May 25, 1863: Democratic proposal for reconstruction

Jehu Glancy Jones

The New York Times reports on the sort of Union the Democrats would have instituted. In this proposed constitutional amendment, if five “adjoining states” objected to any bill, it would require a 2/3 majority to pass; if 7 objected, 3/4, and if 9 did, it would take a unanimous vote. They would have written sectionalism into the constitution. Hard to imagine now, but the very nature of our country was in doubt during the Civil War.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE UNION. — Hon. J. GLANCY JONES, a leading Democrat of Pennsylvania, publishes in the National Intelligencer an article setting forth the basis on which the Democracy of Berks County proposes to reconstruct the Union, and which the Democratic party of the whole country is expected to adopt as its platform. He says that they will assent to no peace which shall dissolve the Union, and will submit even to laws that are unconstitutional, because there is no way of resisting them that does not involve anarchy or despotism which are still greater evils. But they will strive for the following amendments to the Constitution:

1. That the Presidential term be for six years, the incumbent to be ineligible to a second term.

2. That all the Territorial Governments be abolished, and the power taken from Congress to create them, and in lieu thereof provide that all territories now belonging to the United States or which may hereafter be acquired, shall be organized into a State or States or incorporated into other States.

3. That hereafter when any bill, resolution or order (which may require the signature of the Executive to make it a law) shall be first proposed in the House of Representatives, or come to it from the Senate for their concurrence, it shall be in order (taking precedence of all other questions) for any five adjoining States, by a majority of each of said States respectively, through their Representatives in Congress, to object to the passage of said bill, and file their objections with the clerk; in which case the said bill shall not become a law without two-thirds of the votes cast. If seven adjoining States shall in like manner object, then three-fourths of the votes shall be required to pass said bill; and if the Representatives from nine adjoining States object unanimously, said bill shall not pass except by a unanimous vote.

The above restrictions are not to apply to appropriation bills in accordance with the provisions of existing laws, nor to the repealing power of any act of Congress, nor to the power to declare war, or raise and vote money to carry it on when once declared; except that no war shall be declared by a number less than two-thirds of those voting, and if disapproved of by the Executive, three-fourths shall be necessary. Neither shall the restrictions apply to bills to raise revenue to meet the ordinary expenditures provided for by law; provided that such bills shall be solely for the purpose of raising revenue to meet the expenditures of the Government as prescribed by existing laws.
The object of these provisions is to impose such restrictions upon the legislative department of the Government as shall secure each of the several sectional interests of the country against undue and injurious encroachment.

We copy this programme because it may, at some future stage of our political discussions, become important. Just at present we do not see that it could do any good to enter upon a canvass of its merits. Until the military power of the rebellion is substantially destroyed, all such discussions are worse than useless, because they divert the attention and energies of the public from the one thing needful — the vigorous prosecution of the war. After that is over, we shall be ready to discuss all projected and all imaginable methods of “reconstruction.”

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