Live-blogging the Fifteenth Amendment: December 17, 1868

Live-blogging the Fifteenth Amendment: December 17, 1868

In the Senate, Senators Dixon and Ferry, both Republicans from Connecticut, continued the debate from several days prior concerning a federal imposition of African-American voting rights on the States:

Dixon:

[M]y colleague … proposes to amend the Constitution of the United States in a manner which to me is very revolting, not because I hate negro suffrage, but, sir, I do desire that the proud old State of Connecticut, shall not be humbled in the dust. Having enjoyed the right of suffrage and of regulating her own right of suffrage for over two hundred years — longer, I believe, than any State in the Union — I do not desire that at this late day she should be compelled to submit to the demands … of any other State with regard to who shall vote within her borders . . . .

Ferry:

With regard to an amendment to the Constitution of the United States removing the distinctions of color now existing in different States of the Republic I had certainly hoped that my colleague would be willing to stand side by side with me in the support of it. I know that he had twice in my State voted with me for a constitutional amendment there to extend the franchise to the negro; and I ask what difference is there between an amendment to the constitution of my State and an amendment to the Constitution of the United States for the purpose of accomplishing the same object? . . . .

Dixon:

I prefer leaving it to the State of Connecticut to decide for herself; and that was the substance of Dr. Bacon’s letter. He said he was in favor of negro suffrage, but preferred that the negroes should never vote rather than that negro suffrage should be forced upon Connecticut by act of Congress; and you may say the same thing of an amendment  to the Constitution of the United States.

[ Source: Congressional Globe, 40th Congress, 3rd Session, pp. 123-124, Appendix, p. 50 ]

The above exchange highlights what Dr. Foner refers to in his book “The Second Founding.” For the proponents of the Fifteenth Amendment were proposing that the Federal government be given the right to demand and enforce voting rights in the States, which was anathema not only to most Jacksonian Democrats, but also to some anti-slavery Republicans as well.

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