Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Annotation

[1]   Washington National Republican, October 22, 1864. John Lellyett's account of the presentation of the protest is given in a letter to the editor of the New York World, October 15, 1864, which appeared in the World on October 18:

``I called upon the President to-day and presented and read to him the subjoined protest. Having concluded, Mr. Lincoln responded:

`` `May I inquire how long it took you and the New-York politicians to concoct that paper?'

``I replied, `It was concocted in Nashville, without communication with any but Tennesseans. We communicated with citizens of Tennessee, outside of Nashville, but not with New-York politicians.'

`` `I will answer', said Mr. Lincoln emphatically, `that I expect to let the friends of George B. McClellan manage their side of this contest in their own way; and I will manage my side of it in MY way.'

`` `May we ask an answer in writing,' I suggested.

`` `Not now. Lay those papers down here. I will give no other answer now. I may or may not write something about this hereafter. I understand this. I know you intend to make a point of this. But go ahead, you have my answer.'

`` `Your answer then is that you expect to let General McClellan's friends manage their side of this contest in their own way, and you will manage your side of it in your way?'

`` `Yes.'

``I then thanked the President for his courtesy in giving us a hearing at all, and took my leave.

``Judge [Charles] Mason, of this city, was present at the interview, to whom I refer in regard to the correctness of this report. On stepping outside of the door of the executive mansion I immediately wrote down the President's emphatic response, and submitted it to Judge Mason and another gentleman who happened to be present, and they both pronounced it accurate.

``And now I have a word to say to the people of the United States, who are, or ought to be, the masters of Abraham Lincoln. The paper which I had the honor to present to the President is not the `concoction of New-York politicians,' however that might affect its merits. It is the solemn voice of a once free and proud people, protesting against their own disfranchisement by the agent of Abraham Lincoln. It is the voice of those loyal men in Tennessee who have borne the reproach of a people they still loved, supporting the President in all lawful efforts to preserve the Union. The reward of our loyalty is disfranchisement. The cup of perjury is commended to our lips, because it is known that we will not touch its contents. Judge ye between the people of Tennessee and Abraham Lincoln. It may be meet that our solemn and respectful appeal should be thrown aside with a contemptuous sneer. Look to it. If you, the people of the Northern states, shall sustain this act of tyranny, your own time will soon come. If the President of the United States may `manage his side of this contest' by setting aside the very letter of the Constitution, and altering the election laws of the state so as to disfranchise his opponents, liberty is already dead.''

The reply to Lincoln's communication, signed by Campbell, Peyton, and Lellyett, appeared in the World on election day, November 8:

``To Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.

SIR: Your letter in reply to the Tennessee protest has reached us, and has, no doubt, been read by the people. The argument on this subject is nearly exhausted, but we have some additional and most important facts to submit to the people, in further elucidation of the subject. Our wonder is not excited to learn that you had not seen the proclamation of Governor Johnson, and scarcely heard of it until presented by us. It is an evil of no small magnitude, connected with your administration, that military subordinates assume despotic powers without asking the sanction of their superiors---even presuming to give law to the people by proclamation and to repeal and modify our laws at will. The idea that the President himself can make, or repeal, or modify a law of the land, state or national, constitutional or statutory, though freely practiced upon by yourself, is a doctrine of despotism in `irrepressible conflict' with the principles of public liberty. And when these things are done by subordinates, the evil becomes intolerably oppressive, and calls for the firmest and most active lawful resistance which a people deserving to be free can offer.

``You tell us that `the movement set on foot by the convention and Governor Johnson does not, as seems to be assumed by you, emanate from the national executive.' What we did assume is, that the plan was promulgated by proclamation of the military governor, who has no authority but that derived directly from you, and it was given the force of law by his edict. It thus became indirectly your act; and now that you decline to order the edict to be recalled or modified, it becomes your own as fully as if it had emanated from you. `In no proper sense,' you say, `can it be considered other than an independent movement of at least a portion of the loyal people of Tennessee.' Independent of what? Manifestly independent of all lawful authority---independent of and at war with the federal Constitution, which you have both sworn to support, protect, and defend.

What right has a citizen or officer to favor an `independent movement' at variance with the Constitution, and support the same by force of arms? What less is this than waging war against the Constitution of the United States, and the government established thereby? `An independent movement' against the Constitution, supported by a military governor by force of arms, recommended by an assembly calling itself a convention. Such in principle were the `independent movements' of governors and `portions of the people' which set at first in motion the great rebellion in the South with which we are contending. The `convention' calls upon a military governor to order an `independent movement' to help your re-election, and to support it by force of arms, placing `guards' around the ballot-box. And their recommendation is adopted by the military governor and `made' by him `part of his proclamation.' And yet you say, `I do not perceive in the plan any menace of coercion or violence toward any one.' Just so with the earlier `independent movement' of Governor [Isham G.] Harris in this state, which we opposed as we oppose this. There was no menace of coercion or violence toward any who should consent to see the Constitution violated and the `political plan' carried out without opposition. But the bayonet was kept in view, as it is in this case. Public meetings were menaced, and perhaps broken up by armed force. And so it is now. Those opposed to the `independent movement' were denounced as traitors, and so they are now. Troops from our own and from other states were used to overawe the people, and so they are now. We had vigilance committees and mob violence then. We have now secret leagues, and are liable at any time to arbitrary arrest, as well as to mob violence, which is now used in our midst.

``These are general facts, in support of which we add the following specifications: We have held a number of peaceable and loyal public meetings in this city, more than one of which has been `menaced' by your partisans. On the 21st instant such a meeting was held at the court-house in this city. It was held `peacefully' and conducted `loyally,' the assembly consisting chiefly of the `friends of George B. McClellan.' A number of provost guards were present, by request of those who conducted the meeting, to preserve order. The meeting had been addressed by a gentleman who is an exile from his home because of his loyalty, and who has spent much time in the military service of the government during the war. One of the undersigned, a McClellan elector (Hon. Balie Peyton), had taken the stand to address the meeting, when the hall was suddenly entered by a large party of soldiers, and the meeting violently broken up. These men rushed in with guns and drawn pistols, crying, `disperse you d---d rebels and traitors,' extinguishing the lights and driving the people from the hall.

``We specify further that on the 25th instant the rioters, thirty in number, published a card in the Nashville Times, the organ in this city of Governor Johnson, to which they append their names, as `all members of Company D, First Tennessee light artillery.' This company was raised and its officers appointed (as we understand) under the superintendence of Governor Johnson. The rioters speak thus in their card: `Neither Governor Johnson, nor any other individual outside of the men who were active participants, knew anything of our intention till the affair was over. Some colored men may have followed us, but we knew nothing of them.' `We do not fear a court-martial;' they defiantly add, `and therefore cheerfully give our names as loyal and Union-loving soldiers.'

``We specify further that on the evening of the 24th instant, only three days after the McClellan meeting was broken up, our streets were paraded by an immense procession of negroes, bearing torches and transparencies, with such inscriptions on the latter as `Lincoln and Johnson,' `Liberty or Death.' Some disorders occurred in connection with this demonstration, and shots were freely fired by the negroes---some at a window where white persons were standing, and some at persons on the streets. One of the latter (an employe of the government) was dangerously, if not mortally, wounded, and it was thought others were hit.

In the course of these orgies the procession waited on Governor Andrew Johnson, at the Capitol, and he delivered to the negro assembly an address. A report of his speech was published and republished in his organ, the Times, and from that report we take the following extract. Governor Johnson says:

`` `I speak to night as a citizen of Tennessee. I am here on my own soil, and mean to remain here, and fight this great battle of freedom through to the end. Loyal men, from this day forward, are to be the controllers of Tennessee's grand and sublime destiny, and rebels must be dumb. We will not listen to their counsels. Nashville is no longer the place for them to hold their meetings. Let them gather their treasonable conclaves elsewhere---among their friends in the confederacy. They shall not hold their conspiracies in Nashville.'

``The language of the rioters, `Disperse rebels and traitors,' and the common application of such terms of abuse and terror to the friends of General McClellan here, do not admit of our ignoring the meaning of Governor Johnson in the language quoted. The allusion is evidently to the riotous dispersion of our meeting three evenings previous. He also seems to adopt your idea that, as a citizen of Tennessee, he `has the right to favor any political plan he chooses.' And he unmistakably evinces his determination to `manage' his `side of this contest in his own way.'

`` `Governor Johnson,' you say, `like any other loyal citizen, has a right to favor any political plan he chooses.' We do not so read the duty of the citizen. Some of the political plans of our day are devised to overturn the Constitution and government of the United States---and this is one of them. The southern rebellion is another. Neither the citizens nor Governor Johnson has a right to favor such plans, unless it be upon the principle advanced by you as a member of Congress, that `any people, any where, being inclined, and having the power, have the right' to revolutionize, their government; that `this is a most valuable, a most sacred right.' We shall despair of the republic if these principles of anarchy, as embodied in you, shall be adopted by the people in your re-election.

``In the face of the reign of terror which has been established in Tennessee under the eyes of Governor Johnson, you say to us: `Do as you please, on your own account, peacefully and loyally, and Governor Johnson will not molest you, but will protect you against violence so far as is in his power.' If you mean that Governor Johnson will allow us to stay away from the polls without molestation, we trust there is some truth in your assurance. But if you mean to suggest that we hold separate elections `on our own account,' and to assure us that we shall not be molested but protected in such a `movement,' we know by experience, and by the facts above set forth, that your assurance is a cruel mockery. We will not advise our citizens to put in jeopardy their lives in going through the farce you propose, of holding an election under the laws at one ballot-box, while Governor Johnson holds an election under his `plan' at another. Too many unoffending citizens have already been murdered in our streets by negro soldiers---too many reputable women have been insulted by them. We do not wish to provoke further outrage. There will be no election for President in Tennessee in 1864. You and Governor Johnson may `manage your side of it in your own way,' but it will be no election.

``After consultation with our friends, therefore, in different parts of the state, and having communicated with nearly all of our colleagues, we respectfully announce to the people of Tennessee that in view of what is set forth above---in view of the fact that our people are overawed by military power, the laws set aside and violated with impunity---and in view of the fact that we have appealed in vain to the President whose duty it is to `see that the laws be faithfully executed,' and that those who act by his authority shall hold sacred the liberties of the people; in view of these things we announce that the McClellan electoral ticket in Tennessee is withdrawn. ``W. B. CAMPBELL, of Wilson county,

``Nashville, October 29.'' ``BAILIE PEYTON, of Sumner county,

``JOHN LELLYETT, of Davidson county.''

[2]   Brackets are in the source.

[3]   Brackets are in the source.