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be now insisted, that, under the simple power to regulate the suffrage, a State may deny to a whole race that “equal share of representation ” which was promised ? Thus from every quarter we are brought to the same inevitable conclusion,
Therefore I dismiss the pretension founded on the power to make regulations, as I dismiss that other founded on the power to determine qualifications. Each proceeds on a radical misconception. Admit that a State may determine qualifications, admit that a State may make regulations; it cannot follow, by any rule of logic or law, that, under these powers, either or both, it may disfranchise a race. The pretension is too lofty. No such enormous prerogative can be wrung out of any such moderate power. As well say, that, because a constable or policeman may keep order in a city, therefore he may inflict the penalty of death,—or, because a father may impose proper restraint upon a child, therefore he may sell him into slavery. We have read of an effort to extract sunbeams out of cucumbers; but the present effort to extract a cruel prerogative out of the simple words of the Constitution is scarcely less absurd.
I conclude as I began, in favor of requiring conditions from States on their admission into the Nation ; and I insist that it is our especial duty, in every possible way, by compact and by enactment, to assure among these conditions the Equal Rights of All, and the participation of every citizen in the government over him, without which the State cannot be republican. For the present I confine myself to the question of conditions on the admission of States, without considering the broader obligation of Congress to make Equal
Rights coextensive with the Nation, and thus to harmonize our institutions with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. That other question I leave to another occasion.
Meanwhile I protest against the false glosses originally fastened upon the Constitution by Slavery, and, now continued, often in unconsciousness of their origin, perverting it to the vilest uses of tyranny. I protest against that exaggeration of pretension which out of a power to make “regulations” and to determine "qualifications” can derive an unrepublican prerogative. I protest against that pretension which would make the asserted Equality of States the cover for a denial of the Equality of Men. The one is an artificial rule, relating to artificial bodies; the other is a natural rule, relating to natural bodies. The one is little more than a legal fiction; the other is a truth of Nature. Here is a distinction which Alexander Hamilton recognized, when, in the debates of the Convention, he nobly said :
“ As States are a collection of individual men, which ought we to respect most, - the rights of the people composing them, or of the artificial beings resulting from the composition ? Nothing could be more preposterous or absurd than to sacrifice the former to the latter.” 1
High above States, as high above men, are those commanding principles which cannot be denied with impunity. They will be found in the Declaration of Independence, expressed so clearly that all can read them. Though few, they are mighty. There is no humility in bending to their behests. As man rises
1 Debates in the Federal Convention, June 29, 1787 : Madison Papers, Vol. II. p. 993.
in the scale of being while walking in obedience to the Divine will, so is a State elevated by obedience to these everlasting truths. Nor can we look for harmony in our country until these principles bear unquestioned sway, without any interdict from the States. That unity for which the Nation longs, with peace and reconciliation in its train, can be assured only through the Equal Rights of All, proclaimed by the Nation everywhere within its limits, and maintained by the national arm. Then will the Constitution be filled and inspired by the Declaration of Independence, so that the two shall be one, with a common life, a common authority, and a common glory.
ELIGIBILITY OF A COLORED CITIZEN TO CONGRESS.
LETTER TO AN INQUIRER AT NORFOLK, VA., JUNE 22, 1868.
This letter appeared in a Richmond paper.
SENATE CHAMBER, June 22, 1868. EAR SIR, - I have your letter of the 18th, in
reference to the eligibility of a colored man to Congress.
I know of no ground on which he could be excluded from his seat, if duly elected ; and I should welcome the election of a competent representative of the colored race to either House of Congress as a final triumph of the cause of Equal Rights. Until this step is taken, our success is incomplete.
INDEPENDENCE, AND THOSE WHO SAVED THE
LETTER ON THE Soldiers' MONUMENT AT Nortu WEYMOUTA, Mass.,
JULY 2, 1868.
Minha interesting ceremonies to which you in
SENATE CHAMBER, July 2, 1868. Y DEAR I
in the vite me; but my duties will keep me here.
On the anniversary of the birth of our Nation you will commemorate the death of patriots who gave their lives that the Nation might live. Grateful to our fathers, who at the beginning did so much, we owe an equal debt to those who saved the original work.
The monument which you rear will be national in its character. Dedicated on the anniversary of Independence, it will have for its special object to guard forever the memory of those through whom the first fruits of Independence have been secured.
Our fathers established the National Independence; our recent heroes have made it perpetual through those vital principles which can never die. Honor to the fathers ! Honor also to the sons, worthy of the fathers!
Accept my best wishes; believe me, my dear Sir, very faithfully yours,
CHARLES SUMNER. Gen. B. F. Pratt.