« PreviousContinue »
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 Kentacky, 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 arms against the Union and Constitution could claim the pro tection 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 which the war was waged. After a protracted debate, that section of the bill which related to this subject was passed—ayes sixty, noes forty-eight-in the following form :
That whenever, hereafter, during the present insurrection against the Government of the United States, any person claimed to be held to labor or service under the laws of any State, shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due, or by the lawful agent of such person, to take up arms against the United States, or shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, or his lawful agent, to work or to be employed in or upon any fort, navy-yard, dock, armory, ship, or intrenchment, or in any military or naval service whatever, against the Government and lawful authority of the United States, then, and in every such case, thu person to whom such service is claimed to be due, shall forfeit his claim to such labor, any law of the State, or of the United States, to the contrary notwithstanding; and whenever thereafter the person claiming such labor or service shall seek to enforce his claim, it shall be a full and sussi. cient answer to such claim that the person whose service or labor is claimed, had been employed in hostile service against the Government of the United States, contrary to the provisions of this act.
Congress closed its extra session on the 6th of August. It had taken the most vigorous and effective measures for the suppression of the rebellion, having clothed the President with even greater power than he had asked for in the prosecution of the war, and avoided with just fidelty all points which could divide and weaken the loyal sentiment of the country. The people responded with hearty applause to the patriotic action of their representatives. The universal temper of the country was one of buoyancy and hope. Throughout the early part of the summer the rebels had been steadily pushing troops through Virginia to the borders of the Potomac, menacing the National Capital with capture, until in the latter part of June they had an army of not far from thirty-five thousand men, holding a strong position along the Bull Run Creek-its left posted at Winchester, and its right resting at Manassas. It was determined to attack this force and drive it from the vicinity of Washington, and the general belief of the country was that this would substantially end the war. The National army, numbering about thirty thousand men, moved from the Potomac, on the 16th of July, under General McDowell, and the main attack was made on the 21st. It resulted in the defeat, with a loss of four hundred and eighty killed and one thousand wounded, of our forces, and their falling back, in the utmost disorder and confusion, upon Washington. Our army was completely routed, and if the rebel forces had known the extent of their success, and had been in condition to avail them selves of it with vigor and energy, the Capital would easily have fallen into their hands.
The result of this battle took the whole country by surprise. The most sanguine expectations of a prompt and decisive victory had been universally entertained ; and
the actual issue first revealed to the people the prospect of a long and bloody war. But the public heart was not in the least discouraged. On the contrary, the effect was to rouse still higher the courage and determination of the people. No one dreamed for an instant of submission. The most vigorous efforts were made to reorganize the army, to increase its numbers by volunteering, and to establish a footing for National troops at various points along the rebel coast. On the 28th of August Fort Hatteras was surrendered to the National forces, and on the 31st of October Port Royal, on the coast of South Carolina, fell into possession of the United States. On the 3d of December Ship Island, lying between Mobile and New Orleans, was occupied. Preparations were also made for an expedition against New Orleans, and by a series of combined movements the rebel forces were driven out of Western Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri — States in which the population had from the beginning of the contest been divided in sentiment and action.
On the 31st of October General Scott, finding himself unable, in consequence of illness and advancing age, to take the field or discharge the duties imposed by the enlarging contest, resigned his position as commander of the army, in the following letter to the Secretary of War:
HEAD-QUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
. } The Hon. S. CAMERON, Secretary of War:
SIB:For more than three years I have been unable, from a hurt, to mount- a horse, or to walk more than a few paces at a time, and that with much pain. Other and new infirmities—dropsy and vertigo-admonish me that repose of mind and body, with the appliances of surgery and medicine, are necessary to add a little more to a life already protracted mnch beyond the usual span of man.
It is under such circumstances-made doubly painful by the unnatural and unjust rebellion now raging in the Southern States of our (so late) pros perous and happy Union—that I am compelled to request that my name may be placed on the list of army officers retired from active service.
As this request is founded on an absolute right, granted by a recent act of Congress, I am entirely at liberty to say it is with deep regret that I withdraw myself, in these momentous times, from the orders of a President who has treated me with distinguished kindness and courtesy, vhon: I know, upon much personal intercourse, to be patriotic, without sectional partialities or prejudices; to be highly conscientions in the performance of every duty, and of unrivalled activity and perseverance.
And to you, Mr. Secretary, whom I now officially address for the last time, I beg to acknowledge my many obligationis, for the uniform high consideration I have received at your hands; and have the honor to remain, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,
President Lincoln waited upon General Scott at his residence, accompanied by his Cabinet, and made personal expression to him of the deep regret which he, in common with the whole country, felt in parting with a public servant so venerable in years and so illustrious for the services he had rendered. He also issued the following order :
On the first day of November, 1861, upon his own application to the President of the United States, Brevet Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott is ordered to be placed, and hereby is placed, upon the list of retired officers of the army of the United States, without reduction of his current pay, subsistence, or allowances.
The American people will hear with sadness and deep emotion that General Scott has withdrawn from the active control of the army, while the President and unanimous Cabinet express their own and the Nation's sympathy in his personal affliction, and their profound sense of the important public services rendered by him to his country during his long and brilliant career, among which will ever be gratefully distinguished his faithful devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN. The command of the army then devolved by appoint ment upon Major-General McClellan, who had been re called from Western Virginia after the battle of Bull Run, and had devoted himself to the task of recruiting the army in front of Washington, and preparing it for the defence of the Capital, and for a fresh advance upon the forces of the rebellion.
It cannot have escaped attention that thus far, in its policy concerning the war, the Government had been very greatly influenced by a desire to prevent the Border Slave States from joining the rebel confederacy. Their accession would have added immensely to the forces of the rebellion, and would have increased very greatly the labor and difficulty of its suppression. The Administration and Congress had, therefore, avoided, so far as possible, any measures in regard to slavery whith could needlessly excite the hostile prejudices of the people of the Border States. The Confiscation Act affected only those slaves who should be “required or permitted” by their masters to render service to the rebel cause. It did not in any respect change the condition of any others. The President, in the Executive Department, acted upon the same principle. The question first arose in Virginia, simultaneously at Fortress Monroe, and in the western part of the State. On the 26th of May, General McClellan issued an address to the people of the district under his com mand, in which he said to them, “Understand one thing clearly: not only will we abstain from all interference with your slaves, but we will, on the contrary, with an iron hand crush any attempt at insurrection on their part." On the 27th of May, General Butler, in command at Fortress Monroe, wrote to the Secretary of War that he was greatly embarrassed by the number of slaves that were coming in from the surrounding country and seeking protection within the lines of his camp. He had determined to regard them as contraband of war, and to em. ploy their labor at a fair compensation, against which should be charged the expense of their support-tho relative value to be adjusted afterwards. The Secretary of War, in a letter dated May 30th, expressed the approval by the Government of the course adopted by General Butler, and directed him, on the one hand, to “permit no interference by the persons under his command with the relations of persons held to service under the laws of any State," and on the other, to “refrain from surrendering to alleged masters any such persons who might come within his lines."