of other States, whose will is that this constitutional amendment should not be adopted. Therefore it is that I object to the passage of the bill.”

The oppressed States were anxious for representation in Congress, where, at least, they might hope for some redress if their voices could be heard. The problem then was how to limit and control this representation in such ways as to exclude, if possible, every man who really represented the people and the interests of the State. The language of the Constitution providing for all the subject of representation was plain beyond the possibility of misunderstanding; but the Constitution had long ceased to be an obstacle in the way of the party in power. In February, 1870, Mississippi being then an applicant for representation, the radical members of both houses, of whom Senator Morton was the acknowledged leader, took the ground that, under that section of the Constitution which guaranteed to every State “a republican form of government,” a majority in Congress was entitled to define republican government at their pleasure, and thus to have it in their power to remodel or exclude a State at their will.

To this strange assumption of power Mr. Bayard replied in his speech of February 15. After reviewing the course and the arguments of the opposite side, he proceeds:

“The meaning of the words in a written charter of government is all-important. It includes everything. Give a man power to use words in what meaning he pleases, and you destroy any government and any limitation that was ever devised. First, the senator would construe the word ‘guarantee,’ and he would claim that to be an unlimited grant of power to create and mold originally the institutions of a State, not a power to fulfill the stipulations of a third party in case of his default, which is what I understand a guarantee to mean. It is a word plainly intended’to be used in its natural and restricted sense, but by the senator’s advance and his progress of definition is made pregnant with capacities and powers never dreamed of by those who placed it where it stands in the Constitution. Constructions of the Constitution have been strict and liberal, the latter under the doctrine of the implication of powers; but here is proposed something new and far more dangerous—a power to use words in any sense confessedly not intended by those who placed them in the written charter of government, in which, and in which alone, Congress finds the enumeration of its just powers.”

After enumerating the various arbitrary conditions imposed by the bill, and showing that, so far from “guaranteeing a republican form of government,” they would make such a government absolutely impossible, he continues:

“But, Mr. President, after all, the conditions contained in this bill, these shackles sought to be riveted upon the necks and limbs of the people of Virginia and of Mississippi, are but incidents to the whole system pursued by Congress, and called ‘reconstruction.’ It has often seemed to me only foolish to be straining at these legislative gnats when camels had gone down the throat of Congress with such apparent ease and frequency. After all, sir, what bald humbugs and wretched shams are your reconstructed governments and your ‘resuscitated States,’ as they have been termed in the course of this debate! What honest man but must laugh in scorn at these specimens of radical manufacture, set up here as republican States! They are the creations of violence and revolution, based upon the denial of every underlying principle of our original government. They are the products of ruthless military rule, of fraud and force combined. The intelligence and wealth and moral worth of all these communities are utterly proscribed, and ignorance and profligacy exalted to high places of power.”

And he closes his remarks:

“The Southern States were overthrown in their struggle for a separate national existence. Heroes of the South gave up their swords to heroes of the North, who received their paroles of honor, which have ever since been kept inviolate. Ghastly and dreadful as were the wounds inflicted in that terrible struggle, yet, at its close, there stood the great vis medicatrix natures ready and able to draw together the ragged edges, bind up the lacerated parts, and let them heal by ‘the first intention.’ Time, too, who lessens every human grief, would have covered with his wings much of the natural bitterness engendered in such a strife, and steeped it in oblivion. If a wise and generous policy had in 1865 been proposed and followed by Congress toward those who so lately had confronted them in arms, but who had so fully and wholly surrendered the argument of force, and had freely given the most unmistakable evidence and pledges of their willingness to accept the situation, and conform their former pretensions to the logical demands of events, how easy and how certain would have been the restoration of that Union so dear to the American heart?

“But, senators of the radical party, you prevented this ‘consummation so devoutly to be wished,’ and did it for party ends. The South was down, and when she was down you struck her. Your blows were foul blows, and were not given in a fair fight. All Christendom cried shame upon you as you inflicted them. You have unnecessarily and wickedly added humiliation to the cup of sorrow the Southern people have been compelled to drink, and drink so deeply. A brave and generous people by the fortunes of war were subjected to your rule. Their hands were stretched out to you and were rejected; their honest pride ingeniously and cruelly wounded; and you have lost that confidence and friendship which, for the sake of your country, you should have cultivated and valued.

“By your course of action the people of the other sections of the Union have been deprived of their natural allies and auxiliaries in bearing their vast burdens of national debt and taxation, and the advancement of our country’s prosperity has been greatly retarded. You have placed and kept the people of the South in loathsome subjection to the most debased and worthless classes of their inhabitants, at the cost not only of justice, decency, and good government, but also at an enormous pecuniary expense to the Northern and Western people. And, in order to accomplish all this, it was necessary that you should disregard and violate nearly every limitation imposed upon your power by the federal Constitution, and postpone almost indefinitely the time when the States of the South shall be a source of strength, happiness, and pride to those of the other sections of the Union. Will you be sustained in all this by your people? It is a grave question, which for the sake of the Union of our fathers I trust may soon be answered in the negative.”

For years the radicals had unlimited sway in the Southern States. All the apparatus of fraud and engines of violence stood at their disposal; all the machinery of government was in their hands, from Judge Bond on the bench, to Sambo, J. P., at the cross-roads; from Holden sweeping into the capacious pockets of his friends the whole wealth of a State, to the sable legislators at Columbia fighting for ginger-cakes on the floor of the house. The men to plan, the men to justify, the men to execute, were all theirs. Had they desired peace and order they could have had it, but they desired discord and confusion.

One device after another was tried to blind the people of the North to their proceedings, and to explain why that pathetic suspiration of President Grant, ” let us have peace,” was so hard to realize. The Ku-Klux phantom stood them in good stead for a while, and gave many fine opportunities for laying hands upon hearts and appealing to Heaven. They had collected a body of witnesses of unsurpassable efficiency; visiting committees saw whatever they went to see; until the tragi-comedy culminated in broad farce as honorable members with unequaled power of face stood with upturned eyes beside the couch of Eliza Pinkston.

Grotesque as all this was, it was a matter of terrible moment that men should hold their liberties and lives and whole States their franchises at the mercy of such informers, and those who professed to believe them. Mr. Bayard exposed the whole business, with all its monstrous wrong, in his speech of March 20, 1871. Mr. Sherman had introduced into the Senate the following resolution:

“Resolved, That as organized bands of desperate and lawless men, mainly composed of soldiers of the late rebel armies, armed, disciplined, and disguised, and bound by oaths and secret obligations, have, by force, terror, and violence, subverted all civil authority in large parts of the late insurrectionary States, thus utterly overthrowing the safety of person and property, and all those rights which are the primary basis and object of all civil government, and which are expressly guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States to all its citizens; and, as the courts are rendered utterly powerless, by organized perjury, to punish crime, therefore the Judiciary Committee is instructed to report a bill or bills that will enable the President and the courts of the United States to execute the laws, punish such organized violence, and secure to all citizens the rights so guaranteed to them.”

Mr. Bayard first protested against the iniquity of drawing a bill of indictment against eleven States upon the strength of evidence collected in one State alone. He showed how so called confessions were extorted by torture and threats of immediate death; how most of the “outrages” had no political significance, but were merely the struggles of society for self-preservation, in a region where ruffianism was armed and encouraged, where murder, arson, and rape were things of almost daily occurrence, under the beneficent sway of a Holden, who, as was testified, pardoned the offenders before they were inside the penitentiary gate. In such a state of society it would have been a marvel indeed if outrages, aggressive or vindictive, had not occurred; and to this pass had Radical rule brought North Carolina. And these were the things that were offered as a pretext for laying the franchises of all the States, in the Union under the feet of a majority in Congress. The speech concludes:

“I appeal to the Senate to rise above mere party views in this case, and remember that we are all Americans, living under this government, and all, I hope, equally attached to our country. The Constitution, which we have invoked, was meant for minorities. The shifting sands of political life may put your party at no late day in a minority, and then, when you appeal to a majority in these halls for every protection which that Constitution entitles you to ask, I and those with whom I act in this body will freely aid you with our votes. The Constitution of our country to-day is imperiled by the demands of party. It never was more directly assailed than by the resolution offered by the Senator from Ohio. He proposes to enter the States, and deprive them of all those police powers unquestionably necessary for their preservation, and to grasp all into the hands of the federal government. The proposed coercive measures, if made for Carolina, must extend to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, to Ohio, for we can not have laws unequal in their operation, and applying only to portions of this country. As I hope and believe, political power is about to pass from the party who have held it for the past ten years in this country. I ask, at least, that you shall restore us the Constitution, sorely shattered as it has been by your ten years of administration, without further assaults upon it. There yet remains enough, by an honest subordination to its limitations, to guide us back to a condition of limited government, which the excesses and excitements of the war have in a degree weakened or destroyed. I trust that this measure of violence will not meet the assent of the Senate, and that those who are now in the majority will see the danger of violating the great principles of government in the hope of obtaining temporary partisan advantage.”

When in May, 1872, a bill was offered, the effect of which was to give the President absolute and despotic power in every State, authorizing him to suspend the writ of habeas corpus at his discretion, Mr. Bayard’s voice rose clear and strong in defense of the Constitution and the rights and liberties of citizens. He sifted the whole mass of alleged facts which had been offered in defense of a measure so perilous and revolutionary, showed how false and frivolous were the charges, and what were the characters of the informers and accusers. One of the advocates of the bill had even taunted the Southern people for weeping at the graves of those who fell in the war. Mr. Bayard replied to this unmanly scoff:

“Yes, Mr. President, and, should it ever come to pass that the graves of the Southern dead should be neglected by their kindred, kind Nature herself will take their place, and the Southern earth in which the dead sleep will yield its lilies and its daisies to wreath their places of rest, and the soft winds of the South will gently wave the grass above them, and the dews of her starry nights will keep grass and flower fresh in memory of her brave children who died in defense of the soil which now contains them.

“Why, sir, can it be that a mind can be so darkened by prejudice and party spirit as to forget the very echoes of human nature itself? If these people did not weep over their loved and their lost, they would be something more or less than human; much more likely less than more. Such a speech and such sentiments sound to me like the report of some Russian commander writing from Warsaw to the Czar, followed by an order forbidding the women of Poland to wear mourning for their dead. Is it the feeling or the language of an American senator directed toward those who are his fellow citizens, and who it is the hope of the country will be a source of happiness and strength to our Union? Certainly men can not be won back from error by such sentiments as these, and by such condemnation. They never can be made friends by such processes. . . .

“The law now proposed is an act of assault; it breathes of violence. It works upon no emotions but those of fear. It will cause hatreds. It will produce no good-will either between citizens or toward the government. It is, as I have tried to show, a plain violation of the limits of our written charter of power, and, even if it were not so, it is unwise and unjust. Cease, then, I beg of you, this maleficent, odious system, so foreign to the genius of American government, called ‘reconstruction,’ and adopt now and from this time forth the true, the wise, the Christian policy of ‘reconciliation’ between the States of this Union.”

In his strong, though temperate, arraignment of President Grant’s policy in his address at Wilmington [October 4, 1872], he makes a noble appeal to the justice, the humanity, and the patriotism of the people:

“General Grant, with all his power, with the great opportunity before him of pacification, has never said one friendly word to the Southern people. There is not, in his messages or in any public paper of his, one kindly, friendly word of encouragement to them, and, as I have said before, not one word of rebuke to those who have acted dishonestly and wrongfully among them. If the rascals have been caught, he has pardoned them. He has never rebuked them. He has never sought to have them punished. When the question came up of abolishing the test oath, which was excluding men from office in the South, although he returned the bill to Congress with his approval, he did so with a sneer and an innuendo against the truthfulness of the Southern people who had been excluded by the oath. Oh, if he had known anything of civil government, if he had known anything of human nature, he would have known that test oaths are useless as to the dishonest, and only tend to exclude the good and true.

“He came into office with a cry upon his lips, that turned out to be a mere catch-word, which did catch for him thousands, nay, tens of thousands of votes which he will never again receive in this country. When he said, ‘Let us have peace,’ the people thought he meant it; but it seems that he either used the words without meaning, or he has changed his mind most sadly since. Now, discontent, disturbance, unkindness, enmity, are the weapons he seems most to rely upon for his re-election, and he sends his agents off through the country, not to say ‘Let us have peace,’ but to do what his friend Morton, of Indiana, does, stir anew the old feeling of the war.

“When you look at his work in South Carolina, when you read of the depopulation of those counties, when you read of the reign of terror and the sadness which brood over them, you are reminded of the line of Tacitus who, in speaking of the conquests of the Barbarians, says, ‘ They make a solitude, and call it peace.’ That is the kind of peace that General Grant’s policy has produced in the State of South Carolina and wherever else it has been exerted.

“There is a large portion of this audience and a large portion of this community composed of the young men of the country. They are at that period of life when the generous and kindly emotions have most force. Men who are older are more apt to be seared by passion, to be actuated by prejudice, and to have their better feelings almost too much under control. To the young men of this audience, to the young men of this country, I would appeal to see that kind feeling become their rule of action toward their fellow citizens in all portions of this country. The duties of life are now upon them, and the government of this country must, in the course of nature, in a short time pass into their hands.

“If but that feeling can be aroused in their ingenuous breasts, if their feelings of generosity can but be properly touched on this subject, then all will be well. They have power to-day with their votes. They will have all power and control after a few more years have rolled by. To them I address myself, to their emotions of generosity, of kindness, and remind them of the necessity of these qualities in human government.

“I ask you, younger men of the country, untouched by the bitter experiences of life, and by its fiercer passions, to insist that good feeling and union and reconciliation shall be the law of this land between citizens of all parts. See to it that you vote for no man who does not so act as to produce them, but vote now and at all times hereafter in favor of those men who will endeavor again to create a union of feeling that shall indeed make our Union strong and great and perpetual.

“Let your cry be in regard to law, ‘Down with the system of coercion. We do not trust lip-service. Up with the spirit of trust; up with the spirit of confidence in our fellow man!’ Insist that you will govern him through his better feelings, and not by his fears. Unless this course be adopted there will be no safety.

“I tell you, my friends, the same qualities that affect a family, the same qualities that affect two friends, affect a nation. Why is it that when you pass to the household of your friend, and sit in his family circle, and look into his eyes and the eyes of his family, you feel yourself safe and happy? It is the feeling of human affection that makes you safe and happy, and just as you sit down in friendship either at your own firesides or those of your friends, so the same spirit will gradually extend through a nation. It begins in the little rivulet of individual good feeling and friendship, and it swells into the mighty river of national amity.

“Last fall it was my duty to go into the Southern States upon another committee of investigation, so called. The object of that committee was a plain one. It had been created for the purpose of getting evidence of discontent and disorder, to be brandished before the eyes of the Northern people, and make them approve and accept of further measures of coercion against the South. Strange to say, the Southern white people who had been treated with so much ignominy and unkindness, who had been so disregarded by the administration, did not like them well enough to vote for them. It seemed, in the opinion of the administration, to be a remarkable fact that men did not like those who had used them ill, and did like those who had expressed a desire to serve them. General Grant had it in his power to gain either the good-will or the opposition of the Southern white people. He chose to gain their opposition. He chose it by natural methods. The tree he planted has borne its fruits. General Grant and his party affected surprise at it, and sought some pretext for violence and force against the Southern people, in order to compel them to come into his party. Therefore, a committee was sent down to see what could be picked up of a hostile and unfavorable character to the people of the Southern States, and report it to the people of the North. What they found did not very well suit their purposes, for, although it is published, it is in such bulk that no man in ordinary times could read it, and the number of copies is so restricted as not to admit of general circulation.

“But as I say, on this committee I was placed and served. We went through the Southern States, and heard all that malicious ingenuity could invent against the white people of that section.

“As we came up the Potomac River, having passed through Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, to Virginia, and were nearing the city of Washington, I was sitting upon the deck of the steamer, thinking over the intent of this investigation, and the result which was to be reached by it, when I was aroused from my meditation by the tolling of the steamer’s bell. I found that we were just opposite Mount Vernon, and that it was the custom of every boat upon that river, by day or by night, to pay the passing tribute of respect to the memory of him who was ‘first in war, first in peace,’ and still remains, if the truth be told, ‘first in the hearts of his countrymen.’

“And how earnestly do I wish the bells tolled in memory of the illustrious dead, who sleeps so calmly by the side of the broad Potomac, could wake an echo now in the breast of every American citizen!

“Will you not recall the impressive words of his farewell address, and let his voice, now from the grave, ‘warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally’?

“The paramount and plain issue of the hour is between entrenched and self-aggrandizing power striding over the land, and obliterating in its progress all the wise limitations that our patriot sires sought to place upon our rulers on the one side; on the other, the spirit of civil liberty and the love of that sober-suited freedom which once characterized the American people.

“The present administration and its candidate call upon their party in the name of party, and for the sake of party power, to endorse and sustain them. We Democrats, truly Democratic, and Republicans truly liberal, call upon all men, not in the name of a party, not for the name of a party, not for the success of a party, but for the sake of our whole country, to join us in arresting the onward and annihilating course of centralizing despotism. Shall personal prejudices or party spirit prevent our success? Shall the counsels of George Washington be in vain?”

We do not propose to recite here the miserable story of Louisiana, how every wrong that could be devised was perpetrated on the unhappy people of that State, by fraud, by open violence, and by both combined, under the rule of those “captains-general of iniquity,” Durell, Packard, Kellogg, and the rest, approved and sustained by the administration at Washington. The history of that series of crimes may be read, if nowhere else, in the appeal after appeal made by Senator Bayard to the justice, the humanity, the honor, even the interest, of the majority in 1873, 1874, and 1875.

Nor will we go into the details of the attempt to introduce the Louisiana system of management into Mississippi. It was when he was resisting the latter that he received the only insult ever offered him in the Senate. A senator ventured to insinuate that Mr. Bayard was the secret enemy of the Union. The imputation was repelled with the scorn that it deserved.,

“I will simply say, that every drop of blood in my body comes from men and from women who, since this government was established, never harbored a thought or did an act unfaithful or unpatriotic. No man can assert the contrary. The Senator dare not do so. He might attempt it by an innuendo, by classifying me with those whom he terms the enemies of the country; but he knows as well as I that the man who says I ever did an act or uttered a word unfaithful to the integrity of my country’s government has lied in his throat. He bids me beware of November. In November the people of this country will submit their candidates for the popular verdict, and then the Senator may repeat his speech where he pleases. Then he may assault men as he pleases. If it shall please a merciful Heaven to give to this country a feeling of fraternity and union, then he and those who think and act with him will be consigned to private life and to an absence from political power. We will go before the people of this country. I expect to go with all the rest as a private citizen, and submit the doctrines of the party with which I act; to submit the measures that we propose for the government of this country to the intelligence, to the candor, to the patriotic sense, of the people of this country. If the verdict shall be against us, it will still be our country, and we shall obey the men whom you have elected just as fully as if we had elected our own candidates. Minorities have no terror for me— none at all. I have not flinched from declaring on any occasion an opinion that might have seemed unpopular at the time.

“Is it to be held up to me that I have tried to make the people of the South feel that this was their country, that this was their government, and that they were bound to come and support it, and find protection as they gave it allegiance? If it be a crime, then am I the greatest sinner on earth. If such feelings, such professions, and such principles shall consign me for ever to a minority, then welcome the shades of private life with the unstained conscience that I shall carry there with it. I would rather have it than all the power that the people of this country can give, for I have something that they did not give, and which they can not deprive me of, and that is my own self-respect.”

As he uttered these words, such vehement applause burst from the galleries that the President of the Senate ordered the sergeant-at-arms to place a force there to preserve order. The Senator who had made the assault took the opportunity to slip out of the chamber, and hid himself for awhile from public gaze in the cloak-room.

It was this constant, manly, and fearless struggle for the right that inspired a poet and patriot of Massachusetts to send him a greeting, couched in verse so noble, so trumpet-like in its ring, that our only regret is that we can not reproduce it here. An extract or two, however, may form a fitting close to this chapter.

“But oh, when Peace resumes its holiest reign
And hostile brethren might be friends again,
Say, should the great republic, firmer grown
By the sharp strife within her—with ber own,
Her own rash children, in the world’s applause
Rebels owned heroes for their ruined cause:
Lee, dead, heart-broken for the field they lost,
And stalwart Jackson harnessed at his post;
Say, should she deal the fallen a needless blow,
Proclaim Voe Victis—To The Conquered Woe ?—
Or seize the precious moment to efface
Of war’s foul canker every festering trace?
Bid prostrate towns revive from ruin’s verge,
See prostrate men to manlier life emerge,
And freshening fields like gardens deck the wild
Forlorn where once the burdening harvest smiled.
Her aliened sons, returning to her side,
To clasp with more than old maternal pride,

And leagued with brothers on a hostile field
Against a world in arms her spear and shield.

“Such thoughts were thine and theirs, whose generous hope,
Bounded within no party’s narrow scope,
Hailed the proud Union to itself restored,
And claimed the grace its greatness dared afford.

But, oh! the change when that foul scheming crew,
The pest of nations, to themselves untrue,
The greedy placemen foully set on high,
Through lowest arts that lure the vulgar eye,
In power imperious, and to self so prone
They count the public pocket for their own;
Who heard the whisper of a South restored
Like the low summons to a funeral board;
Sent forth the carpet-bagman’s horse-leech brood,
To scatter firebrands—for their country’s good;
Made him their tool the soldier who could call
Late foes new friends by Richmond’s leaguered wall.

Such the long trial, dark with troubled scenes
Of public burdens grinding private means;
Of wild finance, and impotent delay,
Just debts incurred with honest coin to pay;
States crushed beneath the heel of lawless might,
A mongrel rule enforced of black and white;
Veiling base purposes with false pretense,
Alien to nature, truth, and common sense;
Fraudful to use their country’s hapless hour
To make perpetual their ill-gotten power;
To keep the great republic’s glorious name,
But change its substance for a hollow frame;
To make their factious will the law supreme,
All the old freedom gone—a vanished dream;
A broken Constitution out of date,
One man at length to rule and be the State:
Enough to stir old patriots in their graves,
That their owri children’s children could be slaves!

Mid storms of faction, thine the nobler strife
To wake the bleeding land to fresher life;
To heal the wounds by war’s dread struggles made,
To grasp the hand that held a hostile blade;
To make the lowliest as the loftiest feel
Their hope concentred in the common weal,
Once held the just republic’s equal scheme,
A glorious vision, if it were a dream!
Leaving to meaner minds their low affairs,
Their false ambitions and degrading cares,
Assured that parts diseased infect the whole,
Thy country’s All engaged thy statesman’s soul.

Through this wild turmoil, when vindictive rage,
Wrote damning records on our history’s page,
Law to uphold, to reassure the right,
And foil each mean device of party spite,
To make the cheat, the force, the mockery plain,
And find, alas I the labor all in vain;
Thy stern rebuke in calm and storm was heard,
And pierced the future like a prophet-word.”

Edward Spencer

Edward Spencer (19th century) was an author from Maryland who contributed to magazines such as Harper's Monthly and Atlantic Monthly.

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