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It is idle to disguise the fact that the white and colored races, where they have been thrown together, with equal privileges, have rarely, if ever, been able to harmonize.
The experiment of giving to the colored people of the South all of the privileges of the franchise of citizens is a novel one, and time only can determine whether it is to be a success or a failure. On the one hand it is said that the negro is utterly incapable of exercising the rights and privileges of a citizen. On the other hand it is said that the "rebel”thie man who participated in the war-should not be allowed to partici-pate in the Government. Those of you who are to the manor born know the fact that very few white men in South Carolina abstained from some participation in the late war. You know further that the intelligence, wealth and virtue of South Carolina entered eagerly into that war, and that when it is attempted to disfranchise or denounce these persons as unworthy of public trust, it is to exclude the real intelligence and experience of the State from her councils. This is one of the reasons why so little experience is to be found in your body.
To supply this deficiency it is the duty of the Convention to give to every question that may be submitted the gravest and most potent consideration. When you appreciate the fact that the intelligence of the white population is antagonized to you ; that all of your acts will be looked upon with distrust; when you remember that whatever you do will be subjected to the severest scrutiny at home and abroad; when you know that whatever errors are committed here will be reviewed by no friendly eye, the duty is doubly incumbent upon you of framing a Constitution which will challenge the criticism and condemnation of the most intelligent portion of the State.
Believing, as I have said to you, that you liave assembled here with proper motives ; that the Constitution framed þy you will be the law under which the people of South Carolina will live for years to come, and, occupying the position of Chief Executive of the State, I am here to give to members of your body the benefit of whatever suggestions may occur to my mind, provided I can do so without seeming to intrude. My earnest desire is that this Convention shall adopt a Constitution which will meet with the cordial support and approval of the white as well as the black race. If it be just, wise and liberal, when the question comes up on its adoption, I shall certainly recommend my friends to vote for it. If unwise or unjust, I shall be equally free to urge its rejection.
It is proper to say here that in my judgment it was unfortunate that the election of delegates to this Convention should have been influenced by the politics of the day. Members should have been chosen without reference to their opinions upon national politics. It was inmaterial whether they were Conservatives, Radicals or Democrats. The best men of each District, without reference to antecedents or to present political opinions, ought to have been selected for the great purpose of framing a Constitution. This was my advice to the people of the State
It was a matter of little consequence who was elected as representatives of the State in the Senate or House of Representatives of the United States, whether Radical, moderate Republican or Demo
erat, as compared with the important duty of framing a Constitution for a people which was to last for years. The whites in the State have abstained from going to the polls, and the blacks mainly have been controlled by the Radical party. Although thus elected, let the members of the Convention remember that the Constitution which they adopt for the people of South Carolina may, in all probability, be the Constitution of the State for the next twenty years-when Radical, Republican and Democratic parties may have passed away and others have taken their place. Anything, therefore, which savors of a partisan purpose, incorporated in the Constitution, may, in a very few years, find that it has outlived its purpose, its supporters, and its proteges.
In framing a Constitution, many improvements may be made upon the existing laws of the land. I beg very briefly to call your attention to some of them. If they are adopted, in my judgment, when the question is presented to the people of the State to ratify or reject the Constitution, you will be able to command in its favor a much larger vote than was polled in thị election of delegates to the Convention.
First. Upon the question of the elective franchise, I desire most earnestly to recommend that you incorporate no disability whatever in it; that allow every man in the State, even those who have been disfranchised under the Constitutional amendment, to exercise the right of suffrage, and of holding office, with the restrictions that no one shall exercise that franchise unless he may be able to read and write, or has a property qualification such as you may determine.
In voting upon the ratification of the Constitution you may adopt, all registered voters will of course be included, which will of course secure its adoption. With the view of carrying out fully the views of the Convention, the first Legislature to be elected under the Constitution may be elected by all male voters over twenty-one years of age, but after that time, if not before, I urgently recommend that qualified suffrage extending to all classes and races be provided for in the Constitution. A man who goes to the polls after January 1, 1870, whether he be white or black, who is not able to read or write, should be excluded froni the privileges of a voter.
Representing as you do, almost exclusively the colored element of South Carolina, you are not invisible to the fact, and to its legitimate results, that very many of the voters who have sent you here have not that intelligence with reference to men and measures which should entitle them to cast a vote. You know that thousands of them are utterly incompetent to exercise this high prerogative.
You may think that to perpetuate your power, and to preserve your organization, it is necessary to continue the franchise to this class of persons, but eventually you will find that you have been sadly mistaken. Many of the colored men of the State have an intelligence which entitles them, in their new relations, to the privileges of citizens; but very many are incompetent to exercise them with discretion or judgment. These will become the prey of evil, vicious and indisposed men. When an election is to occur with such voters, the bad will get their votes, and not the good.
In view of the fact that the colored population have a large majority
in this State, and that the bulk of them are to be controlled by these evil influences, what kind of judges, legislators, and executive officers. can you hope for? Is vice and ignorance to elect your judges ? Are the representatives of vice and ignorance to elect your legislators ? If So, what security have you for the rights of life, liberty and property in I, therefore, in view of the responsibility before us, and in all probability in antagonism to the sentiments of a very large majority of this body, recommend earnestly that in framing that feature of the Constitution conferring the elective franchise, you establish an educational qualification for the voter, but--not being able to read or write--that you establish a property qualification.
Second. If you desire that this Convention should commend itself to the favorable consideration of the people of the State, white and colored, I recommend that you adopt in the Constitution a provision for a liberal homestead law that you make it applicable to all those who now own a homestead and protect them against antecedent debts. The disasters resulting from the war, the abolition of slavery, and, thereby, the wiping out of the fortunes of very many of those who were wealthy prior to the war, as a matter of humanity demands that
protect them as to the past by a liberal homestead law, and securing that home to its owner in the future. The homestead law which guarantees to a family fifty dollars or one hundred acres in the country, and a town lot or house in the city, is not only humane but patriotic. In the country, where the head of a family knows that his homestead is protected, he goes to work to beautify and adorn the same. He plants his orchard and his vineyard. He erects his buildings, decorates his dwelling, and makes all of his surroundings comfort able, and invites happiness and content to his hearth.
Perhaps one of the greatest troubles in American legislation has been in not protecting the homestead. It has made the American people almost as great wanderers as the Arabs. When a farmer planted an orchard or a vineyard, he had no assurance that five years thereafter the result of his care and labor would not pass into the hands of strangers. Grant, therefore, a liberal homestead law, providing against past and future debts so that the white man who has his home now, and the black man who may secure a home by industry and economy hereafter, can feel that it is secured to him, and you will find not only an increase in the prosperity and happiness of the State, but you will stimulate a patriotism which has not heretefore existed. Wherever you identify a man and his household with the soil upon which he lives you make that man, if from no higher considerations of love of country, a defender of the country when 'tis assailed, because the assault is upon his individual household.
Third. I urge you to provide for the abolishment of imprisonment for debt. I have always considered the incarceration of a human being for debt as senseless and cruel, except in cases of positive fraud. It is advocated that imprisonment for debt is right, for the purpose of assuring creditors in their demands, and that it curtails the capacity of an individual to secure credit, where this right is denied. In these views I do not concur.
To be perfectly frank with you, I think that the univer-sal credit extended to or claimed by a community is a great misfortune to that community, and if the homestead and exemption law, and the abolition of imprisonment for debt, will reduce the temptation to men to ask credit, and curtail the disposition of those who hold funds or goods to extend credit, it will be a blessing to our people. To the farming interest especially, the credit system is a curse, and the sooner that and all other interests, except perhaps the mercantile interest, dispense with it the better will it he for the general prosperity of the State.
Fourth. It is very important that this body should adopt some ordinance to provide relief to debtors prior to the war. The temporary orders of the military Commandant extend to debts contracted during the war. All debts now existing, where the consideration is for the purchase of slaves, should be absolutely wiped out by the Convention. If these debts are recognized, it is a recognition of that institution, of its propriety, its justice and morality. Most of the debts contracted prior to the war, were upon the faith and possession of property in slaves. That property has been destroyed, and a liberal provision should be made by this body with reference to debtors--the amount and time when they may make payment of the same. Do this, and you will commend your Constitution under the most favorable auspices to the consideration of that class in South Carolina who have not participated in the election of delegates to this Convention.
Fifth. Education is now the great desideratum of all the colored people of South Carolina. For obvious reasons it was the policy of the State, previous to emancipation, to exclude the slave population from the benefits and advantages of education. I will not discuss these reasons. But the relations of that population to the State are now materially changed. Hence it is of the utmost importance that the largest intelligence possible shall be communicated to that class. Men of intelligence have many more opportunities, through their reading and observation, of learning and appreciating the moral law and its requirements. Profound ignorance, almost universally couples with it crime and vice. Hence, the education of the black population--and, I am sorry to say, of many of the white population of the State--should command the earnest attention of this body.
In providing for it, I beg to guard you against attempting to levy taxes exclusively upon property. There is no taxation which is so universal, just and equitable as that upon the person or poll, for educational purposes, since all are interested in having an intelligent and virtuous population.
Sixth. With reference to the condition of the State, I have only to say to you that the Treasury is empty. The tax bill adopted by the last Legislature has failed, by three hundred thousand dollars, to produce the amount of taxes contemplated. We have, therefore, been compelled to rely upon bills what are known as the “ bills receivable,” issued by authority of the Legislature, to pay all officers and claims against the State. The great depreciation of property, and the general impoverishment of the State, has reduced the amount of taxes anticipated by the Legislature very materially, and consequently the financial condition of the State is greatly embarrassed. But it is very important that you should, in your deliberations, by ordinance or otherwise, declare-and nothing can more commend your body to the confidence of the people of the State, who represented its wealth-that all of the obligations of the State, all the bonds of the State created prior to the war, and all the obligations of the State since the war, shall be fully and faithfully redeemed. An ordinance announcing the validity of the obligations of the State, passed by you, will at once rapidly and largely appreciate the value of the bonds, now held at such low figures. The great discount upon the State bonds in the markets, here and elsewhere; grows out of a want of confidence in the will and determination of the new government to redeem thens. This you should set at rest. And while you may, with propriety, repudiate all obligations contracted by the State for war purposes, the credit of the State for other obligations should not be tarnished either by repudiation or a semblance of repudiation.
In framing your Constitution, I cannot too earnestly commend to your favorable consideration the importance of removing the disability from all the white population of this state. When you look to the judiciary, I am very sure you can have no reasonable ground of complaint against their fairness or impartiality. Under the Constitutional amendment, nost or nearly all are excluded from continuing in their position. Have you in the State members of the bar who are competent to discharge these high and important trusts with the ability or even the satisfaction to yourselves of those who would be required to retire from the public service, unless you make a modification retaining them in their present position? Is there any reasonable ground of complaint against your Appeal Court, the Judges of your Criminal Court or your Chancellors ? While, under the Constitution, you may vacate these offices and subject all of the parties to the ordeal of an election before the Legislature, will it not be eminently wise and prudent for you to place the judiciary in a position where, if the Legislature elected under your Constitution think. it expedient, they may re-elect such of the Judges and Chancellors as in their judgment are worthy to be continued in these positions.
This brings me to say that in South Carolina, at least, there is no reason why any man, white or colored, should be excluded from the privilege of voting or holding office. You are aware that the disfranchise. ment in the Reconstruction Acts of Congress excludes the intelligence and wealth of the State. In one of the Districts of the State, I know that the colored people waited upon certain gentlemen and requested them to become candidates for the Convention, but they were constrained to decline because they were disfranchised. This is an illustration of the condition of affairs which exists in all the Districts of South Carolina-the most intelligent men being excluded. In starting a new government all of this intelligence and experience should not be ignored. The State cannot afford to give it up. She is entitled to the counsel of such men and to their services.
The doctrine of State rights, as taught in South Carolina, has been exploded by the war. The allegiance of the citizen, according to the l'esults of that controversy, is due to the Government of the United States, and not to the State. I recognize this doctrine to the fullest extent, and in my inaugural message as Governor of the State, I an