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NATIONAL ELECTION LAWS.
tional right of coercion, and it was now proclaimed,—the only instance in the history of an American Commonwealth. With the same unanimity, slavery was forbidden;" but the decision on the right of suffrage was far different. Should the principle of the President's amnesty proclamation be followed ?2 The question involved many difficulties. Who was to be the final judge of loyalty? The territory had already become the refuge of hundreds of Confederate soldiers, many of whom were outspoken secessionists. Ought they to be permitted to vote? Would they not endanger the State ? Would Congress favor its admission if they were allowed the right of suffrage ?
Another new doctrine was also promulgated, that the national government has a right to define the elective franchise. But the question was scarcely raised before a member inquired, whether negroes and women were to be excluded. The national Constitution, it was said, declared equal rights and privileges to citizens of the different States, therefore, Nevada could not exclude a white man from the suffrage, though it might exclude a black man, because by the decision of the Supreme Court, he was not a citizen. True, said another, but, at the present time, it was considered that black men were citizens; they were so recognized everywhere. This assumption of the judicial function by the delegates was due, it must be said, not merely to the fact that negroes voted at this time in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, but to another fact, that they were fighting in the ranks for the Union. Yet the suggestion of negro suffrage caused a shudder; no delegate presumed to advocate it, though the idea was not so novel as that of paramount allegiance to the general government, or its right
1 Id., 67.
3 Debates, 89.
QUESTION OF LOYALTY.
to coerce a State. It was easier to disfranchise rebels than to enfranchise negroes, and the convention moved in the line of least resistance, with Lincoln's amnesty proposition as its guide.
Loyalty was the word, but the principle debate was on the word "disloyal,” which was used in the constitution of 1863. Many now wished it striken out. "A man,” said a member, “may have been disloyal last year, and to-day be exceedingly loyal.” It was not twenty years since men in any of the Northern States had dared freely to declare their belief that slavery was wrong, “that it was contrary to the principle of republican government, and to the teaching of the Gospel.” But men, who in the early forties were most earnest advocates of slavery, were now the foremost supporters of the President's Emancipation Proclamation; therefore, it would not be well to disfranchise the white man for disloyalty. Nevada should not try to outdo the Federal Government. If the President could permit men, once disloyal, to return to civil affairs and vote, surely Nevada could not do less. If permitted to vote, would not a man who had taken the oath of amnesty be more loyal than ever? The debate became bitter, like the times, and members were saying that men who had taken up arms against the national Government deserved to be hanged. The discussion ceased somewhat abruptly; the vote was taken, and it was a tie. By the casting vote of the President, the word “disloyal” was rejected, and the right to vote was given to white males not under civil disabilities. 2
A convention composed, like this one, almost wholly of natives of free States, and assembled in a part of the country with which few members had more than three
1 Debates, 95.
years' association, and going to the extreme of declaring the right of the national Government to coerce a State, might be expected to be more tolerant of the thought of negro suffrage. Had it assembled in South Carolina or Texas, it would be expected to repudiate the idea. This was a northern convention, and its attitude toward negro suffrage was hostile and uncompromising. However, the State had forbidden slavery. It was the price of admission into the Union, for the enabling act of March made religious freedom and the prohibition of slavery two of the conditions on which it could enter. On the twentyseventh of July, the convention adjourned, and submitted its work to the people, who ratified it by a large majority." On the last day of October Nevada was admitted by proclamation of the President. It was the thirty-sixth State in the Union, and the twenty-sixth to forbid slavery.
Another State was soon added to the free list. Tennessee consisted of two parts, the eastern and mountainous, loyal; the western, the lowlands, disloyal. It was one of the great battlegrounds of the war. The condition of the State, at this time, is, perhaps, best shown by the division of its military strength. To the Southern army it sent about one hundred and fifteen thousand
and to the Northern, over fifty thousand, of whom twenty thousand were negroes. It was not included in the Emancipation Proclamation, for it was largely under the control of its loyal citizens and the federal armies in 1862. The restoration of federal relations dates from the appointment of Andrew Johnson as military governor, on the third of November, preceding the proclamation.
1 10,375 to 1,284. Debates, p. xiv.
2 The American Historical Magazine, Nashville, October, 1896, p. 309. The figures taken from a manuscript of General Marcus J. Wright and Official Rec ds.
During the next two years, the portions of the State under the control of its loyal citizens and of national troops, gradually enlarged until they included nearly its whole area. The military governor early declared in favor of emancipation. "Get it into the new State constitution,” wrote the President to him, "and there will be no such word as fail, for your case; and,” he added, “the raising of colored troops, I think, will greatly help in every way.
Johnson was eager for abolition, but its accomplishment depended upon military successes. Early in 1864, with the aid of loyal citizens, he brought about an important meeting at Nashville, which declared in favor of a constitutional convention and abolition. The meeting had its origin with the Executive Committee of loyal citizens, but it was made possible by the President's proclamation of amnesty, six weeks before. Loyal citizens were greatly divided over the slavery question. This subject and reconstruction were discussed at Knoxville in a quasi-convention, which met in April at the call of the State committee, but its members were divided between support of the Crittenden resolutions and one for abolition. Volunteer delegates, claiming to represent some forty counties, met in another convention at Nashville on the fifth of September, and recommended that delegates to the constitutional convention be chosen at the presidential election. This was not done. The Executive Committee, basing their judgment on the amnesty proclamation, thought it time to issue a call for a convention to assemble in Nashville on the nineteenth of December, but at that
1 Lincoln to Johnson, September 11, 1863. Lincoln's Works, II,
2 January 21.
3 January 21, 1864; the resolutions are cited in Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, VIII, 140-143.
4 See Vol. II, pp. 618-621.
TENNESSEE ABOLISHES SLAVERY,
time Hood's army around Nashville compelled its postponement. It was appointed to meet on the ninth of January 1
The convention, at best, was a revolutionary body and would assemble upon a contingency, but its irregular organization and contingencies were practically overcome by the results of the battle of Nashville, which freed the State from Confederate control.2 Following the precedent and the language of Louisiana, on the fourteenth of January it adopted a constitutional amendment abolishing slaverys and forbidding the legislature to make any laws recognizing the right of property in man. On the twenty-second of February, the amendment was ratified by popular vote, and a Union governor and legislature were chosen to assume their offices on the fourth of March. Thus the precedent of abolition and emancipation set by Missouri, in 1863, was followed within twelve months by Arkansas, Virginia, Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee, all former slaveholding States; and two new States were added to the Union,-West Virginia, which had adopted gradual emancipation, and Nevada, which
1 It appears that the committee chose at first the eighth day of January, the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, for the day of the convention, but the day falling on Sunday, the 9th was taken. See R. L. McDonnald's Reconstruction Period in Tennessee, American Historical Magazine, Nashville, October, 1896, p. 311.
2 58 counties and some regiments were represented by about 467 delegates, who deliberated six days. Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, Vol. VIII, p. 447. See also an account of the Convention in the Annual Cyclopedia for 1864 and 1865, article, Tennessee.
3 By a vote practically of 161 to 113. Annual Cyclopedia, 1864, p. 768. See the account of Reconstruction in Tennessee in Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 39th Congress, 1st Session. H. R. Report No. 30, Part I, 128 pp.
4 Introduction to The Laws of Tennessee of 1865, pp. iii-xiii.
5 William G. Brownlow was chosen Governor. He was familiarly known as Parson Brownlow.