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The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

The visiting Frenchman Hauranne, stayed in the North and supported its war against the American South. Yet, he wrote about and admitted the dictatorial and arrogant abuses of power inherent in Lincoln’s regime, often comparing it to the French Directory and Reign of Terror.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

“[Diary Entry] December 21, 1864:

You know that senators are elected, not be direct popular vote, but by the State legislatures, with each sending two senators to Congress, whatever the size of the State’s population. But since last July Louisiana has a new State constitution, a semi-military document produced by General [Nathaniel P.] Banks and a Mexican-style junta chosen exclusively by known friends of the Federal Government. Thus Louisiana’s rights of Statehood have been restored, at least on paper; the reorganized State government exercises its full sovereign rights; but officials are elected under the protection of the military authorities, by a twentieth, at most, of its citizens.

That is called “reconstruction” of the State of Louisiana, though it serves only to give an appearance of legality to a state of martial law. Louisiana could have been made a “territory” for the time being; that is, the policies of the Washington government could have been imposed on her without giving representation in Congress. She could have been left for awhile longer under the undisguised rule of a military commandant and this arbitrary exercise of power would at least have had the merit of honesty.

It was thought preferable to give her the fictitious status of a sovereign State in order to wield in her name in the halls of Congress the power of which she has been despoiled. Some Republicans . . . give their unreserved approval to all the dictatorial measures of General Banks. Finally, the dictator of Louisiana has come to Washington in person to support his protégés, and no one doubts that the two senators will be seated.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Volume II, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, pp. 218-219)

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