Part 1 out of 2
Produced by David Widger
THE GREAT CONSPIRACY
Its Origin and History
THE COLORED CONTRABAND.
When the first gun was fired at Fort Sumter, its sullen echoes sounded
the funeral knell of Slavery. Years before, it had been foretold, and
now it was to happen. Years before, it had been declared, by competent
authority, that among the implications of the Constitution was that of
the power of the General Government to Emancipate the Slaves, as a War
measure. Hence, in thus commencing the War of the Rebellion, the South
marched with open eyes upon this, as among other of the legitimate and
logical results of such a War.
Patrick Henry, in opposing the ratification by Virginia of the Federal
Constitution, had declared to the Slaveholders of that State that "Among
ten thousand implied powers" which Congress may assume, "they may, if we
be engaged in War, liberate every one of your Slaves, if they please, *
* * Have they not power to provide for the General Defense and Welfare?
May they not think that these call for the abolition of Slavery? May
they not pronounce all Slaves Free? and will they not be warranted by
that power? * * * They have the power, in clear, unequivocal terms,
and will clearly and certainly exercise it."
So, too, in his great speech of May 25, 1836, in the House of
Representatives, John Quincy Adams had declared that in "the last great
conflict which must be fought between Slavery and Emancipation,"
Congress "must and will interfere" with Slavery, "and they will not only
possess the Constitutional power so to interfere, but they will be bound
in duty to do it, by the express provisions of the Constitution itself."
And he followed this declaration with the equally emphatic words: "From
the instant that your Slave-holding States become the theatre of War
--civil, servile, or foreign--from that instant, the War powers of
Congress extend to interference with the Institution of Slavery in every
Way by which it can be interfered with."
The position thus announced by these expounders of the Constitution--the
one from Virginia, the other from Massachusetts--was not to be shaken
even by the unanimous adoption, February 11, 1861, by the House of
Representatives on roll call, of the resolution of Mr. Sherman, of Ohio,
in these words:
"Resolved, That neither the Congress of the United States nor the people
or governments of the non-Slaveholding States have the Constitutional
right to legislate upon or interfere with Slavery in any of the
Slaveholding States in the Union."
Ex-President J. Q. Adams's cogent exposition of the Constitution,
twenty-five years before, in that same House, demonstrating not only
that Congress had the right but the Constitutional power to so
interfere--and his further demonstration April 15, 1842, of his
statement that under the laws of War, "when a Country is invaded, and
two hostile armies are set in martial array, the Commanders of both
Armies have power to Emancipate all the Slaves in the invaded
territory"--as not to be overcome by a mere vote of one House, however
unanimous. For the time being, however, it contributed, with other
circumstances, to confuse the public mind and conscience. Indeed as
early as May of 1861, the attitude of our Government and its troops
toward Negro Slaves owned or used by Rebels in rebellious States, began
to perturb the public, bother the Administration, and worry the Military
For instance, in Major-General McClellan's proclamation to the Union men
of West Virginia, issued May 26, 1861, he said:
"The General Government cannot close its ears to the demand you have
made for assistance. I have ordered troops to cross the river. They
come as your friends and brothers--as enemies only to armed Rebels, who
are preying upon you; your homes, your families, and your property are
safe under our protection. All your rights shall be religiously
respected, notwithstanding all that has been said by the Traitors to
induce you to believe our advent among you will be signalized by an
interference with your Slaves. Understand one thing clearly: not only
will we abstain from all such interference, but we will, on the
contrary, with an iron hand crush any attempt at insurrection on their
On the other hand, the very next day, May 27, 1861, Major-General
Butler, in command of the "Department of A Virginia," wrote to
Lieutenant-General Scott as follows:
"Since I wrote my last dispatch the question in regard to Slave property
is becoming one of very serious magnitude. The inhabitants of Virginia
are using their Negroes in the batteries, and are preparing to send the
women and children South. The escapes from them are very numerous, and
a squad has come in this morning to my pickets bringing their women and
children. Of course these cannot be dealt with upon the theory on which
I designed to treat the services of able-bodied men and women who might
come within my lines, and of which I gave you a detailed account in my
last dispatch. I am in the utmost doubt what to do with this species of
"Up to this time I have had come within my lines men and women with
their children, entire families, each family belonging to the same
owner. I have, therefore, determined to employ, as I can do very
profitably, the able-bodied persons in the party, issuing proper food
for the support of all, and charging against their services the expense
of care and sustenance of the non-laborers, keeping a strict and
accurate account as well of the services as of the expenditure, having
the worth of the services, and the cost of the expenditure, determined
by a Board of Survey, to be hereafter detailed. I know of no other
manner in which to dispose of this subject and the questions connected
"As a matter of Property to the Insurgents, it will be of very great
moment, the number that I now have amounting, as I am informed, to what,
in good times, would be of the value of sixty thousand dollars. Twelve
of these Negroes, I am informed, have escaped from the batteries on
Sewall's Point, which, this morning, fired upon my expedition as it
passed by out of range. As a means of offense, therefore, in the
Enemy's hands, these Negroes, when able-bodied, are of the last
importance. Without them the batteries could not have been erected, at
least for many weeks.
"As a Military question it would seem to be a measure of necessity to
deprive their masters of their services. How can this be done? As a
political question and a question of humanity, can I receive the
services of a father and mother, and not take the children? Of the
humanitarian aspect I have no doubt. Of the political one I have no
right to judge. I therefore submit all this to your better judgment,
and as the questions have a political aspect, I have ventured, and I
trust I am not wrong in so doing, to duplicate the parts of my dispatch
relating to this subject, and forward them to the Secretary of War."
In reply to the duplicate copy of this letter received by him, Secretary
Cameron thus answered:
"WASHINGTON, May 30, 1861.
"SIR: Your action in respect to the Negroes who came within your lines
from the service of the Rebels is approved. The Department is sensible
of the embarrassments which must surround officers conducting Military
operations in a State by the laws of which Slavery is sanctioned.
"The Government cannot recognize the rejection by any State of the
Federal obligations, nor can it refuse the performance of the Federal
obligations resting upon itself. Among these Federal obligations,
however, none can be more important than that of suppressing and
dispersing armed combinations formed for the purpose of overthrowing its
whole Constitutional authority.
"While, therefore, you will permit no interference by the persons under
your command, with the relations of Persons held to Service under the
laws of any State, you will, on the other hand, so long as any State,
within which your Military operations are conducted, is under the
control of such armed combinations, refrain from surrendering to alleged
masters any Person who may come within your lines.
"You will employ such Persons in the services to which they may be best
adapted, keeping an account of the labor by them performed, of the value
of it, and the expenses of their maintenance. The question of their
final disposition will be reserved for future determination.
"Secretary of War.
"To Major General BUTLER."
Great tenderness, however, was exhibited by many of the Union Generals
for the doomed Institution. On June 3, 1861, from Chambersburg, Pa., a
proclamation signed "By order of Major General Patterson, F. J. Porter,
Asst. Adj. General," was issued from "Headquarters Department of
Pennsylvania," "To the United States troops of this Department," in
which they are admonished "that, in the coming campaign in Virginia,
while it is your duty to punish Sedition, you must protect the Loyal,
and, should the occasion offer, at once suppress Servile Insurrection."
"General Orders No. 33," issued from "Headquarters Department of
Washington," July 17, 1861, "By command of Brigadier General Mansfield,
Theo. Talbot, Assistant Adjutant General," were to this effect:
"Fugitive Slaves will under no pretext whatever, be permitted to reside,
or be in any way harbored, in the quarters or camps of the troops
serving in this Department. Neither will such Slaves be allowed to
accompany troops on the march. Commanders of troops will be held
responsible for a strict observance of this order." And early in August
a Military order was issued at Washington "that no Negroes, without
sufficient evidence of their being Free or of their right to travel, are
permitted to leave the city upon the cars."
But Bull Run did much to settle the Military as well as public mind in
proper grooves on this subject.
Besides employing Negro Slaves to aid Rebellion, by the digging of
ditches, the throwing up of intrenchments, and the erection of
batteries, their Rebel masters placed in their hands arms with which to
shoot down Union soldiers at the Battle of Bull Run, which, as we have
seen, occurred on Sunday, July 21, 1861--and resulted in a check to the
The terror and confusion and excitement already referred to, that
prevailed in Washington all that night and the next day, as the
panic-stricken crowd of soldiers and civilians poured over the Long
Bridge, footsore with running, faint with weariness, weak with hunger,
and parched with thirst and the dust of the rout, can hardly be
But, however panicky the general condition of the inhabitants of the
National Capital, the Congress bravely maintained its equanimity.
In the Senate, on the day following the disaster, a bill touching the
Confiscation of Property used for insurrectionary purposes being up for
consideration, the following amendment was offered to it:
"And be it further enacted, That whenever any person claiming to be
entitled to the Service or Labor of any other Person under the laws of
any State, shall employ such Person in aiding or promoting any
Insurrection, or in resisting the Laws of the United States, or shall
permit him to be so employed, he shall forfeit all right to such Service
or Labor, and the Person whose Labor or Service is thus claimed shall be
thenceforth discharged therefrom, any law to the contrary
This amendment, emancipating Slaves employed by their masters to aid
Rebellion, was adopted by 33 yeas to 6 nays.
As showing the feeling expressed right upon the very heels of what
seemed to be a great disaster, and when rumor, at any rate, placed the
victorious Enemy at the very gates of the Capital City, a few lines from
the debate may be interesting.
Mr. Trumbull said: "I am glad the yeas and nays have been called to let
us see who is willing to vote that the Traitorous owner of a Negro shall
employ him to shoot down the Union men of the Country, and yet insist
upon restoring him to the Traitor that owns him. I understand that
Negroes were in the fight which has recently occurred. I take it that
Negroes who are used to destroy the Union, and to shoot down the Union
men by the consent of Traitorous masters, ought not to be restored to
them. If the Senator from Kentucky is in favor of restoring them, let
him vote against the amendment."
Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, said: "I shall vote with more heart
than I vote for ordinary measures, for this proposition. I hope the
Senate and the House of Representatives will sustain it, and that this
Government will carry it out with an inflexibility that knows no change.
The idea that men who are in arms destroying their Country shall be
permitted to use others for that purpose, and that we shall stand by and
issue orders to our Commanders, that we should disgrace our Cause and
our Country, by returning such men to their Traitorous masters, ought
not longer to be entertained. The time has come for that to cease; and,
by the blessing of God, so far as I am concerned, I mean it shall cease.
"If there is anybody in this Chamber that chooses to take the other
path, let him do it; let him know what our purpose is. Our purpose is
to save this Government and save this Country, and to put down Treason;
and if Traitors use bondsmen to destroy this Country, my doctrine is
that the Government shall at once convert these bondsmen into men that
cannot be used to destroy our Country. I have no apologies to make for
this position, I take it proudly.
"I think the time has come when this Government, and the men who are in
arms under the Government, should cease to return to Traitors their
Fugitive Slaves, whom they are using to erect batteries to murder brave
men who are fighting under the flag of their Country. The time has come
when we should deal with the men who are organizing Negro companies, and
teaching them to shoot down loyal men for the only offence of upholding
the flag of their Country.
"I hope further, Sir, that there is a public sentiment in this Country
that will blast men who will rise, in the Senate or out it, to make
apologies for Treason, or to defend or to maintain the doctrine that
this Government is bound to protect Traitors in converting their Slaves
into tools for the destruction of the Republic."
Senator McDougall, of California, said: "I regard this as a Confiscation
for Treason, and I am for the proposition."
Mr. Ten Eyck, said: "No longer ago than Saturday last I voted in the
Judiciary Committee against this amendment, for two reasons: First, I
did not believe that persons in Rebellion against this Government would
make use of such means as the employment of Persons held to Labor or
Service, in their Armies; secondly, because I did not know what was to
become of these poor wretches if they were discharged. God knows we do
not want them in our Section of the Union. But, Sir, having learned and
believing that these persons have been employed with arms in their hands
to shed the blood of the Union-loving men of this Country, I shall now
vote in favor of that amendment with less regard to what may become of
these people than I had on Saturday. I will merely instance that there
is a precedent for this. If I recollect history aright, General
Jackson, in the Seminole War, declared that every Slave who was taken in
arms against the United States should be set Free,"
So, too, in the House of Representatives, the retrograde of a badly
demoralized Army, its routed fragments still coming in with alarming
stories of a pursuing Enemy almost at the gates of the city, had no
terrors for our legislators; and there was something of Roman dignity,
patriotism, and courage, in the adoption, on that painfully memorable
Blue Monday, (the first--[Offered by Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky]--with
only two dissenting votes, on a yea and nay vote; and, the second
--[Offered by Mr. Vandever, of Iowa.]--with entire unanimity) of the
"Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United
States, That the present deplorable Civil War has been forced upon the
Country by the Disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against
the Constitutional Government, and in arms around the Capital; that in
this National emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere
passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole
Country; that this War is not waged on their part in any spirit of
oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of
overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established Institutions
of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the
Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality,
and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these
objects are accomplished, the War ought to cease."
"Resolved, That the maintenance of the Constitution, the preservation of
the Union, and the enforcement of the Laws, are sacred trusts which must
be executed; that no disaster shall discourage us from the most ample
performance of this high duty; and that we pledge to the Country and the
World, the employment of every resource, National and individual, for
the suppression, overthrow, and punishment of Rebels in arms."
The first of these Resolutions was intended to calm the fears of the
Border States--excited by Rebel emissaries; the second, to restore
confidence and courage to the patriot hearts of Union-men, everywhere.
Both were effectual.
And here it will hardly be amiss to glance, for an instant, toward the
Senate Chamber; and especially at one characteristic incident. It was
the afternoon of August the 1st, 1861,--scarce ten days since the check
to the Union arms at Bull Run; and Breckinridge, of Kentucky, not yet
expelled from the United States Senate, was making in that Body his
great speech against the "Insurrection and Sedition Bill," and upon "the
sanctity of the Constitution."
Baker, of Oregon,--who, as Sumner afterward said: "with a zeal that
never tired, after recruiting men drawn by the attraction of his name,
in New York and Philadelphia and elsewhere, held his Brigade in camp,
near the Capitol, so that he passed easily from one to the other, and
thus alternated the duties of a Senator and a General," having reached
the Capitol, direct from his Brigade-camp, entered the Senate Chamber,
in his uniform, while Breckinridge was speaking.
When the Kentucky Senator "with Treason in his heart, if not on his
lips," resumed his seat, the gray-haired soldier-Senator at once rose to
reply. "He began,"--said Charles Sumner, in alluding to the incident
--"simply and calmly; but as he proceeded, his fervid soul broke forth in
words of surpassing power. As on a former occasion he had presented the
well-ripened fruits of study, so now he spoke with the spontaneous
utterance of his own mature and exuberant eloquence--meeting the
polished Traitor at every point with weapons keener and brighter than
After demolishing Breckinridge's position touching the alleged
Unconstitutionality of the measure, and characterizing his other
utterances as "reproof, malediction, and prediction combined," the
Patriot from the Far-West turned with rising voice and flashing eye upon
the gloomy Kentuckian:
"I would ask him," said he, "what would you have us do now--a
Confederate Army within twenty miles of us, advancing, or threatening to
advance, to overwhelm your Government; to shake the pillars of the
Union, to bring it around your head, if you stay here, in ruins? Are we
to stop and talk about an uprising sentiment in the North against the
War? Are we to predict evil, and retire from what we predict? Is it
not the manly part to go on as we have begun, to raise money, and levy
Armies, to organize them, to prepare to advance; when we do advance, to
regulate that advance by all the laws and regulations that civilization
and humanity will allow in time of battle? Can we do anything more? To
talk to us about stopping, is idle; we will never stop. Will the
Senator yield to Rebellion? Will he shrink from armed Insurrection?
Will his State justify it? Will its better public opinion allow it?
Shall we send a flag of Truce? What would he have? Or would he conduct
this War so feebly, that the whole World would smile at us in derision?"
And then cried the orator-his voice rising to a higher key, penetrating,
yet musical as the blast from a silver trumpet: "What would he have?
These speeches of his, sown broadcast over the Land, what clear distinct
meaning have they? Are they not intended for disorganization in our
very midst? Are they not intended to dull our weapons? Are they not
intended to destroy our zeal? Are they not intended to animate our
enemies? Sir, are they not words of brilliant, polished Treason, even
in the very Capitol of the Nation?
"What would have been thought, if, in another Capitol, in another
Republic, in a yet more martial age, a Senator as grave, not more
eloquent or dignified than the Senator from Kentucky, yet with the Roman
purple flowing over his shoulder, had risen in his place, surrounded by
all the illustrations of Roman glory, and declared that the cause of
advancing Hannibal was just, and that Carthage ought to be dealt with in
terms of peace? What would have been thought if, after the battle of
Cannae, a Senator there had risen in his place and denounced every levy
of the Roman People, every expenditure of its treasure, and every appeal
to the old recollections and the old glories?"
The speaker paused. The sudden and intent silence was broken by another
voice: "He would have been hurled from the Tarpeian rock."
"Sir," continued the soldier-orator, "a Senator, himself learned far
more than myself in such lore, [Mr. Fessenden,] tells me, in a voice
that I am glad is audible, that he would have been hurled from the
Tarpeian Rock! It is a grand commentary upon the American Constitution
that we permit these words [Senator Breckinridge's] to be uttered.
"I ask the Senator to recollect, too, what, save to send aid and comfort
to the Enemy, do these predictions of his amount to? Every word thus
uttered falls as a note of inspiration upon every Confederate ear.
Every sound thus uttered is a word, (and, falling from his lips, a
mighty word) of kindling and triumph to a Foe that determines to
"For me, I have no such word as a Senator, to utter. For me"--and here
his eyes flashed again while his martial voice rang like a clarion-call
to battle--"amid temporary defeat, disaster, disgrace, it seems that my
duty calls me to utter another word, and that word is, bold, sudden,
forward, determined, WAR, according to the laws of War, by Armies, by
Military Commanders clothed with full power, advancing with all the past
glories of the Republic urging them on to conquest!
* * * * * *
"I tell the Senator," continued the inspired Patriot, "that his
predictions, sometimes for the South, sometimes for the Middle States,
sometimes for the North-East, and then wandering away in airy visions
out to the Far Pacific, about the dread of our people, as for loss of
blood and treasure, provoking them to Disloyalty, are false in
sentiment, false in fact, and false in Loyalty. The Senator from
Kentucky is mistaken in them all.
"Five hundred million dollars! What then? Great Britain gave more than
two thousand million in the great Battle for Constitutional Liberty
which she led at one time almost single-handed against the World. Five
hundred thousand men! What then? We have them; they are ours; they are
the children of the Country; they belong to the whole Country; they are
our sons; our kinsmen; and there are many of us who will give them all
up before we will abate one word of our just demand, or will retreat one
inch from the line which divides right from wrong.
"Sir, it is not a question of men or of money in that sense. All the
money, all the men, are, in our judgment, well bestowed in such a cause.
When we give them, we know their value. Knowing their value well, we
give them with the more pride and the, more joy. Sir, how can we
retreat? Sir, how can we make Peace? Who shall treat? What
Commissioners? Who would go? Upon what terms? Where is to be your
boundary line? Where the end of the principles we shall have to give
up? What will become of Constitutional Government? What will become of
public Liberty? What of past glories? What of future hopes?
"Shall we sink into the insignificance of the grave--a degraded,
defeated, emasculated People, frightened by the results of one battle,
and scared at the visions raised by the imagination of the Senator from
Kentucky on this floor? No, Sir! a thousand times, no, Sir! We will
rally--if, indeed, our words be necessary--we will rally the People, the
Loyal People, of the whole Country. They will pour forth their
treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure. The
most peaceable man in this body may stamp his foot upon this Senate
Chamber floor, as of old a warrior and a Senator did, and from that
single tramp there will spring forth armed Legions.
"Shall one battle determine the fate of empire, or a dozen?--the loss of
one thousand men, or twenty thousand? or one hundred million or five
hundred million dollars? In a year's Peace--in ten years, at most, of
peaceful progress--we can restore them all. There will be some graves
reeking with blood, watered by the tears of affection. There will be
some privation; there will be some loss of luxury; there will be
somewhat more need for labor to procure the necessaries of life. When
that is said, all is said. If we have the Country, the whole Country,
the Union, the Constitution, Free Government--with these there will
return all the blessings of well-ordered civilization; the path of the
Country will be a career of greatness and of glory such as, in the olden
time, our Fathers saw in the dim visions of years yet to come, and such
as would have been ours now, to-day, if it had not been for the Treason
for which the Senator too often seeks to apologize."
This remarkable speech was the last utterance of that glorious and
courageous soul, in the National Senate. Within three months, his
lifeless body, riddled by Rebel rifle balls, was borne away from the
fatal field of Ball's Bluff--away, amid the lamentations of a Nation
--away, across land and ocean--to lie beside his brave friend Broderick,
on that Lone Mountain whose solemn front looks out upon the calm
He had not lived in vain. In his great speech at the American Theatre
in San Francisco, after his election by Oregon (1860) to represent her
in the United States Senate, he had aroused the people to a sense of
shame, that, as he said: "Here, in a land of written Constitutional
Liberty it is reserved for us to teach the World that, under the
American Stars and Stripes, Slavery marches in solemn procession; that,
under the American flag, Slavery is protected to the utmost verge of
acquired territory; that under the American banner, the name of Freedom
is to be faintly heard, the songs of Freedom faintly sung; that, while
Garibaldi, Victor Emanuel, every great and good man in the World,
strives, struggles, fights, prays, suffers and dies, sometimes on the
scaffold, sometimes in the dungeon, often on the field of battle,
rendered immortal by his blood and his valor; that, while this triumphal
procession marches on through the arches of Freedom--we, in this land,
of all the World, shrink back trembling when Freedom is but mentioned!"
And never was a shamed people more suddenly lifted up from that shame
into a grand frenzy of patriotic devotion than were his auditors, when,
with the inspiration of his matchless genius, he continued:
"As for me, I dare not, will not, be false to Freedom. Where the feet
of my youth were planted, there, by Freedom, my feet shall ever stand.
I will walk beneath her banner. I will glory in her strength. I have
watched her in history struck down on an hundred chosen fields of
battle. I have seen her friends fly from her; her foes gather around
her. I have seen her bound to the stake; I have seen them give her
ashes to the winds. But when they turned to exult, I have seen her
again meet them face to face, resplendent in complete steel, brandishing
in her strong right hand a flaming sword, red with Insufferable light!
I take courage. The People gather around her. The genius of America
will, at last, lead her sons to Freedom."
Never were grander utterances delivered by man in all the ages; never
was there exhibited a more sublime faith; never a truer spirit of
prophecy; never a more heroic spirit.
He was then on his way to Washington; on his way to perform the last
acts in the drama of his own career--on his way to death. He knew the
time had come, of which, ten years before, he had prophetically spoken
in the House of Representatives, when he said: "I have only to say that,
if the time should come when Disunion rules the hour, and discord is to
reign supreme, I shall again be ready to give the best blood in my veins
to my Country's Cause. I shall be prepared to meet all antagonists with
lance in rest, to do battle in every land, in defense of the
Constitution of the Country which I have sworn to support, to the last
extremity, against Disunionists, and all its Enemies, whether of the
South or North; to meet them everywhere, at all times, with speech or
hand, with word or blow, until thought and being shall be no longer
mine." And right nobly did he fulfil in all respects his promise; so
that at the end--as was afterward well said of him by Mr. Colfax--he had
mounted so high, that, "doubly crowned, as statesman, and as warrior--
'From the top of Fame's ladder he stepped to the Sky!'"
[This orator and hero was a naturalized Englishman, and commanded
an American regiment in the Mexican War.]
FREEDOM'S EARLY DAWN.
On the day following Baker's great reply to Breckinridge, another
notable speech was made, in the House of Representatives--notable,
especially, in that it foreshadowed Emancipation, and, coming so soon
after Bull Run, seemed to accentuate a new departure in political
thought as an outgrowth of that Military reverse. It was upon the
Confiscation Act, and it was Thaddeus Stevens who made it. Said he:
"If we are justified in taking property from the Enemy in War, when you
have rescued an oppressed People from the oppression of that Enemy, by
what principle of the Law of Nations, by what principle of philanthropy,
can you return them to the bondage from which you have delivered them,
and again rivet the chains you have once broken? It is a disgrace to
the Party which advocates it. It is against the principle of the Law of
Nations. It is against every principle of philanthropy. I for one,
shall never shrink from saying when these Slaves are once conquered by
us, 'Go and be Free.' God forbid that I should ever agree that they
should be returned again to their masters! I do not say that this War
is made for that purpose. Ask those who made the War, what is its
object. Do not ask us. * * * Our object is to subdue the Rebels.
"But," continued he, "it is said that if we hold out this thing, they
will never submit--that we cannot conquer them--that they will suffer
themselves to be slaughtered, and their whole country to be laid waste.
Sir, War is a grievous thing at best, and Civil War more than any other;
but if they hold this language, and the means which they have suggested
must be resorted to; if their whole country must be laid waste, and made
a desert, in order to save this Union from destruction, so let it be. I
would rather, Sir, reduce them to a condition where their whole country
is to be re-peopled by a band of freemen than to see them perpetrate the
destruction of this People through our agency. I do not say that it is
time to resort to such means, and I do not know when the time will come;
but I never fear to express my sentiments. It is not a question with me
of policy, but a question of principle.
"If this War is continued long, and is bloody, I do not believe that the
free people of the North will stand by and see their sons and brothers
and neighbors slaughtered by thousands and tens of thousands by Rebels,
with arms in their hands, and forbear to call upon their enemies to be
our friends, and to help us in subduing them; I for one, if it continues
long, and has the consequences mentioned, shall be ready to go for it,
let it horrify the gentleman from New York (Mr. Diven) or anybody else.
That is my doctrine, and that will be the doctrine of the whole free
people of the North before two years roll round, if this War continues.
"As to the end of the War, until the Rebels are subdued, no man in the
North thinks of it. If the Government are equal to the People, and I
believe they are, there will be no bargaining, there will be no
negotiation, there will be no truces with the Rebels, except to bury the
dead, until every man shall have laid down his arms, disbanded his
organization, submitted himself to the Government, and sued for mercy.
And, Sir, if those who have the control of the Government are not fit
for this task and have not the nerve and mind for it, the People will
take care that there are others who are--although, Sir, I have not a bit
of fear of the present Administration, or of the present Executive.
"I have spoken more freely, perhaps, than gentlemen within my hearing
might think politic, but I have spoken just what I felt. I have spoken
what I believe will be the result; and I warn Southern gentlemen, that
if this War is to continue, there will be a time when my friend from New
York (Mr. Diven) will see it declared by this free Nation, that every
bondman in the South--belonging to a Rebel, recollect; I confine it to
them--shall be called upon to aid us in War against their masters, and
to restore this Union."
The following letter of instruction from Secretary Cameron, touching the
Fugitive Slave question, dated seven days after Thaddeus Stevens'
speech, had also an interesting bearing on the subject:
"WASHINGTON, August 8, 1861.
"GENERAL: The important question of the proper disposition to be made of
Fugitives from Service in States in Insurrection against the Federal
Government, to which you have again directed my attention in your letter
of July 30, has received my most attentive consideration.
"It is the desire of the President that all existing rights, in all the
States, be fully respected and maintained. The War now prosecuted on
the part of the Federal Government is a War for the Union, and for the
preservation of all Constitutional rights of States, and the citizens of
the States, in the Union. Hence, no question can arise as to Fugitives
from Service within the States and Territories in which the authority of
the Union is fully acknowledged. The ordinary forms of Judicial
proceeding, which must be respected by Military and Civil authorities
alike, will suffice for the enforcement of all legal claims.
"But in States wholly or partially under Insurrectionary control, where
the Laws of the United States are so far opposed and resisted that they
cannot be effectually enforced, it is obvious that rights dependent on
the execution of those laws must, temporarily, fail; and it is equally
obvious that rights dependent on the laws of the States within which
Military operations are conducted must be necessarily subordinated to
the Military exigences created by the Insurrection, if not wholly
forfeited by the Treasonable conduct of parties claiming them. To this
general rule, rights to Services can form no exception.
"The Act of Congress, approved August 6, 1861, declares that if Persons
held to Service shall be employed in hostility to the United States, the
right to their services shall be forfeited, and such Persons shall be
discharged therefrom. It follows, of necessity, that no claim can be
recognized by the Military authorities of the Union to the services of
such Persons when fugitives.
"A more difficult question is presented in respect to Persons escaping
from the Service of Loyal masters. It is quite apparent that the laws
of the State, under which only the services of such fugitives can be
claimed, must needs be wholly, or almost wholly, suspended, as to
remedies, by the Insurrection and the Military measures necessitated by
it. And it is equally apparent that the substitution of Military for
Judicial measures for the enforcement of such claims must be attended by
great inconveniences, embarrassments, and injuries.
"Under these circumstances it seems quite clear that the substantial
rights of Loyal masters will be best protected by receiving such
fugitives, as well as fugitives from Disloyal masters, into the service
of the United States, and employing them under such organizations and in
such occupations as circumstances may suggest or require.
"Of course a record should be kept showing the name and description of
the fugitives, the name and the character, as Loyal or Disloyal, of the
master, and such facts as may be necessary to a correct understanding of
the circumstances of each case after tranquillity shall have been
restored. Upon the return of Peace, Congress will, doubtless, properly
provide for all the persons thus received into the service of the Union,
and for just compensation to Loyal masters. In this way only, it would
seem, can the duty and safety of the Government and the just rights of
all be fully reconciled and harmonized.
"You will therefore consider yourself as instructed to govern your
future action, in respect to Fugitives from Service, by the principles
here stated, and will report from time to time, and at least twice in
each month, your action in the premises to this Department.
"You will, however, neither authorize, nor permit any interference, by
the troops under your command, with the servants of peaceful citizens in
house or field; nor will you, in any way, encourage such servants to
leave the lawful Service of their masters; nor will you, except in cases
where the Public Safety may seem to require, prevent the voluntary
return of any Fugitive, to the Service from which he may have escaped."
"I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"Secretary of War.
"Major-General B. F. BUTLER,
"Commanding Department of Virginia,
Whether or not inspired by the prophetic speech of Thaddeus Stevens,
aforesaid, the month of August was hardly out before its prophecy seemed
in a fair way of immediate fulfilment. Major-General John Charles
Fremont at that time commanded the Eastern Department--comprising the
States of Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, and Kentucky-and he startled the
Country by issuing the following Emancipation proclamation:
"HEADQUARTERS OF THE WESTERN DEPARTMENT.
"St. Louis, August 30, 1861.
"Circumstances, in my judgment, of sufficient urgency, render it
necessary that the commanding general of this Department should assume
the administrative powers of the State. Its disorganized condition, the
helplessness of the civil authority, the total insecurity of life, and
the devastation of property by bands of murderers and marauders, who
infest nearly every county of the State, and avail themselves of the
public misfortunes and the vicinity of a hostile force to gratify
private and neighborhood vengeance, and who find an enemy wherever they
find plunder, finally demand the severest measures to repress the daily
increasing crimes and outrages which are driving off the inhabitants and
ruining the State.
"In this condition, the public safety and the success of our arms
require unity of purpose, without let or hinderance, to the prompt
administration of affairs.
"In order, therefore, to suppress disorder, to maintain as far as now
practicable the public peace, and to give security and protection to the
persons and property of loyal citizens, I do hereby extend and declare
established Martial Law throughout the State of Missouri.
"The lines of the Army of Occupation in this State are for the present
declared to extend from Leavenworth by way of the posts of Jefferson
City, Rolla, and Ironton, to Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi river.
"All persons who shall betaken with arms in their hands within these
lines shall be tried by Court-Martial, and if found guilty will be shot.
"The property, real and personal, of all persons, in the State of
Missouri, who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall
be directly proven to have taken an active part with their Enemies in
the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their
Slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared Free men.
"All persons who shall be proven to have destroyed, after the
publication of this order, railroad tracks, bridges, or telegraphs,
shall suffer the extreme penalty of the law.
"All persons engaged in Treasonable correspondence, in giving or
procuring aid to the Enemies of the United States, in fomenting tumults,
in disturbing the public tranquillity by creating and circulating false
reports or incendiary documents, are in their own interests warned that
they are exposing themselves to sudden and severe punishment.
"All persons who have been led away from their allegiance, are required
to return to their homes forthwith; any such absence, without sufficient
cause, will be held to be presumptive evidence against them.
"The object of this declaration is to place in the hands of the Military
authorities the power to give instantaneous effect to existing laws, and
to supply such deficiencies as the conditions of War demand. But this
is not intended to suspend the ordinary Tribunals of the Country, where
the Law will be administered by the Civil officers in the usual manner,
and with their customary authority, while the same can be peaceably
"The commanding general will labor vigilantly for the public Welfare,
and in his efforts for their safety hopes to obtain not only the
acquiescence, but the active support of the Loyal People of the Country.
"J. C. FREMONT,
Fremont's Proclamation of Confiscation and Emancipation, was hailed with
joy by some Patriots in the North, but was by others looked upon as rash
and premature and inexpedient; while it bitterly stirred the anger of
the Rebels everywhere.
The Rebel Jeff. Thompson, then in command of the Rebel forces about St.
Louis, at once issued the following savage proclamation of retaliation:
"HEADQUARTERS FIRST MILITARY DISTRICT, M. S. G.
'St. Louis, August 31, 1861.
"To all whom it may concern:
"Whereas Major-General John C. Fremont, commanding the minions of
Abraham Lincoln in the State of Missouri, has seen fit to declare
Martial Law throughout the whole State, and has threatened to shoot any
citizen-soldier found in arms within certain limits; also, to Confiscate
the property and Free the Negroes belonging to the members of the
Missouri State Guard:
"Therefore, know ye, that I, M. Jeff. Thompson, Brigadier-General of
the First Military District of Missouri, having not only the Military
authority of Brigadier-General, but certain police powers granted by
Acting-Governor Thomas C. Reynolds, and confirmed afterward by Governor
Jackson, do most solemnly promise that for every member of the Missouri
State Guard, or soldier of our allies, the Armies of the Confederate
States, who shall be put to death in pursuance of the said order of
General Fremont, I will hang, draw, and quarter a minion of said Abraham
"While I am anxious that this unfortunate War shall be conducted, if
possible, upon the most liberal principles of civilized warfare--and
every order that I have issued has been with that object--yet, if this
rule is to be adopted (and it must first be done by our Enemies) I
intend to exceed General Fremont in his excesses, and will make all
tories that come within my reach rue the day that a different policy was
adopted by their leaders.
"Already mills, barns, warehouses, and other private property have been
wastefully and wantonly destroyed by the Enemy in this district, while
we have taken nothing except articles strictly contraband or absolutely
necessary. Should these things be repeated, I will retaliate ten-fold,
so help me God!"
"M. JEFF. THOMPSON,
"President Lincoln, greatly embarrassed by the precipitate action of his
subordinate, lost no time in suggesting to General Fremont certain
modifications of his Emancipation proclamation-as follows:
"WASHINGTON, D. C., September 2, 1861.
"MY DEAR SIR: Two points in your proclamation of August 30th give me
"First. Should you shoot a man according to the proclamation, the
Confederates would very certainly shoot our best man in their hands, in
retaliation; and so, man for man, indefinitely. It is, therefore, my
order that you allow no man to be shot under the proclamation without
first having my approbation or consent.
"Second. I think there is great danger that the closing paragraph, in
relation to the Confiscation of Property, and the liberating Slaves of
Traitorous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends, and turn them
against us; perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky.
"Allow me, therefore, to ask that you will, as of your own motion,
modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections
of the Act of Congress entitled, 'An Act to Confiscate Property used for
Insurrectionary purposes,' approved August 6, 1861, a copy of which Act
I herewith send you.
"This letter is written in a spirit of caution, and not of censure.
"I send it by a special messenger, in that it may certainly and speedily
"Yours very truly,
General Fremont replied to President Lincoln's suggestions, as follows:
"HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
"St. Louis, September 8, 1861.
"MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of the second, by special
messenger, I know to have been written before you had received my
letter, and before my telegraphic dispatches and the rapid developments
of critical conditions here had informed you of affairs in this quarter.
I had not written to you fully and frequently, first, because in the
incessant change of affairs I would be exposed to give you contradictory
accounts; and., secondly, because the amount of the subjects to be laid
before you would demand too much of your time.
"Trusting to have your confidence, I have been leaving it to events
themselves to show you whether or not I was shaping affairs here
according to your ideas. The shortest communication between Washington
and St. Louis generally involves two days, and the employment of two
days, in time of War, goes largely toward success or disaster. I
therefore went along according to my own judgment, leaving the result of
my movement to justify me with you.
"And so in regard to my proclamation of the thirtieth. Between the
Rebel Armies, the Provisional Government, and the home Traitors, I felt
the position bad, and saw danger. In the night I decided upon the
proclamation and the form of it--I wrote it the next morning and printed
it the same day. I did it without consultation or advice with any one,
acting solely with my best judgment to serve the Country and yourself,
and perfectly willing to receive the amount of censure which should be
thought due, if I had made a false movement.
"This is as much a movement in the War, as a battle, and, in going into
these, I shall have to act according to my judgment of the ground before
me, as I did on this occasion. If upon reflection, your better judgment
still decides that I am wrong in the article respecting the Liberation
of Slaves, I have to ask that you will openly direct me to make the
correction. The implied censure will be received as a soldier always
should the reprimand of his chief.
"If I were to retract of my own accord, it would imply that I myself
thought it wrong, and that I had acted without the reflection which the
gravity of the point demanded. But I did not. I acted with full
deliberation, and upon the certain conviction that it was a measure
right and necessary, and I think so still.
"In regard to the other point of the proclamation to which you refer, I
desire to say that I do not think the Enemy can either misconstrue or
urge anything against it, or undertake to make unusual retaliation. The
shooting of men who shall rise in arms against an Army in the Military
occupation of a Country, is merely a necessary measure of defense, and
entirely according to the usages of civilized warfare. The article does
not at all refer to prisoners of war, and certainly our Enemies have no
grounds for requiring that we should waive in their benefit any of the
ordinary advantages which the usages of War allow to us.
"As promptitude is itself an advantage in War, I have also to ask that
you will permit me to carry out upon the spot the provisions of the
proclamation in this respect.
"Looking at affairs from this point of view, I am satisfied that strong
and vigorous measures have now become necessary to the success of our
Arms; and hoping that my views may have the honor to meet your approval,
"I am, with respect and regard, very truly yours,
"J. C. FREMONT.
President Lincoln subsequently rejoined, ordering a modification of the
proclamation. His letter ran thus:
"WASHINGTON, September 11, 1861.
"SIR: Yours of the 8th, in answer to mine of the 2d instant, is just
received. Assuming that you, upon the ground, could better judge of the
necessities of your position than I could at this distance, on seeing
your Proclamation of August 30th, I perceived no general objection to
"The particular clause, however, in relation to the Confiscation of
Property and the Liberation of Slaves, appeared to me to be
objectionable in its non-conformity to the Act of Congress, passed the
6th of last August, upon the same subjects; and hence I wrote you
expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly.
"Your answer, just received, expresses the preference, on your part,
that I should make an open order for the modification, which I very
"It is therefore Ordered, that the said clause of said proclamation be
so modified, held, and construed as to conform to, and not to transcend,
the provisions on the same subject contained in the Act of Congress
entitled, 'An Act to Confiscate Property used for Insurrectionary
Purposes,' approved August 6, 1861, and that said Act be published at
length with this Order.
"Your obedient servant,
"Major-General JOHN C. FREMONT."
In consequence, however, of the agitation on the subject, the extreme
delicacy with which it was thought advisable in the earliest stages of
the Rebellion to treat it, and the confusion of ideas among Military men
with regard to it, the War Department issued the following General
Instructions on the occasion of the departure of the Port Royal
Expedition, commanded by General T. W. Sherman:
"WAR DEPARTMENT, October 14, 1861.
"SIR: In conducting Military Operations within States declared by the
Proclamation of the President to be in a State of Insurrection, you will
govern yourself, so far as Persons held to Service under the laws of
such States are concerned, by the principles of the letters addressed by
me to Major-General Butler on the 30th of May and the 8th of August,
copies of which are herewith furnished to you.
"As special directions, adapted to special circumstances, cannot be
given, much must be referred to your own discretion as Commanding
General of the Expedition. You will, however, in general avail yourself
of the services of any Persons, whether Fugitives from Labor or not, who
may offer them to the National Government; you will employ such Persons
in such services as they may be fitted for, either as ordinary
employees, or, if special circumstances seem to require it, in any other
capacity with such organization, in squads, companies, or otherwise, as
you deem most beneficial to the service. This, however, not to mean a
general arming of them for Military service.
"You will assure all Loyal masters that Congress will provide just
compensation to them for the loss of the services of the Persons so
"It is believed that the course thus indicated will best secure the
substantial rights of Loyal masters, and the benefits to the United
States of the services of all disposed to support the Government, while
it avoids all interference with the social systems or local Institutions
of every State, beyond that which Insurrection makes unavoidable and
which a restoration of peaceful relations to the Union, under the
Constitution, will immediately remove.
"Secretary of War.
"Brigadier-General T. W. SHERMAN,
"Commanding Expedition to the Southern Coast."
Brigadier-General Thomas W. Sherman, acting upon his own interpretation
of these instructions, issued a proclamation to the people of South
Carolina, upon occupying the Forts at Port Royal, in which he said:
"In obedience to the orders of the President of these United States of
America, I have landed on your shores with a small force of National
troops. The dictates of a duty which, under these circumstances, I owe
to a great sovereign State, and to a proud and hospitable people, among
whom I have passed some of the pleasantest days of my life, prompt me to
proclaim that we have come amongst you with no feelings of personal
animosity, no desire to harm your citizens, destroy your property, or
interfere with any of your lawful rights or your social or local
Institutions, beyond what the causes herein alluded to may render
Major-General Wool, at Fortress Monroe, where he had succeeded General
Butler, likewise issued a Special Order on the subject of Contrabands,
"HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA,
"FORT MONROE, October 14, 1861.
"[Special Orders No. 72.]
"All Colored Persons called Contrabands, employed as servants by
officers and others residing within Fort Monroe, or outside of the Fort
at Camp Hamilton and Camp Butler, will be furnished with their
subsistence and at least eight dollars per month for males, and four
dollars per month for females, by the officers or others thus employing
"So much of the above-named sums, as may be necessary to furnish
clothing, to be decided by the Chief Quartermaster of the Department,
will be applied to that purpose, and the remainder will be paid into his
hands to create a fund for the support of those Contrabands who are
unable to work for their own support.
"All able-bodied Colored Persons who are under the protection of the
troops of this Department, and who are not employed as servants, will be
immediately put to work in either the Engineer's or Quartermaster's
"By command of Major-General Wool:
"[Signed] WILLIAM D. WHIPPLE,
"Assistant Adjutant General."
He subsequently also issued the following General Order:
"HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA,
"FORT MONROE, November 1, 1861.
"[General Orders No. 34.]
"The following pay and allowances will constitute the valuation of the
Labor of the Contrabands at work in the Engineer, Ordnance,
Quartermaster, Commissary, and Medical Departments at this Post, to be
paid as hereinafter mentioned;
"Class 1st.--Negro man over eighteen years of age, and able-bodied, ten
dollars per month, one ration and the necessary amount of clothing.
"Class 2d.--Negro boys from 12 to 18 years of age, and sickly and infirm
Negro men, five dollars per month, one ration, and the necessary amount
"The Quartermaster will furnish all the clothing. The Department
employing these men will furnish the subsistence specified above, and as
an incentive to good behavior (to be withheld at the direction of the
chiefs of the departments respectively), each individual of the first
class will receive $2 per month, and each individual of the second class
$1 per month, for their own use. The remainder of the money valuation
of their Labor, will be turned over to the Quartermaster, who will
deduct from it the cost of the clothing issued to them; the balance will
constitute a fund to be expended by the Quartermaster under the
direction of the Commanding officer of the Department of Virginia for
the support of the women and children and those that are unable to work.
"For any unusual amount of Labor performed, they may receive extra pay,
varying in amount from fifty cents to one dollar, this to be paid by the
departments employing them, to the men themselves, and to be for their
"Should any man be prevented from working, on account of sickness, for
six consecutive days, or ten days in any one month, one-half of the
money value will be paid. For being prevented from laboring for a
longer period than ten days in any one month all pay and allowances
"By command of Major-General Wool:
"[Signed] "WILLIAM D. WHIPPLE,
"Assistant Adjutant General."
On November 13, 1861, Major-General Dix, in a proclamation addressed to
the people of Accomac and Northampton Counties, Va., ordered the
repulsion of Fugitive Slaves seeking to enter the Union lines, in these
"The Military Forces of the United States are about to enter your
Counties as a part of the Union. They will go among you as friends, and
with the earnest hope that they may not, by your own acts, be forced to
become your enemies. They will invade no rights of person or property.
On the contrary, your Laws, your Institutions, your Usages, will be
scrupulously respected. There need be no fear that the quietude of any
fireside will be disturbed, unless the disturbance is caused by
"Special directions have been given not to interfere with the condition
of any Person held to domestic service; and, in order that there may be
no ground for mistake or pretext for misrepresent action, Commanders of
Regiments and Corps have been instructed not to permit any such Persons
to come within their lines."
On the 20th of November, 1861, Major General Halleck issued the
following Genera., Order--which went even further, in that it expelled,
as well as repelled Fugitive Slaves from our lines:
"HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF MISSOURI,
"St. Louis, November 20, 1861.
"[General Orders No. 3.]
"I. It has been represented that important information respecting the
number and condition of our Forces, is conveyed to the Enemy by means of
Fugitive Slaves who are admitted within our lines. In order to remedy
this evil, it is directed that no such Persons be hereafter permitted to
enter the lines of any camp, or of any forces on the march; and that any
now within such lines be immediately excluded therefrom."
This Order was subsequently explained in a letter, of December 8, 1861,
from General Halleck to Hon. F. P. Blair, in which he said:
" * * * Order No. 3 was in my mind, clearly a Military necessity.
Unauthorized persons, black or white, Free or Slaves, must be kept out
of our camps, unless we are willing to publish to the Enemy everything
we do or intend to do. It was a Military and not a political order. I
am ready to carry out any lawful instructions in regard to Fugitive
Slaves which my superiors may give me, and to enforce any law which
Congress may pass. But I cannot make law, and will not violate it. You
know my private opinion on the policy of Confiscating the Slave Property
of Rebels in Arms. If Congress shall pass it, you may be certain that I
shall enforce it. Perhaps my policy as to the treatment of Rebels and
their property is as well set out in Order No. 13, issued the day
(December 4, 1861), your letter was written, as I could now describe
It may be well also to add here, as belonging to this period of
doubtfulness touching the status of escaped Slaves, the following
communication sent by Secretary Seward to General McClellan, touching
"Contrabands" in the District of Columbia:
"DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
"WASHINGTON, December 4, 1861.
"To Major-General GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN, Washington:
"GENERAL: I am directed by the President to call your attention to the
"Persons claimed to be held to Service or Labor under the laws of the
State of Virginia, and actually employed in hostile service against the
Government of the United States, frequently escape from the lines of the
Enemy's Forces and are received within the lines of the Army of the
"This Department understands that such Persons afterward coming into the
city of Washington are liable to be arrested by the city police, upon
the presumption, arising from color, that they are Fugitives from
Service or Labor.
"By the 4th section of the Act of Congress approved August 6, 1861,
entitled, 'An Act to Confiscate Property used for Insurrectionary
purposes,' such hostile employment is made a full and sufficient answer
to any further claim to Service or Labor. Persons thus employed and
escaping are received into the Military protection of the United States,
and their arrest as Fugitives from Service or Labor should be
immediately followed by the Military arrest of the parties making the
"Copies of this communication will be sent to the Mayor of the city of
Washington and to the Marshal of the District of Columbia, that any
collision between the Civil and Military authorities may be avoided.
"I am, General, your very obedient,
"WILLIAM H. SEWARD."
"COMPENSATED GRADUAL EMANCIPATION."
Thus far the reader's eye has been able to review in their successive
order some of the many difficulties and perplexities which beset the
pathway of President Lincoln as he felt his way in the dark, as it were,
toward Emancipation. It must seem pretty evident now, however, that his
chief concern was for the preservation of the Union, even though all
other things--Emancipation with them--had to be temporarily sacrificed.
Something definite, however, had been already gained. Congress had
asserted its right under the War powers of the Constitution, to release
from all claim to Service or Labor those Slaves whose Service or Labor
had been used in hostility to the Union. And while some of the Union
Generals obstructed the execution of the Act enforcing that right, by
repelling and even as we have seen, expelling, from the Union lines all
Fugitive Slaves--whether such as had or had not been used in hostility
to us--yet still the cause of Freedom to all, was slowly and silently
perhaps, yet surely and irresistibly, marching on until the time when,
becoming a chief factor in the determination of the question of "whether
we should have a Country at all," it should triumph coincidently with
the preservation of the Republic.
But now a new phase of the Slave question arose--a question not
involving what to do with Fugitive Slaves of any sort, whether engaged
or not engaged in performing services hostile to the Union cause, but
what to do with Slaves whom their panic-stricken owners had, for the
time being, abandoned in the presence of our Armies.
This question was well discussed in the original draft of the report of
the Secretary of War, December 1, 1861 in which Secretary Cameron said:
"It has become a grave question for determination what shall be done
with the Slaves abandoned by their owners on the advance of our troops
into Southern territory, as in the Beaufort district of South Carolina.
The whole White population therein is six thousand, while the number of
Negroes exceeds thirty-two thousand. The panic which drove their
masters in wild confusion from their homes, leaves them in undisputed
possession of the soil. Shall they, armed by their masters, be placed
in the field to fight against us, or shall their labor be continually
employed in reproducing the means for supporting the Armies of
"The War into which this Government has been forced by rebellious
Traitors is carried on for the purpose of repossessing the property
violently and treacherously seized upon by the Enemies of the
Government, and to re-establish the authority and Laws of the United
States in the places where it is opposed or overthrown by armed
Insurrection and Rebellion. Its purpose is to recover and defend what
is justly its own.
"War, even between Independent Nations, is made to subdue the Enemy, and
all that belongs to that Enemy, by occupying the hostile country, and
exercising dominion over all the men and things within its territory.
This being true in respect to Independent Nations at war with each
other, it follows that Rebels who are laboring by force of arms to
overthrow a Government, justly bring upon themselves all the
consequences of War, and provoke the destruction merited by the worst of
crimes. That Government would be false to National trust, and would
justly excite the ridicule of the civilized World, that would abstain
from the use of any efficient means to preserve its own existence, or to
overcome a rebellious and traitorous Enemy, by sparing or protecting the
property of those who are waging War against it.
"The principal wealth and power of the Rebel States is a peculiar
species of Property, consisting of the service or labor of African
Slaves, or the descendants of Africans. This Property has been
variously estimated at the value of from seven hundred million to one
thousand million dollars.
"Why should this Property be exempt from the hazards and consequences of
a rebellious War?
"It was the boast of the leader of the Rebellion, while he yet had a
seat in the Senate of the United States, that the Southern States would
be comparatively safe and free from the burdens of War, if it should be
brought on by the contemplated Rebellion, and that boast was accompanied
by the savage threat that 'Northern towns and cities would become the
victims of rapine and Military spoil,' and that 'Northern men should
smell Southern gunpowder and feel Southern steel.'
"No one doubts the disposition of the Rebels to carry that threat into
execution. The wealth of Northern towns and cities, the produce of
Northern farms, Northern workshops and manufactories would certainly be
seized, destroyed, or appropriated as Military spoil. No property in
the North would be spared from the hands of the Rebels, and their rapine
would be defended under the laws of War. While the Loyal States thus
have all their property and possessions at stake, are the insurgent
Rebels to carry on warfare against the Government in peace and security
to their own property?
"Reason and justice and self-preservation forbid that such should be;
the policy of this Government, but demand, on the contrary, that, being
forced by Traitors and Rebels to the extremity of war, all the rights
and powers of war should be exercised to bring it to a speedy end.
"Those who war against the Government justly forfeit all rights of
property, privilege, or security, derived from the Constitution and
Laws, against which they are in armed Rebellion; and as the labor and
service of their Slaves constitute the chief Property of the Rebels,
such Property should share the common fate of War to which they have
devoted the property of Loyal citizens.
"While it is plain that the Slave Property of the South is justly
subjected to all the consequences of this Rebellious War, and that the
Government would be untrue to its trust in not employing all the rights
and powers of War to bring it to a speedy close, the details of the plan
for doing so, like all other Military measures, must, in a great degree,
be left to be determined by particular exigencies. The disposition of
other property belonging to the Rebels that becomes subject to our arms
is governed by the circumstances of the case.
"The Government has no power to hold Slaves, none to restrain a Slave of
his Liberty, or to exact his service. It has a right, however, to use
the voluntary service of Slaves liberated by War from their Rebel
masters, like any other property of the Rebels, in whatever mode may be
most efficient for the defense of the Government, the prosecution of the
War, and the suppression of Rebellion. It is clearly a right of the
Government to arm Slaves when it may become necessary, as it is to take
gunpowder from the Enemy; whether it is expedient to do so, is purely a
Military question. The right is unquestionable by the laws of War. The
expediency must be determined by circumstances, keeping in view the
great object of overcoming the Rebels, reestablishing the Laws, and
restoring Peace to the Nation.
"It is vain and idle for the Government to carry on this War, or hope to
maintain its existence against rebellious force, without employing all
the rights and powers of War. As has been said, the right to deprive
the Rebels of their Property in Slaves and Slave Labor is as clear and
absolute as the right to take forage from the field, or cotton from the
warehouse, or powder and arms from the magazine. To leave the Enemy in
the possession of such property as forage and cotton and military
stores, and the means of constantly reproducing them, would be madness.
It is, therefore, equal madness to leave them in peaceful and secure
possession of Slave Property, more valuable and efficient to them for
war than forage, cotton, military stores. Such policy would be National
"What to do with that species of Property is a question that time and
circumstances will solve, and need not be anticipated further than to
repeat that they cannot be held by the Government as Slaves. It would
be useless to keep them as prisoners of War; and self-preservation, the
highest duty of a Government, or of individuals, demands that they
should be disposed of or employed in the most effective manner that will
tend most speedily to suppress the Insurrection and restore the
authority of the Government. If it shall be found that the men who have
been held by the Rebels as Slaves, are capable of bearing arms and
performing efficient Military service, it is the right, and may become
the duty, of this Government to arm and equip them, and employ their
services against the Rebels, under proper Military regulations,
discipline, and command.
"But in whatever manner they may be used by the Government, it is plain
that, once liberated by the rebellious act of their masters they should
never again be restored to bondage. By the master's Treason and
Rebellion he forfeits all right to the labor and service of his Slave;
and the Slave of the rebellious master, by his service to the
Government, becomes justly entitled to Freedom and protection.
"The disposition to be made of the Slaves of Rebels, after the close of
the War, can be safely left to the wisdom and patriotism of Congress.
The Representatives of the People will unquestionably secure to the
Loyal Slaveholders every right to which they are entitled under the
Constitution of the Country."
This original draft of the report was modified, at the instance of
President Lincoln, to the following--and thus appeared in Secretary
Cameron's report of that date, as printed:
"It is already a grave question what shall be done with those Slaves who
were abandoned by their owners on the advance of our troops into
Southern territory, as at Beaufort district, in South Carolina. The
number left within our control at that point is very considerable, and
similar cases will probably occur. What should be done with them? Can
we afford to send them forward to their masters, to be by them armed
against us, or used in producing supplies to sustain the Rebellion?
"Their labor may be useful to us; withheld from the Enemy it lessens his
Military resources, and withholding them has no tendency to induce the
horrors of Insurrection, even in the Rebel communities. They constitute
a Military resource, and, being such, that they should not be turned
over to the Enemy is too plain to discuss. Why deprive him of supplies
by a blockade, and voluntarily give him men to produce them?
"The disposition to be made of the Slaves of Rebels, after the close of
the War, can be safely left to the wisdom and patriotism of Congress.
The Representatives of the People will unquestionably secure to the
Loyal Slaveholders every right to which they are entitled under the
Constitution of the Country.
"Secretary of War."
The language of this modification is given to show that the President,
at the close of the year 1861, had already reached a further step
forward toward Emancipation--and the sound reasoning upon which he made
that advance. He was satisfying his own mind and conscience as he
proceeded, and thus, while justifying himself to himself, was also
simultaneously carrying conviction to the minds and consciences of the
People, whose servant and agent he was.
That these abandoned Slaves would "constitute a Military resource" and
"should not be turned over to the Enemy" and that "their labor may be
useful to us" were propositions which could not be gainsaid. But to
quiet uncalled-for apprehensions, and to encourage Southern loyalty, he
added, in substance, that at the close of this War--waged solely for the
preservation of the Union--Congress would decide the doubtful status of
the Slaves of Rebels, while the rights of Union Slave-holders would be
The Contraband-Slave question, however, continued to agitate the public
mind for many months--owing to the various ways in which it was treated
by the various Military commanders, to whose discretion its treatment,
in their several commands, was left--a discretion which almost
invariably leaned toward the political bias of the commander. Thus, in
a proclamation, dated St. Louis, February 23, 1862, Halleck, commanding
the Department of Missouri, said:
"Soldiers! let no excess on your part tarnish the glory of our arms!
"The order heretofore issued in this department, in regard to pillaging
and marauding, the destruction of private property, and the stealing or
concealment of Slaves, must be strictly enforced. It does not belong to
the Military to decide upon the relation of Master and Slave. Such
questions must be settled by the civil Courts. No Fugitive Slaves will
therefore be admitted within our lines or camps, except when especially
ordered by the General Commanding. * * * "
And Buell, commanding the Department of the Ohio, in response to a
communication on the subject from the Chairman of the Military Committee
of the Kentucky Legislature, wrote, March 6, 1862:
"It has come to my knowledge that Slaves sometimes make their way
improperly into our lines, and in some instances they may be enticed
there, but I think the number has been magnified by report. Several
applications have been made to me by persons whose servants have been
found in our camps, and in every instance that I know of the master has
recovered his servant and taken him away."
Thus, while some of our Commanders, like Dix and Halleck, repelled or
even expelled the Fugitive Slave from their lines; and others, like
Buell and Hooker, facilitated the search for, and restoration to his
master, of the black Fugitive found within our lines; on the other hand,
Fremont, as we have seen, and Doubleday and Hunter, as we shall yet see,
took totally different ground on this question.
President Lincoln, however, harassed as he was by the extremists on both
sides of the Slavery question, still maintained that calm statesman-like
middle-course from which the best results were likely to flow. But he
now thought the time had come to broach the question of a compensated,
Accordingly, on March 6, 1862, he sent to Congress the following
"Fellow citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
"I recommend the adoption of a joint Resolution by your honorable
bodies, which shall be substantially as follows:
"Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State
which may adopt gradual abolishment of Slavery, giving to such State
pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate
for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of
"If the proposition contained in the Resolution does not meet the
approval of Congress and the Country, there is the end; but if it does
command such approval, I deem it of importance that the States and
people immediately interested should be at once distinctly notified of
the fact, so that they may begin to consider whether to accept or reject
it, The Federal Government would find its highest interest in such a
measure, as one of the most efficient means of self preservation.
"The leaders of the existing Insurrection entertain the hope that this
Government will ultimately be forced to acknowledge the Independence of
some part of the disaffected region, and that all the Slave States North
of such part will then say, 'the Union for which we have struggled being
already gone, we now choose to go with the Southern Section.'
"To deprive them of this hope, substantially ends the Rebellion; and the
initiation of Emancipation completely deprives them of it, as to all the
States initiating it. The point is not that all the States tolerating
Slavery would very soon, if at all, initiate Emancipation; but that,
while the offer is equally made to all, the more Northern shall, by such
initiation, make it certain to the more Southern that in no event will
the former ever join the latter in their proposed Confederacy. I say,
'initiation,' because in my judgment, gradual, and not sudden
Emancipation, is better for all.
"In the mere financial or pecuniary view, any member of Congress, with
the census tables and Treasury reports before him, can readily see for
himself how very soon the current expenditures of this War would
purchase, at fair valuation, all the Slaves in any named State.
"Such a proposition on the part of the General Government sets up no
claim of a right by Federal authority to interfere with Slavery within
State limits, referring, as it does, the absolute control of the subject
in each case to the State and its people immediately interested. It is
proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them.
"In the Annual Message last December, I thought fit to say, 'the Union
must be preserved; and hence all indispensable means must be employed.'
I said this, not hastily, but deliberately. War has been made, and
continues to be an indispensable means to this end. A practical
reacknowledgment of the National authority would render the War
unnecessary, and it would at once cease. If, however, resistance
continues, the War must also continue; and it is impossible to foresee
all the incidents which may attend, and all the ruin which may follow
it. Such as may seem indispensable, or may obviously promise great
efficiency toward ending the struggle, must and will come.
"The proposition now made, though an offer only, I hope it may be
esteemed no offense to ask whether the pecuniary consideration tendered
would not be of more value to the States and private persons concerned,
than are the Institution, and Property in it, in the present aspect of
"While it is true that the adoption of the proposed resolution would be
merely initiatory, and not within itself a practical measure, it is
recommended in the hope that it would soon lead to important practical
results. In full view of my great responsibility to my God and to my
Country, I earnestly beg the attention of Congress and the People to the
"March 6, 1862."
In compliance with the above suggestion from the President, a Joint
Resolution, in the precise words suggested, was introduced into the
House, March 10, by Roscoe Conkling, and on the following day was
adopted in the House by 97 yeas to 36 nays.
Of the 36 members of the House who voted against this Resolution, were
34 Democrats, and among them were Messrs. Crisfield of Maryland, and
Messrs. Crittenden, Mallory, and Menzies of Kentucky. These gentleman
afterward made public a report, drawn by themselves, of an interesting
interview they had held with President Lincoln on this important
subject, in the words following:
"MEMORANDUM OF AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT AND SOME BORDER
SLAVE-STATE REPRESENTATIVES MARCH 10, 1862.
"'DEAR SIR:--I called, at the request of the President, to ask you to
come to the White House to-morrow morning, at nine o'clock, and bring
such of your colleagues as are in town.'"
"'WASHINGTON, March 10, 1862.
"Yesterday on my return from church I found Mr. Postmaster General Blair
in my room, writing the above note, which he immediately suspended, and
verbally communicated the President's invitation; and stated that the
President's purpose was to have some conversation with the delegations
of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware, in explanation
of his Message of the 6th inst.
"This morning these delegations, or such of them as were in town,
assembled at the White House at the appointed time, and after some
little delay were admitted to an audience.
"After the usual salutations and we were seated, the President said, in
substance, that he had invited us to meet him to have some conversation
with us in explanation of his Message of the 6th; that since he had sent
it in, several of the gentlemen then present had visited him, but had
avoided any allusion to the Message, and he therefore inferred that the
import of the Message had been misunderstood, and was regarded as
inimical to the interests we represented; and he had resolved he would
talk with us, and disabuse our minds of that erroneous opinion.
"The President then disclaimed any intent to injure the interests or
wound the sensibilities of the Slave States. On the contrary, his
purpose was to protect the one and respect the other; that we were
engaged in a terrible, wasting, and tedious War; immense Armies were in
the field, and must continue in the field as long as the War lasts; that
these Armies must, of necessity, be brought into contact with Slaves in
the States we represented and in other States as they advanced; that
Slaves would come to the camps, and continual irritation was kept up;
that he was constantly annoyed by conflicting and antagonistic
complaints; on the one side, a certain class complained if the Slave was
not protected by the Army; persons were frequently found who,
participating in these views, acted in a way unfriendly to the
Slaveholder; on the other hand, Slaveholders complained that their
rights were interfered with, their Slaves induced to abscond, and
protected within the lines, these complaints were numerous, loud, and
deep; were a serious annoyance to him and embarrassing to the progress
of the War; that it kept alive a spirit hostile to the Government in the
States we represented; strengthened the hopes of the Confederates that
at some day the Border States would unite with them, and thus tend to
prolong the War; and he was of opinion, if this Resolution should be
adopted by Congress and accepted by our States, these causes of
irritation and these hopes would be removed, and more would be
accomplished towards shortening the War than could be hoped from the
greatest victory achieved by Union Armies; that he made this proposition
in good faith, and desired it to be accepted, if at all, voluntarily,
and in the same patriotic spirit in which it was made; that Emancipation
was a subject exclusively under the control of the States, and must be
adopted or rejected by each for itself; that he did not claim nor had
this Government any right to coerce them for that purpose; that such was
no part of his purpose in making this proposition, and he wished it to
be clearly understood; that he did not expect us there to be prepared to
give him an answer, but he hoped we would take the subject into serious
consideration; confer with one another, and then take such course as we
felt our duty and the interests of our constituents required of us.
"Mr. Noell, of Missouri, said that in his State, Slavery was not
considered a permanent Institution; that natural causes were there in
operation which would, at no distant day, extinguish it, and he did not
think that this proposition was necessary for that; and, besides that,
he and his friends felt solicitous as to the Message on account of the
different constructions which the Resolution and Message had received.
The New York Tribune was for it, and understood it to mean that we must
accept gradual Emancipation according to the plan suggested, or get
"The President replied, he must not be expected to quarrel with the New
York Tribune before the right time; he hoped never to have to do it; he
would not anticipate events. In respect to Emancipation in Missouri, he
said that what had been observed by Mr. Noell was probably true, but the
operation of these natural causes had not prevented the irritating
conduct to which he had referred, or destroyed the hopes of the
Confederates that Missouri would at some time range herself alongside of
them, which, in his judgment, the passage of this Resolution by
Congress, and its acceptance by Missouri, would accomplish.
"Mr. Crisfield, of Maryland, asked what would be the effect of the
refusal of the State to accept this proposal, and desired to know if the
President looked to any policy beyond the acceptance or rejection of
"The President replied that he had no designs beyond the action of the
States on this particular subject. He should lament their refusal to
accept it, but he had no designs beyond their refusal of it.
"Mr. Menzies, of Kentucky, inquired if the President thought there was
any power, except in the States themselves, to carry out his scheme of
"The President replied, he thought there could not be. He then went off
into a course of remark not qualifying the foregoing declaration, nor
material to be repeated to a just understanding of his meaning.
"Mr. Crisfield said he did not think the people of Maryland looked upon
Slavery as a permanent Institution; and he did not know that they would
be very reluctant to give it up if provision was made to meet the loss,
and they could be rid of the race; but they did not like to be coerced
into Emancipation, either by the direct action of the Government or by
indirection, as through the Emancipation of Slaves in this District, or
the Confiscation of Southern Property as now threatened; and he thought
before they would consent to consider this proposition they would
require to be informed on these points.
"The President replied that 'unless he was expelled by the act of God or
the Confederate Armies, he should occupy that house for three years, and
as long as he remained there, Maryland had nothing to fear, either for
her Institutions or her interests, on the points referred to.'
"Mr. Crisfield immediately added: 'Mr. President, what you now say could
be heard by the people of Maryland, they would consider your proposition
with a much better feeling than I fear without it they will be inclined
"The President: 'That (meaning a publication of what he said), will not
do; it would force me into a quarrel before the proper time;' and again
intimating, as he had before done, that a quarrel with the 'Greeley
faction' was impending, he said, 'he did not wish to encounter it before
the proper time, nor at all if it could be avoided.'
"Governor Wickliffe, of Kentucky, then asked him respecting the
Constitutionality of his scheme.
"The President replied: 'As you may suppose, I have considered that; and
the proposition now submitted does not encounter any Constitutional
difficulty. It proposes simply to co-operate with any State by giving
such State pecuniary aid;' and he thought that the Resolution, as
proposed by him, would be considered rather as the expression of a
sentiment than as involving any Constitutional question.
"Mr. Hall, of Missouri, thought that if this proposition was adopted at
all, it should be by the votes of the Free States, and come as a
proposition from them to the Slave States, affording them an inducement
to put aside this subject of discord; that it ought not to be expected
that members representing Slaveholding Constituencies should declare at
once, and in advance of any proposition to them, for the Emancipation of
"The President said he saw and felt the force of the objection; it was a
fearful responsibility, and every gentleman must do as he thought best;
that he did not know how this scheme was received by the Members from
the Free States; some of them had spoken to him and received it kindly;
but for the most part they were as reserved and chary as we had been,
and he could not tell how they would vote.
"And, in reply to some expression of Mr. Hall as to his own opinion
regarding Slavery, he said he did not pretend to disguise his
Anti-Slavery feeling; that he thought it was wrong and should continue
to think so; but that was not the question we had to deal with now.
Slavery existed, and that, too, as well by the act of the North, as of
the South; and in any scheme to get rid of it, the North, as well as the
South, was morally bound to do its full and equal share. He thought the
Institution, wrong, and ought never to have existed; but yet he
recognized the rights of Property which had grown out of it, and would
respect those rights as fully as similar rights in any other property;
that Property can exist, and does legally exist. He thought such a law,
wrong, but the rights of Property resulting must be respected; he would
get rid of the odious law, not by violating the right, but by
encouraging the proposition, and offering inducements to give it up."
"Here the interview, so far as this subject is concerned, terminated by
Mr. Crittenden's assuring the President that whatever might be our final
action, we all thought him solely moved by a high patriotism and sincere
devotion to the happiness and glory of his Country; and with that
conviction we should consider respectfully the important suggestions he
"After some conversation on the current war news we retired, and I
immediately proceeded to my room and wrote out this paper.
"J. W. CRISFIELD."
"We were present at the interview described in the foregoing paper of
Mr. Crisfield, and we certify that the substance of what passed on the
occasion is in this paper, faithfully and fully given.
"J. W. MENZIES,
"J. J. CRITTENDEN,
"March 10, 1862."
Upon the passage of the Joint-Resolution in the House only four
Democrats (Messrs. Cobb, Haight, Lehman, and Sheffield) voted in the
affirmative, and but two Republicans (Francis Thomas, and Leary) in the
negative. On the 2nd of April, it passed the Senate by a vote of 32
yeas--all Republicans save Messrs. Davis and Thomson--to 10 nays, all
Meantime the question of the treatment of the "Contraband" in our
Military camps, continued to grow in importance.
On March 26, 1862, General Hooker issued the following order touching
certain Fugitive Slaves and their alleged owners:
"HEADQUARTERS, HOOKER'S DIVISION, CAMP BAKER,
"LOWER POTOMAC, March 26, 1862.
"To BRIGADE AND REGIMENTAL COMMANDERS OF THIS DIVISION:
"Messrs. Nally, Gray, Dummington, Dent, Adams, Speake, Price, Posey,
and Cobey, citizens of Maryland, have Negroes supposed to be with some
of the regiments of this Division; the Brigadier General commanding
directs that they be permitted to visit all the camps of his command, in
search of their Property, and if found, that they be allowed to take
possession of the same, without any interference whatever. Should any
obstacle be thrown in their way by any officer or soldier in the
Division, they will be at once reported by the regimental commanders to
"By command of Brigadier General Hooker;
"Assistant Adjutant General."
On the following day, by direction of General Sickles, the following
significant report was made touching the above order:
"HEADQUARTERS, SECOND REGIMENT, EXCELSIOR BRIGADE.
"CAMP HALL, March 27, 1862.
"LIEUTENANT:--In compliance with verbal directions from Brigadier
General D. E. Sickles, to report as to the occurrence at this camp on
the afternoon of the 26th instant, I beg leave to submit the following:
"At about 3:30 o'clock P. M., March 26, 1862, admission within our lines
was demanded by a party of horsemen (civilians), numbering, perhaps,
fifteen. They presented the lieutenant commanding the guard, with an
order of entrance from Brigadier General Joseph Hooker, Commanding
Division (copy appended), the order stating that nine men should be
"I ordered that the balance of the party should remain without the
lines; which was done. Upon the appearance of the others, there was
visible dissatisfaction and considerable murmuring among the soldiers,
to so great an extent that I almost feared for the safety of the
Slaveholders. At this time General Sickles opportunely arrived, and
instructed me to order them outside the camp, which I did, amidst the
loud cheers of our soldiers.
"It is proper to add, that before entering our lines, and within about
seventy-five or one hundred yards of our camp, one of their number
discharged two pistol shots at a Negro, who was running past them, with
an evident intention of taking his life. This justly enraged our men.
"All of which is respectfully submitted.
"Your obedient servant,
"Major Commanding Second Regiment, E. B.
"To Lieutenant J. L. PALMER, Jr.,
"A. D. C. and A. A. A. General."
On April 6, the following important dispatch, in the nature of an order,
was issued by General Doubleday to one of his subordinate officers:
"HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DEFENSES,
"NORTH OF THE POTOMAC,
"WASHINGTON, April 6, 1862.
"SIR:--I am directed by General Doubleday to say, in answer to your
letter of the 2d instant, that all Negroes coming into the lines of any
of the camps or forts under his command, are to be treated as persons,
and not as chattels.
"Under no circumstances has the Commander of a fort or camp the power of
surrendering persons claimed as Fugitive Slaves, as it cannot be done
without determining their character.
"The Additional Article of War recently passed by Congress positively
"The question has been asked, whether it would not be better to exclude
Negroes altogether from the lines. The General is of the opinion that
they bring much valuable information, which cannot be obtained from any
other source. They are acquainted with all the roads, paths, fords, and
other natural features of the country, and they make excellent guides.
They also know and frequently have exposed the haunts of Secession spies
and Traitors and the existence of Rebel organizations. They will not,
therefore, be excluded.
"The General also directs me to say that civil process cannot be served
directly in the camps or forts of his command, without full authority be
obtained from the Commanding Officer for that purpose.
"I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"E. P. HALSTED,
"Assistant Adjutant General.
"Lieut. Col. JOHN D. SHANE,
"Commanding 76th Reg. N. Y. Vols."
On April 3, 1862, the United States Senate passed a Bill to liberate all
Persons of African descent held to Service or Labor within the District
of Columbia, and prohibiting Slavery or involuntary servitude in the
District except as a punishment for crime--an appropriation being made
to pay to loyal owners an appraised value of the liberated Slaves not to
exceed $300 for each Slave. The vote on its passage in the Senate was
29 yeas to 14 nays--all the yeas being Republican, and all but two of
the nays Democratic.
April 11th, the Bill passed the House by 92 yeas to 39 nays--all the
yeas save 5 being Republican, and all the nays, save three, being
April 7, 1862, the House adopted a resolution, by 67 yeas to 52 nays
--all the yeas, save one, Republican, and all the nays, save 12,
Democratic--for the appointment of a Select Committee of nine, to
consider and report whether any plan could be proposed and recommended
for the gradual Emancipation of all the African Slaves, and the
extinction of Slavery in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Missouri, by the people or local authorities thereof, and
how far and in what way the Government of the United States could and
ought equitably to aid in facilitating either of those objects.
On the 16th President Lincoln sent the following Message to Congress:
"Fellow citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
"The Act entitled 'An Act for the release of certain Persons held to
Service or Labor in the District of Columbia,' has this day been
approved and signed.
"I have never doubted the Constitutional authority of Congress to
abolish Slavery in this District; and I have ever desired to see the
National Capital freed from the Institution in some satisfactory way.
Hence there has never been in my mind any question upon the subject
except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances.
"If there be matters within and about this Act which might have taken a
course or shape more satisfactory to my judgment, I do not attempt to
specify them. I am gratified that the two principles of compensation
and colonization are both recognized and practically applied in the Act.
"In the matter of compensation, it is provided that claims may be
presented within ninety days from the passage of the Act, 'but not
thereafter;' and there is no saving for minors, femmes covert, insane,
or absent persons. I presume this is an omission by mere oversight, and
I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or Supplemental Act.
"April 16, 1862."
Subsequently, in order to meet the President's views, such an amendatory
or Supplemental Act was passed and approved.
But now, Major General Hunter having taken upon himself to issue an
Emancipation proclamation, May 9, 1862, the President, May 19, 1862,
issued a proclamation rescinding it as follows:
"Whereas there appears in the public prints what purports to be a
proclamation of Major General Hunter, in the words and figures
following, to wit:
"'HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
'HILTON HEAD, S. C., May 9, 1862.
'[General Orders No. 11.]
'The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising
the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared
themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of
America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it
becomes a Military necessity to declare them under Martial Law. This
was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and
Martial Law, in a Free Country, are altogether incompatible; the Persons
in these three States--Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina-heretofore
held as Slaves, are therefore declared forever Free.
ED. W. SMITH,
'Acting Assistant Adjutant General.'
"And whereas the same is producing some excitement and misunderstanding,
"Therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, proclaim
and declare, that the Government of the United States had no knowledge,
information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to
issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet any authentic information that
the document is genuine. And further, that neither General Hunter, nor
any other Commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of
the United States to make proclamations declaring the Slaves of any
State Free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether
genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such
"I further make known that whether it be competent for me, as
Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the Slaves of any
State or States free, and whether, at any time, in any case, it shall
have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the
Government, to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under
my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I cannot feel
justified in leaving to the decision of Commanders in the field. These
are totally different questions from those of police regulations in
armies and camps.
"On the sixth day of March last, by a Special Message, I recommended to
Congress the adoption of a Joint Resolution to be substantially as
"' Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State
which may adopt a gradual abolishment of Slavery, giving to such State
pecuniary aid, to be used by such State, in its discretion, to
compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such
change of system.'
"The Resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large
majorities in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentic,
definite, and solemn proposal of the Nation to the States and people
most immediately interested in the subject-matter. To the people of
those States I now earnestly appeal--I do not argue--I beseech you to
make the argument for yourselves--you cannot, if you would, be blind to
the signs of the times--I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration
of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan
politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting
no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The changes it
contemplates would come gently as the dews of Heaven, not rending or
wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been
done, by one effort, in all past time, as, in the providence of God, it
is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to