September 20, 1863,
”Spirit of the German Press”
The Neue Zeit says of General Schofield's recent order:
If anything could and must have created an excitement it is the unhappy General Orders, No. 96; but this is not the time to allow oneself to be excited. Only the enemies of freedom and the friends of the rebellion can now desire trouble or disturbances of the peace. Every excess at the present moment would be a misfortune and a crime; but especially every mutiny in the regiments must be decidedly condemned. If the chief of this department makes himself guilty of the most unpardonable acts and orders, we will have to make a political settlement with the President about him, and this will be done soon enough. Only patience! We shall have it also under all circumstances!
“Does It Touch Me Or Does It Touch Thee?”
Very rarely a public act has produced more surprise than Lincoln's proclamation suspending the habeas corpus act, and its immediate application by the commander of the Missouri Department to our Enrolled Militia. The conscription in the Eastern States is now pretty well completed, and has produced no further serious disturbances. In the Western States, however, it seems postponed for the present; and if any resistance was threatened in these States, it was resistance by force of arms, and not by judicial interference. And hence, if this proclamation was nevertheless issued just now, when our arms have been everywhere successful, the surprise attending it was still more increased by the course of action adopted by our department commander on the basis of that proclamation.
Under Orders, No. 96, we have no right (i.e., no permission) any more to discuss the application of the President's proclamation to the Enrolled Militia, at the risk of immediate suppression; but we have a duty to perform which even General Schofield cannot prohibit or restrain us from by threatening suppression and other punishments, and this duty is to give our citizens some opinions on their present authorities.
"By their fruits ye shall know them." But what sort of fruit is this General Orders, No. 96? That in it which surprises us as the most unheard-of thing of all is this, that the commanding general, whose removal is denounced by tens of thousands of voices in Kansas and Missouri, should use the proclamation of the President to suppress the liberty of the press--an evident abuse, since the proclamation itself says nothing of the suspension of the liberty of the press, nor can it say anything about it, since the Constitution permits neither the President nor Congress discretionary power in this respect.
But is the liberty of the press suppressed? The military commander says so, and the military authorities will pronounce judgment accordingly, while their decision again is only submitted to the commander-in-chief. Hence law, judgment, and execution are in the hands of Schofield, as far as the press is concerned. But it needs no proof that this gentleman is at present in very bad humor against the press, particularly the radical press, and that this bad humor will communicate itself more or less to his subordinates.
And how are such clauses as these to be interpreted: "Words calculated to excite insurrection or lawless acts among the people, or misrepresentations of facts calculated to embarrass or weaken the military authorities?" We say, for instance, that the commander of the department has exceeded his authority, and has made himself guilty of an unheard-of usurpation of power, especially against the loyal or radical press, and that he, therefore, deserves to be again removed. Perhaps this is also "embarrassing or weakening the military authorities, or who knows but it may be exciting insurrection and dissatisfaction?" If this meaning is laid at the bottom of our words, we can't help it. And we should not even know how to defend ourselves strongly against such an accusation, as we would consider it the lowest degree of debasement to submit without resistance to the tyranny and pleasure of a rabid man, who recognizes only the limit of his power as his measure; but that this bold, nay, impudent, stroke is directed against the radical press is apparent from the harmonious shouts of triumph in the reactionary camp. And the question will now arise, to be answered by the President, whether he will permit the Union press to suffer from Schofield what he did not permit General Burnside to carry out against the secession and traitor press. Schofield plays va-banque; will the President do so also? Or shall we tell the President more of the conclusions which might be drawn from this order of Schofield in connection with his proclamation? Whoever is in difficulty to explain the cause of the issue of the President's proclamation, and then compares it with General Orders, No. 96, must necessarily come to the conviction that the proclamation was especially intended for Missouri, i.e., that it was to be a tool in the hands of Gamble to suppress the radicals, unless, indeed, the President shall disavow that general order. Could it be otherwise possible? Or where is the necessity for this despotical act? But the great deputation from Missouri and Kansas will go next week to Washington, and perhaps the burning of Lawrence seems an insufficient subject for their conversation with Mr. Lincoln. Hence this most horrible of all proconsular decrees had to be given them to take along--this decree which, as if in especial irony, is dated on the anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution, the 17th of September.
A year ago B. Gratz Brown spoke his "We are the Revolution.” This year the reply comes in a threat of brutal force. The day is more than historical. But what next?
The Westliche Post says, in relation to this order:
The Republican interprets this severe, double-edged, and in many respects equivocal order as if it were especially directed against the radical Union press. This interpretation seems to us absurd, because it is impossible that a journal of the Republican's tendency should be considered the standard of a loyal and patriotic paper. In fact, we are not yet sure as to what has been the cause of this order, and we must await its application before we can express our views concerning it.
In the last proclamation of the President., suspending the habeas corpus act, there is evidently nothing which could have provoked the issue of this general order. It is only justified if it has been necessary to suppress the rebellion, which finds such continued, direct or indirect, support in the Missouri slaveholding aristocracy. In granting the extensive powers to the President at the last session, Congress had surely no other object than this. As far as the liberty of the press is concerned particularly, the President has always, even in the case of disloyal papers, evinced such respect for the free utterance of opinions that an interpretation of Orders, No. 96, as the Republican and the Union give it, must surely be repudiated.
In commenting on a Jefferson City correspondence, denying the right to draft the Enrolled Militia, the Post says:
As the so-called provisional regiments have been called into service by State authority, and not by an order of the commander of this department, General Orders, No. 96, cannot apply to them. The commander of the department has, indeed, expressed the wish that 1,000 men of the Enrolled Militia might be enlisted, but he presupposes, a matter of course, that the enlistment will be carried out according to the existing State law. Hence the question always returns to this: Can the Enrolled Militia be compelled to active service, or must the enlistments be voluntary? If Judge Clover's writ of habeas corpus of Thursday would come up for argument, we should have a judicial decision on this question.
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