Page images
PDF
EPUB

man! And with what force must this argument strike, when we reflect on the proportion which the white bear to the black inhabitants of the island! What security could we expect in our passage even through the streets of London, if ninety-nine people out of a hundred, or even nine out of ten, were incompetent to give evidence in a court of justice ?”1

Mr. President, in bringing forward this measure, I waive for the present all questions of right, and, if you please, all sentiments of humanity. I ask attention plainly and directly to the practical failure of justice which must arise without its adoption. This may be seen under two different heads: first, with regard to colored persons; and, secondly, with regard to white persons.

If colored persons cannot testify against white persons, what protection can they have against outrage ? The white person may perpetrate any brutality upon colored persons with impunity. There is nothing in the dreary catalogue of crime, from a simple assault to murder itself, which may not be committed with impunity by a white person, if no other white person be present. This bare statement is enough. Surely at this moment there should be no delay in preventing such failure of justice.

But the same failure may occur in the case of white persons. Let a white person be assaulted, or murdered, if you please, by another white person, but only in the presence of colored persons, and justice cannot be administered. The criminal will continue at large unpunished.

Therefore, for the administration of justice, that it

1 Speeches, Vol. I. p. 25.

may not fail to the colored person, and then again that it may not fail to the white person, there should be no exclusion of any citizens on account of color.

Let the witness always be admitted to testify, leaving the jury to be judges of his credibility. If his story seems improbable, or there be anything in his manner, conduct, or past life to excite distrust, the jury will be able to measure the just weight of his testimony.

It is hard to be obliged to argue this question. I do not argue it. I will not argue it. I simply ask for your votes. Surely, Congress will not adjourn without redressing this grievance. The king, in Magna Charta, promised that he would deny justice to no one. Congress has succeeded to this promise and obligation.

Mr. Sherman said he “trusted, that, after the experience of last night, when the thermometer here rose to ninety-three degrees, and we were all exhausted by a debate on irrelevant matter, the Senator from Massachusetts would not introduce upon this appropriation bill a topic of this kind.” He thought we had already voted on this amendment on two other bills.

Mr. Sumner, after remarking that he had not been able to bring the amendment applicable to the United States courts to a vote by itself,

said :

I can state to the Senator the different occasions on which this principle prevailed. It prevailed on the statute emancipating slaves in this District ; but here it was applicable only to cases arising in questions of freedom under the statute. It was next broadened to all proceedings in the courts of the District. But it has not been applied beyond that. I have sought to apply it generally; I have moved it more than once on other bills, and have failed ; and the measure is

now pending as a bill reported by the Select Committee on Slavery and Freedmen, and it is also pending as a section of another bill reported by the Senator from Vermont [Mr. COLLAMER) from the Committee on Post-Offices and Post-Roads. Therefore it has the approval, as a general proposition, of two separate committees of this body, while, as a proposition applicable to the District of Columbia, it has had the sanction of the Senate twice over; and now I plead with the Senate not to arrest it here.

Mr. Sherman replied: “I agree with the Senator in the general principle entirely ; but I hope he will not press the proposition as an amendment to this bill, for I know it will create discussion."

Mr. Sumner said :

I BELIEVE it is always time for an act of justice, and I think this Congress ought not to separate without this act of justice. It ought to do it for the sake of the administration of justice. I have not put this case, you will bear witness, on any grounds of sympathy or sentiment or humanity; I plead for it now as essential to the administration of justice; and for one, as a Senator, I cannot willingly abandon the opportunity afforded me by my seat here of making this motion, -of making this effort to open the courts of my country to evidence without which justice must often fail.

Mr. Carlile, of Virginia, appealed to Mr. Sumner “to withdraw the amendment, and allow this subject to rest, at least until the next session of Congress." This he declined to do.

Mr. Buckalew, of Pennsylvania, thereupon moved to amend the amendment by adding, “nor in civil actions, because he is a party to or interested in the issue tried." Then came the following passage.

MR. SUMNER. I am in favor of that proposition, taken by itself; but I do not wish it put upon this.

MR. GRATZ BROWN (to Mr. SUMNER). That is just what other people say about yours.

MR. SUMNER. I understand that; but I wish to secure this justice.

MR. BUCKALEW. I wish to secure the additional justice provided by my amendment.

MR. SUMNER. I will vote for the Senator's proposition by itself. Let him move it when mine is carried.

MR. SAULSBURY. I do not wish to say anything about the “nigger” aspect of this case. It is here every day, and I suppose it will be here every day for years to come, till the Democratic party comes into power and wipes out all legislation on the statute-book of this character, which I trust in God they will soon do.

The amendment of Mr. Buckalew was agreed to, and Mr. Sumner's amendment, as amended, was carried, – Yeas 22, Nays 16, — and the Will was approved by the President July 2, 1864.

RECONSTRUCTION, AND ADOPTION OF PROCLAMATION

OF EMANCIPATION BY ACT OF CONGRESS.

REMARKS IN THE SENATE, July 1, 1864.

The effort at Reconstruction, which failed in the previous Congress, was superseded at the present session by another, having, like the former, as its distinctive feature, the assertion of the power of Congress over the Rebel States.

February 15th, Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, reported a bill to guaranty to certain States, whose governments have been usurped or overthrown, a republican form of government. This bill provided for these States Provisional Governors, appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate ; also, the assembling of Constitutional Conventions, chosen by “loyal white male citizens," being a majority of the persons enrolled in the State, which shall declare “involuntary servitude forever prohibited, and the freedom of all persons guarantied in said State"; also, all slaves were declared emancipated, and persons free by this or any other act or by “any proclamation of the President” were protected in their freedom. After earnest debate, this bill passed the House May 4th, — Yeas 74, Nays 66.

In the Senate the bill was referred to the Committee on Territories, of which Mr. Wade was Chairman. May 27th, he reported it to the Senate with amnendments. July 1st, it was on his motion considered, and, in order to save the bill at that late day of the session, he abandoned the amendments reported, the most important of which was to strike out the word “white," so as to read “all male citizens of the United States.” This amendment was rejected, by Yeas 5, Nays 24, the minority being Messrs. Gratz Brown, Lane, of Kansas, Morgan, of New York, Poineroy, of Kansas, and Sumner. Mr. Gratz Brown then moved to substitute for the whole bill a single section, providing that the inhabitants of a State declared to be in insurrection shall not cast any vote for electors of President or Vice-President, or elect Senators or Representatives in Congress, until the suppression of the insurrection, “nor until such return to obedience shall be declared by procla

« PreviousContinue »