PRESIDENT JOHNSON'S VETO.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.] New York, February 23, 1866. MR. JOHNSON has put in his first blow, and ho has hit hard and drawn blood. - On Monday of this week he returned to the Senate, with his disapproval, the Bill which, originating in that 'body, had passed both Houses, to amend the "Act to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees, and for other purposes." British readers generally know, I suppose, by this time, that a Bill vetoed by the President can be passed over his head, as the phrase is, by a vote of two-thirds in each House. This Bill had originally been passed by a vote of more than three-fourths in each House. That it would become a law was therefore considered by most persons quite certain, and although a veto was looked upon as not improbable, the question generally discussed was how much the President would injure himself by such a step, and whether it would array Congress in open hostility against him. The message when it came was a some- what different document from what was expected—longer, more argumentative, and more radical, not in the party sense of course, but in that of going to the root of the matter. It produced a very profound impression. There was no excitement of course, but it was plainly to be seen in the cars, and omnibuses, and all public places that men were reading this veto message with atten- tion and grave consideration. Those who had not made up their minds were looking into it for guidance, and those who had, to fortify themselves on the one hand, or to find occasion of argu- 'ment on the other. Hardly twenty-four hours had passed when it began to be apparent that Mr. Johnson's opinions upon the
son Thomas, a child two years old, was playing in the room but a Bill would be adopted by a large majority of the people in the
seaboard States at least ; and when on Tuesday the vote was taken in the Senate on the question to " pass the Bill notwith- standing the objections of the President," instead of more than three-fourths voting aye, as before, less than two-thirds did, and the Bill was killed. Upon this there was a general feeling of satisfac- tion, except among the extreme Radicals upon the negro question. I say extreme Radicals, because I myself was surprised to find how many men there were who even before the war were known not only as Republicans, but as Abolitionists, who seemed to think, in the phrase which was often used, that " the President had done about right." And although it is my duty here rather to record and to the best of my ability to explain facts, yet if this veto had been aimed at the personal liberty or the civil rights of the negroes in the late Slave States, or elsewhere,—if, in short, its purpose were to deprive them, in however small a degree, of what the Declaration of Independence calls the inalienable right to " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," I should not pass it by without expressing my condemnation of it. But as the points which it touches are not merely questions of natural right, but of policy, expediency, and constitutional law, grave though they are, and at this time very significant, I leave out of sight as much as possible my individual preferences.
In looking at this veto indeed, which has produced such a pro- found impression that it promises to be the starting-point of a new policy and new political combinations, we see that there is not in it one passage, from beginning to end, that evinces a feeling against the negro. There is no warm sympathy for him, no special advocacy of his cause, it is true, but there is also no indication of any feeling against him. Mr. Johnson says in the beginning, " I have, with Congress, the strongest desire to secure to the freed- men the full enjoyment of their freedom and their property, and their entire independence and equality in making contracts for their labour." Had the contrary been the case, had the President shown as his reason or his motive any the least feeling against the negroes, I think that there would have been not only a two- thirds, but the original three-fourths majority to pass the Bill over his head. Mr. Johnson objects to the Bill (which extends the scope and perpetuates the existence of the existing Freedmen's Bureau) that it is impolitic, that it is unjustifiably expensive, that it is unnecessary, and that it is unconstitutional. Under it " the number of salaried agents, to be employed may be equal to the number of counties or parishes in all the United States where freedmen or refugees are to be found ;" and these agents may call in military force to inflict fine and imprisonment upon a white person who deprives a freedman of any rights or immunities belonging to white persons ; but the Bill " does not define the civil rights and immunities which are thus secured to the freedmen." The expense of supporting this vast number of petty officials, and the certainty with which the commission of such power to such a multitude of agents would "be attended by acts of caprice, injustice, and passion," Mr. Johnson regards as grave objections to the Bill. So he does that it puts the appointment of these officials in the hands of the President, acting through the War Department and the Freed- men's Bureau, and that over the decision of these persons, in- cluding the President himself, there is to be no supervision or control by the Federal Courts. " The power," he says, " that would be thus placed in the hands of the President is such as, in time of peace, certainly ought never to be intrusted to any one man." The proceedings against persons who act in violation of the provisions of the Bill are to be arbitrary and summary—no presentment, no indictment, no trials by jury, no appeal, no writ of error —and the Bill, being without limitation in point of time, would become a part of the permanent legislation of the country. This the President says distinctly is uncon- stitutional, and as upon all such points the Constitutions of the two countries are the same, my readers can judge for them- selves whether Mr. Johnson is right. The plea of a " war power" still to be exercised, he meets by the assertion that " at present there is no part of our country in which the authority of the United States is disputed." Another constitutional objection which the President makes to the Bill is, that it " authorizes a general and unlimited grant of support to the destitute and suffer- ing refugees and freedmen and their wives and children." This, he says, is withmit any semblance of justification, either in pre- cedent or principle ; and he adds that no good reason can be assigned why "a system for the support of indigent persons" " should be founded for one class or colour of our people more than for another." To these objections he adds with much emphasis another—that this Bill was passed while the States
chiefly to be affected were unrepresented in Congress. The original Bill was so passed of necessity, because those States were "in contumacious rebellion," and of course they cannot plead their own wrong ; but now that they are not in rebellion, but have elected representatives to Congress, so long as those repre- sentatives are individually and personally not unfit for seats in either House, no law affecting the States by which they are sent should be passed while they are denied a hearing.
These are the points of a veto message which those who can remember tell me has made a stronger impression upon the
country, than any other that has been sent to Congress since the days when General Jackson killed the United States Bank. Last evening a great meeting was held in New York to sustain the President. Among those who took an active part in this meeting as officers and speakers, I have marked thirteen men known to me personally, and who have for years been anti-slavery men. Two members of Mr. Johnson's Cabinet came from Washington to speak at this meeting, —the Postmaster-General, Mr. Dennison, and the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, who, when the foundations of the Republic were shaken, and many strong men were waver-
ing, and when secession and the frightful war that followed it could have been avoided by dividing the Territories between freedom and slavery, said in the Senate, " I certainly shall never directly or indirectly give my vote to establish or sanction slavery in the common territory of the United States, or anywhere else in the world." The meeting was an immense one, and although political was not in any sense a party meeting. On the contrary, it was singularly solid and respectable for a political meeting in New York, and it sustained President Johnson heartily and with- out qualification. Present indications are that the same support will be given to him throughout the rural districts. The feeling at the bottom of all this seems to be, that when 350,000 lives and thousands of millions of dollars have been spent to stop the spread of slavery, and finally to give liberty to the slaves, it is unreason- able to ask that the orderly progress of Government and the res- toration of prosperity to the country 'should be stayed until further advantagei are conferred upon the negroes. Feelings that may be natural are not always wise, and it remains to be seen whether this is wise. There was a meeting on the same day at Washington, to which the President went and spoke. His tongue did not serve him so well as his pen. His words were undignified ; he spoke harshly of certain Senators, talked about " wasting his shot on dead ducks," and joked about his tailor's trade ; his very position there was undignified. But this a large number of his constituents will forgive.
Last week Mr. Bancroft delivered, by invitation, before both Houses of Congress, an oration in memory of the life and services of Abraham Lincoln. The occasion being one of such purely home interest, and the orator not having brought forward any facts or opinions with which the readers of the Spectator were not familiar, I passed the subject by in my last letter. But it seems that certain members of the Diplomatic Corps present at the oration by invitation, and especially the British and Austrian Ministers, felt themselves offended in their representative charac- ter, if not personally, by certain of Mr. Bancroft's remarks. A part of his oration was devoted to sharp strictures upon the course of the British and French Governments respectively during the late late rebellion in this country, in the course of which he took occasion to criticize British Government and society pretty severely, and called Maximilian " an Austrian adventurer." Consequence, —Sir Frederick Bruce withdraws his acceptance of an invitation to dinner at which Mr. Bancroft was to be the principal guest, and the Austrian Minister makes representations to Mr. Seward. The general opinion upon all this is, and it is very gene- ral and very decided, that the passages which gave offence were in very bad taste under the circumstances, besides being superfluous and inopportune, —that Sir Frederick Bruce did quite right, and that the Austrian Minister was a little foolish. For as to Maximilian, he is an Austrian adventurer, and you can make nothing else of him ; and there are Austrian adventurers small and great, as well as French, British, and Yankee adven- turers. It involves no offence to Austria as a nation to state this truth, especially as Austria is in no way responsible for the Haps- burger's present position. Why should the Austrian Minister make representations? Why should. Robert Shallow, Esq., say that he is wronged ? His complaints remind us of the story (I believe it is indigenous here, and has not reached you) of the boy who, seeing the funeral of a schoolfellow's mother pass, joined it, and walked by the side of his playmate. Soon the circumstances, and perhaps the memory of past kindness received from her whom they were following, overcame the volunteer mourner, who began, to weep. When to him the afflicted youth, " I say, what are you cryin' for ? 'Tain't none o' your funeral." But that it was some of Sir Frederick Bruce's funeral is admitted on all sides, and while I have not heard a single voice of dissent from what Mr. Bancroft said, or of the spirit in which he said it, I have heard no one attempt to defend the propriety of his saying it upon such an occasion, and only one attempt at palliation, which was, that the occasion, being a strictly domestic one, and the Diplomatic Corps being invited merely as they might be in London to any purely domestic ceremony, had no right to expect that their presence would be considered, one way or the other ; that their existence was not to be taken into account by the orator in preparing his oration, any more than that of the various nations which in official intercourse they represent. But the very man who put in this plea confessed that he should not have deemed it a sufficient justification in his own case. The general feeling upon the subject is thus expressed by one of our most widely read weekly papers, in the course of an elaborate review of Mr. Bancroft's oration :— " The argument of Mr. Bancroft on the attitude and behaviour of foreign countries is, like that upon slavery, perfectly impregnable, and so also, in the main, are his criticisms upon men and parties in those countries as in ours. But the bad taste of saying things so offensive to
his invited guests is too obvious to require discussion. The just and well merited censure of England and France, while perhaps out of place in any 'funeral oration,' was certainly out of taste in that presence."
I am tempted to add, from the same long and carefully con- sidered review, the following paragraph, because it expresses a judgment upon the orator's History of the United States which we hear very much oftener than you do ; and which in its tone and, so to speak, its principles (I do not say its decision in this par- ticular instance) represents those who here correspond to what you call the reading public of England :- " Should all the buyers of Bancroft's dust-collecting tomes make honest confession, many we fancy would be found stuck at various points in floundering through ; more to have paused upon the brink,' and not one in ten to have worked out to the other bank. For these success- ful few, however, we have no increased respect (further than that which plucky endurance always inspires), because that massive history is an extremely dull and long-winded book, whose perpetual Icarus flights of eloquence,' though kindly designed to relieve the tedium of the nar- rative, only make it the drearier. Pompons, stilted, prosy, with much
elaboration and little elegance, it is a book that makes one gape But the historian's speech at Washington is much better than his pre- vious books and addresses. And it is not only better than we expected, but is the best perhaps of any of his compositions, being terse, vigor- ous, aggressive, and interesting, and not like the history, frothy, florid, and common-place."