« PreviousContinue »
ARTICLE XIII.— Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
SECTION 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Propositions of like purpose but differing in terms from the above, as shaped by Mr. Trumbull, had been introduced early in the session in both houses. Discussion began on the 28th of March, Senators Trumbull and Wilson speaking at length on one side, and Senators Davis, of Kentucky, and Saulsbury, of Delaware, on the other. On the 5th of April, Senator Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland, took the floor. His speech, awaited by a large audience, was listened to with profound interest. In the course of his remarks he said:
The men who fought through the Revolution, those who survived its peril and shared its glory, and who were called to the convention by which the Constitution of the United States was drafted and recommended to the adoption of the American people, almost without exception thought that slavery was not only an evil to any people among whom it might exist, but that it was an evil of the highest character, which it was the duty of all Christian people, if possible, to remove, because it was a vice as well as an evil.. The present incumbent of the Presidential chair was elected elected by a sectional vote — and the moment the news reached Charleston, where some of the leading conspirators were, and here in this chamber, where others were to be found, it was hailed not with regret, but with delight. Why? Because, as they thought, it would enable them to drive the South into madness, by appealing to the danger in which such an event involved this institution, which the people were made to believe was so essential to their power and to their happiness; and that will be repeated over and over again, just as long as the institution is suffered to remain.
Terminate it, and the wit of man will, as I think, be unable to devise any other topic upon which we can be involved in a fratricidal strife.
After further debate the joint resolution was adopted on the 8th of April — yeas, 38; nays, 6. The latter were the two Senators from Kentucky (Davis and Powell), the two from Delaware (Saulsbury and Riddle), McDougal, of California, and Hendricks, of Indiana.
Discussion on the resolution began in the House of Representatives on the last day of May. On the question of its passage the vote (June 15th) stood: Yeas, 93; nays, 65 — not voting, 23. The majority being less than two-thirds, the resolution was defeated. Before the result was declared, Mr. Ashley, of Ohio, changed his vote to the prevailing side, and his motion to reconsider saved the measure until the next session. Messrs. Griswold and Odell, of New York, were of the less than a half dozen Democrats who voted for the amendment. So zealous was the President for its passage that he used personal persuasion, if not importunity, in its behalf with individual members.
Reconstruction was becoming more and more a thorny trouble. Various projects or theories had been broached and discussed in both houses since the first year of the war, but Congress had failed to take any conclusive action. There were jealousies of the Executive power on the part of Senators and Representatives, some of whom nursed and propagated their dissatisfaction with what Lincoln had felt constrained to do towards restoring loyal civil government in insurgent States. Early in the present session so much of
the Executive message as related to amnesty and reconstruction was referred in the House to a special committee, of which Henry Winter Davis was chairman. Mr. Davis, though representing a slaveholding district, as he had done for several years, was looked upon as almost a Republican before the war.
There were many who regretted that he was not given a place in the Cabinet. Mr. Davis himself might naturally have thought his prior services not duly requited, yet he made no unseemly display of discontent. His influence in Congress and his position as chairman of the Reconstruction Committee, however, did not contribute to relieve the variance between the President and Congress.
The spirit of the Winter-Davis Reconstruction bill (reported on the 15th of February) was disclosed in a preamble declaring the so-called Confederates a public enemy waging a war “whose injustice is so glaring that they have no right to the mitigation of the extreme rights of war accorded to "an enemy who has the right to consider the war a just one,” and that none of the rebel States is “entitled to representation in Congress or to take any part in the government of the Union.” The bill authorized the President to appoint a “Provisional Governor " in each of said States, and provided that when military resistance should have been suppressed in any such State, its white male citizens should be registered, and after a majority of them should have taken the oath of allegiance, a convention to frame a new constitution should be called son to vote for, or be chosen as, a delegate who had held any civil or military office, State or Confederate, while in rebellion, or who had voluntarily borne arms
against the United States; and requiring that the constitution framed by such convention should disfranchise substantially the classes just specified, forever prohibit slavery, and repudiate all debts contracted or sanctioned by the “ usurping power," State or Confederate. The bill also formally declared the abolition of slavery in all of said States, providing remedies and penalties. The House passed the bill by a small majority (74 to 66) on the 4th of May, but rejected the preamble by a vote of 75 to 57.
After this bill had gone to the Senate, there was a discussion in that body on the question of admitting Messrs. Fishback and Baxter as Senators from Arkansas, which was opposed by Mr. Sumner, who (June 13th) reviewed in no friendly temper the President's expressed views on reconstruction. His own position was stated in the following resolution, presented in the Senate:
Resolved, That a State pretending to secede from the Union, and battling against the General Government to maintain that position, must be regarded as a rebel State, subject to military occupation, and without representation on this floor until it has been re-admitted by a vote of both houses of Congress; and the Senate will decline to entertain any application from any such rebel State until after such a vote of both houses.
Without indorsing these generalities, the Senate resolved (on the 28th) that the rebellion was not so far suppressed in Arkansas as to entitle its inhabitants to be represented in Congress; and the House took equivalent action, refusing to seat Representatives-elect from that State.
The Winter-Davis Reconstruction bill did not find immediate favor in the Senate. After it had been pending for some weeks, Senator Gratz Brown, of Missouri, offered, and the Senate adopted, a substitute providing, in substance, that the inhabitants of any insurgent State (proclaimed as such by the President on the 13th of July, 1861) should be incapable of voting for President or for members of Congress until said inhabitants had been declared — “by proclamation of the President, issued by virtue of an act of Congress to be passed hereafter, authorizing the same”— to have returned to their allegiance. The House disagreed to this substitute, and it was only at the last hour of the session final adjournment on the 4th of July having been determined upon — that the Senate receded from its amendment by a vote of 18 to 14, thus concurring with the House. No time was left to the President for a careful consideration of the bill, though its general nature, at least, was not unknown to him. Had he sent in ever so brief a veto message, it could not have been acted upon by the two houses successively in the few minutes that remained; nor, had there been time, could the bill have been passed over an Executive veto. The President left the bill unsigned and unreturned. This exasperated the more ardent friends of the measure, who did not spare their outcries, using the offensive term,
pocket-veto” – only applicable, in fairness, under circumstances quite different.
The Bureau of National Currency was created at this session, and Hugh McCulloch, of Indiana, was appointed its Commissioner; also the Bureau of