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Governments of Insurrectionary States
February 13, 1867, in Congress

Page One
 

Mr. STEVENS said:

    Mr. SPEAKER: In the present state of my health a few words must suffice for what I have to say at this time.  Besides my physical inability, I feel a moral depression, possibly without sufficient cause, when I see the condition of the great party that is responsible for the doings of this Congress, and to which I belong; to see it, in my judgment, about to destroy itself, to place itself in a condition which ought to destroy it.

    For the last few months Congress has been sitting here, and while the South has been bleeding at every pore, Congress has done nothing to protect the loyal people there, white or black, either in their persons, in their liberty, or in their property. Although we are insensible to it, the whole county is alive to the effect of the supine ness with which this Congress has conducted itself. I of course have no right to reproach anybody. I do not reproach any one. I simply grieve that such is the condition of the country, one which is not realized apparently by the House, and especially that part of it which is responsible to the nation.  We are enjoying ourselves in a tolerable way, those of us who have health and spirits, while the South is covered all over with anarchy and murder and rapine.

    The President has sought to establish what he says will effect the union of these States, if yielded to by Congress. The Congress has declared that the President has usurped powers which do not belong to him; that all he has done is void in the face of the law; and that Congress alone has the power to protect these people and to create governments, and yet we sit by and move no hand, we sit by and raise no voice to effect what we declare to be the duty of Congress. I know not how other gentleman may view it, but so far as I am myself concerned -- I charge none else with it -- I view it as a great dereliction of duty.

    We are asked by gentlemen why we who are upon the joint Committee on Reconstruction have not presented some plan upon which Congress could act.

We have been asked it with some acrimony by the gentleman from Ohio {Mr. SCHENCK} and others on this side of the House; we have been asked it with more propriety by gentleman on the other side.

    Now, it must be remembered that during this session of Congress we have no opportunity of acting until after the holidays, and since that time we have had but little over a month. It must be remembered that when the holidays had passed and Congress had again assembled there was a plan, whether good or bad, presented to this House for consideration, upon which a debate of three weeks took place without any attempt to amend it. And then there was a course of action pursued on the part of a gentleman, {Mr. BINGHAM,} who, it seemed to me, in a most unparliamentary and discourteous manner took charge of that bill when it had been reported, before the author of it had any opportunity to make any motion in regard to it; and with a vigor, an energy, and if I may say so without offense, with a doggedness which would have done great credit to Stonewall Jackson in his palmiest days. Although appealed to, time after time, he refused to allow the bill to be open to amendment. It will be remembered that I asked that the motion to recommit should be withdrawn, to give an opportunity to the House, if they did not like the bill in its then condition, to go on and perfect it. But it was defiantly refused; and inasmuch as this House sustained the refusal I of course have nothing to say. I accept the position, as the rebels do, because it cannot be helped.


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