1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Explains the 14th Amendment & Reconstruction

Discussion in 'Post Civil War History, The Reconstruction Period' started by Pat Young, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Eleanor Rose, JohnW. and chellers like this.

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Chamberlain described the result of the war:

    The result of the war has been the vindication of the country's cause, as against that of section ; of man hood over the system of master and slave ; of the liberty which means law, right, humanity, over that which is lawless, barbarous, and insolent. The people have carried out the pledge inherited from the fathers, to defend the foundations of this Government with life and fortune and sacred honor.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  4. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Chamberlain congratulated the American people on the Republican victories in the Election of 1866:

    And since the contest of arms has ceased, we have seen the people rally with a majesty and might even more sublime, to reaffirm at the ballot-box the vital points of the issue which baseness or cunning sought to elude.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  5. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Echoing Carl Schurz, JLC says that in the immediate aftermath of the Confederate surrenders, the South was ripe for successful Reconstruction:

    At the close of the war, the secession element was completely disorganized and broken. The South as a faction was disinte grated. The war for secession had revealed the selfish motives and reckless means of its instigators, and had bred bitter dissen sions. The Confederacy was held together only by military force. And when vanquished with its own weapons, it laid down its arms, its people were ready, looking at their necessities and their interests, to accept such terms as they knew they could expect from a victor whose magnanimity was proverbial to a fault. And it is not hazarding too much to assert that had no particular policy of reconstruction been interposed, and nothing been attempted but to provide against suffering and protect personal rights in the South until the assembling of Congress—the rightful authority in the matter—the whole country to-day would be in relations far more satisfactory both to North and South.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  6. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    The Maine man warns:

    Now, however, the distracted elements have been united ; the spirit of the rebellion has been revived to hopes it had abandoned, and with its diverse passions harmonized and excited to the key note of a battle-cry, the South stands to-day in solid and bristling phalanx.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  7. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    For readmission to Congress, the Southern states merely had to renounce secession and protect the rights of blacks:

    The terms which have been proposed were neither hard nor humiliating. We did not place ourselves on the extreme boun dary of our rights, nor plead the precedents of conquerors. But with a magnaninity without parallel, the people of the United States in the proudest moment of their victory, had been willing to forget the sorrows and burdens precipitated upon them by the rebellion, and restore the seceding States to the fellowship of the Union upon the simple condition that the pretensions of secession be repudiated, and that the providential and inevitable results of the war as affecting the rights of American citizenship should be recognized in good faith, and practically embodied in enactment and institution. The lenient measures proposed by Congress were designed to enable the South to take the first step towards return with as little humiliation, and as good a grace as possible. But these good intentions were thwarted, and so it happens that to day the duty is still before us of securing the great results which Providence, and not our own foresight, has placed in our hands, and of which the same great Power will hold us to strict account
     
    JohnW. and chellers like this.
  8. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    JLC responds to the charge that the Republicans will destroy liberty through centralization:

    There are those indeed who raise the cry that we would destroy State rights and centre all power in the National Government. They press history into service, and condemn us by an argument from analogy, and by a mere illustration. They claim that the tendency of all Republics has been to centralization of power, until the spirit and even form of liberty was lost. But history does not tell of liberty won and lost. Men and nations have striven for it indeed, and failed because they were unworthy. There has been no perfect liberty yet. The goal is still before us, not behind us. We move onward, not in perpetual rounds. We have a higher part to act than to imitate the examples of former greatness, or take warning by the fate of lost Republics. We work by deeper principles, by better comprehension, by wiser faith in manhood ; and we have other destiny than to be slaughtered by the old syllogism—centralization, corruption, ruin. The theory we have established is not that the nation is all and the States nothing ; it is rather this, that on all questions involving the rights and interests of all the States, we owe a paramount allegiance to the Union, in short that the ultimate authority of the Government is not the will of each State as such, but in the people of the United States. The great safeguard in this principle of the ma jority is not in the barbarous maxim that might makes right, but in this, that in a country like ours the capacity and opportunity for forming just opinions is so universal that it is more likely that each individual should be right than that he should be wrong.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  9. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    He explains the origins of the 14th Amendment:

    And the people have now made themselves the " Great Ex pounders of the Constitution." They have settled forever the meaning of its provisions and the extent of its limitations. They have shown what they mean by the declaration that all men are created equal. They have decided that this is a Republic of the People, and not a Republic of Municipalities, like those which in ancient Greece and medieval Italy gave token how unstable is even Liberty when it does not represent the broad and deep ideas of humanity. They have not, however, abridged the rights of States. If they have insisted on the duties of States as well, it is because they are parts of a concentrated system, where there are centripetal as well as centrifugal laws. One without the other would ensure ruin. Balanced and preserved they ensure that union which is better than unity. The rights of States, therefore, every lover of his country will jealously and vigorously defend. This being the case, it cannot but be desirable that the States of the Rebellion should return to their relations of perfect equality with the other States as soon as will be consistent with the public welfare, and the proper securing of the objects for which the country was founded and defended. And for this no doubt the people of the North are willing and anxious to do everything in their power. But we are struck with amazement, and thrown upon our guard when we see those who with scorn and contumely spurned the Constitution, and defied the Government, and sought with violence and cruelty to destroy the Union, now demanding, with equal effrontery and the same spirit of violence, without an apology for the past, without a guaranty for the future, the uncon ditional restoration of their rights under the Constitution, their place in the Union and their prestige in the Government. This is so little in the spirit of surrender as to seem like mockery of tri umph. It is Catiline, who instead of being banished for his trea son, comes into the Senate and shares in the public counsels.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  10. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    JLC says that when the Confederates rebelled, they abandoned certain rights they had as citizens:

    Gentlemen, an appeal to arms is a desperate resort. It involves the suspension of certain privileges, the abandonment of certain rights, the forfeiture of certain claims. The old relations cannot be restored without a new treaty. They who resort to this high est arbitrament known to nations, must take upon themselves, whether willingly or not, its legitimate and inevitable conse quences. War is not a game where there is everything to win and nothing to lose. Those who appeal to the law of force should not complain if its decision is held as final. When men stake their cause on their strongest arguments and fail, it is poor logic to urge weaker ones. And when men make arms their arbiter and are defeated, they can neither expect to dictate terms to the victor, nor to plead with effect the original rights and privileges which they abandoned for a more decisive trial. What they may claim are the terms which honor may ask of valor or mercy of power.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  11. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    The Civil War was not fought to restore the country to the status quo antebellum:

    As I understand it, we accepted this gage of battle not simply to restore certain States to their former prestige—to force them back to the exercise of the high privileges which they held of so little worth—but to preserve the integrity of the Union as a neces sity of our National existence,. to keep faith with our fathers, to vindicate the ideas on which the Nation was founded, and which we believe are yet to work out for it a high destiny. And in this view we are disposed to be neither vindictive nor exacting. But we do demand that the States lately in rebellion shall concede to the loyal spirit of the land the guaranties essential to our future safety as a Union. Less than that we cannot ask without danger and dishonor. Whether we ask more or not depends on the spirit in which we are met. The Constitutional Amendment submitted to the people at the last session of Congress has been received at the Executive Department, and it will become my duty to lay it before you. Imperfect as this was, as hazarding one of the very fruits of our victory by placing it in the power of the South to introduce into the Constitution a disability founded on race and color, still as it was the best wisdom of our Representives in Congress, and at least a step in the right direction, at the same time that it smoothed the way for the returning South, and especially as it was the declared issue in the recent elections, good faith doubtless requires us to support it. If we are willing to ratify this and abide by it, it will surely testify our conciliatory disposi tion. The amendment, however, seems to be received with marked disfavor by a majority of the Southern States, and as a measure of policy towards those States, may yet fail. Be it so. If our magnanimity was too great or premature, the South will have saved us the trouble of receding. By their rejection of it the question will again become an open one. Our next proposal will not be less regardful of the rights of humanity.
     
    JohnW. likes this.
  12. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,430
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    JLC predicts a long period of Reconstruction and warns Northerners to not settle for the mere appearance of change:

    Nor need we be greatly distressed if all the fruits of this strug gle be not speedily gathered. If the complete settlement of these questions is long delayed, it will doubtless be for some deep reason, as were our checks and reverses in the early stages of the war. We shall thus be forced to make thorough work of our re construction, and establish ourselves on foundations that will stand. Let not the South grow desperate that they are held for a time in that abnormal position in which they placed themselves, nor let us be too greedy to grasp for untimely fruits, and thus fail of the riper ones. The settlement of such momentous issues may well demand the kindly influences of time.
     
    JohnW. likes this.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Loading...
Similar Threads Forum Date
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Maine Civil War of 1880 Joshua L. Chamberlain Dec 9, 2016
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign Book & Movie Review Tent Sep 28, 2016
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's House, Statue and Grave at Brunswick, Maine Joshua L. Chamberlain Sep 15, 2016
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain - Little known fact Joshua L. Chamberlain Sep 11, 2016
~The Passing of the Armies ~ by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Book & Movie Review Tent Apr 16, 2015

Share This Page