The Colored Member Admitted to His Seat in the Senate

An Interesting Scene When the Oath was Administered


Special Dispatch to The New York Times, February 26, 1870

Washington, Feb. 25 -- Mr. Revels, the colored Senator from Mississippi, was sworn in and admitted to his seat this afternoon at 4:40 o'clock. There was not an inch of standing or sitting room in the galleries, so densely were they packed; and to say that the interest was intense gives but a faint idea of the feeling which prevailed throughout the entire proceeding.

Mr. Vickers, of Maryland, opened the debate to-day, arguing against the admission, on the ground that Revels had not been a citizen for nine years, and therefore was not eligible. Mr. Wilson followed on the other side, and was succeeded by Mr. Casserly, who took a new departure and arraigned the entire reconstruction policy, charging that all the Southern Senators were put in their seats by the force of the bayonets of the regular army. This aroused Mr. Drake to a white heat, and provoked him to utter remarks and to make personal allusions to Mr. Casserly which were certainly in bad taste, and in no way pertinent to the subject before the body. Mr. Sumner made the closing speech for the Republican side of the question. It was brief, pithy and eloquent. Then came Mr. Stockton in deference of his party. He was boisterous and commonplace, and his speech was much better suited to the stump than to the Senate. He argued in favor of his motion to refer the credentials to the Judiciary Committee, which was promptly negatived by a party vote. The question was then put on the admission, which was passed by the same strict drawing of the party lines.

Only one thing remained, which was that the first colored Senator elect should advance to the Speaker's desk and be sworn. The Vice-President made the announcement to the galleries that all demonstrations of approval or disapproval would be promptly suppressed. There had been through the debate one or two such demonstrations, once from the Republican side, when Mr. Scott, in reply to Mr. Bayard, declared that he abandoned the Democratic Party when it raised its hand in rebellion, and again when Mr. Stockton prophesied that the Democracy would soon control national affairs. In view of these facts, Mr. Colfax's announcement was somewhat necessary.

When the Vice-President uttered the words, "The Senator elect will now advance and take the oath," a pin might have been heard drop. But as Senator Wilson rose in his seat and stepped to the lounge immediately behind his desk, where Mr. Revels was sitting, to escort that gentleman to the Speaker's desk, the galleries rose to their feet, that they might miss no word or lose no glimpse of what was being enacted below. The ceremony was short.

Mr. Revels showed no embarrassment whatever, and his demeanor was as dignified as could be expected under the circumstances. The abuse which had been poured upon him and on his race during the last two days might well have shaken the nerves of any one. The vast throng in the galleries showed no sign of feeling one way or the other, and left very quietly.