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That to which I chiefly object pervades most part of the Act, but more distinctly appears in the first, second, seventh, and eighth sections. It is the sum of those provisions which results in the divesting of title forever.
For the causes of treason and ingredients of treason, not amounting to the full crime, it declares forfeiture extending beyond the lives of the guilty parties; whereas the Constitution of the United States declares that "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted." True, there is to be no formal attainder in this case; still, I think, the greater punishment cannot be constitutionally inflicted, in a different form, for the same offence.
With great respect I am constrained to say I think this feature of the Act is unconstitutional. It would not be difficult to modify it.
I may remark that the provision of the Constitution, put in language borrowed from Great Britain, applies only in this country, as I understand, to real or landed estate.
Again, this Act, in rem, forfeits property for the ingredients of treason without a conviction of the supposed criminal, or a personal hearing given him in any proceeding. That we may not touch property lying within our reach, because we cannot give personal notice to an owner who is absent endeavoring to destroy the Government, is certainly satisfactory. Still, the owner may not be thus engaged; and I think a reasonable time should be provided for such parties to appear and have personal hearings. Similar provisions are not uncommon in connection with proceedings in rem.
For the reasons stated, I return the Bill to the House in which it originated.
The passage of this bill constituted a very important step in the prosecution of the war for the suppression of the Rebellion. It prescribed definite penalties for the crime of treason, and thus supplied a defect in the laws as they then existed. It gave the rebels distinctly to understand that one of these penalties, if they persisted in their resistance to the authority of the United States, would be the emancipation of their slaves. And it also authorized the employment by the President of persons of African descent,' to aid in the suppression of the Rebellion in any way which he might deem
most conducive to the public welfare. Yet throughout the bill, it was clearly made evident that the object and purpose of these measures was not the abolition of slavery, but the preservation of the Union and the restoration of the authority of the Constitution.
On the 14th of January SIMON CAMERON resigned his posi tion as Secretary of War. On the 30th of April the House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 75 to 45, a resolution, censuring certain official acts performed by him while acting as Secretary of War; whereupon, on the 27th of May, President Lincoln transmitted to the House the following message:
TO THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
The insurrection which is yet existing in the United States, and aims at the overthrow of the Federal Constitution and the Union, was clandestinely prepared during the winter of 1860 and 1861, and assumed an open organization in the form of a treasonable provisional government at Montgomery, Alabama, on the eighteenth day of February, 1861. On the twelfth day of April, 1861, the insurgents committed the flagrant act of civil war by the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter, which cut off the hope of immediate conciliation. Immediately afterwards all the roads and avenues to this city were obstructed, and the capital was put into the condition of a siege. The mails in every direction were stopped and the lines of telegraph cut off by the insurgents, and military and naval forces which had been called out by the Government for the defence of Washington were prevented from reaching the city by organized and combined treasonable resistance in the State of Maryland. There was no adequate and effective organization for the public defence. Congress had indefinitely adjourned. There was no time to convene them. It became necessary for me to choose whether, using only the existing means, agencies, and processes which Congress had provided, I should let the government fall into ruin, or whether, availing myself of the broader powers conferred by the Constitution in cases of insurrection, I would make an effort to save it, with all its blessings, for the present age and for posterity. I thereupon summoned my constitutional advisers, the heads of all the departments, to meet on Sunday, the twentieth day of April, 1861, at the office of the Navy Department, and then and there, with their unanimous concurrence, I
directed that an armed revenue cutter should proceed to sea to afford protection to the commercial marino, especially to the California treasureships, then on their way to this coast. I also directed the Commandant of the Navy Yard at Boston to purchase or charter, and arm, as quickly as possible, five steamships for purposes of public defence. I directed the Commandant of the Navy Yard at Philadelphia to purchase or charter, and arm an equal number for the same purpose. I directed the Commandant at New York to purchase or charter, and arm an equal number. I directed Commander Gillis to purchase or charter, and arm and put to sea two other vessels. Similar directions were given to Commodore Du Pont, with a view to the opening of passages by water to and from the capital. I directed the several officers to take the advice and obtain the aid and efficient services in the matter of his Excellency Edwin D. Morgan, the Governor of New York, or, in his absence, George D. Morgan, Wm. M. Evarts, R. M. Blatchford, and Moses H. Grinnell, who were, by my directions, especially empowered by the Secretary of the Navy to act for his department in that crisis, in matters pertaining to the forwarding of troops and supplies for the public defence. On the same occasion I directed that Gov. Morgan and Alexander Cummings, of the city of New York, should be authorized by the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, to make all necessary arrangements for the transportation of troops and munitions of war in aid and assistance of the officers of the army of the United States, until communication by mails and telegraph should be completely re-established between the cities of Washington and New York. No security was required to be given by them, and either of them was authorized to act in case of inability to consult with the other. On the same occasion I authorized and directed the Secretary of the Treasury to advance, without requiring securing, two millions of dollars of public money to John A. Dix, George Opdyke, and Richard M. Blatchford, of New York, to be used by them in meeting such requisitions as should be directly consequent upon the military and naval measures for the defence and support of the Government, requiring them only to act without compensation, and to report their transactions when duly called upon. The several departments of the Government at that time contained so large a number of disloyal persons that it would have been impossible to provide safely through official agents only, for the performance of the duties thus confided to citizens favorably known for their ability, loyalty, and patriotism. The several orders issued upon these occurrences were transmitted by private messengers, who pursued a circuitous way to the
seaboard cities, inland across the States of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the northern lakes. I believe that by these and other similar measures taken in that crisis, some of which were without any authority of law, the Government was saved from overthrow. I am not aware that a dollar of the public funds thus confided without authority of law, to unofficial persons, was either lost or wasted, although apprehensions of such misdirections occurred to me as objections to these extraordinary proceedings, and were necessarily overruled. I recall these transactions now because my attention has been directed to a resolution which was passed by the House of Representatives on the thirtieth of last month, which is in these words:
Resolved, that Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, by intrusting Alexander Cummings with the control of large sums of the public money, and authority to purchase military supplies without restriction, without requiring from him any guarantee for the faithful performance of his duties, while the services of competent public officers were available, and by involving the government in a vast number of contracts with persons not legitimately engaged in the business pertaining to the subject matter of such contracts, especially in the purchase of arms for future delivery, has adopted a policy highly injurious to the public service, and deserves the censure of the House.
Congress will see that I should be wanting in candor and in justice if I should leave the censure expressed in this resolution to rest exclusively or chiefly upon Mr. Cameron. The same sentiment is unanimously entertained by the heads of the departments, who participated in the proceedings which the House of Representatives has censured. It is due to Mr. Cameron to say that although he fully approved the proceedings, they were not moved nor suggested by himself, and that not only the President, but all the other heads of departments were at least equally responsible with him for whatever error, wrong or fault was committed in the premises. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
This letter was in strict conformity with the position uniformly held by the President in regard to the responsibility of members of his cabinet for acts of the Administration. He always maintained that the proper duty of each Secretary was, to direct the details of every thing done within his own department, and to tender such suggestions, information, and advice to the President as he might solicit at his hands. But the duty and responsibility of deciding what line of policy
should be pursued, or what steps should be taken in any specific case, in his judgment, belonged exclusively to the President; and he was always willing and ready to assume it. This position has been widely and sharply assailed in various quarters as contrary to the precedents of our early history: but we believe it to be substantially in accordance with the theory of the Constitution upon this subject.
The progress of our armies in certain portions of the Southern States had warranted the suspension, at several ports, of the restrictions placed upon commerce by the blockade. On the 12th of May the President accordingly issued a proclamation declaring that the blockade of the ports of Beaufort, Port Royal, and New Orleans, should so far cease from the 1st of June, that commercial intercourse from those ports, except as to contraband of war, might be resumed, subject to the laws of the United States and the regulations of the Treasury Department.
On the 1st of July he issued another proclamation, in pursuance of the law of June 7th, designating the States and parts of States that were then in insurrection, so that the laws of the United States concerning the collection of taxes could not be enforced within their limits, and declaring that "the taxes legally chargeable upon real estate, under the act referred to, lying within the States or parts of States thus designated, together with a penalty of fifty per cent. of said taxes, should be a lien upon the tracts or lots of the same, severally charged, till paid."
On the 20th of October, finding it absolutely necessary to provide judicial proceedings for the State of Louisiana, a part of which was in our military possession, the President issued an order establishing a Provisional Court in the City of New Orleans, of which Charles A. Peabody was made Judge, with authority to try all causes, civil and criminal, in law, equity, revenue, and admiralty, and particularly to exercise all such