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the Union before long, the only hope of the Republican Party in the South, lay in the negro vote. In the North these radical leaders saw unmistakable signs that the tide of political prosperity was beginning to ebb, and as the potential regro vote was most desirable to secure it for the Republican Party; 89 otherwise, when the white vote from the South should be added to the Democratic vote of the North, hopeless defeat was the inevitable portion of the Republican Party.
It is not true, however, that all of these Republican leaders were actuated by malice toward the South, or by heartless political ambition; on the contrary, they had so long taught, and been taught, that the Republican Party had saved the Union-first during the war, and afterwards from the "diabolical machinations" of President Johnson and the southern secessionists-that many of them sincerely and heartily distrusted the Democratic Party of the North and construed its sympathy for the crushed and suffering South as a secret approbation of its secession ideas. Many of these Republican leaders therefore sincerely believed that, by forestalling Democartic success, they were doing God a service, regardless of the means employed; that the life of the Republican Party's power was coterminous with the life of the Nation; and that, when that party should suffer defeat in Congress, "Ichabod ” should be written over the doors of the Capitol.
In 1868-69, among the radical leaders, party fealty was a religious duty; and those in the State legislatures, further removed from the sources of original information than those in Congress, were, generally, the most sincere in their fanaticism. To these men the radical leaders in Congress were the only men who had the wisdom to see the danger of the country, and the courage to do what was necessary to avert it. In their eyes the moderate Republicans, who practically composed the rank and file of their party, were only good-natured, easy-going people, who did not realize the danger they were in, and were allowing a silly, unreasoning prejudice to make them reject negro suffrage, which alone could avert the national calamity of Democratic ascendancy. The people must be saved from themselves, and negro suffrage must be established and perpetuated in spite of them.
Thus sincerely or insincerely reasoned the radical leaders, when, on December 7, 1868, in defiance of the pledges just made by their party in its national platform, and upon which it had asked and just received a vote of confidence from the people, Mr. Boutwell, of Massachusetts, introduced in the House, immediately upon the reassembling of Congress, a bill, to be passed as an ordinary act of Congress, establishing negro suffrage throughout the United States; 90 and on the same day Judge Kelley, a Representative from Pennsylvania, introduced a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to make that act irrevocable.91
Several bills and joint resolutions of similar import were introduced by other Members about the same time, but all were abandoned except these two. The Boutwell bill provided only for the right to vote for presidential electors and Members of Congress; the Kelley resolution covered the right of suffrage generally, both Federal and State; neither one referred to the right to hold office, and both prohibited any discrimination on account of race.92 Neither the resolution not the bill was reported from the Judiciary Committee, to whom it had been referred, until January 11, 1869.95 In the meantime powerful influences were at work favorable to negro suffrage.
In the South the negroes had been forcibly enfranchised by the reconstruction acts, which also disfranchised the majority of her white men. These acts had been passed over the presidential veto, enforced by military authority, and the Supreme Court had been inhibited from passing upon their constitutionality. 94 The southern people were helpless-why kick against the pricks and further exasperate the dominant party by their contumacy? Was it not the part of wisdom to yield to the inevitable, frankly recognize negro suffrage as an accomplished fact, and deal with it as such? The northern Democrats exhorted them to hold out a little longer, till the Republicans could be turned out of power and relief would come; but human nature could not last forever, and the conditions at the South were becoming unbearable. 95 The southern people at least realized that, without accomplishing anything toward getting rid of negro suffrage, they were, by their resistance, merely disfranchising
88 See editorials in New York Herald, Jan. 12 and 21, 1869.
83 See speech of Mr. Sumner in the Senate on Feb. 5, 1869, Globe, p. 904.
90 House bill No. 1463. See Globe, Dec. 7, 1868, p. 9.
91 House Joint Resolution No. 363. See Globe, Dec. 7, 1868, p. 9.
92 I am reasonably sure this is correct, though I have not been able to obtain an exact copy of the original Boutwell bill. I get my ideas of its provisions from the debates upon it. For copy of the Kelley resolution see Globe for Dec. 7, 1868, p. 9.
93 See Globe for Jan. 11, 1869, p. 285, 515.
94 Act of Congress, Mar. 27, 1868, 15 U. S. Statutes 44; Ex parte McArdle, 7 Wall. 95 See National Intelligencer for Jan. 12, 1869, p. 2.
themselves and allowing their States to fall into the hands of the carpetbaggers, adventurers and tramps, who had come, no one knew whence, and dropped like vultures out of the sky to gorge themselves upon the political carcasses of those dead States.
An idea at that time prevailed with some in the South that, if the white men were allowed to vote, and would frankly accept negro enfranchisement, the negroes would abandon their carpetbagger leaders and naturally follow their old masters, 96 or would, at least, divide among themselves had become more amenable to the good influences and wise counsels of the conservative whites. These views had carried the day in all of the Southern States, except Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas, which still stood out-the others abandoned their struggles against negro suffrage, adopted constitutions perpetuating it, and, in 1868, were readmitted, through their representatives, into Congress.
This submission to negro suffrage by the South, like factitious confessions wrung from victims on the rack, was seized upon by its northern advocates as confirmation of the justice and wisdom of the measure.97 In this they were fully sustained by the southern Representatives in Congress-themselves for the most part either negroes or carpetbaggers-plundering vagrants, of whose antecedents they themselves were often too ignorant or too ashamed to speak.98 These men misrepresented, rather than represented, their States,99 but still those States had obtained through them at least a locus standi in national councils, which possibly was better than their former condition of military districts and despotisms.
The people of Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas had hoped and prayed for salvation in the presidential election of 1868, in which negro suffrage for the South was a paramount issue,' but the Republicans, by a fine piece of stratagem, in assuring northern people that negro suffrage was intended only for the South, secured an overwhelming victory, and thus cut off the South's last hope of escape from this calamity.2
Thereupon, at the suggestion of leading men in Virginia (including, it is said, the influential name of Gen. Robert E. Lee himself), there was inaugurated in that State what was then called "the new movement, "whose motto was unrestricted suffrage and universal amnesty," in the hope that, by thus linking those two measures together, the latter might be obtained as the price of submission to the former. This movement first took shape in the "Exchange Hotel meeting" in Richmond, Va., on December 31, 1869, which appointed a "committee of nine" to go to Wash
96 See editorials in New York Herald of Jan. 26, 1869; in New York Tribune of Jan. 19 and 27 and Feb. 9 and 27, 1869, and in National Intelligencer of Jan. 4 and 5 and Feb. 1, 1869. But Governor Morton prophesied otherwise in his speech above quoted from, and the negroes themselves, it would seem, agreed with him. See Cincinnati Commercial, Jan. 20, 1869; see also New York World of Feb. 8, 1869.
97 See editorials in New York Tribune of Jan. 19, 1869, p. 4, and National Intelligencer of Jan. 16, 1869. 98 In a eulogy pronounced in the House of Representatives on Mar. 2, 1869, by a Louisiana Congressman over a recently deceased colleague from that State, the eulogist, who said he had known the deceased Congressman "well and intimately," was forced to admit "that he had been able to learn nothing whatever of his antecedents, but believed he was from the State of Maine." (See p. 240 of Appendix to Congressional Globe of March, 1869.)
99 Speaking of these carpetbag Congressmen from the South, the well-known Don Piatt, as Washington correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, wrote to his paper:
"When one [of the carpetbag Congressmen] makes his appearance, we can not look at each other without audible smiles that are indecorous * * *. I had a talk with one of these gentlemen of the hand baggage last night and tried to convince him that it would be well, just for the appearance of the thing, to cast a vote now and then for the region he claimed to represent. But no; I found my friend had an intense contempt for one-half of his people and a deadly hatred for the other half. It was a Connecticut Congressman elected from the South. * * *Better cut the South into Provinces and give them military governors to keep peace until the negro is educated, the white master subdued, and time, the consoler, heals the wounds of war, than thus to make a caricature of representative government and stultify ourselves.' (See the reproduction of the article in National Intelligencer of Jan. 4, 1869.)
1 See second clause of Republican platform of May, 1868, in McKee's National Platforms and General Blair's letter accepting his nomination as Vice President (McPherson's History of Reconstruction, p. 369) and his letter to Colonel Brodhead, idem, p. 380.
2 National Intelligencer, Jan. 15, 1869.
See news item on p. 4 of New York Tribune of Feb. 5, 1869, giving Hon. A. H. H. Stuart as authority for this statement, and see editorial in National Intelligencer of Feb. 5, 1869, giving Hon. William E. Cameron (then editor of Petersburg Index) as authority. See, also, news item in New York Tribune of Jan. 11, 1869, giving names of Gen. R. E. Lee, Hons. A. T. Caperton, R. M. T. Hunter, G. W. Bolling, James A. Seddon, Thomas Flournoy, Frank G. Ruffin, Judge Meredith, D. C. De Jarnette, and Judge William J. Robertson as prominent Virginians who favored accepting negro suffrage with educational or property qualifications as price for removing disabilities of all white citizens, and naming Governor Wise, R. T. Daniel, Governor Smith, and Robert Ould as prominent Virginians who opposed negro suffrage on any and all terms and conditions. (For a very complete symposium of Virginia newspaper views on the "new movement," see New York Tribune, Jan. 14, 1869, p. 5.)
ington and use its endeavors to defeat the disfranchising clauses of the Underwood convention, then pending before the Virginia people for ratification.1
The condition of the southern people was different from that of the inhabitants of the District of Columbia. They, too, like the whites in the District, would have gladly submitted to disfranchisement for themselves in preference to negro suffrage, but they were offered no such alternative. With them, under the reconstruction acts, it was negro suffrage anyhow and at all events; and they had simply to determine whether or not they should continue further a hopeless fight against it, which only prolonged their own disfranchisement.
Of the radicals, some, like Horace Greeley, partly relented, approved of the "new movement" in Virginia, and advocated negro suffrage and general amnesty going hand in hand; others, like Carl Schurz, then newly elected Senator from Missouri, were still implacable, saying, as he did in a campaign speech that year in Missouri, that, for negroes, was of right-for rebels, of grace; and that he was for answering the demands of right first, the request for grace afterwards; both, however, agreed in making much of the southern surrender on negro suffrage.7
To the moderate Republicans this surrender was evidence that negro suffrage was not so great an evil after all. But to the northern Democrats it was the capture of their chief ally-the complete answer to their strongest argument. What more could they say against negro suffrage, when it appeared to be satisfactory where it had been enforced? How could they rouse people's sympathies for the South's subjection to negro suffrage, when the South itself had ceased to protest against it? Imagine one stretched upon a rack where his friends can hear his voice, but not see his torture; under promise of relief from his immediate agony, not knowing whether his friends will ever be able to rescue him, he calls out that he is comfortable and entirely satisfied, and they, hearing his words, but not perceiving his anguish, go away and abandon him to his fate. Such is not unlike the experience of the Southern people in regard to negro suffrage in 1869–70.
The enforced and factitious attitude, upon negro suffrage of the South under reconstruction, was the greatest blow the northern opponents of that measure ever had; and their fight in Congress with the carpetbagger Congressman, as the apparent representatives of the South itself, arrayed solidly against them, became utterly hopeless. But still the radical leaders knew that negro suffrage for the North was extremely unpopular, and they feared to risk it with the people or even with the succeeding Republican Congress, which was to assemble at Washington within 60 days.
Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, a Republican of Republicans after the strictest sect, and one of the most zealous advocates of the measure in the Senate, said, in a speech in that body on January 28, 1868, that insistence upon negro suffrage had cost his party a quarter of a million votes and that "there is not to-day a square mile in the United States where the advocacy of equal rights and privileges for those colored men has not been in the past, and is not now, unpopular." 8
For a full report of this meeting see National Intelligencer of Jan. 5, 1869. Hon. A. H. H. Stuart, presided; Gen. John Echols, Frank G. Ruffin, and James D. Johnson were appointed a committee of three to name a committee of nine, with Stuart as chairman ex officio, to go to Washington and secure, if possible, the right to take a separate vote of the people on the disfranchising clauses of the proposed "Underwood constitution." The committee of nine, as named, were Jno. L. Marye, jr., Jas. F. Johnson, W. T. Southerlin, Wyndham Robertson, W. L. Owen, Jno. B. Baldwin, Jas. Neeson, Jas. F. Slaughter, and Chairman Stuart. In the Exchange Hotel meeting were also Thos. Branch, D. C. De Jarnette, Thos. S. Flournoy, Robert Whitehead, N. K. Trout, H. M. Bell, Wm. E. Cameron, and Thos. J. Michie. Twenty-eight men signed the address adopted by the meeting, of whom Staunton furnished five-more than any other placeRichmond came next with four members.
(The National Intelligencer of Jan. 8, 1869, says that the disfranchising clauses of the "Underwood constitution' were even too strong for the stomachs of Thaddeus Stevens, Paine, and Bingham; that they were condemned by such papers as the New York Tribune and Times and the Springfield Republican and by Generals Schofield and Stoneman, who said that under them not enough decent men could be found in Virginia to construct a government with. A valuable friend of Virginia, in her efforts to escape from these terrible disfranchising clauses, was Senator Lyman Trumbull, of Illinois, who reported from the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 23, 1869, the bill allowing separate votes to be taken by the people on those clauses. General Grant lent most valuable aid to the same purpose. See National Intelligencer of Jan. 15 and Feb. 24, 1869. Messrs. Stewart, of Nevada; Conklin, of New York; and Edmonds, of Vermont, who were on the Judiciary Committee, were said to have insisted upon holding Virginia to the strict terms of the "Underwood" disfranchising clauses, and upon the enforcement of that law in its bitter letter. See New York Herald of Jan. 21, 1869. Chief Justice Chase, Senator Fessenden, and Benj. F. Butler, it is said, befriended Virginia in this matter (National Intelligencer, Jan. 12 and 13, 1869), although Butler seems to have first suggested that the ratification of the fifteenth amendment by Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas be made a prerequisite to their readmission as States. See New York Tribune, Jan. 15, 1869; see also note 162 post. It may be of interest to state that the first organization of the Republican Party, eo nomine in Virginia, is said to have been on Jan. 30, 1869, at Burkeville, in Nottoway County, at a meeting presided over by Capt. Jno. Harding, with H. H. Dyson as secretary, and which adopted resolutions brought in by Dr. Benj. N. Royall, indorsing the "new movement." See full report of the meeting in New York Tribune of Feb. 13, 1869, p. 3.)
See files of New York Tribune during this period.
See report of speech on page 8, New York Tribune of Jan. 9, 1869.
7 See National Intelligencer, Jan. 16, 1869; New York Tribune of Jan. 19, 1869. Congressional Globe of Jan. 28, 1869, p. 672.
On February 3, 1868, in urging the immediate consideration and passage of the suffrage amendment, Senator Morton, of Indiana, said:
"There are certain reasons which we can all comprehend why this constitutional amendment, if it is to be acted upon at all this session, ought to be acted upon immediately. The legislatures of most of the States are now in session *and if this amendment is to be passed, I hope it will be passed in time to have the ratification take place this winter period. It is not one of those questions that we care about having hang over until the elections of 1870 or 1872. Unless we act upon this amendment speedily it can not be ratified this winter or during the course of the coming spring, and the final adoption of it may be put at hazard." 9
On the same day and in the same connection Senator Drake of Missouri-he who had threatened impeachment for the entire Supreme Court if they should venture to hold any of the reconstruction acts unconstitutional-said:
"This constitutional amendment can only be disposed of by a two-thirds vote, and it may be that in the next Congress-which was to convene in 30 days and was Republican by much more than two-thirds-there may not be a two-thirds vote to pass this constitutional amendment." 11
A few days later, on February 5, 1869. Senator Sumner delivered in the Senate an elaborate and impassioned speech in which he advocated the passage of the Boutwell bill, establishing negro suffrage everywhere by act of Congress; first, because he said it was constitutional, and he repudiated the declaration on that subject in the recent national Republican platform; second, because he said it was most doubtful if the people would ever ratify a constitutional amendment establishing negro suffrage; and, third, because he said the Republican Party was in urgent need of the negro vote, and that the party's need was the country's need. To quote his exact language, he said: "Beyond all question the true rule under the national Constitution * * is that whatever you enact for human rights is constitutional. * The hesitation to present the amendment is increased when we consider the difficulties in the way of its ratification. I am no arithmetician, but I understand that nobody has yet been able to enumerate the States whose votes can be counted on to assure its ratification. * * * The same thing may be accomplished by an act of Congress without any delay, without any uncertainty. -*- * * I do not depart from the proprieties of this occasion when I show how completely the course I now propose harmonizes with the requirements of the political party to which I belong. Believing most sincerely that the Republican Party in its objects is identical with country and with mankind. so that in sustaining it I sustain these comprehensive charities. I can not willingly see this agency lose the opportunity of confirming its supremacy. You need votes in Connecticut, do you not? There are 3,000 fellow citizens in that State ready, at the call of Congress, to take their place at the ballot box. You need them also in Pennsylvania, do you not? There are at least fifteen thousand in that great State waiting for your summons. Wherever you most need them, there they are, and be assured they will all vote for those who stand by them in the assertion of equal rights." 12
The next day the New York Herald spoke of the hopelessness of obtaining the ratification of a constitutional amendment to establish negro suffrage, for, it said, in an editorial on the subject:
"Upon a question of negro equality or no negro equality, placed distinctly before the whole people, we are firm in our conviction that the affirmative would be voted down by an overwhelming majority." 13
Finally, on February 26, 1869, when it was suggested in the Senate to send the amendment back to a conference committee because the words "and hold office" had been stricken out, those in charge of the amendment made a desperate appeal against further delay, saying that it was now or never that it could ever be adopted. Mr. Frelinghuysen said that it could not possibly obtain the necessary votes in the new Congress about to assemble on March 4, 1869, although it was well known that that Congress would be more than two-thirds Republican. And Mr. Stewart, who had charge of the measure in the Senate, reiterated the same opinion, and in a despairing appeal to the Republican Senators, exclaimed:
"Your legislatures are waiting now, ready to act. Send it to another conference and the whole thing is lost." 14
Thus, under whip and spur, did the Republican Senators on February 26, 1869, five days before the expiration of Congress, adopt an important constitutional amendment, 15 which their own party had just pledged itself against, which the people had again and again declared against, which Congress practically admitted that the people were still opposed to, and to which it believed that the incoming Congress-to convene within a week, and dominated overwhelmingly by their own party freshly elected by the people was also opposed.
That the inspiring force which took the fifteenth amendment through Congress was the desire to perpetuate the Republican Party in power, the debates on that measure leave no room to doubt. In reporting the measure to the House from the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Boutwell frankly admitted that party considerations were the controlling motive.16
That many Senators and Representatives were sincere in believing this a patriotic duty is more than probable, for Mr. Boutwell announced a creed that was accepted by many at that time, when he said in his speech introducing this amendment in the House that this Nation is indebted to the Republican Party for its existence," an idea elaborated in the Senate by Mr. Sumner in his speech just quoted from.
But that these men were also sincere in their protestations of a compelling sense of justice to the negro as a man and brother, entitled to the right to vote, as an inalienable and natural right, like that of life and liberty, can hardly be accepted when we find them only too willing to exclude from that inalienable right Indians and Chinese, whose political affiliations were not so well ascertained. It is almost shocking to find among those who would exclude these races the names of Sumner, Morton, and Fessenden,18 who, with many others, insisting upon indiscriminate suffrage for all citizens regardless of race, yet succeeded in restricting the doctrine to the white and black races by adopting the timely suggestion of Mr. Stewart that the red and yellow races might, by manipulation of our naturalization laws, be prohibited from becoming citizens. 19 Thus they held that, although suffrage be a natural right, belonging to man like that of life and liberty, to deprive him of which were a heinous sin, yet there was no impropriety in restricting this natural right to men who were citizens, reserving the right to say who might become citizens. This was not surprising logic in that class of men who had, it is said, on one occasion declared by formal resolution: "First, that the voice of the people is the voice of God; and, second, that we are the people."
Mr. Pomeroy, a Senator from Kansas, was more consistent in following the negro suffrage doctrine to its logical conclusion, and, though a radical of radicals, he in disgust refused finally to vote for the fifteenth amendment, because it did not provide for female suffrage also.20
A detailed history of the parliamentary progress of the amendment through Congress would not be interesting. The Judiciary Committee of the House, to whom were referred, on December 7, 1869, the Kelley Joint Resolution No. 363, proposing a constitutional amendment on suffrage, and the Boutwell bill, No. 1463, establishing negro suffrage by act of Congress, did not report till January 11, 1869, when it brought in substitutes for each, in which some slight changes were made; the substitute for the resolution was numbered 402 and for the bill 1667.21
Bill 1667, which may still be called the Boutwell bill, was discussed elaborately in the House and informally in the Senate, but the contention that suffrage in the States could be regulated by act of Congress was too bald a proposition to obtain much of a following. In vain did Mr. Sumner insist that whatever was for the interest of humanity was constitutional, and that humanity and the Republican Party were identical.22 The friends of the measure were never strong enough to risk a vote on it, and it was ultimately dropped without ever getting out of the House.
15 President Grant said it was "the greatest civil change and constitutes the most important event that has occurred since the Nation came into life." See his special message of Mar. 30, 1870.
16 See Globe of Jan. 23, 1869, p. 555 et seq., and New York Herald, Jan. 28, 1869, p. 10. Schuyler Colfax, in his letter accepting the Republican nomination for Vice President in 1868, frankly admitted that negro suffrage was forced upon the South as a political measure and sought to justify it as a necessary step to perpetuate the Republican Party and keep the "rebels" from political power. See his letter in McPherson's History of the Reconstruction, p. 366.
17 See Boutwell's speech and Colfax's letter cited in last note. Governor Harriman, of New Hampshire, in his address as chairman of the State convention of that State, on Jan. 7, 1869, said that subduing the rebellion ought to give the Republican Party 25 years lease of power and freeing the slaves 25 years more, and he thereupon called upon Congress to pass the pending suffrage amendment so that the party could be insured to get the lease of power it was entitled to. See New York Herald, Jan. 9, 1969. 18 Globe for Feb. 9, 1869, p. 1032 et seq.; New York Herald, Feb. 10, 1839, p. 3.
19 Globe for Feb. 6, 1869, p. 938.
20 Idem, Feb. 26, 1869, p. 1641.
21 Idem., Jan. 11, 1869, p. 286.
22 As extravagant as this may appear, it is substantially the exact language of Mr. Sumner's speech In the Senate of Feb. 5, 1869. See Globe, p. 904.