Wade-Davis Manifesto Released

August 4, 1864

In response to President Lincoln’s veto of their reconstruction legislation, Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio and Representative Henry Winter Davis of Maryland issued a manifesto “To the Supporters of the Government” that stated:

The President, by preventing this bill from becoming a law, hold the electoral votes of the rebel States at the dictation of his personal ambition. If those votes turn the balance in his favor, is it to be supposed that his competitor, defeated by such means, will acquiesce? If the rebel majority assert their supremacy in those States, and send votes which elect as enemy of the government, will we not repel his claims? And is not that civil war for the presidency inaugurated by the votes of rebel States? Seriously impressed with these dangers, Congress, ‘the proper constitutional authority,’ formally declared that there are no State governments in the rebel States, and provided for their erection at a proper time; and both the Senate and House of Representatives rejected the Senators and Representatives chosen under the authority of what the President calls the free constitution and government of Arkansas. The President’s proclamation ‘holds for naught’ this judgment and discards the authority of the Supreme Court and strides headlong toward the anarchy his proclamation of the 8th of December inaugurated. If electors for President be allowed to be chosen in either of those States, a sinister light will be cast on the motives which induced the President to ‘hold for naught the will of Congress rather than his governments in Louisiana and Arkansas. That judgment of Congress which the President defies was the exercise of an authority exclusively vested in Congress by the constitution to determine who is the established government in a State, and in its own nature and by the highest of judicial authority binding on all other departments of the government…A more studied outrage on the legislative authority of the people has never been perpetrated. Congress passed a bill; the President refused to approve it, and then by proclamation puts as much of it in form as he sees fit, and proposes to execute those parts by officers unknown to the laws of the United States and not subject to the confirmation of the Senate. The bill directed the appointment of provisional governors by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The President, after defeating such a law proposes to appoint without law, and without the advice and consent of the Senate, military governors for the rebel States! He has already exercised the dictatorial usurpation in Louisiana, and he defeated the bill to prevent its limitation…

The President has greatly presumed on the forbearance which the supporters of his administration have so long practiced, in view of the arduous conflict in which we are engaged, and the reckless ferocity of our political opponents. But he must understand that our support is of a cause and not of a man; that the authority of Congress is paramount and must be respected and that the whole body of the Union men of Congress will not submit to him. Impeached by him of rash and unconstitutional legislation; and if he wished our support, he must confine himself to his executive duties – to obey and execute, not make the laws – to suppress by arms armed rebellion, and leave political reorganization to Congress.

If the supporters of the government fail to insist on this, they become responsible for the usurpations which they fail to rebuke, and are justly liable to the indignation of the people, whose rights and security, committed to their keeping, they sacrifice. Let them consider the remedy for these usurpations, and having found it, fearlessly execute it!

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary about civil-military affairs in Virginia: “The President knows as well as I do, that Genl. Butler’s proceedings to overthrow the Civil Law at Norfolk, and establish his own despotism in its stead, is unlawful and wrong, and without even a pretence of military necessity, and yet, he will not revoke the usurping orders, for fear Genl butler will ‘raise a hubbub about it.’ Alas! That I should live to see such abject fear -such small stolid indifference to duty – such open contempt of constitution and law – and such profound ignorance of policy and prudence!

My heart is sick, when I see the President shrink from the correction of gross and heinous wrong because he is afraid ‘genl butler will raise a hubbub about it.’

General Ulysses S. Grant wires President Lincoln from City Point, Virginia: “I will start in two hours for Washington & will spend a day with the Army under Genl Hunter.”

As part of the continuing conflict between civil and military authorities in Norfolk, Virginia, Governor Francis H. Peirpoint: “I learn through the Papers and otherwise that Genl Butler has arrested Judge E K Snead of Norfolk Va for attempting to hold his court under the laws of the State of Virginia in that city & has him now in confinement I respectfully ask his immediate release. Please inform me of your action in the case.”

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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