Harper's Weekly 04/23/1864


THE AMENDMENT TO THE CON-
STITUTION.


On the 8th of April, 1864, at the close of the
third year of a civil war produced by the trag-
ical and futile effort to unite in one peaceful
government the principle of the fullest popular
freedom and of the most abject despotism, the
Senate of the United States, by a vote of thirty-
eight to six, proposed to amend the Constitution
in the manner itself provides, for the purpose of
prohibiting slavery in the United States. That
nothing might be wanting to the moral grandeur
and dignity of the occasion, the resistance offer-
ed to this truly American act by the truly un-
American advocates of human slavery was as
contemptible as the system itself is revolting.


Of the six Senators who voted against the
resolution four made brief speeches. Mr. Pow-
ell
, of Kentucky, said that if there had been no
Abolitionists there would have been no rebel-
lion: an inanity too incredible. Mr. Sauls-
bury
, of Delaware, proposed to secure liberty of
speech and of the press, and re-establish the
principles of the Missouri Compromise—which
was a proposition to feed a fire with water. For
how can slavery and free speech coexist? Mr.
Davis, of Kentucky, declared the constitutional
abolition of slavery a wicked and unjust act,
against which he was aware the protest of an
angel would be of no avail; forgetting that the
only angel who would have wished to protest
was named Lucifer, and fell from heaven.
Mr. M'Dougall, of California, announced that
he was devoted to human freedom, and there-
fore, as a true friend of man, should vote in fa-
vor of slavery.


And this was the expiring gasp in the United
States Senate of the infernal iniquity to whose
service the clear, cold casuistry and subtle soph-
istry of Calhoun was formerly devoted; before
which Webster used to bow; from whose snare
the human-hearted Clay could never break
away; which, by the universal obsequiousness
of the American people, had succeeded in coil-
ing its horrid folds around all our liberties, and
from whose fatal embrace this war is the strug-
gle of the national life to escape. Yet that final
escape is worth the war. The innumerable
hearts that are broken, the countless homes that
are desolate in our own land, and the earnest
friends in other countries who understand the
scope of the struggle, will own that when the
great act initiated by the Senate is completed,
the costly sacrifice of youth and hope and love
is not in vain, and that the future of equal jus-
tice which this measure secures is well bought
by all the blood and sorrow of the war.


The issue is at last openly joined. If the
House fail to concur by the necessary two-thirds
vote, the Congressional elections of next autumn
will turn upon the question of the Constitutional
Amendment, and the vote of this spring shows
what the result will be.



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