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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
NEW ORLEANS, October 8,1864.
MY DEAR MR. CHASE:
Your welcome letter of Sept. 20th, from Washington, reached me this morning. I was surprised that you had not seen the new Constitution of this State, for it was published many times in some of the papers of this City. Enclosed is an official copy, which I have taken out of the "Journal of the Proceedings of the Convention ". I will send you the entire volume, if you desire it.
Please notice the two
titles which I have marked - The first is Concerning Emancipation, and seems to me quite complete.
is Articles 14 and 15 (on page 3) of Title III, wherein are, stated the conditions of suffrage. Article 15 was very difficult to get through the Convention. You preceive that it gives power to the Legislature "to pass laws extending suffrage to such other persons, citizens of the United States, as by military service, by taxation to support the Gov't, or by intellectual fitness, may be deemed entitled thereto." I suppose colored persons would be regarded as citizens, for the purpose above indicated.
To do more than this would have
been an exercise of more
and magnanimity than was possessed by the Convention. And yet I think this is a great deal. Equal suffrage can now be extended to the black man, whenever public opinion justifies it. There will be a continual opportunity to effect this progress. It seems to me that Constitution and laws are without good effect, unless sustained by an enlightened public opinion - and any law giving suffrage to negroes, could not be so sustained at present, in any State County or Town throughout the whole South. I do not think you appreciate or understand the intense antipathy with
which Southerners regard negroes. It is the natural antipathy of races, developed and intensified by the servile, brutal condition of one - the insolent despotic position of the other. We used to hear much of the patriarchal character of the institution - of the fond attachment of the faithful slave - of the paternal and affectionate care of the kind master - and Southerners used to profess a liking for the negro, never exhibited in the North. This was all gammon. They liked the negro as I like my horse - a convenient beast of burden for my use and pleasure. But that a negro should have a voice or influence in Government, or any rights which a white man is bound to respect - this is intolerable.
During this war and since I have been in New Orleans, I have learned a great many things, and among them is what I have just been saying. It will not yet do to extend suffrage to negroes, for if you do, you will lose all white support, or almost all. Public opinion must be educated, and that will take some time. Already during the last-two years, I preceive great progress here, and it will undoubtedly be the same elsewhere. The work will continually grow easier, as the whites accustom themselves to their new relation towards the blacks, and as the blacks themselves become educated and intelligent.
at present against negro suffrage are two - viz;
It makes the right of suffrage so common and cheap, that it is degraded and not worth having, for the negroes generally have, by no means, sufficient intelligence.
It renders the poor whites, and all other whites, permanently and bitterly hostile, so that they cannot be made friends to the Gov't, but will really fight till no men are left. I think Kirke mentions this in his book "Down in Tennessee ".
I cannot help thinking therefore that Article 1.5, Title III, is a great step in the right direction. I voted for the Constitution, and did all I could for it, for I regarded its defeat as a triumph to the Copperheads. Yet I wish it had been framed by a better class of men, who would have
commanded the respect of the people of the whole state. It would have been so, if there had been so much management.
I agree with you entirely as to the necessity of Mr. Lincoln's re-election, and within my limited sphere and to the utmost of my small abilities, am doing all I can to secure that end. I have raised $1500 for the Union Congressional Committee at Washington and hope to obtain as much more for them.
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