« PreviousContinue »
to persons called contrabands, nor to those made free by the act of Congress, abolishing slavery here.
The plan consisting of these articles is recommended, not but that a restoration of national authority would be accepted without its adoption,
Nor will the war, nor proceedings under the proclamation of September 22, 1862, be stayed because of the recommendation of this plan. Its timely adoption, I doubt not, would bring restoration, and thereby stay both.
And notwithstanding this plan, the recommendation that Congress provide by law for compensating any State which may adopt emancipation before this plan shall have been acted upon, is hereby earnestly renewed. Such would be only an advanced part of the plan, and the same arguments apply to both.
This plan is recommended as a means, not in exclusion of, but additional to, all others for restoring and preserving the national authority throughout the Union. The subject is presented exclusively in its economical aspect. The plan would, I am confident, secure peace more speedily, and maintain it more permanently, than can be done by force alone; while all it would cost, considering amounts, and manner of payment, and times of payment, would be easier paid than will be the additional cost of the war, if we solely rely upon force. It is muchvery much—that it would cost no blood at all.
The plan is proposed as permanent constitutional law. It cannot become such, without the concurrence of, first, two-thirds of Congress, and afterward three-fourths of the States. The requisite three-fourths of the States will necessarily include seven of the Slave States. Their concurrence, if obtained, will give assurance of their severally adopting emancipation, at no very distant day, upon the new constitutional terms. This assurance would end the struggle now, and save the Union forever.
I do not forget tho gravity which should characterize a paper addressed to the Congress of the nation by the Chief Magistrate of the nation. Nor do I forget that some of you are my seniors; nor that many of you have more experience than I in the conduct of public affairs. Yet I trust that, in view of the great responsibility resting upon me, you will perceive no want of respect to yourselves in any undue earnestness I may seem to display.
Is it doubted, then, that the plan i propose, if adopted, would shorten the war, and thus lessen its expenditure of money and of blood ? Is it THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE.
doubted that it would restore the national authority and national prosperity, and perpetuate both indefinitely? Is it doubted that we bereCongress and Executive-can secure its adoption ? Will not the good people respond to a united and earnest appeal from us? Can we, can thoy, by any other means, so certainly 0. » so speedily assure these vital objects? We can succeed only by concert. It is not "can any of us imagine better ?” but “can we all do better ?” Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs, can we do better ?” The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthral ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Fellow-citizens, 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 do know how to save it. We-even we here-hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave wo 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.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN. December 1, 1862.
At the very outset of the session, resolutions were introduced by the opponents of the Administration, censuring, in strong terms, its arrest of individuals, in the loyal States, suspected of giving, or intending to give aid and comfort to the rebellion. These arrests were denounced as utterly unwarranted by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and as involving the subversion of the public liberties. In the Senate, the general subject was discussed in a debate, commencing on the 8th of December, the opponents of the Administration setting forth very fully and very strongly their opinion of the unjustifiable nature of this action, and its friends vindicating it as made absolutely necessary by the emergencies of the case. Every department of the Government, and every section of the country, were filled at the outset of the war with men actively engaged in doing the work of spies and informers for the rebel authorities; and it was known that, in repeated instances, the plans and purposes of the Government had been betrayed and defeated by these aiders and abettors of treason. It became absolutely necessary, not for purposes of punishment but of prevention, to arrest these men in the injurious and perhaps fatal action they were preparing to take; and on this ground the action of the Government was vindicated and justified by the Senate. On the 8th of December, in the House of Representatives, a bill was introduced, declaring the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus to have been required by the public safety, confirming and declaring valid all arrests and imprisonments, by whomsoever made or caused to be made, under the authority of the President, and indemnifying the President, secretaries, heads of departments, and all persons who have been concerned in making such arrests, or in doing or advising any such acts, and making void all prosecutions and proceed. ings whatever against them in relation to the matters in question. It also authorized the President, during the existence of the war, to declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpur, "at such times, and in snch places, and with regard to such persons, as in his judgment the public safety may require.” This bill was passed, receiving ninety votes in its favor, and forty-five against it. It was taken up in the Senate on the 22d of Decernber, and after a discussion of several days, a new bill was substituted and passed; ayes 33, noes 7. This was taken up in the House on the 18th of February, and the substitute of the Senate was rejected. This led to the appointment of a committee of conference, which recommended that the Senate recede from its amendments, and that the bill, substantially as
ARE THE REBEL STATES ALIENS ?
it came from the House, be passed. This report was agreed to, after long debate, and the bill thus became a law.
The relations in which the Rebel States are placed by their acts of secession towards the General Government, became a topic of discussion in the House of Representatives, in a debate which arose on the 8th of January, upon an item in the appropriation bill, limiting the amount to be paid to certain commissioners to the amount that might be collected from taxes in the insurrectionary States. Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania, pronounced the opinion that the Constitution did not embrace a State that was in arms against the Government of the United States. He maintained that those States held towards us the position of alien enemics—that every obligation existing between them and us had been annulled, and that with regard to all the Southern States in rebellion, the Constitution has no binding force and no application. This position was very strongly controverted by men of both parties. Those who were not in full sympathy with the Administration opposed it, because it denied to the Southern people the protection of the Constitution; while many Republicans regarded it as a virtual acknowledgment of the validity and actual force of the ordinances of secession passed by the Rebel States. Thomas, of Massachusetts, expressed the sentiment of the latter class very clearly when he said that one object of the bill nnder discussion was to impose a tax upon States in rebellion, -that our only authority for so doing was the Constitution of the United States,—and that we could only do it on the ground that the authority of the Government over those States is just as valid now as it was before the acts of secession were passed, and that every one of those acts is utterly null and void. No vote was taken which declared directly the opinion of the House on the theoretical question thus involved.
The employment of negroes as soldiers was subjected to a vigorous discussion, started on the 27th of January, by an
amendment offered to a pending bill by Mr. Stevens, directing the President to raise, arm, and equip as many volunteers of African descent as he might deem useful, for such term of service as he might think proper, not exceeding five years, to be officered by white or black persons in the President's discretion-slaves to be accepted as well as freemen. The members from the Border States opposed this proposition with grcat earnestness, as certain to do great harm to the Union cause among their constituents, by arousing prejudices which, whether reasonable or not, were very strong, and against which argument would be found utterly unavailing. Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, objected to it mainly because it would convert the war against the rebellion into a servile war, and establish abolition as the main end for which the war was carried on. Mr. Sedgwick, of New York, vindicated the policy suggested as having been dictated rather by necessity than choice. He pointed out the various steps by which the President, as the responsible head of the Government, had endeavored to prosecute the war successfully without interfering with slavery, and showed also how the refusal of the Rebel States to return to their allegiance had compelled him to advance, step by step, to the more rigorous and effective policy, which had now become inevitable. After considerable further discussion, the bill, embodying substantially the amendment of Mr. Stevens, was passed; ayes 83, noes 54. On reaching the Senate it was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs, which, on the 12th of February, reported against its passage, on the ground that the authority which it was intended to confer upon President was already sufficiently granted in the act of the previous session, approved July 17, 1862, which authorized the President to employ, in any military or naval service for which they might be found competent, persons of African descent.
One of the most important acts of the session was that which