The submission of the Rebel armies and the occupation of the Rebel territory by the forces of the United States are successes which have been purchased at the cost of the lives of half a million of loyal men and a debt of nearly three thousand millions of dollars; but, according to theories of State Rights now springing anew to life, victory has smitten us with impotence. The war, it seems, was waged for the purpose of forcing the sword out of the Rebel’s hands, and forcing into them the ballot. At an enormous waste of treasure and blood, we have acquired the territory for which we fought; and lo! it is not ours, but belongs to the people we have been engaged in fighting, in virtue of the constitution we have been fighting for. The Federal government is now, it appears, what Wigfall elegantly styled it four years ago, — nothing but “the one-horse concern at Washington”: the real power is in the States it has subdued. We are therefore expected to act like the savage, who, after thrashing his Fetich for disappointing his prayers, falls down again and worships it. Our Fetich is State Rights, as perversely misunderstood. The Rebellion would have been soon put down, had it been merely an insurrectionary outbreak of masses of people without any political organization. Its tremendous force came from its being a revolt of States, with the capacity to employ those powers of taxation and conscription which place the persons and property of all residing in political communities at the service of their governments. And now that characteristic which gave strength to the Rebel communities in war is invoked to shield them from Federal regulation in defeat. We are required to substitute technicalities for facts; to consider the Rebellion—what it notoriously was not—a mere revolt of loose aggregations of men owing allegiance to the United States; and to hold the States, which endowed them with such a perfect organization and poisonous vitality, as innocent of the crime. The verbal dilemma in which this reasoning places us is this: that the Rebel States could not do what they did, and therefore we cannot do what we must. Among other things which it is said we cannot do, the prescribing of the qualifications of voters in the States occupies the most important place; and it is necessary to inquire whether the Rebel communities now held by our military power are States, in the sense that word bears in the Federal Constitution. If they are, we have not only no right to say that negroes shall enjoy in them the privilege of voting, but no right to prescribe any qualifications for white voters.
In the American system, the process by which constitutions are made and governments instituted is by conventions of the people. The State constitutions were ordained by conventions of the people of the several States; the constitution of the United States was made the supreme law of the land by conventions of the people of all the States; and the only method by which a State could be released, with any show of legality, from its obligations to the United States, would be the assent of the same power which created the Federal constitution, — namely, conventions of the people of all the States. The course adopted by the so-called seceding States was separate State action by popular conventions in the States seceding. This was an appeal to the original authority from which State governments and constitutions derived their powers, but a violation of solemn faith towards the government and constitution decreed by the people of all the States, and which, by the assent of each State, formed a vital part of each State constitution. No State convention could be called for the purpose of separating from the Union, — of destroying what the officers calling it had sworn to support, — without making official perjury the preliminary condition of State sovereignty. Looked at from the point of view of the State seceding, the act was an assertion of State independence; looked at from the point of view of the constitution of the United States, it was an act of State suicide. The State so acting through a convention of its people was no longer a State, in the meaning that word bears in the Federal constitution; for, whatever it may have been before it was one of the United States, it was transformed into a different political society by making the Federal constitution a part of its own organic law. In cutting that bond, it bled to death as a State, as far as the Federal constitution knows a State, to rise again as a Rebel community, holding a portion of the Federal territory by force of arms. A State, in the meaning of the Federal constitution, is a political community forbidden to exercise sovereign powers, and at once a part of the Federal government and owing allegiance to it. Is South Carolina, which has exercised sovereign powers, which has broken its allegiance to the Federal government, and which at present is certainly not a part of it, such a political society?
It is, we know, contended by some reasoners on the subject, that the Rebel States could not do what they palpably did. This course of argument is sustained only by confounding duties with powers. By the constitution a State cannot (that is, has no right to) secede, only as, by the moral law, a man cannot (that is, has no right to) commit murder; nevertheless, States have broken away from their obligations to the Union, as murderers have broken away from their obligations to the moral law. It is folly to claim that criminal acts are impossible because they are unjustifiable. The real question relates to the condition in which the criminal acts of the Rebel States left them as political societies. They cannot claim, as some of their Northern champions do for them, that, being in the Union in our view, and out of it in their own, the only result of defeating them as Rebels is to restore them as citizens. This would be playing a political game of “Heads I win, tails you lose,” which they must know can hardly succeed with a nation which has made such enormous sacrifices of treasure and blood in putting them down. After having, by a solemn act of their own, through conventions of the people, forsworn their duties to the constitution, they by that act forfeited its privileges. In our view they became Rebel enemies, against whom we had both the rights of sovereignty and the rights of war; in their own view, they became foreigners; and from that moment they had no more “constitutional” control of the area they occupied, were no more “States,” than if they had transferred their allegiance to a European power, and the war had been prosecuted to wrest the territory they occupied, and the people they ruled, from the clutch of England or France. Even if we consider the Union a mere partnership of States, the same principle will apply; for partnership implies mutual obligations, and no partner can steal the property of his firm, and abscond with it, and then, after he has been hunted down and arrested, claim the rights in the business he enjoyed before he turned rogue.
But it is sometimes asserted that the small minority of citizens in the Rebel States claiming to be, and to have been, loyal, constitute the States in the constitutional meaning of the term. Now without insisting on the fact that it is so plainly impossible to accurately distinguish these from the disloyal, that an oath, not required by State constitutions, has, in the recent attempt at reconstruction, been imposed by Federal authority on all voters alike, it is plain that no minority in a political society can claim exemption from political evils it had not power to prevent. Had we gone to war with Great Britain, the property of Cobden and Bright on the high seas would have been as liable to capture as that of Lindsay or Laird. No loyal citizens at the South could have been more bitterly opposed to Secession than some of our Northern Copperheads were to the war for the Union; and yet the persons of the Copperheads were as liable to conscription, and their property to taxation, as those of the most enthusiastic Republicans. There would be an end to political societies, if men should refuse to be held responsible for all public acts except those they personally approved. A member of a community whose people, in a convention, broke faith with the United States, and made war against it, the Southern Unionist was forced into complicity with the crime. By the pressure of a power he could not resist he was compelled to pay Confederate taxes, serve in Confederate armies, and become a portion of the Confederate strength. More than this: the property in human beings, which he held by local law, was confiscated by the Federal government’s edict of emancipation, equally with the same kind of property held by the most disloyal. And now that the war is over, he and those who sympathized with him are not the State, which was extinguished by its own act when it rebelled. He and his friends may be the objects of sympathy, of honor, of reward; but in the work of reconstruction the interest and safety of the great body of loyal citizens of the United States, of the persons who have bought the territory at such a terrible price, are to be primarily consulted. And not simply because such a course is expedient, but because the Southern Unionists can advance no valid claim to be the political societies which were recognized by the Federal constitution as States before the Rebellion. If they were, they might proceed at once to assume the powers of the States, without any authority from Washington, and without calling any convention to form a new constitution. If, on the breaking out of the Rebellion, they had rallied in defence of the old constitutions within State limits, preserved the organization of the States in all departments, raised and equipped armies, and conducted a war against the Confederates as traitors to their respective States as well as to the United States, they might present some claims to be considered the States; but this they did not do, and they were not powerful enough to do it. The large proportion of them were compelled to form a part of the Rebel power.
And this brings us directly to the heart of the matter. It is asserted that the Acts of Secession, being unconstitutional, were inoperative and void. But they were passed by the people of the several States which seceded, and the persons and property of the whole people were indiscriminately employed in making them effective. The States held by Rebel armies were Rebel States. All the population were necessarily, in the view of the Federal government, Rebel enemies. Consequently the territory of the States was as “void” of citizens of the United States as the Acts of Secession were “void.” The only things left, then, were the inoperative ideas of States.
Again, to put the argument in another form, it is asserted, that, though the people of a State may commit treason, the State itself remains unaffected by the crime. A distinction is here made between a State and the people who constitute it, — between the State and the persons who create its constitution and organize its government. The State constitution which existed while it was a State, in the Federal meaning of the word, was destroyed in an essential part by the same authority which created it, namely, a convention of the people of the State; and yet it is said that the State remained unaffected by the deed. By this course of reasoning, a State is defined an abstract essence which can comfortably exist in all its rights and privileges, in potentia, apart from all visible embodiment; a State which is the possibility of a State and not the actuality of one; a State which can be brought into the line of real vision only by some such contrivance as that employed by the German playwright, who, in a drama on the subject of the Creation, represented Adam crossing the stage going to be created.
There is, it is true, one method of getting a kind of body to this abstract State, but it is a method which may well frighten the hardiest American reasoner. It was employed by Burke in one of the audacities of his logic directed against the governments established after the French Revolution of 1789. He took the ground, that France was not in the French territory or in the French people, but in the persons who represented its old polity, and who had escaped into England and Germany. These constituted what he called “Moral France,” in distinction from “Geographical France”; and Moral France, he said, had emigrated.
But as few or none will be inclined to take the ground that South Carolina and Georgia exist in the persons who left their soil on the breaking out of the Rebellion, we are forced back to the conception of an invisible spiritual soul and essence of a State, surviving its bodily destruction. But even this abstraction must still, from the point of view of the Federal constitution, be conceived of as owing allegiance to the Federal government; and it can confessedly get a new body only by the exercise of Federal authority. Its leading institution has been destroyed by Federal power. Its old legislature and governor, who alone, on State principles, could call a convention of the people, are spotted all over with treason, and might be hanged as traitors, by the law of the United States, while engaged in measures to repair the broken unity of the State life, — a fact which is of itself sufficient to show that the old State is dead beyond all bodily resurrection. The white inhabitants who occupy its old geographical limits are defeated Rebels, and not one can exercise the privilege of voting without taking an oath which no real “State” prescribes. They are all born again into citizens by a Federal fiat; they are “pardoned” into voters; they derive their rights, not from their old charters, but from an act of amnesty. Far from any discrimination being made between loyal and disloyal, the great body of both classes are compelled to submit to Federal terms of citizenship or be disfranchised; and they are called upon, not to revive the old State, but to make a new one, within the old State lines. And all this would result from the necessity of the case, even if it were not made justifiable by the essential sovereignty of the United States, of which the war-power is but an incident. But if the Federal government can thus give the white inhabitants, or any portion of them, the right of suffrage, cannot it confer that right upon the black freedmen? It will not do, at this stage, to say that the Federal government has no right to prescribe the qualifications of voters in the States: because, in the case of the whites, it does and must prescribe them; and President
Johnson has just the same right to say that negroes shall vote as to say that pardoned Rebels shall vote. The right of States to decide on the qualifications of its electors applies only to loyal States; it cannot apply to political communities which have lost by Rebellion the Federal character of “States,” which notoriously have no legitimate State authority to decide the question of qualification, and which are now taking the preparatory steps of forming themselves into States through the agency of provisional Federal governors, directing voters, constituted such by Federal authority, to elect delegates to a convention of the people. It is a misuse of constitutional language to call North Carolina and Mississippi “States,” in the same sense in which we use the term in speaking of Ohio and Massachusetts. When their conventions have framed State constitutions, when their State governments are organized, and when their senators and representatives have been admitted into the Congress of the United States, then, indeed, they will be States, entitled to all the privileges of Ohio and Massachusetts; and woe be to us, if they are reconstructed on wrong principles!
It is often said, that, although the Federal government may have the right and power to decide who shall be considered “the people” of the Rebel States, in so important a matter as the conversion of them into States of the Federal Union, it is still politic and just to make the qualifications of voters as nearly as possible what they were before the Rebellion. Conceding this, we still have to face the fact, that a large body of men, held before the war as slaves, have been emancipated, and added to the body of the people. They are now as free as the white men. The old constitutions of the Slave States could have no application to the new condition of affairs. The change in the circumstances, by which four years have done the ordinary work of a century, demands a corresponding change in the application of old rules, even admitting that we should take them as a guide. Having converted the loyal blacks from slaves into the condition of citizens of the United States, there can be no reason or justice or policy in allowing them to be made, in localities recently Rebel, the subjects of whites who have but just purged themselves from the guilt of treason.
The question of negro suffrage being thus reduced to a question of expediency, to be decided on its own merits, the first argument brought against it is based on the proposition, that it is inexpedient to give the privilege of voting to the ignorant and unintelligent. This sounds well; but a moment’s reflection shows us that the objection is directed simply against deficiencies of education and intelligence which happen to be accompanied with a black skin. Three fifths or three fourths of the poor whites of the South cannot read or write; and they are cruelly belied, if they do not add to their ignorance that more important disqualification for good citizenship, — indisposition or incapacity for work. In general, the American system proceeds on the idea that the best way of qualifying men to vote is voting, as the best way of teaching boys to swim is to let them go into the water. “Our national experience,” says Chief-Justice Chase, in a letter to the New Orleans freedmen, “has demonstrated that public order reposes most securely on the broad base of Universal Suffrage. It has proved, also, that universal suffrage is the surest guaranty and most powerful stimulus of individual, social, and political progress.” But even if we take the ground, that education and suffrage, though not actually, should properly be, identical, the argument would not apply to the case of the freedmen. What we need primarily at the South is loyal citizens of the United States, and treason there is in inverse proportion to ignorance. If, in reconstructing the Rebel communities, we make suffrage depend on education, we inevitably put the local governments into the hands of a small minority of prominent Confederates whom we have recently defeated; of men physically subdued, but morally rebellious; of men who have used their education simply to destroy the prosperity created by the industry of the ignorant and enslaved, and who, however skilful they may be as “architects of ruin,” have shown no capacity for the nobler art which repairs and rebuilds. If, on the other hand, we make suffrage depend on color, we disfranchise the only portion of the population on whose allegiance we can thoroughly rely, and give the States over to white ignorance and idleness led by white intrigue and disloyalty. We are placed by events in that strange condition in which the safety of that “republican form of government” we desire to insure the Southern States has more safeguards in the instincts of the ignorant than in the intelligence of the educated. The right of the freedmen, not merely to the common privileges of citizens, but to own themselves, depends on the connection of the States in which they live with the United States being preserved. They must know that Secession and State Independence mean their reënslavement. Saulsbury of Delaware; and Willey of West Virginia, declared in the Senate, in 1862, that the Rebel States, when they came back into the Union, would have the legal power to reënslave any blacks whom the National government might emancipate; and it is only the plighted faith of the United States to the freedmen, which such a proceeding would violate, which can prevent the crime from being perpetrated. It is as citizens of the United States, and not as inhabitants of North Carolina or Mississippi, that their freedom is secure. Their instincts, their interests, and their position will thus be their teachers in the duties of citizenship. They are as sure to vote in accordance with the most advanced ideas of the time as most of the embittered aristocracy are to vote for the most retrograde. They will, though at first ignorant, necessarily be in political sympathy with the most educated voters of New York, Ohio, and Massachusetts; if they were as low in the scale of being as their bitterest revilers assert, they would still be forced by their instincts into intuitions of their interests; and their interests are identical with those of civilization and progress. We suppose that those who think them most degraded would be willing to concede to them the possession of a little selfish cunning; and a little selfish cunning is enough to bring them into harmony with the purposes, if not the spirit, of the largest-minded philanthropy and statesmanship of the North.
It is claimed, we know, by some of the hardiest dealers in assertion, that the freedmen will vote as their former masters shall direct; but as this argument is generally put forward by those whose sympathies are with the former masters rather than with the emancipated bondmen, one finds it difficult to understand why they should object to a policy which will increase the power of those whom they wish to be dominant. The circumstances, however, under which credulous ignorance becomes the prey of unscrupulous intelligence are familiar to all who have observed our elections. An ignorant Irish Catholic may be the victim of a pro-slavery demagogue, because the latter flatters his prejudices; but can he be deceived by a bigoted Know-Nothing, who is the object of them? The only demagogue who could control the negro would be an abolition demagogue, and he could control him to his harm only where the negro was deprived of his rights. The slave-masters were wont to pay considerable attention to zoölogy, — not because they were interested in science, but because in that science they thought they could obtain arguments for expel; ling blacks from the human species. In their zoölogical studies, did they ever learn that mice instinctively seek, the protection of the cat, or that the deer speeds to, instead of from, the hunter? The persons whose votes the late masters would be most likely to control would palpably be those whose votes they always have controlled, namely, the poor whites; for, in the late Slave States, white aristocrat is still bound to white democrat by the strong tie of a common contempt of “the nigger.” Meanwhile it is not difficult to believe, that, among four millions of black people, there are enough plantation Hampdens and Adamses to give political organization to their brethren, and make their votes efficient for the protection of their interests.
We think, then, it may be taken for granted, that, while ignorant, the freedmen will vote right by the force of their instincts, and that the education they require will be the result of their possessing the political power to demand it. Free schools are not the creations of private benevolence, but of public taxation; it is useless to expect a system of universal education in a community which does not rest on universal suffrage; and the children of the poor freeman are educated at the public expense, not so much by the pleading of the children’s needs as by the power of the father’s ballot. To take the ground, that the “superior” race will educate the “inferior” race it has but just held in bondage, that it will humanely set to work to prepare and qualify the “niggers” to be voters, only escapes from being considered the artifice of the knave by charitably referring it to the credulity of the simpleton. We do not send, as Mr. Sumner has happily said, “the child to be nursed by the wolf”; and he might have added, that the only precedent for such a proceeding, the case of Romulus and Remus, has lost all the little force it may once have had by the criticism of Niebuhr.
If the negroes do not get the power of political self-protection in the conventions of the people which are now to be called, it is not reasonable to expect they will ever get it by the consent of the whites. Legal State conventions are called by previous law. There is no previous State law applicable to the Rebel communities, because, revolutionized by rebellion, the very persons who are qualified by the old State laws to call conventions are disqualified by the laws of the United States. The result is, that the people are an unorganized mass, to be reorganized under the lead of the Federal government; and of this mass of people—literally, in this case, “the masses”—the free blacks are as much a part as the free whites. As soon, however, as the machinery of State governments is set in motion by these conventions, — as soon as these governments are recognized by the President and Congress, — no conventions to alter the constitutions agreed upon can be called, except by previous State laws. If negro suffrage is not granted in the election of members to the present conventions, the power will pass permanently into the hands of the whites, and the only opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the question will be lost. At the very time when, abstractly, no party has legal rights, and only one party has claims, we propose to deliberately sacrifice the party that has claims to the party which will soon acquire legal rights to oppress the claimants. For, disguise it as we may, the United States government really holds and exercises the power which gives vitality to the preliminaries of reconstruction, and it is therefore responsible for all evils in the future which shall spring from its neglect or injustice in the present.
The addition, too, of four millions of persons to the people of the South, without any corresponding addition of voters, will increase the political power of the ruling whites to an alarming extent, while it will remove all checks on its mischievous exercise. The constitution declares that “representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included in this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” The unanswerable argument presented at the time against the clause relating to the slaves did not prevent its adoption. “If,” it was said, “the negroes are property, why is other property not represented? if men, why three fifths?” Still the South has always enjoyed the double privilege of treating the negro as an article of merchandise and of using three fifths of him as political capital. He has thus added to the power by which he was enslaved, and has been represented in Congress by persons who regarded him either as a beast or as “a descendant of Ham.” In 1860, when the ratio of representation was about one hundred and twenty-seven thousand, the South had, by the three-fifths rule, the right to eighteen more representatives in Congress, and eighteen more electoral votes, than it would have had, if only free persons had been counted. The emancipation of the slaves will give it twelve more; for the blacks will now no longer be constitutional fractions, but constitutional units. The three-fifths arrangement was a monstrous anomaly; but the five-fifths will be worse, if negro suffrage be denied. Four millions of free people will, by the mere fact of being inhabitants of Southern territory, confer a political power equal to thirty members of Congress, and yet have no voice in their election. It has been computed by the Hon. Robert Dale Owen, in a paper on the subject, published in the New York “Tribune,” that in some States, where the blacks and whites are about equal in number, and where two thirds of the whites shall “qualify” as voters, this new condition of things will give the Southern white voter, in a Presidential or Congressional election, three times as much political influence as a Northern voter. And on whom shall we, in many localities, confer this immense privilege? Here is Mr. Owens description of a specimen of the class of Southern “poor whites” we propose thus to exalt.
“I have often encountered this class. I saw many of them last year, while visiting, as member of a Government commission, some of the Southern States. Labor degraded before their eyes has extinguished within them all respect for industry, all ambition, all honorable exertion to improve their condition. When last I had the pleasure of seeing you at Nashville, I met there, in the office of a gentleman charged with the duty of issuing transportation and rations to indigent persons, black and white, a notable example of this strange class. He was a Rebel deserter, — a rough, dirty, uncouth specimen of humanity, — tall, stout, and wiry-looking, rude and abrupt in speech and bearing, and clothed in tattered homespun. In no civil tone, he demanded rations. When informed that all rations applicable to such a purpose were exhausted, he broke forth, —
“‘What am I to do, then? How am I to get home?’
“‘You can have no difficulty,’ was the reply. ‘It is but fifteen or eighteen hours down the river’ (the Cumberland) ‘by steamboat to where you live. I furnished you transportation; you can work your way.’
“‘Work my way!’ (with a scowl of angry contempt.) ‘I never did a stroke of work since I was born; and I never expect to, till my dying day.’
“The agent replied, quietly, —
“‘They will give you all you want to eat on board, if you help them to wood.’
“‘Carry wood!’ he retorted, with an oath. ‘Whenever they ask me to carry wood, I’ll tell them they may set me on shore; I’d rather starve for a week than work for an hour; I don’t want to live in a world that I can’t make a living out of without work.’
“Is it for men like that, ignorant, illiterate, vicious, fit for no decent employment on earth except manual labor, and spurning all labor as degradation, — is it in favor of such insolent swaggerers that we are to disfranchise the humble, quiet, hard-working negro? Are the votes of three such men as Stanton or Seward, Sumner or Garrison, Grant or Sherman, to be neutralized by the ballot of one such worthless; barbarian?”
But this great power, wielded by a population imperfectly qualified to vote, in the name of a population which do not vote at all, — a power equivalent to thirty members of Congress and thirty electoral votes, — will be directed as much against Northern interests as against negro interests. Added to the power which the South will derive from its voting population, it will enable that section to control one third of all the votes in the House of Representatives; and, says Professor Parsons, “if they stand together, and vote as a unit, they will need only about one sixth more to get and hold control of our national legislation and all our foreign and domestic policy.” Our political experience has unfortunately not been such as to justify us in believing it to be impossible for any party, under a resolute Southern lead, to obtain one sixth of the Northern strength in Congress. What would be the result of such a combination? Why, the National government would be substantially in the hands of those who have been engaged in a desperate struggle to overthrow it; and it would be a government converted into a great military and naval power by the war which resulted in their defeat, and fully competent to enforce its decisions at home and abroad by the strong hand. Nothing is purchased at such a frightful price as the indulgence of a prejudice; the cry against “nigger equality” is a prejudice of the most mischievous kind; and it may be we shall hereafter find cause to deplore, that, when we had to choose between “nigger equality” and Southern predominance, our choice was to keep the “nigger” down, even if we failed to keep ourselves up.
One result of Southern predominance everybody can appreciate. The national debt is so interwoven with every form of the business and industry of the loyal States that its repudiation would be. the most appalling of evils. A tax to pay it at once would not produce half the financial derangement and moral disorder which repudiation would cause; for repudiation, as Mirabeau well observed, is nothing but taxation in its most cruel, unequal, iniquitous, and calamitous form. But what reason have we to think that a reconstructed South, dominant in the Federal government, would regard the debt with feelings similar to ours? The negroes would associate it with their freedom, of which it was the price; their late masters would view it as the symbol of their humiliation, which it was incurred to effect. We must remember that the South loses the whole cost of Rebellion, and is at the same time required to pay its share of the cost of suppressing Rebellion. The cost of Rebellion is, in addition to the devastation of property caused by invasion, the whole Southern debt of some two or three thousand millions of dollars, and the market value of the slaves, which, estimating the slaves at five hundred dollars each, is two thousand millions of dollars more. The portion of the cost of suppressing Rebellion which the South will have to pay can be approximately reached by taking a recent calculation made in the Census Office of the Department of the Interior.
Estimating the national debt at twenty-five hundred millions of dollars, and apportioning it according to the number of the white male adults over twenty years of age in the different sections of the country, it has been found that the proportion of the New England States is $308,689,352.07; of the Middle States, $740,195,342.32; of the Western States, $893,288,781.01; of the Southern States, $461,929,846.85; and of the Pacific States, $95,896,677.75. This calculation makes the South responsible for over four hundred and sixty millions of the debt. What amount have the Southerners invested in it? Where both interest and passion furiously impel men to repudiation, can they be trusted with the care of the public credit? “But,” the Northern people may exclaim, “in case of such an execrable violation or justice, we would revolt, — we would” — Ah! but in whose hands would then be “the war power”?
From every point of view, then, in which we can survey the subject, negro suffrage is, unless we are destitute of the commonest practical reason, the logical sequence of negro emancipation. It is not more necessary for the protection of the freedmen than for the safety and honor of the nation. Our interests are inextricably bound up with their rights. The highest requirements of abstract justice coincide with the lowest requirements of political prudence. And the largest justice to the loyal blacks is the real condition of the widest clemency to the Rebel whites. If the Southern communities are to be reorganized into Federal States, it is of the first importance that they should be States whose power rests on the proscription or degradation of no class of their population. It would be a great evil, if they were absolutely governed by a faction, even if that faction were a minority of the “loyal” people, whose loyalty consisted in merely taking an oath which the most unscrupulous would be the readiest to take, because the readiest to break. We are bound either to give them a republican form of government, or to hold them in the grasp of the military power of the nation; and we cannot safely give them anything which approaches a republican form of government, unless we allow the great mass of the free people the right to vote. And least of all should we think of proscribing that particular class of the free people who most thoroughly represent in their localities the interests of the United States, and whose ballots would at once do the work and save the expense of an army of occupation.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.