Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 daughters--work 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 a while, saves à 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 wbich opens the way to all-gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress, and improvemeni of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty-none less inclined to touch or take aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power 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."

The views then expressed remain unchanged, nor have I much to add. None are so deeply interested to resist the present rebellion as the working people. Let them beware of prejudices, working division and hostility among themselves. The most potable feature of a disturbance in your city last summer was the hanging of some working people by other working people. It should never be so. The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside of the family relation, should be one uniting all working people, of all nations, and tongnes, and kindreds. Nor should this lead to a war upon property or the owners of property. Property is the fruit of labor; property is desirable; is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and, hence, is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.

The President had always taken a deep interest in the volunteer movements of benevolent people throughout the country, for relieving the sufferings of the sick and wounded among our soldiers. A meeting of one of these organizations, the Christian Commission, was held at Washington, on the 22d of February, 1863, to which President LINCOLN, unable to attend and preside, addressed the following letter:

[ocr errors]

EXECUTIVE MANSION, February 22, 1863. Rev. ALEXANDER REED:

MY DEAR Sır:-Your note, by which you, as General Superintendent of the U. S. Christian Commission, invite me to preside at a meeting to be held this day, at the hall of the House of Representatives in this city, is received.

While, for reasons which I deem sufficient, I must decline to preside, I cannot withhold my approval of the meeting, and its worthy objects. Whatever shall be, sincerely and in God's name, devised for the good of the soldiers and seamen in their hard spheres of duty, can scarcely fail to be blessed. And whatever shall tend to turn our thoughts from the unreasoning and uncharitable passions, prejudices, and jealousies incident to a great national trouble such as ours, and to fix them on the rast and long-enduring consequences, for weal or for woe, which are to result from the struggle, and especially to strengthen our reliance on the Supreme Being for the final triumph of the right, cannot but be well for us all.

The birthday of Washington and the Christian Sabbath coinciding this year, and suggesting together the highest interests of this life and of that to come, is most propitious for the meeting proposed. Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.

On the 16th of March, 1864, at the close of a fair in Washington, given at the Patent Office, for the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers of the army, President LINCOLN happening to be present, in response to loud and continuous calls, made the following remarks:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :-I appear to say but a word. This extraordinary war in which we are engaged falls heavily upon all classes of people, but the most heavily upon the soldier. For it has been said, all that a man hath will he give for his life; and while all contribute of their substance, the soldier puts his life at stake, and often yields it up in his country's cause. The highest merit, then, is due to the soldier.

In this extraordinary war, extraordinary developments have manifested themselves, such as have not been seen in former wars; and among these manifestations nothing has been more remarkable than these fairs for the relief of suffering soldiers and their families. And the chief agents in these fairs are the women of America.

I am not accustomed to the use of language of eulogy ; I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women, but I must say, that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying, God bless the women of America !

Still another occasion of a similar character occurred at Baltimore on the 18tb of April, at the opening of a Fair for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission. The President accepted an invitation to attend the opening exercises, and made the following remarks:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :—Calling to mind that we are in Baltimore, we cannot fail to note that the world moves. Looking upon these many people assembled here to serve, as they best may, the soldiers of the Union, it occurs at once that three years ago the same soldiers could not so much as pass through Baltimore. The change from then till now is both great and gratifying. Blessings on the brave men who have wrought the change, and the fair women who strive to reward them for it.

But Baltimore suggests more than could happen within Baltimcre. The change within Baltimore is part only of a far wider change. When the war began, three years ago, neither party, nor any man, expected it would last till now. Each looked for the end, in some way, long ere today. Neither did any anticipate that domestic slavery would be much affected by the war. But here we are; the war has not ended, and slavery has been much affected--how much needs not now to be ro. counted. So true is it that man proposes and God disposes.

But we can see the past, though we may not claim to have directed it; and seeing it, in this case, we feel more hopeful and confident for the future.

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we beholc. the process by which thousands are daily passing from under the y: ce of bondage hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf's dictionary has been repudiated.

It is not very becoming for one in my position to make speeches at great length; but there is another subject upon which I feel that I ought to say a word. A painful rumor, true I fear, has reached us of the massacre, by the rebel forces at Fort Pillow, in the west end of Temessee, on the Mississippi River, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. There seems to be some anxiety in the public mind whether the Government is doing its duty to the colored soldier, and to the service, at this point. At the beginning of the war, and for some time, the use of colored troops was not contemplated; and how the change of purpose was wrought, I will not now take time to explain. Upon a clear conviction of duty, I resolved to turn that element of strength to account; and I am responsible for it to the American people, to the Christian world, to history, and on my final account to God. Having determined to use the negro as a soldier, there is no way but to give him all the protection given to any other soldier. The difficulty is not in stating the principle, but in practically applying it. It is a mistake to suppose the Government is indifferent to this matter, or is not doing the best it can in regard to it. We do not to-day know that a colored soldier, or white officer commanding colored soldiers, has been massa. cred by the rebels when made a prisoner. We fear it, believe it, I may say, but we do not know it. To take the life of one of their prisoners on the assumption that they murder ours, when it is short of certainty that they do murder ours, might be too serious, too cruel a mistake. We are having the Fort Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is. If, after all that has been said, it shall turn it that, there has been no massacre at Fort Pillow, it will be almost safe to say there has been

none, and will be none elsewhere. If there has been the massacre of threo hundred there, or even the tenth part of three hundred, it will be conclusively proven; and being so proven, the retribution shall as surely come. It will be matter of grave consideration in what exact course to apply the retribution; but in the supposed case, it must

come.

It became manifest, soon after the commencement of the war, that its progress would inevitably have the effect of freeing very many, if not all, the slaves of the Southern States. The President's attention was therefore directed at an early day to the proper disposition of those who should thus be freed. As his Messages show, he was strongly in favor of colonizing them, with their own consent, in some country where they could be relieved from the embarrassments occasioned by the hostile prejudices of the whites, and enter upon a career of their own. In consequence of his urgent representations upon this subject, Congress at its session of 1862 passed an act placing at his disposal the sum of $600,000 to be expended, in his discretion, in removing, with their own consent, free persons of African descent to some country which they might select as adapted to their condition and necessities.

On the 14th of August, 1862, the President received a deputation of colored persons, with whom he had an interview on the subject, of which one of the parties interested has made the following record :

WASHINGTON, Thursday, August 14, 1862. This afternoon the President of the United States gave an audience to a Committee of colored men at the White House. They were introduced by Rev. J. Mitchell, Commissioner of Emigration. E. M. Thomas, the Chairman, remarked that they were there by invitation to hear what the Executive had to say to them.

Having all been seated, the President, after a few preliminary observations, informed them that a sum of money had been appropriated by Congress, and placed at his disposition, for the purpose of aiding the

« PreviousContinue »