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Section tenth: downfall of the Rebellion.


Mr. Greeley has given, towards the close of his American Conflict, an affecting description of the parting of Lee with his devoted followers. He says: [486]
It was a sad one. Of the proud army which, dating its victories from Bull Run, had driven McClellan from before Richmond, and withstood his best efforts at Antietam, and shattered Burnside's host at Fredericksburg, and worsted Hooker at Chancellorsville, and fought Meade so stoutly, though unsuccessfully, before Gettysburg, and baffled Grant's bounteous resources and desperate efforts in the Wilderness, at Spottsylvania, on the North Anna, at Cold Harbor, and before Petersburg and Richmond,--a mere wreck remained. It is said that 27,000 were included in Lee's capitulation; but of these not more than 10,000 had been able to carry their arms thus far on their hopeless and almost foodless flight. Barely nineteen miles from Richmond when surrendered, the physical possibility of forcing their way thither, even at the cost of half their number, no longer remained. And if they were all safely there, what then? The resources of the Confederacy were utterly exhausted. Of the 150,000 men whose names were borne on its muster-rolls a few weeks ago, at least one-third were already disabled or prisoners, and the residue could neither be clad nor fed — not to dream of their being fitly armed or paid; while the resources of the loyal States were scarcely touched, their ranks nearly or quite as full as ever, and their supply of ordnance, small-arms, munitions, etc., more ample than in any previous April. Of the million or so borne on our muster-rolls, probably not less than half were then in active service, with half so many more able to take the field at short notice. The Rebellion had failed and gone down; but the Rebel Army of Virginia and its commander had not failed. Fighting sternly against the Inevitable—against the irrepressible tendencies, the generous aspirations of the age—they had been proved unable to succeed where success would have been a calamity to their children, to their country, and the human race. And, when the transient agony of defeat had been endured and had passed, they all experienced a sense of relief, as they crowded around their departing chief, who, with streaming eyes, grasped and pressed their outstretched hands, at length finding words to say, ‘Men, we have fought through the War together. I have done the best that I could for you.’ There were few dry eyes among those who witnessed the scene; and our soldiers hastened to divide their rations with their late enemies, now fellow-countrymen, to stay their hunger until provisions from our trains could be drawn for them. Then, while most of our army returned to Burkesville, and thence, a few days later, to Petersburg and Richmond, the work of paroling went on, under the guardianship of Griffin's and Gibbon's infantry, with McKenzie's cavalry; [487] and, so fast as paroled, the Confederates took their way severally to their respective homes: many of them supplied with transportation, as well as food, by the government they had fought so long and so bravely to subvert and destroy.


The day after the fall of Richmond, Mr. Lincoln visited the Capital of the late Confederacy, so recently and suddenly abandoned by its fugitive chief. Being recognized by the Black population as he entered Richmond, there was a rush which packed the street, and a shout of welcome that rang through the city.

On the day of Lee's surrender he returned to Washington, and the next evening he addressed the vast multitude assembled before the Executive Mansion. In a speech characterized by two qualities so peculiar to himself; turning over to Congress the settlement of all difficulties connected with the representation of the revolted States, and expressing his desire that some participation in government, through right of suffrage, might be accorded to that vast Colored population, who had so recently come out from the house of bondage:—but, above all, without a trace of bitterness or resentment towards the late enemies of the Republic, he expressed an anxious wish that those States should be restored to all the functions of self-government, and equal power in the Union, at the earliest moment that might be consistent with the integrity, safety, and tranquillity of the nation.


The next day, April 12, the telegraph flashed through the country an order from the War Department, to put a stop to all drafting and recruiting for our armies, the [488] purchase of arms, munitions, and provisions of war, the reduction in number of Generals and Staff officers, and the instant removal of all military restrictions on commerce and trade.

It happened to be just four years after the surrender of Fort Sumter by Major Anderson, and a crowd of loyal citizens had sailed down to Charleston, to raise over the ruins of that historic fortress, the very flag which Anderson had borne away with him when he was driven in helplessness from his post.

All through the country it was a gala day. Peace had come, with victory. The President had passed some hours with his Cabinet, to listen to a report from Gen. Grant, who had just arrived from Appomattox, and it was proposed that the party should seek some relaxation from the labors and excitements of the day, by attending the theatre. Mr. Greeley gives the following simple account:

At 8 P. M., the President and his wife, with two others, rode to the theatre, and were ushered into the private box previously secured by him; where, at 10 1/2 P. M., while all were intent on the play, an actor of Baltimore birth,—John Wilkes Booth by name, son of the more eminent English-born tragedian, Junius Brutus Booth,—availing himself of that freedom usually accorded at theatres to actors, entered at the front door, stood for a few moments, after presenting a card to the President's messenger, in the passage-way behind the dress-circle, surveying the spectacle before him; then entered the vestibule of the President's private box, shut the door behind him, fastened it from the inside by placing a short plank (previously provided) against it, with its foot against the opposite wall, and then, holding a pistol and a dagger in either hand, stepped through the inner door into the box just behind the President, who was leaning forward, with his eyes fixed on the stage, and fired his pistol, while holding it close to the back of the President's head, piercing his skull behind the left ear, and lodging the ball, after traversing the brain, just behind the right eye. Mr. Lincoln's head fell slightly forward, his eyes closed, but he uttered no word or cry; [489] and though life was not extinct for nine hours thereafter, he gave, thenceforth to his death in a neighboring house, at 7: 22 next morning, no sign of intelligence; and it is probable that he never on earth knew that he had been shot, or was conscious even of suffering, much less of malice and murder.

A merciful heaven, that knew his work was done, now flung open its doors to receive the Savior of the Union, and the Deliverer of the African race.

From no lips could the eulogy of Abraham Lincoln fall so gracefully, as from Charles Sumner's:

In the universe of God there are no accidents. From the fall of a sparrow to the fall of an empire, or the sweep of a planet, all is according to Divine Providence, whose laws are everlasting. It was no accident which gave to his country the patriot whom we now honor. It was no accident which snatched this patriot so suddenly and so cruelly from his sublime duties. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.


The following condensed summary of Anti-Slavery measures in Congress, which Vice-President Wilson gives in the close of his work on that subject, is here quoted, to convey to the reader more distinctly, their scope and magnitude:
When the Rebellion culminated in active hostilities, it was seen that thousands of slaves were used for military purposes by the rebel forces. To weaken the forces of the Rebellion, the 37th Congress decreed that such slaves should be forever free.

As the Union armies advanced into the Rebel States, slaves, inspired by the hope of personal freedom, flocked to their encampments, claiming protection against Rebel masters, and offering to work or fight for the flag whose stars for the first time gleamed upon their vision with the radiance of liberty. Rebel masters and Rebels sympathizing with masters sought the encampments of the loyal forces, demanding the surrender of the escaped fugitives; and they were often delivered up by [490] officers of the army. To weaken the power of the insurgents, to strengthen the loyal forces, and assert the claims of humanity, the 37th Congress enacted an article of war, dismissing from the service officers guilty of surrendering these fugitives.

Three thousand persons were held as slaves in the District of Columbia, over which the nation exercised exclusive jurisdiction: the 37th Congress made these three thousand bondmen freemen, and made slave-holding in the capital of the nation for evermore impossible.

Laws and ordinances existed in the national capital, that pressed with merciless rigor upon the Colored people: the 37th Congress enacted that Colored persons should be tried for the same offences, in the same manner, and be subject to the same punishments, as white persons; thus abrogating the ‘Black Code.’

Colored persons in the capital of this Christian nation were denied the right to testify in the judicial tribunals, thus placing their property, their liberties, and their lives, in the power of unjust and wicked men: the 37th Congress enacted that persons should not be excluded as witnesses in the courts of the District, on account of color.

In the capital of the nation, Colored persons were taxed to support schools, from which their own children were excluded; and no public schools were provided for the instruction of more than four thousand youth: the 38th Congress provided by law that public schools should be established for Colored children, and that the same rate of appropriations for Colored schools should be made, as are made for the education of white children.

The railways chartered by Congress excluded from their cars Colored persons without the authority of law: Congress enacted that there should be no exclusion from any car, on account of color.


Into the Territories of the United States,—one-third of the surface of the country,—the slave-holding class claimed the right to take and hold their slaves, under the protection of the law: the 37th Congress prohibited slavery for ever in all the existing territory, and in all territory which may hereafter be acquired; thus stamping freedom for all, for ever, upon the public domain.

As the war progressed, it became more clearly apparent that the Rebels hoped to win the Border Slave States; that Rebel sympathizers in those States hoped to join the Rebel States; and that emancipation [491] in loyal States would bring repose to them, and weaken the power of the Rebellion: the 37th Congress, on the recommendation of the President, by the passage of a joint resolution, pledged the faith of the nation to aid loyal States to emancipate the slaves therein.

The hoe and spade of the Rebel slave were hardly less potent for the Rebellion than the rifle and bayonet of the Rebel soldier. Slaves sowed and reaped for the Rebels, enabling the Rebel leaders to fill the wasting ranks of their armies, and feed them. To weaken the military forces and the power of the Rebellion, the 37th Congress decreed that all slaves of persons giving aid and comfort to the Rebellion, escaping from such persons, and taking refuge within the lines of the army; all slaves captured from such persons, or deserted by them; all slaves of such persons, being within any place occupied by Rebel forces, and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States,—shall be captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

The provisions of the Fugitive-slave Act permitted disloyal masters to claim, and they did claim, the return of their fugitive bondmen: the 37th Congress enacted that no fugitive should be surrendered until the claimant made oath that he had not given aid and comfort to the Rebellion.

The progress of the Rebellion demonstrated its power, and the needs of the imperilled nation. To strengthen the physical forces of the United States, the 37th Congress authorized the President to receive into the military service persons of African descent; and every such person mustered into the service, his mother, his wife, and children, owing service or labor to any person who should give aid and comfort to the Rebellion, was made forever free.


The African slave-trade had been carried on by slave-pirates under the protection of the flag of the United States. To extirpate from the seas that inhuman traffic, and to vindicate the sullied honor of the nation, the Administration early entered into treaty stipulations with the British Government for the mutual right of search within certain limits; and the 37th Congress hastened to enact the appropriate legislation to carry the treaty into effect.

The slave-holding class, in the pride of power, persistently refused [492] to recognize the independence of Hayti and Liberia; thus dealing unjustly towards those nations, to the detriment of the commercial interests of the country: the 37th Congress recognized the independence of those republics by authorizing the President to establish diplomatic relations with them.

By the provisions of law, White male citizens alone were enrolled in the militia. In the Amendment to the acts for calling out the militia, the 37th Congress provided for the enrolment and drafting of citizens, without regard to color; and, by the Enrolment Act, Colored persons, free or slave, are enrolled and drafted the same as White men. The 38th Congress enacted that Colored soldiers shall have the same pay, clothing, and rations, and be placed in all respects upon the same footing, as White soldiers. To encourage enlistments, and to aid emancipation, the 38th Congress decreed that every slave mustered into the military service shall be free forever; thus enabling every slave fit for military service to secure personal freedom.

By the provisions of the fugitive-slave acts, slave hunters could hunt their absconding bondmen, require the people to aid in their recapture, and have them returned at the expense of the nation. The 38th Congress erased all fugitive-slave acts from the statutes of the Republic.

The law of 1807 legalized the coastwise slave-trade: the 38th Congress repealed that act, and made the trade illegal.

The courts of the United States receive such testimony as is permitted in the States where the courts are holden. Several of the States exclude the testimony of Colored persons. The 38th Congress made it legal for Colored persons to testify in all the courts of the United States.

Different views are entertained by public men relative to the reconstruction of the governments of the seceded States, and the validity of the President's Proclamation of Emancipation. The 38th Congress passed a bill providing for the reconstruction of the governments of the Rebel States, and for the emancipation of the slaves of those States; but it did not receive the approval of the President.

Colored persons were not permitted to carry the United States mails: the 38th Congress repeated the prohibitory legislation, and made it lawful for persons of Color to carry the mails.

Wives and children of Colored persons in the military and naval service of the United States were often held as slaves; and, while husbands and fathers were absent fighting the battles of the country, [493] these wives and children were sometimes removed and sold, and often treated with cruelty: the 38th Congress made free the wives and children of all persons engaged in the military or naval service of the country.


The disorganization of the slave system, and the exigencies of civil war, have thrown thousands of freedmen upon the charity of the nation: to relieve their immediate needs, and to aid them through the transition period, the 38th Congress established a Bureau of Freedmen.

The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, its abolition in the District of Columbia, the freedom of Colored soldiers, their wives and children, emancipation in Maryland, West Virginia, and Missouri, and by the reorganized State authorities of Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana, and the President's Emancipation Proclamation, disorganized the slave system, and practically left few persons in bondage; but slavery still continued in Delaware and Kentucky, and the slave codes remain unrepealed in the Rebel States. To annihilate the slave system, its codes and usages; to make slavery impossible, and freedom universal—the 38th Congress submitted to the people the anti-slavery amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The adoption of that crowning measure assures freedom to all.


Such are the ‘Anti-Slavery measures’ of the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Congresses during the past four crowded years. Seldom in the history of nations is it given to any body of legislators or lawgivers to enact or institute a series of measures so vast in their scope, so comprehensive in their character, so patriotic, just, and humane.

But, while the Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth Congresses were enacting this anti-slavery legislation, other agencies were working to the consummation of the same end—the complete and final abolition of slavery. The President proclaims three and a half millions of bondmen in the Rebel States henceforward and forever free, Maryland, Virginia, and Missouri adopt immediate and unconditional emancipation. The partially reorganized Rebel States of Virginia and Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana, accept and adopt the unrestricted abolition of slavery. Illinois and other States hasten to blot from their Statutebooks [494] their dishonoring Black codes. The Attorney-General officially pronounces the Negro a citizen of the United States. The Negro, who had no status in the Supreme Court, is admitted by the Chief-Justice to practice as an Attorney before that august tribunal. Christian men and women follow the loyal armies with the agencies of mental and moral instruction to fit and prepare the enfranchised freedmen for the duties of the higher condition of life now opening before them.


The death of Lincoln carried Andrew Johnson to the Presidential office. The result proved how foolish, if not how fatal, is the policy of political parties who are guided more by present availability than by profound sagacity, or high principle, in the choice of candidates. This had proved true on two former occasions with the Whig party. In 1840 they had nominated for the Presidency a most respectable, pure, and patriotic man, who was so far in the decline of life and vigor, that his little remaining strength soon gave way to the worry and pressure of the occasion; and for the Vice-Presidency, a man who was conspicuously destitute of every qualification necessary for the station he was called upon to fill. His administration ended in lamentable failure for himself, and in humiliation to his party. The same policy prevailed in the nomination of Gen. Taylor, who, as a blunt and patriotic old soldier, had done his duty well, but who had not one conceivable quality to insure a successful administration. The party were no more successful, although the country was more fortunate, in having its affairs fall into the hands of a providential successor. Mr. Fillmore had the integrity and sense to keep faith with his party, and surround himself by able and illustrious advisers. But his ambition, as well [495] as their own, rose no higher than stemming, as well as they could, the rising tide which was to sweep the past away, banishing the supremacy of the slave-power from the control of national affairs, and introducing a new period of national activity for the more liberal spirit of the advancing age.


But, of all the misfortunes which attended that party, and impaired its administration of affairs, the greatest was in following out the same policy, for the third time. Of the men who nominated Andrew Johnson for the Vice-Presidency, few ever thought of the contingency of Mr. Lincoln's death. But there must have been members enough in the Convention fully aware of the entire unfitness of Mr. Johnson for the execution of any high trust whatever. Born and brought up in a community where few of the amenities of civilized life were known; with poor chances for a knowledge of public affairs, and fewer still for intellectual culture; coarse-grained by nature, but gigantic in build and well calculated to ‘rough it,’ in rude communities, Andrew Johnson fought his way by sheer force into public observation. And although not destitute of a certain degree of native sturdiness of character, and a careless openness of manner which was easily mistaken by the vulgar for magnanimity and greatness; and having, neither by inheritance nor acquisition, any interest in common with the better classes of the South, his restless nature urged him into the first collisions of political parties. Happening to take the right side, at the right moment, he was swept on by the current of fortune, till its last crowning freak landed him [496] in the Presidential chair. But no native endowment, or habit of mind, had fitted him for the new and exalted sphere. Incapable either of comprehending the difficulties of his position, of choosing discreet private advisers, or even of listening to their counsels when once chosen, the bull-headed obstinacy of his character found a most welcome field for rioting in the slough of his ignorance and passion.

Familiar only with the stereotype formulas of traditional democracy, and the free slang of the Western stump, he was entirely incompetent to grapple with any problem of statesmanship, or hold his passions in subjection long enough for wise deliberation. He soon found himself plunged into a sea of difficulties. Incapable of retaining his old friends, or of making new ones; possessing no qualities which bound men to him by any stronger ties than office; conscious of a total lack of the dignity which so high an office confers; and knowing that his inferiority became the more conspicuous in contrast with the loftiness of his position; rash and hasty in judgment; too ignorant to know how, and too obstinate to find out when to yield or retreat; he went through his Presidential term with just about as much sagacity and dignity as the proverbial bull goes through a china-shop. What little there was of reputation for him to lose when he went into office, he managed to get rid of pretty quick; and the poor man must at last have felt about as much relieved in getting rid of his party and his office, as they felt in getting rid of him.

But neither his obstinacy nor his ignorance worked any great mischief. The national sentiment was well represented in both Houses of Congress, and gradually the dashing stream of events was washing away the slime of [497] Slavery from the nation. For that slime had been gathering as gangrene gathers over old sores, and foul matter concretes in dark, dank places, away from the sunshine and pure air. The long-obstructed floodgates had broken way, and the rushing waters had cleansed the Augean stable.

Mr. Johnson's Cabinet was made up chiefly of good and able men; and as he did not know enough about Foreign Affairs, even to interfere with the Department of State, besides being altogether too weak a man to cope with the gigantic force of Stanton, wisdom and vigor characterized those departments; while Congress was powerful enough to carry through a whole series of beneficent measures against his unavailing opposition. One by one the cardinal Amendments to the Constitution had passed both Houses, and been reenacted over his vetoes. Every necessary restraint was imposed on his tendency to do mischief; he was, by special enactments, stripped of much of his executive power; so that he went hamstrung through his term. His writhings and bellowings, as these withes were bound around him, were characteristic of such demonstrations on the part of the lower animals, under similar circumstances. It was a public relief when he made way for the great soldier who became his successor, and in whom the nation was justified in feeling absolutely safe; for they could repose on his supreme knowledge of the military condition of the country, and how the integrity and power of the Union had been vindicated; while from no quarter, at the time, nor do we believe, since, was breathed a doubt that the patriotism of the citizen was not as much above suspicion, as his valor had been above praise.



The Thirteenth Amendment had abolished Slavery. The Fourteenth had secured the rights of citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, disabling a certian class of chief officers in the late Rebellion; declaring the validity of the national debt, and forbidding the payment of the debt of the so-called Confederacy. The Fifteenth Amendment secured the right of suffrage to all the citizens of the Republic without regard to race, color, or previous condition, the joint resolution for which passed both Houses on the 26th of February, 1869; while, about the same time, a law was enacted, the chief provision of which was as follows: ‘The faith of the United States is solemnly pledged to the payment in coin or its equivalent, of all interest-bearing obligations of the United States, except in cases where the law authorizing the issue of any such obligation, has expressly provided that the same may be paid in lawful money or other currency than gold and silver.’

To each one of these cardinal measures, which secured the fruits of the great struggle, and established the government upon a basis too strong to be questioned, at least by the generation of men now living, Senator Sumner gave his unwearied attention, and his most earnest support. A vast number of other measures, necessary or beneficent, were also passed, which, by virtue of provisions made in the Amendments themselves, clothed Congress with power to enforce them by proper legislation; in most of which Mr. Sumner actively participated, and over all of which he cast the illumination [499] of his learning, enforced by the power of his eloquence.


In one respect—and perhaps in others—sufficient justice has not been done to Andrew Johnson's motives, for he gave no evidence of corruption in office; and with all his imperfections, he never displayed any lack of patriotism. But we speak specially in reference to his efforts to terminate our complications with Great Britain, by a final treaty, and appointing Mr. Reverdy Johnson, a learned, venerable, and high-minded gentleman, Minister to England for this purpose. The prospect seemed to be fair that our perplexing difficulties with England would find a termination; but in the opinion of the people of the country, as well as of the Senate, the envoy made a failure in his efforts, for the Johnson-Clarendon Treaty, whatever it may have meant, was unanimously rejected by the Senate. It was on this occasion that Mr. Sumner pronounced that exhaustive argument in favor of American indemnity, the mere rumor of which so frightened that fast-anchored isle from her propriety, that not a journal in the British Empire dared to print the speech. There were certain reasons why the public men of Great Britain were horrified by that speech. First of all, Mr. Sumner was a great favorite in England: he was regarded as our foremost statesman; and being Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a weight was carried with his opinion which British politicians supposed would be irresistible with the American people. No such Philippic was supposed possible to come from a man who enjoyed such great reputation and popularity in England. It was looked upon as treason to all his [500] antecedents; as a betrayal of all his English friends; as an outrage on every principle of International law; and as a gross and unpardonable insult to the British Empire.

The indignity was still more inflamed by insisting upon the payment of an incredible amount for indirect claims, and constructive damages, with the proposition to seize at once the British Colonies in America, as a security for the debt which England owed for sweeping our commerce from the ocean, prolonging our war, giving aid and comfort to the rebels, and lending all the assistance she could without open hostilities, to sustain the falling cause of slavery, and trying her best to work the political ruin of this country.

That speech cost Mr. Sumner, for the time being, about every friend he had in the British Empire; but there were some men in England who looked upon the whole case dispassionately, and who did not hesitate, through the press, at the time, to help arrest this new storm of passion and hate that was again sweeping over the British Isles.


In speaking of the duty of Congress to secure universal suffrage, both at the North, as well as at the South, for all its citizens, he had said:
I submit that the doing it in the loyal States is only the just complement to your action in the Rebel States. How can you look the Rebel States in the face when you have required colored suffrage of them, and fail to require it in the other States? Be just; require it in the loyal States as you have now required it in the Rebel States. There is an unanswerable argument, and I submit it on the question of order. If we are now privileged to consider only matters that are in aid of the reconstruction measures, then I submit that this bill is in aid of those [501] measures, for it is to give them completeness and roundness. Unless you pass this bill your original measure is imperfect; ay, it is radically unjust. I know it is said you have one title to legislation over the Rebel States which you have not over the loyal States,—to wit, that they have been in rebellion; but the great cardinal sources of power over the Rebel States are identical with those over the loyal States. They are one and the same. There is the clause in the Constitution directing you to guarantee a republican form of government. It is a clause which is like a sleeping giant in the Constitution,—never until this recent war awakened—but now it comes forward with a giant's power. There is no clause in the Constitution like it. There is no clause which gives to Congress such a supreme power over the States, as that clause. There, as I have already said, you have the two other clauses. Your power under the Constitution is complete. It is not less beneficial than complete. * * Who then can hesitate? Look at it in any light which you please. Regard it as the completion of these reconstruction measures; regard it as a constitutional enactment; regard it as a measure of expediency in order to secure those results which we all desire at the approaching elections; and who can hesitate? You have had no bill before you for a long time, the passage of which would be of more practical advantage than this.


On the 12th of May, 1870, Mr. Sumner introduced his Civil Rights Supplement; and in doing so, said that the passage of the Bill would render further legislation on the subject unnecessary. It declares all citizens of the United States, without distinction of race and color, entitled to equal and impartial enjoyment of accommodation, advantage, facility or privilege afforded by common carriers on railroads, steamboats, or other public conveyance; in hotels, licensed theatres and other houses of public entertainment; common schools and other institutions of learning authorized by law; church institutions, incorporated either by National or State authority; also on juries in all courts, both National and State. It subjects [502] any one violating, or inciting to violation of its provisions, to payment of $500 to the person aggrieved, and imprisonment, and a further fine of from $500 to $1,000. When the violation is committed by a corporation, the penalty to be forfeiture of charter. He introduced substantially the same Bill on the 20th of January, 1871,—the one which he commended so earnestly to his friend Judge Hoar, with almost his dying breath.


In the debate on the Amnesty Bill,—December 20th, 1871,—he used the following language on justice to the Colored race everywhere:
We have all heard of the old saying, ‘Let us be just before we are generous.’ I do not like to be against anything that may seem to be generous; but I do insist always upon justice; and now that it is proposed to be generous to those who were engaged in the rebellion, I insist upon justice to the Colored race everywhere throughout this land; and in that spirit I shall ask the Senate to adopt as an amendment in the form of additional sections, what is already known in this Chamber as the Supplementary Civil Rights Bill. * * I insist that by the law of the land all persons, without distinction of color, shall be equal before the law. Show me, therefore, a legal institution, anything created or regulated by law, and I show you what must be opened equally to all without distinction of color. Notoriously, the hotel is a legal institution originally established by the common law, subject to minute provisions and regulations; notoriously, public conveyances are in the nature of common carriers, subject to a law of their own; notoriously, schools are public institutions, created and maintained by law; and now I simply insist that in the enjoyment of those institutions, there shall be no exclusion on account of color. * * I hope there will be no question about adopting this amendment. But I will ask once more my friends over the way, who insist upon amnesty, to unite with me now in justice to the Colored race. Let us do this work all at once. I wish to have the pleasure of voting for this bill. I wish to unite with the Senator from Mississippi (Mr. Alcorn) in the generosity that he proposes; [503] but I do implore him to unite with me in justice to his own constituents. Treat the two together; put them both in the same bill; pass them by a two-thirds vote, and let the country see how grandly unanimous we are in an act which is at once generous and just, full of generosity, the noblest generosity, the grandest magnanimity in human history, and full, also, of simple justice.


In the United States Senate, May 31, 1872, in speaking of the Presidency as a trust, and the Republicans as being a personal party, he used this language, which alienated him pretty effectually from that great organization:
To the Republican party, devoted to ideas and principles, I turn now with more than ordinary solicitude. Not willingly can I see it sacrificed. Not without earnest effort against the betrayal, can I suffer its ideas and principles to be lost in the personal pretensions of one man. Both the old parties are in a crisis, with this difference between the two: The Democracy is dissolving; the Republican party is being absorbed. The Democracy is falling apart, thus losing its vital unity; the Republican party is submitting to a personal influence, thus visibly losing its vital character. The Democracy is ceasing to exist. The Republican party is losing its identity. Let the process be completed, and it will be no longer that Republican party which I helped to found and always served, but only a personal party; while, instead of those ideas and principles which we have been so proud to uphold, will be Presidential pretensions; and instead of Republicanism there will be nothing but Grantism. Political parties are losing their sway. Higher than party are country and the duty to save it from Caesar. The caucus is at last understood as a political engine, moved by wire-pullers; and it becomes more insupportable in proportion as directed to personal ends; nor is its character changed when called a National Convention. Here, too, are wire-pullers; and when the great Office-holder and the great Office-seeker are one and the same, it is easy to see how naturally the engine responds to the central touch. A political convention is an agency and a convenience; but never a law, least of all a despotism; and when it seeks to impose a candidate whose name is a synonym of pretensions [504] unrepublican in character, and hostile to good government, it will be for earnest Republicans to consider well how clearly party is subordinate to country. Such a nomination can have no just obligation.


In a letter to Colored citizens, on Harmony between the Races, he wrote:
Thus far, in constant efforts for the Colored Race, I have sincerely sought the good of all; which I was convinced would be best obtained in fulfilling the promises of the Declaration of Indepedence, making all equal in rights. The spirit in which I acted appears in an early speech, when I said: ‘Nothing in hate, nothing in vengeance.’ Never have I asked for punishment. Most anxiously I have looked for the time, which seems now at hand, when there shall be reconciliation; not only between the North and South, but between the two races; so that the two races and the two sections may be lifted from the ruts and grooves in which they are now fastened; and, instead of irritating antagonism without end, there shall be sympathetic cooperation. The existing differences ought to be ended. There is a time for all things, and we are admonished by a widespread popular uprising bursting the bonds of party, that the time has come for estrangement to cease between people who by the ordinance of God must live together. Gladly do I welcome these happy signs; nor can I observe without regret the colored people in organized masses resisting the friendly overtures, even to the extent of intimidating those who are the other way. It is for them to consider carefully whether they should not take advantage of the unexpected opening, and recognize the bail bond given at Baltimore as the assurance of peace, holding the parties to the full performance of its conditions, provided always that their rights are fixed. I am sure it cannot be best for the colored people to band together in a hostile camp, provoking antagonism and keeping alive the separation of races. Above all there must be no intimidation, but every voter must act freely, without constraint from league or lodge. Much better will it be when two political parties compete for your vote, each anxious for your support. Only then will that citizenship by which you are entitled to the equal rights of all, have its full fruits. Only then will there be that harmony which is essential to a true civilization.



The year 1870 witnessed a series of astounding convulsions in Europe, the record of which, even while they were taking place, seemed to transcend in magnitude any preceding revolutions, partaking more of the dreams of romance, than the sober transactions of history. The resistless march of the great German armies into the heart of France; the capture, in rapid succession of her fortified cities and army corps; the overthrow of the throne of Napoleon III. and the imprisonment of its Emperor; the final occupation of Rome by the national Government of Italy, and the annihilation at last of the Temporal sovereignty of the Pope,—all crowded together within the space of a few months, read, even at this. short distance of time, like a fairy tale.

In the meantime, the Federal Government of the United States was becoming more and more consolidated. All the States were restored to their old places in the Union, under Constitutions made by themselves, and approved by Congress; and once more their civil powers were administered by citizens of their own choice. The giant form of the Rebellion was fast moving into the dim past, and a new vista of progress and splendor was opening to the advancing Republic. Early in the year, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution had been ratified by the necessary number of States, twentynine having voted for it. The announcement of the result was made on the 30th of March, by a message from the President, and a bill was at once introduced, and speedily passed, to secure freedom of suffrage to the whole Colored population of every State in the Union. It was vain any longer in Congress to oppose the enactment; [506] outside of Congress all opposition was known to be unavailing. The final decision of a great Nation was clothed with a solemnity of sanction which transcended that of any divinity which ever hedged a king.

The public joy in the capital was manifested by illuminations, serenades, and speeches. To the multitude —amongst them thousands of the colored of both sexes—assembled in front of the Executive Mansion, President grant ventured upon one of the longest speeches of his life. He said:

I can assure those present that there has been no event since the close of the war in which I have felt so deep an interest, as that of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution by three-fourths of the States of the Union. I have felt the greatest anxiety ever since I have been in this house, to know that that was to be secured. It looked to me as the realization of the Declaration of Independence. I cannot say near so much on this subject as I would like to, not being accustomed to public speaking; but I thank you very much for your presence this evening.

But this speech, long as it was—for him—was greeted with tremendous and prolonged cheers, and the crowd retired, as the band struck up what seemed to have already become one of the national airs—‘John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave.’


But the grandest demonstration of all was before the house of Senator Sumner. It was the first time he had ever appeared and responded on such an occasion, and he embraced the opportunity to lift the flag of reform and progress still higher, rather than to fritter away such precious moments in public or self congratulation.

He did, in the beginning, congratulate the now silent [507] multitude on the great results accomplished in securing equal rights for all, which had so long been his object, and his hope; and to greet the hour when the promise of the Declaration of Independence had become a reality. He would not say that it was entirely accomplished, for it was not. It was his nature to think more of what remains to be done, than of what has been done—more of duties than of triumphs. He had only just heard from Philadelphia of a decision in a court of justice, that a colored person of foreign birth could not be naturalized in this country, because of color. This is in accordance with an old statute—a relic of the days of slavery. He had now a bill before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, striking the word ‘white’ from our naturalization laws. It remains further that equal rights shall be conceded in all the public conveyances in the United States, that no one be excluded therefrom by reason of color. It also remains, he said, that you here in Washington shall complete this equality of rights in your common schools. You all go together to vote, and any person may find a seat in the Senate of the United States; but the child is shut out of the common school on account of color. This discrimination must be abolished. All schools must be open to all, without distinction of color. In accomplishing this, you will work, not only for yourselves, but will set an example for all the land, and most especially for the South. Only in this way can your school system be extended for the equal good of all. And now, as you have at heart the education of your children, that they should grow up in that knowledge of equal rights, so essential for their protection to the world, it is your bounden duty here in Washington to see that this is accomplished. Your school system [508] must be founded on equal rights, so that no one shall be excluded on account of color.


The President, and a strong party with him, were anxious to secure the annexation of Dominica, and with this object in view, on the 5th of December, 1870, in his annual message, he had said: ‘I now firmly believe that the moment it is known that the United States have entirely abandoned the project of accepting as a part of its territory, the Island of San Domingo, a free port will be negotiated for by European powers, in the Bay of Samana;’ and ringing some changes upon the Monroe doctrine, he manifested a strong wish to have something effectual done on the subject. On the 12th of the month, Mr. Morton offered Resolutions authorizing the President to appoint three Commissioners, and a Secretary, to proceed to the Island, to obtain all sorts of information, etc., and report.

When the matter came up, Mr. Sumner, who comprehended the whole subject better than any man in either House, moved that the Senate proceed to the consideration of Executive business; and he spoke against the whole annexation scheme. He began by saying: ‘Mr. President,—The resolution before the Senate commits Congress to a dance of blood. It is a new step in a measure of violence; several steps have already been taken, and Congress is now summoned to take another.’ He went on to show that ‘the motive which prompted the appointment of this Commission was by no means limited to inquiry concerning the condition of that Island, but it committed Congress to the [509] policy of its annexation. He foresaw that the country would suffer in its good name; that the negotiation for annexation was begun with a person known as Buenaventura Baez, whom official and unofficial evidence showed to be a political jockey; that it was a scheme which would be attended with violence towards Dominica and violence towards Hayti.’


A convention of delegates representing the Negro population of the country had been held in St. Louis, on the 27th of September, which, among other Resolutions, passed one asking all the State Legislatures to enact a compulsory law compelling all children between seven and twelve years of age to attend school. Another Convention representing all the Negro population in the late slave-holding States, was held at Columbia, South Carolina, on the 24th of October. It was a manly and noble address which the delegates adopted to be sent out to the people of the United States, a portion of which was as follows:—
While we have, as a body, contributed our labor in the past to enhance the wealth and promote the welfare of the community, we have as a class been deprived of one of the chief benefits to be derived from industry, namely, the acquisition of education and experience, the return that civilization makes for the labor of the individual. Our want in this respect not only extends to general education, and experience such as fit the man to adorn the society of his fellows, but to that special education and experience required to enable us to enter successfully the departments of a diversified industry.

We ask that your Representatives in Congress may be instructed to afford such aid, in extending education to the uneducated classes in the States we represent, as may be consistent with the financial interests of the nation. Although we urge our unrequited labors in the past as the [510] ground of this appeal, yet we do not seek these benefits for ourselves alone, but for the white portion of the laboring-class in our States, whose need is as great as ours.

In order to secure the promotion of our industrial interests, you can render us assistance. It is true we have no demands to make of the national government in this respect; but it is in the power of the people of the United States to aid us materially. In order to advance our knowledge and skill in the industrial arts, it is necessary that we should have the advantage of the means employed in the country at large for those purposes. That in preparing for industrial pursuits and in putting our skill in operation, we should come in contact with educated and experienced workmen, and be put in possession of the result of their skill and knowledge. If the trades and workshops are shut against us, we cannot reach that point of excellence to which we desire to attain. We ask your aid and sympathy in placing us on the same footing in reference to the pursuit of industry, as that enjoyed by other citizens. If, after having access to the means of becoming skillful workmen, we fail to attain that standing, we are content to take rank among the industrial classes of the country according to the degree of our proficiency. Should we be excluded from these benefits, a state of things will arise, most prejudicial to the interest of skilled labor, namely, the existence of a great body of workmen ready to supply the market with poor work, at cheap rates. While slavery existed, the Northern States were not affected by the low state of the industrial arts in the Southern States; but labor being now free to find the best market, it is, beyond question, the interest of the artificers of the North to raise the standard of proficiency at the South. It is clearly the interest of the great industries of the North to strengthen themselves by alliance with those at the South. This result would be practicable to the fullest extent, if those of our color throughout the North could be placed in a position to bring among us the best knowledge and skill in the departments of trade to which they belong.


During the session of this Convention, the following letter from Mr. Sumner was read:

Boston, October 21, 1871.
Dear Sir: I am glad that our colored fellow-citizens are to have a convention of their own. So long as they are excluded from rights, or [511] suffer in any way, on account of color, they will naturally meet together in order to find a proper remedy, and, since you kindly invite me to communicate with the convention, I make bold to offer a few brief suggestions.

In the first place, you must at all times insist upon your rights, and here I mean not only those already accorded, but others still denied, all of which are contained in equality before the law. Wherever the law supplies a rule, there you must insist upon equal rights. How much remains to be obtained, you know too well in the experience of life. Can a respectable colored citizen travel on steamboats or railways, or public conveyances generally, without insult on account of color? Let Lieutenant-Governor Dunn, of Louisiana, describe his journey from New Orleans to Washington. Shut out from proper accommodations in the cars, the doors of the Senate Chamber opened to him, and there he found the equality which a railroad conductor had denied. Let our excellent friend, Frederick Douglass, relate his melancholy experience, when, within sight of the Executive Mansion, he was thrust back from the dinner-table where his brother commissioners were already seated. You know the outrage. I might ask the same question in regard to hotels, or even common schools. An hotel is a legal institution, and so is a common school. As such, each must be for the equal benefit of all. Now, can there be any exclusion from either on account of color? It is not enough to provide separate accommodations for colored citizens, even if in all respects as good as those of other persons. Equality is not found in an equivalent, but only in equality. In other words, there must be no discrimination on account of color. The discrimination is an insult and a hindrance, and a bar, which not only always destroys comfort and prevents equality, but weakens all other rights.

The right to vote will have new security when your equal right in public conveyances, hotels, and common schools, is at last established; but here you must insist for yourselves, by speech, by petition, and by vote. Help yourselves, and others will help you also. The Civil Rights law needs a supplement to cover such cases. This defect has been apparent from the beginning, and, for a long time, I have striven to remove it. I have a bill for this purpose now pending in the Senate. Will not my colored fellow-citizens see that those in power shall no longer postpone this essential safeguard? Surely, here is an object worthy of effort.

Nor has the Republican party done its work until this is established. [512] Is it not better to establish all our own people in the enjoyment of equal rights before we seek to bring others within the sphere of our institutions, to be treated as Frederick Douglass was on his way to the President from St. Domingo? It is easy to see that a small part of the means, the energy and the determined will spent in the expedition to St. Domingo, and in the prolonged war-dance about that island, with menace to the black Republic of Hayti, would have secured all our colored fellow-citizens in the enjoyment of equal rights. Of this there can be no doubt.

Among the cardinal objects in education which must be insisted on must be equality, side by side with the alphabet. It is vain to teach equality, if you do not practise it. It is vain to recite the great words of the Declaration of Independence, if you do not make them a living reality. What is lesson without example? As all are equal at the ballot-box, so must all be equal at the common school. Equality in the common school is the preparation for equality at the ballot-box; therefore do I put this among the essentials of education.

In asserting your own rights you will not fail to insist upon justice to all, under which is necessarily included purity in the government. Thieves and money-changers, whether Democrats or Republicans, must be driven out of our temple. Tammany Hall and the Republican self-seekers must be overthrown. There should be no place for either. Thank God, good men are now coming to the rescue! Let them, while uniting against corruption, insist upon equal rights for all, and also the suppression of lawless violence, wherever it shows itself, whether in the Ku-klux Klan outraging the South, or illicit undertakings outraging the black Republic of Hayti.

To these inestimable objects, add specie payments, and you have a platform which ought to be accepted by the American people. Will not our colored fellow-citizens begin this good work? Let them at the same time save themselves and save the country. These are the only hints which I submit to the convention, hoping that its proceedings will tend especially to the good wishes of the colored race. Accept my thanks and best wishes, and believe me faithfully yours,


During the years which followed the close of the Rebellion, Senator Sumner embraced every available opportunity [513] to press his Civil Rights Bill upon the Senate. Speech after speech, resolution after resolution, the occasion of presenting petitions from Colored persons,—one and all were alike to him. But he seemed to encounter that worst of all obstacles,—indifference—which it was impossible to overcome. Upon a direct vote, as a matter of principle, none of the friends of the three grand Amendments to the Constitution would have pretended to argue; and all objections urged were either confessedly futile, or totally unworthy of the spirit of Congress that had achieved so much for humanity, and for the elevation of the Colored race.

A Colored National Convention assembled in New Orleans in 1872, on the 15th of April. There were many able delegates in that body, and their proceedings were marked with high intelligence, calm deliberation, and maturity of judgment. The following letter was read from Mr. Sumner, and received with the profoundest respect and many demonstrations of admiration and gratitude:

Washington, April 7, 1872.
my Dear Sir: In reply to your inquiry, I make haste to say that, in my judgment, the Colored Convention should think more of principles than of men, except so far as men may stand for principles. Above all, let them insist on the rights of their own much-abused and insulted people. It is absurd for anybody to say that he ‘accepts the situation,’ and then deny the equal rights of the colored man. If the ‘situation’ is accepted in good faith, it must be entirely, including not merely the abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal suffrage, but also all those other rights which are still denied and abridged. There must be complete equality before the law, so that in all institutions, agencies or conveniences, erected or regulated by law, there can be no discrimination on account of color, but a black man shall be treated as a white man.

In maintaining their rights, it will be proper for the convention to invoke the Declaration of Independence, so that its principles and [514] promises shall become a living reality, never to be questioned in any way, but recognized always as a guide of conduct, and a governing rule in the interpretation of the national Constitution, being in the nature of a bill of rights, preceding the Constitution. It is not enough to proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. Equality must be proclaimed also, and as, since both are promised by the great declaration, which is a national act, and as from their nature they should be uniform throughout the country, both must be placed under the safeguard of national law. There can be but one liberty and one equality, the same in Boston and New Orleans, the same everywhere throughout the country. The colored people are not ungenerous, and therefore will incline to any measures of good — will and reconciliation; but I trust no excess of benevolence will make them consent to any postponement of those equal rights which are now denied. The disabilities of colored people, loyal and long-suffering, should be removed before the disabilities of former rebels, or at least the two removals should go hand-in-hand. It only remains that I should say, ‘Stand firm!’ The politicians will then know that you are in earnest, and will no longer be trifled with. Victory will follow soon, and the good cause be secure forever. Meanwhile, accept my best wishes for the convention, and believe me, dear professor, faithfully yours,


An intimate friend who had made his last call upon the Senator the Monday evening previous to his death, thus wrote, in the Washington Chronicle:
He greeted me, saying, ‘I am so weary thinking over my speech on finance.1 I wanted a change—a ray of sunlight—and I am so glad you [515] came.’ He at once began to talk on European politics, which to him was an outspread map, and whose kaleidoscopic changes he viewed with absorbing interest. He spoke of Gladstone—his noble struggle in the cause of Liberalism, his success, his failure, and his fall; he gave a sketch of a breakfast with him, and summed up by expressions of his firm faith in the ultimate triumph of those principles which Gladstone so nobly championed. ‘A great man under the shadow of a defeat,’ said he, ‘is taught how precious are the uses of adversity, and as an oak tree's roots are strengthened by its shadow, so all defeats in a good cause are but resting-places on the road to victory at last.’ He spoke of the patchwork Empire of Germany, of Bismarck, and Della Marmora—of truth, stranger than fiction, viz., of the Italian statesman's assertion of Bismarck's offer to cede France a portion of German territory —of the impolicy of the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine—of the differences with the Catholic Church, the imprisonment of her prelates—and then, taking a volume of Milton, he read, in deep, rich tones of tender melody, his famous sonnet upon the persecution of the Waldenses during Cromwell's protectorate.

In closing, he added: ‘Thus history revenges herself.’ About this time his evening mail was brought; whenever he came to one interesting note or letter he would look it over and then hand it to me to read. * * * The next letter was from Philadelphia, an anonymous attack of the bitterest description, impugning his motives concerning his speech on the International Centenary Exposition, winding up with a threat of violence, which I forbear to transcribe. As he handed it to me he said, good-humoredly: ‘I am used to such letters.’ I read it, and, as I did so, consigned it to the blazing grate. The next letter was from Indiana, one of those good, whole-souled letters, full of sympathy and admiration, with an urgent, earnest invitation for him to visit the writer next summer, and an offer of generous and unstinted hospitality. ‘There,’ said he, ‘you have burned the bane, and here is the antidote.’ His next letter was from Boston, fill of hearty thankfulness for his restoration to health, and cheer for the future. It was closely written, [516] and as he handed it to me he said: ‘This is no summer friend.’ The last of many letters was one of congratulation about the Massachusetts legislative resolutions, rescinding the vote of censure. I never saw him look more happy than when he finished reading it. He then arose and showed me with satisfaction the legislative resolutions beautifully engrossed on parchment, and observed the copies for the Representatives were simply on paper. I asked, ‘Will you address the Senate when they are presented?’ He replied, ‘The dear old Commonwealth has spoken for me, and that is enough.’


His last speech in the Senate—the Friday before his death—was on the subject of the Centennial Celebration, strongly urging that it should be made simply a National, and not an International affair—fearing it would be attended with corruption, and end in failure; and in doing so, he laid down the following propositions, which he commended to the attention of the Senate and the country, and which he intended subsequently to enforce by further argument:
The Centennial celebration of 1876 should be first and foremost, and I think it scarcely too much to say, only a grateful vindication of 1776.

It should be severely and grandly simple, not ostentatious or boastful.

It should be inexpensive, for a thousand obvious reasons; but, above all, because it does not become a nation any more than an individual on the verge of bankruptcy to be extravagant, especially at the moment when the attention of the world is invited to the study and imitation of her methods of management.

It should be national and not provincial. It should be so conducted that all, and not a few only, can participate in it.

It should not involve the displacement of large masses of people, which is perilous to the health, expensive, and more or less demoralizing.

It should be free from every feature calculated to sectionalize or divide [517] the country, and be so managed as to secure the greatest possible harmony and unanimity.

It should be as educating and elevating in its influences as possible, both in this and foreign countries.

All these results may be secured by proper instrumentalities. I think none of them will be if the Philadelphia scheme is encouraged by the Federal Government any further. Of the international part of it, the converting it into a European Fair, with an American corner for Yankee notions, I will not trust myself to speak.

To all these considerations I add yet another. A World's Fair is essentially governmental in character. Such it has been in other countries, and such I fear it must be in ours. The Government invites, the Government is host; the Government, therefore, must guide and shape its conduct, and must pay the expenses, as if it were the army or navy.

1 One cause of regret, even in his dying hours, was that he had not been well enough to participate in the Debate on Finance then going on in the Senate. But although his inflexible opposition to any further inflation of the currency was well known, he placed the matter beyond the reach of doubt by writing the following with his own hand:—‘Mr. Sumner consented with great reluctance to the original measure suspending specie payments, and he has been always for the earliest practicable resumption. At different times he has introduced bills to secure this result, and has urged it by speech at home and in the Senate. During the present session he has introduced a bill providing for the monthly withdrawal of greenbacks by the substitution of compound interest notes, which has been approved by many leading financial characters, and especially by the Boston Board of Trade. He regrets the withdrawal of money from Massachusetts, but regards this measure as insignificant by the side of the attempt to inflate the currency. He sees no objection to free banking if united with specie payments. The possibility of a new issue of inconvertible paper he regards with amazement and anxiety, and, in his judgment, such an issue would be a detriment and a shame.’

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