Harper's Weekly 07/28/1866


“FASTENING A QUARREL” UPON
THE PRESIDENT.


We are surprised and sorry to see in the
New York Evening Post an assertion that Con-
gress has “fastened a quarrel” upon the Pres-
ident. Certainly the facts do not justify the
statement.


At the time of the President's accession to
office leading members of Congress had the
very best reason for believing that he did not
seriously differ with them or with the great
body of the Union party. During the follow-
ing summer the President's speeches to various
committees from the late insurgent States, and
such acts as the pardoning of General Hum-
phreys
that he might be Governor of Missis-
sippi, created some uneasiness as tending to
complicate the situation. But the Executive
action altogether was regarded as an experi-
ment; and it was undoubtedly supposed by the
Union party that the whole question of the re-
sumption of their full relations in the Union
by the late insurgent States would be referred
by the President to Congress, in accordance
with the views of President Lincoln, whose
mild wisdom and generous fidelity to the fun-
damental principle of the American Govern-
ment it was hoped and believed his successor
would follow. “I distinctly stated,” said Pres-
ident Lincoln, in his last public speech, allud-
ing to his action in Louisiana, “that this was
not the only plan which might possibly be ac-
ceptable; and I also distinctly protested that
the Executive claimed no right to say when or
whether members should be admitted to seats
in Congress from such States.”


It was not until Congress assembled and im-
mediately proceeded to act upon the subject,
that the unpleasant probability of a difference
and division between the Executive and Legis-
lative branches became apparent. It then grad-
ually appeared that the President considered
the case to be virtually closed; that he thought
he had a right to require conditions, but that
Congress had not; that he was of opinion either
that no security for the future could be taken,
or that he had taken all that was necessary;
and that Congress was only competent to re-
quire of representatives claiming seats from
South Carolina, as it did of those appearing
from Iowa or New York, that they should take
the oath. Until this was perfectly evident, this
paper certainly counseled forbearance and a
determination of co-operation upon the part of
Congress. The harmony of the two branches
of the Government was a point of so great im-
portance as to be worth a strong effort, even to
the surrender of unimportant details. Differ-
ing in theory, we still hoped that some com-
mon ground of action satisfactory to the saving
Union sentiment of the country might be found.
This was the hope of wise men in Congress. It
was only a hope, however, and was abortive.
Both Mr. Sumner and Mr. Stevens were un-
questionably rude and exasperating in the terms
in which they spoke of the President. But had
they spoken of him as gently as Mr. Raymond,
does the Evening Post think the “quarrel” could
have been avoided?


Unless, therefore, to disagree with the Pres-
ident upon the question of the scope of the ex-
ecutive power, and upon the necessity and true
constitutional policy of the situation—in a word,
unless the refusal of Congress to surrender
its views to the wishes of the President be to
“fasten a quarrel” upon him, it is impossible
to sustain the charge of the Post.



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