From Washington- Peace Establishment- Discussion on Negro Suffrage
January 11, 1866
The suffragist movement makes progress in the House and trials of those accused of treason continue to hold the attention of southerners.
Mr.Wilson introduced a bill to increase and fix the peace establishment of the United Stets Army. It provides for seven regiments of artillery, ten of cavalry, and sixty of infantry- each arm to have a proportion of colored troops, officered by whites. Referred to the Military Committee. The bill to regulate the elective franchise in the District of Columbia was read and referred to the Committee on the District. Mr. Howe offered a resolution declaring that the States lately in rebellion had forfeited their rights as States, and it was for Congress to say when these rights should be restored. He made a speech denying the indestructibility of the State governments. "He said they were things of human origin, and were made and re-made by men He denied the right of the President to restore the rebel states. His duties were only executive, Mr.Howe advocated the appointment of provisional governors and judges for them, giving Congress the power to veto all acts calculated to injure any class. He would also give them delegates. House.- Mr. Davis, of New York, offered a resolution expressing confidence in the President, and pledging the House to support him in his general principle of restoration in all the modes authorized by the Constitution consistent with the security of republican institutions. Referred to the Committee on Reconstruction. The House proceeded to the consideration of the bill to extend the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia. Mr.Wilson, of Iowa, made a speech in favor of the bill, in the course of which he said that the social element here fostered secession, and he had no doubt that a large majority of those who the other day voted against negro suffrage would have voted for slavery. Mr.Boyle, of Pennsylvania, opposed the bill, not only on local grounds, but on the ground of principle. This is a white man's government. He said the bill inaugurated the first act in the political drama to culminate in the equality of the races. Mr. Scofield, of Pennsylvania, expressed views against the colonization of negroes. He said there was no better place to begin the work of free suffrage- which would inspire the colored race with self-respect- than the District of Columbia. Mr.Keely, of Pennsylvania, also made a speech in favor of negro suffrage. The President to-day, in response to a resolution of the Senate, transmitted a message, enclosing the reports of the Secretary of War and Attorney-General, in reference to the charges upon Jefferson Davis is confined and why he is not brought to trial. He invites the attention of the Senate to that part of his annual message referring to Congress the questions relating to the holding of the Circuit Courts in the districts where their authority had been interrupted. The Secretary of War states that Davis has been indicted by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia for high treason; also with the crime of inciting the assassination of President Lincoln and with the cruel treatment of Union prisoners of war. He also says that the President, deeming it expedient that Davis should first be put upon his trial before a competent court and jury, he was advised by the law officer of the Government that the most proper place for such a trial was in the State of Virginia. That State is in the judicial circuit assigned to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who has held no court there since the apprehension of Davis, and who declines, for an indefinite period, to do so. Other prominent parties are mentioned in the Secretary's report, charged with various treasonable offenses against the Government, some of whom have been classed by the Government to await trial for the alleged offenses. On their application for amnesty and pardon,, the Attorney-General says he has ever thought the civil courts have alone jurisdiction of the crime of high treason, and pronounces the opinion that Davis and others of the insurgents ought to be tried in some one of the States or Districts in which they, in person, especially controlled the crimes which they may be charged. Though active hostilities and flagrant war have not for some time existed between the United States and the insurgents, peaceful relations between the Government and the people in those States have not yet been fully restored. None of the justices of the Supreme Court have held Circuit Courts in those States and Districts since hostilities ceased. When the courts are open, and the laws can be peacefully administered and enforced in those States whose people rebelled against the Government, when the peace shall come in fact and in law, the persons now held in military custody as prisoners of war, and who may not have been tried and committed for offenses against the laws of war, should be transferred into the custody of the civil authorities of the people of the districts, to be tried for the high crimes and misdemeanors as may be alleged against them. He thinks it the plain duty of the President to cause criminal prosecutions to be instituted before the proper tribunals at the proper time against some of those who were mainly instrumental in inaugurating and most conspicuous in conducting the late hostilities. "I would regard it as a direful calamity if many nom the sword has spared the law should spare also, but I would deem it a more direful calamity still if the Executive, in performing his constitutional duty in bringing those persons before the bar of justices to answer, violate the plain meaning of the constitution, or infringe in the least particular the living spirit of that instrument"
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“From Washington- Peace Establishment- Discussion on Negro Suffrage,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed September 30, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/22.