THE reconstruction policy of the Republican Party has been bitterly denounced. Some men who supported it are in the habit now of calling it a failure. It never commanded in its fullest extent the cordial support of the whole party. But it was very simple. So far as it applied to the Southern whites who had been in rebellion it consisted only of complete amnesty and full restoration to political rights. No man was ever punished for taking part in the rebellion after he laid down his arms. There is no other instance of such magnanimity in history. The War left behind it little bitterness in the hearts of the conquerors. All they demanded of the conquered was submission in good faith to the law of the land and the will of the people as it might be constitutionally declared.
Their policy toward the colored people was simply the application to them of the principles applied to the whites, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of nearly every State in the Union. There was to be no distinction in political rights by reason of color or race. The States were left to regulate such qualifications as residence, character, intelligence, education and property as they saw fit, only subject to the condition that they were to apply to all alike.
It was the purpose of the dominant party to leave the control of the election of national officers, as it had been left from the beginning, in the hands of the local or State authorities. The power was claimed, indeed it is clearly given by the Constitution, as was asserted in the debates in the Convention that framed it, to conduct those elections under National authority, if it should be found by experience to be necessary. But in fact there was at no time any