Status: Complete


men to deny, as Mr. Black, of Pennsylvania, does deny, that anything was
settled by those amendments. ¹³ Nothing is, or can be settled by fraud; and
the Democratic party has again and again declared these amendments
frauds and unconstitutional. ¹⁴ But the most objectionable and most dan-
gerous feature of this Democratic platform is its denial of the right of the
National Government to protect the liberties of its citizens in the States, and
its declaration in favor of impartial suffrage against universal suffrage.
Under these two doctrines the whole body of liberty as contained in the
several amendments of the Constitution may be undermined, subverted
and destroyed. They point out the two ways in which those amendments
may be evaded and made of non-effect. By the one they may limit suffrage,

13. Douglass refers to the argument presented by Jeremiah Black while serving as chiefcounsel
for the defense in the case of United States v. Blyew et al. Tried before the U.S. Supreme Court in early
1872, it was an important test of the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 9 April 1866. The case
involved a man named Blyew who had murdered a black woman in Kentucky after the Civil War and
had been indicted in the state courts. Kentucky still had a statute forbidding black testimony against a
white person which violated the Civil Rights Act's guarantee of the right of any citizen to testify in any
case to which he was a witness. Kentucky thus forfeited jurisdiction and the Blyew case was remanded
to the federal courts. Kentucky countered this action by claiming the right to punish any criminality
occurring within its boundaries in its own courts and appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Black’s main defense of Kentucky‘s position was that the Thirteenth Amendment was wholly self-
executing and did not need the Civil Rights Act to guarantee its enactment. Indeed, he argued thatthe
Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional. Black stated that Congress claimed jurisdiction for passing the
act solely on the Thirteenth Amendment, even though that amendment had not changed the original
distribution ofjudicial authority and left untouched the right of each state to administer and adjudicate
its own laws. Black did not, as Douglass suggests, discuss the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendment, for
they were adopted after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Douglass’s concern regarding the protec-
tion of individual liberties in the states was justified, however. Black appeared one year later before the
Supreme Court as the defense counsel for Louisiana in the famous Slaughter House Cases and argued
similarly that the Fourteenth Amendment granted the federal government no power to interfere in the
civil affairs of the states. Chauncey F. Black, Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (New York.
1885), 539—57; William Norwood Brigance, Jeremiah Sullivan Black: A Defender of the Constitution
and the Ten Commandments (Philadelphia, 1934), 197—203; Harold M. Hyman, A More Perfect
Union: The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the Constitution (New York, 1973), 465—

14. The Democratic platform of 1868 stated: “And we do declare and resolve, That ever since
the people of the United States threw off all subjection to the British crown, the privilege and trust of
suffrage have belonged to the several States, and have been granted, regulated, and controlled ex-
clusively by the political power of each State respectively, and that any attempt by Congress, on any
pretext whatever, to deprive any State of this right, or interfere with its exercise, is a flagrant usurpation
of power, which can find no warrant in the Constitution." By 1872, however, the Democrats seemed
more accepting of the amendments. Their platform stated that they opposed “any reopening of the
questions settled by the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution." Yet, if no
longer labeling the amendments as unconstitutional but now acknowledging their passage, they per-
sisted in their hope to counteract the amendments’ decrees. William Gillette, Retreat from Reconstruc-
tion: 1869—1879 (Baton Rouge, 1979), 58—59, 63—64; Johnson, National Party Platforms, l : 38.

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