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MAKE HASTE SLOWLY: IRREVERSIBLE
SPEECH IN THE SENATE, ON THE RECOGNITION OF ARKANSAS,
JUNE 13, 1864.
JUNE 10th, Mr. Lane, of Kansas, asked, and by unanimous consent obtained, leave to bring in a joint resolution for the recognition of the Free State Government of the State of Arkansas, which was read, passed to a second reading, and ordered to be printed.
June 13th, he called it up for consideration, when Mr. Sumner made the following speech.
R. PRESIDENT, - I begin by expressing sym
pathy with every loyal soul in a Rebel State. Knowing well, from long experience, the cruel rule and domination of Slavery, even in this Chamber, I cannot be indifferent to the trials of loyalty anywhere in these latter days. Show me a man who in a Rebel State stands faithful to the national cause, and I go forth to meet him with heart in hand. To have been true at a time when truth was disowned is enough for honor as well as thanks. But the merits of individuals cannot determine the rights of States.
The case is too important. If individual merits, universally recognized, could save a State to present rights in the Union, Tennessee would not now be a self-condemned exile. There are few anywhere so entirely true as Andrew Johnson, and not one in all the Rebel States
who so bravely encountered the Rebellion face to face. Ten men might have saved Sodom; but he was in himself more than ten men. Besides, he was a Senator on this floor, when the State he represented took its place in the Rebel Confederacy, and joined in war against the National Government; but he stayed behind with his country, and kept his seat here. Persons ignorant of Parliamentary Law have sometimes argued from the latter circumstance that Rebel Tennessee was still entitled to her ancient rights in the Union ; but they forget two principles, fixed long ago, beyond all question, in England, the original home of Parliamentary Law: first, that the power once conferred by an election to Parliament is irrevocable, so that it is not affected by any subsequent change in the constituency; and, secondly, that a member, when once chosen, is member for the whole kingdom, becoming thereby, according to the words of an early author, not merely knight or burgess of the county or borough which elected him, but knight or burgess of England. If these two principles are not entirely discarded in our political system, then the seat of Andrew Johnson was not in any respect affected by the subsequent madness of his State, nor can the legality of his seat be any argument for the ancient rights of his State.
Nor, again, can the fact that Andrew Johnson has been selected by the Convention of a powerful political party as candidate for the Vice-Presidency be any argument for these ancient rights. It is not necessary that a candidate for President or Vice-President should be
1 Whitelocke, Notes upon the King's Writ for choosing Members of Parliament, Vol. II. p. 329 Cushing, Law and Practice of Legislative Assemblies, p. 284.
long to a State. It is enough, under the Constitution, that he is “ a natural born citizen.” He may be of the District of Columbia, or of a Territory, or of a Rebel State ; for these are all equally within the rightful jurisdiction of the United States, and this is enough. The national jurisdiction is permanent and indefeasible.
Therefore, I repeat again, we must look beyond the virtues of individuals. Not all the virtues under heaven can suffice to make a State of this Union, or establish any claim for restoration to ancient rights, where there is failure to comply with essential requirements. I
The question under consideration is of momentous interest. It concerns primarily the claim to a seat in the Senate; but it includes also the right of the State of Arkansas to share at this moment in the National Government by representation in Congress, and also the other right of participating in the approaching Presidential election. And behind this great question looms that other, How shall we treat the Rebel States?” This has already been answered by the House of Representatives in a bill passed by that body; but it has not yet been decided by the Senate.
Unexpectedly, the great question and all the subordinate questions are presented for decision.
Not only Arkansas, but Louisiana, and every other Rebel State, will await your judgment. No question of equal importance has been presented since it was determined to ineet the Rebellion by arms.
For the present I forbear all minute discussion, either of history or principle. It will be enough, if I state the case, and exhibit the questions involved.
William M. Fishback, a citizen of Arkansas, appears before the Senate of the United States, and claims membership. He asserts that he has been duly chosen to fill the unexpired term of Senator Sebastian, who was expelled in 1861 for complicity with the Rebellion ; and he produces a certificate purporting to be signed by the Governor of Arkansas.
Shall this claimant be admitted to a seat in the Senate ? Such is the immediate question. But I have said that there are other questions, of the highest importance, which must be considered now and here; for they all enter into the present case. Admitting the claimant, we must also admit that other claimant who has appeared with like credentials as colleague. The question is not, therefore, Shall Arkansas have one vote in the Senate ? but, Shall it have two ?
Then, again, if Arkansas is fully represented in the Senate, does it not follow that it is to be represented to the same extent in the other House ? If represented in that Chamber, such representation must be under the existing Apportionment Act, assigning to Arkansas two Representatives, chosen by districts, without reference to the number of votes polled in either.
One privilege draws after it another. To him that hath shall be given. If Arkansas is admitted to immediate representation in the National Government, this Rebel State, which has overthrown the Constitution within its borders, and assumed the front of war, can participate in the approaching election of President and Vice-President by organizing an electoral college, and, in case the election of either of those great officers should devolve upon Congress, can give a vote affecting the result as weighty as that of Massachusetts, New