was subject to repeal, or might fail to pass the ordeal of judicial revision; and this uncertainty, as was maintained in reply to him, was sufficient to justify the precaution of a constitutional amendment.
had come to the conviction that for the protection of human rights the power of Congress was supreme; that the decision for equality of rights could be made at once, and that the people could be trusted to maintain it. He distrusted the fate of a constitutional amendment, which would have to run the gauntlet of the States, and was averse to the admission implied in it that Congress was incompetent to establish the equality; therefore he moved, in the course of his speech, as a substitute for the House
resolution, a bill prohibiting the denial of civil or political rights on account of race or color—which as first offered was to apply to all the States, but later was modified by him so as to apply only to the States lately in rebellion.
's speech had an effect on his associates, even on those who did not assent to his theory of the Constitution
He had held up in a glaring light the distinction of caste, as offensive to the moral sense and repugnant to the principles and pledges of the nation.
No Republican senator had the hardihood from that time to vindicate the justice of the discrimination which the proposed amendment allowed the States to continue, and the argument for it became largely apologetic.
It was admitted to come, short of what was best, while no more was thought attainable in the existing conditions of public sentiment.
though withholding assent from Sumner
's advanced position, confessed his profound admiration of the speech, pronouncing it ‘worthy of the subject, worthy of the occasion, worthy of the author,’ and predicted that ‘when those who heard it shall be forgotten, the echoes of its lofty and majestic periods will linger and repeat themselves among the corridors of history.’
It was the text of a wide discussion in the country, and it received commendation from public journals and a large number of approving correspondents.2
Most cordial testimonies came from the antislavery leaders.
wrote of ‘the eloquent and unanswerable speech,’ ‘based as it is upon absolute justice and eternal right,’ and bore witness to the assiduity and perseverance, the courage and determination, the devotion and inflexible purpose of its author,