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important successes could not have been achieved when it was, without the aid of black soldiers."
And in the same letter is the following graphic and thrilling statement: "Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time.... And then there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation, while I fear there will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they strove to hinder it.” 24
December 8th, 1863, after the employment of colored soldiers in the army had been for eleven months in operation, in his annual message to Congress, the President stated that a hundred thousand colored soldiers were connected with the Union Army, that they were “as good soldiers as any,” that "no servile insurrection, or tendency to violence or cruelty, has marked the measures of emancipation and arming the blacks," and that their employment by the Government had taken from the resources of the Rebellion and added to the strength and success of the Union forces. "Tennessee and Arkansas,” said he, “have been substantially cleared of insurgent control and influential citizens in each, owners of slaves and advocates of slavery at the beginning of the Rebellion now declare openly for emancipation in their respective states.” "In Maryland and Missouri the people who had been favorable to slavery and to its unhindered extension into the territories of the nation, only dispute now as to the best mode of removing it within their own limits." And to these statements of achievement under the Emancipation policy with seeming relief and gratitude, he added: “The crisis which threatened to defeat the friends of the Union is
24 Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. IX., pp. 101-102. 25 Ibid., pp. 246-247.
April 4th, 1864-four months after the beforementioned message to Congress in the Hodges letter Mr. Lincoln said: "More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force-no loss by it any how or any where. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen and laborers. These are palpable facts about which, as facts, there can be no caviling. We have the men; and we could not have had them without the measure." 26
August 15th, 1864, after the Emancipation policy had been in operation more than a year and a half, in an interview with General John T. Mills, President Lincoln said: “There are now in the service of the United States nearly one hundred and fifty thousand able-bodied colored men, most of them under arms, defending and acquiring Union territory.
Abandon all the posts now garrisoned by black men, take one hundred and fifty thousand men from our side and put them in the battlefield or cornfield against us, and we would be compelled to abandon the war in three weeks.
No human power can subdue this Rebellion without the use of the Emancipation policy and every other policy calculated to weaken the moral and physical force of the Rebellion. Freedom has given us one hundred and fifty thousand men raised on Southern soil. It will give us more yet. Just so much it has subtracted from the enemy, and, instead of alienating the South there are now evidences of a fraternal feeling growing up between our men and the rank and file of the rebel soldiers. Let my enemies prove to the country that the destruction of slavery is not necessary to the restoration of the Union. I will abide the issue." 27
Many strong and stubborn influences combined to delay the adoption of the Emancipation policy, but Mr. Lincoln was not chargeable with that delay. Upon those who from
28 Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. X., p. 65.
27 Ibid., p. 191.
whatever motive opposed emancipation rested the responsibility for the prolonged withholding by the President of the proclamation of freedom. As soon as he could do so legally and effectively Mr. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Respecting this in his interview with George Thompson, he said: “It is my conviction that, had the proclamation been issued even six months earlier than it was, public sentiment would not have sustained it. Just so, as to the subsequent action in reference to enlisting blacks in the Border States. The step taken sooner, could not, in my judgment, have been carried out. . We have seen this great revolution in public sentiment slowly but surely progressing so that, when the final action came, the opposition was not strong enough to defeat the purpose.
But, although that “opposition" could not "defeat the purpose,” it could and did delay the issuing of the proclamation of which Mr. Lincoln said: "It is the central act of my administration and the great event of the nineteenth century.”
But important and helpful as was that proclamation it could not make any portion of the nation free territory. It applied to slaves but not to slavery. It freed all the slaves in the insurgent states and it pledged the national Government to "recognize and maintain" their freedom. But it could not repeal nor modify the constitutions and laws of those states granting the right to hold slaves. Slaves were regarded and dealt with as property, and as such they could be given freedom as an act of war. But the right to hold slaves in those states being granted by state constitutions and laws would remain untouched by the proclamation and would be in full force upon the return of peace and the restoration of normal conditions. Those who had been made free by the proclamation could not be again enslaved, but others could be under the constitutions and laws authorizing slavery. The general Government as an act of war could take all the horses owned in the insurgent states, but it could not deny the people of those states the right to hold property in horses after peace was restored. No more could the General Government deny or abridge the right to hold property in slaves in the insurgent states when there was no "military necessity” for so doing. Under the rights “reserved to the states” by the national Constitution the property rights of the property in times of peace were untouched by the Emancipation Proclamation. Proslavery people in the insurgent states who were opposed to emancipation understood all this and declared their purpose to re-establish slavery when peace should be restored.
28 Six Months in the White House, p. 77.
This purpose was expressed by Senator Garrett Davis of Kentucky, when, in a speech in the senate, he said: “If you should liberate the slaves in the rebellious States, the moment you reorganize the white inhabitants of these states, as states of the Union, they would reduce these slaves again to a state of slavery, or they would expel them, or hunt them like wild beasts and exterminate them."
In President Lincoln's strong testimony to the validity and effectiveness of the Emancipation Proclamation, he never stated nor intimated that it accomplished all that was in his heart to achieve respecting slavery. He regarded and declared slavery to be "the root of the Rebellion," and he was fully convinced that the future peace and prosperity of the nation required that it be utterly exterminated. But he did not issue the Emancipation Proclamation with the expectation that it would destroy slavery, although he cherished the hope that it would be followed by other measures that would accomplish that result.
Therefore, in the preliminary proclamation President Lincoln stated his purpose to recommend in his next annual message to Congress such action as would tend to promote the abolition of slavery by the loyal slave-holding states. And from that day he was untiring in his efforts to encourage and aid such action in states not included in the Emancipation Proclamation.