April 5, 1866: Supporting Presidential Reconstruction

The April 5, 1866 Cape Girardeau Argus reported that an overflow crowd packed the Jackson courthouse to meet in support of President Johnson. The report below gives the resolutions that were passed by this group. In short, they’re for Presidential Reconstruction, under which the southern states are basically welcomed back into the Union with no changes except the end of slavery. In particular, the meeting is opposed to black suffrage.

This gives rise to an almost comical contrast between two of the resolutions. One tells us that

we accord to the black man all civil rights necessary to his condition and capacity, and to secure the fruits of his labor; but to extend to him universal suffrage, would be of no benefit to him, would lower the standard of our civilization, degrade the white man, and endanger the stability of government, by the introduction of so large an element of ignorance and incapacity in its administration.

Move down a couple, and you get this one:

we have an abiding confidence in the capacity of the people for self-government and to prevent the chains of a heartless despotism from being riveted upon the country, it is the duty of all who are entitled by law to a vote, to qualify, and by all peaceful and lawful means, insist on the exercise of the dearest right of a freeman; and where wantonly and unlawfully denied that sacred right, (if it were possible to find an officer so lost to the instincts of liberty and honor,) see that redress is had by a peaceful appeal, both civilly and criminally, to the public tribunals of justice.

Apparently the meeting failed to see any conflict here; I can only conclude that they didn’t see black people as part of “the people”.

Full text below.


Ratification Meeting

Pursuant to notice previously given, a large and enthusiastic meeting for the ratification of the policy of President Johnson in his endeavors to restore the Southern States to their [?] standing in the Union, took place at Jackson, on Saturday, March 31st, 1866.

The meeting came to order at one o’clock p m by the nomination of Capt. Ezra King, as chairman, and W.M. Hamilton, for Secretary, which selections were-unanimously confirmed by the meeting.

On motion of Geo. H. Greene, Esq., the Chair was requested to appoint a committee of five to draft resolutions. The following names were selected Geo. H. Greene, Elam Russell, Andy Clippard, R.W. Harris, D.W. Shepherd, Wm. E. Alexander, Col. H.H.M. Williams.

The committee retired, and in their absence Judge English moved that Gen. James R. McCormick, who had just arrived, be requested to address the multitude.

General McCormick reviewed the rise and progress of the Radical junta who now misrule the State, in a masterly speech of about an hour’s length, at the end of which the committee on resolutions reported, the resolutions were read by George H. Greene, when, previous to their adoption he was called on for a speech, and responded in his happiest style, dealing some hard blows to the Rads. At its conclusion the resolutions were unanimously adopted as follows:

Resolved, that the ordinances of secession, by the States lately in insurrection, having been nullities from the beginning, those States never lost their legal status of States within the Union; and the insurrection being suppressed, and the national authority everywhere recognized, these States, and the people thereof, are entitled to the enjoyment of all the rights and immunities guaranteed by the original compact of Union, among which are the rights of self-government and equal representation; and that policy, which could subject the free enjoyment of these inalienable rights of American liberty to degrading and humiliating conditions finds no warrant in the Constitution; is contrary to the traditions of all civilized communities, especially of American traditions, and is inimical to the speedy return of peace, confidence, fraternity and the public prosperity.

Resolved, that the doctrine of State suicide and territorial dependence, upon which such policy is sought to be justified, is equally an error with that of secession, but upon opposite motives and principles; equally detrimental to the cause of peace and Union, and inconsistent with the principles upon which the war was waged to suppress the insurrection, and in truth but disunion in another shape; and prompted by a spirit of political revenge, and of ambition to foster power and overgrown monopolies in a particular section, contrary to the general good, and that equality and justice which are the conditions of that consent upon which all just government is founded.

Resolved, that emancipation having boon effected by the events of the war, and the whole Union having been equally implicated in the sin of domestic slavery, no illiberal or revengeful policy, based on a spirit of hostility to that institution against the South exclusively, is either just or generous; and the public good demands the restoration of kindly relations and confidence, by the exercise of a just spirit of conciliation and mutual forbearance.

Resolved, therefore, that we heartily approve of and endorse the wise and statesmanlike policy of reconstruction adopted by President Johnson, and of his judicious exercise of the constitutional power of the veto, to arrest unwise, unconstitutional and unjust legislation, by which he has generously placed himself as the barrier between the people and their oppressors.

Resolved, that we approve of the course of Hons. Thos. E. Noell and John Hogan, the members from this and the St. Louis districts, in their courageous and manly support of the President, in his struggle with the factious and unscrupulous majority in Congress.

Resolved, that the true end of government is the happiness of the people, by wise, just and liberal legislation securing the largest liberty compatible with safety to the largest number; that the late Convention and Legislature of Missouri governed by a groveling spirit of bigotry, intolerance and despotism, reversed this wise maxim of free government unnecessarily, by circumscribing the civil and religious liberties of the citizen, through unconstitutional and ex post facto oaths, and acts of sweeping disfranchisement, to perpetuate power in the hands of a select few.

Resolved, that the only true test of loyalty in a free government is fidelity to the Union, the Constitution and the law, as expounded and enforced by legitimate authority. All other tests founded on fanatical and bigoted views of negro equality, and visionary schemes of progress, are outside of the Constitution – at best but matters of opinion, and are but the [?] of heartless demagogues to [?] over and under by deceiving [?] masses.

Resolved, That we accord to the black man all civil rights necessary to his condition and capacity, and to secure the fruits of his labor; but to extend to him universal suffrage, would be of no benefit to him, would lower the standard of our civilization, degrade the white man, and endanger the stability of government, by the introduction of so large an element of ignorance and incapacity in its administration.

Resolved, That it is the duty of all good and loyal men, of whatever shade of political opinion in times past, to rally about the standard of wise and just principles, to the end that confidence and kindly relations may be speedily restored among us, and the liberties handed down to us by our hero fathers be perpetuated.

Resolved, That we have an abiding confidence in the capacity of the people for self-government and to prevent the chains of a heartless despotism from being riveted upon the country, it is the duty of all who are entitled by law to a vote, to qualify, and by all peaceful and lawful means, insist on the exercise of the dearest right of a freeman; and where wantonly and unlawfully denied that sacred right, (if it were possible to find an officer so lost to the instincts of liberty and honor,) see that redress is had by a peaceful appeal, both civilly and criminally, to the public tribunals of justice.

Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Cape Girardeau Argus, Missouri Republican, and all other papers friendly to the cause.

Resolutions unanimously adopted.
On motion, the meeting adjourned.
Ezra King, Chairman.
W.M. Hamilton, Secretary.

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