Friday, February 23, 2007

President Andrew Johnson, December 3, 1867 message to U.S. House and Senate:

“...I am aware it is assumed that this system of government for the southern States is not to be perpetual. It is true this military government is to be only provisional, but it is through this temporary evil that a greater evil is to be made perpetual. If the guarantees of the Constitution can be broken provisionally to serve a temporary purpose, and in a part only of the country, we can destroy them everywhere and for all time. Arbitrary measures often change, but they generally change for the worse. It is the curse of despotism that it has no halting place. The intermitted exercise of its power brings no sense of security to its subjects, for they can never know what more they will be called to endure when its red right hand is armed to plague them again. Nor is it possible to conjecture how or where power, unrestrained by law, may seek its next victims. The States that are still free may be enslaved at any moment; for if the Constitution does not protect all, it protects none...."

"...This, to the minds of some persons, is so important that a violation of the Constitution is justified as a means of bringing it about. The morality is always false which excuses a wrong because it proposes to accomplish a desirable end. We are not permitted to do evil that good may come. But in this case the cud itself is evil, as well as the means...."

"...A faithful and conscientious magistrate will concede very much to honest error, and something even to perverse malice, before be will endanger the public peace; and he will not adopt forcible measures, or such as might lead to force, as long as those which are peaceable remain open to him or to his constituents It is true that cases may occur in which the Executive would be compelled to stand on its rights, and maintain them, regardless of all consequences. If Congress should pass an act which is not only in palpable conflict with the Constitution, but will certainly, if carried out, produce immediate and irreparable injury to the organic structure of the government, and if there be neither judicial remedy for the wrongs it inflicts, nor power in the people to protect themselves without the official aid of their elected defender; if, for instance, the legislative department should pass an act even through all the forms of law to abolish a co-ordinate department of the government--in such a case the President must take the high responsibilities of his office, and save the life of the nation at all hazards. The so-called reconstruction acts, though as plainly unconstitutional as any that can be imagined, were not believed to be within the class last mentioned. The people were not wholly disarmed of the power of self-defence...."



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