Page:Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892).djvu/477

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469
CHAELES SUMNER.


mit that negroes could be tolerated among them in a state of the most degrading slavery and oppression, and must be cast away, driven into exile, for no other cause than having been freed from their chains

Washington, February 7, 1866.

From this time onward the question of suffrage for the freedmen was not allowed to rest. The rapidity with which it gained strength was something quite marvelous and surprising even to its advocates. Senator Charles Sumner soon took up the subject in the Senate, and treated it in his usually able and exhaustive manner. It was a great treat to listen to his argument running through two days, abounding as it did in eloquence, learning, and conclusive reasoning. A committee of the Senate had reported a proposition giving to the States lately in rebellion, in so many words, complete option as to the enfranchisement of their colored citizens; only coupling with that proposition the condition that, to such States as chose to enfranchise such citizens, the basis of their representation in Congress should be proportionately increased; or, in other words, that only three-fifths of the colored citizens should be counted in the basis of representation in States where colored citizens were not allowed to vote, while in the States granting suffrage to colored citizens, the entire colored people should be counted in the basis of representation. Against this proposition myself and associates addressed to the Senate of the United States the following memorial:

"To the Honorable the Senate of the United States:

"The undersigned, being a delegation representing the colored people of the several States, and now sojourning in Washington, charged with the duty to look after the best interests of the recently emancipated, would most respectfully, but earnestly, pray your honorable body to favor no amendment of the Constitution of the United States which will grant any one or all of the States of this Union to disfranchise any class of citizens on the ground of race or color, for any consideration whatever. They would further -espectfully repre-