Footnotes are at the end of the chapter.
A few commas have been moved or added for clarity.
Obsolete spellings of place names have been retained; personal names and obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
REMINISCENCES OF SIXTY YEARS IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS VOLUME II
Reminiscences of Sixty Years in Public Affairs by George S. Boutwell Governor of Massachusetts, 1851-1852 Representative in Congress, 1863-1869 Secretary of the Treasury, 1869-1873 Senator from Massachusetts, 1873-1877 etc., etc.,
New York McClure, Phillips & Co. Mcmii
Copyright, 1902, by McClure, Phillips & Co.
Published May, 1902. N.
XXVIII Service in Congress XXIX Incidents in the Civil War XXX The Amendments to the Constitution XXXI Investigations Following the Civil War XXXII Impeachment of Andrew Johnson XXXIII The Treasury Department in 1869 XXXIV The Mint Bill and the "Crime of 1873" XXXV Black Friday—September 24, 1869 XXXVI An Historic Sale of United States Bonds in England XXXVII General Grant's Administration XXXVIII General Grant as a Statesman XXXIX Reminiscences of Public Men XL Blaine and Conkling and the Republican Convention of 1880 XLI From 1875 to 1895 XLII The Last of the Ocean Slave Traders XLIII Mr. Lincoln as an Historical Personage XLIV Speech on Columbus XLV Imperialism as a Public Policy INDEX
REMINISCENCES OF SIXTY YEARS IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS VOLUME II
XXVIII SERVICE IN CONGRESS
My election to Congress in 1862 was contested by Judge Benjamin F. Thomas, who was then a Republican member from the Norfolk district. The re-districting of the State brought Thomas and Train into the same district. I was nominated by the Republican Convention, and Thomas then became the candidate of the "People's Party," and at the election he was supported by the Democrats. His course in the Thirty-seventh Congress on the various projects for compromise had alienated many Republicans, and it had brought to him the support of many Democrats. My active radicalism had alienated the conservative Republicans. As a consequence, my majority reached only about 1,400 while in the subsequent elections, 1864-'66-'68 the majorities ranged from five to seven thousand.
Among the new members who were elected to the Thirty-eighth Congress and who attained distinction subsequently, were Garfield, Blaine and Allison. Wilson, of Iowa, had been in the Thirty-seventh Congress and Henry Winter Davis had been a member at an earlier period. Mr. Conkling was a member of the Thirty-seventh Congress, but he was defeated by his townsman Francis Kernan under the influence of the reactionary wave which moved over the North in 1862. At that time Mr. Lincoln had lost ground with the people. The war had not been prosecuted successfully, the expenses were enormous, taxes were heavy, multitudes of families were in grief, and the prospects of peace through victory were very dim. The Democrats in the House became confident and aggressive.
Alexander Long, of Ohio, made a speech so tainted with sympathy for the rebels that Speaker Colfax came down from the chair and moved a resolution of censure. Harris, of Maryland, in the debate upon the resolution, made a speech much more offensive than that of Long. As a consequence, the censure was applied to both gentlemen and as a further consequence, the friends of the South became more guarded in expressions of sympathy. It is true also, that there were many Democrats who did not sympathize with Harris, Long, and Pendleton. Voorhees of Indiana was also an active sympathizer with the South. I recollect that in the Thirty-eighth or Thirty-ninth Congress he made a violent attack upon Mr. Lincoln, and the Republican Party. The House was in committee, and I was in the chair. Consequently I listened attentively to the speech. It was carefully prepared and modeled apparently upon Junius and Burke—a model which time has destroyed.
Of the members of the House during the war period, Henry Winter Davis was the most accomplished speaker. Mr. Davis' head was a study. In front it was not only intellectual, it was classical—a model for an artist. The back of his head was that of a prize fighter, and he combined the scholar and gentleman with the pugilist. His courage was constitutional and he was ready to make good his position whether by argument or by blows. His speeches in the delivery were very attractive. His best speech, as I recall his efforts, was a speech in defense of Admiral Dupont. That speech involved an attack upon the Navy Department. Alexander H. Rice, of Massachusetts, was the chairman of the Naval Committee. He appeared for the Navy Department in an able defence. Mr. Rice's abilities were not of the highest order, but his style was polished, and he was thoroughly equipped for the defence. He had the Navy Department behind him, and a department usually has a plausible reason or excuse for anything that it does.
An estimate of Mr. Davis' style as a writer and his quality as an orator may be gained from a speech entitled:—"Reasons for Refusing to Part Company with the South," which he delivered in February, 1861, and in which he set forth the condition of the country as it then appeared to him. These extracts give some support to the opinion entertained by many that Mr. Davis was the leading political orator of the Civil War period:
"We are at the end of the insane revel of partisan license, which, for thirty years, has, in the United States, worn the mask of government. We are about to close the masquerade by the dance of death. The nations of the world look anxiously to see if the people, ere they tread that measure, will come to themselves.
"Yet in the early youth of our national life we are already exhausted by premature excesses. The corruption of our political maxims has relaxed the tone of public morals and degraded the public authorities from terror to the accomplices of evil-doers. Platforms for fools— plunder for thieves—offices for service—power for ambition—unity in these essentials—diversity in the immaterial matters of policy and legislation—charity for every frailty—the voice of the people is the voice of God—these maxims have sunk into the public mind; have presided at the administration of public affairs, have almost effaced the very idea of public duty. The Government under their disastrous influence has gradually ceased to fertilize the fields of domestic and useful legislation, and pours itself, like an impetuous torrent, along the barren ravine of party and sectional strife. It has been shorn of every prerogative that wore the austere aspect of authority and power.
"The consequence of this demoralization is that States, without regard to the Federal Government, assume to stand face to face and wage their own quarrels, to adjust their own difficulties, to impute to each other every wrong, to insist that individual States shall remedy every grievance, and they denounce failure to do so as cause of civil war between States; and as if the Constitution were silent and dead and the power of the Union utterly inadequate to keep the peace between them, unconstitutional commissioners flit from State to State, or assemble at the national capital to counsel peace or instigate war. Sir, these are the causes which lie at the bottom of the present dangers. These causes which have rendered them possible and made them serious, must be removed before they can ever be permanently cured. They shake the fabric of our National Government. It is to this fearful demoralization of the Government and the people that we must ascribe the disastrous defections which now perplex us with the fear of change in all that constituted our greatness. The operation of the Government has been withdrawn from the great public interests, in order that competing parties might not be embarrassed in the struggle for power by diversities of opinion upon questions of policy; and the public mind, in that struggle, has been exclusively turned on the slavery question, which no interest required to be touched by any department of this Government. On that subject there are widely marked diversities of opinion and interest in the different portions of the Confederacy, with few mediating influences to soften the collision. In the struggle for party power, the two great regions of the country have been brought face to face upon the most dangerous of all subjects of agitation. The authority of the Government was relaxed just when its power was about to be assailed; and the people, emancipated from every control and their passions inflamed by the fierce struggle for the Presidency, were the easy prey of revolutionary audacity.
"Within two months after a formal, peaceful, regular election of the chief magistrate of the United States, in which the whole body of the people of every State competed with zeal for the prize, without any new event intervening, without any new grievances alleged, without any new measures having been made, we have seen, in the short course of one month, a small proportion of the population of six States transcend the bounds at a single leap at once of the State and the national constitutions; usurp the extraordinary prerogative of repealing the supreme law of the land; exclude the great mass of their fellow- citizens from the protection of the Constitution; declare themselves emancipated from the obligations which the Constitution pronounces to be supreme over them and over their laws; arrogate to themselves all the prerogatives of independent power; rescind the acts of cession of the public property; occupy the public offices; seize the fortresses of the United States confided to the faith of the people among whom they were placed; embezzle the public arms concentrated there for the defence of the United States; array thousands of men in arms against the United States; and actually wage war on the Union by besieging two of their fortresses and firing on a vessel bearing, under the flag of the United States, reinforcements and provisions for one of them. The very boundaries of right and wrong seem obliterated when we see a Cabinet minister engaged for months in deliberately changing the distribution of public arms to places in the hands of those about to resist our public authority, so as to place within their grasp means of waging war against the United States greater than they ever used against a foreign foe; and another Cabinet minister, still holding his commission under the authority of the United States, still a confidential adviser of the President, and bound by his oath to support the Constitution of the United States, himself a commissioner from his own State to another of the United States for the purpose of organizing and extending another part of the same great scheme of rebellion; and the doom of the Republic seems sealed when the President, surrounded by such ministers, permits, without rebuke, the Government to be betrayed, neglects the solemn warning of the first solider of the age, till almost every fort is a prey to domestic treason, and accepts assurances of peace in his time at the expense of leaving the national honor unguarded. His message gives aid and comfort to the enemies of the Union, by avowing his inability to maintain its integrity; and, paralyzed and stupefied, he stands amid the crash of the falling Republic, still muttering, 'Not in my time, not in my time; after me the deluge!'"
Soon after Mr. Colfax's election as speaker of the Thirty-eighth Congress, I met him in a restaurant. He expressed surprise that he had not heard from me in regard to a place upon a committee. I said that the subject did not occupy my thoughts—that I had work enough whether I was upon a committee or not. He expressed himself as disturbed by the fact that he could not give me as good a place as he wished to give me. I tried to relieve his mind upon that point. In all my legislative experience I never made any suggestion as to committee work. Mr. Colfax placed me upon the Judiciary Committee, which, in the end, was the best place to which I could have been assigned.
Mr. Colfax was made of consequence in the country by the newspapers, and he was ruined by his timidity. If he had admitted that he was an owner of stock in the Credit Mobilier Company, not much could have been made against him. His denials and explanations, which were either false or disingenuous, and his final admission of a fact which implied that he had been in the receipt of a quarterly payment from a post- office contractor, completed his ruin. There was a time when the country over-estimated his ability. He was a genial, kindly man, with social qualities and an abundance of information in reference to men in the United States and to recent and passing politics. He had newspaper knowledge and aptitude for gathering what may be called information as distinguished from learning. He was a victim to two passions or purposes in life, that are in a degree inconsistent—public life and money-making. Instances there have been of success, but I have never known a case where a public man has not suffered in reputation by the knowledge that he had accumulated a fortune while he was engaged in the public service. As a speaker of the House, Colfax was agreeable and popular, but he lacked in discipline. His rule was lax, and there can be no doubt that from the commencement of his administration there had been a decline in what may be termed the morale of the House. Something of its reputation for dignity and decorum had been lost.
A young man from New York, Mr. Chanler, made a speech in the Thirty- eighth or Thirty-ninth Congress, which seemed to favor the Confederacy. This phase of his speech was due to the fact that he was a transcendental State Rights advocate. He did not believe in secession, as a wise and proper policy, but he did believe in the right of a State to consult itself as to its continuance in the Union. Chanler was not a strong man and he owed his election, probably, to his connection with the Astor family. He failed to make the political distinction clear to the mind of the House and he was followed by General Schenck in a severe speech. Chanler explained and asserted that he was not secessionist—that he was for the Union—that he had served with the New York Seventh—and that he had made a tender to General Dix of service on his staff, but that he had not received a reply from General Dix.
Thereupon S. S. Cox, who then represented a district in Ohio, made a jocose reply to Schenck and a like defence of Chanler and ended with the remark that he hoped his "colleague regretted having been guilty of a groundless attack upon a solider of the Republic." I went over to Cox to congratulate him upon his defence of Chanler, and in reply Cox said: "The funniest part of it is that Chanler took it all in earnest and came to my seat and thanked me for my speech."
Cox had no malice in his nature and there was always a doubt whether he had any sincerity in his politics. He had no sympathy with the rebellion, and, generally, he voted appropriations for the army and the navy. He was sincere in his personal friendships, and his friendships were not upon party lines. In his political action he seemed more anxious to annoy his opponents than to extinguish them. His speeches were short, pointed, and entertaining. He was a favorite with the House, but his influence upon its action was very slight. Those who acquire and retain power are the earnest and persistent men. When Cox had made his speech and expended his jokes he was content. The fate of a measure did not much disturb or even concern him.
Cox was party to an affair in the House which illustrated the characteristics of Thaddeus Stevens, or "Old Thad," as he was called. Late in the war, or soon after its close, Mr. Stevens introduced a bill to appropriate $800,000 to reimburse the State of Pennsylvania for expenses incurred in repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections. The bill was referred to the Committee on Appropriations, of which Stevens was chairman. Without much delay and before the holidays, Stevens reported the bill. There was some debate, in which my colleague, Mr. Dawes, took part against the bill. Finally the House postponed the bill till after the holidays. During the recess I examined the question by making inquiries at the War and Treasury departments, where I found that authority existed for reimbursing States for all expenditures actually made and for the payment of all troops that had been mustered into the service. Thus the real purpose of the bill was apparent. During the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns bodies of troops had been organized for defence and expenses had been incurred by towns and counties, but no actual service had been performed. It was intended by the appropriation to provide for the payment of these expenses. I prepared a brief and gave it to Mr. Dawes, who used it in the debate. When it became apparent that the bill would be lost, Cox rose and moved to insert after the word Pennsylvania, the words Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and the Territory of New Mexico. Also to strike out $800,000 and insert ten million dollars. These amendments brought to the support of the measure the members from all those States, and the bill was passed. The Senate never acted upon it. I was indignant at the action of the House, and I said to Stevens, whose seat was near to mine: "This is the most outrageous thing that I have seen on the floor of the House." Stevens doubled his fist but not in anger, shook it in my face and said: "You rascal, if you had allowed me to have my rights I should not have been compelled to make a corrupt bargain in order to get them." Thus he admitted his arrangement with Cox and the character of it, and laid the responsibility upon me.
Mr. Stevens was a tyrant in his rule as leader of the House. He was at once able, bold and unscrupulous. He was an anti-slavery man, a friend to temperance and an earnest supporter of the public school system, and he would not have hesitated to promote those objects by arrangements with friends or enemies. He was unselfish in personal matters, but his public policy regarded the State of Pennsylvania, and the Republican Party. The more experienced members of the House avoided controversy with Stevens. First and last many a new member was extinguished by his sarcastic thrusts. As for himself no one could terrorize him. I recall an occasion near the close of a session, when, as it was important to get a bill out of the Committee of the Whole, he remained upon his feet or upon his one foot and assailed every member who proposed an amendment. Sometimes his remarks were personal and sometimes they were aimed at the member's State. In a few minutes he cowed the House, and secured the adoption of his motion for the committee to rise and report the bill to the House.
He must have been a very good lawyer. The impeachment article which received the best support was from his pen. He possessed wit, sarcasm and irony in every form. In public all these weapons were poisoned, but in private he was usually genial. On one occasion Judge Olin of New York was speaking and in his excitement he walked down and up the aisle passing Stevens' seat. At length Stevens said: "Olin, do you expect to get mileage for this speech?"
During the controversy with Andrew Johnson, Thayer, of Pennsylvania, became excited upon a matter of no consequence, denounced the report of a committee, and in the course of his remarks said: "They ask us to go it blind." Judge Hale, of New York, with an innocent expression, said he would like to have the gentleman from Pennsylvania inform the House as to the meaning of the phrase "go it blind." Stevens said at once: "It means following Raymond." The pertinency of the hit was in the circumstance that Raymond was supporting Johnson, and that Hale was following Raymond, not from conviction but for the reason that they had been classmates in college.
Robert S. Hale was a man of large ability and a successful lawyer. During his term in Congress he was a prominent candidate for a seat upon the bench of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York. At a critical moment he appeared in the House in the role of a reformer and proceeded to arraign members for their action in regard to the measure known as the "salary grab." The debate showed that Hale was involved in the business to such an extent that he lost his standing in the House and imperiled his chance of obtaining a seat upon the bench of the Court of Appeals.
The bill for the increase of the salaries of public officers was a proper bill with the single exception that it should have been prospective as to the members of Congress. It added $2,500 to the annual salary of the Congressman or $5,000 for a term. The temptation to give the benefit of the increase to the members of the then existing House was too strong for their judgment and virtue. When, however, the indignation of the people was manifested, more than a majority of the members of each House sought refuge in a variety of subterfuges. Some neglected to collect the increase, others who had received the added sum, returned it to the Treasury upon a variety of pretexts. Some endowed schools or libraries, and a minority received what the laws allowed them and upon an assertion of their right to receive it. Outside of the criminal classes there has but seldom been a more melancholy exhibition of the weakness of human nature. The members seemed not to realize that the wrong was in the votes for which those members were alone responsible who had sustained the bill, and that the acceptance of the salary which the law allowed was not only a right but a duty. At the end those members who took the salary and defended their acts enjoyed the larger share of public respect. Indeed, not one of the shufflers gained anything by the course that he had pursued. The public reasoned, and reasoned justly, that they would have kept the money if they had dared to do so.
Similar conduct ruined many of the members of Congress who were beneficiaries of the Credit Mobilier scheme. Mr. Samuel Hooper was a large holder of the stock, but being a man of fortune the public accepted that fact as a defence against the suggestion that the stock had been placed in his hands for the purpose of influencing his action as a member of Congress. With others the case was different. Many were poor men. They had paid no money for the stock. Mr. Ames made the subscriptions, carried the stocks, and turned over the profits to those who had paid nothing and risked nothing. When the investigation was threatened, many of those who were involved ran to shelter under a variety of excuses and some of them hoped to escape by the aid of falsehood which ripened into perjury when the investigation was made. A few admitted ownership and asserted their right to ownership. Those men escaped with but little loss of prestige. Of the others, some retained their hold upon public office and some were advanced to higher places, but they carried always the smell of the smoke of corruption upon their garments.
Judge Hale defended Mr. Colfax, but at the end his condition was worse than at the beginning.
There is something of error in our public policy. With a few exceptions, the salaries of public officers are too low—in many cases they are meager. This fact furnishes a pretext for efforts to make money while in the public service. All these efforts are adverse to the public interests and often the proceedings are tainted with corruption. A member of Congress ought to receive $7,500 and a Cabinet officer cannot live in a manner corresponding to his station upon less than $15,000. Adequate salaries would not prevent speculation on the part of public officers, but they could not offer as an excuse for their acts the meager salaries allowed by the government. From the "salary grab" bill there were two good results. The President's salary was increased to $50,000 and the justices of the Supreme Court received $10,000 instead of $6,000 per annum. It has not been any part of my purpose in what I have said in favor of an increase of salaries to furnish means for campaign expenses by candidates either before or after nominations have been made.
If the statements are trustworthy that have been made publicly in recent years the conclusion cannot be avoided that money is used in elections for corrupt purposes—sometimes to secure nominations and sometimes to secure elections, when nominations have been made. There are proper uses for money in political contests, but candidates should not be required to make contributions in return for support. If the statements now made frequently and boldly, are truthful statements, then we are moving towards a condition of affairs when the offices of government will be divided between rich men and men who seek office for the purpose of becoming rich. A general condition cannot be proved by the experiences of individuals, but the experiences of individuals may indicate a general condition. I cannot doubt that an unwholesome change in the use of money in elections has taken place in the last fifty years. A gentleman now living (1901), who was a member of the National Committee of the Democratic Party in the year 1856 is my authority for the statement that the total sum of money at the command of the committee in the campaign for Mr. Buchanan was less than twenty-five thousand dollars.
I mention my own experience and in the belief that it was not exceptional. From 1840 to 1850 I was the candidate of the Democratic Party of Groton for representative of the town in the general court. The party in the town met its moderate expenses by voluntary contributions. I contributed with others, but never upon the ground that I was a candidate. We paid our local expenses. We paid nothing for expenses elsewhere, and we did not receive anything from outside sources. In 1844-'46 and 1848 I was the candidate of the Democratic Party for the National House of Representatives. I canvassed the district at my own charge. I did not make any contribution to any one for any purpose, and I did not receive financial aid from any source. The subject was never mentioned to me or by me in conversation or correspondence with any one. Again, I may say the subject was not mentioned in my canvass for the office of Governor in the years 1849- 1850 and 1851.
In 1862 I became the candidate of the Republican Party for a seat in Congress. After my nomination the District Committee asked me for a contribution of one hundred dollars. I met their request. The request was repeated and answered in 1864, 1866 and 1868. On one occasion I received a return of forty-two dollars with a statement that the full amount of my contribution had not been expended.
While General Butler was in the army, Mr. James Brooks, a member from the city of New York, charged him, in an elaborate speech, with having taken about fifty thousand dollars from a bank in New Orleans, and appropriated the same to his own use. General Butler was then at Willard's Hotel. That evening I called upon Butler, and said to him that if he had any answer to the charge, I would reply the next day. I had secured the floor through Mr. Stevens, who moved the adjournment upon a private understanding that he would yield to me in case I wished to reply. As Butler lived in my district and as I was ignorant of the facts, I avoided taking the floor lest an expectation should be created which I could not meet. However, I found Butler entirely prepared for the contest. From his letter books he read to me the correspondence with the Treasury Department, from which it appeared that the money had been turned over to the department, for which Butler had the proper receipts. The money had been seized upon the ground that it was the property of the Confederacy and was in the bank awaiting an opportunity to be transferred. The morning following, I called upon Butler and obtained copies of the correspondence that had been prepared the preceding night. I rode to the Capitol with Butler and on the way we prepared the letters in chronological order. Having obtained the floor through Mr. Stevens I made the answer which consisted chiefly of the letters. It was so conclusive that the subject was never again mentioned in the House of Representatives. On that occasion Butler's habit of making and keeping a full record of his doings served to release him from very serious charges, and so speedily that the charges did not obtain a lodgment in the public mind.
Upon another occasion Brooks made an attack upon Secretary Chase and charged various offences upon S. M. Clark, then the chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Some of the charges were personal, and some of them official. I called upon the Secretary at his house, as I was on my way home from the Capitol, and gave him a statement of the charges made by Brooks. He seemed ignorant of the whole matter, and upon my suggestion that he should ask Clark for his explanation or defence he hesitated, and then asked me to call upon Clark for his answer. This I declined and there the matter ended. There never was any reply to Brooks. In the end it may have been as well, for the charges are forgotten, and they are not likely to be brought out of the musty volumes of debates. Mr. Chase's lack of resolution gave me an unfavorable impression of his ability for administrative affairs.
Samuel J. Randall first entered Congress in 1862. Mr. Randall's resources were limited. He was not bred to any profession, and he was not a man of learning in any direction. I cannot imagine that he had a taste for study at any kind of investigation aside from politics. By long experience he became familiar with parliamentary proceedings, and from the same source he acquired a knowledge of the business of the Government. He had one essential quality of leadership—a strong will. Moreover, he was destitute, apparently, of moral perceptions in public affairs. Not that he was corrupt, but as between the Government and its citizens the demands of what is called justice seemed to have no effect upon him. He did not hesitate to delay the payment of a just claim in order that the appropriation might be kept within the limits that he had fixed. This, not on the ground that the claim ought not be paid, but for the reason that the payment at the time would disarrange the balance sheet. A striking instance of his policy was exhibited in his treatment of the land-owners whose lands were condemned and taken for the reservoir at the end of Seventh Street, Washington, D. C. The values were fixed by a commission and by juries under the law, and when the time for an appropriation came, Mr. Randall provided for fifty per cent. and carried the remainder over to the next year. The claimants were entitled to full payment, but one half was withheld for twelve months without interest and that while dead funds were lying in the Treasury.
XXIX INCIDENTS IN THE CIVIL WAR
THE PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION
When the Proclamation of Emancipation, of January 1, 1863, was issued, the closing sentence attracted universal attention, and in every part of the world encomiums were pronounced upon it. The words are these: "And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God." Following the appearance of the Proclamation, and stimulated, possibly, by the reception given to the sentence quoted, there appeared claimants for the verbal authorship of the passage, or for suggestions which led to its writing by Mr. Lincoln.
A claim for exact authorship was set up for Mr. Chase, and claims for suggestions in the nature of exact authorship were made in behalf of Mr. Seward and in behalf of Mr. Sumner.
The sentence quoted was furnished by Mr. Chase, after a very material alteration by the President. He introduced the words, "warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity," in place of the phrase, "and of duty demanded by the circumstances of the country," as written by Mr. Chase.
The main credit for the introduction of the fortunate phrase is due to Secretary Chase. President Lincoln placed the act upon a legal basis, justifying it in law and in history. The sentence is what we might have expected from the head and heart of the man who wrote the final sentence of the first inaugural address: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." Mr. Lincoln had genius for the work of composition, and the poetic quality was strong and it was often exhibited in his speeches and writings. The omission of the sentence in question would so mar the Proclamation that it would cease to represent Mr. Lincoln. Thus he became under great obligations to Mr. Chase.
It was not in the nature of Mr. Lincoln to close a state paper, which he could not but have realized was to take a place by the side of the Declaration of Independence, with a bald statement that the freedmen would be received "into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service."
In the month of October, 1863, the ladies of Chicago made a request of Mr. Lincoln for "the original" of his "proclamation of freedom," the same to be disposed of "for the benefit of the soldiers." The letter in their behalf was written by Mr. Arnold, who was then a member of Congress. Improvidently, I think we may say, Mr. Lincoln yielded to their request for the original draft of the Proclamation to be sold for the benefit of the fair. Its transmission was accompanied by a letter, written by Mr. Lincoln.
"EXECUTIVE MANSION, "WASHINGTON, "October 26, 1863.
"Ladies having in charge The North Western Fair for the Sanitary Commission, Chicago, Ill.
"According to the request made in your behalf, the original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation is herewith enclosed. The formal words at the top and at the conclusion, except the signature, you perceive, are not in my handwriting. They were written at the State Department, by whom I know not. The printed part was cut from a copy of the preliminary Proclamation and pasted on merely to save writing.
"I have some desire to retain the paper, but if it shall contribute to the relief of the soldiers, that would be better.
"Your obt. servt., "A. LINCOLN."
In technical strictness the original Proclamation was of the archives of the Department of State when the signature of the President and Secretary of State had been affixed thereto, and its transfer by Mr. Lincoln was an act not within his competency as President, or as the author of the Proclamation.
This point, however, is wholly speculative, but the country and posterity will be interested in the fate of the original of a document which is as immortal as the Declaration of Independence. The Proclamation was sold to the Honorable Thomas B. Bryan of Chicago for the sum of three thousand dollars and it was then presented by him to the Soldiers' Home of Chicago, of which he was then President. That position he still retains. The document was deposited in the rooms of the Chicago Historical Society, where it was destroyed in the great fire of 1871.
Fortunately the managers of the fair had secured the preparation of fac simile copies of the Proclamation. These were sold in large numbers, and thus many thousands of dollars were added to the receipts of the fair.
The managers of the Soldiers' Home were offered twenty-five thousand dollars for the original Proclamation.* The offer came from a showman who expected to reimburse himself by the exhibition of the paper.
The original now on the files of the State Department is not in the handwriting of Mr. Lincoln and it has therefore no value derived from Mr. Lincoln's personality.
When I entered upon this inquiry, which has resulted in the preparation of this paper, I was ignorant of the fact that the original Proclamation had been destroyed, and it was my purpose to secure its return to the archives of the Department of State. That is now impossible. Its destruction has given value to the fac simile copies. Many thousands of them are in the possession of citizens of the United States, and they will be preserved and transmitted as souvenirs of the greatest act of the most illustrious American of this century.
In the early autumn of 1864 a meeting was held in Faneuil Hall in honor of the capture of Atlanta by the army under General Sherman, and the battle in Mobile Bay under the lead of Admiral Farragut. Strange as the fact may now appear, those historical events were not accepted with satisfaction by all the citizens of Boston. The leading Democratic papers gave that kind of advice that may be found, usually, in the columns of hostile journals, when passing events are unfriendly, or when there is an adverse trend of public opinion. Hard words should not be used and nothing should be said of a partisan character. Such was the advice, and a large body of men assembled who were opposed to partisan speeches. They were known as the McClellan Club of the North End of Boston and they were sufficient in numbers, when standing, to fill the main floor in front of the rostrum, which at that time was not provided with seats. The meeting was called by Republicans and it was conducted under the auspices of Republicans. Governor Andrew was to preside and Governor Everett, with others, had been invited to speak. Governor Andrew was not blessed with a commanding voice and it was drowned or smothered by the hisses, cheers and cat-call cries of the hostile audience in front of him. The efforts of the sympathetic audience in the galleries were of no avail. Mr. Everett's letter was then read, but not a sentence of it was understood by any person in the assembly. Next came Mr. Sennott, an Irishman, a lawyer, and a man of large learning in knowledge and attainments not adapted to general use. He had then but recently abandoned the Democratic Party, but there was a stain upon his reputation, traceable to the fact that in the year 1859 he had volunteered to aid in the legal defence of John Brown at Harper's Ferry. The city of Boston could not have offered a person less acceptable to the crowd in front of the speaker. Mr. Sennott's voice was weak and of the art of using what power he possessed he had no knowledge. His speech was not heard by anyone in the assembly. By the arrangement I was to follow Mr. Sennott. I had had some experience with hostile audiences, and in the year 1862 I had been interrupted in a country town of Massachusetts by stones thrown through the windows of a hall in which I was speaking upon the war and the administration.
As I sat upon the platform I studied my audience and I resolved upon my course. I had one fixed resolution—I should get a hearing or I should spend the night in the hall. Something of the character of my reception and the results reached may be gained from the report of the Boston Journal, and I copy the report without alteration, premising however that some minutes passed before I secured a quiet hearing.
SPEECH ON THE CHICAGO RESOLUTION
Fellow Citizens: It depends very much upon what we believe as to the future of this country and the rights of the people, whether we rejoice or mourn in consequence of the events in Mobile Bay and before Atlanta. If it was true on the 30th day of last month that the people of this country ought to take immediate efforts for the cessation of hostilities, then, gentlemen, we have cause to mourn rather than to rejoice. I understand that there were some people in this country, who, before the 30th of August, since this was opened, had not, as an aggregate body of men, expressed their opinions in reference to this war, who then declared that it ought to cease. (A voice—"They're few.") I observed in a newspaper published in this city two observations within the last two days. One was that they were afraid hard names would be used; and the other was that there was some apprehension that this meeting to-night would have some political aspect or influence. (Voices—"No! No!") I thought it likely enough that it would (laughter and applause) because I observed in the newspapers that it was called to express congratulations over the events which had taken place in Mobile Bay and before Atlanta, and I thought that I had observed that those events had rather a political effect. (Renewed laughter.) Therefore I did not see exactly how it was possible that men should assemble together to rejoice over events having a political aspect without the meeting and the rejoicing having a political aspect also. Well, now, gentlemen, I haven't come here with any design that, so far as I am concerned, it shall have anything but a political aspect. ("Good" and applause.) These times are too serious for the acceptance of any suggestion that hard names are not to be called if hard names are deserved. (Voices—"That is it!") The question is not whether the meeting shall have a political influence, but whether it is necessary to the salvation of the country that it shall have a political influence. (Applause.) Well, gentlemen, I observed while the person who last occupied the platform was speaking certain indications, which I thought were a slight deviation from the much talked-of right of free speech. (Laughter, and a voice—"Hit 'em again.") Now, then, I am going to read a resolution adopted at Chicago. I am going to make two propositions in reference to it. I am then going to ask whether this assembly assents to or rejects those propositions. If there is any man in this assembly who denies or doubts those propositions, if I have the consent of the honored chairman of this meeting to ten minutes of time in which I can engage the ear of the assembly, I surrender it to that man, that he may have the opportunity upon this platform to refute, if he can, the propositions which I lay down. (Applause.) Now the second resolution of this platform is in these words—
(At this point there was considerable disturbance in the rear of the hall, created by one individual, and several voices cried out—"Free speech!" "Out with him!")
Mr. Boutwell continued: He will be more useful to the country if he remain here. If he goes away there is no chance for his conversion to the truth: if he remain here he may be saved. (Laughter.) "The vilest sinner may return, While the lamp holds out to burn." (Renewed laughter and applause.) I hope gentlemen who favor free speech will listen attentively to this resolution:
"Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which under pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution has been disregarded in every part and public liberty and private rights alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities with a view to an ultimate convention of all the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of a Federal Union of the States."
(The resolution was greeted with a feeble clapping of hands, a slight attempt at cheers in the rear of the hall, and a storm of hisses. Mr. Boutwell continued:)
If there are any gentlemen here who approve this resolution, I hope they will have the opportunity to cheer. (About half a dozen persons commenced to cheer, but abandoned it on hearing their own voices, when a voice exclaiming "These are the Copperheads," caused loud laughter. The speaker proceeded:)
Now then, gentlemen, the two propositions I lay down are these, and if any one of those gentlemen who indulged in the luxury of a cheer just now chooses to come upon this platform, I fulfill my pledge: The first is that this resolution, so far as known, meets the approval of the rebels in arms against this government. (Voices—"That's so," and cheers.) The second is that this resolution meets the approval of all the men in the North who sympathize with the cause of this rebellion and desire its success. (Repeated cheers and "That's it.") Now, then, if there is any one who would deny the truth of these propositions, let him, with the leave of the chair, take ten minutes upon this platform. (Some confusion ensued, several voices shouting "Make room for George Lunt," "Where's Lunt?" etc., etc., etc. No one appearing, Mr. Boutwell continued:) If there is nobody to refute these propositions, I take it for granted that they meet the general assent of this vast assembly. (cries of "Good" and cheers); and, if so, isn't this the time, when a great convention professing to represent a portion of the American people in time of war, not having spoken since hostilities commenced, frame a leading resolution so as to meet the assent and approval of the enemies of the Republic—isn't this the time, when such things are done, for men who have a faith in the country and a belief in its right to exist, to declare the reasons of that belief? (Voices—"Yes.") Now I propose to discuss that resolution in some degree. First, it proposes a cessation of hostilities. I have heard the word armistice mentioned to-night. The declaration of that resolution is not for an armistice. An armistice, according to its general acceptation and use, implies a suspension of hostilities upon the expectation and condition that they are to be resumed; and if hostilities are not to be resumed then a cessation of hostilities is an abandonment of the Government. It is treason. (Voices—"That's so," and loud and continued cheers.) I declare here that the proposition for a cessation of hostilities is moral and political treason (voices— "Good"); and, further, every man who knowingly and after investigation, and upon his judgment favors a cessation of hostilities, is a traitor. (Loud cheers.) The issue, gentlemen, is no longer upon the tented field. No danger there to the cause of the Union. The soldiers are true to the flag and they will fight on and march on until the last rebel has fallen to the dust or laid down his arms. The soldiers are true, but the cause of the Union is in peril at home (voices—"That's where it is"), where secret organizations are mustering their forces and gathering in material of war for which there can be no possible use except to revolutionize this country through the fearful experience of civil war. (A voice—"Shame on them.") O how I long for some knowledge of the English language so that I may select a word or a phrase which shall fully express the enormity of this treason! (Voices —"Hang them." "String them up.")
The rebels of the South have some cause. They believe in the institution of slavery,—they have been educated under its influence. They thought it in peril. They made war with some pretence on their part for a reason for war, but what excuse, what palliation is there for those men in the North, who, regardless of liberty, of justice, and of humanity, ally themselves, openly some and secretly others, with the enemies of the Republic? Spare, spare, your anathemas, gentlemen. Do not longer employ the harsh language which you can command in denunciation of Southern traitors. They of the North who give aid and comfort to the enemy deserve to monopolize in the application all the harsh words and phrases of the English language. (Applause.) Cessation of hostilities—what follows? Dissolution of the Union inevitably. Will not Jefferson Davis and his associates understand that when we have ceased to make war, when our armies become demoralized, public sentiment relaxed, when they have had opportunity to gather up the materials for prosecuting this contest, that we cannot renew the contest with any reasonable hope of success. Therefore, if you abandon this contest now, it is separation—that is what is meant, and nothing else can follow. But suppose that what some gentlemen desire could be accomplished,—a reconstruction of the Union by diplomatic relations inaugurated between this Government and Jefferson Davis'—suppose the South should return—what follows? When you have permitted Jefferson Davis and his associates to come back and take their places in the government of this country, do you not see that with the help of a small number of representatives from the North whose services they are sure to command, they will assume the war debt of the South. When you have assumed that debt, and taken the obligation to pay it, these men of the South will treat the obligation lightly, and upon the first pretext will renew secession and will march straight out of the Union, and you, with your embarrassed finance, will find yourselves unable to institute military proceedings for their subjugation. Therefore I say that by the reconstruction some men desire you render secession certain, bankruptcy throughout the North certain. The repudiation of the Public Debt is not a matter of expectation or fear, it is a matter of certainty, if you assent to any reconstruction of this Union through the instrumentality of Jefferson Davis and his associates. You must either drive them into exile or exterminate them. Break down the military power of the people, and exterminate or exile their leaders, and bring up men at the South in favor of the Union—there is no other way of security to yourselves. (Cheers.) Now, then, are you prepared to cease hostilities with the expectation of negotiations with Jefferson Davis for the dissolution of the Union or for its restoration? (Voices— "No!") Either course is alike fatal to you, for the war must go on until peace is conquered. (Loud cheers and voices—"That's so.") On the one side they offer you as negotiators Franklin Pierce, perhaps, and A. H. Stephens; on the other, possibly one of the Seymours, either of Connecticut or New York, Wise of Virginia, Vallandingham of Ohio, and Soule of Louisiana. The only negotiators, gentlemen, to be trusted as long as the war continued or there is a rebel in arms—the only negotiators are Grant upon one line and Sherman upon the other. (Tremendous cheers.)
A Voice—"You have left out Mr. Harris of Maryland."
Mr. Boutwell—"According to the reports, etc., we have had from Chicago, he conducts negotiations upon his own account."
Voice—"How are you, Mr. Harris?"
Mr. Boutwell—"What does the cessation of hostilities mean? It means that the blockade is to be removed, and the South be allowed to furnish itself with materials and munitions of war. What does that mean on the land? What does it mean on the sea? That you are to furl your flag at Fortress Monroe on the Petersburg line; that you are to remove your gunboats from the Mississippi River; that you are to abandon Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip at its mouth; that you are to undo the work which the gallant Farragut has already done in Mobile Bay, and so along the coast and upon the line from the Atlantic beyond the Mississippi River. You, people of the North, who have been victorious upon the whole through three years of war—you are to disgrace your ancestry—you are to render yourselves infamous in all future time, by furling your flag and submitting anew to rebel authority upon this continent. Are you prepared for it? (Voices— "No!" "never!") I ask these men here, who cheered the resolution adopted at Chicago, whether they, men of Massachusetts, and in Faneuil Hall, will say, one of them, with his face to the patriots of the Revolution—will say that he asks for peace through any craven spirit that is within him? Is there a man among them all, from whatsoever quarter of this city, renowned in history—is there a man of them all who will stand here and say he is for the cessation of hostilities? If so, let him speak, and let him, if he dare, come upon this platform and face his patriotic fellow-citizens. (A call was made for cheers for McClellan in the rear of the hall, but nobody seemed disposed to respond. The speaker continued.) I am willing a cheer should be given for any man who has been in the service of the country, however little he may have done. Is there any man in Faneuil Hall for peace? (Voices —"No!") I intended, so far as was in my power, to give to this meeting a political aspect (voices—"Good!") in favor of the country and against traitors. (Cheers.) If there are no peace men in this assembly, then that object, as far as we are concerned, is accomplished. (Prolonged cheering.)
MR. CHASE AND THE CHIEF JUSTICESHIP
Upon the death of Chief Justice Taney the general public favored the appointment of Mr. Chase as his successor. In that view I concurred, but I had heard Mr. Chase make so many unjust criticisms upon Mr. Lincoln that I resolved to say nothing. I was willing to have Mr. Chase appointed, but I was not willing to ask the President to confer so great a place upon a man who had been so unjust to him. When the nomination had been made, I said to Mr. Lincoln that I was very glad that he had decided to appoint Mr. Chase. He then said: "There are three reasons in favor of his appointment, and one very strong reason against it. First, he occupies the largest place in the public mind in connection with the office, then we wish for a Chief Justice who will sustain what has been done in regard to emancipation and the legal tenders. We cannot ask a man what he will do, and if we should and he should answer us, we should despise him for it. Therefore we must take a man whose opinions are known. But there is one very strong reason against his appointment. He is a candidate for the Presidency, and if he does not give up that idea it will be very bad for him and very bad for me." At that time Mr. Lincoln had been re-elected to the Presidency.
Mr. Chase continued to be a candidate for the Presidency. He abandoned the Republican Party in 1868 and as Chief Justice he abandoned his own policy or the policy that he had adopted in regard to the legal tender currency.
It was said that Mr. Sumner, who was very earnest for Chase's appointment, gave strong pledges to Mr. Lincoln that Mr. Chase would abandon his ambition for the Presidency.
RIGHTS OF STATES
In 1864 I introduced a series of resolutions in the House of Representatives in the form of a Declaration of Opinion in regard to the legal status of the States in rebellion. At that time the country and Congress had no doubt of our ability to crush the rebellion, and the public mind was occupied with various theories of reconstruction.
The resolutions had been already adopted by the National Union League. I prepared them at the instance of Governor Claflin and their adoption by the League had made the policy known to a large body of active Republicans. I did not seek to secure their adoption by the House of Representatives. The resolutions were in this form:
"Resolved, That the Committee on the Rebellious States be instructed to consider and report upon the expediency of recommending to this House the adoption of the following
Declaration of Opinions:
"In view of the present condition of the country, and especially in regard to the recent signal successes of the national arms promising a speedy overthrow of the rebellion, this House makes the following declaration of opinion concerning the institution of slavery in the States and parts of States engaged in the rebellion, and embraced in the proclamation of emancipation issued by the President on the first day of January, A. D. 1863: and also concerning the relations now subsisting between the people of such States and parts of States on the one side, and the American Union on the other.
"It is therefore declared (as the opinion of the House of Representatives), that the institution of slavery was the cause of the present rebellion, and that the destruction of slavery in the rebellious States is an efficient means of weakening the power of the rebels; that the President's proclamation whereby all persons heretofore held as slaves in such States and parts of States have been declared free, has had the effect to increase the power of the Union, and to diminish the power of its enemies; that the freedom of such persons was desirable and just in itself, and an efficient means by which the Government was to be maintained, and its authority re- established in all the territory and over all the people within the legal jurisdiction of the United States; that it is the duty of the Government and of loyal men everywhere to do what may be practicable for the enforcement of the proclamation, in order to secure in fact, as well as by the forms of law, the extinction of slavery in such States and parts of States; and, finally, that it is the paramount duty of the Government and of all loyal men to labor for the restoration of the American Union upon the basis of freedom.
"And this House does further declare, That a State can exist or cease to exist only by the will of the people within its limits, and that it cannot be created or destroyed by the external force or opinion of other States, or even by the judgment or action of the nation itself; that a State, when created by the will of its people, can become a member of the American Union only by its own organized action and the concurrent action of the existing National Government, that, when a State has been admitted to the Union, no vote, resolution, ordinance, or proceeding on its part, however formal in character or vigorously sustained, can deprive the National Government of the legal jurisdiction and sovereignty over the territory and people of such State which existed previous to the act of admission, or which were acquired thereby; that the effect of the so-called acts, resolutions and ordinances of secession adopted by the eleven States engaged in the present rebellion is, and can only be, to destroy those political organizations as States, while the legal and constitutional jurisdiction and authority of the National Government over the people and territory remain unimpaired; that these several communities can be organized into States only by the will of the loyal people, expressed freely and in the absence of all coercion; that States so organized can become States of the American Union only when they shall have applied for admission, and their admission shall have been authorized by the existing National Government; that, when a people have organized a State upon basis of allegiance to the Union and applied for admission, the character of the institutions of such proposed State may constitute a sufficient justification for granting or rejecting such application; and, inasmuch as experience has shown that the existence of human slavery is incompatible with a republican form of government, in the several States or in the United States, and inconsistent with the peace, prosperity and unity of the nation, it is the duty of the people and of all men in authority, to resist the admission of slave States wherever organized within the jurisdiction of the National Government."
The logical consequence of these positions was that upon the conquest of the States engaged in the rebellion the National Government could govern the people as seemed expedient and readmit them into the Union at such times and upon such terms as the Government should dictate. They antagonized the doctrine then accepted by many Republicans— "Once a State always a State"—a doctrine that would have transferred the government at once into the hands of the men who had been engaged in an effort to destroy it.
Mr. Sumner was wiser in this respect. His theory that the rebellious States should be reduced to a Territorial condition was in harmony with the views that were embodied in the resolutions. At the time, however, they did not receive the support of all the members of the Republican Party.
Mr. Stevens maintained the doctrine that the rebel States were conquered States and wholly subject to the power of the conqueror. In his view their previous condition as States in the Union had no value. But Mr. Stevens was never troubled by the absence of logic or argument. In the case of the rebel States he intended to assert power enough to meet the exigency and he was free of all fear as to the judgement of posterity. When he had formed a purpose he looked only to the end. If he could command the adequate means he left all questions of logic and ethics to other minds and to future times.
Others maintained that the theory that the States were in a Territorial condition or that they had ceased to exist as States, was an admission of the doctrine of secession. Mr. Lincoln in his last public address cut clear of all theories and resolved the situation into a simple statement of a fact to which all were compelled to assent: "We all agree, that the seceded States so-called, are out of their proper practical relations with the Union." On this basis Congress finally acted, but during the process and progress of reconstruction the military authority was absolute, and local and individual powers were completely subordinated to the authority of the General Government.
COUNTING THE ELECTORAL VOTES
In 1865 and 1869, questions were raised when the electoral votes were counted, that gave rise to debates in the House of Representatives and on one occasion subsequently in the Senate. In the House, Francis Thomas of Maryland and Samuel Shellabarger of Ohio took part. Both were able men. Thomas had the qualities of an orator but he spoke so infrequently that his power was not generally appreciated. On that occasion he spoke exceedingly well, but the attendance was small, an evening session having been assigned for debate upon that subject. Mr. Shellabarger was logical and effective but he was destitute of imagination utterly. At the bar since his retirement from politics he has enjoyed a large practice, but, unfortunately, as it appears to me, he has preserved the style of speaking which he acquired upon the stump and in Congress. A skillful speaker must adapt himself to the circumstance and to his audience. A stump speech, a speech in the House of Representatives, a speech in the Senate, an argument to a court, an argument to a jury, should each be framed on a model of its own. Neither style will answer for any other. The degree of variance may not be considerable and with a well disciplined person the change may not be apparent. Mr. Webster adapted himself to every audience, but the changes were slight. Yet there were changes. He was not over solemn in the Supreme Court, and he was never boisterous when he addressed the multitude.
As far as I recollect my positions and arguments in the debates upon the counting of the electoral votes, I now discard all I said then. My present conclusion is that upon a reasonable construction of the Constitution there is no occasion for legislation or for an amendment to the fundamental law. The Vice-President or the President of the Senate is the president of the convention. He carries into the chair the ordinary powers of a presiding officer. He rules upon all questions that arise. He may and should rule upon the various certificates that are sent up by the several States. If, in any case, his ruling is objected to, the two Houses separate, and each House votes upon the question:—"Shall the ruling of the Chair stand, etc." If the Houses divide, the ruling is sustained. The president and one House are a majority. The decision is in accordance with our system of government. The suggestion that the president or that the Houses may act under the influence of personal or political prejudice, may, with equal force, be urged against any scheme that can be devised. The counting of the electoral votes must be left in the hands of men, and the Constitution has given us all the security that can be had that the decision will be honestly made. The president of the convention and the members of the Houses are bound by oath as solemnly as are the judicial tribunals of the country. A judge is only a man, and he is subject to like infirmities with other men. It is a wise feature of our system that the courts have no voice in the political department of our Government. The presidential office should never be in the control of the judicial branch of the Government.
[* Letter of the Honorable Thomas B. Bryan.]
XXX THE AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
I had no part in the preparation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, nor any part in its passage through the House other than to give my vote in its favor. The Amendment resolution was passed by the Thirty-eighth Congress at its last session and by the aid of Democrats. The elections of 1864 had resulted in a two-thirds majority and it was therefore certain that the resolution would be agreed to by the next House. Hence there was less inducement for the Democrats to resist its passage by the Thirty-eighth Congress. A small number of Democrats favored the measure. English of Connecticut and Ganson of New York were of the number. There were others also whose names I do not recall. At the time of the contest a rumor was abroad that James M. Ashley, of Ohio, was engaged in making arrangements with certain Democrats to absent themselves from the House when the vote was taken. Several were absent—some were reported in ill health. Mr. Ashley was deeply interested in the passage of the resolution and it was believed that he made pledges which no one but the President could keep. Such was the exigency for the passage of the resolution that the means were not subjected to any rigid rule of ethics.
The Fourteenth Amendment had its origin in a joint committee of fifteen of which Mr. Fessenden of Maine was chairman. A record of its proceedings was kept which was printed recently by order of the Senate. From that report it appears that I proposed an amendment for conferring the right to vote upon the freedmen of the State of Tennessee. As far as I know that was the first time the proposition was made in connection with the proceedings of Congress. The committee did not concur in the proposition. Indeed the time had not come for decisive action in that direction. The motion was made in the committee the 19th day of February, 1866, when the admission of the State of Tennessee into the Union was under consideration. The motion was in these words: "Said State shall make no distinction in the exercise of the elective franchise on account of race or color." The motion was lost by the following vote:
Yeas: Howard, Stevens, Washburne, Morrill, Boutwell. Nays: Harris, Williams, Grider, Bingham, Conkling, Rogers. Absent: Fessenden, Grimes, Johnson, Blow.
The 16th day of April Senator Stewart, of Nevada, came before the committee in support of a similar proposition that he had introduced in the Senate April 7.
In January, 1866, a bill was under discussion in the House of Representatives for the establishment of a government in the District of Columbia. Mr. Hale of New York moved amendments by which the right of suffrage by negroes would be limited to those who could read and write, to those who had performed service in the army or navy or who possessed property qualifications. The amendment was defeated. My views were thus stated in one of the very small number of my speeches that have had immediate influence upon an audience or an assembly:
"I am opposed to the instructions moved by the gentleman from New York, because I see in them no advantage to anybody, and I apprehend from their adoption much evil to the country. It should be borne in mind, that, when we emancipated the black people we not only relieved ourselves from the institution of slavery, we not only conferred upon them their freedom, but we did more; we recognized their manhood, which, by the old Constitution and the general policy and usage of the country, had been, from the organization of the Government until the Emancipation Proclamation, denied to all the enslaved colored people. As a consequence of the recognition of their manhood, certain results follow, in accordance with the principles of the Government; and they who believe in this Government are, by necessity, forced to accept those results as a consequence of the policy of emancipation which they have inaugurated, and for which they are responsible.
"But to say now, having given freedom to the blacks, that they shall not enjoy the essential rights and privileges of men, is to abandon the principle of the Proclamation of Emancipation, and tacitly to admit that the whole emancipation policy is erroneous.
* * * "What are the qualifications suggested? They are three. First and most attractive, service in the army or navy of the United States. I shall have occasion to say, if I discuss, as I hope to discuss, the nature and origin of the right of voting, that there is not the least possible connection between service in the army and navy and the exercise of the elective franchise,—none whatever. These men have performed service, and I am for dealing justly with them because they have performed service. But I am more anxious to deal justly by them because they are men. And when it is remembered, that, for months and almost for years after the opening of the rebellion, we refused to accept the services of colored persons in the armies of the country, it is with ill grace that we now decline to allow the vote of any man because he has not performed that service.
"The second is the property qualification. I hope it is not necessary in this day and this hour of the Republic to argue anywhere that a property qualification is not only unjust in itself, but that it is odious to the people of the country to a degree which cannot be expressed. Everywhere, I believe, for half a century, it has been repudiated by the people. Does anybody contemplate such a qualification to the elective franchise, in the case of black people or white?
"And next, reading and writing, or reading as a qualification, is demanded; and an appeal is made to the example of Massachusetts. I wish gentlemen who now appeal to Massachusetts would often appeal to her in other matters where I can more conscientiously approve her policy. But it is a different proposition in Massachusetts as a practical measure.
"When, ten years ago, this qualification was imposed upon the citizens of Massachusetts, it excluded no person who was then a voter. For two centuries, we have had in Massachusetts a system of public instruction, open to the children of the whole people without money and without price. Therefore all the people there had had opportunities for education. Why should the example of such a State be quoted to justify refusing suffrage to men who have been denied the privilege of education, and whom it has been a crime to teach?
* * * "The negro has everywhere the same right to vote as the white man, and I maintain still further, that, when you proceed one step from this line, you admit that your government is a failure. What is the essential quality of monarchical and aristocratic governments? Simply that by conventionalities, by arrangements of conventions, some persons have been deprived of the right of voting. We have attempted to set up and maintain a government upon the doctrine of the equality of men, the universal right of all men, to participate in the government. In accordance with that theory, we must accept the ballot upon the principle of equality. It is enjoyed by the learned and un- learned, the wise and the ignorant, the virtuous and the vicious.
"The great experiment is going on. If, before the war, any man in this country was disposed to undervalue a government thus conducted, he should have learned by this time the wisdom and strength of a government which embraces and embodies the judgment and the will of the whole people. If the negroes of the South, four million strong, had been endowed with the elective franchise, and had united with the white people of that region in the work of rebellion, your armies would have been powerless to subdue that rebellion, and you would to-day have seen your territory limited by the Potomac and the Ohio.
* * * "We are to answer for our treatment of the colored people of this country; and it will prove in the end impracticable to secure to men of color civil rights, unless the persons who claim those rights are fortified by the political right of voting. With the right of voting, everything that a man ought to have or enjoy of civil rights comes to him. Without the right to vote he is secure in nothing. I cannot consent, after all the guards and safeguards which may be prepared for the defence of the colored men in the enjoyment of their rights,—I cannot consent that they shall be deprived of the right to protect themselves. One hundred and eighty-six thousand of them have been in the army of the United States. They have stood in the places of our sons and brothers and friends. Many of them have fallen in the defence of the country. They have earned the right to share in the government; and, if you deny them the elective franchise, I know not how they are to be protected. Otherwise you furnish the protection which is given to the lamb when he is commended to the wolf.
"There is an ancient history that a sparrow pursued by a hawk took refuge in the chief Assembly of Athens, in the bosom of a member of that illustrious body, and that the senator in anger hurled it violently from him. It fell to the ground dead; and such was the horror and indignation of that ancient but not Christianized body,— men living in the light of nature, of reason,—that they immediately expelled the brutal Areopagite from his seat, and from the association of humane legislators.
"What will be said of us, not by Christian, but by heathen nations even, if, after accepting the blood and sacrifices of these men, we hurl them from us, and allow them to become the victims of those who have tyrannized over them for centuries? I know of no crime that exceeds this; I know of none that is its parallel; and, if this country is true to itself, it will rise in the majesty of its strength, and maintain a policy, here and everywhere, by which the right of the colored people shall be secure through their own power,—in peace, the ballot; in war, the bayonet.
"It is a maxim of another language, which we may well apply to ourselves, that, where the voting-register ends, the military roster of rebellion begins; and, if you leave these four million people to the care and custody of the men who have inaugurated and carried on this rebellion, then you treasure up, for untold years, the elements of social and civil war, which must not only desolate and paralyze the South, but shake this government to its very foundation."
It was impossible in 1866 to go farther than the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. That amendment was prepared in form by Senators Conkling and Williams and myself. We were a select committee on Tennessee. The propositions were not ours, but we gave form to the amendment. The part relating to "privileges and immunities" came from Mr. Bingham of Ohio. Its euphony and indefiniteness of meaning were a charm to him. When the measure came before the Senate Mr. Sumner opposed its passage and alleged that we proposed to barter the right of the negroes to vote for diminished representation on the part of the old slave States in the House and in the electoral college; while in truth the loss of representation was imposed as a penalty upon any State that should deprive any class of its adult male citizens of the right to vote. Upon this allegation of Mr. Sumner the resolution was defeated in the Senate. There were then in that body a number of Republicans from the old slave States and over them Mr. Sumner had large influence. The defeat of the amendment was followed by bitter criticisms by the Republican press and by Republicans. These criticisms affected Mr. Sumner deeply and he then devoted himself to the preparation of an amendment which he could approve. While he was engaged in that work I called upon him and he read seventeen drafts of a proposition not one of which was entirely satisfactory to himself, and not one of which would have been accepted by Congress or the country. The difficulty was in the situation. Upon the return of the seceded States their representation would be increased nearly forty votes in the House and in the electoral colleges while the voting force would remain in the white population. The injustice of such a condition was apparent, and there were only two possible remedies. One was to extend the franchise to the blacks. The country—the loyal States—were not then ready for the measure. The alternative was to cut off the representation from States that denied the elective franchise to any class of adult male citizens. Finally Mr. Sumner was compelled to accept the alternative. Some change of phraseology was made, and Mr. Sumner gave a reluctant vote for the resolution.
Aside from the debates on the constitutional amendment there were serious difficulties among Republicans in regard to the exercise of the right of suffrage by the negroes.
Previous to the year 1868 there was a majority of Republicans who would have imposed a qualification, some of service in the army or navy, some of property and some of education. It was with great difficulty that the scheme of limitation was resisted in regard to the District of Columbia. As to the Democrats they could always be counted upon to aid in any measure which tended to keep the negroes in a subordinate condition. This of the majority—there was always a minority, usually a small one, who were ready to aid in the elevation of the negro when his emancipation had been accomplished. I do not recall the name of one man who favored emancipation as a policy and adhered to the Democratic Party. When a man reached the conclusion that the negroes should be free, he could not do otherwise than join the Republican Party. At the time of the admission of Tennessee, July, 1866, there were only twelve men in the House of Representatives who insisted upon securing to the negro the right to vote. A larger number favored the scheme, but they yielded to the claim of that State to be admitted without conditions. At that time the power of the President was not impaired seriously, and his wishes were heeded by many. There was also an understanding that the State would concede the right upon terms not unreasonable.
Next to the restoration of the Union and the abolition of slavery the recognition of universal suffrage is the most important result of the war. It has its evils but they are incidental, and their influence is limited to times and places, while the advantages are universal and enduring. Universal suffrage is security for universal education. It is security against chronic hostility to the Government and security against the manifestation of a revolutionary spirit among the people. They realize that with frequent elections, the evils of administration may be corrected speedily. By a similar though slower process the fundamental law may be changed. Hence it is in this country until recently there was no difference of opinion as to the wisdom of the system of government under which we are living. The existing diversity of opinion will soon disappear. If suffrage were limited there would be a body of discontented people ready to seize upon any pretext that promised a change. In the present condition of our system the only danger is due to the forcible or fraudulent withholding of the right from those who are entitled to enjoy it. This condition of things must soon end. The safety of a state is yet further secured by frequent elections. The project to extend the Presidential term is full of danger. If the term were six or ten years the presence of an offensive or dangerous man in the office would provoke a revolution, or cause disturbances only less disastrous to business and to social and domestic comfort. In the little republic of Hayti there have been not less than seventeen revolutions in the hundred years of its existence and they were due in a large degree to the fact that the Presidential term is seven years.
The various propositions submitted to the House of Representatives for securing the right to vote to all the male adult citizens of the United States were referred to the Judiciary Committee of which I was a member. Among them was one submitted by myself. In the committee they were referred to a sub-committee consisting of myself, Mr. Churchill of New York, and Mr. Eldridge of Wisconsin. Mr. Eldridge as a Democrat was opposed to the measure, and he took no interest in preparing the form of an amendment. Churchill and myself were fellow- boarders and we prepared and agreed to an amendment in substance that which was adopted finally and which in form was almost the same. When I reported the amendment to the committee not one word was said either in criticism or commendation, nor was there a call for a second reading. After a moment's delay Mr. Wilson, the chairman, said:—"If there is no objection Mr. Boutwell will report the amendment to the House." There was no objection and at the earliest opportunity I made the report—that is, I reported the resolution for amending the Constitution. Mr. Wilson made a speech which I have not since read, but which made an impression upon my mind that he was opposed to the measure, or at least had doubts about the wisdom of urging the amendment upon Congress and the country.
The resolution passed the House as it was reported by the committee. When it was taken up in the Senate Mr. Sumner, who was opposed to the resolution, assailed it with an amendment that would have been fatal if his lead had been followed by the two Houses. He proposed to insert after the words "to vote" the words "or hold office." At that time he was a recognized leader upon all matters relating to the negro race, and his standing with that race was such that the Republican senators from the slave States were obedient to his wishes. His amendment was adopted by the Senate. In presence of the fact that Mr. Sumner was opposed to any amendment of the Constitution upon the subject and he proposed to rely upon a statute, it is difficult to explain his conduct upon any other theory than that he intended to defeat the measure either in Congress or in the States. He had claimed when the Fourteenth Amendment was pending that a joint resolution would furnish an adequate remedy and protection. His proposition was in these words: "There shall be no oligarchy, aristocracy, caste or monopoly invested with peculiar privileges and powers and there shall be no denial of rights, civil or political, on account of color or race anywhere within the limits of the United States or the jurisdiction thereof: but all persons therein shall be equal before the law, whether in the court room or at the ballot-box. And this statute made in pursuance of the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land, anything in the constitution or laws of any State notwithstanding." This resolution is a sad impeachment of Mr. Sumner's quality as a lawyer and it is an equally sad impeachment of his sense or of his integrity as a man that he was willing to risk the rights of five million persons upon a statute whose language was rhetorical and indefinite, a statute which might be repealed and which was quite certain to be pronounced unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Upon the return of the resolution and amendment to the House, my own position was an embarrassing one. I was counted as a radical and in favor of securing to the negro race every right to which the white race was entitled. My opposition to the Senate amendment seemed to place me in a light inconsistent with my former professions. However, I met the difficulty by an argument in which I maintained that the right to vote carried with it the right to hold office. That in the United States there were only a few exceptions, and those were exceptions under the Constitution.
Finally, the House, by a reduced vote refused to concur with the amendment of the Senate. It was at this crisis that Wendell Phillips wrote an article in the Anti-Slavery Standard over his own name in which he said in substance and in words, that the House proposition was adequate and that it ought to be accepted by the Senate. His name and opinion settled the controversy. The Southern Republicans deserted Mr. Sumner feeling that the opinion of Phillips was a sufficient shield. A slight change of phraseology was made and the proposition of the House became the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
I wrote a letter of acknowledgment to Mr. Phillips in the opinion that he had saved the amendment. At that time the prejudice against negroes for office was very strong in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and in varying degrees the prejudice extended over the whole North.
The enjoyment of the right to vote has not been fully secured to the negro race, but no one has appeared to deny his right to hold office. Indeed, the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party has placed him in office, both by election and appointment. Thus has experience shown the folly of Mr. Sumner's amendment.
That Mr. Sumner should have been willing to risk the rights of the whole negro race upon a statute whose constitutionality would have been questioned upon good ground, and which might have been repealed, is a marvel which no one not acquainted with Mr. Sumner can comprehend. First of all, though he was learned, he was not a lawyer. He was impractical in the affairs of government to a degree that is incomprehensible even to those who knew him. He was in the Senate twenty-three years and the only mark that he left upon the statutes is an amendment to the law relating to naturalization by which Mongolians are excluded from citizenship. The object of his amendment was to save negroes from the exclusive features of the statute which was designed to apply only to the Chinese. His amendment made plain what the committee had designed to secure. He was a great figure in the war against slavery and as a great figure in that war he should ever remain.
The Fourteenth Amendment saved the country from a series of calamities that might have been more disastrous even than the Civil War. The South might, under the Fourteenth Amendment, grant to the negroes the right to vote but upon conditions wholly impracticable and thus have secured their full representation in Congress at the same time that the voting power was retained in the hands of the white race. Or they might have denied to the negro race the right to vote and submitted to a loss of representation. Such a policy would have given the whole country over to contention and possibly in the end, to civil war. The discontented and oppressed negroes, increasing in numbers and wealth, would have demanded their rights ultimately, even by the threat of force, or by the use of force they would have secured their rights. In the North there would have been a large body of the people, only less than the whole body, who would have sympathized with the negroes and who, in an exigency would have rendered them material aid. The Dorr War in Rhode Island and the struggles in Kansas, are instances of the danger of attempting to found society or to maintain social order upon an unjust or an unequal system for the distribution of political power. It is true that at this time (1901) the operation of the Fifteenth Amendment has been defeated and consequently the governments of States and the Government of the United States have become usurpations, in that they have been in the hands of a minority of men. Nevertheless the influence of the amendment is felt by all, and the time is not distant when it will be accepted by all. Thus our Government will be made to rest upon the wisest and safest foundation yet devised by man: The Equality of Men in the States, and the Equality of States in the Union.