FELLOW-CITIZENS: Tennessee assumed the form of a body politic, as one of the United States of America, in the year seventeen hundred and ninety-six, at once entitled to all the privileges of the Federal Constitution, and bound by all its obligations. For nearly sixty five years she continued in the enjoyment of all her rights, and in the performance of all her duties, one of the most loyal and devoted of the sisterhood of States. She has been honored by the elevation of two of her citizens of the highest place in the gift of the American people, and a third had been nominated for the same high office, who received a liberal though ineffective support. Her population had rapidly and largely increased, and their moral and material interests correspondingly advanced. Never was a people more prosperous, contented and happy than the people of Tennessee under the government of the United States, and none so little burdened for the support of the authority by which they were protected. They felt their Government only in the conscientious enjoyment of the benefits it conferred and the blessings it bestowed.
Such was our enviable condition until within the last year just past, when, under what baneful influences it is not my purpose no to inquire, the authority of the Government was set at defiance, and the Constitution and laws contempted, by a rebellious, armed force. Men, who in addition to ordinary privileges and duties of the citizen, had enjoyed largely the bounty and official patronage of the Government, and have by repeated oaths, obliged themselves to its support, with sudden ingratitude for the bounty and disregard for their solemn obligation, engaged, deliberately and ostentatiously, in the accomplishment of its overthrow. Many, accustomed to defer to their opinions and to accept their guidance, and others, carried away by excitement or overawed by seditious clamor, arrayed themselves under their banners, thus, organizing and treasonable power, which, for the time being, stifled and suppressed the authority of the Federal Government.
In this condition of affairs it devolved upon the President, bound by his official oath, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and charged by the law with the duty of suppressing insurrection and domestic violence, to resist and repel this rebellion force by the military arm of the Government, and thus to re-establish the Federal authority. Congress, assembling at an early day, found him engaged in the active discharge of this momentous and responsible trust. That body came promptly to his aid, and while supplying him with treasure and arms to an extent that wound previously have been considered fabulous, they, at the same time, with almost absolute unanimity, declared “that this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor for the purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of these States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as those objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.” In this spirit, and by such co-operation, has the President conducted this mighty contest, until, as Commander-in-chief of the army, he has caused the national flag to float undisputed over the capitol of our State. Meanwhile the State Government has disappeared. The Executive has abdicated; the Legislature has dissolved; the Judiciary is in abeyance. The great ship of State, freighted with its precious cargo of human interests and human hopes, its sails all set, and its glorious flag unfurled, has been suddenly abandoned by her officers and mutinous crew, and left to float at the mercy of the winds, and to be plundered by every rover upon the deep. Indeed the work of plunder has already commenced. The archives have been desecrated; the public property stolen and destroyed; the vaults of the State bank violated, and its treasures robbed, including the funds carefully gathered and consecrated for all time to the instruction of our children.
In such a lamentable crisis, the Government of the United States could not be unmindful of its high constitutional obligation to guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government, an obligation which every State has a direct and immediate interest in having observed towards every other State, and from which, by no action on the part of the people in any State, can the Federal Government be absolved. A republican form of Government, in consonance with the Constitution of the United States, in one of the fundamental conditions of our political existence, by which every part of the country is alike bound, and from which no part can escape. This obligation the national government is now attempting to discharge. I have been appointed in the absence of the regular and established State authorities, as Military Governor for the time being, to preserve the public property of the State, to give the protection of the law actively enforced to her citizens and, as speedily as my be, to restore her government to the same condition as before the existing rebellion.
In this grateful but arduous undertaking, I shall avail myself of all the aid that may be afforded by my fellow citizens, and for this purpose I respectfully, but earnestly invite all the People of Tennessee, desirous of willing to see a restoration of her ancient government, without distinction of party affiliations, or past political opinions, or action, to unite with me, by counsel and co-operative agency, to accomplish this great end. I find most, if not all of the offices, both State and Federal, vacated, either by actual abandonment, or by the action of the incumbents in attempting to subordinate their functions to a power in hostility to the fundamental law of the State, and subversive of her national allegiance. These offices must be filled temporarily, until the State shall be restored so far to its accustomed quiet, that the people can peaceably assemble at the ballot-box and select agents of their own choice. Otherwise anarchy would prevail, and no man’s life or property would be safe from desperate and unprincipled.
I shall, therefore, as early as practicable, designate for various positions under the State and county governments, from among my fellow citizens, persons of probity and intelligence, and bearing true allegiance to the Constitution and Government of the United States, who will execute the functions of their respective offices, until their places can be filled by the action of the people Their authority, when their appointments shall have been made, will be accordingly respected and observed.
To the people themselves, the protection of the Government is extended. All their rights will be duly respected, and their wrongs redressed when made known. Those who through the dark and weary night of the rebellion have maintained their allegiance to the Federal Government will be honored. The erring and misguided will be welcomed on their return.
And while it may become necessary, in vindicating the violated majesty of the law, and in re-asserting its imperial sway, to punish intelligent and conscious treason in high places, no merely retaliatory or vindictive policy will be adopted. To those, especially, who in a private unofficial capacity have assumed an attitude of hostility to the Government, a full and complete amnesty for all past acts and declarations is offered, upon the one condition of their again yielding themselves peaceful citizens to the just supremacy of the laws. This I advise them to do for their own good, and for the peace and welfare of our beloved State, endeared to me by the associations of long and active years, and by the enjoyment of her highest honors.
And appealing to my fellow citizens of Tennessee, I point them to my long public life as a pledge for the sincerity of my own motives and an earnest for the performance of my present and future duties.
– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 29, 1862, p. 1