Изображения страниц

omission by mere oversight, and I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or supplemental act.

April 16, 1862.


On the 10th of June, President Lincoln communicated to Congress a copy of a treaty negotiated with Great Britain, having for its design a complete suppression of the African slave-trade.

The Confiscation Act, as finally matured and passed by Congress, with a special provision for conditional pardon and amnesty, received the approval of the Executive on the last day of the session, July 17th. To óbviate constitutional objections known to exist in the President's mind, to the measure as at first passed, a supplementary joint resolution had been adopted, limiting the forfeiture of real estate to the lifetime of its rebel owner. His views on this subject were officially set forth in a document, from which the following memorable sentences are quoted:

It is startling to say that Congress can free a slave within a State, and yet were it said that the ownership of a slave had first been transferred to the nation, and that Congress had then liberated him, the difficulty would vanish; and this is the real case. The traitor against the General Government forfeits his slave at least as justly as he does any other property, and he forfeits both to the Government against which he offends. The Government, so far as there can be ownership, owns the forfeited slaves, and the question for Congress in regard to them is, shall they be made free or sold to new masters? I see no objection to Congress deciding in advance that they shall be free.

That those who make a causeless war should be compelled to pay the cost of it, is too obviously just to be called in question. To give Government protection to the property of persons who have abandoned it, and gone on a crusade to overthrow the same Government, is absurd, if considered in the mere light of justice. The severest justice may not always be the best policy. * I think our military commanders, when, in military phrase, they are within the enemy's country, should, in an orderly manner, seize and keep whatever of real or personal property may be necessary or convenient for their commands, and at the same time preserve in some way the evidence of what they do.


A few days before the adjournment, the President, evidently looking forward to the necessity of a more radical and decisive policy in regard to Slavery, invited the Senators and Representatives of the border Slave States to a conference. The disastrous Peninsular campaign was now over, and depression prevailed throughout the country. The war must somehow be ended, with the rebellion overthrown; and the employment of every effective and legitimate war measure. he felt to be now demanded. He desired the great change to come as lightly as possible on the still loyal Slave States, and it was in this spirit that the interview was solicited by him. Having convened at the Executive Mansion, on the 12th of July, these Representatives were addressed by Mr. Lincoln (reading what he had carefully prepared for the occasion) as follows:

GENTLEMEN: After the adjournment of Congress, now near, I shall have no opportunity of seeing you for several months. Believing that you of the Border States hold more power for good than any other equal number of members, I feel it a duty which I can not justifiably waive to make this appeal to


I intend no reproach or complaint when I assure you that, in my opinion, if you all had voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of last March, the war would now be substantially ended. And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent and swift means of ending it. Let the States which are in rebellion see definitely and certainly that in no event will the States you represent ever join their proposed Confederacy, and they can not much longer maintain the contest. But you can not divest them of their hope to ultimately have you with them so long as you show a determination to perpetuate the institution within your own States. Beat them at elections, as you have overwhelmingly done, and, nothing daunted, they still claim you as their own. You and I know what the lever of their power is. Break that lever before their faces, and they can shake you no more forever.

Most of you have treated me with kindness and consideration, and I trust you will not now think I improperly touch what is exclusively your own, when, for the sake of the whole country, I ask, "Can you, for your States, do better than to take the course I urge ?" Discarding punctilio and maxims adapted to more manageable times, and looking only to the unprecedentedly stern facts of our case, can you do better in

any possible event? You prefer that the constitutional relations of the States to the nation shall be practically restored without disturbance of the institution; and, if this were done, my whole duty in this respect, under the Constitution and my oath of office, would be performed. But it is not done, and we are trying to accomplish it by war. The incidents of the war can not be avoided. If the war continues long, as it must if the object be not sooner attained, the institution in your States will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion-by the mere incidents of the war. It will be gone, and you will have nothing valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already. How much better for you and for your people to take the step which at once shortens the war, and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to be wholly lost in any other event! How much better to thus save the money which else we sink forever in the war! How much better to do it while we can, lest the war, ere long, render us pecuniarily unable to do it! How much better for you, as seller, and the nation, as buyer, to sell out and buy out that without which the war could never have been, than to sink both the thing to be sold and the price of it, in cutting one another's throats!

I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually. Room in South America for colonization can be obtained cheaply and in abundance, and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.

I am pressed with a difficulty not yet mentioned-one which threatens division among those who, united, are none too strong. An instance of it is known to you. General Hunter is an honest man. He was, and I hope still is, my friend. I valued him none the less for his agreeing with me in the general wish that all men every-where could be freed. He proclaimed all men free within certain States, and I repudiated the proclamation. He expected more good and less harm from the measure than I could believe would follow. Yet, in repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offense, to many whose support the country can not afford to lose. And this is not the end of it. The pressure in this direction is still upon me, and is increasing. By conceding what I now ask you can relieve me, and, much more, can relieve the country in this important point.

Upon these considerations, I have again begged your attention to the Message of March last. Before leaving the Capitol, consider and discuss it among yourselves. You are patriots

and statesmen, and as such, I pray you consider this proposition, and, at the least, commend it to the consideration of your States and people. As you would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you do in no wise omit this. Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and boldest action to bring a speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world; its beloved history and cherished memories are vindicated, and its happy future fully assured and rendered inconceivably grand. To you, more than to any others, the privilege is given to assure that happiness, and swell that grandeur, and to link your own names therewith forever.

Twenty of the Senators and Representatives thus addressed replied in respectful, but decidedly unfavorable, terms. Nine only made friendly and approving responses.


Military Events.-Inaction on the Potomac.-Western Campaigns.Capture of New Orleans.

THE summary of political events in the preceding chapter has somewhat outrun the course of military operations. Gen. McClellan, as General-in-chief of the entire army, had nominally assumed control alike over Gen. Halleck, commanding in the Department of the West, over Gen. Burnside and Gen. T. W. Sherman in North and South Carolina, and over the vast Army of the Potomac. During the two months succeeding the retirement of Lieut. Gen. Scott, every day's delay, while calm skies and dry roads invited to action, added new weight to the impatience of the people. But at length wintry weather put an end to all immediate hope of action. Opinions as to the General-in-chief were divided. Ready excuses on the part of those immediately about him as to still needed preparations, and lavish promises as to results when the time of action should come, with frequent intimations of an early movement, satisfied many who would otherwise have been despondent. To the President himself, Gen. McClellan, while reticent as to details, preserved an air of earnest determination, and held out the prospect of effective action at no remote day. An engagement near Dranesville, Md., under Gen. Ord, favorable to our arms, yet unimportant in results, had, on the 20th of December, awakened only to disappoint an expiring hope of some decisive action before another season. Some occasional collisions between detachments of the opposing armies were all that occurred in the Eastern Departments after the successful landing of the Southern expedition until the opening of spring.

The contrast between this inaction in the East, and the energetic and decisive movements in the West during the same period, was marked. Neither this fact, nor the customary mode of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »