Conclusions, Majority Report of the Joint Committee of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on Reconstruction, June 8, 1866, Washington, D.C.

    Source citation

    "Public Documents," The American Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1866 (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873), 649-650.

    Author (from)
    Joint Committee of the United States Senate and House of Representatives on Reconstruction
    Recipient (to)
    Congress of the United States
    Legislative record
    Date Certainty
    John Osborne, Dickinson College
    Transcription date

    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

    We now propose to restate, as briefly as possible, the general facts and principles applicable to the States recently in rebellion.
    First. The seats of the Senators and Representatives from the so-called Confederate States became vacant in the year 1861, during the second session of the Thirty-sixth Congress, by the voluntary withdrawal of their incumbents with the sanction and by the direction of the Legislatures or conventions of their respective States. This was done as a hostile act against the Constitution and Government of the United States, with a declared intent to overthrow the same by forming a Southern Confederation. This act of declared ostility was speedily followed by an organization of the same States into a confederacy which levied and waged war by sea and land against the United States. This was continued more than four years, within which time the rebel armies besieged the national capital, invaded the loyal States, burned their towns and cities, robbed their citizens, destroyed more than 250,000 loyal soldiers, and imposed an increased national burden of not less than $3,500,000,000, of which seven or eight hundred millions have already been met and paid. From the time that those can federated States thus withdrew their representation in Congress and levied war against the United States, the great mass of their people became and were insurgents — rebels —traitors; and all of them occupied the political, legal, and practical relation of enemies of the United States. This position is established by acts of Congress and judicial decisions, and is recognized repeatedly by the President in public proclamations, documents, and speeches.
    Second. The States thus confederated prosecuted their war against the United States to final arbitrament, and did not cease until all their armies were captured, their military power destroyed, their civil officers, State and Confederate, taken prisoners or put to flight, every vestige of State and Confederate government obliterated, their territory overrun and occupied by the Federal armies, and their people reduced to the condition of enemies conquered in war, entitled only by public law to such rights, privileges, and conditions as might be vouchsafed by the conqueror. This position is also established by judicial decisions, and is recognized as sound by the President in public proclamations, documents, and speeches.
    Third. Having voluntarily deprived themselves of representation in Congress, for the criminal purpose of destroying the Federal Union, and having reduced themselves by the act of levying war to the condition of public enemies, they have no right to complain of temporary exclusion from Congress, but, on the contrary, having voluntarily renounced the right of representation and disqualified themselves by crime from participating in the government, the burden now rests upon them, upon claiming to be reinstated in their former condition, to show that they are qualified to resume Federal relations. In order to do this, they must prove that they have established with the consent of the people, republican forms of government, in harmony with the Constitution and laws of the United States, that all hostile purposes have ceased, and should give adequate guaranties against future treason and rebellion — guaranties which shall prove satisfactory to the Government against whom they rebelled and by whose arms they were subdued.
    Fourth. Having by this treasonable withdrawal from Congress, and by flagrant rebellion and war, forfeited all civil and political rights and privileges under the Federal Constitution, they can only be restored thereto by the permission and authority of that constitutional power by which they were subdued.
    Fifth. Those rebellious enemies were conquered by the people of the United States, acting through the coordinate branches of the Government, and not by the Executive Department alone. The powers of the conqueror are not so vested in the President that he can fix and regulate the terms of settlement and confer congressional representation on conquered traitors, nor can he in any way qualify enemies of the Government to reverse its law-making power. The authority to restore rebels to political power in the Federal Government can be exercised only with the concurrence of all the departments in which political power is vested; and hence the several proclamations of the President to the people of the Confederate States cannot be considered declared, and can only be regarded as provisional permissions by the commander-in-chief of the army to do certain acts, the effect and validity whereof is to be determined by the constitutional Government, and not solely by the Executive power.
    Sixth. The question before Congress is, then, whether conquered enemies have the right and shall be permitted, at their own pleasure and own terms, to participate in making laws for their conquerors; whether conquered rebels may change their theatre of operations from the battle-field, where they were defeated and overthrown, to the halls of Congress, and their representatives seize upon the Government which they sought to destroy; whether the national treasury, the armv of the nation, its navy its forts and arsenals, its whole civil administration, its credit, its pensioners, the widows and orphans of those who perished in the war — the public honor, peace, and safety shall all be turned over to the keeping of its recent enemies, without delay and without imposing such conditions as, in the opinion of Congress, the security of the country’s institutions may demand.
    Seventh. The history of mankind exhibits no example of such madness and folly. The instinct of self-preservation protests against it. The surrender by Gen. Grant to Lee, and by Sherman to Johnston, would have been disasters of less magnitude, for new armies could have been raised, battles fought, and the Government saved. The anti-coercive policy, which, under pretext of avoiding bloodshed, allowed the rebellion to take form and gather force, would be surpassed in infamy by the matchless wickedness that would surrender the halls of Congress to those so recently in rebellion, until proper precautions shall have been taken to secure the national faith and the national safety.
    Eighth. As has been shown in this report and in the evidence submitted, no proof has been afforded to Congress of a constituency in any one of the so-called Confederate States, unless we except the State of Tennessee, qualified to elect Senators and Representatives in Congress. No State constitution or amendment to a State constitution has had the sanction of the people. All the so-called legislation of State conventions and Legislatures has been had under military dictation. If the President may at his will and under his own authority, whether as military commander or chief executive, qualify persons to appoint Senators and elect Representatives and empower others to elect and appoint them, he thereby practically controls the organization of the legislative department. The constitutional form of government is thereby practically destroyed and its powers absorbed in the executive. And while your committee do not for a moment impute to the President any such design, but cheerfully concede to him the most patriotic motives, they cannot but look with alarm upon a precedent so fraught with danger to the Republic.
    Ninth. The necessity of providing adequate safeguards for the future before restoring the insurrectionary States to a participation in the direction of public affairs, is apparent from the bitter hostility to the Government and people of the United States yet existing throughout the conquered territory, as proved incontestably by the testimony of many witnesses and undisputed facts.
    Tenth. The conclusion of your committee, therefore, is that the so-called Confederate States are not at present entitled to representation in the Congress of the United States; that before allowing such representation, adequate security for future peace and safety should be required; that this can only be found in such change of the organic law as shall determine the civil rights and privileges of all citizens in all parts of the republic, shall place representation on an equitable basis, shall fix a stigma upon treason and protect the loyal people against further claims for the expenses incurred in support of rebellion and for manumitted slaves, together with an express grant to Congress to enforce these provisions. To this end they offer a joint resolution for amending the Constitution and the two several bills designed to carry the same into effect before referred to.
    Before closing this report, your committee beg leave to state that the specific recommendations submitted by them are the result of mutual concession, after a long and careful comparison of conflicting opinions. Upon a question of such magnitude, infinitely important as it is to the future of the Republic, it was not to be expected that all should tiink alike. Sensible of the imperfections of the scheme, your committee submit it to Congress as the best they could agree upon, in the hope that its imperfections may be cured and its deficiencies supplied by legislative wisdom, and that, when finally adopted. it may tend to restore peace and harmony to the whole country, and to place our republican institutions on a more stable foundation.

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