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In view of this minute and ample legislation on the subject of passengers and of the coasting-trade, I submit there can be no question that Congress can go further, and, by a final regulation, declare that in our coasting-trade there shall be no such thing as the slavetrade.
- Yeas 13, Nays 20.
The amendment was lost,
At the next stage of the bill Mr. Sumner moved the same amendment, with the words prohibiting the coastwise slave-trade. On moving it, he remarked:
I HAVE but one observation to mak It seems to me this Congress will do wrong to itself, wrong to the country, wrong to history, wrong to the national cause, if it separates without clearing the statute-book of every support of Slavery. Now this is the last support in the statute-book, and I entreat the Senate to remove it.
Mr. Saulsbury moved the indefinite postponement of the bill, which was lost without a division. Meanwhile Mr. Sumner had succeeded in attaching to the Appropriation Bill the clause opening United States courts to colored witnesses. Alluding to this incident, Mr. Doolittle said that he did not like to vote for such measures on appropriation bills, but that he was in favor of the abolition of the coastwise slave-trade, and should vote in the affirmative.
The amendment was carried, Yeas 23, Nays 14, and the bill was approved by the President July 2, 1864.
OPENING OF THE UNITED STATES COURTS TO COLORED WITNESSES.
SPEECH IN THE SENATE, ON AN AMENDMENT TO THE CIVIL APPROPRIATION BILL, JUNE 25, 1864.
FAILING to obtain a hearing for the bill reported from the Committee on Slavery and Freedmen,1 Mr. Sumner resorted again to the Appropriation Bill.
June 25th, the Senate having under consideration the Civil Appropriation Bill, Mr. Sumner, after stating that the third section appropriated one hundred thousand dollars to aid the administration of justice, especially in bringing to conviction counterfeiters of Treasury notes, bonds, or other United States securities, as well as coin, remarked, that, to accomplish this result, something more than money was needed, – that there must be an amendment of the Law of Evidence; and he sent to the Chair the following proviso, to be added to the third section:
"Provided, That in the courts of the United States there shall be no exclusion of any witness on account of color."
Mr. Sumner then remarked:
HIS, Mr. President, is an amendment surely apposite. The objection of form, urged to my other proposition, is without any shadow of support here. It is proposed in the bill to appropriate one hundred thousand dollars to "bring to trial and punishment" counterfeiters. The object is important, especially at this moment, when we are putting in circulation national securities on so large a scale. But suppose the 1 Ante, Vol. VIII p. 176.
counterfeiter, in a State where the evidence of colored persons is excluded, chooses to employ such persons in his crime. How can you bring him to punishment? All this large appropriation will not help then. It will be of no avail. The counterfeiter, surrounded by colored accomplices, may mock your laws. But admit the testimony of these accomplices, and then will justice be done. I refer to this class of cases because your bill provides especially for them, and thus attests the importance of precautionary effort.
But the hardship and absurdity of this rule, apparent in the case of a counterfeiter surrounded by colored accomplices, arise in every other case of crime. How justice can be administered, where such a rule prevails, I am at a loss to understand. Now that Slavery is disappearing, this rule ought to disappear also.
The subject has already been discussed at length, during the present session, in an elaborate report which I have had the honor of making from the Select Committee on Slavery and Freedmen'; so that I need not occupy your time. Besides, the case is too plain for argument. But I have in my hands letters from gentlemen in Virginia, showing the practical necessity of the testimony of colored persons there. Here is one :
"HALL OF THE CONVENTION,
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA, March 17, 1864.
"I address thee as friend, although having no personal acquaintance, but have long known thee by reputation as a friend to the human race. Having been connected with the reorganized government from its beginning, I naturally feel a strong interest in its welfare.
"We have in Convention abolished slavery in the organic law of the State, and it would at first sight seem as if our fondest hopes were realized. But another difficulty now stares us in the face, which, in the present state of public opinion, we cannot conquer: I allude to the subject of allowing the freedmen to give testimony in our courts. This will not be allowed, where the interests of whites are involved. The result that will follow any one can foresee, that their persons and property will be at the mercy of every vagabond who may happen to have a black heart instead of a black skin.
"While they were slaves, their masters were a protection to them against others. Although there was not much law looking that way, their owners being of the all-powerful class in the communities in which they lived, their influence answered the end very well. My object in writing was to make thee acquainted with the probable future position of these people, thinking it might be possible to ameliorate their condition by some Federal legislation. While I speak of Virginia, I have no doubt but that the same will be true of the whole South, and will be a gigantic evil that may lead to the most disastrous results. The negro, after this war, will not be the same man as before: breathing the air of freedom, trained to arms, understanding the power of combination, and familiar with blood, it will be tampering with a volcano to deny him protection of person and property."
I do not give the name of this writer, because he is unwilling that it should be known. But you will observe, from the date of the letter, that he was a member of the Virginia Convention. His testimony will speak for itself. The other letter, as you will see, is from the District Judge of Virginia.
"UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA, March 22, 1864.
"DEAR SIR, - Some time since I saw by the papers that you were urging the admission of our freedmen as witnesses in all United States courts.
"In several confiscation cases now pending in this court such testimony will be of the greatest importance. Indeed, I am told by the United States Assistant Attorney in this court, that, from his knowledge in the preparation of these cases, the prosecution will probably fail, and the Government be subjected to costs, unless such testimony is allowed in several cases now on our docket. You will therefore see the necessity of a speedy change of the law, corresponding to the change which has taken place in the condition of the freedmen.
"Your obedient servant,
"JOHN C. UNDERWOOD,
"Hon. CHARLES SUMNER, United States Senate."
This is practical wisdom. Let me add to it proof from another quarter. Sir Samuel Romilly, whose great fame as a lawyer was enhanced by humane labors in Parliament, has furnished evidence on this very point.
"The laws of the Colonies are said to be humane; but by those laws a child of five or six years old may receive, for a slight offence or for no offence, at the caprice of the master or overseer, no less than thirty-nine lashes with what is termed a cart-whip. To this dreadful extent the law authorizes the infliction of punishment by individuals. even in cases where the law conveys no authority, where wanton cruelty is inflicted in defiance of the law, how easy it must be to escape detection, when the testimony of a negro, or a thousand negroes, would not avail against a white