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son, General Sam Me Go wan, Rev. Dr. Boyce, Dr. Robert Dozier, George D. Tilman, to say nothing of a dozen men of less note, have allowed themselves indulgence in passionate declamations by way of echo to the message.
Obnoxious and short-sighted as the Convention is in this regard, — for the men who were going to fight the Yankees from street to street of all their cities and chief towns, and finally die in the last ditch, seem to have learned little wisdom of language, — there is something still worse. "The negro is an animal whose character the North seems utterly unable to comprehend," said one of the sea-coast delegates. In that phrase lies the key of the Convention's sentiment and judgment, — the negro is an animal; a higher sort of animal, to be sure, than the dog or the horse, but, after all, an animal. Even so taciturn a man as Mr. Chancellor Inglis felt it necessary to rise and gravely argue that the negro is a human being, has the right of life and protection by the laws, and must receive attention even from men who make Constitutions. Ask any given delegate if the negro is a human being, and you of course insult his intelligence; but, for all that, the Convention treats him like an animal whose presence is endured, but is no way desirable. Individual men there are who sincerely sympathize with him in his anomalous and trying condition, — men who contemplate the labor question with as much grave anxiety as any man in the North; but these are the exception, not the rule, and they only serve to make more hideous the general average sentiment and political judgment.
The general debate in respect to the abolition of slavery, and the leading points of the debate in respect to the proper and expedient basis of representation in the General Assembly, have been given; and there remains only to report what was said and done regarding negro evidence and negro suffrage.
Mr. Mayor Macbeth, of Charleston, introduced the ordinance giving the negro the right to testify. "I consider it proper," said he, "that the Convention should act on this subject. It is not a question as to our opinion on the propriety of allowing him to thus give evidence, but a question of retaining military courts or permitting him to appear in our civil courts." No word, you see, for the inherent right of every man to be heard in his own defence, but simply a cold question of policy. Yet even this raised a storm. Nothing more was asked than that it be sent to a committee for their report; but this common courtesy was denied by a sharp and decisive vote. The temper of the Convention was unmistakable; but Mr. Orr rose and rebuked the delegates, saying a proposition to refer for inquiry was rarely rejected, and to reject the present motion would be a very grave matter. This brought the question again before the house, when a bare majority allowed it to go to the Committee on the Judiciary Department, from which it finally came with a recommendation that it be passed, in the following form: —
"We, the people of the State of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention met, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that hereafter colored persons shall be permitted to testify in all the courts of this State, in all cases where the rights of person or of property of persons of that class are involved."
The report was received with a great deal of disfavor, and action on it was from time to time postponed, without debate, till to-day, when it was called up and ordered before the freedmen's code commission, which the Governor has been instructed to appoint, — only three delegates—Judge Edward Frost of Charleston, Dr. A. P. Wylie of Chester, and J. G. Thompson of Beaufort — being prepared to vote at once for the ordinance.
"How long do you suppose the agitation of the question of negro suffrage can be staved off in the State?" said I to an up-country delegate of high standing. "Till the taking of the next census, I hope," he answered. "Do you really believe it can be kept down five years?" "Yes, I think it will be," was his final reply. That the Convention would show any favor to the question I presume no one really expected. Even South Carolina, with all her desolation, does n't yet fully comprehend that there has been a deluge. I did hope, however, that I should find half a dozen men at least in favor of giving suffrage to some negroes, as many more in favor of abolishing th£ barbaric color qualification, and still as many more ready to admit that suffrage would be the right of the negro as soon as he is able to use it understandingly. Vain hope! If there are six men who so much as admit that it will probably be right or politic to give suffrage to any negro of their State within ten years, four of them must be among the thirty or thirty-five whose views I have not personally learned.
Perhaps a score of delegates have taken occasion to express themselves in very strong terms as now and forever opposed to negro suffrage in any form, no matter what the limitations. Mr. Dawkins said the freed people were clearly unfit to vote now, and he did n't think the Convention was called upon to express any opinion as to what they might be in the future. Mr. Orr would vote against giving them the ballot, but presumed the fanatics of the North would not be content till they had secured it for them. Mr. Dozier would accept negro suffrage when the moral and intellectual character of the negro has been so elevated that he is fit to take part in government. Mr. Inglis said negroes were no more qualified to vote now than children. Judge Frost said the negro was to be treated as a human being who had civil rights, and unquestionably would, at no very distant day, have political rights. Mr. Melton, of Chesterfield, said the idea that South Carolina might, within five years, admit negro suffrage, was not more startling than the idea would have been, in 1860, that she would within five years declare slavery abolished. With these six exceptions, I believe no expression has been made indicating any degree of tolerance for the bare idea of negro suffrage.
The Convention adjourned sine die on the evening of September 27th, having held a session of thirteen days. A proposition to adjourn subject to the call of the President of the Convention was lost by a vote of 24 to 57.
Much has been said about the so-called Hammond resolutions, and I find an impression prevailing in some quarters that the Convention repudiated the State-rights doctrine. On the contrary, however, it was very careful to do nothing of the sort, as a brief statement will show.
On the fourth day of the session Mr. Paul H. Hammond, a son of the late United States Senator of that name, introduced a series of resolutions "declaratory of a national policy." They were referred to the Committee on Ordinances and Resolutions, which, on the seventh day of the session, reported them back in the following form: —
"Inasmuch as a randamental difference of opinion in reference to the character, powers, and policy of the government of the United States and of the State governments, existed in the Convention which framed the Constitution, and, after more than three quarters of a century of political contest, resulted in a bloody and exhausting war; and, whereas, when a people draw the sword, appealing to the last and highest tribunal known to man, they should abide by its decisions in good faith; and, whereas, it is neither wise nor politic in the people of the South to continue any longer a contest in which they have been twice defeated, once by political majorities and once by the sword: therefore, we, the people of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, accept, as the results of the war, the principles embraced in the following resolutions, and will sustain them fully and faithfully as a national policy: —
"Resolved, That the Union is the first and paramount consideration of the American people.
"Resolved, That it is the true policy of the American people to confine the general government strictly within the limits of * the Constitution, and to acknowledge the inalienable right of each State to regulate its own affairs in its own way.
"Resolved, That it is an incontrovertible fact that slavery has ceased to exist through the exercise of the military power of the Federal government, and that any attempt by us to revive it would be impolitic, unwise, and not only futile, but disastrous.
"Resolved, That the late war arose from an apprehension, on the part of the weaker section, of oppression and tyranny in the future, and was carried on under an honest conviction, coexistent among statesmen in every part of the country, with the adoption of the Constitution itself, that a State had the reserved right to revoke the powers it had delegated to the general government, whenever, in the judgment of such State, there might be danger that those powers would be used to its disadvantage. The war, therefore, not having been strictly in the nature of rebellion or insurrection, we most respectfully suggest to His Excellency the President the justice and wisdom of not enforcing the pains and penalties affixed to those crimes by the laws of the United States.
u Resolved, That we indorse the administration of President Johnson, and will co-operate with him in the wise measures he has inaugurated' for securing the peace and prosperity of the whole country."
These resolutions, with the accompanying introduction, are substantially, so far as they go, the same as those introduced by Mr. Hammond, — the changes made by the committee being few and verbal and wholly unimportant.
It is a very curious and suggestive fact, however, that the committee rejected the second of Mr. Hammond's series, which was in these words: —
"Resolved, That sovereignty, a unit absolute and indivisible, which, in all nations, must exist somewhere, resides in the American people; and its authorized representative within the limits of the organic law—i. e. the Constitution — is the Federal government."