Page images

which is absolutely needed to crown and complete the great work of Reconstruction.


Mr. Ferry reiterating his objections, with the remark that this bill had "in its principle been considered by the Supreme Court of the United States," and its constitutionality substantially decided against," and to Mr. Sumner's inquiry, When, and on what occasion?" responding,


"In the New Orleans Slaughter-house cases; and I have read in the newspapers of the country during the recent vacation what purported to be the opinion of the Supreme Court; and if the paper which I read was the opinion of the Supreme Court, that court, by a majority, holds in principle that the bill which the Senator has presented is a violation of the Constitution of the United States,"

Mr. Sumner rejoined: —

MR. PRESIDENT,-I would not fail in any courtesy to any Senator, especially in any courtesy to the Senator from Vermont, for whom I have all kindness and honor, but I think Senators will agree that nothing passed yesterday between us by which I am in any way constrained, so that I may not ask the Senate to proceed at once with this bill. If I could see the question as my friend from Connecticut sees it, he may be assured that I should not press the bill. I do not see it so; but I do see that this bill is now on our table numbered One: it is the first bill of the Calendar. I see also that at this time the Senate has no business before it; and should I not fail in duty, if I did not ask the Senate to proceed during this unoccupied time with a bill which I regard as so important, and which is actually the first in order, being foremost among all bills?

But my friend from Connecticut reminds me of a recent decision of the Supreme Court. For that Court I have great respect. Personal and professional familiarity with the Court, and study of its judgments running now

for much more than a generation, incline me always to deference when its decisions are mentioned; but if I understood my friend, he relies upon a newspaper report. Sir, I have read the judgment of that Court, communicated to me by one of its members in an official copy; and I have no hesitation in saying that the Senator is entirely mistaken, if he supposes that by a hair's breadth it interferes with the constitutionality of the bill which I now move.

Sir, there is no such lion in our path. It exists only in the imagination of my friend, or in the desire, which he has so often manifested, to interfere with the adoption of this measure. But the Senator is mistaken if he supposes that I charge upon him any indifference to Human Rights. Never, in any debate, has any word fallen from me which that Senator can so misinterpret. I know too well his heart, his excellent and abounding nature, his New-England home, to attribute to him any such indifference. But I do know full well, for the Senator has often declared it, that he acts under interpretations of the Constitution which it seems to me belong to the period anterior to the war rather than since the war. It seems to me - I may be mistaken, but I cannot help saying it that the Senator has not yet recognized that greatest of all victories by which a new interpretation is fixed upon the National Constitution, so that hereafter all its sentences, all its phrases, all its words, shall be interpreted broadly and emphatically for Human Rights. How often have I been obliged to say this! But the Senator forgets that victory. There is his error. Most sincerely, most ardently, do I trust that the Senate will never forget it; I hope we shall duly act upon it, and celebrate it in our acts.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


Sir, I have been betrayed into these remarks simply by way of answer to what has been said by my friend. I had hoped that this bill might be proceeded with without debate. I had trusted that this benign measure was so clear and refulgent with justice that no Senator would rise in his place to oppose it. I had indulged the longing that those especially in favor of amnesty for all would adopt that other greater and more comprehensive principle of justice for all. Strange, Sir, that the sensibilities of so many are aroused in favor of amnesty, and yet those same Senators are so dull when the rights of men are presented! I, Sir, am anxious to see universal amnesty; but with it must be asserted also universal justice. Our colored fellow-citizens must be admitted to complete equality before the law. In other words, everywhere, in everything regulated by law, they must be equal with all their fellow-citizens. There is the simple principle on which this bill stands. Who can impugn it? Who can throw upon it the shadow of question? Sir, if the Constitution of the United States does not sanction a bill like this, then forthwith should we proceed to amend that Constitution, and make it more worthy of our regard. Much as has been done, this bill must also be added to the trophies of Congressional action; this bill must be enumerated among the great results of our recent legislation. Terrible war will then have been a beneficent parent.

I hope, Sir, there can be no question on the subject. The motion was not agreed to.



AFTER the customary toasts, The Day we celebrate, and The President of the United States, the President of the Society, Mr. Elliot C. Cowdin, in announcing the Third Regular Toast, said,

"I give you, Gentlemen, The Senate of the United States.

"We are happy to greet, on this occasion, the senior in consecutive service, and the most eminent member of the Senate, whose early, varied, and distinguished services in the cause of Freedom have made his name a household word throughout the world, the Honorable Charles Sumner."

"On rising," says the official report, "Mr. Sumner was received with great cheering, - the members of the Society standing, waving handkerchiefs, and in other ways expressing lively satisfaction."

Mr. Sumner responded :

MR. PRESIDEnt and Brothers of New ENGLAND:

NOR the first time in my life, I have the good fortune to enjoy this famous anniversary festival. Though often honored by your most tempting invitation, and longing to celebrate the day in this goodly company, of which all have heard so much, I could never excuse myself from duties in another place. If now I yield to well-known attractions, and journey from Washington for my first holiday during a protracted public service, it is because all was enhanced by the appeal

of your excellent President, to whom I am bound by the friendship of many years in Boston, New York, and in a foreign land. (Applause.) It is much to be a brother of New England, but it is more to be a friend (applause); and this tie I have pleasure in confessing to-night.

It is with much doubt and humility that I venture to answer for the Senate of the United States, and I believe the least I say on this head will be the most prudent. (Laughter.) But I shall be entirely safe in expressing my doubt if there is a single Senator who would not be glad of a seat at this generous banquet. What is the Senate? It is a component part of the National Government. But we celebrate to-day more than any component part of any government. We celebrate an epoch in the history of mankind, — not only never to be forgotten, but to grow in grandeur as the world appreciates the elements of true greatness. Of mankind, I say: for the landing on Plymouth Rock, on the 22d of December, 1620, marks the origin of a new order of ages, by which the whole human family will be elevated. Then and there was the great beginning.

Throughout all time, from the dawn of history, men have swarmed to found new homes in distant lands. The Tyrians, skirting Northern Africa, stopped at Carthage; Carthaginians dotted Spain, and even the distant coasts of Britain and Ireland; Greeks gemmed Italy and Sicily with Art-loving settlements; Rome carried multitudinous colonies with her conquering eagles. Saxons, Danes, and Normans violently mingled with the original. Britons. And in more modern times Venice, Genoa, Portugal, Spain, France, and England, all sent forth emigrants to people foreign shores. But in these various

« PreviousContinue »