« AnteriorContinuar »
moved to postpone the bill until the first Monday of December following. Finding that the last amendment proposed by the House of Representatives was before the Senate, and that his motion could not be entertained, he proceeded to make a speech on the question before the Senate. He asserted that “Congress has no authority or jurisdiction whatever” over the subject of legislation which the bill contains. He closed his remarks with the following words: “I therefore, on the grounds that I have stated, oppose this bill. I know that they weigh nothing with the dominant power here. What care I for that? What care I for the manner in which my suggestions may be received by the majority? Nothing-less than nothing, if possible. I am performing my duty according to my sense of that duty; and in despite of all opposition, of frowns or scoffs, or of any
opposition, come in what form it may, I will stand up to the last hour of my service in this chamber, and will, endeavor, as best I can, to perform my duty whatever may betide me."
The amendments of the House were agreed to, and the CIVIL RIGHTS BILL wanted only Executive approval to become a law of the land.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS BILL AND THE VETO.
DOUBTS AS TO THE PRESIDENT'S DECISION-SUSPENSE ENDED-THE VETO MES
SAGE-MR. TRUMBULL'S 'ANSWER—MR. REYERDY JOHNSON DEFENDS THE MESSAGE-REJOINDER-REMARKS OF MR. YATES-MR. COWAN APPEALS TO THE COUNTRY_MR. STEWART SHOWS HOW STATES MAY MAKE THE LAW A NULLITY-MR. WADE-MR. McDOUGALL ON PERSIAN MYTHOLOGY–MR. J. H. LANE DEFENDS THE PRESIDENT—MR. WADE—THE PRESIDENT'S COLLAR–MR. BROWN_MR. DOOLITTLE_MR. GARRETT DAVIS-Mr. SAULSBURY-YEAS AND NAYS IN THE SENATE--VOTE IN THE HOUSE—THE CIVIL RIGHTS BILL BECOMES A LAW.
HE Civil Rights Bill having finally passed through Congress, on the 15th of March, by the concurrence of the Senate in
the amendments of the House, was submitted to the President for his approval. Much anxiety was felt throughout the country to know what would be the fate of the bill at the hands of the Executive. Some thought it incredible that a President of the United States would veto so plain a declaration of rights, essential to the very existence of a large class of inhabitants. Others were confident that Mr. Johnson's approval would not be given to a bill interfering, as they thought, so flagrantly with the rights of the States under the Constitution.
All doubts' were dispelled, on the 27th of March, by the appearance of the President's Secretary on the floor of the Senate, who said, in formal phrase: “Mr. President, I am directed by the President of the United States to return to the Senate, in which house it originated, the bill entitled ' An act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and to furnish the means of their vindication,' with his objections thereto in writing."
The Secretary of the Senate then read the message, which was heard with profound attention by the Senators, and a large assembly which thronged the galleries, drawn thither in anticipation of the President's veto message.
"To the Senate of the United States :
"I regret that the bill which has passed both houses of Congress, entitled 'An act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish the means for their viņdication, contains provisions which I can not approve, consistently with my sense of duty to the whole people and my obligations to the Constitution of the United States. I am therefore constrained to return it to the Senate, the house in which it originated, with my objections to its becoming a law.
"By the first section of the bill, all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are declared to be citizens of the United States. This provision comprehends the Chinese of the Pacific States, Indians subject to taxation, the people called Gypsies, as well as the entire race designated as blacks, people of color, negroes, mulattoes, and persons of African blood. Every individual of those races, born in the United States, is by the bill made a citizen of the United States." It does not purport to declare or confer any other right of citizenship than Federal citizenship. · It does not purport to give these classes of persons any status as citizens of States, except that which may result from their status as citizens of the United States. The power to confer the right of State citizenship is just as exclusively with the several States as the power to confer the right of Federal citizenship is with Congress.
“The right of Federal citizenship thus to be conferred on the several excepted races before mentioned is now, for the first time, proposed to be given by law. If, as is claimed by many, all persons who are native-born, already are, by virtue of the Constitution, citizens of the United States, the passage of the pending bill can not be necessary to make them such. If, on the other hand, such persons are not citizens, as may be assumed from the proposed legislation to make them such, the grave question presents itself, whether, when eleven of the thirty-six States are unrepresented in Congress, at this time it is sound policy to make our entire colored population and all other excepted classes citizens of the United States ? Four millions of them have just emerged from slavery into freedom. Can it be reasonably supposed that they possess the requisite qualifications to entitle them to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States? Have the people of the several States expressed such a conviction? It may also be asked whether it is necessary that they should be declared citizens in order that they may be secured in the enjoyment of civil rights ? Those rights proposed to be conferred by the bill are, by Federal as well as by State laws, secured to all domiciled aliens and foreigners even before the completion of the process of naturalization, and it may safely be assumed that the same enactments are sufficient to give like protection and benefits to those for whom this bill provides special legislation. Besides, the policy of the Government, from its origin to the present time, seems to have been that persons who are strangers to and unfamiliar with our institutions and our laws should pass through a certain probation, at the end of which, before attaining the coveted prize, they must give evidence of their fitness to receive and to exercise the rights of citizens as contemplated by the Constitution of the United States.
"The bill, in effect, proposes a discrimination against large numbers of intelligent, worthy, and patriotic foreigners, and in favor of the negro, to whom, after long years of bondage, the avenues to freedom and intelligence have now been suddenly opened. He must, of necessity, from his previous unfortunate condition of servitude, be less informed as to the nature and character of our institutions than he who, coming from abroad, has to some extent at least, familiarized himself with the principles of a Government to which he voluntarily intrusts 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' Yet it is now proposed by a single legislative enactment to confer the rights of citizens upon all persons of African descent, born within the extended limits of the United States, while persons of foreign birth, who make our land their home, must undergo a probation of five years, and can only then become citizens upon proof that they are of 'good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same.'
“The first section of the bill also contains an enumeration of the rights to be enjoyed by these classes, so made citizens, 'in every State and Territory in the United States. These rights are, To make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property,' and to have 'full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.' So, too, they are made subject to the same punishment, pains, and penalties in common with white citizens, and to none others. Thus a perfect equality of the white and black races is attempted to be fixed by Federal law, in every State of the Union, over the vast field of State jurisdiction covered by these enumerated rights. In no one of these can any State ever exercise any power of discrimination between the different races.
“In the exercise of State policy over matters exclusively affecting the people of each State, it has frequently been thought expedient to discriminate between the two races. By the statutes of some of the States, Northern as well as Southern, it is enacted, for instance, that no white person shall intermarry with a negro or mulatto. Chancellor Kent says, speaking of the blacks, that 'marriages between them and whites are forbidden in some of the States where slavery does not exist, and they are prohibited in all the slaveholding States, and when not absolutely contrary to lav, they are revolting, and regarded as an offense against public decorum.'
"I do not say this bill repeals State laws on the subject of marriage between the two races, for as the whites are forbidden to intermarry with the blacks, the blacks can only make such contracts as the whites themselves are allowed to make, and therefore can not, under this bill, enter into the marriage contract with the whites. I cite this discrimination, however, as an instance of the State policy as to discrimination, and to inquire whether, if Congress can abrogate all State laws of discrimination between the two races in the matter of real estate, of suits, and of contracts generally, Congress may not also repeal the State laws as to the contract of marriage between the two races? Hitherto every subject embraced in the enumeration of rights contained in this bill has been considered as exclusively belonging to the States. They all relate to the internal policy and economy of the respective States. They are matters which in each State concern the domestic condition of its people, varying in each according to its own peculiar circumstances, and the safety and well-being of its own citizens. I do not mean to say that upon all these subjects there are not Federal restraints, as, for instance, in the State power of legislation over contracts, there is a Federal limitation that no State shall pass à law impairing the obligations of contracts; and as to crimes, that no State shall pass an ex post facto law; and as to money, that no State shall make any thing but gold and silver a legal tender. But where can we find a Federal prohibition against the power of any State to discriminate, as do most of them, between aliens and citizens, between artificial persons called corporations and natural persons, in the right to hold real estate?
"If it be granted that Congress can repeal all State laws discriminating between whites and blacks, in the subjects covered by this bill, why, it may be asked, may not Congress repeal in the same way all State laws discriminating between the two races on the subject of suffrage and office? If Congress can declare by law who shall hold lands, who shall testify, who shall have capacity to make a contract in a State, then Congress can by law also declare who, without regard to color or race, shall have the right to sit as a juror or as a judge, to hold any office, and, finally, to vote, 'in every State and Territory of the United States.' As respects the Territories, they come within the power of Congress, for, as to them, the law-making power is the Federal power; but as to the States, no similar provisions exist, vesting in Congress the power 'to make rules and regulations' for them.
“The object of the second section of the bill is to afford discriminating protection to colored persons in the full enjoyment of all the rights secured to them by the preceding section. It declares that any person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, shall subject, or cause to be subjected, any inhabitant of any State or Territory to the deprivation of any right secured or protected by this act, or to different pun. isiment, pains, or penalties on account of such person having at one time been held in a condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, or by reason of his color or race, than is prescribed for the punishment of white persons, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $1,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, in the discretion of the court.' This section seems to be designed to apply to some existing or future law of a State or Territory which may conflict with the provisions of the bill now under consideration. It provides for counteracting such forbidden legislation by imposing fine and imprisonment upon the legislators who may pass such conflicting laws, or upon the officers or agents who shall put, or attempt to put, them into execution. It means an official offense, not a common crime committed against law upon the persons or property of the black race. Such an act may deprive the black man of his property, but not of the right to hold property. It means a deprivation of the right itself, either by the State Judiciary or the State Legislature. It is therefore assumed that,