Conclusions, Majority Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, U.S. Congress, June 16, 1866

    Source citation
    Edward McPherson (ed.), A Handbook of Politics for 1868 (Washington, DC: Philp and Solomons, 1868), 91-94.
    Author (from)
    Majority, Joint Committee of the U.S. Congress on Reconstruction
    Recipient (to)
    United States Congress
    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.
     With such evidence before them, it is the opinion of your committee —
    I. That the States lately in rebellion were, at the close of the war, disorganized communities, without civil government, and without constitntions or other forms, by virtue of which political relations could legally exist between them and the Federal Government.
    II. That Congress cannot be expected to recognize as valid the election of representatives from disorganized communities, which,from the very nature of the case, were unable to present their claim to representation under those established and recognized rules, the observance of which has been hitherto required.
    III. That Congress would not be justified in admitting such communities to a participation in the government of the country without first providing such constitutional or other guarantees as will tend to secure the civil rights of all citizens of the Republic; a just equality of representation; protection against claims founded in rebellion and crime; a temporary restoration of the right of suffrage to those who have not actively participated in the efforts to destroy the Union and overthrow the Government; and the exclusion from positions of public trust of at least a portion of those whose crimes have proved them to be enemies to the Union, and unworthy of public confidence.
    Your committee will, perhaps, hardly be deemed excusable for extending this report further; but inasmuch as immediate and unconditional representation of the States lately in rebellion is demanded as a matter of right, and delay, and even hesitation, is denounced as grossly oppressive and unjust, as well as unwise and impolitic, it may not be amiss again to call attention to a few undisputed and notorious facts, and the principles of public law applicable thereto, in order that the propriety of that claim may be fully considered and well understood.
    The State of Tennessee occupies a position distinct from all the other insurrectionary States, and has been the subject of a separate report, which your committee have not thought it expedient to disturb. Whether Congress shall see fit to make that State the subject of separate action, or to include it in the same category with all others, so far as concerns the imposition of preliminary conditions, it is not within the province of this committee either to determine or advise.
    To ascertain whether any of the so-called Confederate States “are entitled to be represented in either House of Congress," the essential inquiry is, whether there is, in any one of them, a constituency qualified to be represented in Congress. The question how far persons claiming seats in either House possess the credentials necessary to enable them to represent a duly qualified constituency is one for the consideration of each House separately, after the preliminary question shall have been finally determined.
    We now propose to re-state, as briefly as possible, the general facts and principles applicable to all 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 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 hostility 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 war continued more than four years, within which period 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 these confederated 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 assumed and 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 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 havmg 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 to representation, and disqualified themselves b crime from participatin in the Government, the burden now rests upon them, before 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 guarantees against future treason and rebeblion — guarantees which shall prove satisfactory to the Government against which 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 Constitution, they can only be restored thereto by the permission and authority of that constitutional power against which they rebelled and by which they were subdued.
    Fifth. These rebellious enemies were conquered by the people of the United States, acting through all the co-ordinate branches of the Government, and not by the executive department alone. The powers of conqueror are not so vested in the President that he can fix and regulate the terms of settlement and confer congressional representation on conquered rebels and traitors. Nor can he, in any way, qualify enemies of the Government to exercise its lawmaking 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 as extending beyond the purposes declared, and can only be regarded as provisional permission 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 on their 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, through their representatives, seize upon the Government which they fought to destroy; whether the national treasury, the army 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 and its 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 Grant to Lee, and by Sherman to Johnston, would have been disasters of less magnitude, for new armies could have been raised, new 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 now 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 as been afforded by 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 appoint and elect them, he thereby practically controls the organization of the legislative department. The Constitutional form of gorvernment is thereby practically destroyed, and its powers absorbed in the Executive. And while your committee does not for a moment impute to the President any such design, but cheerfull concede to him the most patriotic motives, they cannot but look with alarm upon a precedent so fraught with danger to the public.
    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 by 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 changes 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 future claims for the expenses incurred in support of rebellion and for manumitted slaves, together with an express grant of power in Congress to enforce those provisions. To this end they offer a joint resolution for amending the Constitution of the United States, 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 think 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 it the whole country, and to place our republican institutions on a more stable foundation.
    J. M. HOWARD, 
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