perish. It is not the same as the right to drink the water that falls from the sky, or that runs down the limpid stream, without which we should also perish. It is not in any sense, according to my judgment, a natural, inalienable right.
Independent of the meaning of the words in the Declaration of Independence, Senator Howard believed in general suffrage, and declared:
I hope to live to see the day--and I expect to reach that age, and then not be a very old gentleman--when every state in this Union, by its own free consent will allow the same privilege of voting to the black man as is now enjoyed by the white man. . . I think we shall never have complete peace and quietude until this great end is attained.
For more than half a century politicians and theorists and statesmen had contended in the arena of oratory over the phrase "all men are created equal," but that discussion had failed to satisfy. It led to acrimony instead of healing the breach of disagreement.
Senator Wade was not betrayed into that line of debate. He appealed to patriotism and a broad view of national welfare, and the rights of the western people. He said:
I want to see these states extending in a solid column right through to the Pacific ocean, as will be done if you admit the two states that are now knocking at your doors . . . Nebraska, one of the most patriotic, one of the most orderly of communities, with numbers sufficient, with a good, glorious Republican constitution akin to all the rest of these western constitutions and just like them, coming in here. . . .
Senator Sumner was beginning to be provoked at the persistency of Senator Wade and retorted:
He seeks to introduce into the Union a state which defies the first principle of human rights. The senator from Ohio becomes the champion of that community. He who has so often raised his voice here for human rights now treats the question as trivial. He says it is a technicality only.
Sir, can a question of human rights be a technicality? . .
And yet that is the position of the senator from Ohio. . . It must not be allowed to pass this body so long as it undertakes to disfranchise persons on account of color.
Senator Benjamin F. Wade now began his defiant and determined and aggressive warfare for the admission of Nebraska and, in reply to Charles Sumner, said:
This is a territory, as I have said a good many times, loyal, seeking to come into the Union in the old, beaten track--nothing unusual about it, nothing to hang an argument on, except it is the high sounding words of the senator from Massachusetts. . . And he speaks of my obstinacy! Why, sir, he stands up here almost alone against his friends, nearly all faorable (sic) to this measure. I have no doubt had it not been for what I will not call his obstinacy, this measure would have passed on Monday to the satisfaction of nine-tenths of all those that generally act with him. His will must prevail against the whole body, or they must give way to him, for he intimates and gives us to understand that this bill never shall pass except it is in accordance with his judgment, or if it ever does it will not be until he is a good deal older than he is now.
Senator Kirkwood, from our neighboring state of Iowa, now came to the support of Senator Benjamin F. Wade. He too believed that a high spirit of loyal patriotism to the whole Union was of more importance than the smaller question of granting the franchise to a few colored people, and replied to Charles Sumner:
He compares the case of the territory of Nebraska to that of the lately rebellious states. I think there is a great difference between them. The people of the territory of Nebraska are loyal men; the people of the late rebellious states are not loyal; and when he compares the one with the other I think he does an injustice to himself and to the people of that territory . . . Now, I wish to say to that senator that the constitution of Nebraska and the constitution of Iowa in this particular are identical. Does he call the constitution of Iowa odious and offensive? . . .
Senator Kirkwood took some exception to what Sen-
ator Sumner had said which he construed as a reflection upon the state of Iowa and answered him:
The people of Iowa are as loyal as the people of Massachusetts are. . . . He should remember that there are other states in this Union besides Massachusetts; and when he speaks of particulars wherein those states do not agree with Massachusetts he should be careful of the terms he applies to them.
But Senator Sumner, nothing daunted nor terrified by what Senator Kirkwood said, but with something of an apologetic tone to the state of Iowa, said of the constitution of Nebraska:
I say it contains an odious and offensive principle; and I doubt if the senator from Iowa would undertake to say that an exclusion from rights on account of color would be properly characterized otherwise than as odious and offensive. . . . I say that such a constitution at this moment from a new state does not deserve any quarter. I say the constitution ought to be a hissing and a byword; and I am at a loss to understand how any senator at this time, having the great responsibilities that we have with regard to the states lately in rebellion, can look upon a new constitution like this except as a hissing and a byword. Sir, it is a shame to the people that bring it here, and it will be a shame to Congress if it gives its sanction. I use that language advisedly, and I stand by it even at the expense of the criticism of the senator from Iowa. . .
This strong language from Sumner was characteristic of the man. He was fearless, determined and unyielding on questions of human rights. He knew no compromise. He never knowingly made concessions on the grounds of expediency. No one questioned the honesty of his convictions, but nevertheless he provoked antagonism.
Thus again Senator Cowan, of Pennsylvania, was drawn into the controversy over Sumner's insistence on the equality of the negro race, and said:
I should like the honorable senator to explain why it was that the race in Africa during these thousands of years did not
make the same progress. Can the honorable senator tell why they never invented an alphabet? Can he tell why they never built a city, why they never had a nationality, why they never had a history, why they never had traditions, why they never had a literature, why they never had anything of that kind which characterizes the man of progress, the civilized man? All that has been going on under the eye of Providence; but Providence now, at the prompting of Massachusetts philanthropy, I suppose, has waked up to the necessity of, at a single bound, lifting this barbarous people upon the same elevation with the advanced races in the struggle of civilization.
It was difficult to answer an argument of that sort, and Sumner let it pass in silence. But now a new turn was given to the debate by the senator from Vermont. Edmunds at the outset of his discussion challenged the right of the people of Nebraska to make any claim of right for admission as a state and asserted with energy that Congress alone should be heard on that question.
We may organize a territory today; we may disorganize it tomorrow ... There is no inherent right in the people of any Territory to be constituted into a state. . .
Why, sir, the notion that government is instituted for a select few who are to be discovered by their descent as kings are, or by their learning as the priests used to be, or by their property as aristocratical governments generally are, ought to have been exploded in the light of recent events in this country. . . I do not mean by this to undertake to make any argument against the propriety of learning. That is not the point. The more we have of it, the better we shall be off. But I do undertake to say that to make learning or color or property or race a test in a democratic country of the right to choose its rulers, is to sap the foundation of the very principle of the democracy upon which you act. . .
. . . I am surprised indeed, sir, surprised beyond measure, and I feel regret that is even greater than my surprise, to see the honorable senator from Ohio, whom we all love so well to follow, leading us through this District against all opposition for these same equal rights, and then turning to the westward and saying that after all it is nothing but a technicality, that men are standing in their own light and in the light of their party if they venture to lift their voices in favor of erasing this offensive, unjust, and inhuman distinction.
There is everything, Mr. President, in justice; and we shall learn when the empire of tradition which has been tottering has at last completely fallen, we shall learn in the new light that we are coming to, that we shall never have complete prosperity if we do not stick to our principles through thick and thin. There can be no temporary triumph, there can be no temporary necessity in the nature of things possible which will justify a true man in departing one hair from justice and truth . . .
Mr. President, as strong as we are, and justly strong; as proud as we are and as conscious as we are of our strength, we do not deserve to be strong or proud or successful if we do not adhere to a great principle of justice and equality which we practice upon here where we have the power; if we do not adhere to it in Nebraska because it happens at the moment that we are to gain a representative or two or a senator or two by denying the principle there. . . Why not let us say to the people of this Territory, "We receive you upon the condition that within your borders, notwithstanding your constitution or your laws, you shall practically exercise equality and justice toward every citizen within your limits?" As I have said before, the power cannot logically under the constitution be denied. . .
It had become quite apparent that the majority of the senators were in sympathy with the measure for the admission of Nebraska as a state. The only substantial difference manifested among Republicans was over the word white in the constitution. That might readily be overcome by some fair compromise amendment, and a new issue was brought into the discussion.
Some of the senators, in their
opposition to the admission of Nebraska into the Union,
raised the ostensible objection that it was giving too much
power to the small states of the northwest. This line of
argument was strongly presented by Senator Cowan of
Pennsylvania, who conceded that when the federal government
was first formed it was composed of great states and small
states, and that to accomplish the great paramount
purpose remarkable concessions were made to the smaller states, such as Rhode Island and Delaware:
Although small states, weighing nothing in the great scale compared with Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and others, yet it was conceded to them that upon this floor they should have an equal status with the greatest. . . That was a concession to procure the formation of the Union; but it imposed no obligation upon the states of the Union afterward to admit insignificant members upon the same terms.
It is utterly and totally immaterial to Nebraska how she may vote on some great question involving the very safety of the Union; whereas it is a matter of most momentous issue to Pennsylvania, to Maryland, to Virginia.
John Sherman made the most effective answer to arguments like that presented by Senator Cowan. Sherman had served some six years as a member of Congress and had been elected United States senator to succeed Salmon P. Chase.3
Sherman had traveled over the state of Nebraska in the summer and fall of 1866 with his brother, General Sherman, while making a tour of military posts. Together they had ridden in wagons by the day, and slept in wagons during the night, guarded by military armed sentinels.4 He had spoken of his appreciation of Ne-
3 Sherman first entered the House of Representatives December 3, 1855, the first day of the session. His first term began March 4, 1855, and his third term March 4, 1861. He had been elected in 1860 for the fourth term and doubtless served in it until he was elected senator March 21, 1861, to succeed Salmon P. Chase who had been elected for the same term but resigned March 7 to enter Lincoln's cabinet March 9. Sherman took the oath and his seat in the senate March 23. He took no part in the momentous debates of the special session of the senate, March 4-28, 1861. Samuel T. Worcester, Sherman's successor in the House, took his seat at the opening of the special session of the thirty-seventh Congress, July 4, 1861. (Congressional Globe, second session thirty-sixth Congress, page 1493; ibid., first session thirty-seventh Congress, page 2.)
4 In "John Sherman's Recollections of Forty Years," page 390, the senator describes his journey through Nebraska:
braska's clear sky and pure and invigorating atmosphere, and of its singularly beautiful landscapes.
Senator Sherman said that Nebraska at that day
"After the adjournment [July 28, 18661 I proceeded to St. Louis, and with General Sherman and two staff officers, went by rail to Omaha. This handsome city had made great progress since my former visit. We then went by the Union Pacific to Fort Kearny, as far as the rails were then laid. There our little party started through the Indian Territory, riding in light wagons with canvas covers, each drawn by two good army mules, escorted by a squad of mounted soldiers. We traveled about thirty miles a day, camping at night, sleeping in our wagons, turned into ambulances, the soldiers under shelter tents on blankets and the horses parked near by. The camp was guarded by sentinels at night, and the troopers lay with their guns close at hand. Almost every day we met Indians, but none appeared to be hostile. In this way we traveled to Fort Laramie. The country traversed was an unbroken wilderness, in a state of nature, but singularly beautiful as a landscape. It was an open prairie, traversed by what was called the North Platte River, with scarcely water enough in it to be called a creek, with rolling hills on either side, and above, a clear sky, and air pure and bracing. It was the first time I had been so far out on the plains, and I enjoyed it beyond expression. I was soon able to eat my full share of the plain fare of bread and meat, and wanted more. After many days we reached Fort Laramie, then an important post far out beyond the frontier. We remained but a few days, and then, following south along the foot hills, we crossed into the Laramie plains to Fort Sanders. This was the last post to the west in General Sherman's command." Laramie City, Wyoming, now occupies the site of Fort Sanders.
Senator Sherman had slept "with two in a narrow wagon." At Denver he left the general's expedition, going by stage to Fort Riley--about 400 miles--where he was "glad to enter into the cars of the Kansas Pacific railroad, though they were as dirty and filthy as cars could well be." In a letter written from Omaha, August 14, 1866, General William T. Sherman says that he left St. Louis by the Missouri Pacific railroad for Leavenworth; thence by ferry boat to Weston, ten miles; thence by railroad to St. Joseph, forty miles; thence by the regular packet boat, J. H. Lacey, to Omaha 250 miles. General Grenville M. Dodge gave the party a special train on the Union Pacific railroad. (Executive Documents, thirty-ninth Congress, second session, volume IX, document 23, page 3.) Senator Sherman could not have made the whole journey from St. Louis to Omaha by railroad until the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph line was completed to Council Bluffs about two years later-August 11, 1868." (The Nebraska City News, August 10, 1868.)--ED.
had "more population than any but three of the States that ever were admitted into this Union." Nebraska then had some 88,000 population; Georgia, one of the original states, when it approved the federal constitution had a population of 82,548; Vermont 85,539; Kentucky 73,077; Tennessee 77,000; Ohio 41,000; Louisiana 76,000; Indiana 63,000; Mississippi 75,000; Illinois 34,000; Missouri 66,000; Arkansas 52,000; Florida 54,000; Iowa 81,000.
Sherman, in a comparison with these respective states, said:
In every other respect Nebraska is far beyond the condition in which these states were when they were admitted. When Ohio was admitted with her forty thousand inhabitants her beautiful plains were covered with an unbroken forest; there was only a settlement here and there; cabins pretty far in the wilderness; no roads, no modes of communication, no schools, no colleges, no opportunity of reaching there. And so when all these other states were admitted they had none of the elements of civilization that this rising Territory has. Nebraska, on the contrary, is open for the settlement of the whole country; ... and a railroad ... has already penetrated into it two hundred and eighty miles. They have schools; they have the foundation of colleges; they have the educational facilities of this modern age. . .
In answer to the argument that a state with a small population ought not to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the great states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts and other states, Senator Sherman said:
There never has been any difference of interest between the small and the large states. These western states will be governed by the same impulses and the same feelings that govern us.
Senator Wade said:
They have all the population that is necessary; they have all the elements of a great and prosperous state; they are go-
ing on with all those enterprises that have made the American people so great; and a more enterprising race (for I have been among them)5 is not to be found in this most enterprising nation anywhere. . .
This new issue which was raised, that the eastern and larger states of the Union were jealous of the rapidly growing western states and were afraid of the power which they might acquire in the United States senate, brought Reverdy Johnson into the debate.
Gouverneur Morris had said in the constitutional convention of 1787, that
The rule of representation ought to be so fixed as to secure to the Atlantic States a prevalence in the national councils. The new states will know less of public interest than these; will have an interest in many respects different; in particular will be little scrupulous of involving the community in wars the burdens and operations of which would fall chiefly on the maritime states.
Reverdy Johnson, senator from Maryland, and who was regarded as one of the greatest jurists and statesmen of the country, drew attention to what Gouverneur Morris had said and proceeded:
When the clause which gives to Congress the power to admit new states was before the convention, the subject was brought to the attention of that body by the representatives from the eastern states, and especially as the representatives from the state of Massachusetts, speaking upon this subject among others, through Gouverneur Morris.
Senator Johnson was of the opinion at the time when Nebraska was admitted into the Union that the same danger was yet as apparent as it was when the federal constitution was framed, and said, "But the danger
5 I have been unable to find any account of Wade's coming to Nebraska prior to June 1, 1867. He was in Kansas at some time in 1866 and made a speech at Wyandotte. Perhaps he visited Nebraska on the same trip.--ED.
was still apparent, and that danger is now upon us." He went on to explain that the eastern states had been "forced, by no fault of their own, in a great measure to drop the business in which they were then engaged "--as "carriers of all the states away from the Atlantic"" and to engage in the business of manufacturing . . .
They have millions and millions of money invested in these establishments, and they employ thousands and hundreds of thousands of men of the best skill in the country. While they enrich themselves individually they enrich all. They enrich those who start poor; they increase the wealth of those who start rich; and, what is chiefly to be admired, they immeasureably increase the wealth and power of the nation ... and just as you increase them will it be in their power to strike at the system to which you in your States are so much indebted for the property which you now enjoy. . . To give to the territory which you propose now to admit two senators and at least one representative, it having a population certainly not exceeding fifty thousand, and give us as you can only give to the state of New York and to the State of Pennsylvania each two senators, with a population respectively of between three and four millions, would seem from the statement of the fact not to be altogether politically right.
Timothy O. Howe, senator from Wisconsin, made a very complete answer to Senator Reverdy Johnson of Maryland:
I do not regard, therefore, this disparity of numbers to be a serious objection. I do not regard it to be an objection at all, so far as our interests are concerned. . . The senator from Maryland reminded particularly the senators from the eastern or Atlantic states that the western states were fast gaining an ascendancy, and he seemed to feel, at least he seemed to urge, that that ascendancy was likely to prove injurious to the interests of the Atlantic states. . . I was very sorry, for one, to hear that argument introduced. I was very sorry to see, at this stage in our history, a new attempt to inaugurate a sectional controversy. . . I do not think any statesman of today ought to be ambitious of inaugurating a new controversy between the eastern and the western portions of the Union, and I am sure there is no need of any such controversy. . .
Sir, it is not so very extraordinary that Mr. Gouverneur
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