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Harper's Weekly 07/07/1866


The President has expressed his disapproval
of the new Constitutional Amendment. It is
to be regretted that he has done so, for his
opinion upon the point was not asked. It is
unfortunate, also, that he should suggest the
doubt whether the action of Congress is in
harmony with the sentiment of the people, and
whether the present State Legislatures truly
represent that sentiment. The truth is, that
the Union Conventions of Maine, Ohio, and
Vermont have just spoken very distinctly, and
Governor Morton, of Indiana, has opened the
Union campaign in that State. The feeling
of the dominant party in each of these States
is unmistakable. Their words and resolutions
ring out in the true patriotic tone. They ap-
prove most heartily the proposed Amendment,
and sustain the general policy of Congress.

Besides, the words of the Constitution are
very plain. “The Congress, whenever two-
thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary,
shall propose amendments to this Constitution,
or on the application of the Legislatures of
two-thirds of the several States shall call a
Convention for proposing amendments, which
in either case shall be valid to all intents and
purposes as part of this Constitution, when rati-
fied by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the
several States, or by Conventions in three-
fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of
ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”
Here is nothing requiring the approval of the
President nor the election of new Legislatures.
The only case in our history of the Presidential
signature to a constitutional amendment was
that of the Emancipation Amendment which
President Lincoln returned, saying that he
thought he had no right to sign it, but as Con-
gress had submitted it he would not refuse.
But the Senate voted that it had been sent
through inadvertence, and directed that the
House should not be notified that the signature
of the President had been affixed. The Su-
preme Court of the United States considered
the point too clear for argument, and the Sen-
ate in 1863, by a vote of 23 to 7, resolved that
an amendment should not be presented for the
Presidential signature. The proposition of
amendment is something with which the Ex-
ecutive power has no concern whatever.

Familiar with this uniform practice as he
must be, it is curious that the President should
apparently think it an irregularity in Congress
not to have submitted the Amendment to him.
Nor can we see that there is any purpose what-
ever in the Message, except to reiterate the
President's conviction that until Senators and
Representatives have been admitted from the
unrepresented States no Amendment ought to
be proposed by Congress. That is his well-
known opinion, in which he differs from the
great body of loyal Union men in the country.
But having amply stated it upon many occa-
sions we had hoped that he would abide, with-
out further debate, by the reference of the dif-
ference between himself and Congress to “the
sovereign people of the nation.”

As it is desirable that all possible delays
should be avoided, and as there is no doubt
whatever that the Legislatures of the States
faithfully represent the sentiment of the people,
we hope that at the earliest moment they will
be convened to pass upon the Amendment.
And if Tennessee shall be the first to approve
it, we shall hail it as a happy omen of the na-
tional sanction.

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