Harper's Weekly 10/14/1865


We hope that our readers faithfully read
and ponder the reports of the proceedings of
the various conventions in the late rebel States.
The country is fast approaching one of the most
critical trials it has experienced. The Presi-
dent and Congress will each express their views
upon the question of reorganization. Should
they agree we shall all rejoice. Should they
differ, it is of the utmost importance that pub-
lic opinion should be so instructed in the facts
as to be firm and intelligent in its demands.

If the spirit of the conventions appears to be
truly healthy, if they show that they accept all
the results of the war honestly and frankly, the
difficulties of the situation will be wonderfully
relieved. But if their action is seen to have
been merely compulsory and reluctant, and it
is clear that their feelings and their faith are
still hostile to the spirit and letter of the Gov-
ernment, the day of real peace will be griev-
ously postponed. Of course no sensible man
expects the conventions to say that the rebell-
ion was a monstrous crime. But honorable
men may fairly be expected to act honorably.
They will not shirk nor evade. If they think
the States sovereign they will say so. And
such men will not be surprised that a nation
which has just successfully asserted its supreme
sovereignty declines to endanger its victory.

The action of the Alabama Convention was
more reasonable than was justly anticipated
from its first proceedings. It unanimously re-
solved that the act of secession was wholly un-
authorized and is null and void, but, by a vote
of 58 to 34, refused to call it unconstitutional.
Slavery was abolished with only three dissent-
ing voices out of 92, and provision was ordered
to be made by the Legislature for the protec-
tion of the colored population. By a vote of
60 to 19 the rebel State and Confederate debts
were absolutely repudiated. The Convention
resolved that the white population only should
be the basis of representation; and, by a vote
of 61 to 25, decided to submit the amendments
to a popular vote.

Such action is good as far as it goes. But
the issues are so important that it must be strict-
ly scrutinized. A State which seven months
ago was in open and desperate rebellion against
the Union upon certain declared grounds now
asks to be admitted to a full and equal share
in the legislation of the Union upon the condi-
tions thus stated. Let us look closely at their

The Alabama Convention by declaring the
act of secession null and void admits that the
Convention of 1860 had no authority to pass
such an act; but by refusing to condemn it as
unconstitutional it adheres to the State right
of secession, and does not deny that another
Convention might lawfully authorize secession.
This was the very ground of the rebellion; and
the Convention refuses to relinquish it.

Slavery is abolished and prohibited by the
act of the Convention. But unquestionably it
acted under a certain consciousness of con-
straint, and it is perfectly competent for an-
other Convention to re-establish slavery. If
the intention were finally to end slavery, why
not have removed it from State control by rec-
ommending the adoption of the emancipation
amendment to the Constitution of the United
States? This would have left no room for sus-
picion or apprehension.

The Alabama Convention also declared all
political power to be inherent in the people,
and that all free governments are founded in
their authority and established for their bene-
fit; and then proceeded to base the Govern-
ment upon a minority or a small majority of
the people, leaving all the rights of the rest in
person, property, residence, legal testimony,
and marriage, to the absolute will of a class of
the citizens.

Thus Alabama, by her Convention, offers to
return to her equal power in the Union upon
condition that the United States will concede
the constitutional right of secession, and the
political outlawry of half the population of the
State; that half being entirely composed of the
people whom no threat nor falsehood could
seduce from their unswerving fidelity to the
Union during the darkest hour of the war.

Do the gentlemen of the Convention really
suppose that the people of the United States,
victorious in this tremendous war, will now ac-
knowledge the constitutionality of secession
and consent to perpetuate that concentration
of political power in a class, which were the
mainsprings of the rebellion? Like a shrewd
trader Alabama begins with her lowest offer.
But she is surely too shrewd to suppose that it
will be considered satisfactory.

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