« AnteriorContinuar »
supremacy of the North in the legislation and administration of the Government. They may thus compel the South to become suppliants at their feet for justice, and it may be for mercy."
Mr. Kasson, of Iowa, and Mr. Wright, of New Jersey, made extended remarks, avowedly in opposition to the measure, but dwalling, for the greater portion of their time, upon subjects remotely connected with the resolution before the House.
Discussion was resumed in the House on Monday, January 29th. The question having become much complicated by the numerous propositions to amend, the Speaker, by request of Mr. Conkling, stated the exact position of the subject before the House, and the various questions pending. The Speaker said: “The committee having reported this joint resolution, the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Stevens] moved to amend by inserting the word 'therein' after the words 'all persons,' in the last clause of the proposed amendment to the Constitution.
“Pending that motion, the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Kelley] moved an entirely new proposition in the nature of a substitute for the joint resolution reported from the joint committee, proposing an amendment to the Constitution differing from the one reported from the committee. The gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Baker] also submitted for his colleague [Mr. Ingersoll] a proposition in the nature of a substitute for the one reported from the committee, as an amendment to the amendment.
“Pending those two propositions, the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Lawrence) moved to recommit the joint resolution to the joint committee with certain instructions. The gentleman from Massachusetts [Mr. Eliot] moved to amend the instructions, and the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Schenck] moved to amend the amendment.
“ The gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Le Blond] also moved to commit the whole subject to the Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union. The first question will, therefore, be upon the motion to commit to the Committee of the Whole, as that committee is higher in rank than the joint Committee on Reconstruction.
“ Next after that will be the various motions to recommit with instructions. If all those propositions should fail, then the motion of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, [Mr. Stevens,] being for the purpose of perfecting the original proposition, will come up for consideration. Then propositions in the nature of substitutes will come up for consideration ; first the amendment to the amendment, proposed by the gentleman from Illinois, [Mr. Baker,] and next the substitute amendment of the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Kelley]."
· Mr. Raymond, of New York, made a speech three hours in length, in opposition to the proposed amendment to the Constitution. He discussed the general questions of reconstruction, affirming that the Southern States had resumed their functions of self-government in the Union, that they did not change their constitutional relations by making war, and that Congress should admit their Representatives by districts, receiving only loyal men as members.
The closing words of Mr. Raymond's speech excited great sensation and surprise. They were as follows: “The gigantic contest is at an end. The courage and devotion on either side which made it $0 terrible and so long, no longer owe a divided duty, but have become the common property of the American name, the priceless possession of the American Republic through all time to come. The dead of the contending hosts sleep beneath the soil of a common country, and under one common flag. Their hostilities are hushed, and they are the dead of the nation for
The victor may well exult in the victory he has achieved. Let it be our task, as it will be our highest glory, to make the vanquished, and their posterity to the latest generation, rejoice in their defeat."
Mr. Julian could not accept heartily the proposition reported by the joint committee. He thus presented what he considered a preferable plan: “Under the constitutional injunction upon the United States to guarantee a republican form of government to every State, I believe the power already exists in the nation to regulate the right of suffrage. It can only exercise this power through Congress; and Congress, of course, must decide what is a republican form of government, and when the national authority shall interpose against State action for the purpose of executing the constitutional guarantee. No one will deny the authority of Congress to decide that if a State should disfranchise one-third, one-half, or two-thirds of her citizens, such State would cease to be republican, and might be required to accept a different rule
of suffrage. If Congress could intervene in such a case, it could obviously intervene in any other case in which it might deem it necessary or proper. It certainly might decide that the disfranchisement by a State of a whole race of people within her borders is inconsistent with a republican form of government, and in their behalf, and in the execution of its own authority and duty, restore them to their equal right with others to the franchise. It might decide, for example, that in North Carolina, where 631,000 citizens disfranchise 331,000, the government is not republican, and should be made so by extending the franchise. It might do the same in Virginia, where 719,000 citizens disfranchise 533,000; in Alabama, where 596,000 citizens disfranchise 437,000; in Georgia, where 591,000 citizens disfranchise 465,000; in Louisiana, where 357,000 citizens disfranchise 350,000; in Mississippi, where 353,000 citizens disfranchise 436,000; and in South Carolina, where only 291,000 citizens disfranchise 411,000. Can any man who reverences the Constitution deny either the authority or the duty of Congress to do all this in the execution of the guarantee named? Or if the 411,000 negroes in South Carolina were to organize a government, and disfranchise her 291,000 white citizens, would any body doubt the authority of Congress to pronounce such government antirepublican, and secure the ballot equally to white and black citizens 'as the remedy? Or if a State should prescribe as a qualification for the ballot such an ownership of property, real or personal, as would disfranchise the great body of her people, could not Congress most undoubtedly interfere? So of an educational test, which might fix the standard of knowledge so high as to place the governing power in the hands of a select few. The power in all such cases is a reserved one in Congress, to be exercised according to its own judgment, with no accountability to any tribunal save the people; and without such power the nation would be at the mercy of as many oligarchies as there are States. It is true that the power of Congress to guarantee republican governments in the States through its intervention with the question of suffrage has not hitherto been exercised, but this certainly does not disproye the existence of such .power, nor the expediency of its exercise now, under an additional and independent constitutional grant, and when a fit occasion for it has come through the madness of treason. Why temporize by adopting half-way measures and a policy of indirection? The shortest distance between two given points is a straight line. Let us follow it in so important a work as amending the Constitution.
“How do you know that the broad proposition I advocate will fail in Congress or before the people? These are revolutionary days. Whole generations of common time are now crowded into the span of a few years. Life was never before so grand and blessed an opportunity. The man mistakes his reckoning who judges either the present or the future by any political almanac of bygone years. Growth, development, progress are the expressive watchwords of the hour. Who can remember the marvelous events of the past four years, necessitated by the late war, and then predict the failure of further measures, woven into the same fabric, and born of the same inevitable logic ?”
On Monday, January 30th, the proposed constitutional amendment was recommitted to the joint Committee on Reconstruction. On the following day Mr. Stevens reported back the joint resolution, with an amendment striking out the words “and direct taxes," so as to fix simply the basis of representation in Congress upon population, excluding those races or colors to which the franchise is denied or abridged.
Mr. Schenck offered a substitute making “male citizens of the United States over twenty-one years” the basis of representation. Mr. Schenck occupied a few minutes in advocating his proposition.
On the other hand, Mr. Benjamin, of Missouri, objected to the substitute as greatly to the detriment of Missouri, since it would reduce her representation in Congress from nine to four, because she has endeavored to place the Government in loyal hands by disfranchising the rebel element of that State. In doing this, she had disfranchised one-half her voters.
The previous question having been called, Mr. Stevens made the closing speech of the protracted discussion. In the opening of his speech, Mr. Stevens said: “It is true we have been informed by high authority, at the other end of the avenue, introduced through an unusual conduit, that no amendment is necessary to the Constitution as our fathers made it, and that it is better to let it stand as it is. Now, sir, I think very differently, myself, for one individual. I believe there is intrusted to this Congress a high duty, no less important and no less fraught with the weal or woe of future ages than was intrusted to the august body that made the Declaration of Independence. I believe now, if we omit to exercise that high duty, or abuse it, we shall be held to account by future generations of America, and by the whole civilized world that is in favor of freedom, and that our names will go down to posterity with some applause or with black condemnation if we do not treat the subject thoroughly, honestly, and justly in reference to every human being on this continent."
That the above paragraph may be understood, it will be nec-/ essary to state that the President of the United States himself had taken part in the discussion of the measure pending before Congress. The “unusual conduit” was the telegraph and the press—the means by which his opinions were given to Congress and the public. The President's opinions were expressed in the following paper, as read by the Clerk of the House, at the request of several members:
"The following is the substance of a conversation which took place yesterday between the President and a distinguished Senator, as telegraphed North by the agent of the Associated Press:
“The President said that he doubted the propriety at this time of making further amendments to the Constitution. One great amendment had already been made, by which slavery had forever been abolished within the limits of the United States, and a national guarantee thus given that the institution should never exist in the land. Propositions to amend the Constitution were becoming as numerous as preambles and resolutions at town meetings called to consider the most ordinary questions connected with the administration of local affairs. All this, in his opinion, had a tendency to diminish the dignity and prestige attached to the Constitution of the country, and to lessen the respect and confidence of the people in their great charter of freedom. If, however, amendments are to be made to the Constitution, changing the basis of representation and taxation, (and he did not deem them at all necessary at the present time,) he knew of none better than a simple proposition, embraced in a few lines, making in each State the number of qualified voters the basis of representation, and the value of property the
asis of direct taxation. Such a proposition could be embraced in the foling terms:
"Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union according to the number of qualified voters in each State.
« Direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union according to the value of all taxable property in each State.'