General Grant and the Constitution

May 19, 1869


The Cabinet voted against allowing the county organizations clause being submitted as a separate vote from the Constitution. However, this is not President Grant's fault.


General Grant, and the Constitution. Our neighbors of the Whig and Enquirer have both referred to the course of General Grant upon the question of the clauses to be voted upon separately. There is entire concurrence between them as to General Grant's expressions upon the subject and his agreement with the "committee of nine" even down to the very day that the Cabinet voted against allowing the "county organizations" clause to be submitted to a separate vote. And this it literally true. We are informed on good authority that General Grant urged the Cabinet to place the county organizations amongst the separated articles, but the vote was four to three against him: the President and Messrs. RAWLINS and FISH for, and Messrs. BOUTWELL, CREWELL, HOAR, and Cox, against the separation. This proves the sincerity of the President to the very last. How happened it that the Cabinet was against him ? Why, through the agency of Governor Wells. Even when the message asking for the President the authority of Congress to submit separately such part of the constitution as he might select, the Governor was beyond question on the lookout. Like the fallen angel (except that he never was an angel), he disputed every inch of ground on his way to the place of his doom. When he was forced to eat his own words, and give up the disenfranchisement and disqualifications, he determined to hold on at least to the " county organizations." That would enable him to gratify some small part of his malice towards the people of Virginia. He could vex and fret them, and impair their peace and prosperity, and foster that alienation between the races on which he mainly relics for success, in that way. So he set about the work, either directly or indirectly, with that indefatigable industry in trickery in which he has no superior. The specious argument suggested was that among other things the county organizations provided for the election of a school superintendent. and that to leave out the section would be fatal to the educational system. General Grant is an earnest advocate of education, and this was an argument that at least caused him to pause. For he stated himself that in the first draft of the message to Congress on the subject he named the disenfranchising clauses and the county organizations as proper to be submitted to a separate vote. This message was held back five days, and indeed all idea of sending it was abandoned because the President feared that its introduction into Congress might create debate and prolong tlie session. But at the instance of General Farnsworth, who in the House moved the resolution on the subject, the message was sent in. It was not. however, in the text of the original message. It was changed and some parts erased--among them that specifying what was proper to be left out; in lieu of which a mere general phrase was inserted, leaving the whole matter to the President without naming any clause. The President was not asked why he had changed the message in this particular: but we may very easily conjecture. The committee that waited upon him on Friday showed how easy it was to strike out the county organizations without affecting the question of education, and we doubt not the President acted upon their suggestions. The whole matter, as the Whig suggests. turns upon the question of submitting the subject to the consideration of the Cabinet. Had the President decided it himself, his decision would have been just but the reverse has been the decision ol the Cabinet, behind which we see the Satanic leer of the military Governor of this state ! Whether right in consulting the Cabinet or not, the President thought it right. It was for him to decide. A letter in the Baltimore Sun says the matter will probabably be reconsidered, li would be very gratifying to us all if it were to be reopened; but there has been so little disposition to reconsider, with the purpose of favoring us, that we fear the statement of the writer will not be borne out by the facts.
About this article

Contributed By

Ali O'Hara




“General Grant and the Constitution,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed October 21, 2021,