Thaddeus Stevens in the early postwar hesitated at giving the vote to freedmen, but quickly saw the danger of that they may vote along with those they lived beside and trusted for so many years. He also feared a backlash from his Pennsylvania constituents who already denied the vote to free blacks. Blacks could not vote there nor in New York and all of the former slave-trading New England States except Connecticut. By 1867 Stevens wisely recognized the political expediency of the controlled freedmen vote.
The Free Trade, Irritated, Revengeful South
“Unless the rebel States, before admission, should be made republican in spirit, and placed under the guardianship of loyal men, all our blood and treasure will have been spent in vain. Having these States . . . entirely within the power of Congress, it is our duty to take care that no injustice will remain in their organic laws. Holding them “like clay in the hands of the potter,” we must see that no vessel is made for destruction. Having no governments, they must have enabling acts.
There is more reason why colored voters should be admitted in the rebel States than in the Territories. In the States they form the great mass of loyal men. Possibly with their aid loyal governments may be established in most of those States. Without it all are sure to be ruled by traitors; and loyal men, black and white, will be oppressed, exiled or murdered.
There are several good reasons for passage of this bill. In the first place, it is just. I am now confining my argument to Negro suffrage in the rebel States. Have not loyal blacks quite as good a right choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites? In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the loyal white men in the seceded States. The white Union men are in a great minority in each of those States.
With them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed that in each of said States, except one, the two united would form a majority, control the States, and protect themselves. Now they are victims of daily murder. They must suffer persecution or be exiled . . .
If impartial suffrage is excluded in the rebel States, then every one of them is sure to send a solid rebel representative delegation to Congress, and cast a solid rebel electoral votes. They, with their kindred Copperheads in the North, would always elect the President and control Congress. While slavery sat upon her defiant throne, and insulted and intimidated the trembling North, the South frequently divided on questions of policy between Whigs and Democrats, and gave victory alternately to the sections. Now, you must divide them between loyalists, without regard to color, and disloyalists, or you will be the perpetual vassals of the free-trade, irritated, revengeful South . . . I am for Negro suffrage in every rebel State.”
(“Ascendancy of the Union Party”; Reconstruction: 1865-1867, Richard N. Current, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965, excerpts pp. 58-59)