The Debate Grows Hot.
January 14, 1870
The admission of Virginia is almost guaranteed, but the opposition will not give up.
As the debate on the admission of Virginia progresses the interest in the subject intensifies. Whilst the proceedings in the House are attracting more attention day by day, they lack that excitement which the discussion in the Senate creates. Again to-day the Senate chamber was crowded in the galleries and upon the floor. During the greater part of the afternoon a number of the members of the House occupied seats upon the sofas in the Senate, attracted by the fact (which had got noised about) that there were some lively occurrences transpiring in that usually sedate and dignified assembly. General Sherman and other distinguished persons were present, and remained throughout the session, almost from the commencement of the Virginia discussion. The most grave and reverend seniors indulged in the retort courteous, and then, as their passions got the better of their judgment, gave the lie circumstantial and the lie direct, slightly modified with Pickwickian phraseology. Mr. Sumner, who has for three days in succession had Parliamentary encounters with his brethren on the Republican side of the chamber, was to-day confronted by the most formidable of all his adversaries, Mr. Trumbull, who, when aroused, hurls the most crushing shafts of irony and sarcasm known to modern intelectual warfare. These two learned gentlemen consumed the most of the session in activity relative to their several politic reports, and endeavored each to overwhelmn the other with instances wherein the one or the other had been inconsistent with his professions. While they were thus engaged there was manifested upon the floor and in the galleries intense interest, and their several friends appeared to feel well satisfied with the manner in which the one demolished each other. Virginia was quite forgotten for the time, and the political history and doings of the two senators took her place. Governor Walker, of Virginia, and Porter, a member elect of the House from the Richmond district, were present, the latter by the side of Sumner as a client by a lawyer in court fronting his attorney. Governor Walker sat upon a sofa at the other end of the Senate-chamber, having by his side nearly all the time one or other of the senators who favor the unconditional admission of the senators and representatives from his State. Mr. Trumbull referred to the fact that there were no facts or statements given upon which it was claimed that the admission of the State should be delayed, and that Mr. Sumner seemed to be hissed on by a person sitting by his side. Hereupon Porter rose from his seat, alongside of Mr. Sumner, and skulked off to a sofa in the corner in the rear of his attorney. Mr. Sumner demanded of Mr. Trumbull an explanation. "What person does the Senator refer to?" was his question. Mr. Trumbull did not know who the person was, but he was not a member of the Senate, and there he had found him for three or four days. Mr. Sumner desired to know if the Senator would exclude a member of the other House from the floor? Mr. Trumbell said the person (Porter) had no right upon the floor of the Senate. He was not yet a member of the House. Mr. Sumner wanted to know how about Governor Walker? He was upon the floor, and he asked, Had it come to this, that the disloyal men of Virginia shall be admitted to the Senate chamber whilst complaint is made of the presence of the loyal Porter? Thereupon Mr. Trumbull showed up the loyal Porter by reading the proceedings of a court-martial in which the loyal Porter has been tried for treasonable and seditious language; and among other things alleged against him, and for which he was found guilty, was charging the President with being drunk nine days in succession. This reading caused a general laugh throughout the Senate chamber, and all eyes were turned towards the loyal Porter, who gave evidence of a strong desire to retire; but when Mr. Trumbull read further, that the loyal Porter had been found guilty only of charging the President with drunkenness but acquitted as to the nine days in succession, there went forth a shout of laughter the like of which has not been heard in these halls for many a day, and Porter was squelched. Here Mr. Sumner arose and asked, Is the Senator through? Mr. Trumbull: Not quite-and here another laugh. Mr. Trumbull said Governor Walker was entitled to come upon the floor of the Senate. The rules expressly named governors of States as among the privileged, and Sumner's dragging Walker into the case was gratuitous. Sumner rose in a passion, and asked if Trumbull had not judged "himself to be burned." Quoting what he claimed to be an ecclesiastical phrase, he charged Trumbull with being influenced by personal feeling and not open to reason. He repelled the charge that he claimed to be the exclusive representative of loyalty in the Senate but of the loyal people. He said he found no support in Trumbull, who, he said, was trifling with the rights of the colored people, and handing them over to the hands of the rebel Legislature of Virginia. Mr. Trumbull replied that it was easy to make an assertion, but another thing to prove it. The records would show where he had stood, and he had charge of the reconstruction bills in the Senate, and yet there rises here a senator to accuse him, and speaks as though he were the exclusive champion of freedom. Had Sumner had his way slavery would not have been abolished. He (Sumner) had endeavored to engraft upon the legislation of Congress his own idiosyncracies and impracticabilities, and had tried to abolish slavery by a law of Congress. He is run away with his judgment. Mr. Sumner said he needed no vindication, and so the rencontre ended. Except the debate on Mr. Edmunds's amendment to compel the members of the Legislature to take the oath prescribed in his amendment before Virginia shall be I admitted, nothing further occurred, and the Senate adjourned. Wallace.
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“The Debate Grows Hot.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 4, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1564.