The Great Conspiracy

But while, for a moment, perhaps, there flitted across the public mind a
half suspicion of the possibility of what this Rebel intimated as true,
yet another moment saw it dissipated. For the People remembered that
between “Andrew Johnson,” one of the “poor white trash” of Tennessee,
and the “aristocratic Slave-owners” of the South, who headed the
Rebellion, there could be neither sympathy nor cooperation–nothing, but
hatred; and that this same Andrew Johnson, who, by power of an
indomitable will, self-education, and natural ability, had, despite the
efforts of that “aristocracy,” forced himself upward, step by step, from
the tailor’s bench, to the successful honors of alderman and Mayor, and
then still upward through both branches of his State Legislature, into
the House of Representatives and the Senate of the United States–and,
in the latter Body, had so gallantly met, and worsted in debate, the
chosen representatives of that class upon whose treasonable heads he
poured forth in invective, the gathered hatred of a life-time–would
probably be the very last man whom these same “aristocratic”
Conspirators, “Rebels, and Traitors,” would prefer as arbiter of their

The popular feeling responded heartily, at this time, to the
denunciations which, in his righteous indignation, he had, in the
Senate, and since, heaped upon Rebellion, and especially his declaration
that “Treason must be made odious!”–utterances now substantially
reiterated by him more vehemently than ever, and multiplied in posters
and transparencies and newspapers all over the Land. Thus the public
mind rapidly grew to believe it impossible that the Rebel leaders could
gain, by the substitution, in the Executive chair, of this harsh,
determined, despotic nature, for the mild, kindly, merciful, even-
tempered, Abraham Lincoln. With Andrew Johnson for President, the
People felt that justice would fall upon the heads of the guilty, and
that the Country was safe. And so it happened that, while the mere
instruments of the assassination conspiracy were hurried to an
ignominious death, in the lull that followed, Jefferson Davis and others
of the Rebel chiefs, who had been captured and imprisoned, were allowed
to go “Scott-free, without even the semblance of a trial for their

It is not the purpose of this work to deal with the history of the
Reconstruction or rehabilitation of the Rebel States; to look too
closely into the devious ways and subtle methods through and by which
the Rebel leaders succeeded in flattering the vanity, and worming
themselves into the confidence and control, of Andrew Johnson–by
pretending to believe that his occupation of the Presidential Office had
now, at last, brought him to their “aristocratic” altitude, and to a
hearty recognition by them of his “social equality;” or to follow,
either in or out of Congress, the great political conflict, between
their unsuspecting Presidential dupe and the Congress, which led to the
impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, for high crimes and
misdemeanors in office, his narrow escape from conviction and
deposition, and to much consequent excitement and turmoil among the
People, which, but for wise counsels and prudent forethought of the
Republican leaders, in both Civil and Military life, might have
eventuated in the outbreak of serious civil commotions. Suffice it to
say, that in due time; long after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution had been ratified by three-fourths of all the
States; after Johnson had vexed the White House, with his noisy
presence, for the nearly four years succeeding the death of the great
and good Lincoln; and after the People, with almost unexampled
unanimity, had called their great Military hero, Grant, to the helm of
State; the difficult and perplexing problems involved in the
Reconstruction of the Union were, at last, successfully solved by the
Republican Party, and every State that had been in armed Rebellion
against that Union, was not only back again, with a Loyal State
Constitution, but was represented in both branches of Congress, and in
other Departments of the National Government.

And now, the War having ended in the defeat, conquest, and capture, of
those who, inspired by the false teachings of Southern leaders, had
arrayed themselves in arms beneath the standard of Rebellion, and fought
for Sectional Independence against National Union, for Slavery against
Freedom, and for Free Trade against a benignant Tariff protective alike
to manufacturer, mechanic, and laborer, it might naturally be supposed
that, with the collapse of this Rebellion, all the issues which made up
“the Cause”–the “Lost Cause,” as those leaders well termed it–would be
lost with it, and disappear from political sight; that we would never
again hear of a Section of the Nation, and last of all the Southern
Section, organized, banded together, solidified in the line of its own
Sectional ideas as against the National ideas prevailing elsewhere
through the Union; that Free Trade, conscious of the ruin and desolation
which it had often wrought, and of the awful sacrifices, in blood and
treasure, that had been made in its behalf by the conquered South, would
slink from sight and hide its famine-breeding front forever; and that
Slavery, in all its various disguises, was banished, never more to
obtrude its hateful form upon our Liberty-loving Land. That was indeed
the supposition and belief which everywhere pervaded the Nation, when
Rebellion was conquered by the legions of the Union–and which
especially pervaded the South. Never were Rebels more thoroughly
exhausted and sick of Rebellion and of everything that led to it, than
these. As Badeau said, they made haste “to yield everything they had
fought for,” and “dreamed not of political power.” They had been
brought to their knees, suing for forgiveness, and thankful that their
forfeit lives were spared.

For awhile, with chastened spirit, the reconstructed South seemed to
reconcile itself in good faith to the legitimate results of the War, and
all went well. But Time and Peace soon obliterate the lessons and the
memories of War. And it was not very long after the Rebellion had
ceased, and the old issues upon which it was fought had disappeared from
the arena of National politics, when its old leaders and their
successors began slowly, carefully, and systematically, to relay the
tumbled-down, ruined foundations and walls of the Lost Cause–a work in
which, unfortunately, they were too well aided by the mistaken clemency
and magnanimity of the Republican Party, in hastily removing the
political disabilities of those leaders.

Before proceeding farther, it is necessary to remark here, that, after
the suppression of the Rebellion and adoption of the Thirteenth
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which prohibits
Slavery and Involuntary Servitude within the United States, it soon
became apparent that it was necessary to the protection of the Freedmen,
in the civil and political rights and privileges which it was considered
desirable to secure to them, as well as to the creation and fostering of
a wholesome loyal sentiment in, and real reconstruction of, the States
then lately insurgent, and for certain other reasons, that other
safeguards, in the shape of further Amendments to the Constitution,
should be adopted.

Accordingly the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were, on the 16th of
June, 1866, and 27th of February, 1869, respectively, proposed by
Congress to the Legislatures of the several States, and were declared
duly ratified, and a part of the Constitution, respectively on the 28th
of July, 1868, and March 30, 1870. Those Amendments were in these

“SECTION 1.–All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and
subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States
and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce
any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of
the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life,
liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

“SECTION 2.–Representatives shall be apportioned among the several
States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number
of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the
right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President
and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress,
the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the
Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such
State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States,
or in any way abridged, except for participation in Rebellion, or other
crime, the basis of Representation therein shall be reduced in the
proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the
whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

“SECTION 3.–No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress,
or Elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or
military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having
previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of
the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an
executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution
of the United States, shall have engaged in Insurrection or Rebellion
against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But
Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such

“SECTION 4.–The validity of the public debt of the United States,
authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and
bounties for services in suppressing Insurrection or Rebellion, shall
not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall
assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of Insurrection or
Rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or
Emancipation of any Slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims
shall be held illegal and void.

“SECTION 5.–The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate
legislation, the provisions of this article.”

“SECTION 1.–The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall
not be denied or abridged by, the United States or by any State on
account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

“SECTION 2.–The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by
appropriate legislation.”
It would seem, then, from the provisions of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth,
and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, and the Congressional
legislation subsequently enacted for the purpose of enforcing them, that
not only the absolute personal Freedom of every man, woman, and child in
the United States was thus irrevocably decreed; that United States
citizenship was clearly defined; that the life, liberty, property,
privileges and immunities of all were secured by throwing around them
the “equal protection of the laws;” that the right of the United States
citizen to vote, was placed beyond denial or abridgment, on “account of
race, color, or previous condition of servitude;” but, to make this more
certain, the basis of Congressional Representative-apportionment was
changed from its former mixed relation, comprehending both persons and
“property,” so-called, to one of personal numbers–the Black man now
counting quite as much as the White man, instead of only three-fifths as
much; and it was decreed, that, except for crime, any denial to United
States citizens, whether Black or White, of the right to vote at any
election of Presidential electors, Congressional Representatives, State
Governors, Judges, or Legislative members, “shall” work a reduction,
proportioned to the extent of such denial, in the Congressional
Representation of the State, or States, guilty of it. As a further
safeguard, in the process of reconstruction, none of the insurgent
States were rehabilitated in the Union except upon acceptance of those
three Amendments as an integral part of the United States Constitution,
to be binding upon it; and it was this Constitution as it is, and not
the Constitution as it was, that all the Representatives, in both Houses
of Congress, from those insurgent States–as well as all their State
officers–swore to obey as the supreme law of the Land, when taking
their respective oaths of office.

Biding their time, and pretending to act in good faith, as the years
rolled by, the distrust and suspicion with which the old Rebel-
conspirators had naturally been regarded, gradually lessened in the
public mind. With a glad heart, the Congress, year after year, removed
the political disabilities from class after class of those who had
incurred them, until at last all, so desiring, had been reinstated in
the full privileges of citizenship, save the very few unrepentant
instigators and leaders of the Rebellion, who, in the depths of that
oblivion to which they seemingly had been consigned, continued to nurse
the bitterness of their downfall into an implacable hatred of that
Republic which had paralyzed the bloody hands of Rebellion, and
shattered all their ambitious dreams of Oligarchic rule, if not of

But, while the chieftains of the great Conspiracy–and of the armed
Rebellion itself–remained at their homes unpunished, through the
clemency of the American People; the active and malignant minds of some
of them were plotting a future triumph for the “Lost Cause,” in the
overthrow, in consecutive detail, of the Loyal governments of the
Southern States, by any and all means which might be by them considered
most desirable, judicious, expedient, and effectual; the solidifying of
these Southern States into a new Confederation, or league, in fact–with
an unwritten but well understood Constitution of its own–to be known
under the apparently harmless title of the “Solid South,” whose mission
it would be to build up, and strengthen, and populate, and enrich itself
within the Union, for a time, greater or less, according to
circumstances, and in the meanwhile to work up, with untiring devotion
and energy, not only to this practical autonomy and Sectional
Independence within the Union, but also to a practical re-enslavement of
the Blacks, and to the vigorous reassertion and triumph, by the aid of
British gold, of those pernicious doctrines of Free-Trade which, while
beneficial to the Cotton-lords of the South, would again check and drag
down the robust expansion of manufactures and commerce in all other
parts of the Land, and destroy the glorious prosperity of farmers,
mechanics, and laborers, while at the same time crippling Capital, in
the North and West.

In order to accomplish these results–after whatever of suspicion and
distrust that might have still remained in Northern minds had been
removed by the public declaration in 1874, by one of the ablest and most
persuasively eloquent of Southern statesmen, that “The South–prostrate,
exhausted, drained of her life-blood as well as of her material
resources, yet still honorable and true–accepts the bitter award of the
bloody arbitrament without reservation, resolutely determined to abide
the result with chivalrous fidelity”–these old Rebel leaders commenced
in good earnest to carry out their well organized programme, which they
had already experimentally tested, to their own satisfaction, in certain

The plan was this: By the use of shot-guns and rifles, and cavalcades of
armed white Democrats, in red shirts, riding around the country at dead
of night, whipping prominent Republican Whites and Negroes to death, or
shooting or hanging them if thought advisable, such terror would fall
upon the colored Republican voters that they would keep away from the
polls, and consequently the white Democrats, undeterred by such
influences, and on the contrary, eager to take advantage of them, would
poll not only a full vote, but a majority vote, on all questions,
whether involving the mere election of Democratic officials, or
otherwise; and where intimidation of this, or any other kind, should
fail, then a resort to be had to whatever devices might be found
necessary to make a fraudulent count and return, and thus secure
Democratic triumph; and furthermore, when evidences of these
intimidations and frauds should be presented to those people of the
Union who believe in every citizen of this free Republic having one free
vote, and that vote fairly counted, then to laugh the complainants out
of Court with the cry that such stories are not true; are “campaign
lies” devised solely for political effect; and are merely the product of
Republican “outrage mills,” ground out, to order.

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