Harper's Weekly 11/03/1866


We observe that many of the Southern papers
are very urgent that the Amendment shall not
be adopted. Governor Humphreys of Missis-
sippi speaks of it as an insult, and Mr. Wade
declaims upon the duty of the North
to conform to the terms upon which the rebel
armies surrendered. All of them talk of the
section of the country in which they live as
their “country,” and wish us to understand
that they will never submit to indignities, and
will die with dignity in the last ditch before
they will acquiesce in the Amendment.

Now let us be as frank as these gentlemen.
If there were any thing which seemed harsh or
unjust in the Amendment we should at once
concede that it ought not to be adopted. But
they will strive in vain who undertake to prove
that it is not magnanimous to take the most
legitimate and reasonable security for the fu-
ture, or that it is unjust upon one side to in-
sist, or upon the other to allow, that the basis
of national representation shall not be increased
by those whom the States disfranchise. The
question at issue is not of sides, or terms, or
parties, or sections, it is simply of the exist-
ence and security of the nation. When Mr.
Wade Hampton tells us, of an unsuccessful and
utterly causeless and cruel effort to destroy this
nation, that all is lost but honor, what idea of
honor can he be supposed to entertain, and how
is it possible for him to conceive the amused
contempt with which honorable men listen to
his words?

The adoption of the Amendment is regarded
by the loyal people of the country as essential
to the national security. It is repudiated by
the late rebels as insulting and dishonorable.
If, then, it becomes a point of tenacity, which
party is more likely to yield? There is no-
thing said at the South about rejecting the
Amendment which is comparable in fury to
what was incessantly said and reiterated dur-
ing the war about never surrendering. But
those who said it most stoutly and most sin-
cerely, and those who believed them, have seen
the result. The last ditch was nothing but the
consciousness that further fighting was useless.
And has the war thrown no light upon the
quality of Northern tenacity? Do the elec-
tions leave the Northern determination doubt-
ful? Do the late rebels and their friends still
suppose that the stale threat of staying out for-
ever rather than assent to the Amendment has
any other effect than to fortify impregnably the
resolution of the people?

The editors and orators of the Southern States
forget that it is not the country of fifteen, or
even of six and seven years ago, with which
they have to deal. They forget that those who,
affecting to be their friends and to know North-
ern sentiment, urge them to oppose and reject
the Amendment are utterly scorned by the con-
trolling masses and opinion of the loyal States,
and are wholly powerless to stem the great
flood of popular conviction and purpose. They
should remember that assent is required to the
Amendment not as an arbitrary condition upon
which the unrepresented States may be re-
stored, but as a measure of essential justice
and national welfare. It is a mild and mod-
erate proposition which assumes a certain state
of feeling in the Southern States. If that as-
sumption proves to be mistaken, another policy
will become just as certainly the necessity of
the situation, and it will be just as universally
supported as the present. The paramount right
of the nation is to secure its existence, and it
will do it just as decisively in legislation as it
did in war. It is an incalculable misfortune
for the true interest of our fellow-citizens at
the South that the action of the Government
and the real public opinion of the country are
misinterpreted to them by such intolerable gas-
conade as the speech of Wade Hampton and
the Message of Governor Humphreys.

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