(Extensions of Remarks - December 08, 2005)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2496-E2497]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                               speech of

                            HON. BARBARA LEE

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, December 7, 2005

  Ms. LEE. Mr. Speaker, I would like to add for the record the support 
of the gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Melancon, the gentleman from 
Illinois, Mr. Jackson, and the gentleman from New York, Mr. Bishop of 
H. Res. 196.
  I submit the opening statements from the Congressional Globe 1865 
House debate on floor consideration of S.J. Res. 16, the proposition to 
amend the Constitution of the United States by abolishing slavery.
  And I also include the House vote on final passage of what would 
become the 13th Amendment to our Constitution.

                          Abolition of Slavery

       The SPEAKER stated the question in order to be the 
     consideration of the motion to reconsider the vote by which 
     the House, on the 14th of last June, rejected Senate joint 
     resolution No. 16, submitting to the Legislatures of the 
     several States a proposition to amend the Constitution of the 
     United States; and that the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Ashley] 
     was entitled to the floor.
       Mr. ASHLEY. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. 
     McAllister] to have read a brief statement.
       Mr. McALLISTER sent to the Clerk's desk and had read the 
     following: ``When this subject was before this House on a 
     former occasion I voted against the measure. I have been in 
     favor of exhausting all means of conciliation to restore the 
     Union as our fathers made it. I am for the whole Union, and 
     utterly opposed to secession or dissolution in any shape. The 
     result of all the peace missions, and especially that of Mr. 
     Blair has satisfied me that nothing short of the recognition 
     of their independence will satisfy the southern confederacy. 
     It must therefore be destroyed; and in voting for the present 
     measure I cast my vote against the corner-stone of the 
     southern confederacy, and declare eternal war against the 
     enemies of my country.''
       [Applause from the Republican side of the House.]
       Mr. ASHLEY. I now yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, 
     [Mr. Coffroth].
       Mr. COFFROTH. Mr. Speaker, I speak not today for or against 
     slavery. I am content that this much-agitated question shall 
     be adjudicated at the proper time by the people. It is my 
     purpose to state in all candor the reasons which prompt me to 
     give the vote I shall soon record.
       The amending of our Constitution is fraught with so much 
     importance to the American people that before it is 
     accomplished the amendments proposed should be scrutinized 
     with the strictest criticism. No frivolous, vague, or 
     uncertain experiment should be for a moment tolerated. The 
     life and existence of this nation is centered in the 
     observance and faithful execution of the powers conferred by 
     the Constitution upon the servants of the people.
       The joint resolution before us proposes: ``That the 
     following article be proposed to the Legislatures of the 
     several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the 
     United States, which, when ratified by three fourths of said 
     Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as 
     a part of the said Constitution, namely:
       ``Art. XIII, Sec. 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary 
     servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the 
     party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the 
     United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
       Sec. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article 
     by appropriate legislation.''
       The first inquiry is, has Congress this power? I turn to 
     the Constitution, and find article fifth provides--``The 
     Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it 
     necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, 
     on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the 
     several States, shall call a convention for proposing 
     amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all 
     intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when 
     ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several 
     States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the 
     one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the 
       It is not claimed that Congress itself can engraft this 
     amendment into the Constitution without being ratified by 
     three fourths of the States. Then, sir, under the 
     Constitution, Congress has no power beyond discriminating 
     what shall or ought to be submitted to the people. The 
     members of this House assume no responsibility, they enact no 
     amendment, but as faithful Representatives they submit to the 
     people, the source from whence their power comes, the 
     proposed amendment. ``Governments are instituted among men, 
     deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.'' 
     All political power is invested in the people. At their will 
     constitutions can be remodeled and laws repealed.
       The amending of our Constitution is no new experiment. 
     Already at three different times amendments have been 
     submitted to the Legislatures, and by them adopted. The first 
     amendment was ratified in 1791, the second in 1798, and the 
     third in 1804. It never was intended by the wise men who 
     adopted the Constitution that it should remain unchanged. The 
     growth of the nation, its progress and its advancement, will, 
     as time passes, demand new articles and additional 
     provisions. The people are the guardians of the Constitution, 
     and I am not convinced that any danger is to be anticipated, 
     as presented in the following illustrations of the gentleman 
     from Ohio, [Mr. Pendleton,] put with such admirable 
     compactness and scholastic force:
       1. ``I assert that there is another limitation, stronger 
     even than the letter of the Constitution, and that is to be 
     found in its intent and spirit and its foundation idea. I put 
     the question which has been put before in this debate, can 
     three fourths of the States constitutionally change this 
     Government, and make it an autocracy? It is not prohibited by 
     the Constitution.''
       2. ``Can three fourths of the States make an amendment to 
     the Constitution of the United States which shall prohibit 
     the State of Ohio from having two Houses in its Legislative 
     Assembly? It is not prohibited in the Constitution.''
       3. ``Sir, can three fourths of the States provide an 
     amendment to the Constitution by which one fourth should bear 
     all the taxes of this Government? It is not prohibited.''
       4. ``Can three fourths of the States, by an amendment to 
     the Constitution, subvert the State governments of one fourth 
     and divide their territory among the rest? It is not 
       5. ``Can three fourths of the States so amend the 
     Constitution of the States as to make the northern States of 
     this Union slaveholding States?''
       I do not think there is any power in the Constitution which 
     would permit three fourths of the States to change the form 
     of government. The Constitution provides for a republican 
     form of government, and to establish an autocracy would not 
     be amending the Constitution, but utterly destroying it, and 
     establishing upon its ruins a new form of government of self-
     derived power.
       I would not give one of the new copper two-cent piece for 
     the insertion into the Constitution of explicit prohibitions 
     against every other supposition brought forward by the 
     gentleman from Ohio, [Mr. Pendleton:]
       ``Long before three fourths of the States can become so 
     debauched and demoralized that they would practice such 
     monstrous injustice, they must have lost the sense of honor 
     that would be bound by a compact, and the fear of God that 
     would keep an oath. When these virtues have died out, no 
     matter what safeguards a written constitution might contain, 
     they would be of no more value than so much waste paper. 
     There are certain things which can never be attempted so long 
     as there is public virtue enough not to evade, explain away, 
     or openly violate the Constitution. It is for this reason so 
     little limitation was put upon the amending power.
       ``The actual limitations on that power operated against 
     natural equity, and hence the necessity for their insertion. 
     One of them restrained Congress from putting an end to the 
     slave trade prior to 1808, and the practical effect of the 
     other is to give New England,

[[Page E2497]]

     which has a smaller population than New York and only a 
     fraction more than Pennsylvania, twelve Senators, while New 
     York and Pennsylvania have each only two. The Constitution 
     presumes that the majority of the people in three fourths of 
     the States cannot be corrupted; or that, if they should; they 
     would not afterward respect paper restraints on their 
     passions. A constitution is no stronger than the sense of the 
     moral obligation of the parties bound by it. It is futile to 
     take men's engagements against crimes more heinous than 
     breaking an engagement. You might as well swear a man not to 
     commit highway robbery. If he has conscience enough to 
     respect an oath, it would be needless, and if he has not, an 
     idle precaution.''
       Again, it is argued that this amendment is 
     unconstitutional; that the Congress of the United States has 
     no legal authority to propose this amendment, not have the 
     States in ratifying it the constitutional power to destroy or 
     interfere with the right of property. Learned gentlemen of 
     this House differ on this subject. The Constitution itself 
     provides the remedy by which all these differences of opinion 
     can be legally adjudicated. Section two of article three 
       ``The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and 
     equity arising under this Constitution.''
       In my opinion, if any person is injured by this amendment, 
     he has a judicial remedy before the highest court of the 
       If the States of the South desire to retain slavery, they 
     can do so by refusing to ratify this amendment. There are 
     thirty-five States. In order to adopt this amendment twenty-
     seven States must ratify it. Eleven States have seceded from 
     the Union. This is more than is required to defeat the 
     amendment. Certainly no one will pretend to argue that this 
     amendment can be adopted without being submitted to the 
     eleven seceded States. If it was, these States would not be 
     considered a part of the Union. In fact it would be, to all 
     intent and purpose, recognizing them as independent States, 
     and not being under the control of the Federal Constitution.
       If this view is taken, then this amendment can do no harm 
     to the people of the States in the Union. In June last, my 
     objection to this amendment was that it was taking away the 
     property of the people of the States that remained true to 
     the Union; that the Constitution was made the means to 
     oppress rather than protect the people. Since that time 
     Missouri and Maryland have abolished slavery by their own 
     action, and the Governor of Kentucky in his message 
     recommends to the Legislature of that State gradual 
     emancipation. The same objection which was then urged against 
     this amendment cannot now be urged.
       It is argued that new State governments will be formed in 
     the seceding States under the control of military governors, 
     and this amendment ratified by them. Whether this amendment 
     would be binding upon the people of the seceded States thus 
     ratified will depend entirely upon the results of this war. 
     If after a long struggle, and each of the contending armies 
     or Powers will conclude to adopt the wise and humane policy 
     of a peaceful solution of the difficulties now existing, all 
     of the acts of the State governments formed by military power 
     will be invalid, and the old organization of these States 
     recognized. In this event the ratifications by the new-made 
     State governments will not be worth the paper upon which they 
     are written. If the South achieve her independence, then this 
     amendment will only apply to that which does not exist. If 
     the people of the South are subjugated and their State lines 
     obliterated, and they are ever admitted into this Union under 
     new constitutions, each and every one of the constitutions 
     will have to come free from slavery before the State will be 
       The South would not remain in the Union under the 
     Constitution as it now is; they demanded stronger guarantees 
     for their institution of slavery. Can any intelligent person 
     believe that after fighting as they have for nearly four 
     years they will accept that which they rejected before the 
     war? If they will not come back under the Constitution, why 
     not abolish slavery; strike from our statute-books every 
     enactment which protects it; make our Constitution and our 
     laws free from the subject of slavery? And then, when this 
     unfortunate, inhuman, barbarous, and bloody war has been 
     prolonged until every heart shall turn sick with its carnage 
     and the reports of its wrongs and outrages, and the people 
     demand a cessation of hostilities until it be ascertained if 
     glorious peace cannot be accomplished by compromise and 
     concession, there will be no obstacles in the Constitution to 
     defeat the accomplishing of a much desired result. We will be 
     free to give new guarantees or new amendments to protect the 
     rights and property of every person who shelters himself 
     under the American Constitution.
       Again, I have voted for every peace resolution offered in 
     this House. My heart yearns for peace. The gentleman on the 
     other side of this Chamber refused to appoint peace 
     commissioners, but they tell us this amendment will do more 
     to secure peace than any resolution proposed in this House. 
     Although they would not try the remedy we presented, I am 
     willing to try the one they present; and if by my vote this 
     amendment is submitted to the States, and it brings this war 
     to a close, I will ever rejoice at the vote I have given; but 
     if I am mistaken, I will remember it is not the first time.
       Mr. Speaker, I desire above all things that the Democratic 
     party be again placed in power. The condition of the country 
     needs the wise counsel of the Democracy. The peace and 
     prosperity of this once powerful and happy nation require it 
     to be placed under Democratic rule. The history of the past 
     demonstrates this. The question of slavery has been a 
     fruitful theme for the opponents of the Democracy. It has 
     breathed into existence fanaticism, and feeds it with such 
     meat as to make it ponderous in growth. It must soon be 
     strangled or the nation is lost. I propose to do this by 
     removing from the political arena that which has given it 
     life and strength. As soon as this is done fanaticism 
     ``Writhes with pain, And dies among its worshipers.''
       Then the rays of truth will be unshaded, and once more our 
     people rejoice in the salvation of their country, and of the 
     reinstating in power that party which made this country 
     great, and which has done so much to secure to man civil and 
     religious liberty.
       Many of the honorable gentlemen of this House with whom I 
     am politically associated may condemn me for my action today. 
     I assure them I do that only which my conscience sanctions 
     and my sense of duty to my country demands. I have been a 
     Democrat all the days of my life. I learned my Democracy from 
     that being who gave me birth; it was pure; it came from one 
     who never told me an untruth. All my political life has been 
     spent in defending and supporting the measures which I 
     thought were for the good of the party and the country. My 
     energy, my means, and my time were all given for the success 
     of the Democratic cause. I am no Democrat by mere profession, 
     but I have always been a working one. If by my action today I 
     dig my political grave, I will descend into it without a 
     murmur, knowing that I am justified in my action by a 
     conscientious belief I am doing what will ultimately prove to 
     be a service to my country, and knowing there is one dear, 
     devoted, and loved being in this wide world who will not 
     bring tears of bitterness to that grave, but will strew it 
     with beautiful flowers, for it returns me to that domestic 
     circle from whence I have been taken for the greater part of 
     the last two years.
       Knowing my duty, I intend to perform it, relying upon the 
     intelligence and honesty of the people I represent to do me 
     justice. If this action shall be condemned by my people, I 
     will go back with pleasure to the enjoyment of private life, 
     free from the exciting political arena; but no power on earth 
     will prevent me from quietly depositing my ballot in behalf 
     of the candidates of the Democratic Party. I hope I will be 
     granted the pleasure of reading the eloquent speeches made by 
     my Democratic associates, and admire their rise and onward 
     march to distinction. This boon I pray you not to take from 
       If, on the other hand, the course of the Democrats who will 
     vote for amendment will meet the approbation of the people, 
     and we are greeted with the plaudit of ``Well done, good and 
     faithful servants,'' it will be the desire of our hearts to 
     open our arms for your reception and shelter you as the hen 
     shelters her brood, satisfied you were honest in your belief 
     but mistaken in your opinions.
       The previous question was seconded, and the main question 
     ordered; which was on the passage of the joint resolution.
       Mr. DAWSON called for the yeas and nays.
       The yeas and nays were ordered.
       The question was taken, and it was decided in the 
     affirmative--yeas 119, nays 56, not voting 8; as follows:
       YEAS--Messrs. Alley, Allison, Ames, Anderson, Arnold, 
     Ashley, Bally, Augustus C. Baldwin, John D. Baldwin, Baxter, 
     Berman, Blaine, Blair, Blow, Boutwell, Boyd, Brandegee, 
     Broomall, William G. Brown, Ambrose W. Clark, Freeman Clarke, 
     Cobb, Coffroth, Cole, Colfax, Creawell, Henry Winter Davis, 
     Thomas T. Davis, Dawes, Deming, Dixon, Donnelly, Driggs, 
     Dumont, Eckley, Elliot, English, Farnsworth, Frank, Ganson, 
     Garfield, Gooch, Grinnell, Griswold, Hale, Herrick, Illgby-
     Hooper, Hochkiss, Asahel W. Hubbard, John H. Hubbard, 
     Hulburd, Hutchins, Ingersoll, Jenckes, Julian, Kasson, 
     Kelley, Francis W. Kellogg, Orlando Kellogg, King, Knox, 
     Littlejohn, Loan, Longyear, Marvin, McAllister, McBride, 
     McClurg, McIndoe, Samuel F. Miller, Moorhead, Merrill, Daniel 
     Morris, Amos Myers, Leonard Myers, Nelson, Norton, Odell, 
     Charles O'Neill, Orth, Patterson, Perham, Pike, Poneroy, 
     Price, Radford, William H. Randall, Alexander H. Rice, John 
     H. Rice, Edward H. Rollins, James S. Rollins, Schenck, 
     Scofield, Shannon, Sloan, Smith, Smithers, Spalding, Starr, 
     John B. Steele, Stevens, Thayer, Thomas, Tracy, Upson, Van 
     Volkenburgh, Elihu B. Washburn, William B. Washburn, Webster, 
     Whaley, Wheeler, Williams, Wilder, Wilson, Windom, 
     Woodbridge, Worthington, and Yeaman--119.
       NAYS--Messrs. James C. Allen, William J. Allen, Ancona, 
     Bliss, Brooks, James S. Brown, Chanler, Clay, Cox, Cravens, 
     Dawson, Dentson, Eden, Edgerton, Eldridge, Finck, Grider, 
     Hall, Harding, Harrington, Benjamin G. Harris, Charles M. 
     Harris, Holman, Phillip Johnson, William Johnson, Kalbtlesch, 
     Kerman, Knapp, Law, Long, Mallory, William H. Miller, James 
     R. Morris, Morrison, Noble, John O'Neill, Pendleton, Perry, 
     Pruyn, Samuel J. Randall, Robinson, Ross, Scott, William G. 
     Steele, Stiles, Strouse, Stuart, Sweat, Townsend, Wadsworth, 
     Ward, Chilton A. White, Joseph W. White, Winfield, Benjamin 
     Wood, and Fernando Wood--30.
       NOT VOTING--Messrs. Lazear, LeBlond, Marcy, McDowell, 
     McKinney, Middleton, Rogers, and Voorhees--8.