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FAILURE OF THE AMENDMENT.
the Senate receded from its own resolution, but by a slightly smaller majority, refused to concur in the original resolution of the House. It appointed no Committee of Conference, and thus the long debate on the proposed Fifteenth Amendment seemed suddenly to come to an impotent conclusion. The failure of the amendment was attributable to the over-zeal and rather petty insistence of some highly influential Republicans that a particular phraseology should be used or the amendment should not pass—an illustration of selfishness common in legislative bodies. But the devoted friends of the principle embodied in a suffrage amendment, knowing well that the time for action was almost past, determined that it should not be abandoned.
1 Yeas 33, nays 22; Globe, 1295.
THE SUFFRAGE AMENDMENT REVIVED AND PASSED BY
CONGRESS-ITS RATIFICATION AS THE FIFTEENTH
AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION.
The President of the Senate had scarcely announced the vote before Stewart of Nevada was on his feet, moving that the Senate take up the joint resolution which, originating with Henderson of Missouri, had been considered in the Senate, between the fifteenth and twenty-eighth of January, and had been dropped for the House resolution. The majority of the Republican Senators were quite as weary of the debate on the suffrage amendment as was the opposition, but repeated motions to adjourn were voted down. The recent vote in both Houses showed plainly that the adoption of an amendment depended almost wholly upon its phraseology, but to make this acceptable was quite as difficult as to satisfy the variable and uncertain temper of the Houses.
The Henderson amendment, now in the hands of Senator Stewart, was unsatisfactory to those who, like Howard, had already suggested one with a different phraseology, and he now declared that he could not vote for it because it proposed to confer upon Congress the power to prescribe the qualifications of voters and office-holders in the
1 This was the Senate Joint Resolution No. 8, and read: Article XV. The right of citizens of the United States to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude; that Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation. On Senator Stewart's motion, the word “by" was inserted before the words "any State.”
HOWARD ON THE AMENDMENT.
United States government and in the States—a most serious innovation in the Constitution. It opened a door to future Congressional legislation which might be very objectionable to the people, and, in his judgment, repealed the clauses of the Constitution forbidding any religious test as a qualification to any office or public trust. The implication was irresistible that, excepting as to race, color and previous condition of servitude, Congress might impose whatever qualifications it saw fit, and thus prescribe rules which would exclude every person in the States from the right of voting and holding office, who did not profess a particular religious creed, or who was not of a certain age, or had not been born in some particular locality; but the great objection to the amendment was its authorization of Congress to say that no one, except members of some particular religious sect should have the right to hold office. All necessary to be expressed was the equal right of the black man with the white, North and South, to vote and to hold office.
It was impossible to revive the old interest in the amendment, shown during the late debate, as was now evident from the absence of a quorum, yet the Senate, responsive to the vigorous championship of the amendment by the Nevada Senator and his followers, refused to adjourn. In vain did Bayard of Delaware protest against this tyranny of party. Amendment after amendment of the phraseology was rejected, till Howard at last renewed the substitute which he had lately offered, and as the Senate had once rejected the pending proposition, it might, as Williams now said, reject it again for the Howard amendment, for which he expressed his preference. The border State Senators were more active in their opposition to the amendment than were those from States further South, and, particularly, to the form in which Howard would cast
THE HOWARD SUBSTITUTE.
it. His amendment failed of adoption by only three votes, and Hendricks, convinced that a suffrage amendment would pass finally in some form, now moved to add Buckalew's rejected amendment,—withholding the submission of the amendment until new State assemblies had been chosen,—but this suggestion was rejected by a larger vote than before.2 Senator Dixon renewed his amendment for submitting the article to conventions instead of to the legislatures, but this, too, was rejected. The struggle now turned on the adoption of Howard's substitute, which Davis, of Kentucky, now moved to reconsider. The debate which followed brought out no new ideas, but the vote of nearly two to one against reconsideration defeated the substitute, and plainly showed the drift of sentiment. All other amendments being rejected, the Henderson resolution, in its original form, was ordered to be engrossed, and, two-thirds of the Senate voting in the affirmative, it passed.
On the twentieth the joint resolution was taken froin the Speaker's table in the House and John A. Bingham, of Ohio, moved its amendment, so as to read, that the right of citizens of the United States to vote and to hold office should not be abridged or denied by any State on account of race, color, nativity, property, creed or previous condition of servitude; thus giving it the form substantially of the Senate amendment which the House had lately rejected. Shellabarger, of Ohio, like Senator Sherman, wished to give the right to vote to every male citizen of the United States of sound mind, twenty-one years of age or over, and to exclude from voting on account of crime, and,
1 Yeas 22, nays 27; February 16, 1869; Globe, p. 1311. 2 40 to 12. 8 Yeas, 16; nay8, 29; absent, 21. • Yeas, 35; nays, 11; absent, 20; February 17, 1869; Globe, 1318.
BINGHAM ON THE AMENDMENT.
particularly, the crime of treason. General Butler, of Massachusetts, objected to the phraseology of the Senate resolution because it seemed to give color to the conclusion that there were other classes than the one implied—the negrowhich might be deprived of the right to hold office; if Congress adopted the Senatorial provisions without a word of protest, the effect would be practically to legalize that which had been done in Georgia, in voting the colored man out of office. “The right to elect to office," said he, "carries with it the inalienable, indissoluble and indefeasible right to be elected to office,” but, like Thaddeus Stevens, when moving the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment when it came from the Senate, Butler now declared that he should vote to concur with the Senate resolution, because if the House did not accept it, he feared nothing else could be had, and it would be forever too late to pass an amendment.
Boutwell, who controlled the time of the House, objected less to the Senate resolution than to the modifications suggested by his colleagues, Bingham and Shellabarger, and it was with his consent that their amendments were offered. Bingham's defense of his amendment was based on his ideas of political equity. The amendment as it came from the Senate struck down, he said, the constitutions of Ohio and twenty other States which unjustly discriminated among citizens on account of color. His amendment would strike down as well the constitutions of States like Rhode Island, which wrongfully discriminated, by a property qualification, against naturalized citizens of the United States, and he declared that he would have inserted the word "education," had he not been convinced that the American people were so much devoted to "that chief defense of nations,” that they would take good care of it. The principal speech from the opposition was made by