A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era
Volume 2, Political Arguments
Publication Year: 2013
Volume 2 in the series, Political Arguments, presents the words of politicians, political party platforms, and administrative speeches. It is divided into two sections. The first, Voices of the Politicians and Political Parties, comprises the platforms of the major (and some minor) parties from1856 to 1876. Also included are such pieces as Robert E. Lee’s letter of resignation from the U.S. Army, a few key speeches by that rising politician from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, and a letter on the “American Question” written by a European observer, Karl Marx. Other items include examples of the 1860–1861 state ordinances of secession and addresses on emancipation and Reconstruction by Jefferson Davis and by the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Thaddeus Stevens.
Section two, Voices of the Administrations, contains records from the presidencies of James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Rutherford B. Hayes as well as a message from Confederate President Jefferson Davis telling his congress that the Southern cause was “just and holy.” Classic documents such as Lincoln’s announcement of forthcoming emancipation and the Emancipation Proclamation are here, as are lesser-known but important documents such as Francis Lieber’s 1863 revised law code for war, General Order 100, and Attorney General James Speed’s 1865 opinion supporting the Johnson administration’s decision to try the Lincoln murder conspirators by special military commission and not in the civilian courts.
Each of the selections in Political Arguments is preceded by editor Thomas Mackey’s introductory headnotes that explain the document’s historical significance and trace its lasting impact. These commentaries provide insight into not just law and public policy but also the broad sweep of issues important to Civil War– era Americans.
A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era is an essential acquisition for academic and public libraries in addition to being a valuable resource for courses on the War and Reconstruction, legal history, political history, and nineteenth- century American history.
Thomas C. Mackey is professor of history at the University of Louisville and adjunct professor of law at the Brandeis School
of Law. He is the author of Red Lights Out: A Legal History of Prostitution, Disorderly Houses, and Vice Districts, 1870–1917
and Pornography on Trial: A Handbook with Cases, Laws, and Documents.
Published by: The University of Tennessee Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This project did not happen without the help of numerous people and they have earned mention and thanks in this acknowledgment. Of course, all errors of omission and commission in this work are mine alone. A good place to start (and a good place to work) would be the University of Tennessee Press. ...
Introduction: A Documentary History of the American Civil War Era
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In 1881, Union Civil War veteran, distinguished law author and attorney, and later Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. published a little book entitled, The Common Law. Although little read in its entirety today, the point of the book continues to influence law academics, historians of the law, and jurisprudents to the current day. ...
Voices of the Politicians and Political Parties
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Part 2 of this collection includes a wide variety of documents, from political party platforms to newspaper articles to political speeches. By the early twenty-first century, political party platforms meant little to nothing. But in the nineteenth century, political party platforms constituted one of the major policy statements by political organizations. ...
1856 Democratic Party Platform
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In the 1850s, the Democratic Party constituted the majority political party in the United States. Although the party had its internal division, a northern wing and a southern wing, in 1856 the two sides still perceived that they had more issues in common (opposition to abolitionism, for example) than separated them (a growing uneasiness over the slavery issue). ...
1856 Republican Party Platform
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This document is the first party platform issued by the new and regional political party, the Republicans. As the Whig Party dissolved under the weight of the problem of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act and the underlying issue contained in that act, the expansion of slavery into the federal territories, a political vacuum occurred. ...
1856 American (Know-Nothing) Party Platform
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A third political party ran a candidate in 1856, ex-President Millard Fillmore. Formally called the American Party but better known as the “Know-Nothing” Party because of its alleged secret character and that when journalists asked an alleged member about the party, the member would answer, “I know nothing,” ...
Lincoln, House Divided Speech, June 16, 1858
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Although this speech may be one of the most familiar in the Abraham Lincoln canon of writings, it is often incorrectly thought to be part of the debates later in that 1858 summer between Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Lincoln, the Republican Party candidate for the Senate. ...
Lincoln, Speech Fragment, 1859
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In this intriguing fragment of a 1859 speech about Senator Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln hammers his political opponent for causing “Bleeding Kansas” because of his 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, and for Douglas’s support of the 1857 Dred Scott decision. ...
Lincoln, Cooper Union Speech, February 27, 1860
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Analyzed effectively and fully in his 2004 book, Lincoln at Cooper Union, Abraham Lincoln historian Harold Holzer subtitled the book, The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President (New York: Simon & Schuster). This speech set forth the Republican Party’s rationale for its antislavery political position and did so in a lawyerlike forensic fashion ...
Fredrick Douglass on Constitution and Slavery, March 26, 1860
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Frederick Douglass became one of the best known of the African-American abolitionist speakers, newspaper editors, and anti-slavery advocates in the decades before the United States Civil War. While he met John Brown and may have known about Brown’s plans to attack the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in October 1859, ...
1860 Democratic Party Platform (Douglas Faction)
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With the southerners gone from the Baltimore, Maryland, meeting of the Democratic Party, the northern wing of the party adopted its own platform. Dominated by the supporters of Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, this platform reaffirmed Douglas’s position that on the issue of slavery in the federal territories, the decisions of the United States Supreme Court ought to be followed. ...
1860 Democratic Party Platform (Breckinridge Faction)
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After all efforts to reunite the Democratic Party failed in their second meeting at Baltimore, Maryland (earlier efforts to build a party platform had failed at Charleston, South Carolina), the Democratic Party split into a northern wing and a southern wing. Dominated by the fire-eaters of the South, who insisted on a plank defending slavery in the states ...
1860 Constitutional Union Party Platform
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The fourth of the four political parties/factions contending for votes in the key election of 1860, the Constitutional Union Party sought to address the major issue before the country, the expansion of slavery into the federal territories, by not taking a position. ...
1860 Republican Party Platform
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In this second Republican Party platform can be seen the fundamental principle that all Republicans agreed upon, that is, not allowing the extension of slavery into the federal territories, but also planks to placate the various divisions within the party, such as support for federally funded internal improvements to assure the support of the ex-Whigs in the party. ...
South Carolina Ordinance of Secession, December 20, 1860
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With this Ordinance of Secession, South Carolina became the first state to put into practice the constitutional and political theory known as the “Compact Theory of the Union.” Instead of the establishment of a nation at the time of the ratification of the 1787 Constitution through the state ratifying conventions in 1787 and 1788, ...
Alabama Ordinance of Secession, January 11, 1861
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Among the states that claimed to secede from the Union prior to the Abraham Lincoln administration taking office was Alabama. Alabama became a focal point for southerners because of this ordinance that not only denounced Lincoln and his vice presidential running mate, Hannibal Hamlin, by name, but also issued a call for southerners to send delegates to Montgomery ...
Georgia Ordinance of Secession, January 19, 1861
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Less than a month after South Carolina passed its secession ordinance, Georgia followed with its own ordinance. Though the documents parallel each other, some differences exist, such as Georgia’s claim that it has assumed its own sovereignty “which belong and appertain to a Free and Independent State.” ...
Jefferson Davis Farewell Speech, U.S. Senate, January 21, 1861
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Jefferson Davis is remembered as president of the failed Confederate States of America, but his service to the country prior to the war placed him among the first-rank of national politicians in antebellum America. Like Abraham Lincoln, Davis was born in Kentucky, although he grew up in and identified with the state of Mississippi. ...
Inauguration Speech, Jefferson Davis, February 18, 1861
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In Jefferson Davis’s first public statement as president of the Confederacy, he explained the need for the separation from and the breaking of the Union, and couched the South’s actions in constitutional terms. He argued that the “wanton aggression on the part of others” forced southerners to separate in order “to obtain respect for the rights to which we are entitled.” ...
Robert E. Lee’s Resignation from the U.S. Army, April 20, 1861
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In April 1861, the secession crisis peaked. The federal administration led by President Abraham Lincoln made clear its intention to hold and resupply the federal installation, Fort Sumter, located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, while the seven states that made up essentially a Gulf Coast Confederacy, led by Jefferson Davis, ...
General Benjamin Butler, “Contrabands,” July 30, 1861
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Among the many political and colorful generals on both sides of the United States Civil War, Union General Benjamin F. Butler stands out. A Massachusetts politician, an able lawyer, and an ardent abolitionist, Butler provided good service to the Union in moving his 8th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment to Baltimore in April 1861 ...
General John C. Fremont’s Martial Law/Emancipation Policy, August 30, 1861
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At the start of the Civil War few states or regions presented more problems for both sides of the conflict than the Border States in general, and Missouri in particular. Because of the low-intensity conflict occurring just across the border with Kansas, political upheaval had existed much longer in Missouri than in the rest of the country; ...
Karl Marx on the Civil War, October 11, 1861
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Europeans generally, and the British particularly, followed the events and arguments in the United States as the crisis of the Union loomed and then became a civil war. One of the more perceptive and interesting of the newspaper and opinion writers of the time was the political theorist and radical, Karl Marx. ...
Thaddeus Stevens, Emancipation, January 22, 1862.
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Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens embraced the label of “radical Republican.” Perhaps the most powerful member of the House of Representatives during the Civil War years and one of the most powerful people in Washington during the administrations of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, ...
1864 Democratic Party Platform
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Perhaps one of the most interesting points about the 1864 election is that it occurred at all. In the midst of the national civil war, the constitutional requirement for calendared elections remained a value of Americans, and they adhered to its requirements. ...
1864 Republican (National Union) Party Platform
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Rechristened for this election during wartime to the National Union Party, the Republican Party hoped to reach out and include the so-called War Democrats (as opposed to the mainstream Democratic Party in 1864, the Peace Democrats) and Border States Unionist put off by the “Republican” name. ...
Thaddeus Stevens, Lancaster Speech, September 6, 1865
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Leader of the advanced wing of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, the so-called “radical Republicans,” Thaddeus Stevens sought a “hard,” congressionally led, Reconstruction upon the South. In contrast to President Abraham Lincoln’s softer, presidentially led 10 percent plan of Reconstruction of December 1863 ...
Thaddeus Stevens on Reconstruction, December 18, 1865
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“As these fallen rebels cannot at their option reenter the heaven which they have disturbed, the garden of Eden which they have deserted, and flaming swords are set at the gates to secure their exclusion, it becomes important to the welfare of the nation to inquire when the doors shall be reopened for their admission,” ...
1868 Democratic Party Platform
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In this occasionally bitter document, the Democratic Party lashes out at the Republicans for both the course and nature of the nation’s reconstruction policies and their treatment (including the impeachment) of the incumbent president, Andrew Johnson. ...
1868 Republican Party Platform
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This Republican Party platform contrasts sharply with the vituperative Democratic Party platform of this same year. While this platform laments the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and indicts President Andrew Johnson and his efforts to inhibit Republican-driven Reconstruction policy, ...
1872 Democratic Party Platform
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Although the Democratic Party did not run separate presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 1872 election, the party did meet and draft a party platform. Explicitly acknowledging the changed constitutional world brought about because of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments ...
1872 Republican Party Platform
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In this 1872 party platform, the self-congratulatory tone of the document reflects the sense of the party and their accomplishments that were, in fact, many. While understanding that such statements constitute the “spin” that each political organization wished to place before the voting public, the Republicans had accomplished a great deal for the nation, ...
1872 Liberal Republican Party Platform
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Founded in 1870 as an anti–President Ulysses S. Grant faction within the Republican Party, by 1872, these Liberal Republicans fused with the Democratic Party in opposition to the enormously popular Grant. Concerned about the continued involvement of the federal government in the affairs of the southern states ...
1876 Democratic Party Platform
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To many in and out of the Democratic Party, 1876 looked to be a winning year. The Republicans had been in office for a long period of time, Reconstruction had run its life course, northern public opinion had moved past and grown tired of “the southern question” that had hung over the nation for decades, ...
1876 Republican Party Platform
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1876 did not look like a winning year for the Republican Party. They had been the dominant party for at least sixteen years. Republican Reconstruction policies had come under attack and the reform impulse of reconstructing the South had slowed and, in many of the southern states, been reversed as white majorities ...
Voices of the Administrations
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Opening with the administration of President James Buchanan and ending with the inaugural address of President Rutherford B. Hayes, this section samples the presidential public policy statements and speeches in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In addition to the inaugural addresses, lesser-known speeches and documents are included, ...
Buchanan Inaugural, March 4, 1857
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In terms of experience at the federal level and in foreign policy, perhaps no person arrived better prepared for the presidency than James Buchanan. On one hand a talented attorney, Buchanan had served in the Pennsylvania state house, in Congress, and as a senator. President Andrew Jackson appointed him United States Minister to Russia, ...
Attorney General Jeremiah Black on secession, November 20, 1860
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Noted lawyer and ex-Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeremiah S. Black joined the cabinet of President James Buchanan, serving first as attorney general. On December 16, 1860, Black became Buchanan’s secretary of state. Black had built a reputation as one of the nation’s most important attorneys and constitutional interpreters. ...
President James Buchanan, State of the Union, December 3, 1860
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As the centrifugal forces of disunion and sectionalism separated the United States during the secession winter of 1860–1861, President James Buchanan failed the country through his lack of leadership and political vision. With president-elect Abraham Lincoln deciding not to say anything publically about secession that might further exacerbate the tense situation, ...
First Inaugural, Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861
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Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address is one of the most important, perhaps the most important, inaugural addresses in the history of the United States. From his election in November 1860 to this address on March 4, 1861—the time frame historians now label as the “secession winter—Lincoln said little publicly. ...
Lincoln’s special message to Congress, July 4, 1861, “People’s contest”
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For approximately eighty days, from April 15, when President Abraham Lincoln declared the southern states in rebellion and called up the militia, to July 4, 1861, when Congress met in special session, Lincoln faced the crisis of the Union by himself. Institutionally, the federal government became concentrated into the presidency, ...
Lincoln to Greeley, August 22, 1862, “I would save the Union”
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In August 1862, the irascible and quirky editor of the most important and influential newspaper of the mid-nineteenth century, Horace Greeley of New York City’s New York Tribune, believed that President Abraham Lincoln moved too slowly against slavery. Although Greeley supported Lincoln and the Republicans, he also acted as a gadfly for radical issues, ...
President Lincoln’s December 1862 Message to Congress
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In this important and underappreciated state paper, President Abraham Lincoln analyzes the issue of emancipation—compensated and uncompensated—while also defending his September 22, 1862, Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which announced his policy of presidential emancipation scheduled to take effect a month later on January 1, 1863. ...
General Order 100, Lieber Code, April 23, 1863
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As a modern war, the United States Civil War needed an updated and modernized set of rules for warfare. German-born scholar and lawyer Francis Lieber on occasion assisted the War Department and President Abraham Lincoln, and they put him to work producing a new set of guidelines for military commanders. ...
Lincoln 10% Plan, December 8, 1863
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In this presidential proclamation, popularly known as the 10% plan for Reconstruction, President Abraham Lincoln established a process for ensuring loyal state governments. For Lincoln, Reconstruction policy was an extension of the administration’s war policies, and thus the president should lead on the issue of the reconstruction of southern states. ...
Wade/Davis Plan, July 2, 1864, and President Lincoln’s Veto, July 8, 1864
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In reaction to President Abraham Lincoln’s December 1863 10 percent plan for Reconstruction, congressmen and senators began to debate who should establish Reconstruction policy (the president or Congress) and the standards for new states to meet before being readmitted to Congress. ...
Wade/Davis Manifesto, August 5, 1864
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President Abraham Lincoln’s July 8, 1864, pocket veto of Congress’s Wade/Davis Bill on reconstruction angered many in Congress, including many members of Lincoln’s own Republican Party. Traditionally it had been Congress, not the president, that set national public policy, and among the goals of the authors of the Wade/Davis Bill ...
Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862
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On September 17, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed in Maryland at the Battle of Antietam; it remains the bloodiest day in United States military history with 5,200 dead, 18,000 wounded (2,000 mortally). Though military historians consider the battle a tactical draw, it was also a strategic defeat for General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia ...
Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863
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On the afternoon of January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln left a New Year’s Day reception in the Executive Mansion (as the White House was called then) and walked to his office. With only a few people present, Lincoln picked up a gold pen and dipped it in the inkwell to sign one of the most important executive orders of his administration. ...
Grant to Lincoln, African American troops, August 23, 1863
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At first, typical of most white northerners and midwesterners, General Ulysses S. Grant was uncertain about the use of African Americans as troops. Although in his January 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation President Abraham Lincoln had called for them to be recruited into military service, ...
Lincoln to Sherman, soldier vote, September 19, 1864
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As the general elections of 1864 loomed, President Abraham Lincoln was not certain that he would win re-election because the military situation for the Union had slowed and soured. But, on September 3, 1864, when Major General William T. Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, Union fortunes (and Lincoln’s political fortunes) became sunnier. ...
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, March 4, 1865
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This address, together with the Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863, constitutes the best-known and most recognized speeches of President Abraham Lincoln. Concluding eloquently, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right . . .” ...
Message to Congress, April 29, 1861, “Our cause is just and holy"
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In his first major statement to the Confederate Congress on the state of the Confederacy, President Jefferson Davis reviewed history, defended the actions of the rebellious states, assessed their current situation, and justified secession and war. Implicitly, Davis offers a counter-interpretation of United States history ...
Proclamation, Amnesty/Pardon and N.C. Government, May 29, 1865
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During the Civil War, the senator from Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, was the only senator from a seceded state not to leave his seat; he remained loyal to the Union. President Abraham Lincoln appointed him the military governor of Tennessee, where he served with distinction. ...
Attorney General Speed opinion, Lincoln murder trial, April 28, 1865, and July 1865 clarification
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On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in the head just behind the president’s left ear. At 7:22 the following morning, April 15, President Lincoln died. ...
Grant, Reconstruction, August 16, 1864
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In this letter, General Ulysses S. Grant makes known his position on the issue of the upcoming 1864 presidential election and his position on reunion and reconstruction. Grant states his continued support for the unconditional surrender policy of the Abraham Lincoln administration, a policy Grant himself had enunciated as early as February 1862. ...
Grant, Southern tour report, December 18, 1865
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Partly to attach himself to the popularity of General Ulysses S. Grant and partly in a genuine effort to gauge the condition of the southern states, President Andrew Johnson asked Grant to tour the South. Grant did so, reporting back to the president the white population’s respect for the authority of federal law and government, ...
Grant, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1869
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Newly inaugurated President Ulysses S. Grant spoke on the issues confronting the country during Reconstruction. Alluding to the recent impeachment of former President Andrew Johnson, Grant stated that he would use the presidential veto, like Johnson, but he also noted that he would enforce all of the national statutes “whether they meet my approval or not.” ...
Grant, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1873
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In his second inaugural address, Grant touched on some of the themes of his first inaugural—reunion within the country and economic growth. By 1873, the process of Reconstruction had slowed and a number of the southern states had thrown off their Reconstruction governments and “redeemed” themselves, ...
Hayes, Inaugural Address, March 5, 1877
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Because inauguration day fell on a Sunday in 1877, and because Rutherford B. Hayes did not want to violate the Sabbath, he secretly took the oath of office on March 4, 1877, as required by the Constitution, then retook the oath of office in a public ceremony on Monday, March 5. ...
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Page Count: 440
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Voices of the Civil War
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth