A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 508 pages of information about A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln.

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Military Governors—­Lincoln’s Theory of Reconstruction—­Congressional Election in Louisiana—­Letter to Military Governors—­Letter to Shepley—­Amnesty Proclamation, December 8, 1863—­Instructions to Banks—­Banks’s Action in Louisiana—­Louisiana Abolishes Slavery—­Arkansas Abolishes Slavery—­Reconstruction in Tennessee—­Missouri Emancipation—­Lincoln’s Letter to Drake—­Missouri Abolishes Slavery—­Emancipation in Maryland—­Maryland Abolishes Slavery

To subdue the Confederate armies and establish order under martial law was not the only task before President Lincoln.  As rapidly as rebel States or portions of States were occupied by Federal troops, it became necessary to displace usurping Confederate officials and appoint in their stead loyal State, county, and subordinate officers to restore the administration of local civil law under the authority of the United States.  In western Virginia the people had spontaneously effected this reform, first by repudiating the Richmond secession ordinance and organizing a provisional State government, and, second, by adopting a new constitution and obtaining admission to the Union as the new State of West Virginia.  In Missouri the State convention which refused to pass a secession ordinance effected the same object by establishing a provisional State government.  In both these States the whole process of what in subsequent years was comprehensively designated “reconstruction” was carried on by popular local action, without any Federal initiative or interference other than prompt Federal recognition and substantial military support and protection.

But in other seceded States there was no such groundwork of loyal popular authority upon which to rebuild the structure of civil government.  Therefore, when portions of Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina came under Federal control, President Lincoln, during the first half of 1862, appointed military governors to begin the work of temporary civil administration.  He had a clear and consistent constitutional theory under which this could be done.  In his first inaugural he announced the doctrine that “the union of these States is perpetual” and “unbroken.”  His special message to Congress on July 4, 1861, added the supplementary declaration that “the States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status.”  The same message contained the further definition: 

“The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders; and this government has no choice left but to deal with it where it finds it.  And it has the less regret, as the loyal citizens have, in due form, claimed its protection.  Those loyal citizens this government is bound to recognize and protect, as being Virginia.”

The action of Congress entirely conformed to this theory.  That body admitted to seats senators and representatives from the provisional State governments of West Virginia and Missouri; and also allowed Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee to retain his seat, and admitted Horace Maynard and Andrew J. Clements as representatives from the same State, though since their election Tennessee had undergone the usual secession usurpation, and had as yet organized no loyal provisional government.

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A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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