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An Hour With President Johnson

An Hour With President Johnson image An Hour With President Johnson image
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Hon. A. K. McClure, a Radical politician of Penusylvania, lately had an iuterview wiih the President, of whioh he gives an account in an editorial letter to his paper, the Franklin Repoüiory, under date of October 31, 18G5. After speakiug of the Fresident's appearaoce and maiwiers, Mr. McChiro eay: " Ho wever reticout he may be onsome issues, he seenis to have no reserve as to the policy he conceives to be the true one to bi'iug bauk the insurgen!; States. IIo diaeussed the p'oèjtioD of those States and their people with great interest and occasioual wannth, and with a frankness that left no doubt as to bis purpose. He holds thatlhey wero uever out of the Union ; that secession, however aceornpüshod as a fact, cannot be accomplishud ia luw; that the supreme aiithority ot the Government in those States were not overthrown by rebellion, but simply in abeyance, and of cour3e, it logically fcllows hia premisos that, sinco rebellion has ceased, tho States resume their proper place in the Union, and restoration is accomplished. This, in brief, was the standpoint frórn whieh the President discussed the question of reconstraction for more than an hour, and answered suggestive objections at times with aa earneetness that demonstrated how ardently he is worting to give suecess to his policy. I could not but rernind him that his theory stripped all traitors of the proteotion they might elaira as public enemies; that it vvould stamp as guilty of troason vvithiu the law, every mac who aided the robellion, aud of neeessity demaud at his hands cornmens'uráfe punishment lor wjiat be must hold as UDUiitigated crime- as appalling murder and desolation for which thereia no extenuution to be plead. ' You have,' I added, 'given us on eveiy hand the Nation's inonuments of Meroy - -where will be its uionumeuts of Jualice ? Davis is a proclaioied assassin, as well as a traitor- his agenta have died, another (Wirz) will follow- how aro the principias to atone to a peopla doubly bereaved in their homes aad in their o.hief sanotuary of power ?' " To this the President answered with much animalion that the measure of, and the time for atonement were yet for tho future to determine. I sball not 8O0D forget the emphasis with which he declared that the South must come back and be'a part of us, and ' it must come,' he added, ' with all its roanhood I don't wañt it to come eviscerated of its manhood !' To this proposiüon abstractly there could be no objection made. We want the South with all ts manhood, which I would conceive to be the Southern people with their treason abandoned, and their crimes punished- not punished ïvvengefully ; not in imitation of the guillotine of Franoe, or the Inquisition of Spain; but by making the leaders who conspired to overthrow tho Government strangers to its honora and lts citizenship, and thus through life tl.a monuments of the power, the justice, and the niagnanimity of the mightieat n..tiou of the earth. The Presi lent said thatsuch may be the measure of punishmiiut; Li t he had pardoned but few wlio woüld come under such a rule; that there are exceptions to all rules, and there were both civil functionaries and army officers who rnight be pardoned with propriety. He said he had uot yet gone as tar in his amnesty, either general or special, as Mr. Lincoln propos?d. He explained what is not genenilly knovvD, ttuit his pardons ara mainly of business men, manj of whom were Ünion men, who must have pardons to enable thein to sell or tnortgage their ands, or to get credit ia their business operations ; and added that he had not yet reached the consideration of such cases as Lee, Stepbcns, Longstreet, Beuuregard, and otbers of that class. " He spoke freely of the propossd trial of l)iivis, and said that as yet Government had not taken any steps in the matter. If be is to be tried in lïichmond, the trial must necessarily be postponed until the civil authority is fully restored, and then it will bo a question of consideration under the eondition of affairs which may at that time exist. Aa Virginia is still practically under martia! law, certainly wholly under military rule, I judge that many moons may was and wane beforo we can have a great State trial. I do not q.uestion the wisdom of this deluy, for it is certaiuly botter for the Government to avoid the danger of defeat in attemptiog to convict of constructivo treason iu Wash ington, than to foroe a trial whioh might iifford a teohuical encape for Davis, and leave the great questions undetermined. If I wero going to guects on the subject, I won'd say that Davis is more likely to be paroled during tho nest year than to be tried, and if he is ever hanged, ho must. do it himself. " The President is olearly adverse to coniiscation, and that cjuestion is praotiö11y Fettled. Whatever might bo tho views of Congress, couüscation is not posible with an Kxecutive detonninedly hostile to it aud with the pardoning power in his hands. I in'fer, however, that on this point Congre.-íí will harmoniüe witb the Kxecntive, as a number of even the Radical leaders, suoh as (J-reeley and Sumner, opeuly opposo it. If our credit can be sustaiuod othoiwise, I a:n eontent. Fivo yeirs henee we shall all bo wiser on that point than now. " I believe the 'Presi Jent will wield all his-powor to eftect the afdaiisnion of t' j ropresentatives of the rebollious State i iuto Congress during the uext session, The Senato buing oi-gauizud, tho (juestion caimoi como up tliore uutil it is 'broui'ht up in order; hut thure will bo a sti'ung prcíisure to toree tho adniissioa of the Southei'u members, by plaoing their ñames on the roll whou the House mcets. Thii, Mr. Ml! 'licuor: vviii uü5 r' aud on all votes of iostructions be wil! cali onlv thrse who aro leturned f.-nin States o.Ynrly entitled to repreBuntation. The law forbids hiin to do olheiwise, aod he will be faithful to it. The question of their admission will theu agítate the House, and I fear make a Fnil brt'och between the President and Congress. The South is encouraged by the jiosition of the Adiuinistration to be iii'portu unte n its f'or admia►ior., luid it is not iuiprobablo thnt it n.íll ín tlie end be adrotted. I have seldi m soen Cougress siruggle agaii st a i power and hold out to the end. Tlie liistor)' of such conüicts is always dotted ! wirfj i'rail ones who full by the way. I j have evor feit that the revoltcd Statts ciumld t;ke uo part in the Governmeot j they vaiüly songht to destroy until all is. pu. arising from the war, and all ils logical results should be settled by faithtul men. To the victois, not to the vnnquished - to the friends, not to the foes of the GovernmeDt does this duty lielonp, and if it shall be otherwibe, ■ thoie are many who will tremble for tl. e safety of the Republio. " On the luture of the freedmen tl e Presideat talks rrell. He displays more stTise than sentiment on the question, and rneans to solve the problem fairly, :is demauded by civilization and humanity. Of their aüility to win a position that will enable them to be ineorporated into our system of government aa citizen?, he is not eaiinently hopeful, but feels that it must be fairly tried with au open field for the negro. That failiog, he looks on colonizatien as the ouly alternntive. " It would be foolish to disguise the faot that the President, botb by word ivnd deed, disclnims the position of a partisan Executive, and that he is not insensible to the fiattering approval ot his Administraron by tho Democratie party. 1 dn not mean by tuvs that He is in sympathy and fellowship witb them ; but I do rnean that be is not wholly in pympatby against them; anti he will, I feel warranted in saying, adhere to the politica! fortunes of the Southern States without regard to polrtical consequencos. This may or may Dot sever him from ttie party that sustained and cherished liim in the darkest days through which lie passed, and that won him the bighest honors o! tbe Dlition through a flucd ho oWrquy ; but if it does, I infer tbat of will accept the situation. He evideutly means,above all otber tbiügs, to compaBs the iidmission of the Southern n'.eu.bers and the complete restoration fo power ol those States, and il Massacbusetts and South Carolina can strike hands over the eame Administraron (bon will wo have a faiihful Presiden índ a harconious country. If not, ïeave the future to teil the story V hf re in all tbis record soon to be mad i-p the nation shall see that 'treasun i the pn-atest of crimes, and must be pun ished,' is not to my mind apparent."


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Michigan Argus