Final Vote to be Taken in the Senate To-day.

January 21, 1870


The final pieces of the Virginia admission are decided.


A prolonged, tedious session of the Senate was that of to-day upon the Virginia bill. Not a single incident occurred to enliven the proceedings, but much of the discussion was, nevertheless, of an exceedingly interesting character to the few who consider the legal aspects of the controversy and the practical working out of the various amendments and propositions looking to the future. There was a strong desire to bring the subject to a final vote this evening, but Mr. Sumner and others who desire to be heard at length opposed the determination of the matter to-day, and the result, after ineffectual efforts to adjourn or take a recess, was an agreement that at 4 o'clock to-morrow a final vote shall be had. The bill will go to the House loaded down with conditions in the nature of amendments to the original House bill, and the probability is that a prolonged debate upon these additions to the bill will follow, so that it is not unlikely that the senators and representatives from Virginia may not take their seats before the 1st of March. The "shape, if shape it might be called, that shape had none," that the argument assumed this afternoon was that of the right of Congress to impose fundamental conditions upon a State seeking admission. The effect of these conditions and the power of Congress to enforce them after the State shall have taken her position in the Federal Union and when her senators and representatives shall have been seated. Senator Harlan made, by all odds, the moat compact, comprehensible, and plausible, argument from the Radical standpoint that has yet been presented upon this subject. He labored to show that in the case of the admission of Ohio, Nebraska, and other northwestern States, and the southern States, fundamental conditions, executory in their character, had been imposed, and that no attempt had ever been made successfully to set aside these conditions. He was in favor of attaching conditions because the delegates from Virginia had expressed in writing a willingness to comply with them, and because, however sincere and honest Governor Walker and the delegates may be in their protestations and professions, they would in time be succeeded by others in office who would not probably feel bound by the pledges of their predecessors. Senator Thurman (Democrat), of Ohio, utterly battered down the premises of Harlan's argument by showing that the fundamental conditions (so called) in the case of Ohio and other States cited related to matters of taxation of public lands and like property considerations, and that Congress had never until now assumed the power to affix political fundamental conditions to the admission of a State. He showed that in the Ohio bill and others it was declared that the State shall have the same rights as other Stales us to sovereignty, freedom, and independence; that Virginia, in ceding territory to build up northwestern States, had accorded these sovereign rights to them, and now comes a senator from a northwestern State to deny to Virginia the rights she had granted to them. This was so forcibly put that the whole batch of Radical intolerants winced under the blow. The senators' new-fangled notions had been floundering about for some days in endeavors to find an answer to the query: "Has Congress the power to enforce the conditions after Virginia has become a State?" None of these political empirics had been able to find the remedy; and finding in Senator Thurman a profound jurist and statesman, they took advantage of his presence on the floor and interrogated him, thus getting an opinion from a good lawyer without the cost of a retainer. Senator Thurman informed them that in the compacts with new States, in case of failure or violation of conditions as to all property matters, such as taxing public lands, etc., the remedy was in the civil courts, but that the political power of a State can only be limited and controlled by the Constitution of the United States, or by amending it to suit the exigency. The remedy is not by depriving the State of her representation in Congress. But the Radicals now propose to do all this by act of Congress. This speech of Senator Thurman produced a profound impression. Senator Conkling followed him in a similar strain, and supported his argument by citations from decisions of the Supreme Court. Wallace.
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Charles Simmonds




“Final Vote to be Taken in the Senate To-day.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed November 28, 2022,