Page images

selfish teachings of those who fear the loss of political power from the restoration of the Union of equal rights which formerly existed. To adopt those theories and to make them the basis of the future of the nation, will be to enter upon a career of never-ending agitation, by substituting a forcible usurpation in place of that lawful and constitutional Government, which alone can command the willing respect and obedience of the people of both sections, and insure the ultimate pacification of this distracted country.

But the Crittenden resolution is something more than a declaration of principles: it is a solemn pledge for the future. It went forth to the nations of Europe, together with the official dispatches of the Secretary of State, as a basis for the regulation of their conduct, in the course of a war so deeply affecting their own interests; and it undoubtedly had a powerful influence in contributing to avert an interference, which the prospect of the utter ruin of the South, by an attempt to reduce its citizens to political vassalage, might have rendered inevitable. It went forth to the men of wealth and high position in our own land, and produced among them a unanimity of all parties and of all interests to support the Government in the great crisis which was upon it—nay, a competition for the foremost place in tendering assistance. It went forth to the masses of the people, and an army of volunteers at

once rose up in such mighty swarms, that the Government itself soon cried enough. It went forth to the border States, which were yet trembling in . the balance, and enabled the noble band of Unionists in those States to decide the pending controversy in our favor. It stands now upon record as the solemn covenant of the nation with its citizens, with its enemy, with the world. Its violation, after we have acquired the object to attain which it was given, would be an act of perfidy which would break up all the foundations of future confidence in the nation's plighted word. And the retribution which would follow, would be swift and ample. But of that hereafter.

But adherence to the principles of our national pledge will not alone suffice to restore peace and quiet to the nation when the storm of war shall have passed away. In fact, its violation, the permanent usurpation of unconstitutional powers by the national Government, and the destruction of State institutions at the North and the South, are among the certain events of the future, unless the southern people can be inspired with affection for the Union, and a willingness to coöperate heartily with the national authorities in the work of administering the Government. The Crittenden resolu tion contemplates as the end of the war the restoration, to the very persons who are now engaged in carrying on the contest under the confederate

flag, of the political rights and privileges which they formerly enjoyed. Their armies may be dispersed, their so-called government overthrown, their leading men executed or exiled, a Federal garrison stationed in every fortress and in every city, Federal gunboats in every river and in every bay, a Federal custom-house, defended by Federal guards, in every seaport, and yet the whole of that vast political power appertaining to the sovereignty of the State, will still be as completely in the hands of those who were so lately in arms against the conquerors, as the same power in the State of New York is now in the hands of our citizens.

I shall have occasion hereafter to examine the practical working of such a scheme in the midst of a hostile and exasperated people, and it is because a persistence in the policy which we have in fact, pursued, can result in nothing but to produce and keep up a feeling of hostility and exasperation, and not by reason of objections to their legality, that I shall condemn the leading measures which make up that policy. There is one of those measures, however, which is open to graver objections than those arising out of considerations of mere expediency. I allude to the emancipation proclamation, as it is generally called, the lawfulness and effect of which I shall discuss in the next chapter.


The Emancipation Proclamation as a War Measure—Consideration

of the Rights of a Belligerent over the Slaves of Citizens of an Invaded Nation regarding them as Property-The same Rights regarding them as occupying a Peculiar Status under the Local Law–The Owner's Rights after the Restoration of Peace-Reasons why the Emancipation Proclamation exceeds the Rights of a Belligerent, and manifests a Revolutionary Intention on the part of our Government.

In treating of the emancipation proclamation, (including in that term the two proclamations of the President, dated respectively the 22d of September, 1862, and the 1st of January, 1863,) I shall not deny that martial law sanctions the suspension, within an invaded country, of the relation of master and slave, by the military edict of the commander-in-chief of the invader's armies, or in fact of any general having a separate command. And I shall also concede that a military commander can lawfully remove any number of slaves from the territory of an invaded nation whose laws sanction the institution of slavery, and thus enable them permanently to acquire their freedom. But I condemn the emancipation proclamation as going far beyond those limits, and manifesting a purpose on the part

of the general Government to overthrow the rights

nd sovereignty of the States, and to inaugurate a system of coercion of State action, revolutionary and unlawful, and in its ultimate effects fatal to the permanent pacification of the country.

This measure has become such a shibboleth of party, and its discussion, even in grave state papers, and official and semi-official documents and speeches of the highest functionaries, has involved to such an extent the consideration of the institution of slavery in its religious, moral and politico-economical aspects, that it is exceedingly difficult to divest the question of those features sufficiently to consider exclusively its lawfulness as a military measure and the line of policy which is indicated by it. Nevertheless I will make the attempt to treat it in that aspect, asking from my readers no other admission respecting the institution of slavery itself, than that the Constitution grants to the Federal Government no right whatever to interfere with it, in the States where it exists, and that consequently its abolition by Federal power, if lawful at all, is only lawful as an exercise of the war power, the extent and nature of which are not defined by the Constitution, but are left to be gathered from the general rules of international law, so far as the latter are applicablo to a contest of this nature. Upon this common ground I can meet nine-tenths of my fellowcitizens, the President included; the remainder

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »