Congressional Speech by William Mungen. July 9, 1867.

Every aspect of Reconstruction was hotly debated in Congress. In addition to the practical aspects of how to administer reconstruction and how to fund it, Congressmen argued about the moral basis for reconstruction. In the following speech, Congressman William Mungen (D-Ohio) argued that the former slaves are not equal to whites and therefore did not deserve the assistance the Radical Republicans were attempting mandate. He supports his argument by referring to the physical differences between the races, as perceived by some scientists at the time, which he claims is the scientific basis for discrimination. He also argues that God created prejudice to keep the races apart and that it is therefore immoral to try to make them equal.

 

Mr. Speaker, the bill now before the House is supplemental, as its title indicates, to "An act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States," passed on the 2d day of March, 1867, and the act supplementary thereto, passed on the 23d day of March, 1867. This bill seems, by its terms and language, to be devised only to more firmly rivet the chains of bondage on the white men of the South; to degrade them and to elevate the negroes of the South to a position of equality and fraternity; and as far as possible, to prevent the people of the South, who, like the laboring classes of the North and West, are borne down by the burden of oppressive taxation, from having a vote or a voice in the Government, while the bondholders and the wealthy nabos, who perhaps made their money as shoddy contractors, are, through what is called "New England ideas," ruling the South, the West, and the North with a rod of iron.

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[As for blacks] "I admit their humanity, that they are all men and not monkey; but I deny "brotherhood"; I deny the fraternity."

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There is a natural antagonism between the races called prejudice; but it is not prejudice; it is not a creature of class or caste; it is not confined to the low and ignorant; but it is found among the highly educated, cultivated and enlightened. It is the middle wall of a partition between the races set and built up there by the Almighty. This feeling or principle, commonly called prejudice, is a part of type; a part of of life; an evidence of different humanities and different creations and different and distinct races. "

Source: The Congressional Globe, July 9, 1867. Asterisks [***] indicate edits of the original document by Michael O'Malley.


Negative Reactions
The New York Times (A)
The New York Times (B)
The New York Times (C)
Debow's Review on the Radicals
Debow's Review on Chinese Labor
Debow's Review on European Labor
William Finck (D-Ohio)
Mississippi "Black Code"
William Mungen (D-Ohio)
Samuel Thomas
Colonel Whittlesey
History 122

Reconstruction
HIST 122 Syllabus

 

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