Page images
PDF
EPUB

the year 1900, should receive a specified compensation. Slaves who should be freed by the chances of war should remain free, though loyal masters should receive compensation for them. The closing article provided that Congress might "appropriate money, and otherwise provide for colonizing free colored persons, with their own consent, at any place or places without the United States.'

29

Sudden emancipation was never in accordance with Mr. Lincoln's judgment. Nothing but the necessities of war would have induced him to decree it with relation to the slaves of any state. His thought was, that, by giving every state the opportunity to terminate slavery in its own way, within a period of thirty-seven years, the institution could be removed without a shock to the prosperity and the social institutions of the whites, and without bringing to the blacks a freedom which many of them, at least, would not know how to use. The stress of feeling under which he urged this measure, is sufficiently exhibited by the closing paragraph of the message: "Fellow citizens,"-thus reads the passage "We cannot escape history. We of this Congress, and this Administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say that we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we know how to save it. *** In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free-honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not, cannot, fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

[ocr errors]

Allusion has been made, in the preceding chapter, to the action of this session, on the subject of arbitrary arrests; and the subject does not need to be recalled further than to say that the discussion which it excited fully illustrated the polit

ical antagonisms which, prevalent among the people, were brought into thorough exposition by their representatives. In the precise degree in which the members of both houses sympathized with treason, or were exercised by their party feelings against the general policy of the government toward the rebellion, did they oppose the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The same rule held good, with rare exceptions, with relation to the discussion of a project for arming the blacks. There were some friends of the government from the border states who were very timid and doubtful about the adoption of this measure: but the majority of the House agreed to it; and the Senate would undoubtedly have done the same, had not the committee to which the matter was referred reported that the President already had the power to call persons of African descent into the military and naval service, by an act passed during the previous session.

"

The same antagonisms were exhibited concerning a measure for enrolling and drafting the militia of the different states, so that each state should be compelled to contribute its equitable quota, the troops when raised to be under the control of the President. The absolute necessity of this measure was attributable partly to the stage at which the war had arrived— when the surplus population was all in the army, and it was essenuai to draw upon the vital resources of the countryand partly to party feeling and party policy. Either through the failure of McClellan's campaign, or the effect of the emancipation proclamation, or the influence of both together, the administration had received a rebuke through the autumn elections of 1862. This had greatly encouraged the opposition, who, as opponents of the war, or as most unreliable friends of the President's war policy, so conducted their counsels that the government became fearful concerning its ability to raise men for the campaign of 1863. Just in proportion to the treasonable sympathies of the members of the Senate and the House, did they oppose the measure. The bill was finally passed and approved; and it became an efficient instrument in the hands of the government for prosecuting the war.

It contained provisions for procuring substitutes, for exemption by the payment of three hundred dollars, a clause defining the conditions of exemption, &c.

Much of the session was devoted to a discussion of measures of finance, which ended in giving the Secretary of the Treasury leave to borrow nine hundred millions of dollars, bearing six per cent interest, payable in not less than ten nor more than forty years. The Secretary was authorized to issue four hundred millions in treasury notes bearing interest, and a hundred and fifty millions without interest. To meet the immediate necessities of the army and navy, especially as they related to debts due the soldiers and sailors, authority was given for the issue of one hundred millions of treasury notes, before the leading measures of finance were perfected.

The latter measure was signed by the President at once, in order that the soldiers and marines might have their due; but he took occasion, in a special message, to express his regret that it had been found necessary to make so large an additional issue of United States notes, at a time when the combined circulation of those notes and the notes of the suspended banks had advanced the prices of everything beyond real values, augmenting the cost of living, to the injury of labor, and the cost of supplies, to the injury of the country. “It seems very plain," he said, "that continued issues of United States notes, without any check to the issues of suspended banks, and without adequate provision for the raising of money by loans, and for funding the issues, so as to keep them within due limits, must soon produce disastrous consequences." He had already, in his annual message, advocated the national bank system for the production of a uniform currency, secured by the pledge of United States bonds, thus increasing the demand for the bonds. A bill for the object desired was passed by small majorities, and approved. It was a doubtful measure, and touched a great many selfish and corporate interests, carrying more or less of disturbance into the various financial systems of the states; but the country has had no reason to find fault with its results.

[ocr errors]

Two events during the session marked the beginning of those reconstructive measures which were destined eventually to embrace all the members of the old Union. Western Virginia, loyal from the first, was admitted into the Union as a state; and two representatives from Louisiana were admitted to the House, under the representation, on the part of the committee to which their application was referred, that they had been elected in accordance with the constitutional conditions and provisions of that state.

When Congress adjourred, it left the Executive strong in all the powers and prerogatives necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. The president's hands were strengthened by competent financial provisions, by the confirmation of his power to arrest and hold suspicious and inimical persons, and by authority to levy upon the militia of the states for such force as might be necessary to effect the purposes of the government. His efforts for measures of compensated emancipation failed. A single measure concerning Missouri miscarried through the failure of the House to confirm the action of the Senate.

On the twenty-second of November, 1862, two months after Mr. Lincoln issued his proclamation suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the opponents of the government became so quiet that an order was issued from the War Department, discharging from further military restraint all those persons who had been arrested for discouraging volunteer enlistments, opposing the draft, or otherwise giving aid and comfort to the enemy, in all states where the draft had been effected, or the quota of volunteers and militia had been furnished. The order also released persons held in military custody who had been arrested for disloyalty by the military governors of rebel states, on giving their parole to do no act of hostility against the United States. They had the liberty to live under military surveillance; or to go to the rebel states, not to return until after the war, or until they should be permitted to do so by the President. The suspension of the writ, and the acts which accompanied it, accomplished their object tempora

rily; but, at the close of the session of Congress, in March, the more malicious of the malcontents began their foul work again. Undoubtedly the country was tired of the war; and many of the weaker and more unreasoning classes, finding themselves more than ever in the hands of the government by the legislation of the winter, lent willing ears to disloyal politicians. Agitation against the war was revived. The people were called upon to mark the great sacrifices they had already uselessly made; the war was declared to be a failure, and peace as far off as ever; and the country was adjured to demand a cessation of the coercive policy.

Among the most pestilent of these sympathizers with traitors, was Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio-a person who, as member of Congress, stump politician and private citizen, had opposed the war from the start. In Congress, he had steadily voted against every measure instituted by the government for maintaining the integrity of the nation and putting down the rebellion. Not a step did the President take, in the execution of his purpose, that Vallandigham did not dispute. Indeed, he offered in the House resolutions of censure for those early acts of the President in calling out a military force, by which alone Washington was saved from capture. His language in the House had been so bitter and disloyal that the feelings of every friend of the government had been outraged. Going home from Congress, where he had been engaged in his foul work, he entered upon a canvass of his district, denouncing the government, and maligning its motives. The tendency of his malicious utterances was to weaken the hands of the Executive in its great work of subduing the insurrection, and to give aid and comfort to the national enemies.

General Burnside, then in command of the Department of the Ohio, issued an order (Number 38,) announcing that thereafter all persons found within the federal lines who should commit acts for the benefit of the enemy would be tried as spies or traitors; and, if convicted, would suffer death. This order, the demagogue publicly denounced; and then he

« PreviousContinue »