President Lincoln Works on Arkansas Reconstruction

January 20, 1864

President Lincoln meets with a group of Arkansas leaders regarding military government there.   Lincoln writes to General Frederick Steele, commander of the Arkansas military district, regarding Arkansas’s reconstruction: “Sundry citizens of the State of Arkansas petition me that an election may be held in that State, at which to elect a Governor thereof;

that it be assumed at said election, and thenceforward, that the constitution and laws of the State, as before the rebellion, are in full force, except that the constitution is so modified as to declare that ‘There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in the punishment of crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; but the General Assembly may make such provision for the free-people as shall recognize and declare their permanent freedom, provide for their education, and which may yet be consistent, as a temporary arrangement, with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class’; and also except that all now existing laws in relation to slaves are inoperative and void; that said election be held on the twentyeighth day of March next, at all the usual voting places of the state, or all such as voters may attend for that purpose; that the voters attending at each place, at eight o’clock in the morning of said day, may choose Judges and Clerks of election for that place; that all persons qualified by said constitution and laws, and taking the oath prescribed in the Presidents proclamation of December the 8th. 1863, either before or at the election, and none others, may be voters provided that persons having the qualifications aforesaid, and being in the Volunteer military service of the United States, may vote once whoever this may be at voting places; that each set of Judges and Clerks may make return directly to you, on or before the eleventh day of April next; that ins all other respects said election may be conducted according to said modified constitution, and laws; that, on receipt of said returns, you count said votes, and that, if the number shall reach, or exceed, five thousand four hundred and six, you canvass said votes and ascertain who shall thereby appear to have been elected Governor; and that on the eighteenth day of April next, the person so appearing to have been elected, and appearing before you at Little Rock, to have, by you, administered to him, an oath to support the constitution of the United States and said modified constitution of the State of Arkansas, and actually taking said oath, be by you declared qualified, and be enjoined to immediately enter upon the duties of the office of Governor of said State; and that you thereupon declare the constitution of the State of Arkansas to have been modified and amended as aforesaid, by the action of the people as aforesaid.

Lincoln added that “you will please order an election immediately, and perform the other parts assigned you, with necessary incidentals, all according to the foregoing.”

General Benjamin F. Butler “Butler came often to the White House — ignoring the military chain of command — to talk things over with Lincoln when he wanted something or had something to suggest,” wrote John Waugh.  “ He was there again on January 20 for another long afternoon interview with the president.  Butler was going to be a player in this election year, and Lincoln always took time and care to deal with players.”

Published in: on January 20, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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