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involves additional delay, and from its terms may be taken rather as applicable to a Territory about to be admitted as one of the United States than to a State which has occupied a place in the Union for upward of a quarter of a century.
The bill declares the State of Arkansas entitled and admitted to representation in Congress as one of the States of the Union upon the following fundamental condition:
That the constitution of Arkansas shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the right to vote who are entitled to vote by the constitution herein recognized, except as a punishment for such crimes as are now felonies at common law, whereof they shall have been duly convicted under laws equally applicable to all the inhabitants of said State: Provided, That any alteration of said constitution, prospective in its effect, may be made in regard to the time and place of residence of voters.
I have been unable to find in the Constitution of the United States any warrant for the exercise of the authority thus claimed by Congress. In assuming the power to impose a "fundamental condition" upon a State which has been duly "admitted into the Union upon an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever," Congress asserts a right to enter a State as it may a Territory, and to regulate the highest prerogative of a free people—the elective franchise. This question is reserved by the Constitution to the States themselves, and to concede to Congress the power to regulate the subject would be to reverse the fundamental principle of the Republic and to place in the hands of the Federal Government, which is the creature of the States, the sovereignty which justly belongs to the States or the people—the true source of all political power, by whom our Federal system was created and to whose will it is subordinate.
The bill fails to provide in what manner the State of Arkansas is to signify its acceptance of the "fundamental condition" which Congress endeavors to make unalterable and irrevocable. Nor does it prescribe the penalty to be imposed should the people of the State amend or change the particular portions of the constitution which it is one of the purposes of the bill to perpetuate, but as to the consequences of such action leaves them in uncertainty and doubt. When the circumstances under which this constitution has been brought to the attention of Congress are considered, it is not unreasonable to suppose that efforts will be made to modify its provisions, and especially those in respect to which this measure prohibits any alteration. It is seriously questioned whether the constitution has been ratified by a majority of the persons who, under the act of March 2, 1867, and the acts supplementary thereto, were entitled to registration and to vote upon that issue. Section 10 of the schedule provides that—
No person disqualified from voting or registering under this constitution shall vote for candidates for any office, nor shall be permitted to vote for the ratification or rejection of the constitution at the polls herein authorized.
Assumed to be in force before its adoption, in disregard of the law of Congress, the constitution undertakes to impose upon the elector other and further conditions. The fifth section of the eighth article provides that "all persons, before registering or voting," must take and subscribe an oath which, among others, contains the following clause:
That I accept the civil and political equality of all men, and agree not to attempt to deprive any person or persons, on account of race, color, or previous condition, of any political or civil right, privilege, or immunity enjoyed by any other class of men.
It is well known that a very large portion of the electors in all the States, if not a large majority of all of them, do not believe in or accept the political equality of Indians, Mongolians, or negroes with the race to which they belong. If the voters in many of the States of the North and West were required to take such an oath as a test of their qualification, there is reason to believe that a majority of them would remain from the polls rather than comply with its degrading conditions. How far and to what extent this test oath prevented the registration of those who were qualified under the laws of Congress it is not possible to know, but that such was its effect, at least sufficient to overcome the small and doubtful majority in favor of this constitution, there can be no reasonable doubt. Should the people of Arkansas, therefore, desiring to regulate the elective franchise so as to make it conform to the constitutions of a large proportion of the States of the North and West, modify the provisions referred to in the "fundamental condition," what is to be the consequence? Is it intended that a denial of representation shall follow? And if so, may we not dread, at some future day, a recurrence of the troubles which have so long agitated the country? Would it not be the part of wisdom to take for our guide the Federal Constitution, rather than resort to measures which, looking only to the present, may in a few years renew, in an aggravated form, the strife and bitterness caused by legislation which has proved to be so ill timed and unfortunate?
WASHINGTON, D. C.,
To the House of Representatives:
In returning to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, a bill entitled "An act to admit the States of North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida to representation in Congress," I do not deem it necessary to state at length the reasons which constrain me to withhold my approval. I will not, therefore, undertake at this time to reopen the discussion upon the grave constitutional questions involved in the act of March 2, 1867, and the acts supplementary thereto, in pursuance of which it is claimed, in the preamble to this bill, these States have framed and adopted constitutions of State government.
Nor will I repeat the objections contained in my message of the 20th instant, returning without my signature the bill to admit to representation the State of Arkansas, and which are equally applicable to the pending measure.
Like the act recently passed in reference to Arkansas, this bill supersedes the plain and simple mode prescribed by the Constitution for the admission to seats in the respective Houses of Senators and Representatives from the several States. It assumes authority over six States of the Union which has never been delegated to Congress, or is even warranted by previous unconstitutional legislation upon the subject of restoration. It imposes conditions which are in derogation of the equal rights of the States, and is founded upon a theory which is subversive of the fundamental principles of the Government. In the case of Alabama it violates the plighted faith of Congress by forcing upon that State a constitution which was rejected by the people, according to the express terms of an act of Congress requiring that a majority of the registered electors should vote upon the question of its ratification.
For these objections, and many others that might be presented, I can not approve this bill, and therefore return it for the action of Congress required in such cases by the Federal Constitution.
WASHINGTON, D. C.,
To the Senate of the United States:
I have given to the joint resolution entitled "A resolution excluding from the electoral college the votes of States lately in rebellion which shall not have been reorganized" as careful examination as I have been able to bestow upon the subject during the few days that have intervened since the measure was submitted for my approval.
Feeling constrained to withhold my consent, I herewith return the resolution to the Senate, in which House it originated, with a brief statement of the reasons which have induced my action. This joint resolution is based upon the assumption that some of the States whose inhabitants were lately in rebellion are not now entitled to representation in Congress and participation in the election of President and Vice-President of the United States.
Having heretofore had occasion to give in detail my reasons for dissenting from this view, it is not necessary at this time to repeat them. It is sufficient to state that I continue strong in my conviction that the acts of secession, by which a number of the States sought to dissolve their connection with the other States and to subvert the Union, being unauthorized by the Constitution and in direct violation thereof, were from the beginning absolutely null and void. It follows necessarily that
when the rebellion terminated the several States which had attempted to secede continued to be States in the Union, and all that was required to enable them to resume their relations to the Union was that they should adopt the measures necessary to their practical restoration as States. Such measures were adopted, and the legitimate result was that those States, having conformed to all the requirements of the Constitution, resumed their former relations, and became entitled to the exercise of all the rights guaranteed to them by its provisions.
The joint resolution under consideration, however, seems to assume that by the insurrectionary acts of their respective inhabitants those States forfeited their rights as such, and can never again exercise them except upon readmission into the Union on the terms prescribed by Congress. If this position be correct, it follows that they were taken out of the Union by virtue of their acts of secession, and hence that the war waged upon them was illegal and unconstitutional. We would thus be placed in this inconsistent attitude, that while the war was commenced and carried on upon the distinct ground that the Southern States, being component parts of the Union, were in rebellion against the lawful authority of the United States, upon its termination we resort to a policy of reconstruction which assumes that it was not in fact a rebellion, but that the war was waged for the conquest of territories assumed to be outside of the constitutional Union.
The mode and manner of receiving and counting the electoral votes for President and Vice-President of the United States are in plain and simple terms prescribed by the Constitution. That instrument imperatively requires that "the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted." Congress has, therefore, no power, under the Constitution, to receive the electoral votes or reject them. The whole power is exhausted when, in the presence of the two Houses, the votes are counted and the result declared. In this respect the power and duty of the President of the Senate are, under the Constitution, purely ministerial. When, therefore, the joint resolution declares that no electoral votes shall be received or counted from States that since the 4th of March, 1867, have not "adopted a constitution of State government under which a State government shall have organized," a power is assumed which is nowhere delegated to Congress, unless upon the assumption that the State governments organized prior to the 4th of March, 1867, were illegal and void.
The joint resolution, by implication at least, concedes that these States were States by virtue of their organization prior to the 4th of March, 1867, but denies to them the right to vote in the election of President and Vice-President of the United States. It follows either that this assumption of power is wholly unauthorized by the Constitution or that the States so excluded from voting were out of the Union by reason
of the rebellion, and have never been legitimately restored. satisfied that they were never out of the Union, and that their relations thereto have been legally and constitutionally restored, I am forced to the conclusion that the joint resolution, which deprives them of the right to have their votes for President and Vice-President received and counted, is in conflict with the Constitution, and that Congress has no more power to reject their votes than those of the States which have been uniformly loyal to the Federal Union..
It is worthy of remark that if the States whose inhabitants were recently in rebellion were legally and constitutionally organized and restored to their rights prior to the 4th of March, 1867, as I am satisfied they were, the only legitimate authority under which the election for President and Vice-President can be held therein must be derived from the governments instituted before that period. It clearly follows that all the State governments organized in those States under act of Congress for that purpose, and under military control, are illegitimate and of no validity whatever; and in that view the votes cast in those States for President and Vice-President, in pursuance of acts passed since the 4th of March, 1867, and in obedience to the so-called reconstruction acts of Congress, can not be legally received and counted, while the only votes in those States that can be legally cast and counted will be those cast in pursuance of the laws in force in the several States prior to the legislation by Congress upon the subject of reconstruction.
I can not refrain from directing your special attention to the declaration contained in the joint resolution, that "none of the States whose inhabitants were lately in rebellion shall be entitled to representation in the electoral college," etc. If it is meant by this declaration that no State is to be allowed to vote for President and Vice-President all of whose inhabitants were engaged in the late rebellion, it is apparent that no one of the States will be excluded from voting, since it is well known that in every Southern State there were many inhabitants who not only did not participate in the rebellion, but who actually took part in the suppression, or refrained from giving it any aid or countenance. I therefore conclude that the true meaning of the joint resolution is that no State a portion of whose inhabitants were engaged in the rebellion shall be permitted to participate in the Presidential election, except upon the terms and conditions therein prescribed.
Assuming this to be the true construction of the resolution, the inquiry becomes pertinent, May those Northern States a portion of whose inhabitants were actually in the rebellion be prevented, at the discretion of Congress, from having their electoral votes counted? It is well known that a portion of the inhabitants of New York and a portion of the inhabitants of Virginia were alike engaged in the rebellion; yet it is equally well known that Virginia, as well as New York, was at all times during the war recognized by the Federal Government as a State in the Union-so