The Basis of Representation
Thaddeus Stevens

According to my judgement, they ought never to be recognized as capable of acting in the Union, or of being counted as valid states, until the Constitution shall have been so amended as to make it what its framers intended; and so as to secure perpetual ascendency to the party of the Union; and so as to render our republican government firm and stable forever. The first of those amendments is to change the basis of representation among the states from Federal numbers to actual voters. Now all the colored freemen in the slave states, and three-fifths of the slaves are represented, though none of them have votes. The states have nineteen representatives of colored slaves. If the slaves are now free, then they can add, for the other two-fifths, thirteen more, making the slave representation thirty-two. I suppose the free blacks in those states will give at least five more, making the representation of non-voting people of color thirty-seven. The whole number of representatives now from the slave states is seventy. Add the other two-fifths and it will be eighty-three. If the amendment prevails, and those states withhold the right of suffrage from persons of color, it will deduct about thirty-seven, leaving then but forty-six. With the basis unchanged, the eighty-three Southern members, with the Democrats that will in the best times be elected from the North, will always give them a majority in Congress, and in the Electoral College.

They will at the very first election take possession of the White House, and the halls of Congress. I need not depict the ruin that would follow. Assumption of the rebel debt, or repudiation of the Federal debt, would be sure to follow. The oppression of the freedmen; the re-amendment of their state constitutions, and the re-establishment of slavery would be the inevitable result. That they would scorn and disregard their present constitutions, forced upon them in the midst of of martial law, would be both natural and just. No one who has any regard for freedom of elections can look upon those governments, forced upon them in duress, with any favor. If they should grant the right of suffrage to persons of color, I think there would always be Union white men enough in the South, aided by the blacks, to divide the representation, and thus continue the Republican ascendency. If they should refuse to thus alter their election laws, it would reduce the representatives of the slave states to about forty-five, and render them powerless for evil. It is plain that this amendment must be consummated before the defunct states are admitted to be capable of state action, or it never can be.


Three Decades of Federal Legislation 1855 to 1885 by Samuel S. Cox, pages 371-372
M. M. Stoddart & Company, Washington, D. C., 1885