Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

with those Equal Rights in the Republic which are denied to friends and allies, so that the former shall rule over the latter. Verily, here is a case for com

mon sense.

The lesson of clemency is of perpetual obligation. Thanks to the medieval poet for teaching it! Harshness is bad. Cruelty is detestable. Even justice may relent at the prompting of mercy. Fail not, then, to cultivate the grace of clemency. Perhaps no scene in history is more charming than that of Cæsar, who, after vows against an enemy, listened calmly to the appeal for pardon, and, listening, let the guilty papers fall from his hand. Early in life he had pleaded in the Senate for the lives of conspirators; and afterwards, when supreme ruler of the Roman world, practised the clemency he had once defended, except where enemies were incorrigible, and then he knew how to be rigorous and firm. By example we are instructed; and from the great master of clemency we may well learn that the general welfare must not be sacrificed to this indulgence. And also from the Divine Teacher we may learn, that, even while forgiving enemies, there are Scribes and Pharisees to be exposed, and moneychangers who must be scourged from the temple. But with us are Scribes and Pharisees, and there are also criminals, worse than any money-changers, now trying to establish themselves in the very temple of our Gov

ernment.

Cultivate clemency. But consider well what is embraced in this charity. It is not required that you surrender the Republic into the hands of pardoned criminals. It is not required that you surrender friends and allies to the tender mercies of these same pardoned

criminals. Clearly not. Clemency has limitations; and when it transcends these, it ceases to be a virtue, and is only a mischievous indulgence. Of course, one of these limitations, never to be disregarded, is the general security, which is the first duty of Government. No pardon can be allowed to imperil the nation; nor can any pardon be allowed to imperil those rightfully looking to us for protection. There must be no vengeance upon enemies; but there must be no sacrifice. of friends. And here is the distinction never to be forgotten. Nothing for vengeance; everything for justice. Follow this rule, and the Republic will be safe and glorious. Words attributed to Marcus Aurelius in a letter to his colleague in empire, Lucius Verus, are worthy to be repeated now by the chief of the Republic:

"Ever since the Fates

Placed me upon the throne, two aims have I
Kept fixed before my eyes; and they are these, —
Not to revenge me on my enemies,

And not to be ungrateful to my friends." 1

It is easy for the individual to forgive. It is easy, also, for the Republic to be generous. But forgiveness of offences must not be a letter of license to crime; it must not be recognition of an ancient tyranny, and it must not be stupendous ingratitude. There is a familiar saying, with the salt of ages, that is addressed to us now: "Be just before you are generous." Be just to all before you are generous to the few. Be just to the millions only half rescued from oppression, before you are generous to their cruel taskmasters. Do not imitate that precious character in the gallery of old Tallemant des Réaux, "who built churches with

1 Blackwood's Magazine, Vol. XCVIII. p. 346, September, 1865.

out paying his debts." Our foremost duties now are to pay our debts, and these are twofold, - first, to the national freedman, and, secondly, to the national creditor.

Apply these obvious principles practically. A child can do it. No duty of clemency can justify injustice. Therefore, in exercising the beautiful power of pardon at this moment, several conditions must be observed.

1. As a general rule, belligerent traitors, who have battled against the country, must not be permitted at once, without probation or trial, to resume old places of trust and power. Such a concession would be clearly against every suggestion of common sense, and President Johnson doubtless saw it so, when, addressing his fellow-citizens of Tennessee, June 9, 1864, he said: "I say that traitors should take a back seat in the work of restoration. If there be but five thousand men in Tennessee loyal to the Constitution, loyal to freedom, loyal to justice, these true and faithful men should control the work of reorganization and reformation absolutely."1 Let belligerent traitors be received. slowly and cautiously back into the sovereignty of citizenship. Better that they should wait than the general security be imperilled, or our solemn obligations, whether to the national freedman or the national creditor, impaired.

2. Especially are we bound, by every obligation of justice and by every sentiment of honor, to see that belligerent traitors, who have battled against their country, are not allowed to rule the constant loyalists, whether white or black, embracing the recent freedmen, our friends and allies.

1 McPherson's Political History of the United States during Reconstruction, p. 46, note.

3. Let pardons issue only on satisfactory assurance that the applicant, who has been engaged for four years in murdering our fellow-citizens, shall sustain the Equal Rights, civil and political, of all men, according to the principles of the Declaration of Independence; that he shall pledge himself to the support of the national debt; and, if he be among the large holders of land, that he shall set apart homesteads for all his freedmen.

Following these simple rules, clemency will be a Christian virtue, and not a perilous folly.

The other proverb has its voice also, saying plainly, Follow common sense, and do not, while escaping one danger, rush upon another. You are now escaping from the whirlpool of war, which threatened to absorb and ingulf the Republic. Rush not upon the opposite terror, where another shipwreck of a different kind awaits you, while Sirens tempt with "song of death." Take warning: Seeking to escape Charybdis, do not drive “upon Scylla.

Alas! the Scylla on which the Republic now drives is that old rock of concession and compromise which from the beginning has been a constant peril. It appeared in the Convention that framed the National Constitution, and ever afterwards, from year to year, showed itself in Congress, until at last the Oligarchy, nursed by our indulgence, rebelled. And now that the war is over, it is proposed to invest the same Rebel Oligarchy with a new lease of immense power, involving control over loyal citizens, whose fidelity to the Republic has been beyond question. Here, too, are Sirens, in the shape of belligerent traitors, suing softly that the Republic may be lured to the old concession

and compromise. Alas, that, escaping Charybdis, we drive upon Scylla !

The Oligarchy conducted all its operations in the name of State Rights, and in this name it rebelled. And when the Republic sought to suppress the Rebellion, it was replied, that a State could not be coerced. Now that the Rebellion is overthrown, and a just effort is made to obtain that "security for the future" without which the war will have been in vain, the same cry of State Rights is raised, and we are told again. that a State cannot be coerced, - as if the same mighty power which directed armies upon the Rebellion could be impotent to exact all needful safeguards. To overcome these pretensions, and stamp E Pluribus Unum ineffaceably upon the Republic, we contended in war; and now we surrender again to these tyrannical pretensions. Escaping from war, we drive upon the opposite peril, as from Charybdis to Scylla.

Again, we are told gravely, that the national power which decreed Emancipation cannot maintain it by assuring universal enfranchisement, because an imperial government must be discountenanced, as if the whole suggestion of "imperialism" or "centralism" were not out of place until the national security is established, and our debts, whether to the national freedman or the national creditor, are placed where they cannot be repudiated. A phantom is created, and, to avoid this phantom, we drive towards concession and compromise, as from Charybdis to Scylla.

Again, we are reminded that military power must yield to the civil power and to the rights of selfgovernment. Therefore the Rebel States must be left to themselves, each with full control over all; whether

« EdellinenJatka »