« PreviousContinue »
CONFISCATION AND EMANCIPATION.
Bill to CONFISCATE THE PROPERTY AND EMANCIPATE THE SLAVES
OF REBELS— ACTION OF THE SENATE — OF THE HOUSE-SPEECH OF CRITTENDEN — REPLY OF LOVEJOY — WADE, OF Ou10— SEDGWICK — PASSAGE OF THE BILL-JOINT RESOLUTION ExPLANATORY THEREOF-PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE_ELLIOTT's EMANCIPATION RESOLUTION - PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE RECOMMENDING GRADUAL AND COMPENSATED EMANCIPATION - HUNTER's ORDER FREEING SLAVES IN SOUTH CAROLINA, ETC.-LINCOLN DECLARES IT UNAUTHORIZED HIS ADDRESS TO BORDER STATE DELEGATION IN CONGRESS.
ON the 16th of July, 1861, Senator Pomeroy, introduced a
bill into the Senate, “ To suppress the slaveholder's rebellion.” This bill abolished slavery in the seceding states. It was a measure too bold and decided for that session, but time and war soon effected, what this bill sought to accomplish. Various propositions were introduced at the regular session for the purpose of giving freedom to the slaves of rebels.
Senator Trumbull, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on the 5th of December, introduced a bill which provided, that the slaves of persons who should take up arms against the United States, or in any manner aid or abet the rebellion, should be discharged from service and labor, and become forever free, any law to the contrary notwithstanding. The measure was zealously advocated by Senators Morrill, Sumner, Wade, Wilmot, and others, and opposed by Senators Davis, Powell, Wiley and others. Finally, after a long discussion, the bill and the various amendments were referred to a committee of nine, with instructions to report as early as possible. This committee, through its Chairman, Mr.
CONFISCATION AND EMANCIPATION.
Clark, of New Hampshire, reported a substitute for the various bills and amendments which had been introduced. This substitute provided, in substance - First, That at any time after the passage of the act, the President might issue his proclamation, proclaiming the slaves of persons found thirty days after the issuing of the proclamation in arms against the Government, free, any law or custom to the contrary notwithstanding - Second, That no slave escaping from his master should be given up, unless the claimant should establish by proof that he had given no aid to the rebellion, and, Third, That the President should be authorized to employ persons of African descent for the suppression of the rebellion. This last clause illustrates the strength of the still lingering influence of slavery, as though a law of Congress was necessary to enable the President to employ persons of African descent to suppress the rebellion! The whole people, black as well as white, were subject to the call of the President for the preservation of the Government.
Strange that any should dream that the master's claim to service, and especially a rebel master's claim, could stand in the way of the Government's claim for service as a soldier. The Government could, forsooth, take the son from the father, but not the slave from the master! If the persons held to service were property, the Government could take it for the public and use it for its self preservation. If persons, then they were subject to call for military services.
Various propositions to effect purposes of confiscation and emancipation, were introduced into the House. The subject was debated in various forms during the Winter and Spring of 1862, and finally, on the 8th of April, the whole subject was referred to a Select Committee of nine, to report on the various propositions pending.
Perhaps one of the most interesting passages in the whole debate was that which occurred between Mr. Crittenden, the grey haired, venerable member from Kentucky, and Mr. Lovejoy, of Illinois. Crittenden was the head of a leading and influential slaveholding family of his State, and had been the successor of Henry Clay, as the leader of the old Whig party of Kentucky. An able and eloquent man, his
influence was great in his own State, and considerable throughout the Union. In a great speech made on the 23d of April, in opposition to the confiscation bill, he said:
" 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 lias a mighty destiny. It is for him, if he will, to step into that niche. It is for him to be but a 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 to 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, and what all of our institutions forbade him to do, is no proof of his cowardice."
This Speech of Mr. Crittenden, was regarded as an appeal from the ablest, and most influential border State man, to Mr. Lincoln, to stay his hand; to withhold the proclamation of Emancipation, and save the imperiled institution of slavery.
The border State men were ready to crown him the peer of Washington, if he would save slavery. Lovejoy, who knew Mr. Lincoln well, and appreciated him, replied:
“ The gentleman from Kentucky, says, he has a niche for Abraham Lincoln. Where is it? He points upwards. 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 the walls, are lying, dogs gorged with human flesh, as Byron describes them, stretched around Stamboul. "That' said he, is a suit:ble place for the statue of one who would defend and perpetuate slavery.
“Sir, the friends of American slavery need not beslime the President with their praise. Ile is an anti-slavery man! He hates human bondage. The gentleman says he did not vote for him. Why did not the gentleman remind the House that he did vote for a man now among the rebels? I did vote for the occupant of the Executive Chair, and labored
LOVEJOY'S REPLY TO CRITTENDEN.
for his election, as I never labored for that of any other man. If the gentleman wants to sustain the President in his administration in its stormy and perilous voyage, why did he not vote for his wise and patriotic message, hailed and approved, so far as I know, by the whole country, except slaveholders? I voted cordially for that message. Extreme men, as they are called, voted for that message. On saying as I have said, slavery must perish, I do not mean that it must perish at once necessarily. Nor while I say that the slaves can take care of themselves, and that they should be let alone, do I mean to preclude the idea of colonization that is not compulsory. The message of the President, therefore, presented ground where all might stand, the conservative and radical, and with common purpose and combined effort, put forth their exertions for the beneficent object of universal emancipation, accompanied by colonization, if just to the slave, and best for the country. Why did not the gentleman vote for it? I yield to no one in my honest belief in the pure patriotism of the President, I believe in these respects, he stands by the side of Washington.
“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 slave 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; aye, 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.
“It is said that Wilberforce went up to the judgment seat with the broken chains of eight hundred thousand emancipated slaves. And it is not too much to believe that the slave liberated by the beneficent power of the President, should, in that future world, next to the God that made him, and the Savior who redeemed him, thank the benefactor who released him from the thraldom of slavery, and allowed him to learn the pathway to Heaven in the light of that volume which had to
him, been a sealed book. This is a fame worthy the aspirations of the noblest nature. But the soul recoils from the accursed and bloody fame to which the gentleman would consign the President as the champion of human bondage, and the preserver and perpetuator of American slavery.”
Dark would his fame be! darker still
These two speeches, from the champions of slavery and freedom, were read to Mr. Lincolu, in his library at the White IIouse, a room to which he sometimes retired. He was moved by the picture which Lovejoy drew. The tremendous responsibilities growing out of the slavery question; how he ought to treat those sons of “unrequited toil,” were questions, sinking deeper and deeper into his heart. With a purpose firmly to follow the path of duty, as God gave him to see his duty, he earnestly sought the divine guidance.
The Select Committee, to which the subject was referred, by Mr. Elliott, reported two bills: “a bill to confiscate the property of rebels," etc., and "a bill to free from servitude, the slaves of rebels engaged in abetting the existing rebellion against the United States.” The latter bill declares a forfeiture of all claims to service by an armed rebel to the persons known 'as slaves, and makes them free. It declares that the fact that a claimant had been in arms against the United States in the rebellion, should be a good defence to any claim of service set up by him. It required every claimant to establish affirmatively, not only his claim to the service, but his own loyalty.
The passage of this bill was earnestly and ably pressed by Elliott, of Massachusetts, and Noell, of Missouri. This earnest patriot from the slave State of Missouri, urged the passage of the bill in the following terms:
“ But it is the weakness of cowards, or sympathy for murderous traitors, that now while they confront us at all points with arms in their hands, and shoot down our fathers, sons, husbands, lovers and friends, that now lifts up weak hands in helpless horror and raise querulous voices in feeble wails and cries for mercy to the rebels. Mercy now, is treason, rape, arson, an infraction of the whole decalogue; and I suspect the brain or heart of him who now speaks of