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and received speedy action. One was the matter of a broader policy regarding slavery (to be noticed later): the other, the appointment of a General-in-chief of all the armies. On the 11th of July the selection of Major-General Halleck for this position was officially announced.
Dealing with the "Fundamental Cause"- Three Notable
In his message of the previous December the President had plainly enough indicated his conviction that it might become necessary to deal more radically with the fundamental cause of the war. Three months later (March 6, 1862) he sent a special message to Congress, recommending the passage of a joint resolution declaring:
That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
In favor of this proposal he urged the effect which the “initiation of emancipation” would have upon the insurgents, and as to the financial side of the question, suggested that “very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase at fair valuation all the slaves" in any State. Quoting from his December message the words, "the Union must be preserved; and hence all indispensable means must be employed,” he added: “I said this not hastily, but deliberately." At his request a number of Senators and Repre
sentatives from the Border slaveholding States met him soon after for conference on the subject. There was respectful attention to his views, with no sympathetic response. When told that Greeley's Tribune understood the proposition to mean that the Border States “must accept gradual emancipation on the basis suggested, or get something worse,” he disclaimed any intended menace. Mr. Crittenden assured him, as the interview was closing, that, whatever might be the final action of those present, all thought him to be “solely moved by a high patriotism and a sincere devotion to the happiness and glory of his country.”* The question was considered in the House of Representatives the next day (March 11th), and the resolution, after some sarcastic comments by Thaddeus Stevens, was adopted, 97 to 36 — five Southern members voting yea. It was concurred in by the Senate a month afterward, receiving the President's signature on the roth of April.
An order of General Hunter (May 9th) proclaimed that "slavery and martial law” (which he had established in his department) are in a free country "altogether incompatible," and that the persons “in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina heretofore held as slaves are therefore declared forever free."
To Secretary Chase, who advised that this be approved (as he thought Fremont's similar action should have been), Lincoln pointedly answered: “No commanding General shall do such a thing upon my responsibility without consulting me.” In his proclamation disclaiming
* Mr. Crisfield, of Maryland, made an extended memorandum of this interview at the time, which Mr. Crittenden indorsed as correct.
and annulling this part of Hunter's order, the President recited the above resolution adopted by Congress on his recommendation, and made this earnest appeal to the people of the Border States:
The resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large majorities in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentic, definite and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most immediately interested in the subject-matter. To the people of those States I now earnestly appeal. I do not argue — I beseech you to make arguments for yourselves. You can not, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as in the providence of God it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.
Already slavery had been doomed in the District of Columbia. Senator Wilson's bill for that purpose passed the Senate early in April, and was concurred in by the House of Representatives on the 11th of that month. In announcing his approval (on the 16th), the President stated in a brief message to Congress that he had “never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this District,” and expressed his gratification that the two principles of compensation and colonization are both recognized and practically applied in the act."
In the Senate, Mr. Trumbull's Confiscation bill, and in the House other proposals of kindred character, occu
pied much time during the session. Finally a bill which was adjusted by conference and passed (entitled “An act to suppress treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes,") was sent to the Executive only a few days before the adjournment. He found it objectionable in some particulars, and prepared a veto message, but this was obviated by the passage of a joint resolution which relieved the measure of his chief objections, so that he signed the two enactments as a whole. In communicating his approval (July 17th), he sent to Congress the message originally prepared in explanation of his position. “There is much in the bill," he said, “to which I perceive no objection. It is wholly prospective, and it touches neither person nor property of any loyal citizen, in which particulars it is just and proper.” To the sections providing for the conviction and punishment of persons who shall be guilty of treason, and persons who shall “incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof," he saw no objection, “especially as such persons would be within the general pardoning power,” as well as within the special provision for pardon and amnesty contained in the act. As to the provision of the act that the slaves of persons convicted under these sections shall be free, he said:
I think there is an unfortunate form of expression, rather than a substantial objection, in this. It is startling to say that Congress can free a slave within a State, and yet if it were said the ownership of a slave had first been transferred to the nation, and Congress had then liberated him, the difficulty would at once vanish. And this is the real case. I perceive no objection to Congress deciding in advance