Staunton Spectator: September 19, 1865Go To Page : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
Suffrage In The Free States
(Column 06)Summary: This article reports on the practice of many "Free States" which "make color (or race) the test of voting."
Full Text of Article:
The following Free States make color (or race) the test of voting: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas. Negroes are not permitted to vote in these States.
The Constitution of Ohio limits the elective franchise to "every white freeman," but by the decision of the Courts of that State, every person of one-half white blood, is deemed "a white male citizen," and such are permitted to vote.
"Missouri, by her late Free State Constitution, excludes the negro from voting."
Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, permit negro suffrage to a greater or less extent.
In the Constitution of West Virginia, the privilege of suffrage was conferred only upon "white male citizens."
A Word to Subscribers
(Column 01)Summary: The editor explains that the practice of sending the paper free of charge to those who had paid in Confederate money will now stop and those people will be charged regular subscription rates.President Johnson's Policy
(Column 01)Summary: The editor lauds Johnson's "generous and conciliatory policy" and encourages "every true Conservative man to rally to his support, and sustain him in this mighty struggle to steer the Ship of State safely through the breakers of Radicalism."
Full Text of Article:Important Address of President Johnson
The President's letter to the Governor of Mississippi, with reference to the militia difficulty, and his speech, published in this issue to a large number of Southern gentlemen who called upon him in Washington attest his generous confidence in the Southern people, and liberal sentiments towards them. The speech shows that the President entertains for the South the kindest feelings and indicates a generous and conciliatory policy. We are a little curious to see what the Radical journals in the North, who are constantly vilifying the Government, will now say of the man whom they have been representing as a Nero. It is the duty of the South to sustain the President and his policy as expressed in this speech. Let us demonstrate that the confidence he reposes in us is not misplaced; let us sustain him in his grand struggle for restoration upon constitutional principles; and the future will once more be restored to all her rights and privileges, under the Constitution of the United States.
We believe the President is inflexible in his purpose to do what is just and right, regardless of the heavy pressure brought to bear upon him by the Radicals, North and South. It is, therefore, the duty of every true Conservative man to rally to his support, and sustain him in this mighty struggle to steer the Ship of State safely through the breakers of Radicalism. We hail these utterances of the President with the liveliest satisfaction.
(Column 02)Summary: A report on a meeting in Washington, in which "a large number of Southern men" met with the President to praise his "sound and judicious policy" regarding Reconstruction. The President responded with a speech "full of subdued eloquence" in which he explained that while he opposed secession, so too does he oppose the "consolidation or concentration of power" in the federal government. The "Southern men" then praised Johnson for his generosity and magnanimity.[No Title]
(Column 03)Summary: This letter from "A Citizen" is a response to Maj. J. M. McCue's explanation of his conduct at the nominating meeting held at the Court House in August. "Citizen" castigates McCue's defense, published in the September 5 Spectator, arguing that McCue "like an infuriated reptile turned and bit himself while endeavoring to bite others." The author argues that McCue, not "the people of Augusta" made the nominations, as evidenced by "the general dissatisfaction pervading the county."
(Names in announcement: Maj. J. McCue, Col. William Bell)Trailer: A Citizen
To The Voters of the Sixth Congressional District
(Column 02)Summary: A letter from A. H. H. Stuart, detailing his public life during and since the war as well as his current positions. Stuart explains that "Virginia must now take her stand" against the constitutionality of the test-oath rather than grant any further "concessions" to the "radicals." Stuart also questions whether his opponent, Mr. Lewis, can take the oath.
(Names in announcement: Alexander Stuart, Lewis)Full Text of Article:
In obedience to earnest solicitations from many citizens of different counties of the District, seconded by the unanimous wish, of a mass meeting of the people of Augusta County, I have been induced to declare myself a candidate for Congress. The position was once which I neither sought nor desired. Whoever may be elected will find it no bed of roses -- but having been tendered to men under circumstances so flattering, I did not fell at liberty to shrink from its trials and responsibilities.
Having served the country in various public offices, from time to time during the last 28 years, I have a right to presume that my political antecedents are not entirely unknown to the people.
i was educated in the belief that the best interests of our country were inseparably associated with our national Union, and taught to cherish it as the Palladium of our liberties. As a member of the 27th Congress, and at later periods as one of the constitutional advisers of Mr. Fillmore, a Senator of Virginia, and a member of the Convention of 1861, my best energies were dedicated to the preservation of the Union.
I was inflexibly opposed to the secession of Virginia and voted persistently against the ordinance which proposed to sever our connexion with the United States. I believed, and in oral and printed addresses to the Convention and the people, I declared my belief that secession was unwise, inexpedient, unconstitutional and impracticable. I endeavored to prove to the people that it was fraught with evils which the mind could not contemplate without horror. Amidst all the tumult of excitement, when it required no small degree of courage to stand up against the popular clamor; and when day after day, members were asking leave to change their votes so as to conform to public sentiment, I remained unmoved. I refused to change my vote against the ordinance of secession, because my opinion of its mischievous character remained and still remains unchanged.
The ordinance passed the Convention on the 17th of April 1861. It was submitted to the popular vote for ratification or rejection on 4th Thursday in May following. In the mean time the war had commenced. Hostile armies were within the borders of Virginia, and the vote was a mere matter of form. I voted at the election for ratifying the ordinance, not because I approved, but because I do not believe that the war having begun, unless we all went together, we should have an internecine war added to the civil war which had already been inaugurated.
At the adjourned session of the Convention some moths after the ordinance had been ratified by the almost unanimous voice of my constituents, I signed the ordinance not because I approved it (for I still refused to change my vote on the journal) but because I believed it to be my representative duty to authenticate their act with usual forms.
When Virginia united her fortunes with those of the Southern Confederacy, I felt it to be my duty to acquiesce in her decision and to submit to the authority of the new government. But I felt it equally due to myself to retire from public life, and to remain in retirement, although and honorable and lucrative position was rendered to me by Mr. Davis.
During the war I abstained from all participation in public affairs except on two or three occasions when I was called to address public meetings to urge contribution for the relief of the suffering soldiers, and the prisoners going to as well as returning from the North.
My age relieve me from the obligation to render military service, and all the assistance I gave to the Confederate cause was by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and nursing the sick Confederate soldiers, and making myself, and urging others to make liberal donations for their relief.
But I would be wanting in candor if I fail to say that I did this voluntarily and that after my son and nephews, and brother-in-law, and other relatives had been drawn into the contest, by the inexorable conscription, all my sympathies were with my own people. Though I believed Virginia to be wrong I could not do otherwise than rejoice when she rejoiced and mourn when she mourned. I was proud of Lee and Jackson and Johnston and my kinsman Stuart, and the host of other gallant Virginians who won immortal honor in an ill-advised and unnecessary contest.
After the surrender of Lee, I prepared and signed a call for a mass meeting of the people of Augusta, to consider th propriety of accepting the result of the war as a final settlement to the matters in issue an of declaring our readiness to return to the Union and to conform our constitution and laws to the new condition of public affairs.
I was called to preside at the meeting and made an address to tit which was extensively published in Northern and Southern papers. It was held in the Southern States, and I have reason to believe that its proceedings did much to mould the public sentiment of the State in favor of the restoration of peace and tranquility to the country.
From that time to the present I have been an anxious spectator of the march of events, and I am gratified to be able to say, that under the wise and conciliatory policy of President Johnson, there is every reason to hope that a brighter day is about to dawn on our State. Slavery has been extirpated, and much inconvenience has arisen from the sudden overthrow of the labor system of the South. But the wonderful energy of our people will soon enable them to accommodate themselves to the change, and I believe there are few now who would care to encounter the hazards of a restoration of slavery, if it were left to their choice.
When in obedience to the call of my fellow citizens, I declared myself a candidate for Congress, it was with the view of rendering such aid as I could do the President in carrying out his conservative policy. Should I be elected such will be my purpose.
But I am met at the threshhold with the objection that I am ineligible, and that if chosen by the lawful voters of the district i will not be allowed to take my seat. On turning to the Constitution of the U. S. to test the question of my eligibility, I find the qualifications of a member of the House of Representatives prescribed in detail in that sacred instrument.
Art. 1, Sec. 2, provides that "No person shall be a representative who shall not have attained the age of 25, and been seven years a citizens of the United States, and who shall not when elected be an inhabitant of the State in which he shall be chosen."
This is the only clause which relates to the eligibility of members.
Art. 6 provides that the Senators and representatives before mentioned and the members of the State Legislatures and all Executive and Judicial officers of the United States, and of the several States, shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be requested as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
All the above qualifications I profess according to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. My age is more than twice 25 -- I am a native of, and have always, to the present hour, resided not only in the State but the District in which I am a candidate.
But it is said that Congress in 1862 has prescribed a new and additional qualification for membership, in the form of the following oath, which I will be required to subscribe before I can take my seat:
"I (A. B.) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given aid, countenance counsel or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto; that I have neither sought nor accepted nor attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatever under any authority or pretended authority in hostility to the United States; that I have not yielded a voluntary support to a pretended government, authority, power or constitution within the United States hostile or inimical thereto; and I do further swear (or affirm) that to the best of my knowledge and ability, I shall support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will swear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take his obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."
I propose briefly to examine this new Congressional test with a view to ascertain whether it is in conformity with the constitution, and whether Congress can consistently with that instrument require it to be taken.
In the 52nd No. of the Federalist, which is conceded on all hand to be the highest and most authentic exposition of the constitution, because it was written almost co-temporaneously with it, and by the men who are justly regarded as the fathers of the constitution, Mr. Madison in expounding the true meaning of Art.1 Sec.2. above quoted says: "A representative of the United States must be of the age of twenty-five years -- must have been seven years a citizen of the United States -- must at the time of his election be an inhabitant of the State he is to represent, and during the time of his service, must be in no office under the United States -- under these reasonable limitations, the door of this part of the federal government is open to [unclear] of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or any particular profession of religious faith.
The object of a written constitution is to confer on the several departments of government, the powers appropriate to each, and to impose such limitations and restrictions as shall restrain usurpation and abuse. It fixes their boundaries with all practicable precision and hedges them round with every necessary defence. Congress is itself the creature of the constitution and possesses only such powers as are granted by the Constitution. The constitution is the most solemn and authentic expression of the will of the nation. It can be altered only in the mode prescribed by the constitution itself. Congress can neither add to nor take from any of its provisions, for the constitution is as much a law unto Congress, as the acts of Congress are a law unto the people. The Constitution is a rule of action prescribed by the sovereign power, the people, to their agents the representatives in Congress. Whatever the constitution has done Congress cannot undo, nor can Congress do what the Constitution has left undone except in pursuance of some delegated power.
Certainly there can be no subject which more appropriately falls within the domain of the organic law, than this regulation of the tests of eligibility of members of the most potent and important department of the federal government. To leave a subject of so much abuse unsettled, and dependent on the caprice, or passion or party prejudices of the day, would argue a want of foresight by no means creditable to the wisdom of the fathers of the republic. Even in our State Constitutions we find the subjects of suffrage and eligibility to office always engaging the most earnest attention of their framers. How much more important is it that these matters should be fixed on a firm basis in a great federal Republic which reaches from ocean to ocean, and from the lakes of the north to the gulf, and embraces such a variety of sometimes apparently conflicting interests.
The wisdom of our fathers foresaw this necessity and they have proscribed with clearness all the tests of eligibility. I say all, on the authority of Mr. Madison, who says "under these reasonable limitations the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description." Mr. Madison wielded no careless pen. He was engaged in the discussion of a great subject of constitutional law. He was expounding the fundamental law of the republic for the then present and future generations. No other meaning can fairly be attached to his words than that the enumerated limitations were the only limitations to be imposed on eligibility, and that outside of these limitations were the only limitations to be imposed on eligibility, and that outside of those limitations the door of the House of Representatives was open to merit of every description.
The question then rises, can Congress add to the limitations prescribed by the Constitution? Can it enlarge or diminish the qualifications of age or residence? Can it abolish them altogether? If it has a right to mollify them at all, it would seem, by the same process of reasoning, that it would have the power to strike them out entirely. I presume however no such power will be claimed by the wildest zealot. Now if it cannot strike them out, can it nullify these provisions by adding others, which practically unsettle the very foundations of government.
The true principle seems to be this. The constitution prescribes the qualifications, and the two Houses apply the tests thus provided, to their respective members. You will look in vain among the grants of power to Congress for any clause which confers on Congress the right to prescribe new tests of eligibility or qualifications to the members of either house.
But it has been contended that under Sec. 5 of Art.1 this power exists. That Section reads thus, "Each House shall be the Judge of the elections, qualifications and returns of its own members.
Let us consider this clause carefully. In the first place it confers no power whatever on Congress, which is a body composed of two Houses. The expression "each House" clearly indicates that in the performance of the functions devolved on the houses respectively, they act separately. Each acts for itself.--Each is the sole judge of the election and qualification of its members. The House has nothing to do with the election &c. of Senators and the Senate has nothing to do with the election &c. of members.
But again the constitution says "each house shall be the Judge of the election &c." Does this clause grant legislative power to Congress? Does it authorize Congress to pass a law on the subject. Clearly not. The function which it is required to perform is simply judicial.--Each house is to Judge, in other words, it is to ascertain judicially, by the examination of evidence, whether each member possesses the constitutional requisites of eligibility, and to decide according to the evidence. In support of this view of the subject, I refer to the opinion of that distinguished jurist and constitutional lawyer, Chanceller Kent. In his Com: Vol. 1 Page 234, he says: "Each house is made the sole judge of the election return and qualifications of its members * * * as each house acts in these cases in a judicial character, its decisions, like the decisions of any other court of justice, ought to be regulated by known principles of law, and strictly adhered to for the sake of uniformity and certainty."
I think I am warranted therefore, in saying that this clause of the constitution confers no power on Congress to prescribe a test oath, like that required by the act of 1862.
The only remaining clause which bears on the subject, is the one already quoted, which provides that members of Congress, and all executive officers, State and Federal, shall take an oath to support the constitution of the U. S. It would require a keener vision than I possess, to discover in this provision any legitimate authority to require any other test. It can only be deduced by a very strained process of reasoning, from the clause forbidding the application of any religious test.--This system of reasoning involves a complete inversion of the true rule of construction applicable to the constitution, and assumes that Congress possesses all powers which are not prohibited specially, instead of only those which are granted.
Upon a fair view, then, of all the clauses of the constitution having any reference direct or indirect to the point under discussion. I am at a loss to perceive any authority delegated to Congress to pass any such law.
If we then turn from the language of the constitution, and consider the subject in the light of expediency and common sense, I think we will find the objections to the exercise of such a power, equally strong. If Congress has the power to provide one kind of test oath, why may it not provide any other, it may, from party feeling or prejudices, deem expedient. If the power exists, where are the limitations to it? The only limitation which seems to be recognized, is in regard to a religious test. If this be true, then Congress may pass a law providing for a property qualification, or any political test it may think proper. If this be conceded, then what is to hinder a dominant faction from perpetuating its power, by providing a test oath which will render all persons ineligible to Congress, who have opposed their peculiar policy? The precedent would be fraught with danger, and would convert our government of limited powers, hedged in by constitutional restrictions, into an absolute despotism, regulated and controlled only, by the will of a dominant majority. As the South is destined, in all future time, to be in a hopeless minority, it should be the last to surrender the safeguards of its rights provided by the constitution. We should make the issue at the outset. We should deny the right of Congress, to pass any such law. If our representatives should be excluded, we should appeal to the people, trusting that their patriotism would frown down all such efforts at injustice, and speedily re-establish the government on its true constitutional basis.
In regard to the true construction of the oath itself much diversity of opinion seems to exist. My competitor, Mr. Lewis, says he can take the oath, while I cannot. This is the strong objection which he, and his supporters, make to my election. They say, why elect me, when it is obvious that I will not be allowed to take my seat.
Mr. Lewis is an honorable and high toned gentlemen, and I have no doubt he thinks he can with propriety take the oath. I think he is in error on that point, and I believe that my chance of being received into Congress better than his. He seems to think that all that is necessary to secure his admission is that he shall take the oath. In this I think he is mistaken. If the radicals have the power they will exclude obnoxious members without regard to the oath. They will go behind he oath, and enquire into all the antecedents of every claimant of a seat. If they do this, how will Mr. Lewis stand? It is a matter of public policy, has he sought, obtained, and executed large contracts with the Confederate government to make iron to be used for military purposes. Surely it was quite as strong evidence of hostility to the U. S on his part to furnish its enemy iron to make cannon and shot, and shell to kill federal soldiers, as it was on mine to give, and in public speeches, to urge other to give food and clothing to famishing and naked soldiers, and the prisoners of both combatants.
Mr. Lewis and I differ as to the true construction of the oath. He and I occupied the same position of opposition to the war. I fed and clothed Confederate soldiers, and made speeches urging others to do the same. He fed and clothed soldiers and manufactured large quantities of iron for the Confederacy under the special contracts with it. He seems to think that his opposition to the war reaches through and gives color to all his acts during the war, that as he was involuntarily involved in the war that that want of volition will apply to all his acts. In my judgement, the oath requires that the test of [unclear] shall be applied to each separate act. If he voluntarily bought iron works, and entered into and executed contracts for making iron. He has incurred the penalty intended to be denounced by the act of 1812. If I am in error, and Mr. Lewis's construction of the oath be correct then I can take it as readily as he.
In conclusion, I will add that I have received from several NOrthern States assurances that my elections will be hailed with satisfaction, by the conservative men of the North. My earnest and persistent opposition to secession is well known throughout the Northern States, and I have good reason to believe that I would be admitted to my seat.
The question seems to men, to narrow itself down to this. Whose views are you to consult in selecting your representatives? Are you to seek to conciliate the radicals or the conservatives? If I am elected, I shall co-operate with the conservatives. The radicals, having taken open ground against the policy of President Johnson, I will seek to strengthen his hands, and support him against his enemies. Common providence as well as common gratitude, dictates this course.
Virginia must now take her stand. If we surrender the great principle now in issue, where is concession to stop. Each concession will furnish the ground work for further demands, and we may find in the end that we have conceded until we have forfeited our own self-respect, and the respect of our adversaries. Better that Virginia be unrepresented than underrepresented.
Alex. H. H. Stuart.
Trailer: Alex. H. H. Stuart[No Title]
(Column 05)Summary: Joseph Waddell, responding to two letters in the Spectator nominating him for the House of Delegates, explains that while the "place has no value for me, if obtained by the dint of electioneering" he nevertheless would be "willing to serve and would feel honored by an election."
(Names in announcement: Joseph Waddell)Trailer: Jos. A. Waddell
The Lay of a Freedman
(Column 01)Summary: A poem mocking the plight of freedmen, composed from the viewpoint of an imaginary freedman who concludes by noting that "its berry hard, To starve on Liberty."