The Radical Programme
February 1, 1867
Support of Congress to deal out punishment against Southern rebels still existed nearly two years after the war had ended. Many Congressmen demanded that any Southern government is disbanded and remolded, along with the direct disenfranchisement of any Southerner that was previously a Confederate.
I have frequently, in the course of this correspondence, asserted that it was a known impossibility, constituted as this Congress now is, that any conceivable plan can be devised, as a finality, which could receive a controlling vote; and the action upon the measure of Stevens simply proves the total inability of the dominant party to dispose of the great question of pacifica-tion--nothing more and nothing less. The programme of the section of which Stevens is the leader confessedly demands three things, namely : 1. The removal of the President, the setting aside of the present State governments of tho South, and the remodelling of the Supreme Court. 2. That no southern territory shall be recognized as a State until the Federal Constitution itself guarantees to every " loyal" citizen within the Union the ballot and education, and to the negroes land besides. 3. The disfranchisement of every man at the South complicated in any manner in the late civil war, and the confiscation of his property, even to the extent of ignoring the pardoning power of the President. This plan, in all its enormity, has the support of at least seventy-five members of the Radical representation. Those who, tearful of the recoil of public sentiment, and the crushing power of popular reaction whenever these measures shall be attempted to be practically and forcibly put into execution, have hesitated to follow the lead of Stevens in this instance, nevertheless demand: 1st. The reconstruction of the southern States in virtue of an act of Congress repudiating their existing status as States, and an admission of the power of Congress to regulate the right of suffrage therein. 2d. The eternal prohibition to hold even State offices of at least four-fifths of the people of those States--and 3d. The restriction (under test-oaths) of representation in Congress, and all Federal offices to the negroes and interlopers of the South. Between these plans I confess I can see but this practical difference : That the latter, from its hypocrisy and insidiousness, is the more mischievous as promising a longer delay in a final settlement. The former, through its more marked and more honest ultraism, is calculated to arouse the people to a just appreciation of the true political condition of the country, and the fact, now potent to every one, of the utter incapacity of the political tricksters in Congress to deal with the momentous questions before them. Besides, many voted with the majority on this occasion on the ground that the bill was too lenient to the southern people. Mr. Julian, although voting in the minority, was of this opinion ; but, like the old orthodox Presbyterian when told that according to even Universalists' belief a soul might be punished with fire and brimstone 5,000 years, while objecting to too great leniency, reluctantly admitted that it was "better than nothing." The Chronicle of this morning claims Generals Grant, Sickles, Ord, Heintzelman, Sheridan, and Thomas as recent accessions to the Radical party. This wholesale appropriation of high names, besides being a sign of feebleness, is wholly referable to the " recent accession " of General Thomas as a visitor here. It was no news to be informed of his Radicalism or of that of General Sheridan. With regard to the others, the Chronicle knowingly falsifies the record.
About this article
“The Radical Programme,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed September 28, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/511.