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EXCITEMENT AND DISORDER.
nounced, there were repeated cries of “no quorum.” The majority were accused "of cramming the ordinance down the throats of the people, and of sowing seeds of bitterness that would never be rooted up.” The president ordered the doors closed, and forbade members to pass out. The sergeant-at-arms was busy bringing in absentees. Order was preserved with difficulty. The convention adjourned in confusion. On the tenth it assembled without a quorum, and the sergeant-at-arms was given his instructions afresh. Another effort was made to request Congress, in justice and equity, to compensate loyal citizens, and before any slaves were freed. Amidst confusion, the chairman put the question, and declared it carried. Excited members moved all sorts of amendments. Emancipation should be decreed, but the legislature should not pass any act authorizing free negroes to vote or to immigrate into the State under any pretext. Scarcely a suggestion was made that did not provoke altercation.
The thought of negroes voting put many delegates into a rage; but the resolution mustered twenty-six votes. There was a difference, said a member, between a political franchise and equality; the negro should possess his wife, his children and his house, but that he should have the same elective franchise as a white man was impossible. Had the North granted this right to the Indians ? To ameliorate the condition of the black race would be enough. “The first subject is emancipation, and without it we are their masters in every respect, and must control them." Give the negro the right to travel, to acquire
1 Wisconsin suffered Indians to vote who had severed their tribal relations. See Constitution of 1848, Article III, Sections 1, 3, 34. For an account of efforts to extend to free negroes the right to vote, see my Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850, Index, Franchise and "Negroes," and especially the discussion in Michigan, in 1850.
THE ABOLITION CLAUSÉ REACHED.
property, and to be a qualified citizen, as in the case of women and minors,—but never to vote. Immigration, said a member, could not be prevented; the exclusion would keep out negro soldiers, and would be ignored by the national government.? Why this anxiety to send all the negroes out of the State? It needed negro troops now to protect it. "The colored population of this State," said a member, “is as willing to fight for the country, and maintain our rights, as any member of the convention.” Give the negro the elements of an English education, provided the whole expense was not saddled on the people of the State, for his education concerned the United States as much as Louisiana; but to give him the right of suffrage would only result in making the State a colony of negroes.
On the eleventh, the convention opened again without a quorum, but the activity of the sergeant-at-arms and the arrival of some belated members, soon made the required number. The abolition clause had been reached. The minority repeatedly protested against the "choking process” of the previous question. Members in the minority began to take their leave, amidst protests. The secretary read, -"Slavery and involuntary servitude, except in punishment for crime, whereof the parties shall have been duly convicted, are hereby duly abolished and prohibited throughout the State.” Amendments were offered, but the president declared them out of order. A member of the committee that had reported the ordinance, moved the previous question, and it was carried by a rising vote. The main question was then put, and the secretary proceeded to call the roll. An altercation over the
1 Debates, p. 212. 2 Debates, p. 213.
8 Debates, p. 218. 4 61 to 24.
rules ensued. The president ordered members to their seats. “I protest in the name of the people of Louisiana, shouted a member. “Disgraceful,” “Tyrannical,” “Order,” were shouted. The roll call went on. “I vote no, in the name of the people,” explained a delegate; "In the name of Jefferson Davis,” retorted another; “In the name of the people, yes,” cried another; "For the good of the Union,” shouted a third; “Without compensation, no,” cried a fourth ; "I have nothing against compensation, but as no value is attached to the negro in Louisiana, I vote, yes,” shouted another amidst applause. “True to myself and my constituency, I vote, yes,” said a delegate, and another exclaimed, that he "had been voting against slavery for long years." "For the good of the white race and the black, yes.” One member changed his vote, and, all rules being suspended to allow the president to vote, amidst prolonged applause, he voted, “Yes, with my
whole soul.” The result was then announced. Seventy-two members had voted for the ordinance, and thirteen against it. The president declared it a part of the law of the State of Louisiana.1
On the twenty-fifth of July the convention adjourned. The constitution, which had been submitted to the people, was more liberal than any ever before adopted by a slaveholding State. It abolished slavery by its first article.2 While it described the elector as a white male, it empowered the legislature to extend the suffrage, as the President had suggested. It made a generous provision for public education, by making it obligatory upon the legislature to maintain and encourage free public schools for the education of the children of the State, between
1 Debates, pp. 221, 224. 2 Title I, Article I, II. 3 Title III, Article XV.
NEGRO SCHOOLS AND SOLDIERS.
the ages of six and eighteen. Instruction should be in the English language, and a university should be established. All able bodied men in the State, irrespective of race, should be armed, and disciplined for its defence, 2 a provision more liberal than the militia clause in the constitution of any Northern State, at the time, excepting New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Louisiana, a half century before, had been the first slaveholding State to enroll negro regiments, and it was now the first to provide for the enrollment of free negroes in its militia. 3
No such marvelous change had before been made in the civil organization of an American commonwealth. On the fifth of September* the constitution was ratified, and on the nineteenth it was formally declared to be in force by Governor Hahn. Members of Congress and State legislature were chosen. In October, the legislature elected United States Senators, but Congress refused to admit them.5
While emancipation had been strengthening in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, and converting them into free States, Maryland had been restless under the spirit of reform. The State contained a half million whites, and about one hundred and seventy thousand blacks, nearly
1 Title XVI, Articles CXL and CXLVI. 2 Title VI, Article LXVII.
2 By the act of January 30, 1815, which authorized free negroes residing in the parish of Natchitoches, who possessed real estate at the value of One Hundred and Fifty Dollars, to serve with the second war with England, though at the time of the Act peace was declared, but tbe news had not reached Louisiana.
4 Fixed by ordinance; Title XIV Article CLII. For the constitution 6,836, against it 1,566.
* The United States Senators were chosen October 10. Congress refused to admit the delegates, and the State was unrepresented in the Senate from February 4, 1861, to January 25, 1868.
equally divided between slave and free. In no other Commonwealth were the numbers of slaves and free persons of color so nearly equal. When, in 1850, the State, in convention, adopted a new constitution, public sentiment was reflected in the instructions, which the convention gave to the Select Committee on the Free Negro Population, to submit some plan- looking to the riddance to the State of free negroes and mulattoes. The multitude of free persons of color within the State, and its nearness to free soil, ever tended to make its slave property less docile and secure, but these disintegrating causes tended, also, to make the supporters of slavery more intense in their devotion, and to make the thought of abolition even more hateful to the people of Maryland, than to those of any other slaveholding State. Its more thoughtful people were convinced that the institution was not permanent.
Maryland, like Missouri, was a mere Northern peninsula of slavery, and its people were not wholly averse to getting rid of the negro,-if they could be compensated. But when the opportunity for compensation came, Maryland, with the other border States, as we have seen, refused to co-operate with the President and Congress. The pride, one may say the vanity, of State sovereignty was in the way. There was an element of coercion even in Congressional compensation; it was a kind of respectable confiscation by the national government, thinly veiling a
1 By a census of 1865 there were 515,918 whites, 87,189 slaves and 83,942 free colored persons. Preliminary Report on the Eighth Census, p. 131.
2 See Proceedings of the Maryland Constitutional Convention, Annapolis; Riley and Davis, Printers, 185; 895 pages. For the committee's report favoring the removal of this class from the State, making it incapable to acquire or hold real estate, but permitting leases of realty, see pp. 496-505,