The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview
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42
Republican Corruption in the South

Daniel W. Vorhees

MR. SPEAKER: -- The condition of many of the States of this Union excites to-day the mingled pity and indignation of the civilized world. They are the theme of sorrowful and of bitter comment wherever the channels of human intelligence penetrate. They engage the attention of all the departments of this government. Executive proclamations spread evil tidings about them, and hurl every principle of their liberties, every muniment of their safety, to the ground. Congress enacts laws against them, which utterly destroy every vestige of freedom, and forge and rivet on their helpless limbs the fetters of despotism. It also sends forth its powerful missionaries of mischief in the form of committees, backed by the money and the power of the Government, whose labors are to blacken the character and fame of their people, under the guise of official investigations and official reports. The head of the Department of Justice, the late Attorney-General -- he who led his people into the war, and then returned to plague and lay waste the hearthstones of his followers -- superintended in person the inquisition and the torture inflicted upon the descendants of those who fought in the battles of the Revolution. The army of the United States, in a time of profound peace, is launched like a bolt of destruction into their midst. It is engaged in seizing, without sworn charge or warrant of law, the youth, the middle-aged, and the gray-haired grandsires, in the sanctuary of American homes, and driving them like herded beasts into crowded prisons. The odious service of Claverhouse, Kirke, and Dundee, in the bloody oppressions of Scotland, which gave their names more than a hundred years ago to the everlasting execration of mankind, is being repeated hourly on American soil. And the President himself, in his recent message, prepared, as he says, in haste, as if he had affairs of greater importance to engage his

CHARLES S. VORHEES, ed., Speeches of Daniel W. Vorhees of Indiana ( Cincinnati, 1875), pp. 382-414.

Congressman Vorhees, Democrat with a vengeance, was one of the foremost political orators of his day. His speech in the House of Representatives on March 23, 1872, Plunder of Eleven States by the Republican Party, not only summarized the course of political reconstruction but squarely pinned the blame for corrupt governments in the South on his political opponents.

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