Contemplating Josiah T. Walls, Republican of Florida

When I first read the speeches of Gongressman Josiah T. Walls, I was impressed by his elegant speech and paid less attention to the content. Also, while I knew him to be a Republican, that seemed to be sort of incidental to the historical reality that the Republican party had promoted emancipation. I had not realized how male-centered the agenda was. Now all the references to men and the supremacy of the Republic are rather upsetting. I have excerpted a few quotes that seem quite telling.

In discussing the Civil Rights bill of 1875Mr. WALLS. Mr. Speaker, the legend, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, has been well chosen in the past as the watch-word of people seeking a higher plane of manhood, and a broader omprehension of the earthly destiny of the human family.

A “higher plane of mahood” is first to be mentioned!

… it is but just to assume that the effort is made more in the interest of the Republic and its progress than for the benefit of the people…

The primacy of the Republic is what counts, just as today it is the nation, an abstraction, which is to be served.

But if it is found that this denial is made–and I apprehend it is easy of demonstration–by individuals who exist at the will of the State, then there is need of additional legislation to enforce the spirit of the provisions of the Federal Constitution as amended.
Men may concede that public sentiment, and not law, is the cause of the discrimination of which we justly complain and the resultant disabilities under which we labor.
If this be so, then such public sentiment needs penal correction, and should be regulated by law. Let it be decidedly understood, by appropriate enactment, that the individual rights, privileges, and immunities of the citizens, irrespective of color, to all facilities afforded by corporations, licensed establishments, common carriers, and institutions supported by the public, are sacred, under the law, and that violations of the same
will entail punishment safe and certain.

Never mind that citizens are to be immune. If their behavior is offensive (not just injurious), they are to be punished.

Let equity founded in justice, honesty, and right–the soul and spirit of the law–be prescribed by the superior power of the Government, and the inferior compelled to obey. It is the duty of the men of today, in whose hands is intrusted the destiny of the Republic, to remove from the path of its upward progress every obstacle which may impede its advance in the future.

Thus the supremacy of the Republic justifies the authority of the “men of today.”

… the American heart, which in its best impulses rises superior to all groveling prejudices.

Again, superiority is most important. Can we say “status-conscious” a hundred and fifty years ago?

… the lofty patriotism of the men who were morally brave enough to rise superior to a petty and unworthy prejudice of race, and who were as distinctively American in their representative character as any public men who have enjoyed the confidence and led the public sentiment of the American nation.

Then Walls indulges in a bit of sarcasm–

If the recent decision of the Supreme Court in the New Orleans Slaughter-house case has any relevancy to this bill it is not as apparent to me as it seems to the gentleman who loves to linger in the legal atmosphere of that body while threatening dreadful things to the country and humanity generally.

Referring to the Governor of Virginia, Walls observes:

He deplores the interference of the Federal Government with the public schools of the State as certain to result in their destruction’ and says:

    Yet justice, humanity, the colored race, and the country at large demand that the national Government should furnish the State with the necessary means to educate them.