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The Galaxy, Volume 23, No. 2, February, 1877   By:

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VOL. XXIII. FEBRUARY, 1877. No. 2.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1877, by SHELDON & CO., in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


The second session of the Thirty seventh Congress, from its commencement to its close, tested the strength of the Government and the capability of those who administered it. Disappointment, in consequence of no decisive military success during the first few months of the war, had caused a generally depressed feeling which begot discontent and distrust that in various ways found expression in Congress. Democrats complained more of the incapacity of the Executive than of the inefficiency of the generals, and the entire Administration was censured and denounced by them for acts which, if not strictly legal and constitutional in peace, were necessary and unavoidable in war. Republicans, on the other hand, were dissatisfied because so little was accomplished, and the factious imputed military delay to mismanagement and want of energy in the Administration. Indeed, but for some redeeming naval successes at Hatteras and Port Royal preceding the meeting of Congress in December, the whole belligerent operations would have been pronounced weak and imbecile failures. Conflicting views in regard to the slavery question in all its aspects prevailed; the Democrats insisting that fugitives should be returned to their masters under the provisions of law, as in time of peace. The Republicans were divided on this question, one portion agreeing with the Democrats that all should be returned, another claiming that only escaped slaves who belonged to loyal owners, wherever they resided, should be returned; another portion insisted that there should be no rendition of servants of rebel masters, even in loyal or border States, who, by resisting the laws and setting the authorities at defiance, had forfeited their rights and all Governmental protection. Questions in regard to the treatment of captured rebels, and the confiscation of all property of rebels, were agitated. What was the actual condition of the seceding States, and what would be their status when the rebellion should be suppressed, were also beginning to be controverted points, especially among members of Congress. On these and other questions which the insurrection raised, novel, perplexing, and without law or precedent to guide or govern it, the Administration had developed no well defined policy when Congress convened in December, 1861, but it was compelled to act, and that in such a manner as not to alienate friends or give unnecessary offence, while maintaining the Government in all its Federal authority and rights for the preservation of the Union and the suppression of the rebellion.

The character and duration of the war, which many had supposed would be brief, was still undetermined. While affairs were in this uncertain and inchoate condition, and the Administration had no declared policy on some of the most important questions, Congress came together fired with indignation and revenge for a war so causeless and unprovoked. A large portion of the members, exasperated toward the rebels by reason of the war, and dissatisfied with delays and procrastination, which they imputed chiefly to the Administration, were determined there should be prompt and aggressive action against the persons, property, institutions, and the States which had confederated to break up the Union. There was, however, little unity among the complaining members as to the mode and method of prosecuting the war. It was not difficult to find fault with the Administration, but it was not easy for the discontented to settle on any satisfactory plan of continuing it. The Democrats complained that the President transcended his rightful authority; the radical portion of the Republicans that he was not sufficiently aggressive; that he was deficient in energy and too tender of the rebels. It was at this period, after Congress had been in session two months, and opinions were earnest but diverse and factious, with a progeny of crude and mischievous schemes as to the conduct of affairs and the treatment of the rebels, that Senator Sumner, in the absence of a clearly defined policy on the part of the Administration, and while things were not sufficiently matured to adopt one, submitted his project for overthrowing the State governments and reducing them to a territorial condition, and with the subversion of their governments the abolition of slavery... Continue reading book >>

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