Theories of Reconstruction.
There are two theories of reconstruction of the Union which arise at the present time, and are being more earnestly and extensively discussed the nearer the end of the rebellion appears to be approaching. One is the radical abolition theory, which declares this rebellion a war in which states are banded together to destroy the government, and not that it is merely an insurrection in which the persons in arms are to be regarded as individual violators of the laws, and as such to be proceeded against by the power of the government. This theory, by treating states — abstract powers politically — as the parties in rebellion, and not the people in the states, tends necessarily to deprive the states of all rights under the constitution which they have endeavored to overturn and destroy, by destroying the government, which proceeds from and is based upon it. The states being really at war with our government, are put in the category of actual belligerents just as much so as alien enemies, and are subjected therefore to the conditions of belligerents, and have only the rights which belligerents can claim under international law. In a just war, a belligerent state may be subjugated by a stronger power. If a state, it may have its political sovereignty taken from it, its territory appropriated by the conquerer, and be held at the conqueror's pleasure as a dependency or province, deprived of political independence or rights as a separate or independent government. In this condition of conquered states, they claim the conqueror may impose new conditions if he pleases, as the privilege of re-entering the Union. He may declare that the step precedent to its re-establishment, as a state's power, shall be the total and entire abolition of slavery forever, and any state coming back into the Union with this restriction upon its political power, would have no right thereafter to declare slavery to be re-established. According to this theory, the subsequent Union would no longer be one of sovereign and equal state powers. The states in rebellion having lost their sovereignty by conquest, would no longer be the equals nor possess the same political rights and powers as the states which conquered them.
This theory is so entirely and radically different from the idea of the Union as established by our fathers, and the common idea which prevails of the political relations of the states and the general government reciprocally, that it is abhorrent to all true lovers of their country, and is adopted only by the radical fanatics who surround and control the administration, and miserable lickspittles like Forney, who crawl on their bellies like serpents, in the hope of crumbs from the presidential table.
The democratic and conservative theory on the subject is that the rebellion is simply an insurrection, a very magnified and extended one, but still one in which the power of the government is to be brought to bear against the individuals in arms. This theory does not recognize any power of violent separation from the Union by the political action of any state government. All such state action is illegal and void, because a usurpation of powers not possessed by any state under a Union constitutionally formed, and having a federal government constitutionally chosen. Under this theory the states remain in their integrity and sovereignty, whatever individuals, even embracing a majority of the population, may do in opposition to the laws. The insurgents are simply regarded as a mob, who may usurp the control of the government for a time, and defy the laws, but cannot deprive the government permanently of its rights and powers, or destroy the validity of the laws. So soon as the mob is put down, the power and rights of the state government return of themselves, having only been held in suspension by violence. According to this theory, if the people in any state in rebellion were to overthrow the usurping authorities, and aid the general government in re-establishing its authority over the state from which it has been excluded by violence, then the state would be restored immediately, under the constitution, to the sovereignty, independence, and equality possessed by the other states. The offenders against the laws within its territory may be punished for their crimes either by the state's authority or by the general government, but the state itself would lose none of its political rights or powers under the constitution, by reason of the rebellion.
This latter theory is perfectly plain and simple and the only practical one for the reconstruction of the Union on the same terms upon which it descended to us. Were it not that the abolitionists control the government, it would doubtless be universally adopted, and the war speedily ended. The great obstacle in the way of the return of the states to their allegiance, is the president's emancipation proclamation, which he and his party claim conferred absolute freedom upon all negroes in the rebellious states; and the administration therefore demands that this effect shall be recognized and admitted before any state can be allowed to return to its old place under the constitution and banner of the Union. In other words, slavery must be abolished, and state sovereignty destroyed, for the crimes of individuals in rebellion against the federal authority. To this, not even the most ardent friends of reconstruction in the south will ever be brought to yield their consent; and, therefore, the proposition becomes axiomatic that the two equal and only foes to a restoration of the Union, are Jeff. Davis and his prominent supporters in the south, and the administration under the control of the radical abolitionists at the north. There is every reason to believe that the people, north and south, are desirous of peace and the old Union; and were these impediments to be both removed, there would be no trouble in amicably settling the difficulties between the people of both sections.
It is a condition of the fire-eater's being to hate the Yankees, as he calls all northerners. It is equally a part of the abolitionist's creed to hate slavery and slaveholders, and to repudiate fellowship with that class of citizens. These feelings have no lodgment in the hearts of the great mass of the people, either north or south. But, unfortunately for the country, abolitionists control the federal administration, and ultra secessionists the rebel government, so that settlement between these two radically antagonistic powers is as impossible as a Union between oil and water.
In the triumph of the democratic party lies the only hope of the country to a restored and prosperous Union. Its theory of restoration, as its theory of government, is the only true one.