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listening France the strong, true words, 'States are born, live, and die upon the earth; here they fulfil their destiny; but, after the citizen has discharged every duty that he owes to the State, there abides with him the nobler part of his being, his immortal faculties, by which he ascends to God and the unknown realities of another life."
The following eloquent and beautiful tribute to Christianity and its Author, and to the indebtedness of our civilization thereto, with the affirmation that the principles of true democracy are identical with the precepts of the Great Teacher, well illustrated a new but refreshing feature of the debates of the session, their seeming recognition at length of the "higher law," and of its paramount authority in matters of human legislation. "They found out," he said, "a wiser, juster, and better policy than pagan ever knew. They learned it from the simple but profound teachings of Him who went about doing good; who was no respecter of persons, who made the distant land of his nativity forever sacred to mankind, and whose intense holiness shed majesty over the manger and the straw, and took from the cross its shame and reproach. By his great apostle came to men and nations the new message, declaring the true God, to whom the pagan inscribed UNKNOWN upon His altar; that God who made the world, and giveth to all life and breath, and hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth. From this new message to men has sprung the new and better civilization of to-day. What was your Declaration at Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1776, that ALL MEN are created equal, but a reiteration of the great truth announced by the apostle of the Nazarene? What but this is the sublime principle of your Constitution, the equality of all men before the law? To-day we deliberate whether we shall make good, by legislation, this vital principle of the Constitution, here in the capital of the Republic." Magna Charta, he said, " wrung from the trembling, unwilling hands" of the British King, recognized "freemen" alone, but "secured no privileges to vassals or slaves. . . . . The later and nobler revelation to our fathers was that all men are equal before the law." And yet, he added, "unhappily, for about sixty years,
this provision of the Constitution here upon the hearthstone of the Republic, where the jurisdiction of the government of the United States is exclusive, without State limitation, this sacred guaranty of life and liberty and property to all, has been wantonly ignored and disregarded as to a large class of our natural-born citizens."
This measure, said Mr. Van Horn of New York, "needs no defence. Upon its face it bears the marks of humanity and justice. Every line and every syllable is pregnant with a just and true sentiment, and already hallowed with the sublime spirit of a noble purpose. Throughout there breathes a spirit akin to that which runs through all the wonderful teachings of Him who spake as never man spake, and inspired the hearts of those whose immortal sayings will outlast all the monuments that time can erect." "The struggles and hopes of many long years," said Mr. Ashley of Ohio, "are centred in this eventful hour. The cry of the oppressed, 'How long, O Lord, how long?' is to be answered to-day by the American Congress. . . . The golden morn, so anxiously looked for by the friends of freedom in the United States, has dawned. A second national jubilee will henceforth be added to the calendar."
"A great truth," said Mr. Riddle of Ohio, "is weakened by what men call elucidation. Illustration obscures it; logic and argument compromise it; and demonstration brings it to doubt. He who permits himself to be put on its defences is weak man or a coward. A great truth is never so strong as when left to stand on its simple assertion." Mr. Fessenden of Maine, saying the time for discussion had passed, added: "The hour in which to put upon the bill the seal of the nation. I trust it is indeed the harbinger of that brighter, brightest day at hand, when slavery shall be abolished wherever it exists in the land. This will be the one finality which will give us a righteous and a lasting peace."
"Our fathers," said Mr. Hutchins of Ohio, "honestly supposed that slavery would disappear before the march of Christian civilization. They were mistaken. While we strive to imitate their wisdom, and seek to emulate their patriotism, let
us be warned by their mistake. This bill will make the national capital free; and then the statue of Liberty, fashioned by our own Crawford, will be a fitting monument on the finished dome of the capitol." "It is our duty to abolish slavery here," said Mr. Blake of the same State, "because Congress, by the Constitution, has the power to do it; and slavery being a great wrong and outrage upon humanity, we should at once. do right, and pass the bill. . . . . That it will elevate us in the eyes of all civilized nations, is not doubted; that it will awaken a thrill of patriotic pride and enthusiasm in the great heart of the nation, no man doubts."
"It is one of the most beautiful traits of human nature," said Mr. Rollins of New Hampshire, "that while the sons of men are struggling to bear the burdens of human life, and perform the works assigned to our common nature, they sometimes step aside, or stop in their way, to minister to the wants of the needy who, sitting by the wayside, lift their eyes and hands to beg for charity. This nation, which, like a giant, walks along the pathway of nations, girded as with iron, sternly to meet and overwhelm its fratricidal foes, while marching steadily on to its work, feels it no hindrance to listen to the humble cry of a few hundred of its feeblest children who grind in the prison-house of its deadly foe."
The temper and purpose of the House were also indicated by several amendments that were proposed, and the votes thereon. Mr. Wright, a Democratic member from Pennsyl vania, moved an amendment, providing that the act should not go into operation unless a majority of the qualified voters shall "approve and ratify the same." His amendment did not pass; nor did it escape the keen satire of his colleague, Thaddeus Stevens, who recommended a like "amendment to another document." "It is somewhere provided," said Mr. Stevens, "that the wicked shall be damned. I would suggest to my colleague that he propose a proviso to that, providing that they consent thereto.' It would be just as decent an amendment as the one which he has proposed." Mr. Wads worth moved to strike out the phrase "loyal to the United States," but this motion was rejected. Mr. Train of Massa
chusetts moved that any person "feeling himself aggrieved" by the award of the commissioners should be entitled to an appeal to the Circuit Court. His amendment was lost by a vote of fifty-three to sixty-three. Mr. Harding of Kentucky moved to strike out the proviso limiting the sum appraised to three hundred dollars. "You do not consult the people of the District," he said, "as to whether they are willing to sell or not. Not at all. You have the power to buy, and you' will buy; you have the power to fix the price, and you will fix it." "The gentleman," said Mr. Lovejoy in reply, “thinks it is worse to take a thing for one half of its value than it is to rob a man of his property outright, if I understood his remarks. I wonder which is worse, to rob a man of his horse or to rob him of his wife and child? That is the question I would like to ask him." Referring to a case of slaveholding atrocity which had just transpired in the District, he said: “And yet here brazen men stand up and talk about robbing, because we give only three hundred dollars apiece, on an average, to deliver these poor oppressed beings from a condition of brutism." The amendment was lost, as also another offered by Mr. Menzies of Kentucky, proposing a scheme of gradual emancipation. The bill then passed the House by a vote of ninety-two to thirty-eight, and received the approval of the President on the sixteenth day of April, 1862.
The President, in his message accompanying his approval of the bill, had stated some objections to it. These objections were that certain classes, such as married women, minors, and persons absent from the District, were not sufficiently protected and provided for; and he suggested that these defects should be remedied by additional legislation. On the 12th of June Mr. Wilson introduced a bill for the purpose, which was referred to the committee, reported back with amendments, and made the subject of debate on the 7th of July. Mr. Grimes explained its provisions, and after remarks of a few of the members, and the adoption of an amendment offered by Mr. Sumner, that there should be no exclusion of any witness on account of color, the bill was passed by a vote of twenty-nine to six. It was taken up in the House on
the 9th, and after two or three motions by Democratic members were offered and rejected, it was carried by a vote of sixty-nine to thirty-six, and approved on the 12th.
By the enactment of these bills three thousand slaves were instantly made forever free, slavery was made impossible in the capital of the United States, the black laws and ordinances concerning persons of color were repealed, and the whole black code, which had so long disgraced its statute-book, was swept away. It was indeed, in the language of Mr. Sumner, "the first instalment of that great debt " the nation owed to an enslaved race; and had it not been so soon and so completely overshadowed by the greater and more astounding acts of the same general character and purport, it might well be “ recog. nized in history," as he predicted it would be, "as one of the victories of humanity."