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This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuits for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whese existence we contend.
I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note, that while in this the Government's hour of trial, large numbers of those in the army and navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag.
Great honor is due to those officers who remained true, despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor, and most important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts of those whose commands but an hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic inst.. ict of plain people. They, understand, without an argument, that the destroying the Government which was made by Washington means no good to them.
Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled—the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace; teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.
Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what is to be the course of the Government towards the Southern States after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be guided by the Constitution and the laws; and that he probably will have no different understanding of the powers and duties of the Federal Government relatively to the rights of the States and the people under the Constitution than that expressed in the inaugural address.
He desires to preserve the Government, that it may be administered for all, as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens everywhere have the right to claim this of their Government, and the
Government has no right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived that in giving it there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation, in any just sense of those terms.
The Constitution provides, and all the States have accepted the provision, that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of Government.” But if a State may lawfully go out of the Union, having done so it may also discard the republican form of Government; so that to prevent its going out is an indispensable means to the end of maintaining the guarantee mentioned; and when an end is lawful and obligatory, the indispensable means to it are also lawful and obligatory.
It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of employing the war power in defence of the Government forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the Government. No compromise by public servants could in this case be a cure; not that compromises are not often proper, but that no popular Government can long survive a marked precedent that those who carry an election can only save the Government from immediate destruction by giving up the main point upon which the people gave the election. The people themselves, and not their servants, can safely reverse their own deliberate decisions.
As a private citizen the Executive could not have consented that these institutions shall perish; much less could he, in betrayal of so vast and 60 sacred a trust as these free people have contided to him. He felt that he had no moral right to shrink, or even to count the chances of his own life, in what might follow. În full view of his great responsibility he has so far done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration to them, under the Constitution and the laws.
And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN. July 4, 1861.
Congress imitated the President in confining its attention exclusively to the rebellion and the means for its suppression. The zealous and enthusiastic loyalty of the people met a prompt response from their representatives. The Judiciary Committee in the House was instructed on the 8th to prepare a bill to confiscate the property of rebels against the Government, and
on the 9th a resolution was adopted (ayes 93, noes 55), declaring it to be “no part of the duty of the soldiers of the United States to capture and return fugitive slaves.” A bill was promptly introduced to declare valid all the acts of the President for the suppression of the rebellion previous to the meeting of Congress, and it brought oộ a general discussion of the principles involved and the interests concerned in the contest. There were a few in both Houses, with John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, at their head, who still insisted that any resort by the Government to the use of the war power against the rebels was unconstitutional, and could only end in the destruction of the Union ; but the general sentiment of both Houses fully sustained the President in the steps he had taken. The subject of slavery was introduced into the discussion commenced by Senator Powell, of Kentucky, who proposed on the 18th to amend the Army Bill by adding a section that no part of the army should be employed “in subjecting or holding as a conquered province any sovereign state now or lately one of the United States, or in abolishing or interfering with African slavery in any of the States." The debate which ensued elicited the sentiments of members on this subject. Mr. Sherman, of Ohio, concurred in the sentiment that the war was “not to be waged for the purpose of subjugating any state or freeing any slave, or to interfere with the social or domestic institutions of any State or any people ; it was to preserve this Union, to maintain the Constitution as it is in all its clauses, in all its guarantees, without change or limitation.” Mr. Dixon, of Connecticut, assented to this, but also declared that if the South should protract the war, and " it should turn out that either this Government or slavery must be destroyed, then the people of the North--the Conservative people of the North-would say, rather than let the Government perish, let slavery perish.” Mr. Lane, of Kansas, did not believe that slavery could survive in any state the
march of the Union armies. These seemed to be the sentiments of both branches of Congress. The amendment was rejected and bills were passed ratifying the acts of the President, authorizing him to accept the services of half a million of vollunteers, and placing five hundred millions of dollars at the disposal of the Government for the prosecution of the war.
On the 15th of July, Mr. McClernand, a democrat from Illinois, offered a resolution pledging the House to vote any amount of money and any number of men necessary to suppress the rebellion, and restore the authority of the Government, which was adopted with but five opposing votes; and on the 22d of July, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, offered the following resolution, defining the objects of the war:
Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against the constitutional Government, and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country ; that this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and riglts of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.
This resolution was adopted with but two dissenting votes. It was accepted by the whole country as defining the objects and limiting the continuance of the war, and was regarded with special favor by the loyal citizens of the Border States, whose sensitiveness on the subject of slavery had been skilfully and zealously played upon by the agents and allies of the rebel confederacy. The war was universally represented by these men as waged for the destruction of slavery, and as aiming, not at the preservation of the Union, but the emancipation of the slaves; and there was great danger that these appeals to the pride,
the interest, and the prejudices of the Border Slave States might bring them to join their fortunes to those of the rebellion. The passage of this resolution, with so great a degree of unanimity, had a very soothing effect upon the apprehensions of these states, and contributed largely to strengthen the Government in its contest with the rebellion.
The sentiments of Congress on this matter, as well as on the general subject of the war, were still further developed in the debates which followed the introduction to the House of a bill passed by the Senate to “confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes.” It was referred to the Judiciary Committee and reported back with an amendment, providing that whenever any slave should be required or permitted by his master to take up arms, or be employed in any fort, dock-yard, or in any military service in aid of the rebellion, he should become entitled to his freedom. Mr. Wickliffe and Mr. Burnett of Kentucky at once contested the passage of the bill on the ground that the Government had no right to interfere in any way with the relation existing between a master and his slave ;-and they were answered by the northern members with the argument that the Government certainly had a right to confiscate property of any kind employed in the rebellion, and that there was no more reason for protecting slavery against the consequences of exercising this right, than for shielding any other interest that might be thus involved. The advocates of the bill denied that it was the intention of the law to emancipate the slaves, or that it would bear any such construction in the courts of justice. They repudiated the idea that men in arnis against the Union and Constitution could claim the protection of the Constitution, and thus derive from that instrument increased ability to secure its destruction; but they based their proposed confiscation of slave property solely on the ground that it was a necessary means to the prosecution of the war, and not in any sense the object for