January 13, 1870
Virginia will be admitted to the Union without further sanctions.
It is evident from what has transpired in the Senate that the hill reported by the Judiciary Committee for the admission of the senators and representatives of Virginia will pass that body probably without amendment. Already it is discovered that only Senators Sumner, Drake, and about half a dozen others, take stand in opposition to the Administration on the subject of admitting that State. The House may pass a bill imposing conditions, to apply to the future action of that State. The Senate will not pass the House bill, the House will reject the Senate bill, and then will come a conference committee, in which both branches must yield something, the result being the passage of a bill or joint resolution admitting the State with, probably, a recital in the preamble of the acts done by the State Legislature, such as the adoption of the fifteenth amendment and of other stipulations heretofore made by Congress as conditions precedent to admitting the State to representation. Incidental to the discussion of the merits of the Virginia case, there has arisen a question that overthrows all propositions involved in the mere stipulations or reconstruction acts, and that question is the ratification of the fifteenth amendment, and the power of a State Legislature in the matter of the adoption or rejection of amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Among congressmen there are but few who appear to have given the subject the attention required to a proper understanding of it, but as yet no good lawyer in the Senate or House has failed to appreciate the importance of the point, and several have for themselves disposed of the proposition by unqualifiedly announcing that a State Legislature cannot, under any circumstances, repeal or revoke its ratification of the proposed amendment. Nevertheless, sound lawyers and Republicans of Congress are not satisfied with such a disposition of the question. Until the requisite number of States shall have ratified the proposed amendment, it is no part of the Constitution, and until the moment arrives when such number have been officially recorded in the State Department, it is lawful for the Legislature of any State that may have passed resolutions ratifying the amendment to revoke these resolutions. This is upon the idea that it is a State always acting, and not a particular Legislature. The State is a party to the transaction, and may at any time before the full consummation of the agreement (for such it is) between it and the people of the United States represented in Congress withdraw its assent to the contract. Such are the arguments substantially advanced by some of the lawyers in the Senate. The discussion in the House to-day upon the bill developed no new ideas or propositions. Speeches (but three in number) attracted little attention during their delivery. Members were generally engaged in reading papers, or gathered in groups chatting and cracking jokes. The main interest still centres in the Senate, where several able speeches were made to-day, the most noticeable being that of Senator Conkling, who thoroughly considered the subject in its legal and political bearings, and gave conclusive reasons why the State should be immediately admitted without further legislation. It is probable that both branches of Congress will be engaged another day in the discussion before the vote is taken. Mr. Thurman offered an amendment, which occasioned general laughter, that the States of New York, Ohio, and New Jersey, be excluded from representation because the former had rescinded its ratification of the fifteenth amendment and the other because of its action upon the fourteenth amendment. Shortly afterwards he withdrew this. Mr. Edmunds suggested an amendment requiring the oath from State officers, in order that they shall not be obnoxious to the fourteenth amendment. Mr. Wilson offered an amendment to the bill of the Reconstruction Committee reported in the House yesterday. Sumner submitted a memorial from certain Republicans of Virginia, now in Washington, containing a statement of affairs in that State, setting forth that the memorialists are desirous of showing that the majority of the present Virginia Legislature were elected by fraud, violence, and intimidation, and suggesting that Congress enforce the existing reconstruction acts until satisfied that all voters are given an opportunity to vote freely; alleges the exclusion of colored men from the jury box, and that the right of secession is as firmly believed in as at any time during the war; that the loaders of the Walker party publicly declared in the late canvass they had supported the so-called expurgated Constitution for the purpose of securing the admission of the State; that members of the Legislature recently avowed the purpose of deceiving Congress; that one of the delegation that waited on the House Reconstruction Committee said that when Butler told them he would take the word of Virginia gentlemen, he felt for his watch, because he knew the General had a very taking way with him; that parties referred to declared, in regard to pledging the Legislature to carry out the new Constitution, they would just as readily certify that Butler never stole any spoons; that they can show that Governor Walker was a Copperhead during the war, and in full sympathy with the rebellion; that he was president of a club in Chicago organized to rescue rebel prisoners; that his political proclivities have not undergone change since; that during the canvass in Virginia he publicly declared his decision to vote for General R. E. Lee because he was the greatest soldier of the age. He was pledged to oppose the common school system, securing civil and political rights to the people; since the election he has spoken of Virginia as being under usurpation and tyranny, meaning thereby Congress was revolutionary; and, in conclusion, Virginia should not be admitted until her legislators take the test oath, and that the seats of those who cannot, should be awarded to their opponents. Signed, Isaac P. Baldwin, chairman; John T. Davis, secretary; Robert Morton, P. H. Montague, B. Wardwell, W. E. Crockett, G. C. Marshall, J. R. Doughty, C. H. Porter, Luther Lee, J. R. S. William-son-all in same handwriting. Senator Nye said he would submit whether the communication was not so disrespectful as to require its exclusion from the Senate. He was surprised that the senator from Massachusetts would present a paper that reflected in the grossest possible manner upon a colleague of his own in a coordinate branch. Senator Sumner said Mr. Nye did him great injustice, inasmuch as the memorial simply set forth remarks upon conversations between parties and General Butler showing how little of confidence could be placed in men forward in the movement in behalf of Virginia. Mr. Nye said he would not himself be guilty of reflection on a colleage by the means here resorted to. The memorial bad originated, from the names attached to it, from that class of men who had been hanging around the Senate and both Houses of Congress with the purpose of keeping Virginia from a position to which she is entitled. He thought it unfortunate for the opponents of Virginia that their last gun should have been fired with so little effect. Virginia had complied with every congressional requirement. The election had been held according to law, but did not satisfy the petitioners; somebody was disappointed, and now hoped to soothe their feelings by the intervention of Congress. The War Department record showed that Governor Walker had offered his services to put down the rebellion. There was no truth in any charge against him in the memorial. Mr. Sumner would have the southern States knocking at the door until locks rust with the dew of night. He (Nye) was tired of this reconstruction hobby which had been ridden through Congress so many years. Senator Stewart defended Governor Walker and denounced the memorialists. Several of them were defeated candidates. Mr. Sumner wanted to know if it had come to this that loyal people cannot be heard on the Senate floor. Here ensued a controversy between Sumner and Stewart as to their own loyalty to the Republican party, in which Stewart informed Sumner that the latter had been arrogant and dictorial, and that they would suffer no more of his cracking of the whip over their heads. Wallace. The Admission of Virginia. Washington, Jan. 12.-Senator Drake's amendment to the Virginia bill will fail, and the original bill will pass the Senate. The result in the House is more uncertain, as new members are constantly arriving and the discussion will probably be prolonged two or three days. Congressional. Washington, January 12.-Senate.--The Senate took up Mr. Sumner's finance bill looking to the early restoration of specie payment. Mr. Sumner said there were more important matters pleading for consideration than the complete restoration of the South. Mr. Sumner presented a protest signed by thirteen persons against the admission of Virginia. Mr. Thurman said every one of the signers were office-holders who would lose their offices on the admission of the State. The Virginia bill was then taken up and discussed until adjournment with quite bitter crimination and recrimination among the Republican senators.. Adjourned without any definite action. House.-The resolutions of the New York Legislature withdrawing its ratification of the fifteenth amendment were presented and tabled. Mr. Garfield introduced a bill abolishing the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands; and a bill repealing the act of June, 1862, defining additional causes for challenge, and prescribing additional oaths to grand and petit jurors of the United States. The Virginia bill was resumed. Mr. Farnsworth, in discussing it, said it would almost be better to follow the Bible recommendation and "swear not at all" than to have this eternal repetition of oaths, which exclude intelligence, worth, and wealth, from public office. Mr. Paine, another member of the Reconstruction Committee, favored the bill. Without action, the House adjourned.
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“Virginia.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 4, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1562.