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Chapter XIX

  • The restoration of Civil government in the Southern States
  • -- the course pursued in North Carolina -- an order from General Grant in regard to cotton and produce -- suggestions for the reorganization of Civil government -- a provisional Governor for North Carolina.

being in command in North Carolina at the close of the war, I was connected for a short period with the very earliest consideration of the vital question of the restoration of civil government in the Southern States, in which I acted a more important part at a later period. The moment the surrender of Johnston's army made it evident that the end was near, the question arose, and was much discussed among some of the prominent officers, as to the status of the negroes in the South. The position was promptly taken by me, as the responsible commander in North Carolina, that the question at that time was solely one of fact. The President's proclamation of emancipation was virtually a military order to the army to free all the slaves in the insurgent States as rapidly as military operations should bring them within its control. Whatever the legal effect of the proclamation upon the status of slaves not within the reach of the army when it was issued, there could be no question of its binding obligation, as an order to the army, to be executed and made practically effective as rapidly as it came within the power of the army to execute it. Accordingly, the following order was issued by me to give full practical effect to the proclamation, and [368] to maintain the freedom of all former slaves, so long as the subject-matter should remain under military control. This order, which was the first public official declaration on the subject, was mentioned by one of the leading journals of New York at the time as having at least the merit of ‘saving a world of discussion.’ However this may be, little or no discussion followed, and the freedom of all slaves in the States lately in insurrection at once became an established fact.

(General orders, no. 32.)

Hdqrs. Dept. Of North Carolina, army of the Ohio, Raleigh, N. C., April 27, 1865.
To remove a doubt which seems to exist in the minds of some of the people of North Carolina, it is hereby declared that by virtue of the proclamation of the President of the United States dated January 1, 1863, all persons in this State heretofore held as slaves are now free, and that it is the duty of the army to maintain the freedom of such persons.

It is recommended to the former owners of the freedmen to employ them as hired servants at reasonable wages; and it is recommended to the freedmen that, when allowed to do so, they remain with their former masters, and labor faithfully so long as they shall be treated kindly and paid reasonable wages, or that they immediately seek employment elsewhere in the kind of work to which they are accustomed. It is not well for them to congregate about towns or military camps. They will not be supported in idleness.

By command of Major-General Schofield:

J. A. Campbell, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On the same day I issued the following:

(General orders, no. 31.)

Hdqrs. Dept. of North Carolina, army of the Ohio, Raleigh, N. C., April 27, 1865.
The commanding general has the great satisfaction of announcing to the army and to the people of North Carolina that [369] hostilities within this State have definitively ceased; that for us the war is ended; and it is hoped that peace will soon be restored throughout our country.

It is now the duty of all to cultivate friendly relations with the same zeal which has characterized our conduct of the war, that the blessings of Union, peace, and material prosperity may be speedily restored to the entire country. It is confidently believed and expected that the troops of this army and the people of North Carolina will cordially unite in honest endeavors to accomplish this great end.

All good and peaceable citizens will be protected and treated with kindness, while those who disturb the peace or violate the laws will be punished with the severity of martial law.

The troops will be distributed so as best to secure the interests of the United States government and protect the people until a civil government can be established in harmony with the constitution and laws of the United States.

The most perfect discipline and good conduct are enjoined upon all officers and soldiers, and cordial support upon all good citizens.

All who are peaceably disposed are invited to return to their homes and resume their industrial pursuits. Such as have been deprived of their animals and wagons by the hostile armies will be temporarily supplied, as far as practicable, upon application to the nearest provost-marshal, by loans of the captured property in possession of the quartermaster's department. The needy will also be supplied, for the time being, with subsistence stores from the commissary department . . .

By command of Major-General Schofield:

J. A. Campbell, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On May 4, I issued a circular to this effect:

Local commanders and provost-marshals will encourage all refugees, white and colored, to return to their homes; and for this purpose will furnish them the necessary railroad passes and subsistence.

Such persons must not be given passes to Raleigh or points on the sea-coast, nor be permitted to congregate about towns or camps, there to live in idleness. [370] On May 5, I wrote to General Sherman:

When General Grant was here, as you doubtless recollect, he said the lines had been extended to embrace this and other States south. The order, it seems, has been modified so as to include only Virginia and Tennessee. I think it would be an act of wisdom to open this State to trade at once. I hope the government will make known its policy as to organization of State governments without delay. Affairs must necessarily be in a very unsettled state until that is done. The people are now in a mood to accept almost anything which promises a definite settlement. What is to be done with the freedmen is the question of all, and it is the all-important question. It requires prompt and wise action to prevent the negro from becoming a huge elephant on our hands.

If I am to govern this State, it is important for me to know it at once. If another is to be sent here, it cannot be done too soon, for he will probably undo the most of what I shall have done. I shall be most glad to hear from you fully when you have time to write. . . .

Two days later I wrote to General Halleck:

I have received your despatch concerning slavery, the treatment of freedmen, etc. I will send you my orders issued some days ago, which agree perfectly with your views on this subject. I have not recognized in any way any of the civil officers of the State—not being willing to act in such matters in the absence of any indication of the policy of the government, and taking it for granted that instructions would be given soon. In this connection, I desire to suggest that the sooner a military governor is appointed for this State, and steps taken to organize a civil government, the better. The people are now in a mood to accept anything in reason, and to do what the government desires. If I am, by virtue of my command, to perform the duties of military governor, I would like to know it.

If another is to be appointed, it ought to be done before I have been compelled to do something which he may think it necessary to undo. I think it would be eminently wise to retain in office justices of the peace, sheriffs, and other inferior officers who may prove to be loyal and worthy; but this should be done by [371] the military governor. I believe the administration need have no anxiety about the question of slavery, or any other important question, in this State. But the proper care of the freedmen should be provided for by State legislation as soon as possible. I shall be thankful for any information or instructions you may be able to give me on these subjects.

A week later more precise rules governing the freedmen were issued:

(General orders, no. 46.)

Hdqrs. Dept. of North Carolina, army of the Ohio, Raleigh, N. C., May 15, 1865.
The following rules are published for the government of freedmen in North Carolina until the restoration of civil government in the State:

I. The common laws governing the domestic relations, such as those giving parents authority and control over their children, and guardians control over their wards, are in force. The parent's or guardian's authority and obligations take the place of those of the former master.

II. The former masters are constituted the guardians of minors and of the aged and infirm, in the absence of parents or other relatives capable of supporting them.

III. Young men and women under twenty-one years of age remain under the control of their parents or guardians until they become of age, thus aiding to support their parents and younger brothers and sisters.

IV. The former masters of freedmen may not turn away the young or the infirm, nor refuse to give them food and shelter; nor may the able-bodied men or women go away from their homes, or live in idleness, and leave their parents, children, or young brothers and sisters to be supported by others.

V. Persons of age who are free from any of the obligations referred to above are at liberty to find new homes wherever they can obtain proper employment; but they will not be supported by the government, nor by their former masters, unless they work.

VI. It will be left to the employer and servants to agree upon the wages to be paid; but freedmen are advised that for the present season they ought to expect only moderate wages, and [372] where their employers cannot pay them money, they ought to be contented with a fair share in the crops to be raised. They have gained their personal freedom. By industry and good conduct they may rise to independence and even wealth.

VII. All officers, soldiers, and citizens are requested to give publicity to these rules, and to instruct the freed people as to their new rights and obligations.

VIII. All officers of the army and of the county police companies are authorized and required to correct any violation of the above rules within their jurisdiction.

IX. Each district commander will appoint a superintendent of freedmen,—a commissioned officer,—with such number of assistants—officers and non-commissioned officers—as may be necessary, whose duty it will be to take charge of all the freed people in his district who are without homes or proper employment. The superintendents will send back to their homes all who have left them in violation of the above rules, and will endeavor to find homes and suitable employment for all others. They will provide suitable camps or quarters for such as cannot be otherwise provided for, and attend to their discipline, police, subsistence, etc.

X. The superintendents will hear all complaints of guardians or wards, and report the facts to their district commanders, who are authorized to dissolve the existing relations of guardian and ward in any case which may seem to require it, and to direct the superintendent to otherwise provide for the wards, in accordance with the above rules.

By command of Major-General Schofield:

J. A. Campbell, Assistant Adjutant-General.

On May 29, General Grant, from Washington, ordered me to ‘give every facility and encouragement to getting to market cotton and other Southern products. Let there be no seizure of private property or searching to look after Confederate cotton. The finances of the country demand that all articles of export should be gotten to market as speedily as possible.’ I answered at once:

Your despatch concerning cotton and other products is received. I some time ago removed all military restrictions upon [373] trade, and have given every facility for carrying cotton and other products to market. The only obstacles in the way are the restrictions of the Treasury Department. It would be a blessing to the country if the whole system could be abolished. Now only one man in North Carolina is authorized to buy cotton, and he does not pay money for it. It is impossible for people to get their products to market in this way.

The imperative need of the Southern States at the close of the war was temporary military government, and permission, under such full military protection, to reorganize their civil governments. In the following letter to General Grant, dated May 10, I submitted my views concerning the policy that ought to be pursued:

I desire to submit to you my views concerning the policy that ought to be pursued in North Carolina, leaving it to your judgment whether or not to submit them to the President or Secretary of War. I am now led to this mainly by a letter which I received on the 7th from Chief Justice Chase, giving some points of the policy advocated by him, which, if adopted in this State, would in my opinion lead to disastrous results.

The points I refer to are briefly as follows, viz.:

The organization of the State government to be left to the people acting in their original sovereign capacity.

In determining the right of suffrage, the old Constitution, amended in 1835, to be followed in preference to the new one which was in force at the commencement of the rebellion—the object being to give negroes the right to vote.

The first proposition is not, I think, open to serious objection. With proper assistance from the military authorities, it can be successfully carried out.

The second proposition is the one to which I refer as specially objectionable, and this for two reasons.

First. The Constitution of the State as it existed immediately prior to the rebellion is still the State Constitution, and there is no power on earth but the people of the State that can alter it.

The operations of the war have freed the slaves in this and most other States, and, doubtless, slavery will be constitutionally [374] abolished throughout the country. But the United States cannot make a negro, nor even a white man, an elector in any State. That is a power expressly reserved by the Constitution to the several States. We cannot alter or amend the Constitution of North Carolina, as it now exists, without either first altering or else violating the Constitution of the United States.

If we hold that by the rebellion the States have lost their existence as States, and have been reduced to unorganized Territories under the absolute sovereign authority of the United States, then undoubtedly we may declare that all inhabitants, white and black, shall have equal political rights and an equal voice in the organization of a State to be admitted into the Union. But I understand President Johnson repudiates this doctrine; hence it may be left out of the question.

It appears to me beyond question that the Constitution of North Carolina is now valid and binding as the law of the State, and that any measures for the reorganization of the State government must be in accordance with the provisions of that instrument. This, I am convinced, is the unanimous opinion of the leading Union men of the State.

My second reason for objecting to the proposition is the absolute unfitness of the negroes, as a class, for any such responsibility. They can neither read nor write. They have no knowledge whatever of law or government. They do not even know the meaning of the freedom that has been given them, and are much astonished when informed that it does not mean that they are to live in idleness and be fed by the government.

It is true they are docile, obedient, and anxious to learn; but we certainly ought to teach them something before we give them an equal voice with ourselves in government. This view is so fully recognized as correct by all who are familiar, by actual contact, with the negro character and condition, that argument seems superfluous. I have yet to see a single one among the many Union men in North Carolina who would willingly submit for a moment to the immediate elevation of the negro to political equality with the white man.

They are all, or nearly all, content with the abolition of slavery. Many of them are rejoiced that it is done. But to raise the negro, in his present ignorant and degraded condition, to be their political equals would be, in their opinion, to enslave them [the white citizens]. If they did not rebel against it, it [375] would only be because rebellion would be hopeless. A government so organized would in no sense be a popular government.

After careful consideration of all the questions involved, I am fully convinced as to the best policy to be adopted in this State, which I will submit in outline:

A military governor to be appointed, who shall have command of all the troops in the State; or the department commander be authorized to assume, by virtue of his command, the functions of military governor, which naturally devolve upon him.

The military governor to declare the Constitution and laws of the State in force immediately preceding the pretended Act of Secession (so far as the same are not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and the war proclamations of the President) to be still in force.

To make provisional appointments of justices of the peace, sheriffs, and such other inferior officers as the State laws empower the governor to appoint, to serve until the organization of a civil government.

To order an enrolment of all electors who may take the President's amnesty oath.

As soon as this enrolment shall be completed, to call an election for delegates to a State convention. The qualifications of voters and candidates to be those prescribed by the State laws, and that they shall take the amnesty oath. All acts of the convention to be submitted to the people, for their ratification or rejection, at the same time with the election of governor and members of the legislature, which would be ordered by the convention.

I would confidently expect a convention, so chosen, to repudiate the doctrine of secession, abolish slavery, and fully restore the State to its practical constitutional relations to the Government of the United States. The people are now ripe for such action. They only ask to know what the government desires them to do, and how they are to do it.

If, however, they should fail to do this, I would regard them as having violated their oaths, would dissolve the convention, and hold the State under military government until the people should come to their senses. I would have a lawful popular government or a military government—the latter being a necessary substitute in the absence of the former. [376]

I am willing to discharge, to the best of my ability, any duty which may properly devolve upon me. Yet if a policy so opposed to my views as that proposed by Mr. Chase is to be adopted, I respectfully suggest that I am not the proper person to carry it out.

If, however, after knowing my views fully, it be desired that I execute the President's wishes, would it not be well for me to have a personal interview with him, in order that I may fully understand his plan and the principles upon which it is founded?

The fundamental principles of my suggestion were:

First. The Constitution and laws as they were before secession, modified to embrace the legitimate results of the war—namely, national integrity and universal freedom.

Second. Intelligent suffrage, to be regulated by the States themselves; and

Third. Military governments, in the absence of popular civil governments, as being the only lawful substitute, under our system, for a government by the people during their temporary inability, from whatever cause, to govern themselves.

But these constitutional methods were rejected. First came the unauthorized system of ‘provisional’ governors, civilians without any shadow of lawful authority for their appointments, and their abortive attempts at ‘reconstruction.’

Next the Fourteenth Amendment, disfranchising nearly all the trusted leaders of the Southern people, and then the ‘iron-clad oath,’ universal enfranchisement of the ignorant blacks, and ‘carpet-bag’ governments, with all their offensive consequences. If wise statesmanship instead of party passion had ruled the hour, how easily could those twelve years of misrule in the South, and consequent disappointment and shame among its authors in the North, have been avoided! [377]

A ‘provisional’ governor (William W. Holden) having been appointed for North Carolina, I relinquished command of the department in June, 1865, to enter upon more important service in respect to the then existing military intervention in Mexico by the Emperor of the French.

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