TROUBLE 1N WASHINGTON.
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
Washington, April 13, 1866.
IMMEDIATELY after writing my letter of the 6th April, I started for the capital, and therefore did not mention in it the passage of the Civil Rights' Bill over the President's veto in the Senate, which took place at 6 o'clock of that day. This was rather a sur- prise, it having generally supposed that in that body the Bill would fail to receive the necessary two-thirds vote. The Radi- cal Senator who was looked for from New Jersey in place of the Conservative Senator Stockton (declared just before not entitled to his seat) did not come. None came, an election having been prevented in the New Jersey Legislature. But it was supposed that Senator Morgan of New York would sustain the veto, in which case Senator Dixon of Connecticut, although yet very feeble, would have gone to the Senate Chamber to sustain the veto. But Mr. Morgan decided to stand by the Bill, for which he had voted on its first passage, and sent word that he should do so to Mr. Dixon, who consequently remained at home ; and the Bill passed therefore by a vote of 33 to 15, three more than two-thirds. Yet the Bill was saved by one vote, for if Mr. Morgan had voted against it, Mr. Dixon would have done so too, and the nays would then have been 17 and the ayes but 32, two less than the necessary two-thirds. It is somewhat remarkable that it was by the loss of a single vote, that of New Jersey, that the ordinance, proposed by Jefferson, providing that after the year 1802 there should be " neither slavery not involuntary servitude" in any State to be formed from the territory of the United States, failed to pass the Continental Congress of 1784. But if the Civil Rights' Bill was saved by a. single vote in the Senate, there were votes, and plenty to spare in the House, where it was passed on Monday by 122 to 41, only one less than three-fourths. I was present on this occasion, which was one of much interest, but which was not, until the Bill was declared a law, accompanied by any, even the slightest, manifes- tation of excitement. The galleries, which entirely surround the floor of the House, are very deep, were closely packed with a crowd composed of people of all conditions of life. Many negroes were present, but they were chiefly in the many doorways and passages. But for the crowd, there would have been no reason to suppose that the proceedings were expected to be of unusual interest. Neither impatience nor excitement of any kind appeared, either among the members or the spectators. The latter sat perfectly still, exchanging remarks under breath once in a while upon what passed upon the floor, the former went about their work in the most businesslike manner. After the House had gone through with the order of the day, the Bill was called up and the previous question demanded, and the demand sustained. Then the Democrats attempted the process which I have before described as filibustering. They moved to lay the Bill upon the table. The motion was decided to be out of order by the Speaker, but was afterwards admitted and lost. Then it was moved that when the House adjourned it adjourned to Thursday, which motion was lost. Mr. Eldridge then moved that the House adjourn, and demanded the yeas and nays, to which the House con- sented. The intention, when filibustering is attempted, is to keep up this sort of thing until the other side is wearied out,. and makes some compromise. But it was plain enough in, this case that it was a very weak device, very poor fool- ing indeed, and Mr. Eldridge, evidently a little ashamed of himself, said before the question was taken, " Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my motion," adding, as he sat down, " Let them go it if they can." Whereupon they did "go it" most effectually, as• I have said above, the question on the Bill being immediately taken by yeas and nays. Thus far nothing could have • been calmer, and except the crowd, which was now increased on the floor by the coming in of many senators, more common-place. than the whole spectacle. But when the Speaker said, "I do, therefore, by the authority of the Constitution of the United States, declare that an Act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights and furnish means of their own vindi- cation has become a law," it was like putting fire to powder.
The human mass exploded with applause. Something between a cheer and a roar went up from all parts of the House, except that part of the floor where the forty one dissentients sat ; for the members themselves joined heartily in this violation of order, and Mr. Sumner (who had come in a minute or two before from the Senate Chamber), and Mr. Stevens, after indulging in a rousing cheer, shook hands in warm congratulation. The ladies waved their handkerchiefs and some reports say that hats were thrown up, but my seat commanded a full view of the whole House, and as I kept perfectly quiet and looked on, I am sure that this was not done. There was only the prolonged cheer taken up again and again, so that it seemed to surge from one side of the House to the other. If there were any hisses, they were unheard, but there probably were none ; for it being quite certain that the Bill would pass, only those went into the galleries to whom its passage would be accept- able. The Speaker made no attempt to control this tumult, as the House was about to adjourn, and taking the question amid the uproar he declared the House adjourned, and the assembly which had decided and witnessed the decision of so momentous, so sharply debated, and so profoundly agitating a question, had in ten minutes scattered itself quietly over Washington, each one going to his work or his pleasure. The subject was uppermost in all thoughts, however, that day. In the evening, as I passed through the office at my hotel, I heard the clerk in charge call out to a negro waiter, " I say, you, Civil Rights, look sharp there." " Yes, Sar," answered Sambo, recognizing his new nickname, and bounding off upon his errand. On this same day (Monday) the Senators who had on the previous Saturday voted for the Bill received each one of them a pretty bouquet ; Senator Foster, President of the Senate, and Senator Trumbull, the author of the Bill, getting a basket each, the flowers being accompanied in every instance by a card, on which was written, " We exercise the civil right to express our gratitude." They were from the negroes in Washington, and although it is said that the hint came from white men, who manage all these affairs with an eye to effect and picturesqueness, still this does not in the least detract from the gracefulness of the action ; and the foreign exotic character of the proceeding, while it is calculated to awaken reflection upon the character of the element which seems about to be introduced into this nationality, is for that very reason against the supposition that the tribute was not spontaneous.
And now what is to be the effect of the passage of this Bill over the veto. It is only the sixth that has been so passed since the formation of our Government, and the preceding five were com- paratively of very small importance ; bills concerning canals and the like matters of administrative detail. This is the first direct issue between a Congress and a President upon a fundamental constitutional luestion, which has not been settled by a compro- mise of some kind. Under ordinary circumstances even such an issue would not be of the gravest importance, would not involve peril to the State. The President is made by the Constitution a part of the legislature of the country, as well as its chief executive, and his exercise of his function by disapproval, and the subsequent exercise by Congress of its prescribed function in the setting aside of that approval, is merely the nominal working of constitutional government. But the present condition of affairs is at leant suffi- ciently abnormal to give the opposition, who deny, not the wisdom and the expediency of the measures of the majority, but their con- stitutionality, that is, their binding force, more than a mere pre- text for the organization of factious resistance. They begin to agi- tate the question whether this Congress is really a Congress, or a body which usurps a power that does not constitutionally belong to it. They point to the provision of the Constitution that, even by an amendment of that instrument, "no State shall be deprived without its own consent of its equal representation " in the Senate ; and say that it is absurd to pretend that that may be done indirectly, or even by direct legislation, which cannot be done by the more solemn method of a constitutional amendment. The action of Congress during the rebellion they admit to have been unimpeachable in this respect, because the rebellious States were not represented by their own choice. They sent no representa- tives to Congress. But now it is urged the people of these States acknowledge the Government of the United States, and they send representatives to Washington, who are excluded from Congress, not because of their personal unfitness, but because any represen- tation whatever is denied to these States. The " Copperhead" World has for some time past headed its Congressional reports " The Rump Congress." Granted that this is mere impotent malice and disappointed rage, there can be no doubt of the purpose that it reveals, or that that purpose is one not to be attained by merely political action. It means mischief. On the other band, the Radicals are so incensed by the President's endeavours to obstruct their course, that they would gladly find occasion for his impeachment, and do not affect to conceal their wishes. But for what can he be impeached ? Granted that he has deserted the party that elected him (which he denies), granted that he has not kept faith with the negroes, these are no
grounds of impeachment ; and still less are those grounds to be found in his exercise of his constitutional right of returning bills to Congress with his objections to their becoming laws. But futile as the attempt would be at present, the desire to make it is none the less evidence of malignant purpose. The Civil Rights' Bill has become, within a certain contingency, the law of the land, but it seems as if both Radicals and Copperheads desired nothing so much as that President Johnson should obstruct its execution. For that would give the former an opportunity to impeach him, and his impeaclunent would give the latter a much coveted occasion of resistance to the " Rump Congress." It is not hastily, and you may be sure not willingly, that I have come to the conclusion that the impeachment of President Johnson, or any attempt by Congress to resist or restrain his executive action in favour of the restoration of the late rebellious States to their position in the Union, would be followed by at least an attempt at a simultaneous rising against Congress in certain parts of the North and all over the South. Senator Harris, of Kentucky, said openly in the Senate, " Pass your Freedmen's Bureau Bill and Civil Rights' Bill, and henceforth I am the enemy of your Government, and will spend the few feeble remnants of my life in efforts to overthrow it;" and Senator Saulsbury, of Delaware, said, just as openly, at a meeting in Washington for the revival of the National Democratic Association, that " he believed to-day that revolution is pending, and President Johnson could have better work for Southern men yet than hanging them. He believed that when Jefferson Davis left the Senate he was a better Union man than Abraham Lincoln. This he should say on the floor in Congress before he got through. This work of Congress amounts to usurpation, and what it passes are not laws." These men have been factious all through the rebellion, but it is the knowledge of what has not yet been openly declared, and which I trust there will never be occasion to reveal, that causes me to regard their utterances as of more moment now than heretofore. Indeed I do not wonder that the representatives of foreign Governments here, judging the situation by- the precedents of history, regard the situation as fraught with the very gravest consequences. They, and not only they, have upon their lips a phrase which I do not like to write, even while I refuse utterly to admit its admissibility in connection with our Government. It is not an English phrase, for even in the days of Cromwell's game with " that bauble " and Pride's Purge we did not talk about a coup d'itat. But although the situation is not without its perils, there will be no coup &etas. They may order some matters better in France, but they order some other matters better in the United States. President John- son will minister occasion neither to his open enemies, who were lately his warm friends, nor to his false friends, who were lately his bitter enemies. The execution of the Civil Rights' Act is committed almost entirely to the hands of the United States Circuit and District Judges, and with their action the Presi- dent will not think of interfering. It is not yet established as the law, because its constitutionality being disputed, there is no doubt that it will be brought before the Supreme Court, which with us has the power of " going behind " an Act of Con- gress. That Court may declare it wholly constitutional, wholly unconstitutional, or constitutional in some of its provisions and
unconstitutional in others. The decision of the Court may cause murmurs on one side or the other, but it will be received with entire submission. Meantime, however, the prostrate body of the old Pro-Slavery Democratic hydra, which was beheaded with the sword and seared with the brand of war, is writhing either in the last throes of death, or with the symptoms of returning life. My worst present fear is that we may see it threatening us with its hundred heads in 1868.
The Fenian scurry on the Canadian frontier, although it is the merest scurry, adds to the complications of the situation. Under present circumstances the party which is seeking to appropriate President Johnson to itself, and to influence his action—a party always hostile and defiant to the British Government—would do almost anything rather than offend the Irish. But I venture to say to my readers,—trust the good faith of the Yankees and the good offices of Mr. Seward.