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Letter signed J.F. Benjamin, Shelbyville, Mo., to unidentified individual, Philadelphia, Pa., July 15, 1865

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Identifier: D05341

Title: Letter signed J.F. Benjamin, Shelbyville, Mo., to unidentified individual, Philadelphia, Pa., July 15, 1865


Discusses the passage of Missouri's Drake Constitution.

Transcription: Shelbyville Mo. July 15. 1865

[name blocked out] Esqr.



Dear Sir. Yours of the 1st Inst. is received. also the very able speech of Hon. Wm D. Kelley of your City. A copy of the Speech fell into my hands Soon after its delivery and the Subject matter was very fully discussed in this State during the exciting canvass through which we have just passed. The New Constitution of Missouri — (and which I Supported and defended to the best of my ability) limits the right of voting to the white citizens whose antecedents will bear the closest Scrutiny for loyalty and Sincere attachment to the Government. It was everywhere conceded that its adoption would most effectually exclude the disloyal element from any participation in the affairs of the State in the future. yet notwithstanding this the Singular Spectacle was presented in the canvass of nearly every man who favored enfranchising the negro. uniting with the rebels of every hue to accomplish its defeat. well Knowing Such a result would inevitably place the State at the next election into the hands of the very men who assisted in inaugurating the rebellion.

I was opposed to Sending the constitution to the people at this time with the word “white” left out for two reasons. First they are not yet educated up to that point and it would have certainly caused the defeat of the entire instrument. Second we are testing the experiment of requiring a certain amount of intelligence as a qualification and with few exceptions those just emerging from the barbarism of Slavery can Scarcely be Said to be able to vote understandingly. Neither is it necessary in this State to invoke their aid in order to hold the rebels in check as now we think we are abundantly able to manage them.

This much as to my views upon the Subject of universal Suffrage when acting as a citizen of the State of Missouri. When called upon to act as an officer of the Government and for another people or for all the people the Subject has to be viewed from another Stand point and circumstances very different have to be considered.

In the insurrectunary States the Situation of the loyal people is entirely different. Loyalty there is not Strong enough to protect itself — and unless the rebel power is either Stifled

Permanently by the Government or neutralized in Some way So as to be powerless in the future. the Situation of loyal men is not in the least ameliorated by the Suppression of the rebellion. I fully agree with Judge Kelley that “I cannot conceive how an American Congress could write a page of history that would So disgrace it in the eyes of all posterity as by consenting to close this war by Surrendering to the unbridled lust and power of the Conquered traiters of the South those who through blood, terror and anguish have been our friends true to our principles and our welfare” He might have added that if Sesch is the only reward the Government has in Store those of her Sons “who have come up out of great tribulation” who in every vicissitude of fortune and who in passing through the terrible ordeal of Southern persecution and torture have never been found wanting in true patriotism when weighed in the balance. She closes a Struggle, otherwise glorious in the extreme with an act of the blackest ingratitude the history of the world can produce.

Although armed rebellion is overthrown the virus remains. Apparently dormant it will insidiously work its way again into the high places of the Government as its aid becomes necessary to the Success of unscrupulous political leaders until finally at Some favorable oppertunity when perhaps the Native is engaged in a life and death Struggle with foreign powers it will again "fire the Southern heart" and break forth with greater virulence than before. I cannot...

Rights: NoC-US

Place: United States

Dates: 1865-07-15

Type(s): Letter

Maker/Creator: Benjamin, John F.

Subjects: Civil War, 1861-1865
Politics and government


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