« AnteriorContinuar »
the negative. The following are the names of those who voted for the resolution :
Messrs. Anthony, Brown, Chandler, Clark, Conness, Creswell, Fessenden, Foot, Foster, Grimes, Harris, Howard, Howe, Lane of Indiana, Lane of Kansas, Morgan, Morrill, Norton, Nye, Poland, Pomeroy, Ramsey, Sherman, Sprague, Stewart, Sumner, Trumbull, Van Winkle, Wade, Willey, Williams, Wilson, and Yates.
The following Senators voted against the resolution:
Messrs. Buckalew, Cowan, Dixon, Doolittle, Guthrie, Hendricks, Johnson, Riddle, Saulsbury, Stockton, and Wright.
Five Senators were absent: Messrs. Cragin, Davis, Henderson, McDougall, and Nesmith.
On the day succeeding the adoption of the concurrent resolution by the Senate, the amendments of that body came before the House of Representatives. Mr. Thaddeus Stevens moved that the House concur in the amendments of the Senate. He said: “The Senate took what to them appeared to be the proper view of their prerogatives, and, though they did not seem to differ with us as to the main object, the mode of getting at it with them was essential, and they very properly put the resolution in the shape they considered right. They have changed the form of the resolution so as not to require the assent of the President; and they have also considered that each house should determine for itself as to the reference of papers, by its own action at the time. To this I see no objection, and, while moving to concur, I will say now, that when it is in order I shall move, or some other gentleman will move when his State is called, a resolution precisely similar, or very nearly similar, to the provision which the Senate has stricken out, only applicable to the House alone."
The House then concurred in the amendments of the Senate, so the resolution passed in the following form:
“Resolved, by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That a joint committee of fifteen members shall be appointed, nine of whom shall be members of the House, and six members of the Senate, who shall inquire into the condition of the States which formed the so-called Confederate States of America, and report whether they, or any of them, are entitled to be represented in either house of Congress, with leave to report at any time, by bill or otherwise."
A resolution subsequently passed the House, “That all
papers offered relative to the representation of the late so-called Confederate States of America, shall be referred to the joint committee of fifteen without debate, and no members shall be admitted from either of said so-called States until Congress shall declare such States entitled to representation.”
On the fourteenth of December the Speaker announced the names of the committee on the part of the House. They were: Thaddeus Stevens, Elihu B. Washburn, Justin S. Morrill, Henry Grider, John A. Bingham, Roscoe Conkling, George S. Boutwell, Henry T. Blow, and Andrew J. Rogers.
On the twenty-first of December the following gentlemen were announced as members of the committee on the part of the Senate: William Pitt Fessenden, James W. Grimes, Ira Harris, Jacob M. Howard, Reverdy Johnson, and George H. Williams.
Thus, before the adjournment of Congress for the holidays, the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction had been appointed and empowered to proceed with investigations of the utmost importance to the country. Hated by the late insurgents of the South, who expected little leniency at its hands; opposed by politicians at the North, who viewed it as an obstacle in the way of their designs, and even misrepresented by the President himself, who stigmatized it as a "Central Directory,” this committee went forward in the discharge of its important duties, without fear or favor, having a marked influence upon the doings of Congress and the destinies of the country.
Meanwhile other important measures were enlisting the attention of Congress, and were proceeding, by the slow but steady steps of parliamentary progress, to their final consummation.
SUFFRAGE IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
DUTY OF CONGRESS TO LEGISLATE FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-SUFFRAGE
BILL INTRODUCED INTO THE HOUSE_SPEECH BY MR. WILSON—MR. BOYER -MR. SCHOFIELD_MR. KELLEY-MR. ROGERS-MR. FARNSWORTA—Mr. DAVIS-MR. CHANLER--MR. BINGHAM-MR. GRINNELL-MR. KASSONMR. JULIAN–MR. THOMAS--MR. DARLING-MR. HALE'S AMENDMENT--Mr. THAYER—MR. VAN HORN-MR. CLARKE-MR. JOHNSON_MR. BOUTWELL.
HATEVER differences of opinion may exist as to the
authority of Congress to legislate for States loyal or dis
loyal, or for Territories, there is entire unanimity as to the power and duty of Congress to enact laws for the District of Columbia. Here there is no countercurrent of “reserved rights” or “State sovereignty” opposed to the authority of Congress.
Congress being responsible for the legislation of the District of Columbia, we naturally look in that direction for an exhibition in miniature of the policy of the national legislature on questions relating to the interests of the nation at large. If slavery flourished and the slave-market existed in the capital, it was because a majority of the people of the United States were willing. So soon as the nation became antislavery, the peculiar institution” could no longer exist in the District of Columbia, although it might still survive in other localities.
The General Government having become completely disenthralled from the dominion of slavery, and a wide-spread opinion prevailing at the North that all loyal men should enjoy the right of suffrage, the members of the Thirty-ninth Congress convened with a sense of duty impelling them to begin the great work of political reform at the capital itself. Hence Mr. Wade, as we have seen, on the first day of the session, introduced “Senate bill Number One," designed, as its title declared, “to regulate the elective franchise in the District of Columbia.” In the House of Representatives, on the second day of the session, Mr. Kelley introduced “a bill extending the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia.” This bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.
In the House of Representatives, on the 18th of December, Mr. Wilson, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, reported a bill extending the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia. The bill provided that from all laws and parts of laws prescribing the qualification of electors for any office in the District of Columbia, the word "white" should be stricken out; also, that from and after the passage of the bill, no person should be disqualified from voting at any election held in the District of Columbia on account of color; also, that all acts of Congress, and all laws of the State of Maryland in force in the District of Columbia, and all ordinances of the cities of Washington and Georgetown inconsistent with the provisions of the bill, should be repealed and annulled.
This bill was made the special order for Wednesday the 10th of January
Mr. Wilson, of Iowa, whose duty it was, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to report the bill, opened the discussion by speaking as follows in favor of the measure:
“Can we excuse ourselves in continuing a limitation on the right of suffrage in the capital of the republic that has no justification in reason, justice, or in the principles on which we profess to have based our entire political system? Upon this question there seems to have been but little difference of opinion among the men who laid the foundation and built the superstructure of this Government. In those days no limitation was placed upon the enjoyment of the defensive rights of the citizen, including the right of suffrage, on account of the color of the skin, except in the State of South Carolina. All of the other States participating in the formation of the Government of the United States had some limitation, based on sex, or age, or property placed upon the right of suffrage; but none of them so far forgot the spirit of our Constitution, the great words of the Declaration of Independence, or the genius of our institutions, as to inquire into the color of a citizen before allowing him the great defensive right of the ballot. It is true, that as the republic moved off in its
grand course among the nations a change occurred in the minds and practices of the people of a majority of the States. The love of liberty, because of its own great self, and not because of its application to men of a particular color, lost its sensitive character and active vitality. The moral sense of the people became dormant through the malign influence of that tolerated enemy to all social and governmental virtue, human slavery. The public conscience slumbered, its eyes closed with dollars and its ears stuffed with cotton. When these things succeeded the active justice, abounding mercy, and love of human rights of the earlier days, State after State fell into the dark line of South Carolinian oppression, and adopted her anti-republican limitation of the right of suffrage. A few States stood firm and kept their faith, and to-day, when compared with the bruised and peeled and oppression-cursed State of South Carolina, stand forth as shining examples of the great rewards that are poured upon the heads of the just. Massachusetts and South Carolina, the one true, the other false to the faith and ideas of the early life of the nation, should teach us how safe it is to do right, and how dangerous it is to do wrong; how much safer it is to do justice than it is to practice oppression.
“But, sir, not the States alone fell into this grievous error. The General Government took its stand upon the side of injustice, and apostatized from the true faith of the nation, by depriving a portion of its citizens of the political right of self-defense, the use of the ballot. What good has come to us from this apostasy? Take the history of the municipal government of this city, and what is there in its pages to make an American feel proud of the results of this departure from the principles of true democracy? Is there a worse governed city in all the republic? Where in all the country was there to be found such evidences of thriftless dependence as in this city before the cold breath of the North swept down here during the rebellion and imparted a little of 'Yankee' vigor to its business and population ? Where within the bounds of professed fidelity to the Government was true loyalty at a lower ebb, and sympathy with the rebellion at higher flood; freedom more hated, and emancipation more roundly denounced; white troops harder to raise, and black ones more heartily despised; Union victories more coldly received, and reverses productive of less despondency, than right among that por