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Suffrage and reorganization. The subject examined by a voter of Ohio online

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Online LibraryAfrican American Pamphlet Collection (Library of CSuffrage and reorganization. The subject examined by a voter of Ohio → online text (page 1 of 3)
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Every Government onght to contain in it-
self the means of its own preservation.
— Hamilton.

The paramount idea of the Constitution
is to preserve the Union. — Lincoln.

Four years of bloody and terrible war bas
totally overthrown armed rebellion. The
country rejoices, and says its work is done.
It ought to be so. A people who have done
FO much ought not to be asked to do more.
Statesmanship should now do the rest. But
passing events show that the people have
another great work to do. Having destroyed
the Rebellion as a military power, it yet re-
mains for them to put it down as a political
power. Statesmen and politicians should de-
vise the means to do this; but the most
casual observer has already discovered that
there is neither harmony of views nor unity
of purpose among them. Some seem to have
plans partly matured, and some have none.
All seem to be waiting for events. The old-
time leaders who,boldly declared their views,
and lifted up thiiir standards, and called upon
the people to rally under them, seem to have
passed away. There is a cowardly evasion
of live issues among the leading men of the
country. The courage to grapple with the
real difficulties of our situation is wanting to
an alarming extent.

The people must move. All things seem
to be waiting for the formation of public
opinion. While it does not take definite
shape on the subject of the reorganization of
the governments in the rebel States there will
be no safe progi-ess toward a final solution of
our difliculties. Delay long continued may
lead to the same ruin from which our patri-
otic ai-my and people have so far saved our

The noise of battle has scarcely died away ;
our slain heroes are not all yet buried ; thou-
sands of their wounds are still bleedin* ; the
kind hand of nature has not yet had time to
wipe the tears from the eyes of the widows
and the fatherless, made so by the war ; and
yet we see the rebels, lately so defiant of our
power, and so determined upon 'the destruc-
tion of our country, with the bloody garments
of rebellion still upon them, seizing political
power throughout the South.

It seems incredible that men who have
fought four years to destroy the Government
should have the audacity to claim the highest
right of American citizenship, — the right to
vote. If it should surprise us that rebels
should claim this right, is it not passing
strange that the Government should concede
the claim ?

Any evidence that such a state of things
exists, short of witnessing the fact, woulfl be

No loyal man regrets the war to put down
the Rebellion, if, through it, the Union can be
placed on a secure basis. But if we have
saved it from rebel armies only to deliver it
over to the keeping of rebel voters, and their
allies, the copperheads of the North, then in-
deed have the people reason to fear that their
patriotic sacrifices have been in vain.

That the fighting is ended is cause of re-
joicing with every patriot ; but, that fighting
may be no more for all time to come, the
questions out of which the Rebellion grew
should be so settled that hereafter there can
be no cause for trouble about them.

It should be the first and highest aim of
every American claiming the title of patriot
to secure now such a settlement of all ques-
tions which have heretofore caused division
and dissention among us, or which may here-

the different plans proposed I desire to ex-
plain, that, for the purposes of argument and
illustration, I shall assume that the entire
population of the loyal States is twenty mil-
lions ; that the white population of the rebel
States is six millions, and that the total black
population of the same States is four millions.
I shall likewise assume that there is one male
person of the age of twenty-one years in
every five of population. These assumptions
are so near the actual facts that any discrep-
ancy that may exist cannot affect the argu-
ments to be deduced.

With these remarks I proceed to the
examination of the several plans, making
such remarks as seem necessary to put each
in its proper light before the reader, and leav-
ing him to fill up and amplify from the re-
sources of his own knowledge and thought.

First playi. — Loyal white men only shall

Estimating one voter in five of the white
population, we have one million two hundred
thousand voters in the South.

The estimates of Gov. Pierpont, in a
late message, allow that nineteen in twenty
of the population of Virginia have actively
aided the Rebellion. But admitting all that
can be reasonably claimed for the South, let
us allow that only nine in ten of the white
men actively aided the Rebellion. This would
give us in all the rebel States one hundred
and twenty thousand voters who have not
actively aided the Rebellion, and for whom
some claim of loyalty can be made, though
the claim must be of doubtful validity. Es-
timating that one in five of the population of
the loyal States is a voter, we have four mil-
lions of voters in the North.

All the blacks of the South are now free ;
and, in future -apportionments of representa-
tion, a black man will count as much as a
white one. The South has one-third of the
population of the whole country, and will
have one third of the representatives.

It will thus be seen tlyit one hundred and
twenty thousand voters, many of them of
doubtful loyalty, in the rebel States, have all
the voting power of two millions of voters in
the loyal States. In other words, one South-
ern voter is equal to thirty-three and a third
Northern voters, under this plan.

I suppose that no elaborate argument is
needed to convince an American, who always
loves equality, that a plan of adjustment
which would produce such an inequality of
power would be totally inadmissible.

An insuperable practicable difficulty in this,
or any other plan which renders it necessary
to distinguish between the loyal and disloyal,
is the utter impossibility of distinguishing be-
tween them.

Other objections could be urged against
this plan, but it seems hardly necessary to
say more. When the loyal masses, with
whom this plan of reorganization is very pop-
ular, learn that its effect will be to give a
voter in the South, for years to come, many
times the political power of a voter in the
North, they will cease to favor it, and will
seek for some other mode of settlement.

Second plan. — Loyal men and rebels, ex-
cept certain excluded classes of the latter,
shall vote.

What proportion of the rebels are dis-
franchised by the President's Proclamations,
there is no satisfactory means of determining,
but it cannot exceed probably one in nine of
the entire white male rebel population above
the age of twenty-one years. Assuming that
one in nine of the rebel men are disfran-
chised by the proclamations, we have the white
men thus divided, — one-tenth loyal; eight-
tenths voting rebels ; and one-tenth disfran-
chised. In other words, we have one hundred
and twenty thousand voters whom we call
loyal ; and nine hundred and sixty thousand
rebel voters, holding in their hands one-third
of the voting power of the nation.

If there be any genuine loyalty in the
South it cannot fail to have arrayed against it
at the ballot-box those who are only lip-loyal,
and who have taken the oath, not because
they were friends to the Governraewt, but to
save their political power under it, that they
might throw embarrassments in its way. In
case of antagonism at the polls, it is easy to
foresee that the truly loyal would be out-voted
by the quasi loyal. The loyal would un-
doubtedly be in a hopeless minority under'
this plan ; and, so far as practical results are
concerned, the one hundred and twenty thou-
sand loyal voters had as well bo disfranchised
by law, and rebels only allowed to vote.

By the freedom of the blacks, there is add-
ed to the representative population of the
South, about one million six hundred thou-
sand. The' number of members of Congress
from the South will be largely increased in
this way. Before the Rebellion, the South,
with its six millions of whites, possessed as
much political power as eight million four
hundred thousand at the North ; hereafter,
under tais mode of adjustment, the six mil-

lions would possess all the power of ten mil-
lions at the North.

What have the rebels done that they should
receive back into their hands all their old po-
litical power, and this large increase ? Where-
ever they have been allowed to vote, they
have shown their old hostility to the Govern-

If these men are to bo restored to power,
what has been done to make rebellion odious,
or to show that it is any thing more than a dif-
ference of political opinion ?

In the South, so far as shown by the re-
cent elections, the best rebel gets most votes.
Repudiation is a very popular political doc-
trine with the people who are now engaged in
reorganizing the governments of the South.

The restoration of slavery is believed in,
and worked and voted for, by most of the old
slave aristocracy.

Let the rebels of the South grasp political
power and instantly the copperheads of the
North spring to meet them, and do their bid-
ding. Who can doubt, from the course of
the copperheads during the war, that they
would join the South in repudiation, and
every other diabolical scheme they might pro-

The bare possibility that rebels and copper-
heads may get control of the Government
should chill the blood in every patriot's veins.
Yet under this plan of reorganization, se-
curing, as it unquestionably will, the political
control of every rebel State to them to begin
with, there is great reason to fear, that, through
tac cry of oppressive taxes, and a promise of
low ones, and other schemes of demagoguery,
they would gain control of the country at no
very distant day.

This prospect, now dimly seen by the cop-
perheads, is beginning to infuse life into the
dead carcass of their party. * In Vermont
and Maine, they have declared themselves in
favor of the policy of the President ; and the
executive council of their party at Washing-
ton see many things in his policy which they
commend, and nothing which they condemn.
They see plunder afar off, and hope to seize
it through this plan of re-organization.

Christians of the Bunyan and Baxter
school used to consider it safe to go for'what-
ever the Devil opposed, and to go against what-
ever they found him for ; and we have no ac-
count, that, in following this rule, they were
ever misled. It would be a very safe rule to
apply to the copperhead party. That they

approve Mr. Johnson's policy is no sign that
there is any good in it.

Third plan. — All loyal men, white and
black, shall vote.

Under this plan there would be, according
to our estimates, one hundred and twenty
thousand white voters, and, counting one in
five of the blacks a voter, there would be
eight hundred thousand black voters, making
an aggregate of nine hundred and twenty
thousand voters.

Under the rules of computation wliich I
have adopted, the entire voting population of
the rebel States, before theRebelHon, was one
million two hundred thousand ; and, under
this plan, they would liave only two hundred
and eighty thousand less than before the Re-

By this plan, one voter in the South would
have a fraction more voting power than two
voters in the North.

This would be objectionable, because eveiy
departure from absolute equality of power is
objectionable ; but the difference between a
Northern voter under this plan, and the plan
of Pre'sident Johnson, is insignificant; but it
should be borne in mind, that, under this
plan, power is in the hands of men who are
the friends of the Government; and, under
his plan, it is in the hands of men who have
given no evidence of loyalty, but every evi-
dence of disloyalty.

Besides this, inequality between voters in
the South and North would diminish every
year, as the young men of the South became
voters, and it would almost entirely disappear
in the next thirty years.

Under any plan which proposes to disfran-
chise the blacks, this inequality would always
exist, unless remedied by an amendment of
the Constitution, basing representation on the
number of voters, as suggested by Gov.

I confess my inability to see how this is to
settle the negro questio^i. He is not a voter,
and it has not been proposed by the advocates
of this plan of apportionment to make bira so.
It is imagined that the anxiety of Southern
whites for power in Congress will induce them
to allow blacks to vote. But their determi-
nation to wield the political power of the
South, and to keep the negro out of power,
will not yield to the temptation of increased
power in Congress, and the blacks will most
assuredly remain for many years where they
are left by the Government at this time. This
involves the necessity of an amendment of

the Constitution, wliicli may not be readily
made. It is altogether too uncertain of ac-
complishment to be relied upon to lead us
out of present difficulties, and to settle the
questions now pressing themselves upon the
public attention, and steadily refusing to post-
pone a hearing. It will do to use as a hobby-
horse to ride around the " nigger question,"
as Gen. Schenck has used it; but it cannot
settle it.

Fourth plan. — All loyal voters, white
and black, and so many of the rebels as may
be safely controlled and neutralized by loyal
voters, shall vote.

It should be borne in mind, that, under the
t]^ird plan there would be nine hundred and
twenty thousand loyal voters. Now, if these
can co-operate at the polls, a large number
of the rebels could be safely allowed to vote,
even if they were as viciously inclined as the
copperheads of the North. As long as reb-
els and copperheads are in a hopeless minor-
ity they can do no harm.

If, as might be the case, the white and
black loyalists could not co-operate, then it
•would be necessary to limit the enfranchise-
ment of rebels to a smaller number ; say to
half a million of voters. There would then
be in the South six hundred and twenty
thousand white voters, and eight hundred
thousand black voters ; making an aggregate
of one million four hundred and twenty thou-
sand, wielding the same political power as two
millions in the North.

This would make one voter in the South
equal to one and three-sevenths in the North ;
and the voting power of men in the two sec-
tions would be more nearly equal than before
the Rebellion, when one million two hundred
thousand voters in the South held the same
political power as two millions in the North ;
and one man in the South was equal to one
and two-thirds in the North.

This disproportion, as before remarked in the
consideration of the third plan, would rapidly
diminish, by the young men, sons of rebels,
becoming voters, and would in a few years
entirely disappear; and, when this should oc-
cur, the white voters would outnumber the
black ones, and the danger of negro ascend-
ency, which so many seem to dread, would
lie past. Negro voting can scarcely foil to
be safer and better for all concerned than
rebel voting ; and, by the time the rebels have
passed away, a generation of new white voters
will bo upon the stage, far more numerous
than the black voters, except in a few locali-

ties and districts ; and, if negro suffrage doeg
not work well, it can be neutralized by a
union of the white voters, as the evils of
copperhead voting are rendered harmless by
a union of loyal voters.

Our Government being founded on these
self-evident truths, that all men are created
equal ; that they are endowed by their Crea-
tor with the inalienable rights of life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness ; and that, to
secure these rights, governments are insti-
tuted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed, — the task
of showing that some men are not entitled
to vote is fairly devolved upon those who as-
sert the exception to the general rules laid
down as the foundation ?)f our Government.
By some means, however, it has come to pass
that the bui-den of proof has been shifted
from those who maintain that there is an ex-
ception to all these self-evident truths in the
case of black men, to those who stand upon
those truths as applicable to all men, as they
are declared to be.

It is plainly the business of those who op-
pose universal suffrage to show why a portion
of the men of the country, whose government
declares universal equality, should not have
the same means of protecting their lives, their
liberty, and their right to pursue happiness,
that others have. But the majority has been
against the negro ; and the power of the ma-
jority has reversed the logical processes of
reasoning about his rights. The black man,
and his friends, are required to show that he
should have all the rights and j)rivileges of
the rest of mankind. In speaking against
the negro, ipse dixit has been cnou^i to es-
tablish any thing ; but in speaking for him,
such has been the prejudice against him, facts
and arguments have been passed by as the
idle wind.

If the National Government has the power,
as I think has been abundantly shown, — and,
whether shown or not, is assumed by all who
advocate reconstruction on any of the plans
under consideration, — then, upon wliat princi-
ple can it justify its partiality, if it excludes
them from the ballot V What explanation can
the historian of this period give to future ages
of this course of action ?

Six millions of white people, without a
shadow of justification, engaged in a struggle
to overthrow the Government, and to establish
an empire on slavery. For four years they
waged a terrible war to accomplish their pur-
jjoses ; this war has been characterized by

a fiendish barbarism such as is not recorded
in the annals of time ; four thousand millions
of money is not all the expense of the war to
the nation ; fifty thousand of the soldiers of
the Government have been murdered by star-
vation and cold, and other modes of cruelty
and savagery ; the burning of cities, and the
spread of pestilences, were means resorted to
by them ; they assassinated the chosen ruler
of the nation ; they slew half a million of
the men of the country ; and they are per-
mitted to vote.

Four millions of men were, at the begin-
ning of this war, in slavery. The Govern-
ment told them often that the war on the part
of the nation was for the sole purpose of sav-
ing the Union, and that they must not hope
for emancipation through it. But they hoped
for it, and believed it would come, against the
intention of the Government to avoid it.
They were the friends of the Government un-
der all the discouragements thrown in their
way. Defeat came upon our arms ; black
clouds of discouragement settled down upon
the Government and people. The proclama-
tion of emancipation was wrung from the Gov-
ernment as an indispensable necessity of our
condition. The blacks were called upon to
aid, under the solemn assurance that, if, the
Union was saved, they should be free. Moved
as with one mind, they sprang to our relief.
The labor system of the South was shattered
to pieces, and the main stay of the Rebellion
was broken. Many bloody fields attest their
patriotism and courage. Every where they
went aiding our men and our cause with all
the meass at their command. With their
help the countiy was saved ; and they are
not allowed to vote! BiU rebels vote for
them ; and the freedom the nation promised
them is delivered over to the keeping of rebels ?
Is this a fair interpretation of the solemn
promise of the nation ? Is this freedom ?
We should tremble for our country when we
reflect that God is just. The terrible calami-
ties we have sufFared, and are suffering, came
from a former injustice to the black race ; and
shall we by perpetrating new wrongs, sow the
seeds of other calamities for the future to
reap? Have we not suflfeved enough to teach
us that injustice and wrong bring terrible ret-
ribution V

But various objections are urged against
allowing the blacks to vote. It is said they
will vote as their old masters dictate. If this
be true, how comes it that their old masters
are so sternly opposed to their voting ? It is

said they will use their ballots in a spirit of
hostility to their old masters. They cannot do
both these things, and proof is wanting thai
they would do either.

The copperheads of Ohio see in the propo-
sition to allow them to vote a deep-laid scheme
" to overthrow popular institutions by bring-
ing the right to vote into disgrace."

Do these disciples of Jefferson know that
he repeatedly urged upon members of the
Convention of Virginia to allow " all to vote
who pay and fight " V The ordinance of 1787,
drawn up by him, provided that all men, citi-
zens of any of the States, and having a free-
bold of fifty acres within the territory, should
be qualified to vote for representatives.

When will these blind victims of party
prejudice learn that hate of negro is not
love of country? When will they cease to
abuse the negro? Not until he is made a
voter. And when he is, he will at once be-
come an object of adoration for democratie

While the devoted loyalty of the blacks is
admitted, it is still claimed that they are loyal
without knowing why. In a wliite man it ia
looked upon as the highest evidence of intelli-
gent patriotism, that he left the endearments
of home, and offered his life for his country ;
but the enemies of the black man do not al-
low the same acts to prove any thing in his

Grant that they are ignorant ; let the won-
derful fact, that, under all the complications
which surrounded them during the war, they
were always right, be accounted for. Admit
that their old masters have perfect control of
their minds ; and then show how it came to
pass, that, of four millions of blacks, not more
than two or three have ever been suspected
of disloyalty. But it is said their instincts of
self-preservation led them to favor the Gov-
ernment. Admit this, and it only sliows that
instinct is a better guide than educated reason ',
for, while the educated whites were all rebels
against a government which had done thera
only good, the blacks were friends of the
same government, from which they had re-
ceived only wrong, but hoped for good.

And this instinct of self-preservation they
still possess ; and, if it has led tlieni aright
through the fiery trials of a horrid war, may
it not be trusted to lead them in times of
peace ?

Self-preservation is not only the first law
of nature, but it is the strongest. If this
fails to keep man in the path of right, what


can be expected to ? All other influences are
only secondary to this. Ignorance, with good
intentions, is more trustworthy than vicious

Wherever breezes blow, and there is water
to float ships, the glorious banner of our
country waves an invitation to the oppressed
of tlie earth ; to the Irish, the Germans, the
Hindoos, the Chinese, and all tlie mongrel
races of Mexico and South America, to come
here, and live, and enjoy liberty, and vote.
But the native black man, covered with scars
received in fighting under that same glorious
flag, is told to stand back ; that he does not
know enough to vote ! Shame should blister
the cheeks of him who, with the Declaration
of Independence, the Constitution and the
New Testament, in his hands, and the history
of the blacks during the war before him, and
" with freedom's banner streaming o'er
him," may attempt an apology for such a
state of things.

Fifth plan. — There shall be an educa-
tional standard of qualification for voters.

The advocates of this plan differ among
themselves. Some declare that this test of
fitness to vote should be applied to the black

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Online LibraryAfrican American Pamphlet Collection (Library of CSuffrage and reorganization. The subject examined by a voter of Ohio → online text (page 1 of 3)