Memphis Table Talk
January 3, 1867
Senator Wade of Ohio addresses at dinner the insincerity and perjury of the southern democrats. He is strongly advocating for the Congress of the Union to be the over laying Congress of the possibly reinstated Southern States with no input from their governments.
The telegraph lately charmed us all by bringing us what purported to he the substance of a most kind andl conciliatory speech made by Senator Wade, of Ohio, on occasion of a dinner given at Memphis to the congressional excursion part. It began to be thought that those terrible Radicals would not turn out so hard upon us after all ; that the festive Intercourse with southern men upon their trip would perhaps soften their hearts towards us a little, and that they might not, possibly, insist upon their courteous hosts and entertainers publicly branding themselves as felonious criminals. We did not at the time believe that Senator Wade, of all men, could have said anything whatsoever of a just, still less of a magnanimous, character; and preferred to assume that the telegraph erred. This latter was a thing not unprecedented, but, ae. cording to our observation and experience, the former was a thing unheard of. Today we have the Memphis Avalanche, with a report of the speeches, and the reader shall judge. Here is the commencement of Mr. Wade's soothing remarks : He said that upon starting on this trip they had agreed to make no speeches, as they did not think that this southern climate was ripe for discussion. His purpose was to explore the vast region that lies between the Potomac and the Gulf of Mexico. He wished to return his thanks for the uniform hospitalities that they had receive. on this excursion. They had not passed a . city or hamlet but which had made them their guests. He, however, would rather see something that would test their sincerity to the North. That is, he would rather have from the southern people an avowal of their own black perjury, than all the dinners and toasts in the world. For he explains immediately that the test of sincerity he means is acceptance of the "constitutional amendment.'* He continues thus: They wanted to know what Congress intended to do, and what the people of the North wanted them to do. It was true he was not expected to speak for the Congress of the United States, and he had no right to-day to speak for Cincinnati or any other city. Yon are anxious to know what is to be done: first, I would say that the power belongs to the people of the United States; and secondly, 10 Congress as their chosen representatives ; and it there is anything they are opposed to, it is the one-man power. Therefore all legislative action and political power is given to the Congress of the United States and no one else. That is, neither Executive "one-man power," nor any one else, meaning the Judiciary, has any authority at all. And the Congress of the United States is the Congress of the North ; and its express will is "what the North wants us to do," and therefore the supreme law. Senator Wade leaves no mistake about it. He continues: Truth was truth, and let every man understand it. He might speak many pleasing thing in their ears that would leave a pleasing impression, but he had never deceived mortal man, and he never would, He would tell those present that in their deliberations Congress had enunciated certain principles. They had appealed to the people on these principle and had been sustained, and there was no hope that Congress would recede one inch. Finally, he clearly explains that what he here says is intended for the whole southern people, and that it is his last word, and j the "North's." He did not speak of the people of Tennessee, for they had got their rights under Government; but other States had resisted what had been asked of them. They had not called on Congress for better terms, but had thrown those offered out as totally worthless. All that was asked was the principles of right and justice to all. Time was passing, and the hat hade gone out, and these principles would be observed. These were the sentiments of the people of the North and of Congress. He had declared the purposes and the sentiments of the people of the North, and had laid them before them face to face : and if carried out they would secure union and harmony, as they were the principles of constitutional liberty. The principles of constitutional liberty require that we of the South confess ourselves perjured traitors ; and then all will be harmony. Constitutional liberty demands that we put our own hand to the instrument which is to overthrow the Constitution, in order that we may be en-slaved--that we plead guilty as criminals, in order that we may be dishonored forever. And this is the ultimatum of the North. Banquets and hospitalities of the city are all very well, says Mr. Wade, but are you ready to sign and seal your own shame? Do that, and then let us love one another! Other speakers at the dinner are less explicit than Senator Wade; but substantially they all come to the same point. Senator Foster even condescends to breathe a prayer, that " As the commerce "on the mighty river is borne towards the "Gulf of Mexico, so may all cases of difference between the North and the South " be speedily borne into the Gulf of Oblivion!" It is a good prayer, but who are keeping up those "cases of difference " ? Not we. And what are the differences ? We think that we at length understand Senator Foster: the difference is that whereas " the North " calls us perjured rebels, we presume quietly to differ from the North; and that while this great and omnipotent North, not content with enacting our political destruction and moral dishonor, calls on us to enact the same ourselves, we are content to answer mildly, No. Next comes Senator Lane. "Let there be no strife between us!" he cries, with touching pathos. Well; who wants strife ? We have had enough of that for the present. But Senator Lane also means, after all, precisely what Senator Wade means. Would you keep up strife about so small a matter as the mere abolition of your State constitutions, and the simple avowal that you are yourselves criminals, and ought to be penitentiary convicts it you got your deserts? To see how rational men will squabble about trifles in this world! Such is the leading idea of these congressional tourists; and their real errand South was to enforce this outrageous proposal. Such also is the return which southern men receive for their thoughtless courtesies to such folk.
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“Memphis Table Talk,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed January 28, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/480.