Speculations on the Subject of Admission.

January 18, 1870


Senators blocked the admission of Virginia by filibustering again.


Special telegram to the Dispatch. Washington, January 17, 1870. In expectation of a final vote upon the bill to admit Virginia to representation, the Senate galleries were crowded this afternoon by a more respectable and elegantly--attired class of people than has before attended the meetings of Congress at the present session. The floor of the Senate was also well filled by notables, amongst them General Sherman and Governor Walker, of Virginia. Though compelled to listen to very dull and not at all pertinent speeches, the auditors sat it out patiently until near 5 o'clock, hoping the vote would be taken; but the Senate at that hour went into executive session, and the spectators dispersed much disappointed. The position the matter assumed finally was not anticipated; for it was expected that a final vote would certainly be taken to-day; but several senators deemed it necessary to place themselves upon the record in long speeches, wherein the real merits of the bill pending were not discussed, but the histories of the Democratic and Republican parties were recited, interlarded with the political records of the speakers. The temporary postponement of the Senate bill and the taking up in its stead the House bill was expected, as was the Edmunds-Willey amendment, that has passed the Senate as an amendment to the Senate Judiciary Committee's bill. Much interest was manifested as to the vote on the amendment, but it was not disposed of at the hour of adjournment. The best judgment to-night is that the Senate will to-morrow pass the Bingham bill as it came from the House; but many are of the opinion that the Edmunds-Willey amendment will be incorporated in it, and thus send the bill back to the House for concurrence. The amendment does not affect past action, and does not delay the admission of the senators and representatives from Virginia, as it but requires an oath as to disabilities under the fourteenth amendment to be taken by the members of the Legislature before they can again participate in the proceedings of the State Legislature. So that if the bill shall be amended as proposed by Messrs. Edmunds and Willey the members of Congress can immediately take their seats. General Butler was upon the floor of the Senate most of the afternoon moving around actively among Senators. It is said he was endeavoring to get the bill back to the House that he might have another turn of the reconstruction wheel; but so far as external evidences in the deportment of those whom Butler approached will go to show sentiment it is fair to judge that the Massachusetts member did not meet with much encouragement. The general dullness of the performances were occasionally enlivened by a scintillation of wit provoked by side remarks or in running debate. Objecting to giving Virginia a liberal bill and to trusting to the sincerity and honor of her citizens, Mr. Morrill, of Vermont, inquired why the Republican party wanted to commit suicide. Senator Davis promptly replied, "Because the party feels that it ought to be hung." This brought down the House in a roar of laughter. Morrill proceeded in his speech, in which he avowed his opposition to admitting Virginia under any conditions, she being the worst of the States that rebelled, and he could not see what the Republican party wanted with her, unless like the girl who married her trifling lover just to get rid of him. He would rather trust the rebels, however, than the Democratic party. This brought Senator Saulsbury down upon the liberal gentleman from Vermont, who received a sound drubbing at the hands of that stalwart senator. Saulsbury said he felt very much disturbed; and the two millions of Democrats would be terribly distressed when they should come to hear that they had not the confidence of a man so distinguished, and of such national reputation as the Vermont senator. During the nine years' rule of the Radical party they had succeeded in placing a fresh grate on nearly every acre of land and creating an enormous public debt; so rending and tearing the Constitution that if the framers of that instrument should rise up from their graves or come down from Heaven they would not be able to recognize their offspring. Mr. Edmunds read a letter he had just received from an ex-rebel, who cautioned him not to believe any man who, having been engaged in rebellion, would take the oath prescribed by the reconstruction acts. He also read from what he said was a printed copy of Governor Walker's speech, where Walker is represented as saying he would not execute certain of the provisions of the State Constitution. Sumner broke in with "Who says that?" Edmunds replied: "Governor Walker." Thereat Sumner exclaims in stentorian voice, "Take the traitor"; and here another burst of laughter from the audience. That accomplished, erudite statesman, Thayer, of Nebraska, wound up the entertainment in one of the most perfect types of stump speech, in which he, too, asserted that the people of Virginia were not worthy of forgiveness, and should be perpetually kept out in the cold, and he foamed and spat, and spat and hated, and spat again. Very good orators. When they are out they spit, says Shakespeare; but there were no Thayers in senate chambers in Shakespeare's time. He was born of the Radical party, and such a statesman as he was never known before. Wallace.
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Charles Simmonds




“Speculations on the Subject of Admission.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 20, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1572.