ADOPTION OF THE FIFTEENTH AMENDMENT
April 13, 1870
Fellow Citizens, - We celebrate, to-night, the final triumph of a righteous cause, after a long, eventful, and memorable struggle. The conflict, which Mr. Seward pronounced “irrepressible,” at last is ended. The house which was divided against itself, and which, therefore, according to Mr. Lincoln, could not stand as it was, is divided no longer; and we may now rationally hope that, under Providence, it is destined to stand – long to stand the home of freedom, and refuge of the oppressed of every race and of every clime!
The great leading facts of the contest are so familiar that I need not attempt to recount them. They belong to the history of two famous wars – the War of the Revolution and the War of the Rebellion – and are part of the story of almost a hundred years of civil strife. They began with Bunker Hill and Yorktown, with the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Federal Constitution. They end with Fort Sumter and the fall of Richmond, with the Emancipation Proclamation and the antislavery and equal rights amendments to the Constitution of the nation. These long and anxious years were not years of unbroken, ceaseless warfare. There were periods of lull, of truce, of compromise. But every lull was short-lived, every truce was hollow, every compromise, however pure the motives of its authors, proved deceitful and vain. There could be no lasting peace until the great wrong was destroyed, and impartial justice established.
The history of this period is adorned with a long list of illustrious names – with the names of men who were indeed “Solomons in council and Samsons in the field.” At its beginning there were Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, and their compeers, and in the last great crisis Providence was equally gracious, and gave us such men as Lincoln, and Stanton, and George H. Thomas. All who bore their part in the great conflict, may now with grateful hearts rejoice that it is forever ended.
The newly made citizens who seem to carry off the lion’s share of the fruits of the victory – it is especially fitting and proper that they should assemble to congratulate each other, and to be congratulated by all of us that they now enjoy for the first time in full measure the blessings of freedom and manhood.
Those also who have opposed many of the late steps in the great progress – it is a great satisfaction to know that so large a number of them gracefully acquiesce in the decision of the nation.
The war of races, which it was so confidently predicted would follow the enfranchisement of the colored people – where was it in the elections in Ohio last week? In a few localities the old prejudice and fanaticism made, we may hope, their last appearance. There was barely enough angry dissent to remind us of the barbarism of slavery which has passed away forever. Generally throughout the State, especially in the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo, where the new element is large, those who strove to avert the result over which we rejoice, leaders as well as followers, were conspicuous in setting an example of obedience to the law.
Not the least among the causes for congratulation, to-night, is the confidence we have that the enfranchised people will prove worthy of American citizenship. No true patriot wishes to see them exhibit a blind and unthinking attachment to mere party. But all good men wish to see them cultivate habits of industry and thrift, and to exhibit intelligence and virtue; and at every election to be earnestly solicitous to array themselves on the side of law and order, liberty and progress, education and religion.
Let them do this, and we may confidently expect that, in the judgment of history, the Fifteenth Amendment will take rank with the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation.