The Civil War News & Views Open Discussion Forum

Mark Twain on Reconstruction

"...A decision rendered by the Supreme Court, rendered some time ago, seemed plainly to indicate that five of the Judges considered the Reconstruction Acts unconstitutional against three who believed the opposite. The famous McCardle case threatens to bring the constitutionality of those Acts to a test before the Court right away, and Congress to-day proposes to do what it can to circumvent the disaffected five,by passing a bill ordaining that the concurrence of six of the Judges shall be necessary to constitute a decision in all cases involving constitutional questions. But unhappily Congress did not make the Supreme Court, and doubtless it will transpire that it has about as much jurisdiction over its affairs as it has over the weather. The Court makes its own rules, and is entirely independent of Congress. Its custom is to decide by a majority vote, and if it chooses, will no doubt continue to do so. If McCardle gains his case, Negro suffrage and the Reconstruction Acts will be dissipated into thin air for the present. No wonder Congress is troubled. It fears that if it can't fix things so as to enable three Judges to out vote five, it will have to go to work and build that Reconstruction House all over again, from cellar to roof. Isn't it a splendid sensation? The principal Republican papers are growling savagely at Congress for getting itself into this scrape by its innocent stupidity.

Republicans, both in an outside claim that though the Reconstruction Acts and the proposed bill to prescribe rules for the Judges are a little unconstitutional, they are necessities - the state of the country demands them; that if the rebels were admitted to power they would hang Union men upon any and every pretext, or upon none at all; that to admit them to power, unreconstructed and unrestrained, would be to acknowledge that the war for the Union was an iniquity, a crime. General Sheridan says he is interested in this business; if the war was wrong, he thinks he is a particularly bad murderer. I suppose he had a chance to be; he was in eighty-four battles, and had a hand in a good deal of killing. He says if he was in the right, he would like it if Congress would go ahead and so decide it; if he was in the wrong, and was only a murderer, he would like to know that, also. He is satisfied of one thing - that he cannot live under rebel rule; and thinks, from at least a military point of view, that the rebel conquered have no right to dictate to the victors - no right to say under what terms they will come in. Congressmen say that everything that stands in the way must go to the wall - if the Supreme Court obstructs the regeneration of rebeldom, it must go, too. This would be good enough reasoning, possibly, but for one thing: the President will veto the bill making rules for the Judges, and it can hardly be passed over his veto. And even if it were, the Court would simply annul it, and then, no doubt, go on and annul the Reconstruction Acts by the liberation of McCardle. A telegraphic report to-day says that General Meade has suspended the Governor and Treasurer of Georgia from office, and this has created great rejoicing among Republicans here. So the political cauldron boils. Let her boil....MARK TWAIN, Territorial Enterprise, February 18, 1868"

David Upton

Messages In This Thread

Mark Twain on Reconstruction
Re: Mark Twain on Reconstruction