Page images
PDF
EPUB

164

THE LOUISIANA ELECTION CASES.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEB. 16, 1863,

Mr. SPEAKER, — Whatever other differences of opinion there may be between members of this House, we all recognize the great importance of the principles and policy involved in the resolutions before us.

There are certain facts that are not contested. It is not contested in the report of the Committee, or in the arguments of the members of the Committee of Elections who did not sign the report, that the persons who are elected to this House are loyal men. It is not contested, that they were elected by loyal citizens of Louisiana. It is not contested, that they were elected without military dictation or control. There is nothing developed in the report or in the arguments presented to the House to show that there was any military dictation or control or influence in the election.

What are the relations which these electors, and the persons who claim these seats, hold, at this moment, the Government of the United States? They are citizens of the United States, subject to all the duties imposed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. They are subject to taxation. Since the ordinance of secession was passed, they have been taxed, in conformity to the provision of the Constitution (art. 1, sect. 2) which appor

to

tions direct taxation. They are subject to your revenuelaws. Your collector is there to-day collecting duties imposed by the Government. They are subject to your excise-duties. Your law passed at the last session applies to and includes them. They are subject to military service. Some four thousand of loyal residents of New Orleans are already engaged in the military service of the Government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, before the act of secession, these men had all the political rights that are correlative to these political duties. They had the right of representation, which, from the earliest history of this Government, has been indissolubly connected with the right of taxation. Subject, in war or peace, to all the duties and burdens of the Government, they are entitled to the corresponding rights and privileges that Government had conferred upon them, unless in some legal way deprived of them. These propositions are too plain for argument.

I proceed, then, Mr. Speaker, to consider whether these rights have been in any way modified or impaired by the act of secession. Were they impaired by the ordinance passed by the convention of Louisiana ? It is conceded on all hands, that that act was null and void, and that it did not change the relations which the State of Louisiana sustained to this Union. Is that act of secession, in itself null and void, rendered operative and effective by the use of physical power or armed force ? Or, to state the proposition in another form, is the ordinance of secession rendered effective because armed treason is behind it? Very clearly, no. An act, void in itself under the supreme law of the land, cannot be made to affect or impair the legal rights of any, the humblest citizen, because armed treason seeks to enforce it.

Mr. Speaker, this doctrine is, I know, contested; but I venture to say, that there is no form in which the proposition, that the seceded States have committed either suicide or treason, can be put, in which its absurdity is not transparent. That I may do no injustice to the advocates of this doctrine, I will read the statement of it made by my distinguished colleague [Mr. Eliot]; and I beg the House to mark the force and effect of his words. He is speaking of the ordinance of secession; and he says,

“But being of no effect by law, yet operative and vitalized by false form of law, and by effective and controlling force in fact, it followed inevitably, that, while the rebel State had renounced its allegiance and cast off the protection of the Government, its territory remained within the Union; and its loyal men thereupon residing were entitled to protection in their persons and in their property, and in all their rights, as soon as the military power of the Government could be exerted there, and a new civil government within the State could be created.”

That is to say, the proposition of my colleague is, that, although the act of secession is void by law,“ it is vitalized by a false form of law,” and by the force behind that false form of law. I may be very obtuse; but I prefer the plainer and simpler proposition, that an act which is utterly void by the supreme law of the land cannot be vitalized or made effective by armed treason, but is void still. And I beg leave, with all due deference to my distinguished colleague, to say, that, if that is the proposition which he told us the other day a majority of the sensible men of Massachusetts believe in, they have done great injustice to the foolish men of Massachusetts [laughter]; for they have robbed them of their appropriate food, and of the most absurd proposition they could find to believe in [laughter].

Mr. Eliot. Will my colleague yield to me?.
Mr. THOMAS. With pleasure.

Mr. Eliot. Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat surprised the other day to observe how very sensitive my distinguished colleague was at the use which I then made of the word “sensible.” But, when a gentleman states that a majority of sensible men are of a certain opinion, it does not by any means follow, that those who hold the adverse opinion may not also be sensible. My learned colleague must not suppose that I intended at all to place him in the category of those who were not sensible, certainly not; but only among the minority of sensible men [laughter]. My learned colleague is as sensible as any of those who differ from him. I should be the last man to take from him any claim which he, certainly with some sensitiveness, seems to assert, that he belongs to a sensible party. In Massachusetts, I am glad to believe, it is a party in the minority, although there are in it very sensible gentlemen.

Mr. THOMAS. I cannot yield the floor to a speech. If my colleague desires to ask a question or to make an explanation, I have no objection.

Mr. Eliot. I am endeavoring to make an explanation; and I began on that point because my colleague has been so very sensitive. Two or three times he referred to it as though I intended to intimate that he and the. People's party in Massachusetts were not sensimen.

ble. Far be it from me to say that they are not sensible

In that particular, however, I think they are decidedly in the minority; and, so far as the questions are concerned that divided the People's party from the great body of men in. Massachusetts last fall, I cannot, from my stand-point, believe that they were as sensible as I hope my learned friend will be when he comes next to the polls.

Mr. THOMAS. I cannot yield the floor to my colleague to make a political speech.

Mr. Eliot. My colleague must keep good-natured.

Mr. THOMAS. It is not surely a question of good nature. Mine is not easily exhausted; but I desire to proceed with my remarks. I do not desire to hear a talk about the People's party or any other party. Graver matters are before us.

Mr. ELIOT. Does my friend decline to yield the floor?

Mr. THOMAS. For a political speech, I must. colleague has any explanation he desires to make, I will yield for explanation ; but I cannot yield for a speech.

Mr. ELIOT. I desire to make an explanation. Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether that phrase,

66 State suicide,” originated in this House or in the other branch of Congress. It is not a phrase that to my mind conveys a clear and distinct state of facts. I have never used it. My learned colleague has attributed it to me.

I repeat, I have never used it. I have entertained the idea, and now entertain a distinct idea, of what I have called State treason. I had the honor to speak upon that subject last summer; and it was in the course of that

If my

« PreviousContinue »