The Great Conspiracy

This, indeed, was a grand outcome for the tireless efforts of the once
defeated Conspirators! And as to Oligarchal rule–the rule of the few
(and those the Southern chiefs) over the many,–was not that already
accomplished? For these old Rebel leaders and oligarchs who had secured
the supreme rule over the Solid South, had also, through their ability
to wield the power of that Solid South within the Union, actually
secured the power of practically governing the entire Union!

That Union, then, which we have been wont to look upon as the grandest,
noblest, freest, greatest Republic upon Earth,–is it really such, in
all respects, at the present? Does the Free Republic of the United
States exist, in fact, to-day?


And what next? Aye, what next? Do the patriotic, innocent-minded
lovers of a Republican form of Government imagine, for an instant, that
all danger to its continued existence and well-being has ceased to
threaten?–that all the crises perilous to that beneficent popular
governmental form have vanished?–that the climacteric came, and went,
with the breaking out, and suppression, of the Rebellion?–and that
there is nothing alarming in the outlook? Quite likely. The public
mind has not yet been aroused to a sense of the actual revolution
against Republican form of government that has already taken place in
many of the Southern States, much less as to the likelihood of things to
come. The people of any one of the Western, or Northern States,–take
New York, for example,–feel prosperous and happy under the beneficent
workings of the Republican Protective-Tariff system. Business, of all
sorts, recovering from the numerous attacks made upon that prime bulwark
of our American industries, if only let alone, will fairly hum, and look
bright, so far as “the Almighty dollar” is concerned. They know they
have their primaries and conventions, in their wards and counties
throughout their State, and their State Conventions, and their
elections. They know that the voice of the majority of their own
people, uttered through the sacred ballot-box, is practically the Vox
Dei–and that all bow to it. They know also, that this State government
of theirs, with all its ramifications–whether as to its Executive, its
Legislative, its Judicial, and other officials, either elective or
appointed–is a Republican form of government, in the American sense–in
the sense contemplated by the Fathers, when they incorporated into the
revered Constitution of our Country the vital words: “The United States
shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of
government.” But they do not realize the vastly different condition of
things in many States of the Solid South, nor how it affects themselves.

And what is this “republican” form of government, thus pledged? It is
true that there are not wanting respectable authorities whose
definitions of the words “republic,” and “republican,” are strongly
inharmonious with their true meaning, as correctly understood by the
great bulk of Americans. Thus, Brande asserts that “A republic may be
either a democracy or an aristocracy!”–and proceeds to say: “In the
former, the supreme power is vested in the whole body of the people, or
in representatives elected by the people; in the latter, it is vested in
a nobility, or a privileged class of comparatively a small number of
persons.” John Adams also wrote: “The customary meanings of the words
republic and commonwealth have been infinite. They have been applied to
every Government under heaven; that of Turkey and that of Spain, as well
as that of Athens and of Rome, of Geneva and San Marino.” But the true
meaning of the word “republican” as applied to a “form of government,”
and as commonly and almost invariably understood by those who, above all
others in the wide World, should best understand and appreciate its
blessings–to wit: the American People has none of the looseness and
indefiniteness which these authorities throw about it.

The prevailing and correct American idea is that “Republican” means: of,
or pertaining to, a Republic; that “Republic” means a thing, affair, or
matter, closely related to, and touching the “public;” and that the
“public” are the “people”–not a small proportion of them, but “the
people at large,” the whole community, the Nation, the commonalty, the
generality. Hence, “a Republican form of government” is, in their
opinion, plainly that form which is most closely identified with, and
representative of, the generality or majority of the people; or, in the
language of Dr. J. E. Worcester, it is “That form of government or of a
State, in which the supreme power is vested in the people, or in
representatives elected by the people.”

It is obvious that there can be no such thing as “a republic,” which is,
at the same time, “an aristocracy;” for the moment that which was “a
republic” becomes “an aristocracy,” that moment it ceases to be “a
republic.” So also can there be no such thing as “a republic” which is
“an oligarchy,” for, as “a republic” is a government of the many, or, as
President Lincoln well termed it, “a government of the people, by the
people, for the people”–so it must cease to be “a republic,” when the
supreme power is in the hands of the oligarchic few.

There can be but two kinds of republics proper–one a democratic
republic, which is impossible for a great and populous Nation like ours,
but which may have answered for some of the small republics of ancient
Greece; the other, a representative republic, such as is boasted by the
United States. And this is the kind palpably meant by the Fathers,
when, for the very purpose of nipping in the bud any anti-republican
Conspiracy likely to germinate from Slavery, they inserted in the Great
Charter of American Liberties the solemn and irrevocable mandate: “The
United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican
Form of Government.” That they meant this majority rule–this
government by the many, instead of the few–this rule of the People, as
against any possible minority rule, by, or through, oligarchs or
aristocrats, is susceptible of proof in other ways.

It is a safe guide, in attempting to correctly expound the Constitution
of the United States, to be careful that the construction insisted on,
is compatible and harmonious with the spirit of that great instrument;
so that–as was said by an eloquent and distinguished Massachusetts
statesman of twenty years ago, in discussing this very point–“the
guarantee of a Republican form of government must have a meaning
congenial with the purposes of the Constitution.” Those purposes, of
course, are expressed in its preamble, or in the body of the instrument,
or in both. The preamble itself, in this case, is sufficient to show
them. It commences with the significant words: “We THE PEOPLE of the
United States”–words, instinct with the very consciousness of the
possession of that supreme power by the People or public, which made
this not only a Nation, but a Republic; and, after stating the purposes
or objects sought by the People in thus instituting this Republic,
proceeds to use that supreme political power vested in them, by
ordaining and establishing “this CONSTITUTION for the United States of
America.” And, from the very first article, down to the last, of that
“Constitution,” or “structure,” or “frame,” or “form” of government,
already self-evidently and self-consciously and avowedly Republican,
that form is fashioned into a distinctively representative Republican

The purposes themselves, as declared in the preamble, for which the
People of the United States thus spake this representative Republic into
being, are also full of light. Those purposes were “to form a more
perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide
for the common defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

How is it possible, for instance, that “the Blessings
of Liberty” are to be secured to “ourselves and our Posterity,” if
citizens of the United States, despite the XVth Amendment of that
Constitution, find-through the machinations of political organizations–
their right to vote, both abridged and denied, in many of the States,
“on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude?” How,
if, in such States, “the right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures,” is habitually violated, despite the IVth Amendment of that
Constitution? How, if, in such States, persons are notoriously and
frequently “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law,” in violation of the Vth Amendment of that Constitution? Yet
such is the state of affairs generally prevalent in many States of the
Solid South.

These provisions in the Constitution were, with others, placed there for
the very purpose of securing “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and
our Posterity,” of promoting the “General Welfare,” of establishing
“Justice,” of insuring “domestic Tranquillity” and making “a more
perfect Union”–and the violation of those provisions, or any one of
them, in any part of our Land, by any part of our People, in any one of
the States, is not only subversive of the Constitution, and
revolutionary, but constitutes a demand, in itself, upon the National
Government, to obey that imperative mandate of the Constitution (Sec. 4,
article IV.) comprehended in the words: “The United States SHALL
guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

[The meaning of these words is correctly given in an opinion of
Justice Bronson of New York (4 Hill’s Reports, 146) in these words:

“The meaning of the section then seems to be, that no member of the
State shall be disfranchised or deprived of any of his rights or
privileges unless the matter shall be adjudged against him upon
trial had according to the course of common law. The words ‘due
process of law’ cannot mean less than a prosecution or suit
instituted and conducted according to the prescribed forms and
solemnities for ascertaining guilt or determining the title to

It is well that the truth should be spoken out, and known of all men.
The blame for this condition of things belongs partly to the Republican
Party. The question is sometimes asked: “If these outrages against
citizenship, against the purity of the ballot, against humanity, against
both the letter and spirit of the Constitution of our Republic, are
perpetrated, why is it that the Republican Party–so long in power
during their alleged perpetration–did not put a stop to them?” The
answer is: that while there are remedial measures, and measures of
prevention, fully warranted by the Constitution–while there are
Constitutional ways and means for the suppression of such outrages–yet,
out of exceeding tenderness of heart, which prompted the hope and belief
that the folly of continuing them must ere long come home to the
Southern mind and conscience, the Republican Party has been loath to put
them in force. The–best remedy of all, and the best manner of
administering it, lies with the people themselves, of those States where
these outrages are perpetrated. Let them stop it. The People of the
United States may be long-suffering, and slow to wrath; but they will
not permit such things to continue forever.

When the Rebellion was quelled, the evil spirit which brought it about
should have been utterly crushed out, and none of the questions involved
in it should have been permitted to be raised again. But the Republican
Party acted from its heart, instead of its head. It was merciful,
forgiving, and magnanimous. In the magnificent sweep of its generosity
to the erring son, it perhaps failed to insure the exact justice to the
other sons which was their right. For, as has already been shown in
these pages, Free-Trade, imbedded in the Rebel Constitution, as well as
Slavery, entered into and became a part, and an essential part, of the
Rebellion against the Union–to triumph with Slavery, if the Rebellion
succeeded–to fall with Slavery, if the Rebellion failed. And, while
Slavery and Free-Trade, were two leading ideas inspiring the Southern
Conspirators and leaders in their Rebellion; Freedom to Man, and
Protection to Labor, were the nobler ideas inspiring those who fought
for the Union.

The Morrill-Tariff of 1860, with modifications to it subsequently made
by its Republican friends, secured to the Nation, through the triumph of
the Union arms, great and manifold blessings and abundant prosperity
flowing from the American Protective policy; while the Emancipation
proclamations, together with the Constitutional amendments, and
Congressional legislation, through the same triumph, and the acceptance
of the legitimate results of the War, gave Freedom to all within the
Nation’s bound aries. This, at least, was the logical outcome of the
failure of the Rebellion. Such was the general understanding, on all
sides, at the conclusion of the War. Yet the Republican Party, in
failing to stigmatize the heresy of Free Trade–which had so large an
agency in bringing about the equally heretical doctrines of State
Sovereignty and the right of Secession, and Rebellion itself,–as an
issue or question settled by the War, as a part and parcel of the
Rebellion, was guilty of a grave fault of omission, some of the ill-
effects of which have already been felt, while others are yet to come.
For, quickly after the War of the Rebellion closed,–as has been already
mentioned–the defeated Rebel leaders, casting in their lot with their
Democratic friends and allies, openly and without special rebuke,
prevailed upon the National Democracy to adopt the Rebel Free-Trade
Shibboleth of “a Tariff for revenue;” and that same Democracy, obtaining
power and place, through violence and fraud and falsehood at the so-
called “elections” in the Solid Southern States, now threatens the
Country once more with iniquitous Free-Trade legislation, and all its
attendant train of commercial disasters and general industrial ruin.

Were Abraham Lincoln able bodily to revisit the United States to-day,
how his keen gray eyes would open in amazement, to find that many
legitimate fruits of our Union victories had been filched from us; that
–save the honorable few, who, accepting the legitimate results of the
War, were still honestly striving for the success of principles
harmonizing with such results, and inuring to the general welfare–they
who strove with all their might to wreck the Government,–were now,–
through the fraudulent and forcible restriction of voters in their right
to vote–at the helm of State; that these, who sought to ruin the
Nation, had thus wrongfully usurped its rule; that Free-Trade–after
“running-a-muck” of panic and disaster, from the birth of the Republic,
to the outbreak of the Rebellion, with whose failure it should naturally
have expired–was now reanimated, and stood, defiantly threatening all
the great industries of our Land; that all his own painstaking efforts,
and those of the band of devoted Patriots who stood by him to free the
Southern Slaves, had mainly resulted in hiding from sight the repulsive
chains of enforced servitude, under the outward garb of Freedom; that
the old Black codes had simply been replaced by enactments adapted to
the new conditions; that the old system of African Slavery had merely
been succeeded by the heartless and galling system of African Peonage;
that the sacrifices made by him–including that of his martyrdom–had,
to a certain extent, been made in vain; that all the sacrifices, the
sorrows, the sufferings, of this Nation, made in blood, in tears, and in
vast expenditures of time and treasure, had, in some degree, and in a
certain sense, been useless; that the Union, to be sure, was saved–but
saved to be measurably perverted from its grand purpose; that the power
which animated Rebellion and which was supposed to have expired in the
“last ditch” with the “Lost Cause” had, by political legerdemain and
jugglery and violence, been regained; that the time had actually come
for Patriots to take back seats, while unrepentant Rebels came to the
front; that the Republic still lived, but only by sufferance, with the
hands of Southern oligarchs about its palpitating throat–a Republic,
not such as he expected, where all men are equal before the law, and
protected in their rights, but where the rights of a certain class are
persistently trampled under foot; that the people of the Northern,
Middle, and Western States, observing nothing beyond their own vicinage,
so to speak, and finding that each of their own States is still
Republican in its form of government, persistently, and perversely, shut
their eyes to the election terrorism practiced in the Solid South by,
which the 16 solid, Southern States were, and are, solidified by these
conspiring oligarchs into one compact, and powerful, political mass,
ever ready to be hurled, in and out of Congress, against the best
interests of the Nation–16 States, not all “Republican” in form, but
many of them Despotisms, in substance,–16 States, misnamed
“Democratic,” many of them ruled not by a majority, but by an Oligarch-
ridden minority–16 States, leagued, banded, bound solidly together, as
one great controlling Oligarchy, to hold, in its merciless and selfish
hands, the balance of power within this Republican Union; and that these
confederated Southern States are now actually able to dictate to all the
other States of the Union, the particular man, or men, to whose rule the
Nation must submit, and the particular policy, or policies, which the
Nation must adopt and follow:

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