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1865 August 19: Cabinet Meeting on Reconstruction and “Negro” Suffrage

August 19, 2015

The following reports come from the August 19, 1865, issues of The Polk County Press and The Prescott Journal.

From The Polk County Press:


It is reported that the Cabinet of President Johnson [Andrew Johnson] is having stormy sessions upon the subject “Reconstruction.”  The great issue seems to hinge upon “colored suffrage” at the South.  The Green Bay Advocate (Union Democratic) in speaking upon the subject of negro suffrage, shows that all the objections urged against extending the right of suffrage to the Negroes of the South apply equally well to a majority of the whites there.  If the negroes are ignorant, lazy, indisposed to work or to adapt themselves to the new order of things, the same is true of the mass of the white population.  The Advocate closes by laying down a platform on the suffrage question, which is a very sound one :

Regardless of where it hits or misses, let the men in the South vote—

1.  Who are able to read and write ;
2.  Who have been in the habit of working and earning their own living ;
3.  Who have borne arms in the Federal service during the rebellion, and
4.  Who promptly assent to the Emancipation policy, and cheerfully yield allegiance to the Federal Government.

Negro Suffrage in Wisconsin.

This question is one of considerable importance, and is a question which is to come before the people of this State, at the next general election, (see suffrage law elsewhere).  Upon this subject the Prescott Journal thus speaks in good sense and candor :

In this State, unlike the rebel states, the question of negro suffrage is one more of principle than of practical effect.  The number of negroes in this State is now, and always will be, so small, that conferring the right of suffrage upon them can exert but little influence upon the politics and destiny of the State.

The negro, like every other human being, is entitled to justice, and while we do not think that his proper and natural position is as high as many do, yet we think that in this State, he has a right to vote.  The alien has his property and person protected by our laws, but as he has no voice, was not held to military service.—But the negro was called on to fight for us.  He stood his even chance in the draft with the whites, and now to deny to him the ballot is manifest unjustice.  We are told this is the white man’s country.  If so, why to compel the negroes to help defend it.  The people accepted without disapproval the policy of holding the negro to military service, and the right to vote follows from that fact as logically as any corollary ever followed from a mathematicial [sic] proposition.

From The Prescott Journal:

B Y   T E L E G R A P H

NEW YORK, Aug. 12.—The Herald’s correspondent says a long Cabinet session was held to-day, and report says a rather storming one.

The President’s reconstruction policy is understood to have been discussed in all its length and breadth, and his determination to adhere to it and carry it out regardless of opposition or consequences, is emphatically announced.

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