Part 2 out of 2
The Union men, as well as the Secession-sympathizers, of Kentucky and
Tennessee and Missouri and Maryland, largely believed in Slavery, or at
least were averse to any interference with it. These, would not see
that the right to destroy that unholy Institution could pertain to any
authority, or be justified by any exigency; much less that, as held by
some authorities, its existence ceased at the moment when its hands, or
those of the State in which it had existed, were used to assail the
They looked with especial suspicion and distrust upon the guarded
utterances of the President upon all questions touching the future of
the Colored Race.
[At Faneuil Hall, Edward Everett is reported to have said, in
October of 1864:
"It is very doubtful whether any act of the Government of the
United States was necessary to liberate the Slaves in a State which
is in Rebellion. There is much reason for the opinion that, by the
simple act of levying War against the United States, the relation
of Slavery was terminated; certainly, so far as concerns the duty
of the United States to recognize it, or to refrain from
interfering with it.
"Not being founded on the Law of Nature, and resting solely on
positive Local Law--and that, not of the United States--as soon as
it becomes either the motive or pretext of an unjust War against
the Union--an efficient instrument in the hands of the Rebels for
carrying on the War--source of Military strength to the Rebellion,
and of danger to the Government at home and abroad, with the
additional certainty that, in any event but its abandonment, it
will continue, in all future time to work these mischiefs, who can
suppose it is the duty of the United States to continue to
"To maintain this would be a contradiction in terms. It would be
two recognize a right in a Rebel master to employ his Slave in acts
of Rebellion and Treason, and the duty of the Slave to aid and abet
his master in the commission of the greatest crime known to the
Law. No such absurdity can be admitted; and any citizen of the
United States, from thee President down, who should, by any overt
act, recognize the duty of a Slave to obey a Rebel master in a
hostile operation, would himself be giving aid and comfort to the
They believed that when Fremont issued the General Order-heretofore
given in full--in which that General declared that "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," it must have been with the concurrence,
if not at the suggestion, of the President; and, when the President
subsequently, September 11,1861, made an open Order directing that this
clause of Fremont's General Order, or proclamation, should 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," they still were not satisfied.
[The sections of the above Act, bearing upon the matter, are the
first and fourth, which are in these words:
"That if, during the present or any future insurrection against the
Government of the United States, after the President of the United
States shall have declared, by proclamation, that the laws of the
United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, by
combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course
of judicial proceedings, or by the power vested in the marshals by
law, any person or persons, his, her, or their agent, attorney, or
employee, shall purchase or acquire, sell or give, any property of
whatsoever kind or description, with intent to use or employ the
same, or suffer the same to be used or employed, in aiding,
abetting, or promoting such insurrection or resistance to the laws,
or any persons engaged therein; or if any person or persons, being
the owner or owners of any such property, shall knowingly use or
employ, or consent to the use or employment of the same as
aforesaid, all such property is hereby declared to be lawful
subject of prize and capture wherever found; and it shall be the
duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be
seized, confiscated and condemned."
* * * * * * * *
"SEC. 4. That whenever hereafter, during the present insurrection
against the Government of the United States, any person claimed to
be held to Labor or Service under the law of any State shall be
required or permitted by the person to whom such Labor or Service
is claimed to be due, or by the lawful agent of such person, to
take up arms against the United States; or shall be required or
permitted by the person to whom such Labor or Service is claimed to
be due, or his lawful agent, to work or to be employed in or upon
any fort, navy-yard, dock, armory, ship, entrenchment, or in any
Military or Naval service whatsoever, against the Government and
lawful authority of the United States, then, and in every such
case, the person to whom such Labor or Service is claimed to be
due, shall forfeit his claim to such Labor, any law of the State or
of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding. And whenever
thereafter the person claiming such Labor or Service shall seek to
enforce his claim, it shall be a full and sufficient answer to such
claim that the person whose Service or Labor is claimed had been
employed in hostile service against the Government of the United
States, contrary to the provisions of this act."
It seemed as impossible to satisfy these Border-State men as it had been
to satisfy the Rebels themselves.
The Act of Congress, to which President Lincoln referred
in his Order modifying Fremont's proclamation, had itself been opposed
by them, under the lead of their most influential Representative and
spokesman, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, in its passage through that
Body. It did not satisfy them.
Neither had they been satisfied, when, within one year and four days
after "Slavery opened its batteries of Treason, upon Fort Sumter," that
National curse and shame was banished from the Nation's Capital by
They were not satisfied even with Mr. Lincoln's conservative suggestions
embodied in the Supplemental Act.
Nor were they satisfied with the General Instructions, of October 14,
1861, from the War Department to its Generals, touching the employment
of Fugitive Slaves within the Union Lines, and the assurance of just
compensation to loyal masters, therein contained, although all avoidable
interference with the Institution was therein reprobated.
Nothing satisfied them. It was indeed one of the most curious of the
many phenomena of the War of the Rebellion, that when--as at the end of
1861--it had become evident, as Secretary Cameron held, that it "would
be National suicide" to leave the Rebels in "peaceful and secure
possession of Slave Property, more valuable and efficient to them for
War, than forage, cotton, and Military stores," and that the Slaves
coming within our lines could not "be held by the Government as Slaves,"
and should not be held as prisoners of War--still the loyal people of
these Border-States, could not bring themselves to save that Union,
which they professed to love, by legislation on this tender subject.
On the contrary, they opposed all legislation looking to any
interference with such Slave property. Nothing that was proposed by Mr.
Lincoln, or any other, on this subject, could satisfy them.
Congress enacted a law, approved March 13, 1862, embracing an additional
Article of War, which prohibited all officers "from employing any of the
forces under their respective Commands for the purpose of returning
Fugitives from Service or Labor who may have escaped from
any persons to whom such Service or Labor is claimed to be due," and
prescribed that "Any officer who shall be found guilty by Court-Martial
of violating this Article shall be dismissed from the Service." In both
Houses, the loyal Border-State Representatives spoke and voted against
One week previously (March 6, 1862), President Lincoln, in an admirable
Message, hitherto herein given at length, found himself driven to broach
to Congress the subject of Emancipation. He had, in his First Annual
Message (December, 1861), declared that "the Union must be preserved;
and hence all indispensable means must be employed;" but now, as a part
of the War Policy, he proposed to Congress the adoption of a Joint
Resolution declaring "That the United States ought to cooperate 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 System."
It was high time, he thought, that the idea of a gradual, compensated
Emancipation, should begin to occupy the minds of those interested, "so
that," to use his own words, "they may begin to consider whether to
accept or reject it," should Congress approve the suggestion.
Congress did approve, and adopt, the Joint-Resolution, as we know--
despite the opposition from the loyal element of the Border States--an
opposition made in the teeth of their concession that Mr. Lincoln, in
recommending its adoption, was "solely moved by a high patriotism and
sincere devotion to the glory of his Country."
But, consistently with their usual course, they went to the House of
Representatives, fresh from the Presidential presence, and, with their
ears still ringing with the common-sense utterances of the President,
half of them voted against the Resolution, while the other half
refrained from voting at all. And their opposition to this wise and
moderate proposition was mainly based upon the idea that it carried with
it a threat--a covert threat.
It certainly was a warning, taking it in connection with the balance of
the Message, but a very wise and timely one.
These loyal Border-State men, however, could not see its wisdom, and at
a full meeting held upon the subject decided to oppose it, as they
afterward did. Its conciliatory spirit they could not comprehend; the
kindly, temperate warning, they would not heed. The most moderate of
them all,--[Mr. Crittenden of Kentucky.]--in the most moderate of his
utterances, could not bring himself to the belief that this Resolution
was "a measure exactly suited to the times."
[And such was the fatuity existing among the Slave-holders of the
Border States, that not one of those Slave States had wisdom enough
to take the liberal offer thus made by the General Government, of
compensation. They afterward found their Slaves freed without
So, also, one month later, (April 11, 1862), when the Senate Bill
proposing Emancipation in the District of Columbia, was before the
House, the same spokesman and leader of the loyal Border-State men
opposed it strenuously as not being suited to the times. For, he
persuasively protested: "I do not say that you have not the power; but
would not that power be, at such a time as this, most unwisely and
indiscreetly exercised. That is the point. Of all the times when an
attempt was ever made to carry this measure, is not this the most
inauspicious? Is it not a time when the measure is most likely to
produce danger and mischief to the Country at large? So it seems to
It was not now, nor would it ever be, the time, to pass this, or any
other measure, touching the Institution of Slavery, likely to benefit
that Union to which these men professed such love and loyalty.
Their opposition, however, to the march of events, was of little avail--
even when backed, as was almost invariably the case, by the other
Democratic votes from the Free States. The opposition was obstructive,
but not effectual. For this reason it was perhaps the more irritating
to the Republicans, who were anxious to put Slavery where their great
leader, Mr. Lincoln, had long before said it should be placed--"in
course of ultimate extinction."
This very irritation, however, only served to press such Anti-Slavery
Measures more rapidly forward. By the 19th of June, 1862, a Bill "to
secure Freedom to all persons within the Territories of the United
States"--after a more strenuous fight against it than ever, on the part
of Loyal and Copperhead Democrats, both from the Border and Free
States,--had passed Congress, and been approved by President Lincoln.
It provided, in just so many words, "That, from and after the passage of
this Act, there shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in
any of the Territories of the United States now existing, or which may
at any time hereafter be formed or acquired by the United States,
otherwise than in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been
Here, then, at last, was the great end and aim, with which Mr. Lincoln
and the Republican Party started out, accomplished. To repeat his
phrase, Slavery was certainly now in course of ultimate extinction.
But since that doctrine had been first enunciated by Mr. Lincoln, events
had changed the aspect of things. War had broken out, and the Slaves of
those engaged in armed Rebellion against the authority of the United
States Government, had been actually employed, as we have seen, on Rebel
works and fortifications whose guns were trailed upon the Armies of the
And now, the question of Slavery had ceased to be simply whether it
should be put in course of ultimate extinction, but whether, as a War
Measure--as a means of weakening the Enemy and strengthening the Union--
the time had not already come to extinguish it, so far, at least, as the
Slaves of those participating in the Rebellion, were concerned.
Congress, as has been heretofore noted, had already long and heatedly
debated various propositions referring to Slavery and African
Colonization, and had enacted such of them as, in its wisdom, were
considered necessary; and was now entering a further stormy period of
contention upon various other projects touching the Abolition of the
Fugitive Slave Laws, the Confiscation of Rebel Property, and the
Emancipation of Slaves--all of which, of course, had been, and would be,
vehemently assailed by the loyal Border-States men and their Free-State
This contention proceeded largely upon the lines of construction of that
clause in the Constitution of the United States and its Amendments,
which provides that no person shall be deprived of Life, Liberty, or
Property, without due process of Law, etc. The one side holding that,
since the beginning of our Government, Slaves had been, under this
clause, Unconstitutionally deprived of their Liberty; the other side
holding that Slaves being "property," it would be Unconstitutional under
the same clause, to deprive the Slave-owner of his Slave property.
Mr. Crittenden, the leader of the loyal Border-States men in Congress,
was at this time especially eloquent on this latter view of the
Constitution. In his speech of April 23, 1862, in the House of
Representatives, he even undertook to defend American Slavery under the
shield of English Liberty!
Said he: "It is necessary for the prosperity of any Government, for
peace and harmony, that every man who acquires property shall feel that
he shall be protected in the enjoyment of it, and in his right to hold
it. It elevates the man; it gives him a feeling of dignity. It is the
great old English doctrine of Liberty. Said Lord Mansfield, the rain
may beat against the cabin of an Englishman, the snow may penetrate it,
but the King dare not enter it without the consent of its owner. That
is the true English spirit. It is the source of England's power."
And again: "The idea of property is deeply seated in our minds. By the
English Law and by the American Law you have the right to take the life
of any man who attempts, by violence, to take your property from you.
So far does the Spirit of these Laws go. Let us not break down this
idea of property. It is the animating spirit of the Country. Indeed it
is the Spirit of Liberty and Freedom."
There was at this time, a growing belief in the minds of these loyal
Border-States men, that this question of Slavery-abolition was reaching
a crisis. They saw "the handwriting on the wall," but left no stone
unturned to prevent, or at least to avert for a time, the coming
catastrophe. They egged Congress, in the language of the distinguished
Kentuckian, to "Let these unnecessary measures alone, for the present;"
and, as to the President, they now, not only volunteered in his defense,
against the attacks of others, but strove also to capture him by their
"Sir,"--said Mr. Crittenden, in one of his most eloquent bursts, in the
House of Representatives,--"it is not my duty, perhaps, to defend the
President of the United States. * * * I voted against Mr. Lincoln, and
opposed him honestly and sincerely; but Mr. Lincoln has won me to his
side. There is a niche in the Temple of Fame, a niche near to
Washington, which should be occupied by the statue of him who shall,
save this Country. Mr. Lincoln has a mighty destiny. It is for him, if
he will, to step into that niche. It is for him to be but President of
the People of the United States, and there will his statue be. But, if
he choose to be, in these times, a mere sectarian and a party man, that
niche will be reserved for some future and better Patriot. It is in his
power to occupy a place next Washington,--the Founder, and the
Preserver, side by side. Sir, Mr. Lincoln is no coward. His not doing
what the Constitution forbade him to do, is no proof of his cowardice."
On the other hand, Owen Lovejoy, the fiery Abolitionist, the very next
day after the above remarks of Mr. Crittenden were delivered in the
House, made a great speech in reply, taking the position that "either
Slavery, or the Republic, must perish; and the question for us to decide
is, which shall it be?"
He declared to the House: "You cannot put down the rebellion and restore
the Union, without destroying Slavery." He quoted the sublime language
of Curran touching the Spirit of the British Law, which consecrates the
soil of Britain to the genius of Universal Emancipation,
[In these words:
"I speak in the Spirit of the British law, which makes Liberty
commensurate with, and inseparable from, the British soil; which
proclaims even to the stranger and the sojourner the moment he sets
his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is
holy, and consecrated by the genius Of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.
"No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no
matter what complexion incompatible with Freedom, an Indian or an
African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous
battle his Liberty may have been cloven down; no matter with what
solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of Slavery; the
first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and
the god sink together in the dust; his Soul walks abroad in her own
majesty; his Body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that
burst from around him, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and
disenthralled by the irresistible genius of UNIVERSAL
And Cowper's verse, wherein the poet says:
"Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are Free,"
--and, after expressing his solicitude to have this true of America, as
it already was true of the District of Columbia, he proceeded to say:
"The gentleman from Kentucky says he has a niche for Abraham Lincoln.
Where is it? He pointed upward! But, Sir, should the President follow
the counsels of that gentleman, and become the defender and perpetuator
of human Slavery, he should point downward to some dungeon in the Temple
of Moloch, who feeds on human blood and is surrounded with fires, where
are forged manacles and chains for human limbs--in the crypts and
recesses of whose Temple, woman is scourged, and man tortured, and
outside whose walls are lying dogs, gorged with human flesh, as Byron
describes them stretched around Stamboul. That is a suitable place for
the statue of one who would defend and perpetuate human Slavery."
And then--after saying that "the friends of American Slavery need not
beslime the President with their praise. He is an Anti-Slavery man. He
hates human Bondage "--the orator added these glowing words:
"I, too, have a niche for Abraham Lincoln; but it is in Freedom's Holy
Fane, and not in the blood-besmeared Temple of human Bondage; not
surrounded by Slaves, fetters and chains, but with the symbols of
Freedom; not dark with Bondage, but radiant with the light of Liberty.
In that niche he shall stand proudly, nobly, gloriously, with shattered
fetters and broken chains and slave-whips beneath his feet. If Abraham
Lincoln pursues the path, evidently pointed out for him in the
providence of God, as I believe he will, then he will occupy the proud
position I have indicated. That is a fame worth living for; ay, more,
that is a fame worth dying for, though that death led through the blood
of Gethsemane and the agony of the Accursed Tree. That is a fame which
has glory and honor and immortality and Eternal Life. Let Abraham
Lincoln make himself, as I trust he will, the Emancipator, the
Liberator, as he has the opportunity of doing, and his name shall not
only be enrolled in this Earthly Temple, but it will be traced on the
living stones of that Temple which rears itself amid the Thrones and
Hierarchies of Heaven, whose top-stone is to be brought in with shouting
of 'Grace, grace unto it!'"
We have seen how the loyal Border-State men, through their chosen
Representative--finding that their steady and unfaltering opposition to
all Mr. Lincoln's propositions, while quite ineffectual, did not serve
by any means to increase his respect for their peculiar kind of loyalty
--offered him posthumous honors and worship if he would but do as they
desired. Had they possessed the power, no doubt they would have taken
him up into an exceeding high mountain and have offered to him all the
Kingdoms of the Earth to do their bidding. But their temptations were
of no avail.
President Lincoln's duty, and inclination alike--no less than the
earnest importunities of the Abolitionists--carried him in the opposite
direction; but carried him no farther than he thought it safe, and wise,
to go. For, in whatever he might do on this burning question of
Emancipation, he was determined to secure that adequate support from the
People without which even Presidential Proclamations are waste paper.
But now, May 9, 1862, was suddenly issued by General Hunter, commanding
the "Department of the South," comprising Georgia, Florida and South
Carolina, his celebrated Order announcing Martial Law, in those States,
as a Military Necessity, and--as "Slavery and Martial Law in a Free
Country are altogether incompatible"--declaring all Slaves therein,
This second edition, as it were, of Fremont's performance, at once threw
the loyal Border-State men into a terrible ferment. Again, they, and
their Copperhead and other Democratic friends of the North, meanly
professed belief that this was but a part of Mr. Lincoln's programme,
and that his apparent backwardness was the cloak to hide his Anti-
Slavery aggressiveness and insincerity.
How hurtful the insinuations, and even direct charges, of the day, made
by these men against President Lincoln, must have been to his honest,
sincere, and sensitive nature, can scarcely be conceived by those who
did not know him; while, on the other hand, the reckless impatience of
some of his friends for "immediate and universal Emancipation," and
their complaints at his slow progress toward that goal of their hopes,
must have been equally trying.
True to himself, however, and to the wise conservative course which he
had marked out, and, thus far, followed, President Lincoln hastened to
disavow Hunter's action in the premises, by a Proclamation, heretofore
given, declaring that no person had been authorized by the United States
Government to declare the Slaves of any State, Free; that Hunter's
action in this respect was void; that, as Commander-in-chief he reserved
solely to himself, the questions, first, as to whether he had the power
to declare the Slaves of any State or States, Free, and, second, whether
the time and necessity for the exercise of such supposed power had
arrived. And then, as we may remember, he proceeded to cite the
adoption, by overwhelming majorities in Congress, of the Joint
Resolution offering pecuniary aid from the National Government to "any
State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of Slavery;" and to make a
most earnest appeal, for support, to the Border-States and to their
people, as being "the most interested in the subject matter."
In his Special Message to Congress,--[Of March 6, 1862.]--recommending
the passage of that Joint Resolution, he had plainly and emphatically
declared himself against sudden Emancipation of Slaves. He had therein
distinctly said: "In my judgment, gradual, and not immediate,
Emancipation, is better for all." And now, in this second appeal of his
to the Border-States men, to patriotically close with the proposal
embraced in that. Resolution, he said: "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 lament that
you have neglected it!"
[The following letter, from Sumner, shows the impatience of some of
the President's friends, the confidence he inspired in others
nearer in his counsels, and how entirely, at this time, his mind
was absorbed in his project for gradual and compensated
"SENATE CHAMBER, June 5, 1862.
"MY DEAR SIR.--Your criticism of the President is hasty. I am
confident that, if you knew him as I do, you would not make it. Of
course the President cannot be held responsible for the
misfeasances of subordinates, unless adopted or at least tolerated
by him. And I am sure that nothing unjust or ungenerous will be
tolerated, much less adopted, by him.
"I am happy to let you know that he has no sympathy with Stanly in
his absurd wickedness, closing the schools, nor again in his other
act of turning our camp into a hunting ground for Slaves. He
repudiates both--positively. The latter point has occupied much of
his thought; and the newspapers have not gone too far in recording
his repeated declarations, which I have often heard from his own
lips, that Slaves finding their way into the National lines are
never to be Re-enslaved--This is his conviction, expressed without
"Could you have seen the President--as it was my privilege often--
while he was considering the great questions on which he has
already acted--the invitation to Emancipation in the States,
Emancipation in the District of Columbia, and the acknowledgment of
the Independence of Hayti and Liberia--even your zeal would have
been satisfied, for you would have felt the sincerity of his
purpose to do what he could to carry forward the principles of the
Declaration of Independence.
"His whole soul was occupied, especially by the first proposition,
which was peculiarly his own. In familiar intercourse with him, I
remember nothing more touching than the earnestness and
completeness with which he embraced this idea. To his mind, it was
just and beneficent, while it promised the sure end of Slavery. Of
course, to me, who had already proposed a bridge of gold for the
retreating fiend, it was most welcome. Proceeding from the
President, it must take its place among the great events of
"If you are disposed to be impatient at any seeming
shortcomings, think, I pray you, of what has been done in a brief
period, and from the past discern the sure promise of the future.
Knowing something of my convictions and of the ardor with which I
maintain them, you may, perhaps, derive some assurance from my
confidence; I may say to you, therefore, stand by the
Administration. If need be, help it by word and act, but stand by
it and have faith in it.
"I wish that you really knew the President, and had heard the
artless expression of his convictions on those questions which
concern you so deeply. You might, perhaps, wish that he were less
cautious, but you would be grateful that he is so true to all that
you have at heart. Believe me, therefore, you are wrong, and I
regret it the more because of my desire to see all our friends
stand firmly together.
"If I write strongly it is because I feel strongly; for my constant
and intimate intercourse with the President, beginning with the 4th
of March, not only binds me peculiarly to his Administration, but
gives me a personal as well as a political interest in seeing that
justice is done him.
"Believe me, my dear Sir, with much regard, ever faithfully yours,
But stones are not more deaf to entreaty than were the ears of the loyal
Border-State men and their allies to President Lincoln's renewed appeal.
"Ephraim" was "wedded to his idols."
McClellan too--immediately after his retreat from the Chickahominy to
the James River--seized the opportunity afforded by the disasters to our
arms, for which he was responsible, to write to President Lincoln a
letter (dated July 7, 1862) in which he admonished him that owing to the
"critical" condition of the Army of the Potomac, and the danger of its
being "overwhelmed" by the Enemy in front, the President must now
substantially assume and exercise the powers of a Dictator, or all would
be lost; that "neither Confiscation of property * * * nor forcible
Abolition of Slavery, should be contemplated for a moment;" and that "A
declaration of Radical views, especially upon Slavery, will rapidly
disintegrate our present Armies."
Harried, and worried, on all sides,--threatened even by the Commander of
the Army of the Potomac,--it is not surprising, in view of the
apparently irreconcilable attitude of the loyal Border-State men to
gradual and compensated Emancipation, that the tension of President
Lincoln's mind began to feel a measure of relief in contemplating
Military Emancipation in the teeth of all such threats.
He had long since made up his mind that the existence of Slavery was not
compatible with the preservation of the Union. The only question now
was, how to get rid of it? If the worst should come to the worst--
despite McClellan's threat--he would have to risk everything on the turn
of the die--would have to "play his last card;" and that "last card" was
Military Emancipation. Yet still he disliked to play it. The time and
necessity for it had not yet arrived--although he thought he saw them
[In the course of an article in the New York Tribune, August, 1885,
Hon. George S. Boutwell tells of an interview in "July or early
in August" of 1862, with President Lincoln, at which the latter
read two letters: one from a Louisiana man "who claimed to be a
Union man," but sought to impress the President with "the dangers
and evils of Emancipation;" the other, Mr. Lincoln's reply to him,
in which, says Mr. B., "he used this expression: 'you must not
expect me to give up this Government without playing my last card.'
Emancipation was his last card."]
Things were certainly, at this time, sufficiently unpromising to chill
the sturdiest Patriot's heart. It is true, we had scored some important
victories in the West; but in the East, our arms seemed fated to
disaster after disaster. Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and
Pittsburg Landing, were names whose mention made the blood of Patriots
to surge in their veins; and Corinth, too, had fallen. But in the East,
McClellan's profitless campaign against Richmond, and especially his
disastrous "change of base" by a "masterly" seven days' retreat,
involving as many bloody battles, had greatly dispirited all Union men,
and encouraged the Rebels and Rebel-sympathizers to renewed hopes and
And, as reverses came to the Union Arms, so seemed to grow
proportionately the efforts, on all sides, to force forward, or to stave
off, as the case might be, the great question of the liberation and
arming of the Slaves, as a War Measure, under the War powers of the
Constitution. It was about this time (July 12, 1862) that President
Lincoln determined to make a third, and last, attempt to avert the
necessity for thus emancipating and arming the Slaves. He invited all
the Senators and Representatives in Congress from the Border-States, to
an interview at the White House, and made to them the appeal, heretofore
in these pages given at length.
It was an earnest, eloquent, wise, kindly, patriotic, fatherly appeal in
behalf of his old proposition, for a gradual, compensated Emancipation,
by the Slave States, aided by the resources of the National Government.
At the very time of making it, he probably had, in his drawer, the rough
draft of the Proclamation which was soon to give Liberty to all the
Colored millions of the Land.
[McPherson gives a letter, written from Washington, by Owen Lovejoy
(Feb. 22, 1864), to Wm. Lloyd Garrison, in which the following
"Recurring to the President, there are a great many reports
concerning him which seem to be reliable and authentic, which,
after all, are not so. It was currently reported among the Anti-
Slavery men of Illinois that the Emancipation Proclamation was
extorted from him by the outward pressure, and particularly by the
Delegation from the Christian Convention that met at Chicago.
"Now, the fact is this, as I had it from his own lips: He had
written the Proclamation in the Summer, as early as June, I think--
but will not be certain as to the precise time--and called his
Cabinet together, and informed them he had written it and meant to
make it, but wanted to read it to them for any criticism or remarks
as to its features or details.
"After having done so, Mr. Seward suggested whether it would not be
well for him to withhold its publication until after we had gained
some substantial advantage in the Field, as at that time we had met
with many reverses, and it might be considered a cry of despair.
He told me he thought the suggestion a wise one, and so held on to
the Proclamation until after the Battle of Antietam.]
Be that as it may, however, sufficient evidences exist, to prove that he
must have been fully aware, at the time of making that appeal to the
supposed patriotism of these Border-State men, how much, how very much,
depended on the manner of their reception of it.
To him, that meeting was a very solemn and portentous one. He had
studied the question long and deeply--not from the standpoint of his own
mere individual feelings and judgment, but from that of fair
Constitutional construction, as interpreted by the light of Natural or
General Law and right reason. What he sought to impress upon them was,
that an immediate decision by the Border-States to adopt, and in due
time carry out, with the financial help of the General Government, a
policy of gradual Emancipation, would simultaneously solve the two
intimately-blended problems of Slavery-destruction and Union-
preservation, in the best possible manner for the pockets and feelings
of the Border-State Slave-holder, and for the other interests of both
Border-State Slave-holder and Slave.
His great anxiety was to "perpetuate," as well as to save, to the People
of the World, the imperiled form of Popular Government, and assure to it
a happy and a grand future.
He begged these Congressmen from the Border-States, to help him carry
out this, his beneficent plan, in the way that was best for all, and
thus at the same time utterly deprive the Rebel Confederacy of that
hope, which still possessed them, of ultimately gathering these States
into their rebellious fold. And he very plainly, at the same time,
confessed that he desired this relief from the Abolition pressure upon
him, which had been growing more intense ever since he had repudiated
the Hunter proclamation.
But the President's earnest appeal to these loyal Representatives in
Congress from the Border-States, was, as we have seen, in vain. It
might as well have been made to actual Rebels, for all the good it did.
For, a few days afterward, they sent to him a reply signed by more than
two-thirds of those present, hitherto given at length in these pages, in
which-after loftily sneering at the proposition as "an interference by
this Government with a question which peculiarly and exclusively
belonged to" their "respective States, on which they had not sought
advice or solicited aid," throwing doubts upon the Constitutional power
of the General Government to give the financial aid, and undertaking by
statistics to prove that it would absolutely bankrupt the Government to
give such aid,--they insultingly declared, in substance, that they could
not "trust anything to the contingencies of future legislation," and
that Congress must "provide sufficient funds" and place those funds in
the President's hands for the purpose, before the Border-States and
their people would condescend even to "take this proposition into
careful consideration, for such decision as in their judgment is
demanded by their interest, their honor, and their duty to the whole
Very different in tone, to be sure, was the minority reply, which, after
stating that "the leaders of the Southern Rebellion have offered to
abolish Slavery among them as a condition to Foreign Intervention in
favor of their Independence as a Nation," concluded with the terse and
loyal deduction: "If they can give up Slavery to destroy the Union, we
can surely ask our people to consider the question of Emancipation to
save the Union."
But those who signed this latter reply were few, among the many.
Practically, the Border-State men were a unit against Mr. Lincoln's
proposition, and against its fair consideration by their people. He
asked for meat, and they gave him a stone.
Only a few days before this interview, President Lincoln--alarmed by the
report of McClellan, that the magnificent Army of the Potomac under his
command, which, only three months before, had boasted 161,000 men, had
dwindled down to not more than "50,000 men left with their colors"--had
been to the front, at Harrison's Landing, on the James river, and,
although he had not found things quite so disheartening as he had been
led to believe, yet they were bad enough, for only 86,000 men were found
by him on duty, while 75,000 were unaccounted for--of which number
34,4172 were afterward reported as "absent by authority."
This condition of affairs, in connection with the fact that McClellan
was always calling for more troops, undoubtedly had its influence in
bringing Mr. Lincoln's mind to the conviction, hitherto mentioned, of
the fast-approaching Military necessity for Freeing and Arming the
It was to ward this off, if possible, that he had met and appealed to
the Border-State Representatives. They had answered him with sneers and
insults; and nothing was left him but the extreme course of almost
Long and anxiously he had thought over the matter, but the time for
action was at hand.
And now, it cannot be better told, than in President Lincoln's own
words, as given to the portrait-painter Carpenter, and recorded in the
latter's, "Six months in the White House," what followed:
"It had got to be," said he, "midsummer, 1862. Things had gone on from
bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on
the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played
our last card, and must change our tactics, or lose the game!
"I now determined upon the adoption of the Emancipation Policy; and,
without consultation with, or the knowledge of, the Cabinet, I prepared
the original draft of the Proclamation, and, after much anxious thought,
called a Cabinet meeting upon the subject. This was the last of July,
or the first part of the month of August, 1862." (The exact date he did
"This Cabinet meeting took place, I think, upon a Saturday. All were
present, excepting Mr. Blair, the Postmaster-General, who was absent at
the opening of the discussion, but came in subsequently. I said to the
Cabinet, that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them
together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of a
Proclamation before them; suggestions as to which would be in order,
after they had heard it read.
"Mr. Lovejoy was in error" when he stated "that it excited no comment,
excepting on the part of Secretary Seward. Various suggestions were
offered. Secretary Chase wished the language stronger, in reference to
the arming of the Blacks. Mr. Blair, after he came in, deprecated the
policy, on the ground that it would cost the Administration the fall
"Nothing, however, was offered, that I had not already
fully anticipated and settled in my own mind, until Secretary Seward
spoke. He said in substance: 'Mr. President, I approve of the
Proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this
juncture. The depression of the public mind, consequent upon our
repeated reverses, is so great that I fear the effect of so important a
step. It may be viewed as the last Measure of an exhausted Government,
a cry for help, the Government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia,
instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the Government.'
"His idea," said the President "was that it would be considered our last
shriek, on the retreat." (This was his precise expression.) "' Now,'
continued Mr. Seward, 'while I approve the Measure, I suggest, Sir, that
you postpone its issue, until you can give it to the Country supported
by Military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now,
upon the greatest disasters of the War!'"
Mr. Lincoln continued: "The wisdom of the view of the Secretary of
State, struck me with very great force. It was an aspect of the case
that, in all my thought upon the subject, I had entirely overlooked.
The result was that I put the draft of the Proclamation aside, as you do
your sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory."
It may not be amiss to interrupt the President's narration to Mr.
Carpenter, at this point, with a few words touching "the Military
After McClellan's inexplicable retreat from before the Rebel Capital--
when, having gained a great victory at Malvern Hills, Richmond would
undoubtedly have been ours, had he but followed it up, instead of
ordering his victorious troops to retreat like "a whipped Army"--[See
General Hooker's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the
War.]--his recommendation, in the extraordinary letter (of July 7th) to
the President, for the creation of the office of General-in-Chief, was
adopted, and Halleck, then at Corinth, was ordered East, to fill it.
Pope had previously been called from the West, to take
command of the troops covering Washington, comprising some 40,000 men,
known as the Army of Virginia; and, finding cordial cooperation with
McClellan impossible, had made a similar suggestion.
Soon after Halleck's arrival, that General ordered the transfer of the
Army of the Potomac, from Harrison's Landing to Acquia creek--on the
Potomac--with a view to a new advance upon Richmond, from the
While this was being slowly accomplished, Lee, relieved from fears for
Richmond, decided to advance upon Washington, and speedily commenced the
On the 8th of August, 1862, Stonewall Jackson, leading the Rebel
advance, had crossed the Rapidan; on the 9th the bloody Battle of Cedar
Mountain had been fought with part of Pope's Army; and on the 11th,
Jackson had retreated across the Rapidan again.
Subsequently, Pope having retired across the Rappahannock, Lee's Forces,
by flanking Pope's Army, again resumed their Northern advance. August
28th and 29th witnessed the bloody Battles of Groveton and Gainesville,
Virginia; the 30th saw the defeat of Pope, by Lee, at the second great
Battle of Bull Run, and the falling back of Pope's Army toward
Washington; and the succeeding Battle of Chantilly took place September
It is not necessary at this time to even touch upon the causes and
agencies which brought such misfortune to the Union Arms, under Pope.
It is sufficient to say here, that the disaster of the second Bull Run
was a dreadful blow to the Union Cause, and correspondingly elated the
Jefferson Davis, in transmitting to the Rebel Congress at Richmond,
Lee's victorious announcements, said, in his message: "From these
dispatches it will be seen that God has again extended His shield over
our patriotic Army, and has blessed the cause of the Confederacy with a
second signal victory, on the field already memorable by the gallant
achievement of our troops."
Flushed with victory, but wisely avoiding the fortifications of the
National Capital, Lee's Forces now swept past Washington; crossed the
Potomac, near Point of Rocks, at its rear; and menaced both the National
Capital and Baltimore.
Yielding to the apparent necessity of the moment, the President again
placed. McClellan in command of the Armies about Washington, to wit:
the Army of the Potomac; Burnside's troops that had come up from North
Carolina; what remained of Pope's Army of Virginia; and the large
reinforcements from fresh levies, constantly and rapidly pouring in.
[This was probably about the time of the occurrence of an amusing
incident, touching Lincoln, McClellan, and the fortifications
around Washington, afterward told by General J. G. Barnard, then
Chief of Engineers on the staff of General George B. McClellan.--
See New York Tribune, October 21, 1885. It seems that the
fortifications having been completed, McClellan invited Mr. Lincoln
and his Cabinet to inspect them. "On the day appointed," said
Barnard, "the Inspection commenced at Arlington, to the Southwest
of Washington, and in front of the Enemy. We followed the line of
the works southerly, and recrossed the Potomac to the easterly side
of the river, and continued along the line easterly of Washington
and into the heaviest of all the fortifications on the northerly
side of Washington. When we reached this point the President asked
General McClellan to explain the necessity of so strong a
fortification between Washington and the North.
"General McClellan replied: 'Why, Mr. President, according to
Military Science it is our duty to guard against every possible or
supposable contingency that may arise. For example, if under any
circumstances, however fortuitous, the Enemy, by any chance or
freak, should, in a last resort, get in behind Washington, in his
efforts to capture the city, why, there the fort is to defend it.'
"'Yes, that's so General,' said the President; 'the precaution is
doubtless a wise one, and I'm glad to get so clear an explanation,
for it reminds me of an interesting question once discussed for
several weeks in our Lyceum, or Moot Court, at Springfield, Ill.,
soon after I began reading law.'
"'Ah!' says General McClellan. 'What question was that, Mr.
"'The question,' Mr. Lincoln replied, 'was, "Why does man have
breasts?"' and he added that after many evenings' debate, the
question was submitted to the presiding Judge, who wisely decided
'That if under any circumstances, however fortuitous, or by any
chance or freak, no matter of what nature or by what cause, a man
should have a baby, there would be the breasts to nurse it.'"]
Yet, it was not until the 17th of September that the Battle of Antietam
was fought, and Lee defeated--and then only to be allowed to slip back,
across the Potomac, on the 18th--McClellan leisurely following him,
across that river, on the 2nd of November!
[Arnold, in his "Life of Abraham Lincoln," says that President
Lincoln said of him: "With all his failings as a soldier, McClellan
is a pleasant and scholarly gentleman. He is an admirable
Engineer, but" he added, "he seems to have a special talent for a
On the 5th, McClellan was relieved,--Burnside taking the command,--and
Union men breathed more freely again.
But to return to the subject of Emancipation. President Lincoln's own
words have already been given--in conversation with Carpenter--down to
the reading of the Proclamation to his Cabinet, and Seward's suggestion
to "wait for a victory" before issuing it, and how, adopting that
advice, he laid the Proclamation aside, waiting for a victory.
"From time to time," said Mr. Lincoln, continuing his narration, "I
added or changed a line, touching it up here and there, anxiously
waiting the progress of events. Well, the next news we had was of
Pope's disaster at Bull Run. Things looked darker than ever. Finally,
came the week of the Battle of Antietam. I determined to wait no
"The news came, I think, on Wednesday, that the advantage was on our
side. I was then staying at the Soldiers' Home (three miles out of
Washington.) Here I finished writing the second draft of the
preliminary Proclamation; came up on Saturday; called the Cabinet
together to hear it; and it was published the following Monday."
It is not uninteresting to note, in this connection, upon the same
authority, that at the final meeting of the Cabinet prior to this issue
of the Proclamation, when the third paragraph was read, and the words of
the draft "will recognize the Freedom of such Persons," were reached,
Mr. Seward suggested the insertion of the words "and maintain" after the
word "recognize;" and upon his insistance, the President said, "the
words finally went in."
At last, then, had gone forth the Fiat--telegraphed and read throughout
the Land, on that memorable 22d of September, 1862--which, with the
supplemental Proclamation of January 1, 1863, was to bring joy and
Freedom to the millions of Black Bondsmen of the South.
Just one month before its issue, in answer to Horace Greeley's Open
letter berating him for "the seeming subserviency" of his "policy to the
Slave-holding, Slave up-holding interest," etc., President Lincoln had
written his famous "Union letter" in which he had conservatively said:
"My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or
destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any Slave, I
would do it--and if I could save it by freeing all the Slaves, I would
do it--and if I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone,
I would also do that."
No one outside of his Cabinet dreamed, at the time he made that answer,
that the Proclamation of Emancipation was already written, and simply
awaited a turn in the tide of battle for its issue!
Still less could it have been supposed, when, on the 13th of September--
only two days before Stonewall Jackson had invested, attacked, and
captured Harper's Ferry with nearly 12,000 prisoners, 73 cannon, and
13,000 small arms, besides other spoils of War--Mr. Lincoln received the
deputation from the religious bodies of Chicago, bearing a Memorial for
the immediate issue of such a Proclamation.
The very language of his reply,--where he said to them: "It is my
earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I
can learn what it is, I will do it! These are not, however, the days of
miracles, and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a
direct revelation. I must study the plain physical aspects of the case,
ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and
right"--when taken in connection with the very strong argument with
which he followed it up, against the policy of Emancipation advocated in
the Memorial, and his intimation that a Proclamation of Emancipation
issued by him "must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's Bull
against the Comet!"--would almost seem to have been adopted with the
very object of veiling his real purpose from the public eye, and leaving
the public mind in doubt. At all events, it had that effect.
Arnold, in his "Life of Lincoln," says of this time, when General Lee
was marching Northward toward Pennsylvania, that "now, the President,
with that tinge of superstition which ran through his character, 'made,'
as he said, 'a solemn vow to God, that, if Lee was driven back, he would
issue the Proclamation;'" and, in the light of that statement, the
concluding words of Mr. Lincoln's reply to the deputation aforesaid:--"I
can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more
than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will, I will do,"--
have a new meaning.
The Emancipation Proclamation, when issued, was a great surprise, but
was none the less generally well-received by the Union Armies, and
throughout the Loyal States of the Union, while, in some of them, its
reception was most enthusiastic.
It happened, too, as we have seen, that the Convention of the Governors
of the Loyal States met at Altoona, Penn., on the very day of its
promulgation, and in an address to the President adopted by these loyal
Governors, they publicly hailed it "with heartfelt gratitude and
encouraged hope," and declared that "the decision of the President to
strike at the root of the Rebellion will lend new vigor to efforts, and
new life and hope to the hearts, of the People."
On the other hand, the loyal Border-States men were dreadfully exercised
on the subject; and those of them in the House of Representatives
emphasized their disapproval by their votes, when, on the 11th and 15th
of the following December, Resolutions, respectively denouncing, and
endorsing, "the policy of Emancipation, as indicated in that
Proclamation," of September 22, 1862, were offered and voted on.
In spite of the loyal Border-States men's bitter opposition, however,
the Resolution endorsing that policy as a War Measure, and declaring the
Proclamation to be "an exercise of power with proper regard for the
rights of the States and the perpetuity of Free Government," as we have
seen, passed the House.
Of course the Rebels themselves, against whom it was aimed, gnashed
their teeth in impotent rage over the Proclamation. But they lost no
time in declaring that it was only a proof of what they had always
announced: that the War was not for the preservation of the American
Union, but for the destruction of African Slavery, and the spoilation of
the Southern States.
Through their friends and emissaries, in the Border and other Loyal
States of the Union,--the "Knights of the Golden Circle,"--
[The "Knights of the Golden Circle" was the most extensive of these
Rebel organizations. It was "an auxiliary force to the Rebel
Army." Its members took an obligation of the most binding
character, the violation of which was punishable by death, which
obligation, in the language of another, "pledged them to use every
possible means in their power to aid the Rebels to gain their
Independence; to aid and assist Rebel prisoners to escape; to vote
for no one for Office who was not opposed to the further
prosecution of the War; to encourage desertions from the Union
Army; to protect the Rebels in all things necessary to carry out
their designs, even to the burning and destroying of towns and
cities, if necessary to produce the desired result; to give such
information as they had, at all times, of the movements of our
Armies, and of the return of soldiers to their homes; and to try
and prevent their going back to their regiments at the front."
In other words the duty of the Organization and of its members, was
to hamper, oppose, and prevent all things possible that were being
done at any time for the Union Cause, and to encourage, forward,
and help all things possible in behalf of the Rebel Cause.
It was to be a flanking force of the Enemy--a reverse fire--a fire
in the rear of the Union Army, by Northern men; a powerful
cooperating force--all the more powerful because secret--operating
safely because secretly and in silence--and breeding discontent,
envy, hatred, and other ill feelings wherever possible, in and out
of Army circles, from the highest to the lowest, at all possible
times, and on all possible occasions.]
--the "Order of American Knights" or "Sons of Liberty," and other
Copperhead organizations, tainted with more or less of Treason--they
stirred up all the old dregs of Pro-Slavery feeling that could possibly
he reached; but while the venomous acts and utterances of such
organizations, and the increased and vindictive energy of the armed
Rebels themselves, had a tendency to disquiet the public mind with
apprehensions as to the result of the Proclamation, and whether, indeed,
Mr. Lincoln himself would be able to resist the pressure, and stand up
to his promise of that Supplemental Proclamation which would give
definiteness and practical effect to the preliminary one, the masses of
the people of the Loyal States had faith in him.
There was also another element, in chains, at the South, which at this
time must have been trembling with that mysterious hope of coming
Emancipation for their Race, conveyed so well in Whittier's lines,
commencing: "We pray de Lord; he gib us signs, dat some day we be Free"
--a hope which had long animated them, as of something almost too good
for them to live to enjoy, but which, as the War progressed, appeared to
grow nearer and nearer, until now they seemed to see the promised Land,
flowing with milk and honey, its beautiful hills and vales smiling under
the quickening beams of Freedom's glorious sun. But ah! should they
enter there?--or must they turn away again into the old wilderness of
their Slavery, and this blessed Liberty, almost within their grasp,
mockingly elude them?
They had not long to wait for an answer. The 1st of January, 1863,
arrived, and with it--as a precious New Year's Gift--came the
Supplemental Proclamation, bearing the sacred boon of Liberty to the
At last, at last, no American need blush to stand up and proclaim his
land indeed, and in truth, "the Land of Freedom."
Little over five months had passed, since the occurrence of the great
event in the history of the American Nation mentioned in the preceding
Chapter, before the Freed Negro, now bearing arms in defense of the
Union and of his own Freedom, demonstrated at the first attack on Port
Hudson the wisdom of emancipating and arming the Slave, as a War
measure. He seemed thoroughly to appreciate and enter into the spirit
of the words; "who would be Free, himself must strike the blow."
At the attack (of May 27th, 1863), on Port Hudson, where it held the
right, the "Black Brigade" covered itself with glory.
At Baton Rouge, before starting for Port Hudson, the color-guard of
the First Louisiana Regiment--of the Black Brigade--received the
Regimental flags from their white colonel, (Col. Stafford,) then
under arrest, in a speech which ended with the injunction: "Color-
guard, protect, defend, die for, but do not surrender these flags;"
to which Sergeant Planciancois replied: "Colonel, I will bring
these colors to you in honor, or report to God the reason why!" He
fell, mortally wounded, in one of the many desperate charges at
Port Hudson, with his face to the Enemy, and the colors in his
Banks, in his Report, speaking of the Colored regiments, said: "Their
conduct was heroic. No troops could be more determined or more daring.
They made, during the day, three charges upon the batteries of the
Enemy, suffering very heavy losses, and holding their positions at
nightfall with the other troops on the right of our line. The highest
commendation is bestowed upon them by all the officers in command on the
The New York Times' correspondent said:--"The deeds of heroism performed
by these Colored men were such as the proudest White men might emulate.
Their colors are torn to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by
blood and brains. The color-sergeant of the 1st Louisiana, on being
mortally wounded (the top of his head taken off by a sixpounder), hugged
the colors to his breast, when a struggle ensued between the two color-
corporals on each side of him, as to who should have the honor of
bearing the sacred standard, and during this generous contention one was
So again, on Sunday the 6th of June following, at Milliken's Bend, where
an African brigade, with 160 men of the 23rd Iowa, although surprised in
camp by a largely superior force of the Enemy, repulsed him gallantly--
of which action General Grant, in his official Report, said: "In this
battle, most of the troops engaged were Africans, who had but little
experience in the use of fire-arms. Their conduct is said, however, to
have been most gallant."
So, also, in the bloody assault of July 18th, on Fort Wagner, which was
led by the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment with intrepidity, and
where they planted, and for some time maintained, their Country's flag
on the parapet, until they "melted away before the Enemy's fire, their
bodies falling down the slope and into the ditch."
And from that time on, through the War--at Wilson's Wharf, in the many
bloody charges at Petersburg, at Deep Bottom, at Chapin's Farm, Fair
Oaks, and numerous other battle-fields, in Virginia and elsewhere, right
down to Appomattox--the African soldier fought courageously, fully
vindicating the War-wisdom of Abraham Lincoln in emancipating and arming
The promulgation of this New Year's Proclamation of Freedom
unquestionably had a wonderful effect in various ways, upon the outcome
of the War.
It cleared away the cobwebs which the arguments of the loyal Border-
State men, and of the Northern Copperheads and other Disunion and Pro-
Slavery allies of the Rebels were forever weaving for the
discouragement, perplexity and ensnarement, of the thoroughly loyal out-
and-out Union men of the Land. It largely increased our strength in
fighting material. It brought to us the moral support of the World,
with the active sympathy of philanthropy's various forces. And besides,
it correspondingly weakened the Rebels. Every man thus freed from his
Bondage, and mustered into the Union Armies, was not only a gain of one
man on the Union side, but a loss of one man to the Enemy. It is not,
therefore, surprising that the Disunion Conspirators--whether at the
South or at the North--were furious.
The Chief Conspirator, Jefferson Davis, had already, (December 23,
1862,) issued a proclamation of outlawry against General B. F. Butler,
for arming certain Slaves that had become Free upon entering his lines--
the two last clauses of which provided: "That all Negro Slaves captured
in arms, be at once delivered over to the Executive authorities of the
respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to
the laws of said States," and "That the like orders be executed in all
cases with respect to all commissioned Officers of the United States,
when found serving in company with said Slaves in insurrection against
the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy."
He now called the attention of the Rebel Congress to President Lincoln's
two Proclamations of Emancipation, early in January of 1863; and that
Body responded by adopting, on the 1st of May of that year, a
Resolution, the character of which was so cold-bloodedly atrocious, that
modern Civilization might well wonder and Christianity shudder at its
[It was in these words:
"Resolved, by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, In
response to the Message of the President, transmitted to Congress
at the commencement of the present session, That, in the opinion of
Congress, the commissioned officers of the Enemy ought not to be
delivered to the authorities of the respective States, as suggested
in the said Message, but all captives taken by the Confederate
forces ought to be dealt with and disposed of by the Confederate
"SEC. 2.--That, in the judgment of Congress, the proclamations of
the President of the United States, dated respectively September
22, 1862, and January 1, 1863, and the other measures of the
Government of the United States and of its authorities, commanders,
and forces, designed or tending to emancipate slaves in the
Confederate States, or to abduct such slaves, or to incite them to
insurrection, or to employ negroes in war against the Confederate
States, or to overthrow the institution of African Slavery, and
bring on a servile war in these States, would, if successful,
produce atrocious consequences, and they are inconsistent with the
spirit of those usages which, in modern warfare, prevail among
civilized nations; they may, therefore, be properly and lawfully
repressed by retaliation.
"SEC. 3.--That in every case wherein, during the present war, any
violation of the laws or usages of war among civilized nations
shall be, or has been, done and perpetrated by those acting under
authority of the Government of the United States, on persons or
property of citizens of the Confederate States, or of those under
the protection or in the land or naval service of the Confederate
States, or of any State of the Confederacy, the President of the
Confederate States is hereby authorized to cause full and ample
retaliation to be made for every such violation, in such manner and
to such extent as he may think proper.
"SEC. 4.--That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or
acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes
or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall
arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military
service against the Confederate States, or who shall voluntarily
aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or
conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile
insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death, or be
otherwise punished at the discretion of the Court.
"SEC. 5.--Every person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as
such in the service of the Enemy, who shall, during the present
war, excite, attempt to excite, or cause to be excited, a servile
insurrection, or who shall incite, or cause to be incited, a slave
to rebel, shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise
punished at the discretion of the court.
"SEC. 6.--Every person charged with an offense punishable under the
preceding resolutions shall, during the present war, be tried
before the military court attached to the army or corps by the
troops of which he shall have been captured, or by such other
military court as the President may direct, and in such manner and
under such regulations as the President shall prescribe; and, after
conviction, the President may commute the punishment in such manner
and on such terms as he may deem proper.
"SEC. 7.--All negroes and mulattoes who shall be engaged in war, or
be taken in arms against the Confederate States, or shall give aid
or comfort to the enemies of the Confederate States, shall, when
captured in the Confederate States, be delivered to the authorities
of the State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt
with according to the present or future laws of such State or
But atrocious as were the provisions of the Resolution, or Act
aforesaid, in that they threatened death or Slavery to every Black man
taken with Union arms in his hand, and death to every White commissioned
officer commanding Black soldiers, yet the manner in which they were
executed was still more barbarous.
At last it became necessary to adopt some measure by which captured
Colored Union soldiers might be protected equally with captured White
Union soldiers from the frequent Rebel violations of the Laws of War in
the cases of the former.
President Lincoln, therefore, issued an Executive Order prescribing
[In the following words:
"WASHINGTON, July 30, 1863.
"It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its
citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to
those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service.
The Law of Nations, and the usages and customs of War, as carried
on by civilized Powers, permit no distinction as to color in the
treatment of prisoners of War, as public enemies.
"To sell or Enslave any captured person, on account of his Color,
and for no offense against the Laws of War, is a relapse into
barbarism, and a crime against the civilization of the age.
"The Government of the United States will give the same protection
to all its soldiers, and if the Enemy shall sell or Enslave any one
because of his color, the offense shall be punished by Retaliation
upon the Enemy's prisoners in our possession.
"It is therefore Ordered, that, for every soldier of the United
States killed in violation of the Laws of War, a Rebel soldier
shall be executed; and for every one Enslaved by the Enemy or sold
into Slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard work on the
public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be
released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of War.
"By order of the Secretary of War. ABRAHAM LINCOLN. E. D.
TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General."]
It was hoped that the mere announcement of the decision of our
Government to retaliate, would put an instant stop to the barbarous
conduct of the Rebels toward the captured Colored Union troops, but the
hope was vain. The atrocities continued, and their climax was capped by
the cold-blooded massacres perpetrated by Forrest's 5,000 Cavalry, after
capturing Fort Pillow, a short distance above Memphis, on the
The garrison of that Fort comprised less than 600 Union soldiers, about
one-half of whom were White, and the balance Black. These brave fellows
gallantly defended the Fort against eight times their number, from
before sunrise until the afternoon, when--having failed to win by fair
means, under the Laws of War,--the Enemy treacherously crept up the
ravines on either side of the Fort, under cover of flags of truce, and
then, with a sudden rush, carried it, butchering both Blacks and Whites
--who had thrown away their arms, and were striving to escape--until
night temporarily put an end to the sanguinary tragedy.
On the following morning the massacre was completed by the butchery and
torture of wounded remnants of these brave Union defenders--some being
buried alive, and others nailed to boards, and burned to death.
[For full account of these hideous atrocities, see testimony of
survivors before the Committee on Conduct and Expenditures of the
War. (H. R. Report, No. 65, 1st S. 38th Cong.)]
And all this murderous malignity, for what?--Simply, and only, because
one-half of the Patriot victims had Black skins, while the other half
had dared to fight by the side of the Blacks!
In the after-days of the War, the cry with which our Union Black
regiments went into battle:--"Remember Fort Pillow!"--inspired them to
deeds of valor, and struck with terror the hearts of the Enemy. On many
a bloody field, Fort Pillow was avenged.
It is a common error to suppose that the first arming of the Black man
was on the Union side. The first Black volunteer company was a Rebel
one, raised early in May, 1861, in the city of Memphis, Tenn.; and at
Charleston, S. C., Lynchburg, Va., and Norfolk, Va., large bodies of
Free Negroes volunteered, and were engaged, earlier than that, to do
work on the Rebel batteries.
On June 28th of the same year, the Rebel Legislature of Tennessee passed
an Act not only authorizing the Governor "to receive into the Military
service of the State all male Free persons of Color between the ages of
fifteen and fifty, or such number as may be necessary, who may be sound
in mind and body, and capable of actual service," but also prescribing
"That in the event a sufficient number of Free persons of Color to meet
the wants of the State shall not tender their services, the Governor is
empowered, through the Sheriffs of the different counties, to press such
persons until the requisite number is obtained."
At a review of Rebel troops, at New Orleans, November 23, 1861, "One
regiment comprised 1,400 Free Colored men." Vast numbers of both Free
Negroes and Slaves were employed to construct Rebel fortifications
throughout the War, in all the Rebel States. And on the 17th of
February, 1864, the Rebel Congress passed an Act which provides in its
first section "That all male Free Negroes * * * resident in the
Confederate States, between the ages of eighteen and fifty years, shall
be held liable to perform such duties with the Army, or in connection
with the Military defenses of the Country, in the way of work upon the
fortifications, or in Government works for the production or preparation
of materials of War, or in Military hospitals, as the Secretary of War
or the Commanding General of the Trans-Mississippi Department may, from
time to time, prescribe:" while the third section provides that when the
Secretary of War shall "be unable to procure the service of Slaves in
any Military Department, then he is authorized to impress the services
of as many male Slaves, not to exceed twenty thousand, as may be
required, from time to time, to discharge the duties indicated in the
first section of the Act."
And this Act of, the Rebel Congress was passed only forty days before
the fiendish massacre of the Union Whites and Blacks who together, at
Fort Pillow, were performing for the Union, "such duties with the Army,"
and "in connection with the Military defenses of the Country," as had
been prescribed for them by their Commanding General!
Under any circumstances--and especially under this state of facts--
nothing could excuse or palliate that shocking and disgraceful and
barbarous crime against humanity; and the human mind is incapable of
understanding how such savagery can be accounted for, except upon the
theory that "He that nameth Rebellion nameth not a singular, or one only
sin, as is theft, robbery, murder, and such like; but he nameth the
whole puddle and sink of all sins against God and man; against his
country, his countrymen, his children, his kinsfolk, his friends, and
against all men universally; all sins against God and all men heaped
together, nameth he that nameth Rebellion."
The inconsistency of the Rebels, in getting insanely and murderously
furious over the arming of Negroes for the defense of the imperiled
Union and the newly gained liberties of the Black Race, when they had
themselves already armed some of them and made them fight to uphold the
Slave-holders' Rebellion and the continued Enslavement of their race, is
already plain enough.
[The writer is indebted to the courtesy of a prominent South
Carolinian, for calling his attention to the "Singular coincidence,
that a South Carolinian should have proposed in 1778, what was
executed in 1863-64--the arming of Negroes for achieving their
Freedom"--as shown in the following very curious and interesting
letters written by the brave and gifted Colonel John Laurens, of
Washington's staff, to his distinguished father:
HEAD QUARTERS, 14th Jan., 1778.
I barely hinted to you, my dearest father, my desire to augment the
Continental forces from an untried source. I wish I had any
foundation to ask for an extraordinary addition to those favours
which I have already received from you. I would solicit you to
cede me a number of your able bodied men slaves, instead of leaving
me a fortune.
I would bring about a two-fold good; first I would advance those
who are unjustly deprived of the rights of mankind to a state which
would be a proper gradation between abject slavery and perfect
liberty, and besides I would reinforce the defenders of liberty
with a number of gallant soldiers. Men, who have the habit of
subordination almost indelibly impressed on them, would have one
very essential qualification of soldiers. I am persuaded that if I
could obtain authority for the purpose, I would have a corps of
such men trained, uniformly clad, equip'd and ready in every
respect to act at the opening of the next campaign. The ridicule
that may be thrown on the color, I despise, because I am sure of
rendering essential service to my country.
I am tired of the languor with which so sacred a war as this is
carried on. My circumstances prevent me from writing so long a
letter as I expected and wish'd to have done on a subject which I
have much at heart. I entreat you to give a favorable answer to
Your most affectionate
The Honble Henry Laurens Esq.
President of Congress.
HEAD QUARTERS, 2nd Feb., 1778.
My Dear Father:
The more I reflect upon the difficulties and delays which are
likely to attend the completing our Continental regiments, the more
anxiously is my mind bent upon the scheme, which I lately
communicated to you. The obstacles to the execution of it had
presented themselves to me, but by no means appeared
insurmountable. I was aware of having that monstrous popular
prejudice, open-mouthed against me, of undertaking to transform
beings almost irrational, into well disciplined soldiers, of being
obliged to combat the arguments, and perhaps the intrigues, of
interested persons. But zeal for the public service, and an ardent
desire to assert the rights of humanity, determined me to engage in
this arduous business, with the sanction of your consent. My own
perseverance, aided by the countenance of a few virtuous men, will,
I hope, enable me to accomplish it.
You seem to think, my dear father, that men reconciled by long
habit to the miseries of their condition, would prefer their
ignominious bonds to the untasted sweets of liberty, especially
when offer'd upon the terms which I propose.
I confess, indeed, that the minds of this unhappy species must be
debased by a servitude, from which they can hope for no relief but
death, and that every motive to action but fear, must be nearly
extinguished in them. But do you think they are so perfectly
moulded to their state as to be insensible that a better exists?
Will the galling comparison between themselves and their masters
leave them unenlightened in this respect? Can their self love be
so totally annihilated as not frequently to induce ardent wishes
for a change?
You will accuse me, perhaps, my dearest friend, of consulting my
own feelings too much; but I am tempted to believe that this
trampled people have so much human left in them, as to be capable
of aspiring to the rights of men by noble exertions, if some friend
to mankind would point the road, and give them a prospect of
success. If I am mistaken in this, I would avail myself, even of
their weakness, and, conquering one fear by another, produce equal
good to the public. You will ask in this view, how do you consult
the benefit of the slaves? I answer, that like other men, they are
creatures of habit. Their cowardly ideas will be gradually
effaced, and they will be modified anew. Their being rescued from
a state of perpetual humiliation, and being advanced as it were, in
the scale of being, will compensate the dangers incident to their
The hope that will spring in each man's mind, respecting his own
escape, will prevent his being miserable. Those who fall in battle
will not lose much; those who survive will obtain their reward.
Habits of subordination, patience under fatigues, sufferings and
privations of every kind, are soldierly qualifications, which these
men possess in an eminent degree.
Upon the whole, my dearest friend and father, I hope that my plan
for serving my country and the oppressed negro race will not appear
to you the chimera of a young mind, deceived by a false appearance
of moral beauty, but a laudable sacrifice of private interest, to
justice and the public good.
You say, that my resources would be small, on account of the
proportion of women and children. I do not know whether I am
right, for I speak from impulse, and have not reasoned upon the
matter. I say, altho' my plan is at once to give freedom to the
negroes, and gain soldiers to the states; in case of concurrence, I
should sacrifice the former interest, and therefore we change the
women and children for able-bodied men. The more of these I could
obtain, the better; but forty might be a good foundation to begin
It is a pity that some such plan as I propose could not be more
extensively executed by public authority. A well-chosen body of
5,000 black men, properly officer'd, to act as light troops, in
addition to our present establishment, might give us decisive
success in the next campaign.
I have long deplored the wretched state of these men, and
considered in their history, the bloody wars excited in Africa, to
furnish America with slaves--the groans of despairing multitudes,
toiling for the luxuries of merciless tyrants.
I have had the pleasure of conversing with you, sometimes, upon the
means of restoring them to their rights. When can it be better
done, than when their enfranchisement may be made conducive to the
public good, and be modified, as not to overpower their weak minds?
You ask, what is the general's opinion, upon this subject? He is
convinced, that the numerous tribes of blacks in the southern parts
of the continent, offer a resource to us that should not be
neglected. With respect to my particular plan, he only objects to
it, with the arguments of pity for a man who would be less rich
than he might be.
I am obliged, my dearest friend and father, to take my leave for
the present; you will excuse whatever exceptionable may have
escaped in the course of my letter, and accept the assurance of
filial love, and respect of
If, however, it be objected that the arming of Negroes by the Rebels was
exceptional and local, and, that otherwise, the Rebels always used their
volunteer or impressed Negro forces in work upon fortifications and
other unarmed Military Works, and never proposed using them in the clash
of arms, as armed soldiers against armed White men, the contrary is
In a message to the Rebel Congress, November 7, 1864, Jefferson Davis
himself, while dissenting at that time from the policy, advanced by
many, of "a general levy and arming of the Slaves, for the duty of
soldiers," none the less declared that "should the alternative ever be
presented of subjugation, or of the employment of the Slave as a
soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should then be our
In the meantime, however, he recommended the employment of forty
thousand Slaves as pioneer and engineer laborers, on the ground that
"even this limited number, by their preparatory training in intermediate
duties Would form a more valuable reserve force in case of urgency, than
threefold their number suddenly called from field labor; while a fresh
levy could, to a certain extent, supply their places in the special
service" of pioneer and engineer work; and he undertook to justify the
inconsistency between his present recommendation, and his past attitude,
by declaring that "A broad, moral distinction exists between the use of
Slaves as soldiers in defense of their homes, and the incitement of the
same persons to insurrection against their masters, for," said he, "the
one is justifiable, if necessary; the other is iniquitous and unworthy
of a civilized people."
So also, while a Bill for the arming of Slaves was pending before the
Rebel Congress early in 1865, General Robert E. Lee wrote, February
18th, from the Headquarters of the Rebel Armies, to Hon. E. Barksdale,
of the Rebel House of Representatives, a communication, in which, after
acknowledging the receipt of a letter from him of February 12th, "with
reference to the employment of Negroes as soldiers," he said: "I think
the Measure not only expedient but necessary * * * in my opinion, the
Negroes, under proper circumstances, will make efficient soldiers. * *
* I think those who are employed, should be freed. It would be neither
just nor wise, in my opinion, to require them to remain as Slaves"--
thus, not only approving the employment of Black Slaves as soldiers, to
fight White Union men, but justifying their Emancipation as a reward for
Military service. And, a few days afterward, that Rebel Congress passed
a Bill authorizing Jefferson Davis to take into the Rebel Army as many
Negro Slaves "as he may deem expedient, for and during the War, to
perform Military service in whatever capacity he may direct," and at the
same time authorizing General Lee to organize them as other "troops" are
[This Negro soldier Bill, according to McPherson's Appendix, p.
611-612, passed both Houses, and was in these words:
A Bill to increase the Military Forces of the Confederate States.
"The Congress of the Confederate States of America do Enact, That
in order to provide additional forces to repel invasion, maintain
the rightful possession of the Confederate States, secure their
Independence and preserve their Institutions, the President be and
he is hereby authorized to ask for and accept from the owners of
Slaves the services of such number of able-bodied Negro men as he
may deem expedient for and during the War, to perform Military
service in whatever capacity he may direct.
"SEC. 2.--That the General-in-Chief be authorized to organize the
said Slaves into companies, battalions, regiments, and brigades,
under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of War may
prescribe, and to be commanded by such officers as the President
"SEC. 3.--That, while employed in the Service, the said troops
shall receive the same rations, clothing, and compensation as are
allowed to other troops in the same branch of the Service.
"SEC. 4.--That if, under the previous sections of this Act, the
President shall not be able to raise a sufficient number of troops
to prosecute the War successfully and maintain the Sovereignty of
the States, and the Independence of the Confederate States, then he
is hereby authorized to call on each State, whenever he thinks it
expedient, for her quota of 300,000 troops, in addition to those
subject to Military service, under existing laws, or so many
thereof as the President may deem necessary, to be raised from such
classes of the population, irrespective of color, in each State, as
the proper authorities thereof may determine: Provided, that not
more than 25 per cent. of the male Slaves, between the ages of 18
and 45, in any State, shall be called for under the provisions of
"SEC. 5.--That nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize
a change in the relation of said Slaves."]