The Myth of the Saved Union
Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward admitted that Southerners were free to leave the Union, abandon their land and live elsewhere. Many Northerners wanted to drive the Southern people out and repopulate the section with New England-style government, customs and schools.
The following is excerpted from a speech and letter of Massachusetts Congressman George B. Loring, delivered April 26, 1865. Loring was a prewar abolitionist and reformer who realized that if the freedmen were not brought into the Republican party through the infamous Union League, New England’s political domination was in peril. While feigning justice toward the black race, those like Loring clamped chains upon the South. Ironically, Loring seems unaware that it was Massachusetts threatening secession several times in the early 1800s, though he condemns the South for following his State’s example.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
The Myth of the Saved Union
“I know I used a strong expression when I said we must beware of clemency [toward the defeated South and] accord strict justice to those who have taken up arms against our government? Shall we restore them to the fullness of their former rights? Never.
They have taken their chances, and now let them abide by the result. (Great applause). They have declared that they were independent, now let them remain independent. (Applause). The world is wide, and all lands, and all oceans, and the islands of the sea are open to receive them. (Applause – amen). Some of them have taken care to provide the necessary comforts for their journey. (Laughter).
And what a contrast we have before us – your eulogized and sainted President, known through all the world as the friend of freedom and a free government, who has written his name among the stars – and his opponent, [Jefferson Davis] flying in the darkness before an indignant people, branded and despised, bearing his ill-gotten treasure if possible to that safety which a foreign land alone can give him, an outlaw and fugitive. What a contrast – the one a martyr in heaven – the other a felon sunk to the lowest pit of infamy on earth.
I insist upon it that it is impossible to treat with traitors who have taken up arms against this government, for the express purpose of blasting it and all the hopes of freedom with it. We cannot restore our government in this way. I feel it to be impossible, and would never agree to the restoration of the old State organizations among the revolted States, or to any State government s manufactured for the occasion.
So I say of all the States which have destroyed their “practical relations” to the general government by rebellion. When all the citizens of a State reach that point at which they are ready to return, upon the basis of government which the war has made for us all, let them return. But not until this is accomplished – not until the institutions of these States conform to the highest civilization of the land – would I place them on equality with the loyal States.
Until this is done how can members of Congress be returned, whose principles shall render them fit to sit by the side of men from Massachusetts? (Great applause. Hurrah).
No oath of allegiance can purify them [prominent Confederate leaders who had once held high elective or appointive federal offices]. Our country – the civilized world, does not want their counsels. Their return would be an eternal disgrace to us.
Now, what is there on the other side? It is simply this. I would hold all the revolted States by the power of the Federal authority, — that power which we have strengthened and confirmed by this war. The first gun fired at Sumter . . . dispelled forever all the fallacies and sophistries accumulated for years under the names of State Rights and State Sovereignty.
I do not mean any invasion of the legitimate rights of a State, — but of that superlative folly which has been represented by the flag of South Carolina and the sacred soil of Virginia.
The Federal authority has now become powerful, and is the supreme power in the land. When the revolted States are ready to recognize that authority, when they are ready to bear their proportion of the national debt, when they are ready to make common cause with the loyal North in their systems of education and laws and religion, when their citizens are ready to sacrifice their lives in support of the Union as the North has done for the last four years, then and not till then would I allow them to return.
It has been said that the great contest has been between Massachusetts and South Carolina. BE it so. And as Massachusetts has carried the day, I would have South Carolina submit wisely and gracefully to the consequences of the defeat. (Applause and hurrahs.)
Let us see then, if we cannot adopt some system by which our schools, and all our institutions be planted and nurtured upon their soil. I think we can. I think the American people are equal to this issue, and that they will never be satisfied until the Federal arm is stretched over the revolted States, holding them firmly in obedience, in its powerful grasp, until they shall have learned the lesson of freedom, which the North has furnished them.
And during this period of pupilage [of the South] let us exercise such military sway as will secure the great objects of the war.
(Dr. George B. Loring, Speech and Letter, The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction, 1861-1870, Harold Hyman, editor, Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, pp. 234-237)