March 29, 1866: More celebration of the veto of the Freedmen’s Bureau bill

Charles Sumner [front]
Charles Sumner


The Cape Girardeau Argus once again rejoices over Andrew Johnson’s veto of the bill extending the Freedmen’s Bureau. This time the article is from the front page, usually reserved for “literary” efforts — stories, poetry, humor, etc. This particular effort at humor is particularly revealing of the hostility toward freed former slaves among the Unionist Democrats in southeast Missouri.

I’m a bit puzzled by the reference to the Committee of Thirteen — there was such a committee involved in the compromise of 1850, but it didn’t exist in 1866. I have to assume it’s a mistake, and intended to refer to the Committee of Fifteen, led by Thaddeus Stevens and William Fessenden, which was trying to set Reconstruction policy in Congress.

Alas Poor Yorick

Died on the 19th of February, 1866, at the city of Washington of a malady called President’s Veto, Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, Esq., aged – days.

This interesting infant was chiefly the production of a certain Charles Sumner, and with Dr. Trumbull as midwife, was brought forth in the Senate of the United States. Before it could cry or open its eyes, it was tenderly wrapped in its swaddling clothes and sent to the White House, for Mr. Andy Johnson to look at. It lived but a short time after it reached there. The president looked on its baby features, and forthwith resolved to murder the brat. Its complexion was black, and would bring shame on the great Anglo-Saxon family over which he ruled. He accordingly sent for a heavy mallet, made many years ago by wise men, and latterly not much used, named the “veto,” and with one blow the skull was fractured and the brains spilled out — and the young brat gave up the ghost. Its dead body was carried back to its fathers, and a galvanic battery, called a two thirds majority, was immediately applied to the corpse, but it failed to bring life back into the thing.

There was mourning and lamentation over the lifeless remains. Daddy Sumner shed tears, and an old negro wench in the galleries wiped her eyes with a moral pocket-handkerchief. There is a sepulchre at Washington City called the “Committee of Thirteen,” very fair to look upon, but inside like all sepulchers, full of rottenness. In the silence of the night, it is said, to the sepulchre this abolition brat was borne, and consigned to its last resting-place amid the sobs and moans of its parents and friends. A small negro boy wept dolorously, and followed the procession afar off. An epitaph was written and inscribed on the tomb in these words:

Died of Veto.

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