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THE BASIS OF REPRESENTATION IN THE SENATE.
THE JOINT RESOLUTION GOES TO THE SENATE-COUNTER-PROPOSITION BY MR.
SUMNER-HE SPEAKS Five Hours-MR. HENDERSON'S AMENDMENT-MR. FESSENDEN—MR. HENRY S. LANE_MR. JOHNSON-MR. HENDERSON–MR. CLARK'S HISTORICAL STATEMENTS-FRED. DOUGLASS' MEMORIAL-MR. WILLIAMS-MR. HENDRICKS-MR. CHANDLER'S “BLOOD-LETTING LETTER" PROPOSITION OF MR. YATES—His SPEECH-MR. BUCKALEW AGAINST NEW ENGLAND-MR. POMEROY-MR. SUMNER'S SECOND SPEECH-MR. DOOLITTLE
MR. MORRILL-MR. FESSENDEN MEETS OBJECTIONS-FINAL VOTE-THE AMENDMENT DEFEATED.
HE joint resolution, providing for amending the basis of representation, having passed the House of Representatives
on the last day of January, 1866, the action of that body was communicated to the Senate. The Civil Rights Bill at that time occupying the attention of the Senate, Mr. Fessenden gave notice that unless something should occur to render that course unwise, he would ask that the consideration of the proposed constitutional amendment should be taken up on the following Monday, February 5th.
On the second of February, Mr. Sumner gave notice of his intention to move a joint resolution as a counter-proposition to the proposed constitutional amendment. Mr. Sumner's resolution was as follows:
Whereas, it is provided in the Constitution that the United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government; and whereas, by reason of the failure of certain States to maintain Governments which Congress can recognize, it has become the duty of the United States, standing in the place of guarantor, where the principal has made a lapse, to secure to such States, according to the requirement of the guarantee, governments republican in form; and whereas, further, it is provided in a recent constitutional amendment, that Congress may "enforce' the prohibition of slavery by 'appropriate legislation, and it is important to this end that all relics of slavery should be removed, including all distinction of rights on account of color; now, therefore, to carry out the guarantee of a republican form of government, and to enforce the prohibition of slavery,
“Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all States lately declared to be in rebellion there shall be no oligarchy, aristocracy, caste, or monopoly invested with peculiar privileges or powers, and there shall be no denial of rights, civil or political, on account of color or race; but all persons shall be equal before the law, whether in the court-room or at the ballot-box; and this statute, made in pursuance of the Constitution, shall be the supreme law of the land, any thing in the constitution or laws of any such State to the contrary notwithstanding."
According to notice given by the Chairman of the joint Committee on Reconstruction on the part of the Senate, the proposed constitutional amendment came up for consideration on the fifth of February
Mr. Sumner addressed the Senate in opposition to the measure. His speech was five hours in length, and occupied parts of the sessions of two days in its delivery. Mr. Sumner argued that the proposed amendment would introduce “discord and defilement into the Constitution," by admitting that rights could be "denied or abridged on account of race or color," and that by its adoption Congress would prove derelict to its constitutional duty to guarantee a republican form of government to each State, and that having already legislated to protect the colored race in civil rights, it is bound to secure to them political rights also. Concerning the Committee on Reconstruction and their
proposition, Mr. Sumner said: "Knowing, as I do, the eminent character of the committee, its intelligence, its patriotism, and the moral instincts by which it is moved, I am at a loss to understand the origin of a proposition which seems to me nothing else than another compromise of human rights, as if the country had not already paid enough in costly treasure and more costly blood for such compromises in the past. I had hoped that the day of compromise with wrong had passed forever. Ample experience shows that it is the least practical mode of settling questions involving moral principles. A moral principle can not be compromised.”
He thought the proposed change in the Constitution could not properly be called an amendment. “For some time we have been carefully expunging from the statute-book the word 'white,' and now it is proposed to insert in the Constitution itself a distinction of color. An amendment, according to the dictionaries, is an improvement'-'a change for the better. Surely the present proposition is an amendment which, like the crab, goes backward."
This measure would not accomplish the results desired by its authors. "If by this,” said he, "you expect to induce the recent slave-master to confer the right of suffrage without distinction of color, you will find the proposition a delusion and a snare. He will do no such thing. Even the bribe you offer will not tempt him. If, on the other hand, you expect to accomplish a reduction of his political power, it is more than doubtful if you will succeed, while the means you employ are unworthy of our country. There are tricks and evasions possible, and the cunning slave-master will drive his coach and six through your amendment, stuffed with all his Representatives.”
Drawing toward the close of his speech, Mr. Sumner gave the following review of his remarks that had preceded: “We have seen the origin of the controversy which led to the revolution, when Otis, with such wise hardihood, insisted upon equal rights, and then giving practical effect to the lofty demand, sounded the battle-cry that 'Taxation without Representation is Tyranny.' We have followed this controversy in its anxious stages, where these principles were constantly asserted and constantly denied, until it broke forth in battle; we have seen these principles adopted as the very frontlet of the republic, when it assumed its place in the family of nations, and then again when it ordained its Constitution; we have seen them avowed and illustrated in memorable words by the greatest authorities of the time; lastly, we have seen them embodied in public acts of the States collectively and individually; and now, out of this concurring, cumulative, and unimpeachable testimony, constituting a speaking aggregation absolutely without precedent, I offer you the American definition of a republican form of government. It is in vain that you cite philosophers or publicists, or the examples of former history. Against these I put the early and constant postulates of the fathers, the corporate declarations of the fathers, the avowed opinions of the fathers, and the public acts of the fathers, all with one voice proclaiming, first, that all men are equal in rights, and,
secondly, that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; and here is the American idea of a republic, which must be adopted in the interpretation of the National Constitution. You can not reject it. As well reject the Decalogue in determining moral duties, or as well reject the multiplication table in determining a question of arithmetic.”
Maintaining that “the rebel States are not republican governments," Mr. Sumner said: "Begin with Tennessee, which disfranchises 283,079 citizens, being more than a quarter of its whole
people. Thus violating a distinctive principle of republican government, how can this State be recognized as republican? This question is easier asked than answered. But Tennessee is the least offensive on the list. There is Virginia, which disfranchises 549,019 citizens, being more than a third of its whole 'people. There is Alabama, which disfranchises 436,030 citizens, being nearly one half of its whole 'people. There is Louisiana, which disfranchises 350,546 citizens, being one half of its whole people. There is Mississippi, which disfranchises 437,404 citizens, being much more than one half of its whole "people. And there is South Carolina, which disfranchises 412,408 citizens, being nearly two-thirds of its whole “people.' A republic is a pyramid standing on the broad mass of the people as a base; but here is a pyramid balanced on its point. To call such a government republican' is a mockery of sense and decency. A monarch, surrounded by republican institutions, which at one time was the boast of France, would be less offensive to correct principles, and give more security to human rights.”
Of the Southern system of government he said: “It is essentially a monopolý, in a country which sets its face against all monopolies as unequal and immoral. If any monopoly deserves anhesitating judgment, it must be that which absorbs the rights of others and engrosses political power. How vain it is to condemn the petty monopolies of commerce, and then allow this vast, all-embracing monopoly of human rights."
Mr. Sumner maintained that the ballot was the great guarantee—“ the only sufficient guarantee being in itself peacemaker, reconciler, school-master, and protector.” The result of conferring suffrage upon the negro will be, "The master will recognize the new citizen. The slave will stand with tranquil self-respect in the presence of the master. Brute force disappears. Distrust is at an end. The master is no longer a tyrant. The freedman is no longer a dependent. The ballot comes to him in his depression, and says, 'Use me and be elevated. It comes to him in his passion, and says, 'Use me and do not fight.' It comes to him in his daily thoughts, filling him with the strength and glory of manhood.”
Most beneficent results, it was thought, would flow from such legislation as that advocated by Mr. Sumner. “I see clearly," said he," that there is nothing in the compass of mortal power so important to them in every respect, morally, politically, and economically—that there is nothing with such certain promise to them of beneficent results—that there is nothing so sure to make their land smile with industry and fertility as the decree of equal rights which I now invoke. Let the decree go forth to cover them with blessings, sure to descend upon their children in successive generations. They have given us war; we give them peace. They have raged against us in the name of slavery; we send them back the benediction of justice for all. They menace hate; we offer in return all the sacred charities of country together with oblivion of the past. This is our Measure for Measure.' This is our retaliation. This is our only revenge.'
The following was the closing paragraph of Mr. Sumner's speech: “The Roman Cato, after declaring his belief in the immortality of the soul, added, that if this were an error, it was an error which he loved. And now, declaring my belief in liberty and equality as the God-given birthright of all men, let me say, in the same spirit, if this be an error, it is an error which I love; if this be a fault, it is a fault which I shall be slow to renounce; if this be an illusion, it is an illusion which I pray may wrap
the world in its angelic arms.
On the seventh of February, the subject being again before the Senate, Mr. Henderson, of Missouri, moved to strike out the constitutional amendment proposed by the committee and insert the following:
“ARTICLE 14. No State, in prescribing the qualifications requisite for electors therein, shall discriminate against any person on account of color or race."
Mr. Fessenden made a speech in favor of the report of the committee, and in reply to Mr. Sumner. Referring to the subject of constitutional amendments, Mr. Fessenden said: "Something has