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dence of God it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.
In witness, etc.,
Abraham Lincoln. By the President:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Message to Congress Enclosing Draft of Bill to Compensate States that Abolish Slavery.
JULY 14, 1862. Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Herewith is a draft of a bill to compensate any State which may abolish slavery within its limits, the passage of which, substantially as presented, I respectfully and earnestly recommend.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That whenever the President of the United States shall be satisfied that any State shall have lawfully abolished slavery within and throughout such State, either immediately or gradually, it shall be the duty of the President, assisted by the Secretary of the Treasury, to prepare and deliver to such State an amount of six per cent. interest-bearing bonds of the United States equal to the aggregate value, at dollars per head, of all the slaves within such State as reported by the census of the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty; the whole amount for any one State to be delivered at once if the abolishment be immediate, or in equal annual instalments if it be gradual, interest to begin running on each bond at the time of its delivery, and not before.
And be it further enacted, That if any State, having so received any such bonds, shall at any time afterward by law reintroduce or tolerate slavery within its limits, contrary to the act of abolishment upon which such bonds shall have been received, said bonds so received by said State shall at once be null and void, in whosesoever hands they may be, and such State shall refund to the United States all interest which may have been paid on such bonds.
Message to Congress on Act to confiscate
Property of Rebels, etc.
JULY 17, 1862. Fellow-citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Considering the bill for "An act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes," and the joint resolution explanatory of said act, as being substantially one, I have approved and signed both.
Before I was informed of the passage of the resolution, I had prepared the draft of a message stating objections to the bill becoming a law, a copy of which draft is herewith transmitted.
(Copy) Fellow-citizens of the House of Representatives: I herewith return to your honorable body, in which it originated, the bill for an act entitled “An act to suppress treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes,” together with my objections to its becoming a law.
There is much in the bill to which I perceive no objection. It is wholly prospective; and it touches neither person nor property of any loyal citizen, in which particulars it is just and proper.
The first and second sections provide for the conviction and punishment of persons who shall be guilty of treason, and persons who shall “incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall give aid and comfort thereto, or shall engage in or give aid and comfort to any such existing rebellion or insurrection.” By fair construction, persons within these sections are not to be punished without regular trials in duly constituted courts under the forms and all the substantial provisions of law and of the Constitution applicable to their several cases. To this I perceive no objection, especially as such persons would be within the general pardoning power, and also the special provision for pardon and amnesty contained in this act.
It is also provided that the slaves of persons convicted under these sections shall be free. I think there is an unfortunate form of expression, rather than a substantial objection, in this. It is startling to say that Congress can free a slave within a State, and yet if it were said the ownership of the slave had first been transferred to the nation, and that Congress had then liberated him, the difficulty would at once vanish. And this is the real case. The traitor against the General Government forfeits his slave at least as justly as he does any other property; and he forfeits both to the government against which he offends. The government, so far as there can be ownership, thus owns the forfeited slaves, and the question for Congress in regard to them is, “Shall they be made free or be sold to new masters?" I perceive no objection to Congress deciding in advance that they shall be free. To the high honor of Kentucky, as I am informed, she has been the owner of some slaves by escheat, and she sold none, but liberated all. I hope the same is true of some other States. Indeed, I do not believe it would be physically possible for the General Government to return persons so circumstanced to actual slavery. I believe there would be physical resistance to it which could neither be turned aside by argument nor driven away by force. In this view I have no objection to this feature of the bill. Another matter involved in these two sections and running through other parts of the act will be noticed hereafter.
I perceive no objection to the third and fourth sections.
So far as I wish to notice the fifth and sixth sections, they may be considered together. That the enforcement of these sections would do no injustice to the persons embraced within them is clear. That those who make a causeless war should be compelled to pay the cost of it is too obviously just to be called in question. To give governmental protection to the property of persons who have abandoned it, and gone on a crusade to overthrow that same government, is absurd, if considered in the mere light of justice. The severest justice may not always be the best policy. The principle of seizing and appropriating the property of the persons embraced within these sections is certainly not very objectionable; but a justly discriminating application of it would be very difficult, and to a great extent impossible. And would it not be wise
to place a power of remission somewhere, so that these persons may know they have something to lose by persisting, and something to save by desisting? I am not sure whether such power of remission is or is not within section thirteen.
Without any special act of Congress, I think our military commanders, when, in military phrase, "they are within the enemy's country, should, in an orderly manner, seize and use whatever of real or personal property may be necessary or convenient for their commands; at the same time preserving in some way the evidence of what they do.
What I have said in regard to slaves while commenting on the first and second sections, is applicable to the ninth, with the difference that no provision is made in the whole act for determining whether a particular individual slave does or does not fall within the classes defined in that section. He is to be free upon certain conditions; but whether those conditions do or do not pertain to him, no mode of ascertaining is provided. This could be easily supplied.
To the tenth section I make no objection. The oath therein required seems to be proper, and the remainder of the section is substantially identical with a law already existing.
The eleventh section simply assumes to confer discretionary powers upon the Executive. Without this law I have no hesitation to go as far in the direction indicated as I may at any time deem expedient. And I am ready to say now, I think it is proper for our military commanders to employ as laborers as many persons of African descent as can be used to advantage.
The twelfth and thirteenth sections are some