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through by a political dynasty; that it would forever disrupt the Union, and that the slavery issue, which the resolution sought to settle thus finally in a summary manner by immediate abolition, was legitimately merged in the higher issue of the right of the States to control their domestic affairs, and to fix, each for itself, the status not only of the negro, but of all the people who dwelt within their borders.1
For the first time in our history, it was now proposed to make a change in our Constitution, which, if effective, would interfere with the reserved rights of the States. Could three-fourths, under the power of the amendment, overturn the institutions, subvert the authority, and change the condition of the other States? If so, the States might as well have surrendered all their sovereignty to the General Government at the outset, and the tenth amendment, declaratory of their reserved rights, was meaningless. The real question, said Fernando Wood, was whether the whole structure and theory of our government should be altered by changing its basis. It was not the time while in the midst of a fearful civil war to change the organic law. The amendment was especially objectionable because it made social interests the subject of governmental action. It was, moreover, a breach of good faith with the States, and utterly inexpedient. It struck immediately at property, and violated the rights of the people. It was a vindictive law, punishing individuals for the offences of communities; it was wholly beyond the powers of the Government. As, one after another,
1 Anson Herrick of New York, May 31, 1864. Globe, pp. 26152618.
2 John L. V. Pruyn of New York, June 14, 1864. Globe, pp. 2939-40.
3 Globe, June 14, 2940-2942.
WHEELER, OF WISCONSIN.
able representatives arose and attacked the measure, it seemed to be deserted by its friends, or to have none. But its friends, though at this time in the minority, were not silent.
It had been said by its opponents, that the amendment, if adopted, would prolong the war. “I do not believe the adoption would prolong the war one day," answered Wheeler, a Democratic member from Wisconsin. The North could not do otherwise than vote to maintain the integrity of the Nation; end the controversy by conquering the Southern armies and the whole Southern country; but not exterminate its people. This done, slavery would be destroyed. It would be impossible to return to slavery slaves once actually freed by military operation; the more prolonged and stubborn the resistance, the more complete the destruction of the institution. Therefore, the Constitution should be amended so as to prohibit slavery, and to give Congress power to carry the prohibition into effect. The States that had pretended to secede had voluntarily relinquished the protection which the Constitution gave to their peculiar institution; therefore no attempt should be made to force that protection upon them against their will. But the loyal slave States should be given time to abolish slavery in their own way.
And now was heard for the first time during this debate an echo of that economic argument, which had carried conviction in Missouri, in Louisiana and in Maryland. It was idle to speculate as to the future condition of the Southern States. At no distant period they would be brought into subjection to the government against which they had rebelled. "In accomplishing this end,” said Wheeler, "undoubtedly the character of their population is to be materially changed; not that the Southern
1 Compare with the debate in Maryland, ante, pp. 98-113.
ASHLEY CHANGES HIS VOTE.
people are to be exterminated, but the emigration there from the North and from Europe, which will surely follow the return of peace and the substitution of free for slave labor, will change entirely the character of the majority of the people who will have the controlling influence in these States. Enterprise, industry and economy will develop the natural resources of the country, and, when this is done, we can scarcely conceive the advance that will be made in these States, in wealth, population and material prosperity, and we have no reason to doubt that equal advance will be made in intelligence and morality.'
On the next day the vote was cast. Twenty-three members abstained from voting; sixty-five voted nay, and. ninety-three, yea; but the resolution had failed to receive the required two-thirds. During the roll call, Mr. Ashley, who had introduced the original resolution, foreseeing the end, changed his vote from the affirmative to the negative, for the purpose of submitting, at the proper time, a motion to reconsider.2
Just a week before this vote was taken, the Republican National Convention at Baltimore adjourned. Its delegates were in closer touch with public opinion than was the House of Representatives. In calling it to order, Senator Edwin D. Morgan of New York, chairman of the National Executive Committee, told the convention that it would fall short of accomplishing its great mission, unless it should declare for an amendment to the Constitu
1 Globe, June 14, 1864, Appendix, p. 126.
2 Globe, June 15, 1864, p. 25-95. Those voting against the resolution were all Democrats; four Democrats voted for it, Moses T. Odell and John A. Griswold of New York, Joseph Bailey of Pennsylvania, and Ezra Wheeler of Wisconsin, the only Democrat who made a speech in its favor. Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, X, 78, with note.
RENOMINATION OF LINCOLN.
tion, prohibiting slavery. This utterance was received with prolonged applause, but enthusiasm would have been greater had the delegates known that Lincoln was the author of the suggestion. However, it at once captivated the delegates. They responded to the appeal of the Reverend Doctor Robert J. Breckenridge, a delegate from Kentucky, that the whole power of the government, both for war and peace, and all the practical power that the people of the United States would give them should be applied to "exterminate and extinguish slavery."2 The thought was re-echoed by the permanent chairman, William Dennison, of Ohio, who declared slavery incompatible with the rights of humanity and the permanent peace of the country, and that with the termination of the war, and, as much speedier as possible, it must be made to cease forever in every State and territory in the Union.” The plank in the platform favoring the constitutional amendment, the natural effect of a controlling idea, it was soon known, originated with Lincoln.
The re-election of the President, and of a House, the majority of whose members professed the faith of the Baltimore platform, was evidence of the wishes of the country. Lincoln sometimes led, but usually followed public opinion; like Jefferson, he was by nature a politician, and, without doubt, the most masterful in our history. He only reflected public opinion now in his annual message of 1864. The amendment abolishing slavery had
1 Johnson's, First Three Republican National Conventions, p. 177.
2 Johnson's, First Three Republican National Conventions, p. 180.
3 Id., p. 197.
4 Mr. Lincoln said that he had suggested to Senator Morgan to put the idea into his opening speech. Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, 1 Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1864. Lincoln's Works, II, 612-613. Mr. Lincoln's words are closely followed.
LINCOLN ON THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT.
passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite twothirds vote in the House of Representatives. The second session of the Thirty-eighth Congress enrolled nearly the same members as the first, and, without questioning the patriotism of those who stood in opposition, he ventured to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure. Of course the abstract question was not changed, but an intervening election had shown, almost certainly, that the next Congress would pass the measure if this one did not; hence it was only a question of time as to when the proposed amendment would go to the States for their action. As it was to go, at all events, wh not agree that the sooner the better? The President did not claim that the election imposed duties upon members to change their views or their votes any further than, as it was an additional element to be considered, which their judgment might approve.
The election had expressed the views of the people, now for the first time heard upon the question. In a great national crisis such as this, unanimity of action among those seeking a common end was very desirable almost indispensable, and yet no approach to such unanimity was attainable unless some deference was paid to the will of the majority, simply because it was the will of the majority. In this case the common end was the maintenance of the Union; and among the means to secure it the public will, through the election, had been most clearly declared in favor of the amendment.
Nine days later, James M. Ashley gave notice that, on the sixth of January, he proposed to call up the motion to reconsider the vote, by which the joint resolution had