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Remarks on the Third Reconstruction Act
Speech of Representative Thaddeus Stevens in Congress
July 13, 1867, in Congress

 

 

    Mr. STEVENS, of Pennsylvania.  Mr. Speaker, most of the amendments made by the House have been agreed to some slight amendments. One of these is, I think, quite an improvement.  Where the House bill originally spoke of the authority of Congress over this whole subject we have so modified it as to speak of  "the paramount authority of Congress," which put the matter in a position which I think decidedly preferable.

     The principle provisions of our bill have been retained; except two. One is the section offered by the gentleman from Iowa {Mr. WILSON} in relation to penalties, which the members of the committee representing the Senate said that the Senate could not agree to on account of some reasons which that body deems sufficient.  We did not think it worthwhile to split upon that. The other provision is one which I had more at heart --that district commanders should not be removed without the consent of the Senate. Upon this question we were about to slit, having agreed upon everything else. After the Senate had finally consented to concede the "paramount authority of Congress" over this subject, I could not see the logic of their reasoning in contending that we have no constitutional power to say that these officers shall not be removed without the consent of the Senate. But I beg the House to consider that the Senate is several furlongs behind the House in the march of reform -- perhaps I ought to say of radicalism. They are coming up sidelong; they have not got square up. I have already illustrated this in stating the fact that while they conceded in one part of the bill the "paramount authority of Congress, " they still doubted whether the Constitution did control the subject in a particular way.

    This seems to me very strange; and I can account for it only by supposing in traveling South they see the ghost of the Constitution "as it was," and forget that the part which covered the dominion of the so-called confederate States of America had been consumed in the fierce conflict and wholly repudiated by a belligerent acknowledged to be independent, (as a belligerent,) and thus their action is obstructed.  This is natural enough. I do not find any fault in regard to the matter. I am only apologizing for the Senate and stating the reason why I thought it right for us to yield rather than to press under these particular circumstances.

    As I said before,  I would decidedly have preferred that the section in relation to penalties should have been retained; but the Senate considered it unnecessary on the ground that existing laws provided for all that. I did not feel disposed to quarrel with them upon that point. Generally, as I have already remarked, the points in which this bill differs from the original House bill appear to me improvements. If any gentleman wishes to ask me any question in reference to any particular point I shall be happy to answer him. If not, I will yield to my colleague on the committee, the gentleman from Indiana, {Mr. HOLMAN,} who desires to explain briefly his reasons for signing this report, which is a unanimous report of the committee.

 

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