Salmon P. Chase seemed not aware that as defined in the United States Constitution only States themselves can establish the privilege of suffrage, not the agent created by the States. That same Constitution holds that treason can only be committed against a State, by waging war against it or adhering to its enemies, which is precisely what Chase and his revolutionary cohorts were engaged in. Secession was a valid act in 1861, and equally as valid as that in 1776.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Chase’s Loyal and Disloyal Americans
“Salmon P. Chase . . . emerged as an early advocate of self-determination as the best solution to disorder in the South. Throughout the war, Chase argued that the federal government’s policy toward the rebellious South should be based on the principle that “the loyal citizens of a State constitute a State.” He defined as loyal those “who desire the suppression of the rebellion, and consent to the means which the government found necessary for its suppression.”
Loyal citizens included virtually all of the black population together with those whites who accepted emancipation and Negro suffrage. Chase thought it was vital that the federal government make “no distinctions between colored and white loyalists,” and he attributed the shortcomings of Lincoln’s efforts in Louisiana, where Chase believed “the old secession element is rapidly gaining the ascendancy,” to the exclusion of blacks from the ballot.
Chase believed that universal suffrage, incorporating the principle of equal suffrage for blacks, would provide the foundation necessary for universal amnesty and for the final reconciliation of North and South. Touring the South in May 1865, Chase wrote to Secretary of War Stanton that “universal suffrage is essential to thorough pacification.” Most important, he believed, “the white population will acquiesce in this policy without serious opposition if it is clearly announced, & firmly but kindly pursued.”
Like all reformers, Chase accepted the necessity of a period of military reconstruction and, indeed, insisted as chief justice that “military rule must be supreme” until civil order and civil law could be fully and safely restored. Similarly . . . Chase stood with most reformers in opposing [Gerrit] Smith’s dictum that the rebels loyalty to the de facto Confederate government could not be distinguished morally from unionist loyalty to the federal government. “If the rebels waging war against the government are not traitors, Chase responded, “secession was a valid act; and our war was one of conquest.”
(Morality and Utility in American Antislavery Reform, Louis S. Gerteis, UNC Press, 1987, pp. 198-199)