« PreviousContinue »
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSage.
and the saying is true, if taken to mean no more than that an army is better directed by a single mind, though inferior, than by two superior ones at variance and cross-purposes with each other.
And the same is true in all joint operations wherein those engaged can have none but a common end in view, and can differ only as to the choice of means. In a storm at sea, no one on board can wish the ship to sink; and yet not unfrequently all go down together, because too many will direct, and no single mind can be allowed to control.
It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not exclusively a war upon the first principle of popular government—the rights of the people. Conclusive evidence of this is found in the most grave and maturely-considered public documents, as well as in the general tone of the insurgents. In those documents we find the abridgment of the existing right of suffrage, and the denial to the people of all right to participate in the selection of public officers, except the legislative, boldly advocated, with labored arguments to prove that large control of the people in government is the source of all political evil. Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people.
In my present position, I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.
It is not needed, nor fitting here, that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent.. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers, or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.
Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.
Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit
of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and those few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class-neither work for others, nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States, a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters; while in the Northern, a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families-wives, sons, and daughterswork for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital—that is, they labor with their own hands, and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.
Again as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty-none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.
From the first taking of our national census to the last are seventy years; and we find our population, at the end of the period, eight times as great as it was at the beginning. The increase of those other things
DISPOSITION OF CONGRESS.
which men deem desirable has been even greater. We thus have, at one view, what the popular principle, applied to Government through the machinery of the States and the Union, has produced in a given time; and also what, if firmly maintained, it promises for the future. There are already among us those who, if the Union be preserved, will live to see it contain two hundred and fifty millions. The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.
The actual condition of the country and the progress of the war, at the opening of the session, are very clearly stated in this document; and the principles upon which the President had based his conduct of public affairs are set forth with great distinctness and precision. On the subject of interfering with slavery, the President had adhered strictly to the letter and spirit of the act passed by Congress at its extra session; but he very distinctly foresaw that it might become necessary, as a means of quelling the rebellion and preserving the Union, to resort to a much more vigorous policy than was contemplated by that act. While he threw out a timely caution against undue haste in the adoption of extreme measures, he promised full and careful consideration of any new law which Congress might consider it wise and expedient to pass.
It very soon became evident that Congress was disposed to make very considerable advances upon the legislation of the extra session. The resistance of the rebels had been more. vigorous and effective than was anticipated, and the defeat at Bull Run had exasperated, as well as aroused, the public mind. The forbearance of the Government in regard to slavery had not only failed to soften the hostility of the rebels, but had been represented to Europe by the rebel authorities as proving a determination on the part of the United States to protect and perpetuate slavery by restoring the authority of the Constitution which guaranteed its safety; and the acts of
the extra session, especially the Crittenden resolution, defining and limiting the objects of the war, were quoted in rebel dispatches to England, for that purpose. It was known also that within the lines of the rebel army, slaves were freely employed in the construction of fortifications, and that they contributed, in this and other ways, very largely to the strength of the insurrection. The whole country, under the iufluence of these facts, began to regard slavery as not only the cause of the rebellion, but as the main strength of its armies and the bond of union for the rebel forces;-and Congress, representing and sharing this feeling, entered promptly and zealously upon such measures as it would naturally suggest. Resolutions at the very outset of the session were offered, calling on the President to emancipate slaves whenever and wherever such action would tend to weaken the rebellion; and the general policy of the Government upon this subject became the theme of protracted and animated debate. The orders issued by the generals of the army, especially McClellan, Halleck, and Dix, by which fugitive slaves were prohibited from coming within the army lines, were severely censured. All the resolutions upon these topics were, however, referred to appropriate committees, generally without specific instructions as to the character of their action upon them.
Early in the session a strong disposition was evinced in some quarters to censure the Government for its arbitrary arrests of persons in the loyal States, suspected of aiding the rebels, its suppression of disloyal presses, and other acts which it had deemed essential to the safety of the country: and a sharp debate took place in the Senate upon a resolution of inquiry and implied censure offered by Mr. Trumbull, of Illinois. The general feeling, however, was so decidedly in favor of sustaining the President, that the resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 25 to 17.
On the 19th of December, in the Senate, a debate on the
SLAVERY IN TERRITORIES AND DIST. COLUMBIA. 183
relation of slavery to the rebellion arose upon a resolution. offered by Mr. Willey, of Virginia, who contested the opinion that slavery was the cause of the war, and insisted that the rebellion had its origin in the hostility of the Southern political leaders to the democratic principle of government; he believed that when the great body of the Southern people came to see the real purpose and aim of the rebellion, they would withdraw their support, and restore the Union. No action was taken on the resolution, which merely gave occasion for debate. A resolution was adopted in the House, forbidding the employment of the army to return fugitive slaves to their owners; and a bill was passed in both Houses, declaring that hereafter there shall be "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the Territories of the United States, now existing, or which may at any time be formed or acquired by the United States, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."
In the Senate, on the 18th of March, a bill was taken up to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; and an amendment was offered, directing that those thus set free should be colonized out of the United States. The policy of colonization was fully discussed in connection with the general subject, the senators from the Border States opposing the bill itself, mainly on grounds of expediency, as calculated to do harm under the existing circumstances of the country. The bill was passed, with an amendment appropriating money to be used by the President in colonizing such of the emancipated slaves as might wish to leave the country. It received in the Senate 29 votes in its favor and 14 against it. In the House it passed by a vote of 92 to 38.
President Lincoln sent in the following Message, announcing his approval of the bill: