abolished throughout the country. But the United States cannot make a negro, nor even a white man, an elector in any State. That is a power expressly reserved by the Constitution to the several States. We cannot alter or amend the Constitution of North Carolina, as it now exists, without either first altering or else violating the Constitution of the United States. If we hold that by the rebellion the States have lost their existence as States, and have been reduced to unorganized Territories under the absolute sovereign authority of the United States, then undoubtedly we may declare that all inhabitants, white and black, shall have equal political rights and an equal voice in the organization of a State to be admitted into the Union. But I understand President Johnson repudiates this doctrine; hence it may be left out of the question. It appears to me beyond question that the Constitution of North Carolina is now valid and binding as the law of the State, and that any measures for the reorganization of the State government must be in accordance with the provisions of that instrument. This, I am convinced, is the unanimous opinion of the leading Union men of the State. My second reason for objecting to the proposition is the absolute unfitness of the negroes, as a class, for any such responsibility. They can neither read nor write. They have no knowledge whatever of law or government. They do not even know the meaning of the freedom that has been given them, and are much astonished when informed that it does not mean that they are to live in idleness and be fed by the government. It is true they are docile, obedient, and anxious to learn; but we certainly ought to teach them something before we give them an equal voice with ourselves in government. This view is so fully recognized as correct by all who are familiar, by actual contact, with the negro character and condition, that argument seems superfluous. I have yet to see a single one among the many Union men in North Carolina who would willingly submit for a moment to the immediate elevation of the negro to political equality with the white man. They are all, or nearly all, content with the abolition of slavery. Many of them are rejoiced that it is done. But to raise the negro, in his present ignorant and degraded condition, to be their political equals would be, in their opinion, to enslave them [the white citizens]. If they did not rebel against it, it
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.