PRESIDENT JOHNSON AND THE NEW ORLEANS MASSACRE.
WE have never thought President Johnson a bad man,— only a man of violent and hasty passions, illiterate not only from neglected education, but from that imperious and uacandid temper which prefers to wrench the facts to suit its own views, instead of adapting its own views to the facts, and therefore incapable of perceiving the true issue which is still pending between North and South. Nothing worse than this we impute to him. No one can doubt for a moment that he believes his present blind, mischievous, and ignorant policy to be truly patriotic, nor that, even if he be guilty of a yet greater act of violence than any he has yet committed, and -were actually to break up by force the present incomplete Con- gress on the ground that it will not admit unconditionally the delegates from the lately rebellious States, he would be guilty of this act of insanity, sincerely believing that he was dis- charging his duty to his country and its Constitution. The danger of his present policy lies in its ignorant sincerity. Wilier and falser men no doubt are pulling the strings which govern the President's actions, but he unquestionablybelieves sincerely what Is proclaims so coarsely, that his political opponents, the Repub- licans, are the determined enemies of true national unity. We have just obtained, however, a completer and most instructive
light on the real bias of the President'spassions, and the true drift of that policy which his admirers in this country tell us seriously is the policy most likely to secure justice for the negro, as well as reconciliation between North and South. The official cor- respondence concerning the New Orleans massacre has at length been forced out of the reluctant hands of the President by the universal cry of the public. It was delayed, and what is worse, General Sheridan's report upon it was officially garbled when first published, in order perhaps that it might not cripple the hands of the party of Compromise in the recent Philadelphia Convention. The New York Times, the organ of Mr. Raymond, who is now heart and soul with the President, received, as it says itself, direct from him, a copy of the most important of General Sheridan's despatches, in which the whole of a paragraph censuring in the most unmeasured terms the murderous conduct of the New Orleans municipal police—. " Monroe's Thugs "—and their vile Mayor, Mr. Monroe him- self, as the authors and immediate agents of the massacre, was omitted without notice of the omission. The effect of this was that General Sheridan's blame appeared to fall as much upon the Free-soil party as upon their opponents, while in fact they received but the lightest part of it, and all his horror was re- served for the ex-Secessionist murderers. Now, however, we have the whole story fully before us, and as it is a most con- vincing refutation of the foolish assertion, believed so widely in England by those who study American politics as filtered through the Times alone, that the President's Southern policy is just to all, as well as forgiving and conciliatory to the South, let us tell it in the form in which it is now reluctantly admitted, even by the most unscrupulous advocates of the passionate and ignorant man who wields for the present the whole power of the Executive over the whole area of the great North American continent. On the 28th July, two days before the massacre, Mr. Johnson telegraphed thus to Governor Wells, whom he himself recognizes, we must remember, as the legal Governor of what he regards as a regularly constituted State of the Union :—
" EXECUTTVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, D. C., July 28, 1866. "To His Excellency Gov. WELLS, New Orleans, La.: "I have been advised that you have issued a proclamation convening the Convention elected in 1864. Please inform me under and by what authority this has been done, and by what authority this Convention can assume to represent the whole people of the State of Louisiana.
To this Governor Wells replied, stating that he had not con- vened the Convention, that this had been done by the Presi- dent of the Convention of 1864, and that he himself had only named the day for the elections. On the same day the ex- Secessionists telegraphed to the President that they believed all these preparations for the adjourned Convention illegal, that the party in favour of it were violently hostile to the President, that they themselves wished to move the whole matter before the grand jury in order to determine its legality, but that it would be impossible to "execute civil process" without certainty of a riot, and asked whether the military were to be allowed to interfere. The President telegraphed back that the military would interfere to sup- port the action of the local Court (fiercely anti-freedmen). At the same time General Baird, who was in command in the absence of General Sheridan, telegraphed to the Secretary-at- War (Mr. Stanton) that the Convention, with the sanction of Governor Wells, was to meet on Monday, 30th July, that the city authorities thought it unlawful, and preferred to break it up by arresting the delegates, that he himself had declared it impossible to prejudge the matter in that way or to interfere without some express instructions, which he requested the Secretary-at-War to send. To this Mr. Stanton, who probably wholly differed from the President, does not appear to have replied. In the meantime the President had telegraphed to the most active of the ex-Secessionists, Mr. Andrew J. Herron, the Attorney-General of New Orleans, Louisiana, an order to demand aid from the military to put down the Convention, which he assumed on his own ipse dixit,—perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly,—but against the view of the legal Governor of the State,—to be illegal ;—
"Execunvz MANSION, WASHINGTON, D. C., July 30, 1866. "To ANDREW J. Efsason, Atey. Gen. of New Orleans, La.: "You will call on Gen. Sheridan, or whoever may be in command, for sufficient force to sustain the civil authority in suppressing all illegal or unlawful assemblies who usurp or assume to exercise any power or authority without first having obtained the consent of the people of the
State. If there is to be a Convention, let it be composed of delegates chosen fresh from the people of the whole State."
despatch of the President, received on the very day of the riot, was considered justly enough by the ex-Secessionist party as an order that the military were to take part with them in putting down the Convention, and not to impede them. But they wished for no military aid. They knew too well that the,Federal troops would not permit a massacre. All they wished was to have all military aid withheld, and to be let loose themselves. Accordingly, as General Sheridan tells us in his very graphic despatches, Mayor Monroe's "Thugs,"—the expression is General Sheridan's, not ours,—. that is, police selected specially by the Mayor for their violent and unscrupulous character, some of them, says General Sheridan, being murderers,—followed the procession of the members of the Convention into the Mechanics' Institute, the building where they met, and there began the massacre, firing through the windows upon them. A white flag was then held out from one of the windows, and thereupon the police rushed into the building, and then, in General Sheri- dan's words, "opened an indiscriminate fire upon the audience till they had emptied their revolvers, when they retired, and those inside barricaded the doors. The doors were broken open and the firing again commenced," and those who escaped through doors or windows were fired upon as they came out by the "Thugs," and again by the New Orleans citizens, in the outer circle, as they passed them. "Many of them, wounded and taken prisoners, and others who were prisoners and not wounded, were fired upon by their captors and by citizens." General Sheridan is no friend of the Free-soil Convention. He speaks of the leaders as violent and dangerous men. But he cannot disguise his loathing for Mayor Monroe and those.• municipal authorities to whom President Johnson had tele- graphed that the military were to support them. Hitherto we have quoted from General Sheridan's lengthened. and maturely considered report of 6th August, sent in answer to a series of leading questions by the President, the drift of which was to extort from General Sheridan some extenuation of the conduct of. the police and the Mayor for the horrible massacre of which they were guilty. In his first short, sharp account of it, sent by telegraph on the 2nd of August, General Sheridan said simply, "I1 was no riot, it was an absolute massacre by the police which was not excelled in murderous cruelty by that of Fort Pillow." This was very unpleasant for the President, who had himself positively telegraphed to the real agents, those who pulled the stringsof this bloody affair, that the military ware to support the civilauthmitieenow found guilty of deliberate massacre.. Of course he had.no idea of what would happen. Had the military been on the spot indeed, the massacre would never have taken. place. But Mr. Johnson's New Orleans friends knew this perfectly well, and had taken care to use his.aathority only to prevent the military, from inter- fering on the other side, asserting their complete ability to put_ down the Convention without their aid. But Mr. Johnson, though innocent of course of any intention to instigate this horrible massacre, felt truly enough that it was his emphatic order that the civil authorities should. be supported in putting down the Convention which really ceased it, and accordingly he telegraphed, as we have said, to General Sheridan, a series of leading questions, which could not have said more plainly than they did, "For God's sake find proof that the chief fault in this matter lay with the Convention, and not with the civil authorities whom I supported !" This was his judicial and impartial despatch :— "By U. S. Military Telegraph.
"Exacurms MANSION, WASHINGTON, D. C., August 4, 1866. "To Major- General SHERIDAN, Commanding, 6.e., at New Orleans: "We have been advised here that prior to the assembling of the illegal and extinct Convention elected in 1864-, inflammatory and insurrection- ary speeches were made by a mob of white and coloured persons, urging upon them to arm and equip themselves for the purpose of protecting and sustaining the Convention in its illegal and unauthorized proceedings, Intended and calculated to upturn and supersede the existing State Government of Louisiana, which had been recognized by the Govern- me,ut of the United States. Further did the mob ? Have not various in.dividnals been insnlled and shot by persons, connected with this mob, walkout good cause, and in violation of the public peace and good order ? Was not the mob assembled, and was it armed for the purpose of sustaining the Cenvention in its usnrpa,tion and revolutionary proceedings ? Have any arms been taken from persons since the 30th till, who , were supposed or known to be connected with this mob ? Have not various indittiduals been assaulted and shot by persons connected with this mob, without good cause, and in violation of the public peace and good order ? Was not the assembling of this Convention and the gathering of the mob for its defence and protection a main cause of the riotous and unlawful proceedings of the civil authorities of New Orleans? Have steps been taken by the civil authorities to arrest and try any and' all. those who were engaged in this riot, and those who have cam- 'ratted offences, in violation of law? Can ample justioe be meted by the civil authorities to all offenders against the law? Will General Sheridan please fnrnish me a brief reply to above inquiries, with such other information as he may be in possession of ? Please answer by telegraph at your earliest convenience.
" A27DNEW JOHNSON, President of the United States."
There is something quite piteous in this despatch. It is- impossible to ask more pathetically for a justifieation of con- duct which had been wholly and fearfully wrong. General Sheridan could not reply as Mr. Johnson wished. The whole account of the massacre from which. we have quoted was given by him in answer to this letter. In effect the answer was,. "The civil authorities whom you ordered the military not to oppose, but to support, were a set of murderers," and General Sheridan added that the judges of New Orleans could not be in the least trusted to investigate the murders. One of the-. principal judges, he said, was one of the most dangerous- characters in the city.
But the, worst of the President's conduck—that part of it. which seems to us criminal in the highest degree,—is yet -to- come. After failing to extract from General Sheridan any- judgment but the most emphatic, the most horror-struck con- demnation of his proteges, after learning that he had, un- consciously no doubt, but still in the blindness of his wilful. trust in the ex-Secessionist party, been abetting murderers of the worst dye, he yet wilfully pursued the same policy, and_ reinstated this Mayor Monroe, the chief cause of all these, crimes, in his civil authority as Mayor of New Orleans. The- President's organ, the New York Times, admits that the evi- dence taken before the Commission showed a preconcerted. plot to massacre. "Several policemen," it says, "had reversed the bands on their hats in such a manner that the numbers-- could not be seen." "The Commission," it adds, "will:' probably be of opinion. that the affair was a preconcerted movement, as the evidence shows that it was talked -of by/ the citizens for days previous to its occurrence. It will be the opinion of the Commission that if the troops.. had not arrived just when -they did, the riot would have- progressed to the extermination, of all the Unionists_ and k the freedmen in the City." • And the very, paper. which.. admits this, supports President Johnson enthusiastically in throwing Louisiana and all the Southern. States into the full_ power of the men who plot these things. To illustrate only the spirit in -which- this massacre has- been received elsewhere -in the South,. we may cite the fol- lowing horrible sentence from an Alabama paper,. the Mobile-- Tribune, with regard to the New Orleank massacre. One of-- the victims massacred the other. day -at New Orleans was Dr, Dostie, a Unionist who heartily supported 'General Butler-. throughout his government of New. Orleans,.and on whose'- loyalty and ability the General has just pronounced a warm - panegyric. Of-this man the Mobile Tribune said, with an insane.' brutality that sounds more-like the spirit of a ghoul than of a. human being, "Let Dostie's skin be forthwith-stripped from_ his body, stuffed, and sold to Barnum—the proceeds to go to- the Freedmen's Bureau and negro newspapers, to be used by-. them for the benefit of negroes who have no taste for work., Dostie's body will make good soap. Let him be boiled down, preparatory to being distributed in bars to Yankee'school morns.' Delicious will be the kisses sipped by those angular females from ebony cheeks, late lathered with sweet-scented Dostie." That is the very delirium of devilish fury. Yet in spite of all, Mr. Johnson rabidly sustains the very party' by whose instrumentality all this blood has been shed and. all this foaming hatred is poured forth. It is a curious com- ment on the President's policy in Louisiana that at Memphis-, the meeting to support the PhiladelphiaConvention and the Pre-. sident took for two, of its Vice-Presidents General Forrest, the: butcher of Fort Pillow, and Recorder Creighton, who shouted_ to the Memphis mob "to kill every damned nigger." No, . wonder that when the President first supports-the conspirators..
of New Orleans, and afterwards allows the chief murderer and, leader of the " Thugs" to be reinstated in his civil authority there, the murderers who had, the excuse of war for their massacre. should. feel themselves absolved, by him from their guilt and shout in his favour, while they plot tha destruction of their Radical rivals in Tennessee. The President is simply blind and mad in his party zeal. ibis sowing the win d.and will reap the whirlwind. He is trying to conciliate men whom. he should crash, and to crush the men whom he should con-., ciliate. If he is not beaten, as. lie will be,. by the shrewd Northern Radicals, he will be forced into-soreething like the, lead of a new secession.