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by equally intelligent and patriotic men as to the proper method of treating communities composed of those who had lately been in rebellion. The two policies of generosity and trustfulness on the one hand, of distrust and repression on the other, were certain to find adherents, each in great numbers, among those who had been perfectly united and agreed so long as a single soldier of the Confederacy remained in arms. Nor was the line of separation between the two parties to this question drawn solely according to temperament, character, and prevailing bent of mind. Personal ambitions, political affiliations, accidents as to the point of view or as to individual observation or experience, the influence of recognized leaders of public opinion—all these would surely enter to affect the adhesion of citizens to one or the other of the two policies of reconstruction, so that men of the meanest and most grudging nature should be found among the advocates of generosity and trustfulness in the treatment of the South; while, on the other hand, men whose whole lives had been but an expression of tolerance, charity, and benignity should be earnest in holding that rashly to restore the lately insurgent communities to their former political privileges and to intrust them at once with the self-control which is taken for granted by our form of government, would be alike to endanger the Union and betray the helpless freedmen.
Moreover, it was a matter of moral certainty that either policy, so far as it should be tried would in some degree be disappointing to its friends and would, on some occasion at least, give its opponents the opportunity to point the finger of scorn. The policy of generosity and trust surely would, sooner or later, there if not here, meet with ingratitude "more strong than traitors' arms"; while, on the other hand, those who held by the policy of repression would at times be startled to find how empty of all restorative and reparative virtue were the measures in which they had delighted; how completely it was true that the malignant elements they had kept under lock and key were still in undiminished vigor, never to yield the smallest fraction of their deadly potency save under the beneficent chemistry of free institutions, personal rights, and equal laws.
The difficult situation of 1866 and 1867 was profoundly complicated by the obtrusion of several strong, rank, highly offensive personalities. Some of these belonged to men who during the long struggle with the slave power had borne themselves heroically, but who, when the institution of slavery rushed to its downfall, were found painfully or even ludicrously unfit to deal with questions of readjustment or reconstruction. Their stubborn tempers, their aggressive dispositions, their fearless courage had made them leaders and champions in the "martyr age," while twenty years of conflict had developed those qualities to the absorption of every other possibility of their original natures. Their minds had even ceased to work on other questions than those of human rights. Yet it was these men who held in their hands the decision of the nicest question to which statesmanship can ever address itself—the treatment of enemies or conquered rebels. Moreover, Renegadism entered upon both sides to give its own peculiar bitterness to the controversy over the processes of reconstruction.
It was in such a situation that Hancock found himself placed in command of the Fifth Military District, holding in his hands almost the power of life and death over a large population. To a man of his nature and training there was but one course open. A Democrat by birth and breeding; a strict constructionist in his view of the Constitution; a thorough believer in the honor, good feeling, and essential patriotism of the Southern people, whom he knew well, among whom he had married, whose representatives had been his schoolmates, his comrades, and his most intimate friends through life—. he could not be the willing agent, and he would not become the tool, of those who, having broken with President Johnson, were seeking to carry the nation into courses of severe repression toward the late insurrectionary States. If one were disposed to argue the question, it would be not unfair to point to the course of subsequent events as showing that Hancock was right in his view of the way to restore the true union of the States, and that this way might have been even better taken in 1868 than in 1876. But I have no interest in advancing the proposition that the gallant general was a great statesman, or had peculiarly perspicacious views of large public policies. I only desire to vindicate his thorough sincerity and his patriotic feeling in taking the course he did in Louisiana and Texas.
In pursuance of principles announced in General Order No. 40, General Hancock consistently, during the few months of his rule in New Orleans, continued to discountenance trials by military commissions instead of the properly constituted courts, and to diminish those appeals to the power of the United States which, throughout large portions of the South, had become almost the normal method of government, whether for the prosecution of the largest public enterprises or for the pursuit of the pettiest private interests. Many pages might be filled with extracts from his orders, reports, and correspondence, written vigorously and clearly in the vein he had first taken upon assuming command; but I will not protract this story by introducing them here. Suffice it to say that his course met with the severest condemnation of the radical faction at Washington, a bill being actually brought into Congress to reduce the number of major generals in the army, with a view to throwing him out of the service. His actions were vehemently denounced in the public press as due to political ambition, and as in betrayal of the rights of the government and of the interest and the personal security of the freedmen and the loyal white citizens of Texas and Louisiana.
Finding that his administration was not approved by his superiors, and feeling his usefulness impaired by the constant opposition of the military Governors of the States in his district, and of agents of the government there and in Washington, Hancock, on the 27th of February, 1868, requested to be relieved from his command and assigned to duty elsewhere. This was accordingly done on the 16th of March; and on the 31st of that month he took command of the Division of the Atlantic, comprising three departments—namely, that of the Lakes, that of the East, and that of Washington.
In the Democratic National Convention of 1868 Hancock's name was presented as a candidate for the presidency. The Republicans had previously nominated General Grant for that office, and there were among the Democratic leaders some who thought that a soldier should be placed in opposition. The number of candidates before the convention was large, and Hancock at no time came near success, reaching his maximum on the eighteenth ballot. Governor Seymour, of New York, was final