Interesting Proceedings. The Bill Passed-48 to 10.

January 22, 1870


The admission of Virginia finally makes it through Congress.


Since the days of the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson no such packing of the Senate galleries has been witnessed as that of this afternoon, when the people gathered in great crowds to hear the discussion upon the Virginia bill. Every nook and corner was occupied, and hundreds were unable to obtain entrance. A large portion of the audience was composed of elegantly dressed ladies. The floor of the Senate was again crowded with members of the House and persons of note; among the latter was General Rosecrans. Nearly three out of the three and a half hours devoted to Virginia affairs were taken up by Senators Trumbull and Sumner in continuance of their controversy about their several political acts and in crimination and recrimination, in the course of which these gentlemen dealt each other their hardest blows. Intense interest, bordering on excitement, was kept up until the vote was taken, and the manifestation of feeling among the listeners was frequently given in murmurs, and now and then in open applause. The vote upon the various amendments of Messrs. Drake and Wilson, and the final vote upon the passage of the bill, was taken in almost breathless silence, broken only as the result upon each was announced by the Vice-President. Such a raking down as Sumner suffered at the hands of Trumbull has not been heard in the Senate chamber for many a day. The gross misrepresentations made by Sumner, and repeated from day to day, relative to the action of the Judiciary Committee whilst considering the Virginia bill, and the falsehoods repeated by Sumner as to the position of Governor Walker, had so outraged the sense of fairness, and justice, and truth, that Mr. Trumbull could no longer refrain from exposing them and castigating the offender. Mr. Trumbull proved beyond a possible doubt that Sumner's assertion that the so-called loyalists had sought a hearing before the committee was a falsehood out of the whole cloth, and he turned to Sumner, scorn and contempt depicted in his face, and asked, "Could impudence go further?" Sumner felt this rebuke sensibly, and moved about uneasily in his chair; and then came from the audience a general titter of delight. The senator from Illinois exclaimed, mercilessly, "And now I propose to strip from him this assumed infallibility and superiority." [Here another sensation in the audience.] Mr. Trumbull proceeded in withering invective to describe the Massachusetts senator's "practiced falsehood under saintly shew," and the deep malice couched under a holy garb. he reproduced the occurrences in the Senate a few days ago when garbled extracts of Governor Walker's speeches were read, and most admirably reproduced Sumner's shout of Traitor; and then again the audience fairly roared with laughter. Mr. Trumbull then unearthed "Loyal Porter's" record, and had read the proceedings of the court-martial which tried, convicted, and sentenced, him to six months' imprisonment for treasonable language. Mr. Trumbull exclaimed, "And this is the kind of loyal people the Massachusetts senator has become the champion of." He recited the various sections of the Virginia Constitution, showing that Walker had not opposed the education article, as charged by Sumner, and that the latter could not have been mistaken in the facts; "and yet," said Mr. Trumbull, the modest senator insisted that Governor Walker wanted to break down the system of education. "This was the gigantic fact about which the senator had railed so loudly, and though explained by Senator Stewart so that no one could truthfully repeat the charge against Governor Walker, the senator from Massachusetts had again reiterated his gigantic fact; and Trumbull asked, "Is that not modest?" [Here another laugh and slight applause.] Mr. Trumbull read the names of those senators who voted for the reconstruction acts and the fifteenth amendment, and asked, "Do you miss any name there?" Was it possible that any such acts could be passed without the vote of the senator. Mr. Sumner's name is not among those who voted for those measures, and yet he had announced the other day that he was "always present." [Great laughter.] The southern colored man owed Sumner his thanks for these measures. Mr. Trumbull said, however, that Sumner did vote for the bill after Johnson vetoed it, and he argued that Sumner's malice and hatred for Johnson had proved to be more potential than the necessities of the colored race or the principle involved in the legislation; "so we got his vote there." [This lunge was enjoyed hugely by the listeners.] Mr. Trumbull said it was unpleasant to have to make these exposures, but the assurance and effrontery of Sumner-Here the Vice-Pre-sident called Mr. Trumbull to order, and decided that "effrontery" was unparliamentary. Mr. Trumbull respectfully begs to differ with the Vice-President, but would not appeal from his decision. With this Mr. Trumbull desisted. Having got his adversary "in chancery" and polished him off, he magnanimously released his hold. When Sumner rose to reply there was agitation all around. Everybody expected one of the best efforts of the champion of loyalists, but it was a failure. Sumner felt his weakness too sensibly to handle his opponent. The facts were against him. The pure man would not be drawn aside from the great question to indulge in personalities, which he said the Illinois senator took to as birds to the air and fish to water. He went off into a rambling tirade upon the Georgia people, and pitched into the Kuklux Klan, much to the merriment of his hearers. He charged that Trumbull was always found voting against the colored man, and that he had thrown the protection of his vote over that great criminal Andrew Johnson; read anonymous letters from various parts of Virginia to prove that the election of Walker was a great conspiracy of the rebels to get possession of the State; repeated that "Walker is a traitor," and remarked that Walker had been called a pillar of the State, but he was a caterpillar of the State. [Laughter.] He proceeded to criticise the motives of Senator Trumbull's assault upon him, and characterized it as venomous. [Here the Vice-President decided that "venomous" was unparliamentary language, and the great champion bowed to the decision, and protested he didn't mean to use naughty words.] He concluded by an attempt to whitewash the loyal Porter by reading a resolution passed by the Republican Central Committee of Virginia endorsing the "loyal" man who wore the ball and chain. And then the Senate proceeded to vote: Drake's first amendment was passed by 31 to 28. When the vote was announced there was slight stamping among the Radical members of the House who had come in and were standing in a crowd behind Drake; Drake's second amendment was passed by 30 to 29-and again slight applause from the same quarter; Wilson's amendment was passed by 31 to 29; Morton's modification of preamble by 38 to 20; Thereupon the Democratic senators explained that they could vote for an unconstitutional bill, which they regarded this to be, and so the bill was read a third time and passed by 48 to 10, the latter being all Democrats. To the surprise of everybody, Sumner did not vote for the bill on its final passage. Wallace.
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Charles Simmonds




“Interesting Proceedings. The Bill Passed-48 to 10.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 28, 2023,