Reconstruction and its Relation to the

Business of the Country

An Address by Hon. George S. Boutwell


The Old Bay State Association, Boston,
December 27, 1866

    Ladies and Gentlemen: I trust no one will suppose that my subject implies any want of confidence in the patriotism of the business men of Boston, of our State, or of the country. I chose to speak upon the topic which has been announced, because I had observed occasionally in the public journals the suggestion that the business men of the country were largely interested in the immediate restoration of the Union, without much regard to the manner of doing the work. For myself, I have never accepted the suggestion, certainly not since the manifestations of patriotism during the war on the part of the business men of our State and of the country, that they would as a body be disposed to second any movement for the restoration of the Union not based upon sound principles of public policy. The restoration of the Union means the introduction again into the Government of the country of that considerable body of people and that vast extent of territory engaged in and covered by the rebellion. It implies a renewal of the exercise of power in this Government by those men who for thirty years plotted for its overthrow, and for five years carried on a persistent and formidable, and at times apparently successful, rebellion for its destruction. It is therefore no slight matter that these people at any time, or to any extent, until their spirit and purposes are changed, are to be received into the Government of the country. We accept, unquestionably, as far as the persons who have been concerned in the rebellion are to be considered, a body of men who are hostile to this Government, who seek its destruction, and who will avail themselves of any opportunity that may present itself in the changing condition of public affairs to accomplish that which they most desire.

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August 1999