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Doc. 40.-restoration of Arkansas.


Proceedings of a public meeting in Helena, January 2, 1864.

in pursuance of public notice, a large and enthusiastic meeting of the citizens of Phillips County was held at the Episcopal church, in the city of Helena, on the second instant, for the purpose of electing delegates to a convention to be held at Little Rock on the eighth instant, and also to take such steps as might be deemed advisable to restore the State of Arkansas to its former peace and prosperity in the Federal Union.

Brigadier-General Buford, having been invited to attend and preside over its deliberations, appeared at twelve M, and called the meeting to order. General Buford, in stating the object of the assembly, spoke as follows:

General Buford's speech.

My Fellow-Citizens of the State of Arkansas:
I have learned from your own words that the majority of your legal voters never authorized the act of secession, which has destroyed your civil rights and overwhelmed you with the horrors of civil war. The unholy act having been perpetrated by ambitious and bad men, who usurped the authority of the State and made war against the United States, has placed you in an unnatural and an unfortunate position. From the enjoyment of a free government, you were forced to live under the iron rule of a satrap of unlawful and usurped power. Instead of the mild dominion of just laws, you have felt the iron heel, and been subject to the ungoverned passions of a General Hindman!

The false calls of patriotism and love of country have seduced your sons from their true allegiance to their country, whose glorious emblem was the striped banner with its united galaxy of thirty-four stars, among which that one named “Arkansas” shone with an effulgence as bright and as pure as any in the blue field of the Union, and caused them to trample it into the dust, and erect a new one, unknown to fame, and destined to be as fatal to those who walked under its shade as that of the fabled Upas tree.

The false promises of the demagogues who seduced your sons have been unveiled, and instead of a glorious new empire, whose prosperity would outshine the old one, you have been called to witness the destruction of your civil government, with no restraints to anarchy but military power.

A false doctrine has been taught in the South for thirty years, that patriotism was confined to a section, instead of the glorious Union. An unnatural has been cherished against a part of your countrymen for whom you should have felt only a brotherly love. All the parts of our Government — land of rivers and land of lakes; land of mountains and land of plains; land of forests and land of prairies; land of granite and land of gold; land of oaks and land of flowers — all, all are necessary to be united in one glorious transatlantic brotherhood, to make one great nation, capable of supporting a great free government, strong enough to withstand the shock of despotic power, which has constantly threatened us from the old world.

And now, my fellow-citizens, with thirty years of training in the school that you were a peculiar race, understood the Bible a great deal better than the rest of mankind — had a corner-stone for a new empire of more solid substance than that which upheld the old one--who could be surprised that when the flint was struck by the steel, that the fire flew-your country was in a blaze — your young men volunteered? They thought it the duty of patriotism and the road to glory. But you had wise men and prudent mothers among you who thought differently.

You who were wise, many of you had your hearts to bleed, when you manly sons, with buoyant hearts and gay thoughts, disregarded your admonitions, and took a fatal resolution.

I am not here to reproach you, but to mourn with you. I shall not detail any of the particulars which have led a just and powerful Government to vindicate its rights, and send its armies into your State. I shall not exasperate you by detailing the barbarities of “guerrilla” warfare, nor the miseries of the Libby Prison or Castle Thunder. Neither will I try to screen from censure any of the unlawful marauding acts of some of our own troops.

I am here with you to devise measures for the restoration of the Union, I am here to help to pour oil upon the troubled waters. I am here to [325] maintain discipline among troops, to protect your rights, and to govern and conduct according to the immutable laws of justice and truth.

It will be a proud page of our history, if we can do an act tending to restore peace and harmony to our distracted country. Cause the time to be hastened even one day, when peace, with its blessings, shall spread its broad mantle over our land.

I am here to represent a magnanimous Government — not a party. The door is wide open for the restoration of your civil rights. No man who has not committed an overt act of hostility has claimed the protection of the Government in vain.

The revolution is an indelible fact. Its broad marks will never be effaced. Its honors and its dishonors are already written. One of the most beautiful emblems adorning the National Capitol in the old House of Representatives is the genius of history, pen in hand, standing on a time-piece. Each event is recorded as the unceasing pointer moves, and the record stands for ever and ever. We cannot recall the past. The opposers of the Government say, Give us the Constitution as it was; a bereaved mother, with a broken heart, cries, Restore me my only son slaughtered on the battle-field! Both cries are in vain. The poet answers:

Look not mournfully into the past--
     It is gone.
Wisely improve the present--
     It is thine.
Go forward to meet the future with a manly heart.

The Constitution as it was has been violated, and the country disrupted, by treasonable hands. We have met together to-day to pick up its broken fragments, and happy shall we be if we are again capable of cementing together its most valuable parts. Happy, if under its reconstruction we can establish freedom, truth, and justice. Happy, if we can restore peace and concord.

An assembly of delegates from all portions of the State has been called to meet at Little Rock on the eighth day of January. It is proposed that this community be represented at that meeting, and you have been called together to deliberate and to elect delegates.

The eighth day of January awakens recollections that are dear to every American heart. May it again be made illustrious by the triumphs of peace as it has been by the triumphs of war.

The meeting was organized by the election of H. P. Coolidge and Lieutenant S. Baird, Secretaries.

On motion of Colonel Moore, it was ordered that a committee of five be appointed to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting. And on the nomination of J. M. Hanks, Esq., Colonel W. F. Moore. Judge Sebastian, Major Jackson, J. C. O. Smith, and Arthur Thompson were elected such committee.

At his own request, Judge Sebastian was excused from serving on the committee, and W. L. Otie was elected to fill his place.

While the Committee were in consultation, the Chair invited a free and open expression of opinion from the citizens present, whereupon R. P. Sutton, Esq., H. P. Coolidge, J. F. Moore, and Colonel Noble were severally called upon, and entertained the audience with brief and pertinent remarks.

Mr. Hanks, from the Committee, reported a series of resolutions, as did also Major Jackson.

On motion of J. A. Butler, it was ordered that a committee of three be appointed to consider and harmonize the resolutions, so that only one set might be presented for the consideration of the meeting. The chair appointed as such committee Messrs. Butler, Hanks, and Jackson. After a brief consultation the Committee reported the following resolutions:

Whereas, The present condition of our once prosperous and happy State is such as requires the united efforts of all her citizens to effect its amelioration; and

Whereas, An opportunity is now presented to restore her to her former position in our glorious Union, and to put in full and successful operation the civil authority of our State; and

Whereas, A meeting of delegates from all parts of the State has been called to meet at Little Rock on the eighth instant, for the purpose of adopting the most proper and suitable measures for effecting the above-named objects; therefore,

Resolved, That we have learned with satisfaction that an opportunity is now presented of re-gaining our former position in the Union.

Resolved, That four delegates be appointed by this meeting, who shall attend the meeting of delegates to be held at Little Rock on the eighth instant, instructed to confer with their fellow-citizens, who shall then be present, as to the best means necessary to be adopted for putting in full and successful operation the civil machinery of our State, and securing our restoration to all our former rights and position in the Union.

Resolved, That we earnestly desire and request the Hon. J. K. Sebastian to take his seat in the United States Senate as one of the Senators from the State of Arkansas.

Resolved, That the State of Arkansas now is, and was in May, 1861, when the ordinance of secession was passed, a member of the United States of America.

Resolved,That we recognize as valid no power or authority which attempts to sever the political connection existing between any State and the United States.

The question being upon the adoption of the resolutions, the Rev. J. A. Butler was called out and advocated their adoption in a speech of an hour's duration, replete with patriotic sentiments, humor, sarcasm, and sound and convincing logic. After which the resolutions were adopted unanimously.

On motion of Mr. Morse, Mr. Butler was requested to furnish a copy of his speech for publication, which he kindly consented to do.

Upon the nomination of Colonel Moore, Rev. J. A. Butler, J. M. Hanks, Esq., J. B. Miles, and Hon. Josiah McKiel were elected delegates to the [326] Convention to be held at Little Rock on the eighth instant, with power to fill vacancies.

Upon its being suggested that Judge McKiel was in feeble health, and might not be able to attend the Convention, the Chair remarked that he should place a steamboat at the service of the delegates, as he considered the object of the mission of sufficient importance to warrant him in so doing.

A motion was then made and carried that the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Memphis, St. Louis, and Washington papers.

Major Jackson then moved that the thanks of the meeting be tendered to the chairman for the courtesies and impartial manner with which he had presided over its deliberations, and for his kindness and liberality in providing the delegates with the means of transportation to the Convention.

The meeting was eminently patriotic and harmonious, and upon the suggestion of the Chair adjourned with three hearty cheers for the American Union.

N. B. Buford, Brigadier-General Commanding, Chairman. H. P. Coolidge, Secretaries. Lieutenant S. Baird, Secretaries.

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