The Facts of Reconstruction eBook

John R. Lynch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about The Facts of Reconstruction.
done.  If, then, Congress had the constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment to punish a State in the manner therein prescribed, for doing what the State then had a legal and constitutional right to do, I cannot see why Congress has not now the same power and authority to inflict the same punishment upon the State for doing or permitting to be done what it now has no legal and constitutional right to do.

No State, in my opinion, should be allowed to take advantage of its own wrongs, and thus, by a wrongful act, augment its own power and influence in the government.  To allow a majority of the white men in the State of Mississippi, for instance, to appropriate to themselves through questionable methods the representative strength of the colored population of that State, excluding the latter from all participation in the selection of the representatives in Congress, is a monstrous wrong, the continuance of which should not be tolerated.

For every crime there must be a punishment; for every wrong there must be a remedy, and for every grievance there must be a redress.  That this state of things is wrong and unjust, if not unlawful, no fair-minded person will deny.  It is not only wrong and unjust to the colored people of the State, who are thus denied a voice in the government under which they live and to support which they are taxed, but it also involves a grave injustice to the States in which the laws are obeyed and the National Constitution,—­including the war amendments to the same,—­is respected and enforced.  I am aware of the fact that it is claimed by those who are responsible for what is here complained of that, while the acts referred to may be an evasion if not a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, yet, since they do not violate the letter of the Constitution the complaining parties are without a remedy, and therefore have no redress.  This contention is not only weak in logic but unsound in law, even as construed by the Supreme Court of the United States, which tribunal seems to be the last to which an appeal can be successfully made, having for its object the enforcement of the Constitution and laws so far as they relate to the political and civil rights of the colored Americans.  That a State can do by indirection what it cannot do directly, is denied even by the Supreme Court of the United States.

That doctrine was clearly and distinctly set forth in a decision of the Court rendered by Mr. Justice Strong, which was concurred in by a majority of his associates.  In that decision it was held that affirmative State action is not necessary to constitute race discrimination by the State.  In other words, in order to constitute affirmative State action in violation of the Constitutional mandate against distinction and discrimination based on race or color, it is not necessary that the State should pass a law for that purpose.  The State, the Court declared, acts through its agents, Legislative, Executive and Judicial. 

Project Gutenberg
The Facts of Reconstruction from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook