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who had conferred with the President in the summer, and thought highly of his patriotism-now hold out the olive branch in the Senate. A keen observer at Washington, Samuel Bowles,—who had held a friendly attitude toward both the President and the party leaders,—now wrote, February 26, “Distrust, suspicion, the conceit of power, the infirmities of temper on both sides, have brought affairs to the very verge of disorder and ruin.” He dissuaded from taking sides in the quarrel; there was too much right and too much wrong on both sides. He urged, March 3,and no doubt he represented the best sentiment of the country: “ The great point is to secure protection and justice for the freedmen. For the present the Freedmen's Bureau, military occupancy, and United States courts, must be our reliance.
We want the President firm and resolute on this point, and we want to arouse the better class of the Southern people to do their duty in the same regard."
The weakness of the veto message on the Freedmen's Bureau bill had been the absence of any solicitude for the welfare of the freedmen; constitutional theory seemed to wholly supersede the practical necessity of the case. Now Congress again approached the matter in the Civil Rights bill, carefully formulated in the judiciary committee, thoroughly debated and amended, and passed by both houses late in March. It affirmed United States citizenship for all persons born in the country and not subject to any foreign power; it declared for all citizens an equal right to make and enforce contracts, sue, give evidence, hold and sell property, etc.; full equality as to security of person and property, as to pains and penalties,-in short, complete civil equality. Original jurisdiction was given to United States courts, and to these could be transferred any case involving these subjects begun in a State court. The bill
empowered the President to use the army for its enforcement. All this was under authority of the Thirteenth Amendment.
This, too, the President vetoed, as unnecessary, as employing the military arm too freely, as extending unwisely the power of the Federal Government, and as especially unwise legislation while eleven States out of thirty-six were unrepresented in Congress. But the President was now going in the face not only of the congressional majority but of the North at large, which was unmistakably opposed to leaving the freedmen with no protection against their old masters. The veto was overridden, and became a law April 9. The Freedmen's Bureau bill, somewhat amended, was again passed, this time over a veto, and became a law July 16.
It was after the decisive victory over the President on the Civil Rights bill that Congress took up the comprehensive measure which embodied its own plan of reconstruction as a substitute for the President's. That measure was the Fourteenth Amendment. It was drawn up by the reconstruction committee, of which Senator Fessenden was chairman, and probably his was the leading part in framing its provisions. The first proposition was only to make the basis of congressional representation dependent on the extension or denial of suffrage to the freedmen. This was proposed January 22, 1866, and after some weeks' discussion passed the House but failed in the Senate. It was replaced by a broader measure, which was reported April 30, debated and amended for six weeks, and finally in mid-June took the form in which it now stands in the Constitution, and was approved by Congress. It then went before the States for their action, with a tacit but strong implication that upon its acceptance and adoption the lately seceded States would be fully restored. It was in effect the plan of recon
struction first offered by Congress, as a substitute for the President's.
The first article of the amendment declares that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside; and that all are entitled to the equal protection of the laws. Another section guarantees the validity of the public debt, and forbids payment of the Confederate debt or payment for the emancipation of slaves. Both these articles appear at this distance of time to be beyond question or criticism. Another article apportions representation in Congress, as heretofore, according to population; but further provides that any State which denies the suffrage to any part of its adult male population, except for rebellion or other crime, shall have its congressional representation reduced in the same proportion. It will be remembered that under the old Constitution the basis of representation was fixed by adding to the total of the free population a number equal to threefifths of the slaves. Now that the slaves had become freedmen, the representation of the old slave States would to that extent be increased. But it seemed neither just nor expedient to permit such an increase of power, unless the class on whose enumeration it was based were made bona fide citizens, and sharers in this power. If under this amendment the Southern States should choose to give the vote to the freedmen, their total representation in Congress would be raised from sixty-one to seventy. If they did not give it, their representation would fall to forty-five. There was thus offered them a strong inducement to establish impartial suffrage; while yet they were at full liberty to withhold it at the price of some diminution of power compared with communities adopting the broader principle. The reconstruction committee had listened to prominent Southerners as to the probable reception of this provision. Stephens
thought his people would consider it less than their due and would not ratify it. But Lee thought that Virginia would accept it, and then decide the question of suffrage according to her preponderating interest; that at present she would prefer the smaller representation, but would hold herself ready to extend the suffrage if at any time the freedmen should show a capacity to vote properly and understandingly.
So far, the Fourteenth Amendment seems now to embody a sound statesmanship. But the remaining article must be judged by itself. It excludes from all State and national offices all those, who, having taken an official oath to support the Constitution, have afterward taken part in insurrection and rebellion. This was ingeniously framed with an appearance of justice, as if debarring from office only those who to rebellion had added perjury. But, as a matter of ethics, the breaking of official oaths is an inevitable incident of every revolution; and just as war is held to suspend in a measure the command “thou shalt not kill,” so revolution must be held to cancel the obligation of official oaths. The opposite view would affix the full guilt of perjury to many leaders in the American Revolution, perhaps to Washington himself. It was not really as perjurers that the excluded class were debarred from office, but as prominent leaders in the rebellion, so marked by having previously held office. It shut out, and was so intended, a class not only very large in numbers but including the best intelligence and social leadership of the South. To exclude these men from all political leadership in the new régime was in flat defiance of that statesmanship, as wise as magnanimous, which Andrew and Beecher had voiced. As one New England observer put the matter, it would help matters greatly if no man favored a government for others that he would not like to live under himself; now how
would it work in Massachusetts to exclude from the government the whole Republican party? Yet the Democrats in the State have ten times the knowledge, character and ability, that are possessed in the South by the elements free from stain of rebellion.
The disqualification, to be sure, was removable in each case by a two-thirds vote of Congress. But it could not be foreseen how Congress would be disposed; and in fact, the President's pardon, so freely given, had been by Congress expressly deprived of any political value; being held to exempt only from legal pains and penalties. The new exclusion, if adopted, could hardly work other than disastrously. And, being offered, as the entire amendment necessarily was, for acceptance or rejection by all the States, this provision was as well suited to repel the South as if it had been designed for that purpose.
It offended that loyalty to their tried leaders in stress and storm which is one of the best traits in a people's character. Compare it with Beecher's saying of a few months earlier, “I think it to be the great need of this nation to save the self-respect of the South.” The difference measures the degree of the mistake under which the mass of the North were still laboring. They looked upon the rebellion as a moral and personal crime. They had no comprehension of the Southern standpoint; and, sure that their own cause was just, they believed that their opponents were not only mistaken but morally guilty. As it was hardly possible to suppose the 8,000,000 to have all gone wrong out of individual perversity, the current view at the North was that Secession sprang from a conspiracy; that its leaders had secretly plotted, like Aaron Burr, and thus misled their followers. The impulse to inflict death or imprisonment or confiscation on anybody was infrequent or short-lived; the desire for such punishment lingered only in an irrational wish for