Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Constitutional amendments : speech of Hon. Henry J. Raymond, of New York, on the proposed amendment of the Constitution : delivered in the House of Representatives, May 9, 1866 online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondConstitutional amendments : speech of Hon. Henry J. Raymond, of New York, on the proposed amendment of the Constitution : delivered in the House of Representatives, May 9, 1866 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Hon. Henry J. Raymond, of New York,









C A Crlx




The plan of Reeonstruction reported by the Joint
Committee of Fifteen on that subject contained a
Resolution proposing the following Amendment to
the Constitution:

Article — .

Sec. 1. No State shall liiake or enforce any law
which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
citizens of the United States; nor shall any State de-
prive any person of life, liberty, or property, without
due process of law; nor deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Sec. 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among
the several States which may be included within the
Union, according to their respective numbers, count-
ing the whole number of persons in each State, ex-
cluding Indians not taxed. But whenever, in any
State, the elective franchise shall bo denied to any
portion of its male citizens not less than twenty-one
years of age, or in any way abridged, except for partici-
pation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of repre-
sentation in such State shall be reduced in the pro-
portion which the number of such male (utizens shall
bear to the whole number of male citizens not less
than twenty-one years of ago.

Skc. 3. Until the 4th day of July, in the year 1870,
all persons who voluntarily adhered to the late insur-
rection, giving it aid and comlbrt, shall be excluded
from the right to vote for Representatives in Con-
gress and for electors for President and Vice Presi-
dent of the United States.

Src. 4. Neither the United States nor any State
shall assume or pay any debt or obligation already
incurred, or which may hereafter be incurred, in aid
of insurrection or of war against the United States,
or any claim for compensation for loss of involuntary
service or labor.

Sec. 5. The Congress shall havcpower to enforce by
appropriate legislation the i)rovisious of this article.

The House having this under consideration on the
9th of May-
Mr. RAYMOND said:

Mr. Speaker : I took occasion at an early
stage of the session, while making some
remarks on the general subject of restoration,
to say that, in my judgment, the joint com-
mittee to which it had been referred, ought
to lay the whole of their plan upon onr tables
before asking us to act upon any of its spe-
cific parts. I congratulate myself, sir, that,
although when first made the demand was
received with anything but favor, the commit-

tee now concede its justice by complying with
it. It seemed to me then, as it seems to tke
committee now, that when a proposition em-
bracing several branches more or less inter-
dependent and all essential to the object sought
to be attained, justice and fair dealing required
that Congress should have possession of the
whole case before being required to act upon
any of its parts. We may see the result of a
different course in the recent experience of the
British House of Commons. That House was
called on to consider a scheme of parliament-
ary reform, consisting of two branches, one an
extension of the suffrage, and the other a reap-
portionment of representation, or, as they style
it, a redistribution of seats. 'J'he ministry sub-
mitted its programme for the first but withheld
the second. Thereupon a portion of the min-
isterial party demanded to see the whole plan
before acting upon part of it. The ministry re-
fused to comply, and the result of their refusal
waa that, although they commenced the ses-
sion with a majority of sixty, they carried the
bill on its second reading by the meager ma-
jority of five, in a House of over six hundred

I am glad to see that the reconstruction com-
mittee does not imitate the obstinacy of the
British ministry. After long delay and several
attempts to carry single parts of its proposi-
tion, it now submits the whole of the plan by
which it proposes to restore the Union. I must
say that I see nothing in the report which re-
quired any such delay, nothing which depends
for its validity or force upon the evidence which,
with such protracted pain, the committee has

spent five months in collecting. And it is for-
tunate for US that this is so, for Congress is not
yet in possession of any considerable portion
of the testimony. It has not yet been printed
and laid upon our tables to guide our action.

But, sir, without dwelling further upon these
preliminary matters, I will proceed to state the
nature of the report which has thus been made.
The programme of reconstruction reported by
the committee consists of three parts: first,
a series of five constitutional amendments,
upon as many different subjects, each distinct
from the other ; and then two bills, one provid-
ing for the admission into Congress of Repi^-
sentatives from the States lately in rebellion
upon certain conditions, and the other exclud-
ing from Federal offices for all time to come
certain classes of persons who have been en-
gaged in that rebellion. The House has ordered
that these three propositions shall be taken up
in succession, and the proposed amendments
to the Constitution are the only topics which
are properly before us for our action now. I
concur fully in the suggestion of the President
of the United States, that it would be wise,
when acting upon amendments to the Consti-
tution, that all the States to be affected by them
should be represented in the debate. I do not
understand him to hold, I certainly do not hold
myself, that the presence of them all is essen-
tial to the validity of the action we may take ;
and inasmuch as they are to be submitted, if
adopted by us, to all the States of the Union
for their ratification, and as the assent of three
fourths of all those States will be required to
make them valid as parts of the Constitution,
I am quite willing to take action upon them
here even in the absence of those States which
are as yet without representation.

And now, sir, with regard to these amend-
ments, five in form, but only four in substance,
I have this to say: that, with one exception,
they are such as commend themselves to ray
approval. The principle of the first, which
secures an equality of rights among all the citi-
zens of the United States, has had a somewhat
curious history. It was first embodied in a
proposition introduced by the distinguished
gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. Bingham,] in the
form of an amendment to the Constitution,
giving to Congress power to secure an absolute

equality of civil rights in every State of the
Union. It was discussed somewhat in that
form, but, encountering considerable opposi-
tion from both sides of the House, it was
finally postponed, and is still pending. Next
it came before us in the form of a bill, by which
Congress proposed to exercise precisely the
powers which that amendment was intended
to confer, and to provide for enforcing against
State tribunals the prohibitions against unequal
legislation. I regarded it as very doubtful, to
say the least, whether Congress, under the
existing Constitution, had any power to enact
such a law ; and I thought, and still think, that
very many members who voted for the bill also
doubted the power of Congress to pass it, be-
cause they voted for the amendment by which
that power was to be conferred. At all events,
acting for myself and upon my own conviction
on this suljject, I did not vote for the bill when
it was first passed, and when it came back to us
from the President with his objections I voted
against it. And now, although that bill be-
came a law and is now upon our statute-book,
it is again proposed so to amend the Constitu-
tion as to confer upon Congress the power to
pass it.

Now, sir, I have at all times declared myself
heartily in favor of the main object which that
bill was intended to secure. I was in favor of
securing an equality of rights to all citizens of
the United States, and of all persons within
their jurisdiction; all I asked was that it should
be done liy the exercise of powers conferred
upon Congress by the Constitution. And so
believing, I shall vote very cheerfully for this
proposed amendment to the Constitution, which
I trust may be ratified by States enough to make
it part of the fundamental law.

The second amendment which is proposed
to the Constitution relates to the basis of rep-
resentation. That has also been already before
this House for its action, and I have always
declared myself in favor of the object it seeks
to accomplish. As I remarked on a previous
occasion, I do not think the South ought to gain
a large increase of political power in the coun-
cils of the nation from the fact of their having
rebelled, as they will do if the basis of repre-
sentation remains unchanged. But when it
was presented before it came in a form which


recognized by implication the right, of every
State to disfranchise a portion of its citizens
on account of race, color, or previous condi-
tion of servitude, and provided that whenever
any portion of any race should be thus dis-
franchised by any State, the whole of that race
within that State should be excluded from
enumeration in fixing the basis of representa-
tion. As the gentleman from Pennsylvania
[Mr. Stevexs] said yesterday, it provided that-
" if a single one of the injured race was excluded
from the right of suffrage, the State should forfeit
the right to have any of them represented ;" and
he added that he preferred it on that account.
Well, sir, I did not. When it was presented
before, the distinguished gentleman from Ohio
[Mr. Schexck] made a very powerful argu-
ment against it. He showed that it tended
directly to discourage every southern State
from preparing its colored population for en-
franchisement ; that it deprived them of all
inducement for their gradual admission to the
right of suffrage, inasmuch as it exacted uni-
versal suffrage as the only condition upon
which they should be counted in the basis of
representation at all. I thought that argument
entitled to great weight. I have never yet
heard it answered. The gentleman from Ohio
converted me to that view of the subject, and
although he relinquished or waived it himself,
I could not. I voted against a proposition
which seemed tome so unjust and so injurious,
not only to the whites of the southern States,
but to the colored race itself. Well, sir, that
amendment was rejected in the Senate, and
the proposition, as embodied in the commit-
tee's repoi't, comes before us in a very differ-
ent form. It is now proposed to base repre-
sentation upon suffrage, upon the number of
voters, instead of upon the aggregate popula-
tion in every State of the Union. And as I
believe that to be essentially just, and likely
to remedy the unequal representation of which
complaint is so justly made, I shall give it my

The third amendment embodied in this re-
port is of an entirely different character. It
provides that until the year 1870 all persons
within the States lately in rebellion who "vol-
untarily adhered to the rebellion and gave it
aid and comfort'' shall be " excluded from the

right of voting for members of Congress and
for electors of President and Vice President
of the United States."

Now, the first thing that strikes my atten-
tion in this is, that this amendment recognizes
these States as States, and as States within the
Union. How else, upon what other ground,
are they authorized to be represented at all ?
The amendment does not confer upon them
any right of representation. It does not con-
fer upon their people any right of voting. It
recognizes their right to representation. It
recognizes the general right of suffrage as
belonging to the people of these States. It
simply limits that right thus recognized as
existing. It excludes a portion of the people
from exercising that right of suffrage which in
the absence of such exclusion they v/ould pos-
sess. Now, this discards entirely the doctrine
that these States are Territories, the doctrine
that they are conquered provinces, and that
their people are alien enemies, out of the
Union and without rights of any kind. And
so far it has my hearty ajsprobation.

But, sir, it proposes to exclude the great body
of the people of those States from the exercise
of the right of suffrage in regard to Federal
officers. The gentleman from Pennsylvania,
[Mr. Broomall,] in his very ingenious argu-
ment this morning, attempted to show that it
would not exclude more than one in twelve of
the voters in the southern States. But it seems
to me idle to enter into such calculations, which
depend on a series of estimates, each one of
which cannot be anything more than a wild
and i-andom guess. I take it that we all know
perfectly well that the great masses of the
southern people "voluntarily adhered to the
insurrection;" not at the outset, not as being
originally in favor of it, but during its progress,
sooner or later, they voluntarily gave in their
adhesion to it, and gave it aid and comfort.
They did not all join the army. They did not
go into the field, but they did, at different
times, from various motives and in various
ways, give it aid and comfort.

Well, sir, that would exclude the great body
of the people of those States under this amend-
ment from exercising the right of suffrage. It
is proposed to permit those only who did not
at any time nor in any way thus adhere to the'


insurrection to vote for members of Congress
and for presidential electors. I do not think
they would number more than one tenth of the
whole population. But even if thej' should
number one eighth or one fifth they would still
constitute but a very small portion of the peo-
ple to be clothed with the exclusive powers of
government. They would still constitute a
government oligarchical and not republican in
form. Yesterday the chairman of the joint
committee on reconstruction, [Mr. Stevens,]
in his forcible remarks introducing this report,
took ground against admitting the members-
elect from Tennessee and Arkansas because
they do not represent their constituents. "Do
not tell me," said he, "that there are loyal
representatives waiting for admission ; until
their States are loyal they can have no stand-
ing here, for they would merely misrepresent
their constituents." And yet he proposes
that we shall allow one fifth, one eighth, or
one tenth, as the case may be, of the people
of these southern States to elect members
from those States, to hold seats upon this
floor. Now, would not men thus elected in
the most emphatic sense misrepresent their
constituents? How can the gentleman from
Pennsylvania favor such a proposition as this,
which is certain to secure members who will
tiot truly represent their States, when he re-
fuses admission to the loyal delegation from
Tennessee? By what process of reasoning
can he reconcile the admission of members
in the one case, while he denies it so obsti-
nately and scornfully in the other? It is true
this provision is temporary ; but the effect of
it while it lasts must be to plant seeds of dis-
content and dissension in the southern States
•which will survive by scores of years the imme-
diate cause out of which they grew.

The gentleman from Maine [Mr. Blaine]
yesterday made what seemed to me to be a
very strong point — that this disfranchisement
of the large body of the southern people would
run counter to the terms of the amnesty proc-
lamation of President Lincoln, which restored
all but certain classes to their former rights.
I think there is great force in that objection.
But however this may be as a point of tech-
nical construction — and I shall not canvass it
. in that light — there is certainly great force in

this objection, that this provision would be a
departure, a retraction from the assurances
given all through this war, by acts and resolu-
tions of Congress and by proclamations of the
President. Every declaration from any depart-
ment of the Government conveyed to the South
and to the whole country the assurance that the
war was waged for the sole purpose of sup-
pressing the rebellion, and that when it was
over all the States would be restored to the
Union in full possession of all their rights and
on a footing of equality with the other States.
I know it may be said that we were there in
perplexity and in peril, and that it was essen-
tial to the harmony of public sentiment and to
the vigorous prosecution of the war that these
declarations and pledges should be made. I
know, too, how general is the truth that " ease
will retract vows made in pain." But it is not
a pleasing spectacle to see a great nation like
this shrinking from the fulfillment of pledges
under which it carried on the war, shrinking
from the assurances it has given to the whole
country, that upon the termination of the war
the authority of the Constitution and the rights
of the States should be restored. We should
be at least as jealous of our honor now as we
were of our safety then.

There is another objection which perhaps may
not be entitled to much weight, but is worth
consideration. This proposition to exclude the
mass of the southern people from voting until
1870 exposes those who advocate and press it,
it exposes the Union party to the suspicion, ren-
ders that party obnoxious to the charge of seek-
ing to amend the Constitution for the purj^ose
of influencing and controlling the presidential
election of 18G8. I make no such charge, but
I know it will be made. Our vigilant oppo-
nents will not omit so tempting an opportunity
to trace our action to motives of partisanship
rather than patriotism. And I would not like
to be put in a position where I shall be com-
pelled to concede the charge, or where facts
can be brought forward that would even seem
to sustain it. It is quite true that the gentle-
man from Pennsylvania [Mr. Stevens] accepted
what he took to be a suggestion on my part the
other day, that General Grant might be the
candidate of the Union party for the Presidency
in 1868, with great alacrity ; and the eagerness

with which he responded to that suggestion gave
me the most comforting assurance that we shall
have no dissensions upon that subject when the
time shall come. I do not think it necessary,
therefore, to insert such an amendment as this
in the Constitution in order to secure the elec-
tion of General Grant, if he should be presented
as the Union candidate or by the country at
large, without regard to party, as is by no means
impossible. For wherever you find men who
appreciate courage, skill, and patriotism in
the field, magnanimity in the hour of victory,
and wise moderation in political councils,
there you will find men who will appreciate
that illustrious commander as a candidate
for any ofiice which the American people
may have to bestow. But upon these points
I will not dwell.

I now come to another objection, which to
my mind seems fatal to this amendment. This
section seems to me to have been inserted for
the e.Ypress purpose of preventing the adoption
by the southern States of any of the amend-
ments proposed to the Constitution. I will not
say that this was the motive of the committee
in reporting it, but that, I think, is the result
which its adoption by Congress will secure.
The adoption of all the proposed amendments,
this one included, by each of the southern States,
is made in the bill reported^by the committee
a condition essential to their admission to rep- ,
resentation in Congress. Now, the amendments
are to be adopted by the Legislatures of the
several States. The Legislatures are elected
by all the people — those who have voluntarily
adhered to the insurrection as well as those who
have not — for the gentleman from Pennsylvania
[Mr. Broomall] laid special stress upon the
fact that the people are still allowed full control
of their State governments.

These Legislatures, thus elected, are ex-
pected to ratify all these amendments, to con-
cede an equality of civil rights, to concede a
great reduction of their political power in
changing the basis of representation, to con-
cede the repudiation of their debts and the
denial of compensation for their slaves ; and
for what consideration? What do we offer
them in return for all these concessions'? The
right to be represented on this floor, pro-
. vided they will also consent not to vote for

the men who are to represent them! Nay
more, that they shall accept as the Representa-
tives whom they thus get the right of having
here men elected by a small minority of their
people who are supposed and conceded to be
hostile to them in political sentiment, ami
against whom they have been waging a bitter
war ! We offer them, in exchange for all these
renunciations of political power and of mate-
rial advantage, the privilege of being misrep-
resented in Congress by men in whose election
they had no voice or vote, and with whose past
political action and present political sentiments
they have no sympathy whatever.

Why, sir, this not only "breaks the word of
promise to the hope," it does not even "keep
it to the ear." It is not merely a sham, it is a
mockery. The very price by which we seek
to induce their assent to these amendments,
we snatch away from their hands the moment
that assent is secured. Is there any man here
who can so far delude himself as to suppose
for a moment that the»»people of the southern
States will accede to any such scheme as this?
There is not one chance in ten thousand of
their doing it.

Representation ceases to be of the slightest
value to them under such conditions. They
will not seek it or ask for it. They will infi-
nitely prefer to take the chances of change in
the political councils of the nation, to await
the election of a Congress more propitious to
their claims, especially under the comforting
assurance which the gentleman from Pennsyl-
vania [Mr. Stevens] gave them some two
months ago, when he said frankly that "It is
of no importance by whom or when or how
reconstruction is effected, for in three short
years this whole Government will be in the
hands of the late rebels and their northern
allies." They will readily wait " three short
3'ears" for representation rather than purchase
the mockery of it we offer them at such a

The gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. Schenck.]
in vindicating the policy of this exclusion of
the southern people from the right of suffrage,
insisted that it was necessary as a means of
discipline ; that they are not yet in a proper
frame of mind to take part in the affairs of
government ; that they are at heart still ua-


friendly and hostile to our authority and insti-
tutions ; and that we must treat them as parents
do unruly children, that we must flog them for
their offenses and then exclude them from the
family table or shut them up in a closet until
they come to a better and more submissive
mood. Well, sir, this might answer if the eight
million people v/ith whom we are dealing would
consent to be treated as children, and to regard
us here in Congress as standing in loco parentis
toward them. They might in that case submit
tamely to the chastisement we propose, and
possibly profit by it. But they are not chil-
dren. They are men, men tenacious of their
rights, jealous of their position, brave, and
proud of their bravery, of hot and rebellious
tempers, and not at all likely to be subdued
in spirit or won to our love by such discipline
as the gentleman from Ohio proposes to in-
flict. We have chastised them already. We
have defeated their hostility against the Gov-
ernment. And now what remains? They are
to be our fellow-citiz^is. They must form
part of the people of our country. They are
to take part, sooner or later, in our Govern-
ment unless we intend to discard the funda-
mental principle of that Government, the right
of the people to govern themselves. And we
cannot afford to have them, or to make them,
sullen, discontented, rebellious in temper and
in purpose, even if they are submissive in

We have nothing to do with the sickly sen-
timentality referred to by the gentleman from
Pennsylvania [Mr. Stevens] yesterday. Our
object is not to deal in mercy toward them.
W^e are to deal wisely — for their good and for
our own. We are to make them friends, because


Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondConstitutional amendments : speech of Hon. Henry J. Raymond, of New York, on the proposed amendment of the Constitution : delivered in the House of Representatives, May 9, 1866 → online text (page 1 of 2)