Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thaddeus Stevens on Suffrage (African American Voting Rights)

From the New York Times, "Thaddeus Stevens on Suffrage," published on 13 January 1868


Thaddeus Stevens on Suffrage
Washington, D.C., January 6, 1868

DEAR SIR: So far as I took any position with regard to negro suffrage, it was and is that universal suffrage is an inalienable right, and that since the amendments to the Constitution, to deprive the negroes of It would be a violation of the Constitution as well as of a natural right.  True, I deemed the hastening of the bestowal of that franchise as very essential to the welfare of the nation, because without it I believe that the Government will pass into the hands of REBELS and their friends, and that such an event would be DISASTROUS to the WHOLE COUNTRY.

With universal suffrage  I believe that true men of all the nation can maintain their position.  Without it, whether that suffrage be impartial, or in ANY WAY QUALIFIES, i look upon this Republic as likely to relapse into an OLIGARCHY, which will be ruled by coarse copperheadism and proud conservatism.

I have never insisted that the franchise should be unjustly regulated so as to secure a Republican ascendancy  but I have insisted, and do insist, that there can be no unjust regulation of that franchise which will give to any other party the power if the Republicans are true to themselves, and do not fall into their usual vice of cowardice.

The Republicans, once beaten into a minority by force of negro prejudice, will never again obtain the majority, and the nation will become a despotism.

Very respectfully yours,

Thaddeus Stevens
(source:  The New York Times, "Thaddeus Stevens on Suffrage," published on 13 January 1868)

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