American Statesmen - Vol. 2

By John T. Morse Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII.
RECONSTRUCTION.

IN his inaugural address President Lincoln said: "The union of these States is perpetual. . . . No State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void." In these words was imbedded a principle which later on he showed his willingness to pursue to its logical conclusions concerning the reconstruction of the body politic. If no State, by seceding, had got itself out of the Union, there was difficulty in maintaining that those citizens of a seceding State, who had not disqualified themselves by acts of treason, were not still lawfully entitled to conduct the public business and to hold the usual elections for national and state officials, so soon as the removal of hostile force should render it physically possible for them to do so. Upon the basis of this principle, the resumption by such citizens of a right which had never been lost, but only temporarily interfered with by lawless violence, could reasonably be delayed by the national govenment only until the loyal voters should be sufficient in number to relieve the elections from the objection of being

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