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The vote for Seymour and Blair, which was two-fifths of the popular vote of the country at the time, may be said to indicate fairly the strength of the opposition to the suffrage amendment. The margin of strength for it, there fore, was narrow. It may be said to have won by the power of three hundred thousand votes in a total of nearly six millions. But the Presidential vote in 1868, recorded far more than the triumph of a party; it was the triumph of a principle. It put on record a decree which reversed the practice of government in America, State and National, and overthrew the traditions of the people for two centuries and a half. Henceforth it should not be said that government in America was for white men only. Henceforth political rights in this country should be recognized without discrimination on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. The Fifteenth Amendment obliterated the word "white" from all the American constitutions.

Of those of the thirty-seven States which composed the Union at the time of its ratification all save six used the word “white” as descriptive of the elector. Five of the

States has condemned as expressly against the letter of the Constitution) must stand because their senators and representatives have willed it. If the people shall again condemn these atrocious measures by the election of the Democratic candidate for President, they must not be disturbed.” Proceedings of the New York Convention, p. 181.

1 Seymour and Blair received 2,709,613; Grant and Colfax 3,150,071. The vote in the electoral college was 214 for Grant and Colfax, and 80, including the vote of Georgia, for Seymour and Blair.

2 For a more particular account of the suffrage, down to 1850, see the Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850, Vol. I, Chapters vii and xii; and Vol. II, Chapter xv.

3 Ex parte Yarborough, 110 U. S. 651; U. S. vs. Reese, 92 U. S.



six were in New England, and the sixth, Kansas, was the child of New England in the West. The use of the word "white" in describing the elector in nearly every constitution adopted in America before 1868, suggests how deeply prejudice against the negro was embedded in the public mind. The reconstruction constitutions of 1867 and 1868 omitted the word? and it was discontinued in the Northern States as they adopted new constitutions or amended the suffrage clause in their old ones. It is a suggestive evidence of the persistency of racial prejudice that most of the States delayed to obliterate the word; that when the century closed the discriminating word still remained in the constitutions of five States. Like the skeleton embedded in the rocks, it suggests a monster of ancient days.

Meanwhile reports of atrocities in the South toward the negro race were increasing in number, and the evidence that the amendment was practically ignored there was overwhelming. To remedy the evil, Congress, just two months after the proclamation of the Secretary of State that the amendment had been ratified and, under authority of its second clause, passed an act to enforce the right of citizens of the United States to vote in the several States of the Union. From its opponents it received the name of the Force Bill, and provided that all citizens of

1 Maine, 1820; New Hampshire, 1776, 1784 and 1792; Vermont, 1776, 1786, 1791 and 1793; Massachu tts, 1780, Rhode Island, 1818.

2 These were in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas.

3 It was omitted in the new constitutions of Illinois and Tennessee, 1870; West Virginia of 1872; Pennsylvania, 1873; The New York amendment of 1874; New Jersey amendment, 1875; Missouri, 1875; Connecticut amendment, 1876; California, 1880; Indiana amendment of 1881; Kentucky constitution, 1890; Delaware Constitution, 1897.

4 Maryland, 1867; Ohio, 1851; Michigan, 1850; Nevada, 1864; Oregon, 1835.

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the United States, otherwise qualified by law to vote at any election, should have the right to do so without the discrimination of race, color or previous condition of servitude, or of any constitution, law or custom of any State or territory. Whatever prerequisite for voting might be required of the voter should apply alike to both races and the offer to perform any act required for voting should be deemed a lawful performance of that act and entitle a person to vote. It fixed heavy penalties upon election officers in case of neglect to receive the votes of qualified persons, and also for obstructing the voter in the exercise of his right, or attempting to intimidate him by threats or bribery. It gave the District Courts of the United States, concurrently with the Circuit Courts, jurisdiction over all offenses under the act, and excluded the State Courts from all jurisdiction over them. It placed the military power of the United States at the disposition of the marshal and deputy marshal, who were sworn to obey the warrants and precepts of these Courts. All

persons within the jurisdiction of the United States were declared to have the same right, in every State and territory, to the full and equal benefit of the laws enjoyed by white citizens. The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 was reenacted, and persons who were deprived of an election to any office, except presidential elector, representatives of Congress and members of State legislatures, by reason of the denial to any citizen who had offered to vote, of his right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude, were empowered to bring suit for the recovery of the possession of the office to which they had been chosen.1

The constitutionality of this act, and indeed that of all the reconstruction acts, was denied by most of those who had opposed them. On the ground of unconsti

1 May 31, 1870.



tutionality, the Fourteenth Amendment had at first been rejected by the States lately in rebellion and the unconstitutionality of the Fifteenth was held by Delaware, Maryland and Kentucky as sufficient cause for its rejection. In all the State campaigns prior to the ratification of these amendments, their constitutionality was the subject of ceaseless exposition by the Democrats, and the declaration in the New York platform on which Seymour and Blair were nominated was merely the survival of similar declarations in the State platforms of the party.

With the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment, the Constitution as a piece of political work extending into two centuries, during its formative period, was completed, but before examining the trend of interpretation in later time, let us briefly review the sources and the authorship of the Constitution.



The Constitution was in process of formation during three periods, which covered, in the aggregate, more than eighty years, but the actual time consumed in the perfection of the original instrument and in the discussion of the amendments and their ratification by the States was twenty-three years and a half. The long interval between the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment, in 1804, and the initiation of the Thirteenth, in 1863, coincided closely with the period of Democratic supremacy. These sixty years of power terminated with Buchanan's administration, and the adoption in Congress of the proposed amendment of 1861, making slavery perpetual, to which, in the form of a joint resolution, President Buchanan attached his signature, probably his last official act. There then followed the fearful struggle to determine whether the Union could remain half slave and half free, culminating, unexpectedly, in the adoption of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which abolished slavery, raised the former slaves to citizenship and forbade discrimination against citizens in the exercise of the suffrage on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

These amendments effected more radical changes in the original instrument than the twelve which preceded them. The Constitution, as it left the hands of its framers, in

1 The Federal Convention began its work May 25, 1787; the twelfth amendment was proclaimed a part of the Constitution, September 25, 1804. Initial proceedings in the Thirteenth Amendment began in Congress, December 14, 1863; the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified by Texas, February 18, 1870. 2 See Vol. II, p. 678.

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