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Congressional Debates of the 14th Amendment

Congressional Debates of the 14th Amendment

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Published by Joe Reeser
The Senate and House debates concerning the 14th amendment
The Senate and House debates concerning the 14th amendment

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Published by: Joe Reeser on Aug 27, 2010
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ment by charging us here with being nothing but "catamounts." Such a method of treating these great questions
will not settle the present difficulties of the country, nor heal the bleeding wounds of the Republic. Such a course
of proceeding will not bring back our country to the enjoyment of the blessings of civil liberty and those great
principles of constitutional freedom for which our revolutionary fathers fought.
Sir, I had hoped that after the investigation we have had upon the different subjects which have agitated this
Congress, the time had come when gentlemen upon both sides of the House would turn their hearts from bloody
strife to a contemplation of the blessings of peace and union in this land.
I do not mean, sir, as is now proposed by the measure under consideration, to have peace by disunion, but I
mean to have peace by restoring and referring to the instrumentalities by which the Constitution and the Union
were first established by our fathers; and I believe, if these instrumentalities, which were founded in a spirit of
compromise, charity, friendship, love, and affection, were employed in this House, the bonds which have been


torn asunder by four years of bloody war will be again cemented together.
I believe while I am here sustaining the opposition to this joint resolution, I am fortified by one who holds the
reins of power in the presidential chair, a patriot and statesman, a man whose whole ambition is to have back
again that glorious Union, and the old flag with every star there emblazoned upon it the emblem of victory and of
the unity of all the States, whether North or South. He wants all the States, as heretofore, to be represented in
reference to the legislation of the country.
While the proposition which has been produced here is not so rabid as some of the propositions agreed to be
submitted by this committee, yet I say that it is fraught with great danger and evil to the country, and the
elementary foundations upon which the liberties of this onion have rested for seventy-five years are about to be
thrown down and trampled in the dust; and that glorious flag which was carried in triumph during the last war is
about to be trampled under foot, and the time has arrived when Andrew Johnson and the Democratic party have
determined to put that flag upon their shoulders and to plant it upon the dome of the State capitol of South
Carolina, and to have it waving there as it is over the dome of the Capitol of the United States, representing a
union of love and equal representation.
Now, sir, I have examined these propositions with some minuteness, and I have come to the conclusion
different to what some others have come, that the first section of this programme of disunion is the most
dangerous to liberty. It saps the foundation of the Government; it destroys the elementary principles of the States;
it consolidates everything into one imperial despotism; it annihilates all the rights which lie at the foundation of
the Union of the States, and which have characterized this Government and made it prosperous and great during
the long period of its existence.
This section of the joint resolution is no more nor less than an attempt to embody in the Constitution of the
United States that outrageous and miserable civil rights bill which passed both Houses of Congress and was
vetoed by the President of the United States upon the ground that it was a direct attempt to consolidate the power
of the States and to take away from them the elementary principles which lie at their foundation. It is only an
attempt to ingraft upon the Constitution of the United States one of the most dangerous, most wicked, most
intolerant, and most odious propositions ever introduced into this House or attempted to be ingrafted upon the
fundamental law of the Federal Union.
It provides that no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due
process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. What are privileges
and immunities? Why, sir, all the rights we have under the laws of the country are embraced under the definition
of privileges and immunities. The right to vote is a privilege. The right to marry is a privilege. The right to
contract is a privilege. The right to be a juror is a privilege. The right to be a judge or President of the United
States is a privilege. I hold if that ever becomes a part of the fundamental law of the land it will prevent any State
from refusing to allow anything to anybody embraced under this term of privileges and immunities. If a negro is
refused the right to be a juror, that will take away from him his privileges and immunities as a citizen of the
United States, and the Federal Government will step in and interfere, and the result will be a contest between the
powers of the Federal Government and the powers of the States. It will result in a revolution worse than that
through which we have just passed. It will rock the earth like the throes of an earthquake until its tragedy will
summon the inhabitants of the world to witness its dreadful shock.
I believe it will be, if that contest comes between Federal and State powers, a time when nature will bleed
with agony in every part. That, sir, will be an introduction to the time when despotism and tyranny will march
forth undisturbed and unbroken, in silence and in darkness, in this land which was once the land of freedom,
where the sound of freedom once awakened the souls of the sons and daughters of America, when from the
mountain-tops to the shore of the ocean they drank in the love of liberty.
I assert that the second section of this proposed amendment is unparalleled in ferocity. It saps the foundation
of the rights of the States, by taking away the representation to which they would be entitled under the present
Constitution. When the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. BINGHAM] brought forward a proposition from the
committee on reconstruction to amend the Constitution of the United States, interfering with the elementary
principles of taxation and representation, the principles for which our fathers fought when they rebelled against
the tyranny of King George and the English Parliament who undertook to tax the people of the colonies without
representation, the proposition was defeated in this House upon the ground that it would destroy a fundamental
principle, that there should be taxation only according to representation.
This, sir, is precisely such a proposition as that. It declares that if the southern people refuse to allow the


negroes to vote, then all that portion of the male colored population of twenty-one years of age and upward shall
be excluded in the basis of representation—shall not be counted in ascertaining how many Representatives the
States are entitled to.

The honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. STEVENS] has the frankness to state to the House what
the object and purpose of the second clause are. He says:

"The effect of this provision will be either to compel the States to grant universal suffrage or so to
shear them of their power as to keep them forever in a hopeless minority in the national Government,
both legislative and executive."

Yes, gentlemen, it is but the negro again appearing in the background. The only object of the constitutional
amendment is to drive the people of the South, ay, and even the people of the North, wherever there is much of a
negro population, to allow that population not qualified but universal suffrage, without regard to intelligence or
character, to allow them to cone to the ballot-box and cast their votes equally with the white men.
Why do you not meet this question boldly and openly? Why do you undertake to deceive the people by
offering to them an amendment which you say is based upon a principle of justice, that only the voting population
shall be represented, when you admit by your leader in this House, the honorable gentleman [Mr. STEVENS]
who introduced into the committee this whole scheme of disunion and despotism, that the object of this
amendment is to force the southern States to grant to the negro unrestricted suffrage?
Sir, I want it distinctly understood that the American people believe that this Government was made for white
men and white women. They do not believe, nor can you make them believe—the edict of God Almighty is
stamped against it—that there is a social equality between the black race and the white.
I have no fault to find with the colored race. I have not the slightest antipathy to them. I wish them well, and if
I were in a State where they exist in large numbers I would vote to give them every right enjoyed by the white
people except the right of a negro man to marry a white woman and the right to vote. But, sir, this proposition
goes further than any that has ever been attempted to be carried into effect. Why, sir, even in Rhode Island to-day
there is a property qualification in regard to the white man's voting as well as the negro. And yet Representatives
of the eastern, middle, western, and some of the border States come here and attempt in this indirect way to inflict
upon the people of the South negro suffrage. God deliver this people from such a wicked, odious, pestilent
despotism! God save the people of the South from the degradation by which they would be obliged to go to the
polls and vote side by side with the negro!
Mr. KELLEY. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. ROGERS. I am always willing to yield, but in a half-hour speech I cannot.
The committee dare not submit the broad proposition to the people of the United States of negro suffrage.
They dare not to-day pass the negro suffrage bill which passed this House in the Senate of the United States
because, as I have heard one honorable and leading man on the Republican side of the House say, it would sink
into oblivion the party that would advocate before the American people the equal right of the negro with the white
man to suffrage.

And I do not believe that the gentlemen who favor this amendment believe that a single proposition contained
in it will ever be adopted by three fourths of the States. Why do you not do something practical? We have been
here something like six months. We have labored, toiled, and endeavored to bolster up the remains of the old
Union, and you come in at this late day of the session with a proposition which you know—and I put it to the
conscience of any man on the Democratic or Republican side of the House—will never be adopted by three
fourths of the States.

Sir, I want some principle embodied in a constitutional amendment that the southern States will accept. I
desire to see the Union restored, the Union of our fathers. I want peace, prosperity, happiness, greatness,
grandeur, and glory such as characterized this nation when the Democratic party had control. I want you to put
such a proposition before the people as shall meet their approbation. Do not pretend that you are in favor of the
unity of the States when you offer a proposition which every reasonable, honorable, conscientious man must
know will never be adopted by the States. Do you believe the people of the South will close their eyes to the
teaching of ages and wait for shackles and chains to convince then that their liberties are endangered and allow no
awakening convulsions to shake their rugged minds until despotism shall eat out their vitals?
I am not unmindful of the lessons taught us by the despotism of the Old World. I remember Poland and
Hungary, and I stand here protesting against this measure which is more wicked than the tyranny practiced upon
them. I believe under God that Andrew Johnson will plant the flag of liberty on every hill-top of this land until the
tidings shall go forth to the civilized world that the United States of America are united in one bright constellation


based upon equal representation.

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