General Schofield's Order as to the Disfranchised.
June 5, 1867
Recently General Schofield revised laws in order to clarify who is considered disfranchised for participation in the rebellion with regards to voting and holding office.The Dispatch explains and interprets General Schofields decisions more thoroughly to eliminate confusion.Men who held office before the Civil War and then rebelled are considered disfranchised.
General Schofield's Order as to the Disfranchised. There is no room for doubt as to the meaning of General Schofield's order in regard to the persons who are disfranchised by the reconstruction acts. The construction Which we placed upon it yesterday is undoubtedly the correct one. As, however, there are some persons who do not clearly understand the order, we will explain its meaning more fully. 1. In the first paragraph of the instructions General Schofield states who are voters - namely, all males twenty-one years old who are not disfranchised for participation in rebellion or for felony. 2. In the second he states what classes of these males are disfranchised. No one is disfranchised unless he belongs to one of the classes named in the second para graph; and so desirous was General Schofield not to be misunderstood upon this point that he inserted paragraph third for no other purpose than to prevent misapprehension in this regard. It is as follows: 3. "No one is disfranchised for participation in rebellion unless he previously held some one of the offices above named" -- to wit, offices under the United States Government, or a member of a legislature, or an executive or judicial office under a State government. 4. And as all who before the war held office under the Federal Government and all who were members of our Legislature before the war are disfranchised, (if since they have rebelled,) there was no further explanation needed as to them, and so the order analytically and systematically proceeds to tell us who are "executive and judicial officers." There is nothing else in paragraph fourth except a list of "executive and judicial officers." The mayor, recorder, and aldermen of cities and towns are included among "judicial officers," not as municipal servants, but because, in addition to their duties to the city, they are in virtute officii servants of the State. They are, in fact, just as much judicial officers as the justices of the county courts; and if they had not been included, complaints would have been made of partiality. No city official is disfranchised as such. The members of the Common Council, the city sergeant, the city collector and assessor, the city auditor, and all city officers, are properly and wisely excluded from the list of the disfranchised. So also all militia officers, sheriffs, commissioners of the revenue, constables, overseers of the poor, clerks of courts, commissioners in chancery, notaries public, members of secession conventions, &c., &c., are voters. 5. 6, 7, 8. Having specified the classes of persons who are disfranchised if they have engaged in rebellion, General Schofield's next duty was to tell us what he means by "engaging in rebellion." Accordingly, in the next four paragraphs, he explains that certain specified acts constitute "engaging in rebellion." And these are the paragraphs which have misled many persons. But these four paragraphs are merely explanatory. They name the acts which these officers must have done in order to disfranchise even them. Even these officers are not disfranchised because they held these offices, but because, having held them, they afterwards engaged in rebellion. The language is that "all" who did so and so thereby "engaged in rebellion,'' not that they are thereby disfranchised. And so undoubtedly they did. No one will question that every man "engaged in rebellion" who peformed the acts specified in the order. But neither General Schofield nor any one else asserts that the merefact of having "engaged in rebellion " disfranchises any one. He merely tells us what it is to have "engaged in rebellion" so that the officers specified may know whether they are disfranchised. There is no necessity for arguing this point. It is really so plain that there should not be a moment's doubt upon the mind of any man. If, however, there had been any ground for doubt, the sixth paragraph would have removed it; for in this General Schofield declares that a man may have held any of these offices before the war, and may have held some of than during the war, and yet not be disfranchised. We can best explain his meaning by giving an illustration; Judge Meredith held his high office before the war; he continued to be a judge after Virginia seceded; and yet, says this order, he is not disfranchised because he held this important office in the seceded State, nor at all unless he performed some one of the other acts specified. The functions of the office of judge were not "of a nature to aid in prosecuting the war," and therefore neither Judge Meredith nor Judge Lyons is disfranchised or disqualified for holding a judgeship under the reconstructed State government, unless they have, besides being judges before the war and during the war done some of the other acts which operate a disfranchisement. And so of any other executive or judicial office whose functions are of the same peaceful kind. The rest of the order will occasion no dispute. We repeat what we said yesterday that it is a fair, impartial, and candid exposition of the reconstruction acts. It will not disfranchise five thousand men in Virginia.
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“General Schofield's Order as to the Disfranchised.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 28, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/623.