The Drafter of the 14th Amendment Quotes
Abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens
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Autograph Note Signed. 1 p., 8¼ x 4¼ in.
In the debate in the C. [Congressional] Globe, you will see that the great Statesman and true patriot, Hon. Thadeus [sic] Stevens said “The propositions fall short of my wishes, but they fulfill my hopes.” &c. I am very busy in my judicial duties, or would write you more fully.
Stephen Neal (1817-1905) was an Indiana lawyer. He served in the state legislature and was later a judge. In 1866, he drafted what would become the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Legend has it that he presented it his friend, Indiana Congressman Godlove S. Orth, and that Congress passed the draft as Neal had written it. This is unlikely; Ohio Congressman John Bingham is usually given credit as the amendment’s principal author, to say nothing of Congressional machinations that make passage of anything without revision nearly impossible.
Neal is actually summarizing Stevens’s arguments in the House of Representatives:
“When I say that we should rejoice at such completion [of the amendment], I do not thereby intend so much to express joy at the superior excellence of the scheme, as that there is to be a scheme—a scheme containing much positive good, as well, I am bound to admit, as the omission of many better things.”
“Do you inquire why, holding these views and possessing some will of my own, I accept so imperfect a proposition? I answer, because I live among men and not among angels; among men as intelligent, as determined, and as independent as myself, who, not agreeing with me, do not choose to yield their opinions to mine. Mutual concession, therefore, is our only resort, or mutual hostilities. We might well have been justified in making renewed and more strenuous efforts for a better plan could we have had the coöperation of the Executive.”
“A few words will suffice to explain the changes made by the Senate in the proposition which we sent to them.”
“You perceive that while I see much good in the proposition I do not pretend to be satisfied with it. And yet I am anxious for its speedy adoption, for I dread delay. The danger is that before any Constitutional guards shall have been adopted Congress will be flooded by rebels and rebel sympathizers....Hence, I say, let us no longer delay; take what we can get now, and hope for better things in further legislation; in enabling acts or other provisions.”
From the Congressional Globe, June 13, 1866, p. 3148.