Letter #32 – APRIL 6, 1871  


TJ makes the case that surviving rebel leaders should not be granted Amnesty until "they begin to show signs of repentance; when they learn to appreciate the motives of a Government to whose magnanimity they are indebted for immunity from the traitor's death; in short, when they become loyal to the government of the United States - then, and not until then, should these men be reinstated to their former rights, [Until then] It is short-sighted policy which would grant new powers to men who are rebels at heart, devils by nature, and murderers by practice."

Thomas Jackson versus Horace Greeley.

In Tuesday's New York Tribune appears a communication from our staunch Republican friend and townsman Thomas Jackson Esq which is headed, " A case for the exercise of patience." It's vigorously expressed though unpalatable statements, evoked extended comments from the Tribune, in which Mr. Greeley renews, with some show of ill humor, his advocacy of General Amnesty for the unrepentant rebels of the South. In the latter half of his communication, Mr. Jackson says, with a good deal of truth and force,

"The Tribune says that the Southern ex-rebels have murdered five or ten thousand of our innocent friends since the Rebellion was crushed and not one of the murderers has been punished for his crime. Is it reasonable that we should grant full amnesty to those daring villains, take them back to citizenship with all this guilt and blood upon them, and restore all the rights and franchises they have forfeited by their crimes, lest they should murder many thousands more of our unoffending fellow-citizens, because a Republican Government is too weak , too cowardly or too corrupt to protect its people and punish criminals?

That may have been many believers in ?? a doctrine at Algiers, and along the coast of Barbary, a hundred years ago. It may be believed in by Greek brigands and the American democracy now; but I hope such is not the sentiment of the loyal and intelligent Americans of the present day.

Pass a full Amnesty bill and the cowardly assassin Yerger who murdered a meritorious United States officer on the public street at noonday may come to Washington as a member of Congress and thank Chief Justice Chase, President Grant and the politicians for his escape from the gallows that he most justly merited. The Emperor of Russia willingly and peacefully freed five times as many slaves as war compelled us to emancipate, and forced their former owners to sell them to sell them on long credit at fair price that they might have their own homesteads and he protects them from wrong. American democracy, now it thinks the danger is over, is willing to see all our Freedmen re-enslaved or exterminated. Such is the difference between Russian despotism and American democracy.

(page 2)

To which the Tribune responds by saying, "our correspondent labors under evident confusion of mind in regards to the facts which he would state if he clearly understood them" and then artfully continues his answer in the following language:

We entirely agree with our correspondent that the Ku-Klux outrages at the South afford no reason whatsoever - none in the world - for Universal Amnesty. On the contrary they presented very formidable obstacle to the granting of such Amnesty. We were for Amnesty long before they were heard of , and shall be to the end - not because of those outrages, but in spite of them. But we agree also with both senators from South Carolina and the majority of the Republicans in Congress from the South that that the persistent exclusion from office of the most eminent Southerners is because of their part in the Rebellion, has a mischievous, disturbing, irritating tendency, and that a General Amnesty for offenses now more than five years bygone would deprive the Ku-Klux of a most potent means of fomenting disaffection and inciting outrage. The existing proscription, while it does no good, is made the pretext and excuse for a great deal of harm.

We have favored no Amnesty whatever for crimes committed sins the surrender and parole of the Rebel armies. No one has proposed any. When, therefore Mr. Jackson asserts that Amnesty would In any way profit the murderer of Col. Crane "on the public streets at noon day, he simply betrays his lamentable ignorance of the matter he discusses. We regard it as a great public misfortune and the perpetrators of such crimes during peace are enabled to confound their homicides with those committed in the prosecution of Civil War.

Mr. Jackson ought to know that his notions have always been current "at Algiers "and along the coast of Barbary" All rude and cruel tribes have gloried in them. Our ideas are relatively modern, and are confined to people at least as civilized as himself.

"We close with a general proposal: If we are ever to see the violence and outrage now rife in the South, repressed and punished, we must overlook and grant oblivion to the offenses committed in a civil war which ceased nearly six years ago.

(page 3)

The situation in the South is dismal and gloomy in the extreme, partaking much of the character of that barbarism which existed during the dark days of slavery. It fitly recalls the era of bowie knives, thumbscrews, whipping-posts, the inhuman severance forever of family ties upon the auction block, and the unholy contamination by elicit intercourse of master and slave. In diabolism, it overshadows the gross inhumanities of those days. It is an organized insurgency of cowardly rebels who go masked under the cover of darkness to whip innocent women and children, lay waste their homes , and murder in cold blood, husbands fathers and brothers - for what?-because of any crime that have committed against the laws of that country or against society? No - but, simply and solely because they are union men.

And yet we find Mr. Greeley not only willing, but anxious for the rehabilitation of these murderous gangs - these outlaws that now convulsing Southern society by the infamous deeds of violence; he would have them in a halls of legislation to legalize, by their vote, their damnable crimes, and invest the terrorism of the South with an hundredfold more dread and horror that now exists there. In the language of the Philadelphia press "the union men of the South are at this hour in the peculiar keeping of the nation. Their safety and protection is a debt not only of justice, but of honor. We have done little if in enfranchising the black man we have only given up to murder and violence the white man in the white woman. The flag that makes one free must make all free. We raised that flag, and on us devolves for all time is the duty of keeping it folds flying and making them a protection not a snare.

(page 4)

Emphatically for these southern loyalists, we are our brothers' keepers, and their blood will be demanded of us. Let us therefore have an enforcement bill that shall make life limb and property safe, and the National colors respected on every foot of Southern soil, and let it be passed with a vote so decided that before the laws arms shall be silent."

When the Ku-Klux shall cease their murder of innocent men, women and children; when the Union men of this South are fully protected from lawlessness and outrage; when Southern society shall be restored to order and harmony; when the rebels relent in their hatred of loyal men; when they begin to show signs of repentance; when they learn to appreciate the motives of a Government to whose magnanimity they are indebted for immunity from the traitor's death; in short, when they become loyal to the government of the United States - then, and not until then, should these men be reinstated to their former rights under the issuance of a General Amnesty. It is short-sighted policy which would thus grant new powers to men who are rebels at heart, devils by nature , and murderers by practice. From Mr. Greeley, however, there can be little else expected, in view of the fact that, at the outbreak of hostilities, he admitted to the right of to Secession, an opinion which is consistently supplemented by voluntarily becoming the principal bondsman of Jeff. Davis at the close of the war.


Horace Greeley was an advocate for forgiving rebels in a civil war after 5 years had passed. Thomas Jackson was not so forgiving.

Here the editor of local newspaper who previously had had several differences with TJ over the years appears to totally support his position oaths issue.

We consider this letter is worthy of being placed among the letters as #23B

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