WASHINGTON, May 20.
SENATE. – Messrs. Harris and King presented petitions from merchants of New York for a general bankrupt law.
Mr. Wade presented petitions for an efficient confiscation act.
Mr. Sumner gave notice that he should to-morrow call up the resolution for the expulsion for the Senator from Oregon, Mr. Starke.
Mr. McDougal moved to take up the Pacific railroad bill.
The Pacific railroad bill was taken up but before the reading was finished the morning hour expired and the confiscation bill was taken up. Mr. Davis, of Ky., proceeded to speak at length upon it.
HOUSE. – Mr. Blake reported from the Post Office committee, a bill to establish certain post routes.
It declares the bridge partly constructed across the Ohio river at Steubenville, to be a lawful structure, a public highway and establishes a post route over it for the purpose of transmitting the mails, and that the Steubenville and Indiana RR. Co., and the Holliday Cove RR. Co., are authorized to have maintained and operate said bridge when completed. Draws are to be provided for the passage of boats.
Mr. Colfax. From the Post Office committee, reported back the Senate bill providing that no person, by reason of color, shall be disqualified from carrying the mails, with the recommendation that it do not pass.
Mr. Colfax said that not a single person of any color from any State had ever petitioned for this repeal. No Postmaster General and ever recommended it. No public opinion demanded it. It would not only allow negroes to be mail contractors, and therefore officers of the Government, but Indians and Chinese also. It would impair the securities of the mails, for in some States blacks, Indians and Chinese are not allowed to testify against whites, and if robbed while in their hands we could not procure legal testimony, as now, of the mail carriers against the robbers. It would also allow slaveholders, contracting, to sue slave as mail carriers for them, instead of free whites, whom they are now compelled to employ, and money would thus be paid out of our post-office treasury for this labor of slaves which is now impossible. As the bill would not even indirectly aid in crushing out this rebellion, which he thought the main duty of Congress, or crippling the power which sustains this treason, a large majority of the P. O. committee concurred with him in recommending that it do not pass.
Mr. Dawes, referring to an obligation stated by Mr. Colfax, inquired by way of answer whether the latter supposed mail depredations were tried in State or U. S. courts, and whether he himself did not assist in the making of the laws.
Mr. Colfax replied, that not being a lawyer, he could not fully understand the matter, but he understood that in such cases the Federal court was governed by the rules of the State in which the trial takes place.
Mr. Wickoff approved of the decision of the committee. He had been informed that this bill had been introduced into the Senate to remove the disability of distinguished men. If negroes were to be made mail carriers, we had better carry out the whole programme – in addition to making them soldiers and sailors, he had better throw open the doors here and admit them as members of Congress. (Laughter.)
Mr. Colfax moved to lay the bill on the table, but the hour fixed for the consideration of the confiscation bill having arrived, the vote goes over until to-morrow.
Mr. Elliott, chairman of the select committee, who reported the confiscation bill, said the war originated in the rebel States, and is carried on by rebel citizens against the Government. This is precisely the character of the war. Appropriate legislation may soon be demanded concerning the rebel States. These bills concern the property, not the persons of the rebels, and Congress may make the property of the rebels aid in paying the expenses incurred in crushing the rebellion.
The lands owned by rebels are used for carrying on the war, and their unwilling slaves are made to toil, that our government may be overthrown. Their land and slaves are made instruments for carrying on the war – deprive them of these and the war must come to an end, and our immense debt balked of increase. The rebels owe $300,000,000. Every dollar of that debt has been confiscated by their Government; repudiated by the rebel debtors, to whose honor the constituents of gentlemen trusted. He repeated that as lands and slaves are being used by the traitors as warlike instruments, they should be confiscated as the pending bills proposed. These were as much enemy’s property as if they owed allegiance to a foreign power. Mr. Elliott supported his remarks by legal arguments.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Wednesday Morning, May 21, 1862, p. 1