The extension of suffrage to Colored citizens of the District of Columbia, being before the Senate, Mr. Sumner
The bill for impartial suffrage in the District of Columbia, concerns directly some twenty thousand colored persons, whom it will lift to the adamantine platform of equal rights.
If it were regarded simply in its bearings on the District, it would be difficult to exaggerate its value; but when it is regarded as an example to the whole country under the sanction of Congress, its value is infinite.
It is in the latter character that it becomes a pillar of fire to illumine the footsteps of millions.
What we do here will be done in the disorganized States.
Therefore, we must be careful that what we do here is best for the disorganized States.
If the question could be confined in its influence to the District, I should have little objection to an educational test.
I should be glad to witness the experiment and be governed by the result.
But the question cannot be limited to the District.
Practically, it takes the whole country into its sphere.
We must, therefore, act for the whole country.
This is the exigency of the present moment.
Now, to my mind nothing is clearer than the absolute necessity of the suffrage for all Colored persons in the disorganized States.
not be enough if you give it to those who read and write; you will not in this way acquire the voting force which you need there for the protection of Unionists, whether white or black.
You will not secure the new allies which are essential to the national cause.
As you once needed the muskets of the Colored persons, so now you need their votes; and you must act now with little reference to theory.
You are bound by the necessities of the case.
Therefore, when I am asked to open the suffrage to women, or when I am asked to establish an educational standard, I cannot on the present bill simply because the controlling necessity under which we act will not allow it. By a singular providence, we are now constrained to this measure of enfranchisement for the sake of peace, security, and reconciliation, so that loyal persons, white or black, may be protected, and that the republic may live.
Here in the District of Columbia we begin the real work of reconstruction, by which the Union will be consolidated forever.
The Bill was passed by a large majority; but being vetoed by the President
, as all good measures then were, it was passed over his veto by two-thirds of both Houses.