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Speech at Baltimore.
Definition of Liberty.
that three years ago those soldiers could not pass through Baltimore. I would say, blessings upon the men who have wrought these changes, and the ladies who have assisted them. This change which has taken place in Baltimore, is part only of a far wider change that is taking place all over the country
“When the war commenced, three years ago, no one expected that it would last this long, and no one supposed that the institution of slavery would be materially affected by it. But here we The war is not yet ended, and slavery has been very materially affected or interfered with. So true is it that man proposes and God disposes.
“ The world is in want of a good definition of the word liberty. We all declare ourselves to be for liberty, but we do not all mean the same thing. Some mean that a man can do as he pleases with himself and his property. With others, it means that some men can do as they please with other men and other men's labor. Each of these things are called liberty, although they are entirely different. To give an: illustration : A shepherd drives the wolf from the throat of his sheep when attacked by him, and the sheep, of course, thanks the shepherd for the preservation of his life; but the wolf denounces him as despoiling the sheep of his libertyespecially if it he a black sheep.
“This same difference of opinion prevails among some of the people of the North. But the people of Maryland have recently been doing something to properly define the meaning of the word, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they have done and are doing.
“It is not very becoming for a President to make a speech at great length, but there is a painful rumor afloat in the country, in reference to which a few words shall be said. It is reported that there has been a wanton massacre of some hundreds of colored soldiers at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, during a recent engagement there, and it is fit to explain
Massacre at Fort Pillow.
President's Policy on Slavery.
some facts in relation to the affair. It is said by some persons that the Government is not, in this matter, doing its duty. At the commencement of the war, it was doubtful whether black men would be used as soldiers or not. The matter was examined into very carefully, and after mature deliberation, the whole matter resting as it were with himself, he, in his judgment, decided that they should.
“He was responsible for the act to the American people, to a Christian nation, to the future historian, and above all, to his God, to whom he would have, one day, to render an account of his stewardship. He would now say that in his opinion the black soldier should have the same protection as the white soldier, and he would have it. It was an error to say that the Government was not acting in the matter. The Government has no direct evidence to confirm the reports in existence relative to this massacre, but he himself believed the facts in relation to it to be as stated. When the Government does know the facts from official sources, and they prove to substantiate the reports, retribution will be surely given."
Mr. Lincoln's policy upon the question of slavery, is tersely presented in the following letter written by him to a Kentuckian, dated Executive Mansion, Washington, April 4, 1864. “A. G. HODGES, Esq., Frankfort, Ky. :
“ MY DEAR SIR :- You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day in your presence, to Governor Bramlette and Senator Dixon.
It was about as follows:
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think and feel. And yet, I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took, that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, pro
Ilis Answer to Kentuckians.
Slavery Subordinate to the Country
tect and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath.
Nor was it my view, that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration, this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary, abstract judgment, on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery.
“I did understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, the Government—that Nation-of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the Nation, and yet preserve the Constitution ?
“By general law, life and limb must be protected : yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I feel that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the Nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground and now avow it. I could not feel that to the best of my ability I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if to save slavery or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of Government, Country and Constitution, all together When early in the war, Gen. Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, Gen. Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, Gen. Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity bad come.
“When, in March, and May, and July, 1862, I made
Ilis Answer to Kentuckians.
earnest and successive appeals to the Border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition, and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss; but of this I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it, in our foreign relations; none in our home popular sentiment; none in our white military force—no loss by it anyhow or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no caviling. We have the men, and we could not bave had them without the measure.
“And now, let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself, by writing down in one line that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms, and in the next that he is for taking these one hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be, but for the measure he condemns. If he can not face his cause so stated, it is only because he can not face the truth.
"I add a word, which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale, I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years' struggle, the Nation's condition is not what either party or any man devised or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending, seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find
Employing Negro Soldiers.
therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
The results of the employment of negro soldiers—a measure which, at the time it was first announced, caused no little commotion among the over-sensitive in the loyal States, and was looked upon with disfavor by many white soldiers, as well -as shown in the above letter, precluded further arguments upon the question.
The Davis combination at Richmond, having announced that none of the immunities recognized under the laws of war would be granted to colored soldiers or their officers, General Orders No. 100, under date of April 24, 1863, "previously approved by the President," promulgating general instructions for the government of our armies, was issued, containing the following:
“ The law of nations knows of no distinction of color; and if an enemy of the United States should enslave and sell any captured persons of their army, it would be a case for the severest retaliation, if not redressed upon complaint. The United States cannot retaliate by enslavement; therefore, death must be the retaliation for this crime against the law of nations.
"All troops of the enemy known or discovered to give no quarter in general, or to any portion of the army, will receive none."
The following order of the President, issued by him as Commander-in-chief, and communicated to the entire army, deals with this subject alone :
“ Executive Mansion, Washington, July 30, 1863. “ It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations, and the usages and cus