James O. Broadhead Protests Radical Reconstruction
August 22, 1866

In 1866, James O. Broadhead signed this appeal "to the soldiers and sailors" who served in the Union military, denouncing Radical Reconstruction and calling for reconciliation with former Confederates.

To the Soldiers and Sailors Who Served in the Army and Navy of the United States During the Late Rebellion

In pursuance of a resolution of a meeting of soldiers now, or lately, in the Union army, held in this city last evening, we invite those of you who approve the restoration policy of the President and the principles announced by the National Union Convention at Philadelphia, to assemble at Cleveland on the 17th day of September next, for the consultation on the momentous issues now convulsing our country.

We need not argue to you at length the importance of these issues, nor your duty to take part in their settlement. After five years of fierce and destructive war, in which our arms were gloriously triumphant, the Union for which we fought is still practically unrestored. Why is this? We struggled to maintain the rightful supremacy of the General Government—to conquer all who, in arms, disputed its authority—and to make every rebellious citizen yield to its laws. We held throughout the war that the Union is indissoluble, and its powers, as expounded by its courts, supreme; that no State can, of its own motion, withdraw, or, at the will of its sister States, be excluded; and that the duty of each State to maintain the Union, and its right to take part in the Government, are alike absolute. Every object of the war ever recognized by or known to the army and navy has been thoroughly achieved. The Southern people, decimated, impoverished, and subdued, have, for more than a year past, abandoned the rebellion, and now only ask that the Union for which we fought may be recognized as existing, and that they may be dealt with as the Constitution and laws prescribe.

In their anxiety to restore the Union and bring harmony to its councils, they have gone beyond a mere silent submission to its laws. Through their delegates at the National Union Convention, they solemnly renounced the doctrines of nullification and secession, from which the war arose—repudiated the rebel debt, and declared of sacred obligation the national debt—proclaimed the faith of the nation pledged to the continuance of bounties and pensions to loyal soldiers and sailors and their families—declared slavery forever abolished, and freedmen entitled to equal protection of law, in persons and property, with their former masters. Their platform is not only one of emphatic loyalty, but it is moreover most liberal in spirit on all the great issues growing out of the war.

The character of the men who represented the Southern States in that Convention preclude us from believing this enunciation of principles to be insincere. They sent to it their foremost statesmen—men who, like Rives, Graham, Orr, Parsons, Sharkey, Houston, Brockenborough, Hunt, Manning, and Stephens, were known throughout the land before the war as men of the highest character and influence. Among the five hundred delegates from the South, there was not a voice or vote dissenting from the resolutions adopted by the Convention. If the best of the Southern people are ever to be believed, we must accept these solemn declarations as sincere. We do accept them as conclusive evidence that a great majority of the Southern people—sick of war and anarchy, and longing for a restoration of free government—are ready to bear true allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the Union.

We are, therefore, unwilling to see the Southern people held longer in vassalage. They are our countrymen—citizens of the United States—who have incurred penalties, but who have rights. Those who wilfully participated in the rebellion and are unpardoned are subject to the penalties prescribed for treason. But, though individuals may be tried, convicted, and punished, communities cannot; nor can the States and their people, without a plain violation of the Constitution, be denied the right of representation, through men personally qualified, in the councils of the nation.

The intention of Congress seems to be to deprive them of representation just so long as it suits the purposes of the Radical party. Many assert that it will concede the right whenever the constitutional amendment shall have been adopted and each proscribed State shall have ratified it. But is quite certain that the amendment will not be ratified by three-fourths of the States, and therefore that it will not be adopted. Some—perhaps many—of the Northern States will reject it, and we cannot expect its legal ratification by any of the lately insurrectionary States. If there were no other reason why the Southern States will reject, it is enough that it proposes to disfranchise nearly all the men in the South who have influence over the masses of the people. If none were to be disfranchised except officers of the rebel army, we still could not expect the South to adopt it, for a large majority of the men in the late insurrectionary States, through compulsion or choice, served in the rebel armies, and their votes alone would overwhelmingly defeat it. Would Union soldiers, to recover political privileges, disfranchise their leaders, whom they love and revere for their heroic virtues? How, then, can we expect Southern soldiers to disfranchise and degrade their old commanders?

As there is no probability that the amendment will be ratified by three-fourths of the States, the plan of restoration which Congress appears to have determined on is at best impracticable. That proposed by the President, and approved by the National Union Convention, is feasible, and we believe safe. We have no fear that the South can ever overthrow the Federal Government, or even disturb its career of power and glory. They will be the last of the States to rebel; and if they shall again rise in insurrection, the loyal people can and will subdue and, if need be, destroy them. The Government has asserted its power for self preservation; and the devastation and misery of the South proclaim, to this generation at least, the crime and the terrible penalties of treason. Beholding their woes, and contrasting their weakness and our strength, we could afford to show the confidence and courage of magnanimity. We might well let our vanquished opponents arise, and, like James Fitz-James at Coilantogle Ford, staunch their wounds and forgive their treason. But we are not asked to be magnanimous, but only consistent and just. This we cannot refuse to be, without a violation of the Constitution of our country and a risk of its utter overthrow.

We seek, and will have, no association in political action with men, North or South, who are not avowedly, and, in our opinion, sincerely faithful to the constitutional principles for which we fought. But if men who have taught or practiced treason now openly renounce their errors, and maintain with us the true principles of our Government, we shall not reject their cooperation. When the restoration of the Union and the preservation of our form of government are in issue—however much we regret to sever cherished political associations and to cooperate with former enemies—we must prefer to act with those who have been wrong and are now right, rather than those who were right and now are wrong.

Believing that our Government is again in peril, we appeal to you who have fought to save it, and who hold it dearer and more sacred than all party ties, to come to the rescue. Let the soldiers and sailors agreeing with us in sentiment, but who cannot in person attend, send delegates through the action of their societies, or of local conventions. Let us meet in force at Cleveland on the 17th of September—the anniversary of the day when the Constitution was proclaimed by our forefathers—and let us aid in restoring the Union it created, and the liberties it was ordained to secure.


The National Intelligencer, August 22, 1866