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Mr. Stevens. I wish to state to the House amply what the
committee of conference have done; and then if they choose
to overrule the decision to which they came before by a vote
of five to one, I shall have nothing to say.
But, sir, the committee of conference have seen fit to disregard the instructions of the House upon that point, and restore the provision of the Senate entire, with the exception of adding a proviso that this shall not affect the existing law in regard to others, thereby leaving the implication that the whole matter, which we had hoped was settled, was open again to be adjudicated by the Departments.
Now, I say that those in this House who have advocated the
employment of Negro troops are bound in justice and fairness
to treat them precisely as they treat white soldiers. I have
no idea that those who call themselves by any other name –
conservatives, if you please – shall dodge this question and
put the matter on the ground of being referred to some other
tribunal. It is due to ourselves, I repeat, that, if we
accept the services of colored troops, they should be paid
for their services like any other soldiers; and I would
rather lose the whole bill than adopt the principle of doing
injustice to those who enlisted from patriotic motives
merely, and of doing justice only those who enlisted from
Mr. Garfield, Will the gentleman state what the clause was which is rejected?
Mr. Stevens. Let me state it again, if I may be allowed this
irregularity. The House decided that all free persons of
color who had entered the Army should from the time of their
mustering in be allowed the same pay as white soldiers. The
amendment of the committee of conference is that those who
were promised it shall receive it, leaving all others to the
old law. The difference, therefore, is between those who can
prove that they had a specific promise and those who were
enlisted without it, although all are in the same service.
Mr. Morrill. I have been unable to ascertain the amount which would be drawn from the Treasury by paying all these freedmen who have been employed in Louisiana and other States from the commencement of the war, although in minor positions, the full amount; but I am assured that it would involve many millions of dollars. I think we are doing full justice to these men, and I hope the House will sustain the action of the committee of conference
Mr. Stevens. The House amendment provided only for free people of color. The gentleman misleads the House by speaking of it as if it included all persons of color who have been employed.
Mr. Farnsworth of Illinois. I desire to ask the gentleman from Pennsylvania, who speaks of the House amendment as embracing only free people of color, whether he does not recognize all persons enlisted in the Army of the United States as free.
Mr. Stevens. The word “free” was inserted for the express purpose of excepting all those who are taken from slavery. I think the House understands the distinction, and I have nothing further to say. I had rather see this bill go down forever than see this amendment of the committee of conference adopted.
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