Reproduced in Robert W. Pomeroy, A Sketch of the Life of Theodore Medad Pomeroy, 1824-1905 :Paper read before the Cayuga County Historical Society, January 26, 1910 (New York: np, 1910), 33-37.
Elizabeth Leitch Watson Pomeroy
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
The papers will of course furnish you with more glowing accounts than I can give you of the proceedings of yesterday but still I cannot forbear giving mine also. It was a great day and I do not think the surrender of Lee's army would have elicited a wilder enthusiasm than greeted from floors to galleries the announcement of the passage of the constitutional amendment forever prohibiting slavery within the jurisdiction of the United States. The galleries were full at the opening of business in the House but long before the vote was taken they had become densely crowded and hundreds had been admitted to the floor. The two preliminary votes which were had, neither of which showed quite a two-thirds vote in our favor, wrought up the anxiety and interest of all to the utmost.
The first change from the Democratic side on the final vote was my especial friend Mr. English from Connecticut who had never publicly announced his intention but it was generally supposed he would vote with his party. When at the call of his name he clearly responded 'aye,' there arose all over the House a half suppressed applause which the Speaker found it difficult to check. When Ganson responded 'aye,' it was evident that the amendment was carried, as his was a change from a previous vote and decided the result. The speaker had great difficulty in checking again the applause which threatened to break out into a general uproar.
Woods, Pendleton, Mallory and a few others of the extreme pro-slavery men knotted themselves into a group as the further calls proceeded, looking as if Gabriel's final trump had blown and they were about to be called to account for deeds done in Congress. A great many who voted against us were really gratified at the result but lacked the moral courage to act up to their personal convictions against the platform of their party. Even Sam Cox had promised to vote for the resolution if necessary and had prepared a written speech to deliver in vindication of his change upon the question; whether he would have given the requisite vote had it been necessary I do not know but I do know that he had promised to do so, had prepared his speech and within a few minutes of the time his name was called had promised one of his Democratic friends to vote with him in the affirmative. He had besides, a letter from Mr. Guthrie, Senator-elect from Kentucky, advising him to vote for it and another from the editor of the New York World stating that it should not be made a party question but that each member should vote upon his own conviction. Notwithstanding, the force of habit was too strong for poor Cox and his name stands recorded in the negative. Holman of Indiana who has been really a war Democrat and was last fall thrown overboard by his party for being so, but could not nevertheless rescue himself from the constitutionally Democratic horror of emancipation, remarked as the vote was being taken, 'I shall vote in the negative but we are burying our own corpses in doing so.' I mention these things only to show how thoroughly demoralized, if I may use that word in this connection, even the political leaders of the Democratic party had become, by the force of events upon the question of emancipation.
Such a scene was never witnessed in the House as when the result was announced. The Republican members instinctively arose to their feet and thousands in the galleries, justified by the example of the members, sprang to their feet and there went up round after round of such enthusiastic shouting as was never before heard in the American capitol, accompanied by the waving of handkerchiefs, throwing of hats, shaking of hands and other psychological demonstrations in general such as would have done credit to a backwoods camp meeting. It is not six years since the same galleries were lined with ruffians from Baltimore and other cities with their pistols lying before them and otherwise exposed to view to endeavor to intimidate the Republicans from the organization of the House.
In the evening the hotels were filled with crowds shaking hands and congratulating each other on the result. Being pretty thoroughly tired from my two nights' ride on the cars and the excitement of the day I went early to my room and to bed, a happy man, forgiving all the long-winded speeches and other annoyances of the Thirty-eighth Congress in the gratification of having been enabled to record one vote in the hundred and nineteen which have forever swept slavery from the American continent. Little doubt is entertained here of the ratification of the amendment by the requisite three-fourths of the states and then the work is forever done.
I called this morning to see Mr. Seward but he was not in. I saw Fred, however, and they are greatly delighted with the result of yesterday. The governor has taken great inter-est in the question and has thrown great personal effort into the work of its passage. The result will be to greatly simplify our foreign and domestic relations, to reduce the war to a simple question of physical strength and material resources and to remove the one great obstacle that lay in the way of national restoration and reconstruction. I do not think the millennium is to be immediately ushered in by an act of congress, not even the Thirty-eighth, but you will forgive me if my exuberance of joy at this great political victory should gild the horizon of the future to my eyes in bright and glowing colors. I may be too sanguine but I believe that we are now experiencing the dead swell of a storm nearly spent, of a revolution nearly exhausted ; that the passions born of slavery will die with it so that when peace comes it will be peace and the Union will be a fact, not a name, and principle and not compromise will furnish the law of the life of its constitution.
Excuse the length of this letter but I must have vent somewhere and this may answer the purpose and save me the infliction of a speech upon the floor....