Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

Connecticut ratified in May;' Florida in June;2 New Hampshire in July;: Vermont followed Virginia in October,* and Alabama ratified in November, the last ratification of the year. Missouri preceded Mississippi by ten days, in January, and Rhode Island, Kansas and Ohio followed it.? Texas was preceded by Georgia, Iowa and

1 A joint resolution for the ratification of the amendment was introduced in the Indiana Senate on the 13th of May. Seventeen Democratic senators and 36 representatives had resigned on the 4th of March, thus preventing a quorum in both branches. The opponents to the amendment-and they included some Republicans-claimed that the question of its ratification had not been before the people at the time of their election. The Speaker ruled that there was a quorum of de facto members present, though on the 14th of May 42 members of the House had resigned. The appeal of the two Democratic representatives who remained was laid on the table and the resolution for the ratification carried by a vote of 54 to 0, in the House, May 14; it had been carried in the Senate, May 13, by a vote of 27 to 1. Documentary History, II, p. 836.

Connecticut, May 19; 12 to 5 in the Senate, May 7; 4 absent or not voting; 126 to 104 in the House, May 13; 7 absent or not voting: Documentary History, II, p. 839.

2 Florida, June 15; 13 to 8 in the Senate; 26 to 13 in the House: Documentary History, II, p. 841.

3 New Hampshire, July 7; in the Senate without division; in the House, 187 to 131, June 24: Documentary History, II, p. 843.

4 Vermont, October 21; in the Senate unanimously; in the House, 196 to 12: Documentary History, II, p. 848.

5 Alabama, November 24; in the Senate, 24 to 0; in the House, 69 to 16: Documentary History, II, p. 850.

6 Missouri, January 10, 1870; in the Senate, 21 yeas to 3 nays, 10 absent; in the House, 86 yeas, 34 nays, 12 absent: Documentary History, II, p. 853. For Mississippi, see p. 451, ante.

7 Rhode Island, January 18; in the Senate, 23 to 12; in the House, 57 to 9: Documentary History, II, p. 863.

Kansas, January 19; in the Senate, unanimously; 25 ayes; in the House, January 18, 1870, 77 ayes to 12 nays; two members were allowed, later, to record their votes in the affirmative. See the Protests that the Fifteenth Amendment had not been made a direct issue at the polls. House Journal, pp. 135, 137. Documentary History, II, p. 868.

[blocks in formation]

Nebraska in February,' and followed by Minnesota, whose vote made the full number required by the Constitution.” On the thirtieth of March, Secretary Seward, by proclamation, announced that the amendment had become a part of the Constitution. Nearly a year later, on the twentyfirst of February, New Jersey ratified. *

California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon and Tennessee rejected the amendment. The reason for their action was doubtless expressed by the general assembly of Tennessee, that the amendment was unnecessary, as the States were fully empowered to extend the suffrage to whom they pleased; that it had been passed and submitted at a time when the public mind was not in a condition to properly weigh and consider the question; that it was class legislature of an odious character, making the colored race the especial ward and favorite of the country; that it was "incompetent,” because it would become a bone of contention in the future and a subject of ceaseless agitation;

i Georgia, February 2; in the Senate, 26 to 10; in the House, 55 to 29: Documentary History, II, p. 875.

Iowa, February 3; in the Senate, January 26, 42 yeas, 7 nays, 1 not voting; this was the vote on agreeing to the report of the committee of conference on the resolution for ratification. On the 20th of January, the vote in the House, on its own resolution for ratification, was 84 yeas, 12 nays, 4 absent or not voting. The vote in the House on the report of the committee of conference is not recorded: Documentary History, II, p. 877.

Minnesota, February 19, 1870; Senate, January 12, 1870, 13 ayes to 6 nays; House, January 13th, 28 ayes, 15 nays: Documentary History, II, p. 891.

Nebraska, February 17; in the Senate, 11 to 1; in the House, 29 to 4: Documentary History, II, p. 879.

2 February 19: Documentary History, II, p. 891. 3 See the Proclamation in Documentary History, II, p. 893. 4 New Jersey, February 21, 1871: Documentary History, II,

p. 896.

8 In the House, October 26, 1870; for rejection, 24; against it, 14; in the Senate, same time for rejection, 16; against it, 5.



that it had been submitted for voluntary ratification in some States, but in others its ratification had been compelled by military authority. The substance of all objections was given in one clause of the resolution by which it was rejected by the Tennessee assembly; that it led inevitably to a concession of all sovereign power to the legislative branch of the Federal Government. The legislatures of Delaware and Kentucky agreed that the amendment would be “utterly destructive to State rights.”2

If we consider for a moment the history of the suffrage in America, down to the time of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, we can better understand the almost insuperable difficulties in the way of its ratification.3

The history of the American governments down to the time of the reconstruction acts of Congress, while of many races, was by the white man and for the white man. Until the passage of those acts, the constitutions, the laws and the public sentiment of thirty-three of the thirty-seven States in the Union were not merely oblivious of the negro, but hostile to him as a voter. Even in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts or New York, in which States a free person of color* might become a voter, a negro was

1 See the proceedings of the Tennessee General Assembly, House of Representatives, pp. 185-186; November 15, 1869, and of the Senate, February 24, 1870.

2 See Kentucky House Journal, 1869, pp. 74-76, 774-775; and Senate Journal, pp. 623-628. And the laws of Delaware for the resolution of its legislature, March 18, 1869; Vol. XIII, Part 1, pp. 653-654. For the joint resolution of the Maryland legislature rejecting the amendment, see Maryland Laws of 1870, p. 931.

3 The history of the elective franchise is narrated in my Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850, 2 Vols. Harper & Brothers, 1898.

4 For an account of the civil and political condition of free persons of color, in the United States in colonial times and down to the year 1850, see Vol. I, Chapter XII, of my Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850.



rarely seen at the polls, and no community could be found that would for a moment think of electing one to the humblest office. When the Free Soil party, in convention at Pittsburg, on the eleventh of August, 1852, chose Frederick Douglass for its secretary, the innovation of honoring a person of negro blood began at the North, and, it may be said, ended also, for the North has never held to the precedent. The Whigs and the Democrats of the country at this time considered the delegates who nominated John P. Hale of New Hampshire for President, and George W. Julian of Indiana for Vice-President, on an abolition platform, whose chief cornerstone was the declaration that the government had no more power to make a slave than to make a king—as a coterie of fanatics the dangerous character of whose principles was thus personified in the choice of a run-away slave as recording secretary. The reconstruction acts had conferred the right to vote on the negroes of the South, at the point of the bayonet, but would the right be suffered to remain, after the bayonets were withdrawn? This was the crucial question which the Fifteenth Amendment was framed to answer, forever. The franchise must be placed beyond repeal, now that it had been given the negro. No State must be allowed to retain the word "white" in its constitution, as a description of the elector; no law must be passed, either by a State or by the United States, which would discriminate on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. Public opinion, the most stubborn of all opinions, must be changed and changed radically. The practice of the American people during the entire period of their history must be changed, yea, more, corrected to conform to the rights of man. Even now, after many years' familiarity with negro suffrage, the boldness of the Republican program of 1868 seems startling. But the party did not hesitate to make_the





extension of the suffrage to the negro the great national issue in the Presidential campaign of that year.

Grant and Colfax were nominated on a platform which explicitly approved the reconstruction policy of Congress, and Seymour and Blair stood no less clearly for its disapproval. The New York platform plainly pronounced them usurpations-unconstitutional, revolutionary and void, and further declared that ever since the people of the United States had thrown off subjection to the British Crown, the privilege and trust of the suffrage had belonged to the several States, and had been granted, regulated and exclusively controlled by them. Any attempt, by Congress, to deprive a State of this right or to interfere with its exercise, was a flagrant usurpation of power which could find no warrant in the Constitution, and which, if sanctioned by the people, would subvert our form of government, and necessarily end in a single, centralized and consolidated government in which the separate existence of the States would be entirely absorbed. An unqualified despotism would be established in place of a federal union of co-equal States. On the issues of reconstruction and it included negro suffrage—the two parties went to the country. That the extension of the suffrage to the negro was the great political issue of the hour was clearly stated in General Blair's letter of acceptance.2

i Official Proceedings of the National Democratic Convention, held at New York, July 4-9, 1868. Boston: Rockwell & Rollins, Printers, 1868, p. 60.

2 “Those who seek to restore the Constitution by executing the will of the people condemn the reconstruction acts already pronounced in the elections of last year (and which will, I am convinced, be still more emphatically expressed by the election of the Democratic candidate as President of the United States), are denounced as revolutionists by the partisans of this vindictive Congress. Negro suffrage (which the popular vote of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and other

« AnteriorContinuar »