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Congress was in session, and the House of Representatives, on motion of Lovejoy, immediately adopted a resolution of thanks to Captain Wilkes. Fortunately, the President and Secretary of State were cool and reticent, and did not yield to the passion of the day. Great Britain demanded their release. The President and Secretary carefully examined the precedents.
Were Mason and Slidell “contraband of war?” was the method of their capture justifiable ? Resistance to the right of search had been one chief cause of the war with Great Britain in 1812. “One war at a time,” said Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Seward concluded the argument of one of the ablest and most remarkable State papers of modern times in these words: “If I decide this case in favor of my own Government, I must disavow its most cherished principles, and reverse and forever abandon its essential policy. The country cannot afford the sacrifice. If I maintain those principles, and adhere to that policy, I must surrender the case itself." The rebel emissaries were cheerfully surrendered to Great Britain.
Had President Lincoln, yielding to popular clamor, accepted the challenge of Great Britain and gone to war, he would have done exactly what the rebels desired, and thus made Messrs. Mason and Slidell incomparably more useful to the iusurgents than they were able to be by hanging around the courts to which they were accredited. The sober second thought of the public cheerfully acquiesced in the course which their judgments approved.
The Confederate Government had relied with great confidence on its early recognition by the great powers of Europe, and the immediate concession to them of belligerent rights, encouraged them in this expectation. The leaders of the rebellion had been, to a great extent, the governing power at Washington, and there is no doubt, had received before the war opened, the encouragement of the representatives of European Kingdoms. The Confederates, therefore, rather rejoiced in the seizure of Slidell and Mason, believing it would bring on a war with Great Britain, and their own
on a war.
recognition. But Mr. Lincoln, with the sagacity which marked his career as a statesman, deternined that so long as there was no recognition of the rebels as a nation, not to bring
“ One war at a time," said he. It is known that Lord Palmerston, and it is believed that several other of the British Statesmen, desired to fight the tnited States in regard to the Trent affair. It is known that France would have followed Great Britian in recognizing the Confederacy. A war with France and England, and with the rebels at the same time, would have taxed the power and resolution of the loyal people of the United States to the utmost. But it would have inspired an energy and an earnnestness, that was long wanting in the conduct of the war on our “ Southern brethren.”
The failure of Mr. Buchanan's administration to arrest persons known to be plotting treason, has caused some members of that adninistration to be regarded as particeps criminis in the civil war which followed. Mr. Lincoln's administration was slow in making such arrests; but as its absolute necessity became clearly apparent, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended, the power was executed.
George P. Kane, Chief of Police of Baltimore, the Mayor and Police Commissioners of that city, the Mayor of Washington, and many others were arrested; but more important than all, was the arrest of the Legislature of Maryland.
The majority of the Legislature of Maryland were secessionists. The Executive, and a majority of people, were for the Union. Several of the insurgent States had been precipitated into hostilities by the Legislature passing acts or ordinances of secession.
In September, 1861, the Secretary of War received information that the insurgents in Maryland, were to procure the passage by the Legislature of that State, of an act of secession, and he issued an order to General McClellan to prevent it, by the arrest of all, or any part of the members thereof.
Directions were issued by General McClellan to General Banks, to execute this order. In his instructions, dated September 12th, General McClellan says:
Some four or five of the chief men in the affair are to be arrested to-day. When they meet on the 17th, you will please have everything prepared to arrest the whole party, and be sure that none escape. * * If successfully carried out, it will go far towards breaking the back-bone of the rebellion. * * I have but one thing to Impress upon you; the absolute necessity of secresy and success.
The order was successfully executed; the meeting of the Legislature broken up, and Maryland saved from a civil war among her own citizens.
This act has been censured as an arbitrary arrest. However arbitrary, it was a necessary measure, and in the propriety of which General McClellan fully coincided.
Governor Hicks, said in the Senate of United States, “I believe that arrests, and arrests alone, saved the State of Maryland from destruction. I approved them then, and I approve them now."
SECOND SESSION, THIRTY-SEVENTH CONGRESS-CONGRESS OF 1862.
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE-REPORT OF SECRETARY OF WAR— Modi
THE PRESIDENT STANTON SUCCEEDS CAMERON ANTI-SLAVERY MEASURES— ARTICLE OF WAR PROHIBITING THE RETURN OF FUGITIVE SLAVES - SLAVERY ABOLISHED AT CAPITAL PROHIBITED IN THE TERRITORIES NEGRO SOLDIERS - MILITARY ORDERS IN REGARD TO SLAVES—HUNTER'S NEGRO REGIMENTS IN SOUTH CAROLINA WICKLIFFE's RESOLUTION --HUNTER'S REPLY — BILL TO GIVE FREEDOM TO THE FAMILIES OF NEGRO SOLDIERS.
ONGRESS assembled at its regular session, December 2d,
1861, and found the grand drama of rebellion fully opened and developed. Two hundred thousand Union troops on the banks of the Potomac, confronted a rebel army then supposed to be of equal numbers, but now known to have been far less. The magnitude of the American rebellion, and the principles involved, had attracted the attention of the world, which was watching with deep interest the progress of events. The common people, the lovers of liberty and free institutions, were hopeful, yet anxious for the issue. Those who had no faith in man's capacity for self-government, those whose interests were in making firm and permanent old dynasties, were already exulting over the failure of the American Republic, as “another bubble burst," another fruitless effort at self-government. Meanwhile, the issue between freedom and slavery began to be more sharply defined.
The .forbearance of the Government on the subject of slavery, was cited by rebel emissaries in Europe, as evidence that the issue was not freedom against slavery, but empire and subjugation against independence and self-government.
It was obvious that sound statesmanship, as it regarded our cause both at home and abroad, required a more vigorous policy. It became every day more clear that slavery was not only the cause of the war, but, as treated thus far, an element of great strength, and a bond of union to the rebel States. The neglect of the government to strike decisive and fatal blows at this institution, especially to those who did not know and appreciate the condition of affairs in Maryland and Kentucky, was inexplicable, and had encouraged the enemies, and paralyzed the friends of the republic abroad. The friends of the administration impatiently asked, if the time had not arrived for making war directly upon slavery? They insisted that this source of strength to the rebels could be made a source of weakness; that the millions of colored people were the friends of the Republic, and could be made to aid its cause against their masters. The period was critical. Bull Run and Ball's Bluff were unavenged, and the great army under McClellan had as yet done nothing to give confidence to the country. The Confederates were striving to secure recognition abroad, Mason and Slidell, were in Fort Warren as prisoners taken from beneath the folds of the British flag, and England, backed by France, would make the refusal to surrender them, a cause of war.
Such was the condition in which Congress assembled, and received the President's message, in December, 1861.
This message has fewer of the characteristics of Mr. Lincoln, than any other of his State papers. The truth is, he was feeling his way, revolving the slavery question, and was scarcely yet ready to announce a settled policy on that subject. He congratulates Congress that the patriotism of the people bad proved equal to the occasion, and that the number of troops tendered, greatly exceeded the force called for.
He calls the attention of Congress to the fact, that Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, neither of which at his first call for troops in April, had promised a single soldier, had, at the date of the message, not less than 40,000 men in the