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ASHLEY REVIVES THE AMENDMENT.
been rejected. On that day he reopened the question in a powerful speech, whose major premise was that slavery was wrong and criminal; that it was the duty of Congress to abolish it, and that Congress had the power to propose amendments, as was explicitly stated in the Constitution itself.3 The first question to settle was, what constituted two-thirds of both Houses: whether it consisted of two-thirds of the entire number of members to which all the States would be entitled, including those in rebellion, or two-thirds of the members who had been elected and qualified. This question the House itself had settled, in deciding that the majority of members elected and recognized by the House made a constitutional
It had been said, that even if the amendment was proposed by two-thirds of Congress, and ratified by threefourths of the States, it would not be binding upon dissenting States, because it invaded their reserved rights.” But this position was indefensible by the plain language of the Constitution; Congress might propose, and threefourths of the States might adopt any amendment, republican in character and consistent with the continued existence of the nation, excepting in the two particulars named in the Constitution, one, affecting the equality of the
1 Globe, December 15, 1864, Second Session, 38th Congress, p. 53. 2 Globe, January 6, 1865, pp. 138-141. 3 Article 5.
4 The clauses of the Constitution pertaining to a quorum of the House of Representatives, Article I, Section 2, Clause 1; Section 5, Clause I. It was decided during the 37th Congress, to which several of the States had failed to send representatives, Hon. Galusha A. Grow, Speaker; that the majority of members chosen constitutes a quorum to do business. Journal, I, p. 117. See Rules and Practice of the House, title, Quorum.
5 George H. Pendleton of Ohio, June 15, 1864, Globe, p. 2993.
A QUESTION OF AUTHORITY.
States in the Senate;' the other, apportioning taxation.? To claim that our government was a Confederation and the States sovereign seemed an absurdity too transparent for serious argument. Both the law and the history of the Constitution were against the doctrine. Nowhere did the Constitution clothe the States with the attribute of a sovereign power; but, on the contrary, rigorously maintained the supreme authority of the National Government.3
The so-called "sweeping clause”4 meant that the framers of the Constitution intended that the Government should be intrusted with the interpretation of the instrument, not only as to the powers delegated by Congress, but also as to the departments of the Government; "they never intended that any State or parts of States, nor the officials of State governments, should be competent in any capacity to judge of the infraction of the Constitution, by any department of the Government, or be the final judge of the propriety of any law passed by Congress. The provision imposing upon Congress the duty of guaranteeing a republican form of government to the States sufficiently proved, he said, the total indefensibility of the dogma of State sovereignty.
It was declared that the requisite number of States could not be secured for the adoption of the proposed amendment.
To this, it was replied that Congress did not limit the time of ratification, nor had it authentically declared that the ratification by twenty-seven States was necessary. Ratification by three-fourths of the States recognized by Congress would be sufficient. Congress could not recognize a State as a member of the Union unless its civil
1 Article V. 2 Article I, Section 2, Clause III. 3 Article VI, Clause II. Article I, Section 8, Clause XVI. 4 Article I, Section 8, ause XVIII. 6 Article IV, Section 4.
government was organized and administered in harmony with the Constitution. Such a State government and no other could be a Constitutional government. The United States were not a confederation, but a Nation, and the first and highest allegiance of its citizens was due to the national government. But the citizen owed no allegiance to laws unconstitutionally enacted by his local government. The Constitution gave the National Government ample authority to protect itself from a minority confederating against it. The financial effect of the amendment could not be overlooked; its passage would be a guarantee of peace, unity, prosperity and power, and would result in a national credit both at home and abroad which no victory of our armies could give. It would be a pledge that the labor of our country should be free, and would secure the free working men of Europe, who were seeking homes in America, from longer exclusion from a large portion of our country. Thus, in a final analysis, the fundamental reason for abolishing slavery was economic.
The debate now became general, and elaborate speeches on both sides were delivered during the next ten days. There was much repetition of arguments, as usual on such occasions, but no phase of the question was left unexamined. 1
It is unnecessary here to give more than a
1 Thirty-three important speeches were delivered, eighteen for and fifteen against the resolution, and with the exception of four, which were delivered on the 31st of January, these were all spoken from the 6th to the 16th of the month. They were delivered as follows:
In favor of the resolution: Godlove S. Orth of Indiana, January 6, Globe, pp. 144-146; Thomas T. Davis of New York, January 7, Globe, pp. 154-155; George H. Yeaman of Kentucky, Globe, 168-172; Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, January 9, Globe, 172-175; John A. Kasson of Iowa, January 10, Globe, 190-193; Austin A. King of Missouri, January 10, Globe 195-199; Josiah B. Grinnell
DANGER OF THE AMENDMENT.
brief summary of the conflicting ideas. The amendment, it was said, would centralize all local and municipal authority in the Federal Government. It was replied that emancipation had been going on for two or three years, and no municipal rights of the citizens had been violated. Stop the war, save the Union and then make any necessary amendment, urged the opponents to the measure. Its supporters replied that the amendment itself would be a powerful engine for peace and the restoration of the Union. The amendment would immolate the Constitution;2 to which it was answered that the Constitution and the Union could be saved only by its adoption; emancipation was the true conservative policy of the country.
of Iowa, January 10, Globe, 199-200; John F. Farnsworth of Illinois, January 10, Globe, 200-201; John R. McBride of Oregon, January 10, Globe, 201-202; Nathaniel Smithers of Delaware, January 11, Globe, 216-217; John M. Broomall of Pennsylvania, January 11, Globe, 220-221; Green C. Smith of Kentucky, January 12, Globe, 234-238; Frederick E. Woodbridge of Vermont, January 12, Globe, 242-244; M. Russell Thayer, January 12, Globe, 244-246; James S. Rollins of Missouri, January 14, Globe, 258-264; William H. Miller of Pennsylvania, January 31, Globe, 524; Anson Herrick of New York, January 31, Globe, 524-528.
Against the resolution: George Bliss of Ohio, January 6, Globe, 149-150; Andrew J. Rodgers, January 7, Globe, 150-154; John L. V. Pruyn of New York; Elijah Ward of New York, January 9, Globe, 175-178; Robery Mallory of Kentucky, January 9, Globe, 178-181; Brutis J. Clay of Kentucky, January 9, Globe, 181183; Fernando Wood of New York, January 10, Globe, 193-195; Charles A. Eldridge of Wisconsin, January 1, Globe, 195; C. A. White of Ohio, January 11, Globe, 214-216; William S. Holman of Indiana, January 11, Globe, 217-219; James A. Cravans of Indiana, January 11, Globe, 219-220; George H. Pendleton of Ohio, January 11, Globe, 221-225; S. S. Cox of Ohio, January 12, Globe, 238-242; Alexander Coffroth of Pennsylvania, January 31, Globe, 523; Martin Kalbfleish of New York, January 31, Globe, 528-530.
1 Orth, Globe, 14.
It was time to hold out the olive branch and exhibit a conciliatory spirit. Conciliation, it was answered, must rest on justice. Even if the amendment was ratified, said another, it would not remove disturbing elements in the Nation ;3 but, was the reply, it would remove slavery, the chief disturbing element of all. The measure was not only unconstitutional, but impolitic and inexpedient.* As to its expediency, it was answered, had not the Baltimore Convention put the question to the country, and had not the people expressed their will by the late elections? As to its constitutionality, did not the writings of the fathers and the whole history of the country sustain it ?5 Were not the instincts of the American people a sufficient answer?
Again, it was said, that the amendment would produce greater evils than it cured, for it would destroy the Union. On the contrary, said its supporters, it would give to the Nation the heritage of perpetuity based upon freedom and justice to millions. But if slavery was abolished, it should be by the States, not by the Federal Government. To this it was replied, that the continuance of the States with republican forms of government was guaranteed by the General Government, and that the abolition of slavery would mean the salvation of both the States and the Nation.
By the side of this bill, said Holman, a Democratic
1 Ward, Globe, 176.
8 Kasson, Globe, 189-194; Farnsworth, Globe, 201; Smithers, Globe, 216.
6 Fernando Wood, Globe, 194.