The same sentiment which led us to hail the abolition of slavery with gratitude as the triumph of justice, should make us reject with indignation a device to crystallize into law the disenfranchisement of a race… The attempt now is on a larger scale and is more essentially bad than the Crime against Kansas or the Fugitive Slave Bill. Such a measure, so obnoxious to every argument of reason, justice, and feeling, so perilous to the national peace and so injurious to the good name of the Republic, must be encountered as we encounter a public enemyCharles Sumner, 1866
Each month, we shine the spotlight on items from the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America that have been fully digitized and made accessible online.
For December, we are showcasing a speech by Senator Charles Sumner (1811-1874): No Compromise of Human Rights: No Admission in the Constitution of Inequality of Rights, or Disfranchisement on Account of Color.
Charles Sumner was a United States Senator from Massachusetts from 1851-1874. He was vehemently anti-slavery, denouncing the Compromise of 1850 and the “Crime” against Kansas (the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854) which encouraged the expansion of slavery. In 1856, he was violently attacked on the Senator floor by Congressman Preston S. Brookes, a pro-slavery Democrat from South Carolina. In 1867, he worked with Congressman Thaddeus Stevens from Pennsylvania on a campaign to advocate for full voting rights for African Americans across the nation.
In this pamphlet, which contains the contents of his speech delivered to Congress in 1866, Sumner argues against a proposed amendment that would base political representation on the eligible voting population as opposed to the entire population of a state, including those who had no voting rights.
He argues that the inclusion of African Americans in the elective franchise was unequivocally decided with the abolition of slavery.
It is clear from Sumner’s argument that the 13th amendment did not go far enough to ensure that African Americans would be protected from discriminatory legislation and that further protections would be needed to solidify their rights.
You can view the full contents of the pamphlet below, which has been digitized for the Internet Archive.
Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view this item and more on display in the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.