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amendment to the State constitution granting equal suffrage to negroes. in the same year, the vote was taken, and negro suffrage was defeated at the polls by over 32,000 majority. To give effect to their views, the people of New York, at the same time, elected new members of their legislature, who at once rescinded the former act of ratification, and certified their rescinding act to the Secretary of State at Washington. But, notwithstanding that three-fourths of the States had not yet ratified, and their votes on ratification were not yet announced, it was held that the repealing act of New York was void, and that the vote ratifying the proposed amendment was irrevocable. Thus New York was counted for the amendment.
The Legislature of Ohio, on the other hand, voted on May 4, 1869, to reject the amendment, but, later on in the year, a change having been effected in the legislature, that vote was rescinded and the amendment ratified by a majority of one in the State and that action certified to the Secretary of State at Washington. In this case it was held that the repealing act was valid, and that an adverse vote of a State, upon the ratification of a proposed amendment, could at any time be changed. And so, Ohio was also added to the list of ratifying States, though the year before, the people of the State had, at the polls, rejected negro suffrage by 50,000 majority.
In Indiana the action was still more arbitrary. When news came of the passage by Congress of the fifteenth amendment, the radicals, who had a majority of both houses of the legislature, attempted to rush through a ratification as had been done in Kansas, Nevada, and other States. The Democrats protested, and insisted that time should be taken to hear from the people on the question; but all in vain. Thereupon, on the morning of March 4, 1869, when, according to program, the ratification was to have been put through, 17 senators and 36 representatives resigned, thus breaking a quorum. It was urged by some that the remnant of both houses proceed to ratify and not let the record show the lack of quorum, but the governor would not agree to the fraud; he therefore ordered a special election to fill the vacancies and called an extra session to meet in May. All of the resigning members were returned but one, and, in this and other ways, the people made their opposition to the amendment so manifest that it was hoped the radical members of the legislature would not attempt again to disregard their wishes.68 But they were found obdurate, though several of their men finally deserted and came over to the opposition. On May 13, 1869, the Senate took a vote on the resolution to ratify, but, less than a quorum voting, those present and not voting were counted to make a quorum, although the presiding officer of the United States Senate, upon the passage of the amendment by that body, had just refused to count as present those not voting, lest it show the affirmative vote to be less than two-thirds even of those present.
The next day, May 14, 1869, the ratification resolution in the Indiana legislature was taken up by the House. In order to prevent being counted as present, as was done in the Senate, 42 members had again resigned the day before, thus reducing the membership to less than two-thirds, which, under the constitution of Indiana, was necessary to make a quorum."
But the Speaker showed himself equal to the occasion by ruling that, while the State constitution did specify two-thirds as necessary to make a quorum for ordinary business, it did not follow that more than one-half was necessary for extraordinary business, such as the ratification of an amendment to the Federal Constitution. He, therefore, announced the amendment as ratified, and the name of Indiana was duly added to the list of ratifying States. 70
These are examples of some of the methods employed to obtain a ratification of the amendment in the 21 Northern States whose votes were counted for it. In the South,
68 National Intelligencer, Mar. 26, 1869.
69 Indiana constitution, art. 4, sec. 2, which says: "Two-thirds of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business."
70 McPherson's History of Reconstruction, p. 490; Journals of Indiana Legislature for 1869; Senate, p 474 and seq. and house, p. 500 and seq.; New York Herald, Mar. 10, 1869; Cincinnati Gazette, March, 1869; National Intelligencer, Mar. 26, 1869; and contemporaneous State newspapers. In an effort to correct this defective ratification by Indiana, Senator Morton, of that State, about Mar. 17, 1869, introduced a bill in Congress providing that a majority of the several Houses of any legislature should be a quorum for the ratification of any proposed amendment to the Federal Constitution, regardless of the provisions of the State Constitution on the subject. See National Intelligencer for Mar. 19, 1869. Thus did the authors of the fifteenth amendment see, by belated, retroactively and probably unconstitutional acts, to bolster up the obvious and well-known defects in the passage of this amendment. So notorious was the fact that many, if not most, of the legislatures of the Northern States had acted in defiance of the will of the people in ratifying the fifteenth amendment, that, in order to prevent agitation of the matter, the House of Representatives on May 8, 1870, passed a resolution; introduced by Mr. Bingham, of Ohio, making it a crime in the members of any State legislature to propose or attempt to withdraw a ratification when once given. It is believed that this never came a law. It would seem, however, that the conscience of the House was hard to appease on this matter, for a few weeks later, on July 11, 1870. we find that body adopting a resolution, on the motion of Mr. Ferriss, declaring that the fourteenth and fifteenth amendment really were valid. See note 48 supra.
simpler and more drastic methods were pursued. In seven of the Southern States the question of securing negro suffrage in the Federal Constitution was practically left to the negroes, under the tutelage and leadership of their carpetbagger leaders, to determine for themselves; while in Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas the ratification of the amendment was made a condition of the enfranchisement of their white men and their readmission as States to Congress.71
That any of the 10 reconstructed Southern States really favored the fifteenth amendment no one ever claimed to believe. These, together with the six other States which actually rejected it, make 16 States that most certainly opposed the amendment. Of the remaining 21 States, whose apparent ratification was largely obtained by methods such as we have seen, it is reasonably certain that (except in Iowa and in possibly five of the New England States), the people were uniformly hostile to negro suffrage-even in the excepted States it is doubtful if they would have favored it, had their local negro population been sufficient to make it more than an academic question. When all these facts are considered, one may well question whether the popular will was executed or thwarted, when negro suffrage was written into the fundamental law of this Nation, and, should the Supreme Court hereafter hold that the fifteenth amendment never passed the Fortieth Congress by a constitutional majority, there is little reason to think that it would ever find that majority in any future Congress of the American people.
(Whereupon, at 3.30 o'clock, the hearing was closed.)
71 The suggestion of this condition for these three States seems to have been first made by Gen. B. F. Butler (see New York Tribune, Jan. 15, 1869), and to have been put into effect by a resolution of Senator Oliver P. Morton on Apr. 9, 1869. See copy in McPherson's History of Reconstruction, pp. 409–410.