March 1, 1866: Joy over the veto of the 2nd Freedmen’s Bill

The Cape Girardeau Weekly Argus’ editor exults over Johnson’s veto of the 2nd Freedmen’s bill in terms so fulsome that it’s a little hard to take seriously. You can read the bill online; I’m having trouble finding the crimes “commensurate with theft, arson, and tyranny” in it, but the overheated rhetoric wouldn’t be out of place in the current political climate. As Johnson points out, the main objection would be that it uses military force to protect the rights of freed former slaves. This was tyranny to those who wanted to usurp those rights, of course.

The Mills of the Earth Do the Grinding for Heaven

In the veto of President Johnson is illustrated how Providence attains its ends and serves the cause of humanity through human agency. A bill embracing infamies commensurate with theft, arson and tyranny was attempted by the party whose radical proclivities defer to everything that is base and cowardly, and arrested in its unjust infliction by an inflexible veto, from an inflexible man. All praise to President Johnson!

It appears to be the opinion of the President that an armed rebellion in the minority is fraught with far less inflammable matter than cunning and implacable representatives whose invidious action is marked by a disposition to subserve personal aggrandizment and subvert constitutional privileges; and when he mentioned Stevens and Sumner and Philips, he did it with a view to impress upon he people the fact that these men are more to be feared than was the once formidable front of the rebellion, for one was characterized by open hostility upon a mooted principle, the other by seditious appeals and unjust legislation upon a sickly and thoroughly contemptible sentiment. The majority of the people looked with alarm upon the construction of the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill as a calamity that should not be inflicted upon a people in any event, and devoutly hoped that some heroic heart would inveigh against its infractions — that some determined hand would write it down invalid. In their eagerness they looked to one who has not disappointed them; and if it was gratifying to know that President Johnson forbore to tolerate the inignitious [sic] incorporation, it was equally gratifying to read the healthy sentiments embodying fundamental principles of republican liberty to which the important veto gave rise. That act and that speech confirms the individuality of the Executive, exacts increased trust and confidence from the people, and places him at once in the full meridian of his glory.

While the sheen of pure patriotism and honesty of untrammeled statesmanship radiate with perennial brilliancy in the Executive, the trinity composing his and the country’s great enemy will gloom in proportionate ratio until they shall live only in the unpleasant memory of a disgusted people.

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