« PreviousContinue »
that they shall be free. To the high honor of Kentucky, as I am informed, she is the owner of some slaves by escheat, and has sold none, but liberated all. I hope the same is true of some other States. Indeed, I do not believe it will 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.
That to which he chiefly objected (now remedied by the joint resolution) was in other sections extending forfeiture “beyond the lives of the guilty parties; whereas the Constitution of the United States declares that ‘no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.'” This constitutional provision, he remarked, "put in language borrowed from Great Britain, applies only in this country, as I understand it, to real or landed estate."
A bill introduced in March by Mr. Arnold, of Illinois, "to render freedom national and slavery sectional,” came from the legislative laboratory as "An act to secure freedom within the Territories of the United States” — redeeming a pledge of the Chicago platform lately neglected by the Republicans in organizing three Territories — and was approved June 9, 1862.
On the 12th of July, just after returning from his visit to the Army of the Potomac, he made a last appeal to the Border State members convened at the White House:
I intend no reproach or complaint (he said] when I assure you that, in my opinion, if you all had voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of last
March, the war would now be substantially ended. And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent and swift means of ending it.
The incidents of the war cannot be avoided. If the war continues long, as it must if the object be not sooner attained, the institution in your States will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion — by the mere incidents of the war. It will be gone, and you will have nothing valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already. How much better for you and for your people to take the step which at once shortens the war and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to be wholly lost in any other event. ..
I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually. Room in South America for colonization can be obtained cheaply and in abundance, and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.
Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and boldest action to bring a speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world; its beloved history and cherished memories are vindicated, and its happy future fully assured and rendered inconceivably grand. To you, more than to any others, the privilege is given to assure that happiness, and swell that grandeur, and to link your own names therewith forever.
Twenty of these Senators and Representatives soon after replied, in a courteous address, quite firmly opposing emancipation. The other nine expressed their approval of the President's propositions.
A few weeks later (August 14th) the President made an earnest appeal to a number of colored men whom he invited to the White House with the hope of inducing them to take hold of the colonization work, which was, in his view, an essential part of his gradual emancipation scheme. Congress had made an appropriation of
$600,000 for the purpose of trying the experiment of founding a new colony of freedmen. There were at length such undertakings actually begun, the details of which need not be here rehearsed. All these efforts ended in partial disaster and complete failure. No general enthusiasm for “deportation” could be excited among the blacks, nor were there individual exceptions of
These days of July and August, with their peculiar trials, were but the prelude to a period which was yet more thoroughly to test the qualities of both President and people. It was hardly a fitting time, certainly, for Union men at the South, who were enjoying the protection of Union soldiers, to murmur over any minor hardships and restraints consequent upon a state of war; yet an incident of this kind, memorable for the treatment it received from the President, occurred in New Orleans. A respectable citizen there, in a communication addressed to a local officer of the Treasury Department, and by him transmitted to Washington, complained of the trade regulations which Secretary Chase had prescribed for that port — too stringent to suit some business men, and also of annoyances which people were suffering in relation to their slaves. In his reply, July 28th, Lincoln said:
The first part of the letter is devoted to an effort 'to show that the secession ordinance of Louisiana was adopted against the will of a majority of the people. This is probably true, and in that fact may be found some instruction. Why did they allow the ordinance to go into effect? Why did they not exert themselves? Why stand passive and allow themselves to be trodden down by a
minority? Why did they not hold popular meetings, and have a convention of their own to express and enforce the true sentiments of the State? If pre-organization was against them, then why not do this now that the United States army is present to protect them? The paralyzer — the dead palsy — of the Government in the whole struggle is, that this class of men will do nothing for the Government - nothing for themselves, except demanding that the Government shall not strike its enemies, lest they be struck by accident.
It is a military necessity to have men and money; and we can not get either, in sufficient numbers or amounts, if we keep from or drive from our lines slaves coming to them.
I think I can perceive in the freedom of trade which Mr. Durant urges, that he would relieve both friends and enemies from the pressure of the blockade. By this he would serve the enemy more effectively than the enemy is able to serve himself.
I do not say or believe that to serve the enemy is the purpose of Mr. Durant, or that he is conscious of any purposes other than national and patriotic ones. Still, if there were a class of men, who, having no choice of sides in the contest, were anxious only to have quiet and comfort for themselves while it rages, and to fall in with the victorious side at the end of it without loss to themselves, their advice as to the mode of conducting the contest would be precisely such as his.
He speaks of no duty, apparently thinks of none, resting upon Union men. He even thinks it injurious to the Union cause that they should be restrained in trade and passage, without taking sides. They are to touch neither a sail nor a pump, but to be merely passengers (" dead heads" at that) - to be carried snug and dry throughout the storm and safely landed right side up. Nay, more—even a mutineer is to go untouched, lest these sacred passengers receive an accidental wound.
The people of Louisiana, who wish protection to person and property, have but to reach forth their hands and take it. Let them in good faith reinaugurate the national authority, and set up a State government conforming thereto
under the Constitution. They know how to do it, and can have the protection of the army while doing it. The army will be withdrawn so soon as such government can dispense with its presence, and the people of the State can then, upon the old terms, govern themselves to their own liking. This is very simple and easy.
If they will not do this — if they prefer to hazard all for the sake of destroying the Government — it is for them to consider whether it is probable I will surrender the Government to save them from losing all. If they decline what I suggest, you scarcely need to ask what I will do.
What would you do in my position ? Would you drop the war where it is? Or would you prosecute it in future with elder-stalk squirts, charged with rosewater ? * Would you deal lighter blows, rather than heavier ones? Would you give up the contest, leaving any available means unapplied ?
I am in no boastful mood. I shall not do more than I can,
but I shall do all I can to save the Government, which is my sworn duty, as well as my personal inclination. I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.
On the main features of this letter there is no occasion for comment. Incidentally, were there not other evidence of the fact, it leaves no room for doubt that Lincoln had already made up his mind to strike with all his might at slavery, and that, to close the matter without losing everything at stake, he did not shrink from war's harsh methods to accomplish its ends in the speediest way and really at the least cost to humanity.
About this time he received a letter, written with anxious sympathy, from a distinguished European, one
* That's a perilous shot ou: of an elder gun, etc.
Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4, Scene 1.