Then occurred the agitation over the organization of Territorial governments for Oregon, California, and New Mexico, and the strong effort to extend to the Pacific Ocean the Missouri-Compromise line of 36 30', and to extend to all future Territorial organizations the principles of that compromise.
Then came the struggle in 1850, over the admission of California as a State, and New Mexico and Utah to Territorial organization—ending in the passage of Clay's Compromise measures of 1850.
Yet still the Southern Conspirators—whose forces, both in Congress and out, were now well-disciplined, compacted, solidified, experienced, and bigotedly enthusiastic and overbearing—were not satisfied. It was not their intention to be satisfied with anything less than the destruction of the Union and of our Republican form of Government. The trouble was only beginning, and, so far, almost everything had progressed to their liking. The work must proceed.
In 1852-3 they commenced the Kansas-Nebraska agitation; and, what with their incessant political and colonizing movements in those Territories; the frequent and dreadful atrocities committed by their tools, the Border-ruffians; the incessant turmoil created by cruelties to their Fugitive-slaves; their persistent efforts to change the Supreme Court to their notions; these-with the decision and opinion of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case—together worked the Slavery question up to a dangerous degree of heat, by the year 1858.
And, by 1860—when the people of the Free States, grown sick unto death of the rule of the Slave-power in the General Government, arose in their political might, and shook off this "Old Man of the Sea," electing, beyond cavil and by the Constitutional mode, to the Presidential office, a man who thoroughly represented in himself their conscience, on the one hand, which instinctively revolted against human Slavery as a wrong committed against the laws of God, and their sense of justice and equity on the other, which would not lightly overlook, or interfere with vested rights under the Constitution and the laws of man—the Conspirators had reached the point at which they had been aiming ever since that failure in 1832 of their first attempt at Disunion, in South Carolina.
They had now succeeded in irritating both the Free and the Slave-holding Sections of our Country against each other, to an almost unbearable point; had solidified the Southern States on the Slavery and Free-Trade questions; and at last—the machinations of these same Conspirators having resulted in a split in the Democratic Party, and the election of the Republican candidate to the Presidency, as the embodiment of the preponderating National belief in Freedom and equality to all before the Law, with Protection to both Labor and Capital—they also had the pretext for which they had both been praying and scheming and preparing all those long, long years—they, and some of their fathers before them.
It cannot be too often repeated that to secure a Monarchy, or at least an Oligarchy, over which the leading Conspirators should rule for life —whether that Monarchy or that Oligarchy should comprise the States of the South by themselves, or all the States on a new basis of Union—was the great ultimate aim of the Conspirators; and this could be secured only by first disrupting the then existing Republican Union of Republican States.
The doctrine of the right of Secession had now long been taught, and had become a part of the Southern Slave-holders' Democratic creed, as fully as had the desirability of Slavery and Free-Trade—and even many of the Northern Democrats, and some Republicans as well, were not much inclined to dispute, although they cared not to canvass, the point.
The programme of action was therefore much the same as had been laid down in the first attempt in 1832:—first South Carolina would secede and declare her independence; then the other Slave States in quick succession would do likewise; then a new Constitution for a solid Southern Union; then, if necessary, a brief War to cement it—which would end, of course, in the independence of the South at least, but more probably in the utter subjugation and humiliation of the Free States.
When the time should come, during or after this War—as come, in their belief, it would—for a change in the form of Government, then they could seize the first favorable occasion and change it. At present, however, the cry must be for "independence." That accomplished, the rest would be easy. And until that independence was accomplished, no terms of any sort, no settlement of any kind, were either to be proposed or accepted by them.
These were their dreams, their ambitions, their plans; and the tenacious courage with which they stuck to them "through thick and thin," through victory and disaster, were worthy of a better cause.
While, therefore, the pretexts for Secession were "Slavery" and "Free-Trade"—both of which were alleged to be jeopardized in the election and inauguration of Abraham Lincoln—yet, no sooner had hostilities commenced between the seceding States and the Union, than they declared to the World that their fight was not for Slavery, but for Independence.
They dared not acknowledge to the World that they fought for Slavery, lest the sympathies of the World should be against them. But it was well understood by the Southern masses, as well as the other people of the Union, that both Slavery and Free-Trade were involved in the fight —as much as independence, and the consequent downfall of the Union.
President Lincoln, however, had made up his mind to do all he properly could to placate the South. None knew better than he, the history of this Secession movement, as herein described. None knew better than he, the fell purpose and spirit of the Conspirators. Yet still, his kindly heart refused to believe that the madness of the Southern leaders was so frenzied, and their hatred of Free men, Free labor, and Free institutions, so implacable, that they would wilfully refuse to listen to reason and ever insist on absolutely inadmissible terms of reconciliation.
From the very beginning of his Administration, he did all that was possible to mollify their resentment and calm their real or pretended fears. Nor was this from any dread or doubt as to what the outcome of an armed Conflict would be; for, in his speech at Cincinnati, in the Autumn of 1859, he had said, while addressing himself to Kentuckians and other Southern men: "Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living; that you have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions; but man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us. You will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal it would likely be a drawn battle; but being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by attempting to master us."
And early in 1860, in his famous New York Cooper Institute speech he had said "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it." He plainly believed to the end, that "right makes might;" and he believed in the power of numbers—as also did Napoleon, if we may judge from his famous declaration that "The God of battles is always on the side of the heaviest battalions." Yet, so believing, President Lincoln exerted himself in all possible ways to mollify the South. His assurances, however, were far from satisfying the Conspirators. They never had been satisfied with anything in the shape of concession. They never would be. They had been dissatisfied with and had broken all the compacts and compromises, and had spit upon all the concessions, of the past; and nothing would now satisfy them, short of the impossible.
They were not satisfied now with Lincoln's promise that the Government would not assail them—organized as, by this time, they were into a so-called Southern "Confederacy" of States—and they proceeded accordingly to assail that Government which would not assail them. They opened fire on Fort Sumter.
This was done, as has duly appeared, in the hope that the shedding of blood would not only draw the States of the Southern Confederacy more closely together in their common cause, and prevent the return of any of them to their old allegiance, but also to so influence the wavering allegiance to the Union, of the Border States, as to strengthen that Confederacy and equivalently weaken that Union, by their Secession.
Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, of the Border States that were wavering, were thus gathered into the Confederate fold, by this policy of blood-spilling—carried bodily thither, by a desperate and frenzied minority, against the wishes of a patriotic majority.
Virginia, especially, was a great accession to the Rebel cause. She brought to it the prestige of her great name. To secure the active cooperation of "staid old Virginia," "the Mother of Statesmen," in the struggle, was, in the estimation of the Rebels, an assurance of victory to their cause. And the Secession of Virginia for a time had a depressing influence upon the friends of the Union everywhere.
The refusal of West Virginia to go with the rest of the State into Rebellion, was, to be sure, some consolation; and the checkmating of the Conspirators' designs to secure to the Confederacy the States of Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, helped the confidence of Union men. In fact, as long as the National Capital was secure, it was felt that the Union was still safe.
But while the Confederacy, by the firing upon Fort Sumter, and thus assailing that Government which Lincoln had promised would not assail the Rebels, had gained much in securing the aid of the States mentioned, yet the Union Cause, by that very act, had gained more. For the echoes of the Rebel guns of Fort Moultrie were the signal for such an uprising of the Patriots of the North and West and Middle States, as, for the moment, struck awe to the hearts of Traitors and inspired with courage and hopefulness the hearts of Union men throughout the Land.
Moreover it put the Rebels in their proper attitude, in the eyes of the World—as the first aggressors—and thus deprived them, to a certain extent, of that moral support from the outside which flows from sympathy.
Those echoes were the signal, not only of that call to arms which led to such an uprising, but for the simultaneous calling together of the Thirty-seventh Congress of the United States in Extra Session—the Congress whose measures ultimately enabled President Lincoln and the Union Armies to subdue the Rebellion and save the Union—the Congress whose wise and patriotic deliberations resulted in the raising of those gigantic Armies and Navies, and in supplying the unlimited means, through the Tariff and National Bank Systems and otherwise, by which those tremendous Forces could be both created and effectively operated —the Congress which cooperated with President Lincoln and those Forces in preparing the way for the destruction of the very corner-stone of the Confederacy, Slavery itself.
LINCOLN'S TROUBLES AND TEMPTATIONS.
The Rebels themselves, as has already been noted, by the employment of their Slaves in the construction of earthworks and other fortifications, and even in battle, at Bull Run and elsewhere, against the Union Forces, brought the Thirty-seventh Congress, as well as the Military Commanders, and the President, to an early consideration of the Slavery question. But it was none the less a question to be treated with the utmost delicacy.
The Union men, as well as the Secession-sympathizers, of Kentucky and Tennessee and Missouri and Maryland, largely believed in Slavery, or at least were averse to any interference with it. These, would not see that the right to destroy that unholy Institution could pertain to any authority, or be justified by any exigency; much less that, as held by some authorities, its existence ceased at the moment when its hands, or those of the State in which it had existed, were used to assail the General Government.
They looked with especial suspicion and distrust upon the guarded utterances of the President upon all questions touching the future of the Colored Race.
[At Faneuil Hall, Edward Everett is reported to have said, in October of 1864:
"It is very doubtful whether any act of the Government of the United States was necessary to liberate the Slaves in a State which is in Rebellion. There is much reason for the opinion that, by the simple act of levying War against the United States, the relation of Slavery was terminated; certainly, so far as concerns the duty of the United States to recognize it, or to refrain from interfering with it.
"Not being founded on the Law of Nature, and resting solely on positive Local Law—and that, not of the United States—as soon as it becomes either the motive or pretext of an unjust War against the Union—an efficient instrument in the hands of the Rebels for carrying on the War—source of Military strength to the Rebellion, and of danger to the Government at home and abroad, with the additional certainty that, in any event but its abandonment, it will continue, in all future time to work these mischiefs, who can suppose it is the duty of the United States to continue to recognize it.
"To maintain this would be a contradiction in terms. It would be two recognize a right in a Rebel master to employ his Slave in acts of Rebellion and Treason, and the duty of the Slave to aid and abet his master in the commission of the greatest crime known to the Law. No such absurdity can be admitted; and any citizen of the United States, from thee President down, who should, by any overt act, recognize the duty of a Slave to obey a Rebel master in a hostile operation, would himself be giving aid and comfort to the Enemy."]
They believed that when Fremont issued the General Order-heretofore given in full—in which that General declared that "The property, real and personal, of all persons, in the State of Missouri, who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their Slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared Free men," it must have been with the concurrence, if not at the suggestion, of the President; and, when the President subsequently, September 11,1861, made an open Order directing that this clause of Fremont's General Order, or proclamation, should be "so modified, held, and construed, as to conform to, and not to transcend, the provisions on the same subject contained in the Act of Congress entitled 'An Act to Confiscate Property used for Insurrectionary Purposes,' approved August 6, 1861," they still were not satisfied.
[The sections of the above Act, bearing upon the matter, are the first and fourth, which are in these words:
"That if, during the present or any future insurrection against the Government of the United States, after the President of the United States shall have declared, by proclamation, that the laws of the United States are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the power vested in the marshals by law, any person or persons, his, her, or their agent, attorney, or employee, shall purchase or acquire, sell or give, any property of whatsoever kind or description, with intent to use or employ the same, or suffer the same to be used or employed, in aiding, abetting, or promoting such insurrection or resistance to the laws, or any persons engaged therein; or if any person or persons, being the owner or owners of any such property, shall knowingly use or employ, or consent to the use or employment of the same as aforesaid, all such property is hereby declared to be lawful subject of prize and capture wherever found; and it shall be the duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be seized, confiscated and condemned."
* * * * * * * *
"SEC. 4. 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 law 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 Labor or Service 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, entrenchment, or in any Military or Naval service whatsoever, against the Government and lawful authority of the United States, then, and in every such case, the person to whom such Labor or 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 sufficient 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."
It seemed as impossible to satisfy these Border-State men as it had been to satisfy the Rebels themselves.
The Act of Congress, to which President Lincoln referred in his Order modifying Fremont's proclamation, had itself been opposed by them, under the lead of their most influential Representative and spokesman, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, in its passage through that Body. It did not satisfy them.
Neither had they been satisfied, when, within one year and four days after "Slavery opened its batteries of Treason, upon Fort Sumter," that National curse and shame was banished from the Nation's Capital by Congressional enactment.
They were not satisfied even with Mr. Lincoln's conservative suggestions embodied in the Supplemental Act.
Nor were they satisfied with the General Instructions, of October 14, 1861, from the War Department to its Generals, touching the employment of Fugitive Slaves within the Union Lines, and the assurance of just compensation to loyal masters, therein contained, although all avoidable interference with the Institution was therein reprobated.
Nothing satisfied them. It was indeed one of the most curious of the many phenomena of the War of the Rebellion, that when—as at the end of 1861—it had become evident, as Secretary Cameron held, that it "would be National suicide" to leave the Rebels in "peaceful and secure possession of Slave Property, more valuable and efficient to them for War, than forage, cotton, and Military stores," and that the Slaves coming within our lines could not "be held by the Government as Slaves," and should not be held as prisoners of War—still the loyal people of these Border-States, could not bring themselves to save that Union, which they professed to love, by legislation on this tender subject.
On the contrary, they opposed all legislation looking to any interference with such Slave property. Nothing that was proposed by Mr. Lincoln, or any other, on this subject, could satisfy them.
Congress enacted a law, approved March 13, 1862, embracing an additional Article of War, which prohibited all officers "from employing any of the forces under their respective Commands for the purpose of returning Fugitives from Service or Labor who may have escaped from any persons to whom such Service or Labor is claimed to be due," and prescribed that "Any officer who shall be found guilty by Court-Martial of violating this Article shall be dismissed from the Service." In both Houses, the loyal Border-State Representatives spoke and voted against its passage.
One week previously (March 6, 1862), President Lincoln, in an admirable Message, hitherto herein given at length, found himself driven to broach to Congress the subject of Emancipation. He had, in his First Annual Message (December, 1861), declared that "the Union must be preserved; and hence all indispensable means must be employed;" but now, as a part of the War Policy, he proposed to Congress the adoption of a Joint Resolution declaring "That the United States ought to cooperate 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."
It was high time, he thought, that the idea of a gradual, compensated Emancipation, should begin to occupy the minds of those interested, "so that," to use his own words, "they may begin to consider whether to accept or reject it," should Congress approve the suggestion.
Congress did approve, and adopt, the Joint-Resolution, as we know —despite the opposition from the loyal element of the Border States—an opposition made in the teeth of their concession that Mr. Lincoln, in recommending its adoption, was "solely moved by a high patriotism and sincere devotion to the glory of his Country."
But, consistently with their usual course, they went to the House of Representatives, fresh from the Presidential presence, and, with their ears still ringing with the common-sense utterances of the President, half of them voted against the Resolution, while the other half refrained from voting at all. And their opposition to this wise and moderate proposition was mainly based upon the idea that it carried with it a threat—a covert threat.
It certainly was a warning, taking it in connection with the balance of the Message, but a very wise and timely one.
These loyal Border-State men, however, could not see its wisdom, and at a full meeting held upon the subject decided to oppose it, as they afterward did. Its conciliatory spirit they could not comprehend; the kindly, temperate warning, they would not heed. The most moderate of them all,—[Mr. Crittenden of Kentucky.]—in the most moderate of his utterances, could not bring himself to the belief that this Resolution was "a measure exactly suited to the times."
[And such was the fatuity existing among the Slave-holders of the Border States, that not one of those Slave States had wisdom enough to take the liberal offer thus made by the General Government, of compensation. They afterward found their Slaves freed without compensation.]
So, also, one month later, (April 11, 1862), when the Senate Bill proposing Emancipation in the District of Columbia, was before the House, the same spokesman and leader of the loyal Border-State men opposed it strenuously as not being suited to the times. For, he persuasively protested: "I do not say that you have not the power; but would not that power be, at such a time as this, most unwisely and indiscreetly exercised. That is the point. Of all the times when an attempt was ever made to carry this measure, is not this the most inauspicious? Is it not a time when the measure is most likely to produce danger and mischief to the Country at large? So it seems to me."
It was not now, nor would it ever be, the time, to pass this, or any other measure, touching the Institution of Slavery, likely to benefit that Union to which these men professed such love and loyalty.
Their opposition, however, to the march of events, was of little avail —even when backed, as was almost invariably the case, by the other Democratic votes from the Free States. The opposition was obstructive, but not effectual. For this reason it was perhaps the more irritating to the Republicans, who were anxious to put Slavery where their great leader, Mr. Lincoln, had long before said it should be placed—"in course of ultimate extinction."
This very irritation, however, only served to press such Anti-Slavery Measures more rapidly forward. By the 19th of June, 1862, a Bill "to secure Freedom to all persons within the Territories of the United States"—after a more strenuous fight against it than ever, on the part of Loyal and Copperhead Democrats, both from the Border and Free States,—had passed Congress, and been approved by President Lincoln. It provided, in just so many words, "That, from and after the passage of this Act, there shall be neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the Territories of the United States now existing, or which may at any time hereafter be formed or acquired by the United States, otherwise than in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."
Here, then, at last, was the great end and aim, with which Mr. Lincoln and the Republican Party started out, accomplished. To repeat his phrase, Slavery was certainly now in course of ultimate extinction.
But since that doctrine had been first enunciated by Mr. Lincoln, events had changed the aspect of things. War had broken out, and the Slaves of those engaged in armed Rebellion against the authority of the United States Government, had been actually employed, as we have seen, on Rebel works and fortifications whose guns were trailed upon the Armies of the Union.
And now, the question of Slavery had ceased to be simply whether it should be put in course of ultimate extinction, but whether, as a War Measure—as a means of weakening the Enemy and strengthening the Union —the time had not already come to extinguish it, so far, at least, as the Slaves of those participating in the Rebellion, were concerned.
Congress, as has been heretofore noted, had already long and heatedly debated various propositions referring to Slavery and African Colonization, and had enacted such of them as, in its wisdom, were considered necessary; and was now entering a further stormy period of contention upon various other projects touching the Abolition of the Fugitive Slave Laws, the Confiscation of Rebel Property, and the Emancipation of Slaves—all of which, of course, had been, and would be, vehemently assailed by the loyal Border-States men and their Free-State Democratic allies.
This contention proceeded largely upon the lines of construction of that clause in the Constitution of the United States and its Amendments, which provides that no person shall be deprived of Life, Liberty, or Property, without due process of Law, etc. The one side holding that, since the beginning of our Government, Slaves had been, under this clause, Unconstitutionally deprived of their Liberty; the other side holding that Slaves being "property," it would be Unconstitutional under the same clause, to deprive the Slave-owner of his Slave property.
Mr. Crittenden, the leader of the loyal Border-States men in Congress, was at this time especially eloquent on this latter view of the Constitution. In his speech of April 23, 1862, in the House of Representatives, he even undertook to defend American Slavery under the shield of English Liberty!
Said he: "It is necessary for the prosperity of any Government, for peace and harmony, that every man who acquires property shall feel that he shall be protected in the enjoyment of it, and in his right to hold it. It elevates the man; it gives him a feeling of dignity. It is the great old English doctrine of Liberty. Said Lord Mansfield, the rain may beat against the cabin of an Englishman, the snow may penetrate it, but the King dare not enter it without the consent of its owner. That is the true English spirit. It is the source of England's power."
And again: "The idea of property is deeply seated in our minds. By the English Law and by the American Law you have the right to take the life of any man who attempts, by violence, to take your property from you. So far does the Spirit of these Laws go. Let us not break down this idea of property. It is the animating spirit of the Country. Indeed it is the Spirit of Liberty and Freedom."
There was at this time, a growing belief in the minds of these loyal Border-States men, that this question of Slavery-abolition was reaching a crisis. They saw "the handwriting on the wall," but left no stone unturned to prevent, or at least to avert for a time, the coming catastrophe. They egged Congress, in the language of the distinguished Kentuckian, to "Let these unnecessary measures alone, for the present;" and, as to the President, they now, not only volunteered in his defense, against the attacks of others, but strove also to capture him by their arch flatteries.
"Sir,"—said Mr. Crittenden, in one of his most eloquent bursts, in the House of Representatives,—"it is not my duty, perhaps, to defend the President of the United States. * * * I voted against Mr. Lincoln, and opposed him honestly and sincerely; but Mr. Lincoln has won me to his side. There is a niche in the Temple of Fame, a niche near to Washington, which should be occupied by the statue of him who shall, save this Country. Mr. Lincoln has a mighty destiny. It is for him, if he will, to step into that niche. It is for him to be but President of the People of the United States, and there will his statue be. But, if he choose to be, in these times, a mere sectarian and a party man, that niche will be reserved for some future and better Patriot. It is in his power to occupy a place next Washington,—the Founder, and the Preserver, side by side. Sir, Mr. Lincoln is no coward. His not doing what the Constitution forbade him to do, is no proof of his cowardice."
On the other hand, Owen Lovejoy, the fiery Abolitionist, the very next day after the above remarks of Mr. Crittenden were delivered in the House, made a great speech in reply, taking the position that "either Slavery, or the Republic, must perish; and the question for us to decide is, which shall it be?"
He declared to the House: "You cannot put down the rebellion and restore the Union, without destroying Slavery." He quoted the sublime language of Curran touching the Spirit of the British Law, which consecrates the soil of Britain to the genius of Universal Emancipation,
[In these words:
"I speak in the Spirit of the British law, which makes Liberty commensurate with, and inseparable from, the British soil; which proclaims even to the stranger and the sojourner the moment he sets his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius Of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION.
"No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced; no matter what complexion incompatible with Freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him; no matter in what disastrous battle his Liberty may have been cloven down; no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of Slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his Soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his Body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around him, and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled by the irresistible genius of UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION."]
And Cowper's verse, wherein the poet says:
"Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs Receive our air, that moment they are Free,"
—and, after expressing his solicitude to have this true of America, as it already was true of the District of Columbia, he proceeded to say:
"The gentleman from Kentucky says he has a niche for Abraham Lincoln. Where is it? He pointed upward! But, Sir, should the President follow the counsels of that gentleman, and become the defender and perpetuator of human Slavery, he should point downward to some dungeon in the Temple of Moloch, who feeds on human blood and is surrounded with fires, where are forged manacles and chains for human limbs—in the crypts and recesses of whose Temple, woman is scourged, and man tortured, and outside whose walls are lying dogs, gorged with human flesh, as Byron describes them stretched around Stamboul. That is a suitable place for the statue of one who would defend and perpetuate human Slavery."
And then—after saying that "the friends of American Slavery need not beslime the President with their praise. He is an Anti-Slavery man. He hates human Bondage "—the orator added these glowing words:
"I, too, have a niche for Abraham Lincoln; but it is in Freedom's Holy Fane, and not in the blood-besmeared Temple of human Bondage; not surrounded by Slaves, fetters and chains, but with the symbols of Freedom; not dark with Bondage, but radiant with the light of Liberty. In that niche he shall stand proudly, nobly, gloriously, with shattered fetters and broken chains and slave-whips beneath his feet. If Abraham Lincoln pursues the path, evidently pointed out for him in the providence of God, as I believe he will, then he will occupy the proud position I have indicated. That is a fame worth living for; ay, more, that is a fame worth dying for, though that death led through the blood of Gethsemane and the agony of the Accursed Tree. That is a fame which has glory and honor and immortality and Eternal Life. Let Abraham Lincoln make himself, as I trust he will, the Emancipator, the Liberator, as he has the opportunity of doing, and his name shall not only be enrolled in this Earthly Temple, but it will be traced on the living stones of that Temple which rears itself amid the Thrones and Hierarchies of Heaven, whose top-stone is to be brought in with shouting of 'Grace, grace unto it!'"
We have seen how the loyal Border-State men, through their chosen Representative—finding that their steady and unfaltering opposition to all Mr. Lincoln's propositions, while quite ineffectual, did not serve by any means to increase his respect for their peculiar kind of loyalty —offered him posthumous honors and worship if he would but do as they desired. Had they possessed the power, no doubt they would have taken him up into an exceeding high mountain and have offered to him all the Kingdoms of the Earth to do their bidding. But their temptations were of no avail.
President Lincoln's duty, and inclination alike—no less than the earnest importunities of the Abolitionists—carried him in the opposite direction; but carried him no farther than he thought it safe, and wise, to go. For, in whatever he might do on this burning question of Emancipation, he was determined to secure that adequate support from the People without which even Presidential Proclamations are waste paper.
But now, May 9, 1862, was suddenly issued by General Hunter, commanding the "Department of the South," comprising Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, his celebrated Order announcing Martial Law, in those States, as a Military Necessity, and—as "Slavery and Martial Law in a Free Country are altogether incompatible"—declaring all Slaves therein, "forever Free."
This second edition, as it were, of Fremont's performance, at once threw the loyal Border-State men into a terrible ferment. Again, they, and their Copperhead and other Democratic friends of the North, meanly professed belief that this was but a part of Mr. Lincoln's programme, and that his apparent backwardness was the cloak to hide his Anti-Slavery aggressiveness and insincerity.
How hurtful the insinuations, and even direct charges, of the day, made by these men against President Lincoln, must have been to his honest, sincere, and sensitive nature, can scarcely be conceived by those who did not know him; while, on the other hand, the reckless impatience of some of his friends for "immediate and universal Emancipation," and their complaints at his slow progress toward that goal of their hopes, must have been equally trying.
True to himself, however, and to the wise conservative course which he had marked out, and, thus far, followed, President Lincoln hastened to disavow Hunter's action in the premises, by a Proclamation, heretofore given, declaring that no person had been authorized by the United States Government to declare the Slaves of any State, Free; that Hunter's action in this respect was void; that, as Commander-in-chief he reserved solely to himself, the questions, first, as to whether he had the power to declare the Slaves of any State or States, Free, and, second, whether the time and necessity for the exercise of such supposed power had arrived. And then, as we may remember, he proceeded to cite the adoption, by overwhelming majorities in Congress, of the Joint Resolution offering pecuniary aid from the National Government to "any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of Slavery;" and to make a most earnest appeal, for support, to the Border-States and to their people, as being "the most interested in the subject matter."
In his Special Message to Congress,—[Of March 6, 1862.]—recommending the passage of that Joint Resolution, he had plainly and emphatically declared himself against sudden Emancipation of Slaves. He had therein distinctly said: "In my judgment, gradual, and not immediate, Emancipation, is better for all." And now, in this second appeal of his to the Border-States men, to patriotically close with the proposal embraced in that. Resolution, he said: "The changes 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!"
[The following letter, from Sumner, shows the impatience of some of the President's friends, the confidence he inspired in others nearer in his counsels, and how entirely, at this time, his mind was absorbed in his project for gradual and compensated Emancipation.]
"SENATE CHAMBER, June 5, 1862.
"MY DEAR SIR.—Your criticism of the President is hasty. I am confident that, if you knew him as I do, you would not make it. Of course the President cannot be held responsible for the misfeasances of subordinates, unless adopted or at least tolerated by him. And I am sure that nothing unjust or ungenerous will be tolerated, much less adopted, by him.
"I am happy to let you know that he has no sympathy with Stanly in his absurd wickedness, closing the schools, nor again in his other act of turning our camp into a hunting ground for Slaves. He repudiates both—positively. The latter point has occupied much of his thought; and the newspapers have not gone too far in recording his repeated declarations, which I have often heard from his own lips, that Slaves finding their way into the National lines are never to be Re-enslaved—This is his conviction, expressed without reserve.
"Could you have seen the President—as it was my privilege often —while he was considering the great questions on which he has already acted—the invitation to Emancipation in the States, Emancipation in the District of Columbia, and the acknowledgment of the Independence of Hayti and Liberia—even your zeal would have been satisfied, for you would have felt the sincerity of his purpose to do what he could to carry forward the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
"His whole soul was occupied, especially by the first proposition, which was peculiarly his own. In familiar intercourse with him, I remember nothing more touching than the earnestness and completeness with which he embraced this idea. To his mind, it was just and beneficent, while it promised the sure end of Slavery. Of course, to me, who had already proposed a bridge of gold for the retreating fiend, it was most welcome. Proceeding from the President, it must take its place among the great events of history.
"If you are disposed to be impatient at any seeming shortcomings, think, I pray you, of what has been done in a brief period, and from the past discern the sure promise of the future. Knowing something of my convictions and of the ardor with which I maintain them, you may, perhaps, derive some assurance from my confidence; I may say to you, therefore, stand by the Administration. If need be, help it by word and act, but stand by it and have faith in it.
"I wish that you really knew the President, and had heard the artless expression of his convictions on those questions which concern you so deeply. You might, perhaps, wish that he were less cautious, but you would be grateful that he is so true to all that you have at heart. Believe me, therefore, you are wrong, and I regret it the more because of my desire to see all our friends stand firmly together.
"If I write strongly it is because I feel strongly; for my constant and intimate intercourse with the President, beginning with the 4th of March, not only binds me peculiarly to his Administration, but gives me a personal as well as a political interest in seeing that justice is done him.
"Believe me, my dear Sir, with much regard, ever faithfully yours, "CHARLES SUMNER."
But stones are not more deaf to entreaty than were the ears of the loyal Border-State men and their allies to President Lincoln's renewed appeal. "Ephraim" was "wedded to his idols."
McClellan too—immediately after his retreat from the Chickahominy to the James River—seized the opportunity afforded by the disasters to our arms, for which he was responsible, to write to President Lincoln a letter (dated July 7, 1862) in which he admonished him that owing to the "critical" condition of the Army of the Potomac, and the danger of its being "overwhelmed" by the Enemy in front, the President must now substantially assume and exercise the powers of a Dictator, or all would be lost; that "neither Confiscation of property * * * nor forcible Abolition of Slavery, should be contemplated for a moment;" and that "A declaration of Radical views, especially upon Slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present Armies."
Harried, and worried, on all sides,—threatened even by the Commander of the Army of the Potomac,—it is not surprising, in view of the apparently irreconcilable attitude of the loyal Border-State men to gradual and compensated Emancipation, that the tension of President Lincoln's mind began to feel a measure of relief in contemplating Military Emancipation in the teeth of all such threats.
He had long since made up his mind that the existence of Slavery was not compatible with the preservation of the Union. The only question now was, how to get rid of it? If the worst should come to the worst —despite McClellan's threat—he would have to risk everything on the turn of the die—would have to "play his last card;" and that "last card" was Military Emancipation. Yet still he disliked to play it. The time and necessity for it had not yet arrived—although he thought he saw them coming.
[In the course of an article in the New York Tribune, August, 1885, Hon. George S. Boutwell tells of an interview in "July or early in August" of 1862, with President Lincoln, at which the latter read two letters: one from a Louisiana man "who claimed to be a Union man," but sought to impress the President with "the dangers and evils of Emancipation;" the other, Mr. Lincoln's reply to him, in which, says Mr. B., "he used this expression: 'you must not expect me to give up this Government without playing my last card.' Emancipation was his last card."]
Things were certainly, at this time, sufficiently unpromising to chill the sturdiest Patriot's heart. It is true, we had scored some important victories in the West; but in the East, our arms seemed fated to disaster after disaster. Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Pittsburg Landing, were names whose mention made the blood of Patriots to surge in their veins; and Corinth, too, had fallen. But in the East, McClellan's profitless campaign against Richmond, and especially his disastrous "change of base" by a "masterly" seven days' retreat, involving as many bloody battles, had greatly dispirited all Union men, and encouraged the Rebels and Rebel-sympathizers to renewed hopes and efforts.
And, as reverses came to the Union Arms, so seemed to grow proportionately the efforts, on all sides, to force forward, or to stave off, as the case might be, the great question of the liberation and arming of the Slaves, as a War Measure, under the War powers of the Constitution. It was about this time (July 12, 1862) that President Lincoln determined to make a third, and last, attempt to avert the necessity for thus emancipating and arming the Slaves. He invited all the Senators and Representatives in Congress from the Border-States, to an interview at the White House, and made to them the appeal, heretofore in these pages given at length.
It was an earnest, eloquent, wise, kindly, patriotic, fatherly appeal in behalf of his old proposition, for a gradual, compensated Emancipation, by the Slave States, aided by the resources of the National Government.
At the very time of making it, he probably had, in his drawer, the rough draft of the Proclamation which was soon to give Liberty to all the Colored millions of the Land.
[McPherson gives a letter, written from Washington, by Owen Lovejoy (Feb. 22, 1864), to Wm. Lloyd Garrison, in which the following passage occurs:
"Recurring to the President, there are a great many reports concerning him which seem to be reliable and authentic, which, after all, are not so. It was currently reported among the Anti-Slavery men of Illinois that the Emancipation Proclamation was extorted from him by the outward pressure, and particularly by the Delegation from the Christian Convention that met at Chicago.
"Now, the fact is this, as I had it from his own lips: He had written the Proclamation in the Summer, as early as June, I think —but will not be certain as to the precise time—and called his Cabinet together, and informed them he had written it and meant to make it, but wanted to read it to them for any criticism or remarks as to its features or details.
"After having done so, Mr. Seward suggested whether it would not be well for him to withhold its publication until after we had gained some substantial advantage in the Field, as at that time we had met with many reverses, and it might be considered a cry of despair. He told me he thought the suggestion a wise one, and so held on to the Proclamation until after the Battle of Antietam."]
Be that as it may, however, sufficient evidences exist, to prove that he must have been fully aware, at the time of making that appeal to the supposed patriotism of these Border-State men, how much, how very much, depended on the manner of their reception of it.
To him, that meeting was a very solemn and portentous one. He had studied the question long and deeply—not from the standpoint of his own mere individual feelings and judgment, but from that of fair Constitutional construction, as interpreted by the light of Natural or General Law and right reason. What he sought to impress upon them was, that an immediate decision by the Border-States to adopt, and in due time carry out, with the financial help of the General Government, a policy of gradual Emancipation, would simultaneously solve the two intimately-blended problems of Slavery-destruction and Union-preservation, in the best possible manner for the pockets and feelings of the Border-State Slave-holder, and for the other interests of both Border-State Slave-holder and Slave.
His great anxiety was to "perpetuate," as well as to save, to the People of the World, the imperiled form of Popular Government, and assure to it a happy and a grand future.
He begged these Congressmen from the Border-States, to help him carry out this, his beneficent plan, in the way that was best for all, and thus at the same time utterly deprive the Rebel Confederacy of that hope, which still possessed them, of ultimately gathering these States into their rebellious fold. And he very plainly, at the same time, confessed that he desired this relief from the Abolition pressure upon him, which had been growing more intense ever since he had repudiated the Hunter proclamation.
But the President's earnest appeal to these loyal Representatives in Congress from the Border-States, was, as we have seen, in vain. It might as well have been made to actual Rebels, for all the good it did. For, a few days afterward, they sent to him a reply signed by more than two-thirds of those present, hitherto given at length in these pages, in which-after loftily sneering at the proposition as "an interference by this Government with a question which peculiarly and exclusively belonged to" their "respective States, on which they had not sought advice or solicited aid," throwing doubts upon the Constitutional power of the General Government to give the financial aid, and undertaking by statistics to prove that it would absolutely bankrupt the Government to give such aid,—they insultingly declared, in substance, that they could not "trust anything to the contingencies of future legislation," and that Congress must "provide sufficient funds" and place those funds in the President's hands for the purpose, before the Border-States and their people would condescend even to "take this proposition into careful consideration, for such decision as in their judgment is demanded by their interest, their honor, and their duty to the whole Country."
Very different in tone, to be sure, was the minority reply, which, after stating that "the leaders of the Southern Rebellion have offered to abolish Slavery among them as a condition to Foreign Intervention in favor of their Independence as a Nation," concluded with the terse and loyal deduction: "If they can give up Slavery to destroy the Union, we can surely ask our people to consider the question of Emancipation to save the Union."
But those who signed this latter reply were few, among the many. Practically, the Border-State men were a unit against Mr. Lincoln's proposition, and against its fair consideration by their people. He asked for meat, and they gave him a stone.
Only a few days before this interview, President Lincoln—alarmed by the report of McClellan, that the magnificent Army of the Potomac under his command, which, only three months before, had boasted 161,000 men, had dwindled down to not more than "50,000 men left with their colors"—had been to the front, at Harrison's Landing, on the James river, and, although he had not found things quite so disheartening as he had been led to believe, yet they were bad enough, for only 86,000 men were found by him on duty, while 75,000 were unaccounted for—of which number 34,4172 were afterward reported as "absent by authority."
This condition of affairs, in connection with the fact that McClellan was always calling for more troops, undoubtedly had its influence in bringing Mr. Lincoln's mind to the conviction, hitherto mentioned, of the fast-approaching Military necessity for Freeing and Arming the Slaves.
It was to ward this off, if possible, that he had met and appealed to the Border-State Representatives. They had answered him with sneers and insults; and nothing was left him but the extreme course of almost immediate Emancipation.
Long and anxiously he had thought over the matter, but the time for action was at hand.
And now, it cannot be better told, than in President Lincoln's own words, as given to the portrait-painter Carpenter, and recorded in the latter's, "Six months in the White House," what followed:
"It had got to be," said he, "midsummer, 1862. Things had gone on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics, or lose the game!
"I now determined upon the adoption of the Emancipation Policy; and, without consultation with, or the knowledge of, the Cabinet, I prepared the original draft of the Proclamation, and, after much anxious thought, called a Cabinet meeting upon the subject. This was the last of July, or the first part of the month of August, 1862." (The exact date he did not remember.)
"This Cabinet meeting took place, I think, upon a Saturday. All were present, excepting Mr. Blair, the Postmaster-General, who was absent at the opening of the discussion, but came in subsequently. I said to the Cabinet, that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of a Proclamation before them; suggestions as to which would be in order, after they had heard it read.
"Mr. Lovejoy was in error" when he stated "that it excited no comment, excepting on the part of Secretary Seward. Various suggestions were offered. Secretary Chase wished the language stronger, in reference to the arming of the Blacks. Mr. Blair, after he came in, deprecated the policy, on the ground that it would cost the Administration the fall elections.
"Nothing, however, was offered, that I had not already fully anticipated and settled in my own mind, until Secretary Seward spoke. He said in substance: 'Mr. President, I approve of the Proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The depression of the public mind, consequent upon our repeated reverses, is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last Measure of an exhausted Government, a cry for help, the Government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the Government.'
"His idea," said the President "was that it would be considered our last shriek, on the retreat." (This was his precise expression.) "' Now,' continued Mr. Seward, 'while I approve the Measure, I suggest, Sir, that you postpone its issue, until you can give it to the Country supported by Military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the War!'"
Mr. Lincoln continued: "The wisdom of the view of the Secretary of State, struck me with very great force. It was an aspect of the case that, in all my thought upon the subject, I had entirely overlooked. The result was that I put the draft of the Proclamation aside, as you do your sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory."
It may not be amiss to interrupt the President's narration to Mr. Carpenter, at this point, with a few words touching "the Military Situation."
After McClellan's inexplicable retreat from before the Rebel Capital —when, having gained a great victory at Malvern Hills, Richmond would undoubtedly have been ours, had he but followed it up, instead of ordering his victorious troops to retreat like "a whipped Army"—[See General Hooker's testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War.]—his recommendation, in the extraordinary letter (of July 7th) to the President, for the creation of the office of General-in-Chief, was adopted, and Halleck, then at Corinth, was ordered East, to fill it.
Pope had previously been called from the West, to take command of the troops covering Washington, comprising some 40,000 men, known as the Army of Virginia; and, finding cordial cooperation with McClellan impossible, had made a similar suggestion.
Soon after Halleck's arrival, that General ordered the transfer of the Army of the Potomac, from Harrison's Landing to Acquia creek—on the Potomac—with a view to a new advance upon Richmond, from the Rappahannock river.
While this was being slowly accomplished, Lee, relieved from fears for Richmond, decided to advance upon Washington, and speedily commenced the movement.
On the 8th of August, 1862, Stonewall Jackson, leading the Rebel advance, had crossed the Rapidan; on the 9th the bloody Battle of Cedar Mountain had been fought with part of Pope's Army; and on the 11th, Jackson had retreated across the Rapidan again.
Subsequently, Pope having retired across the Rappahannock, Lee's Forces, by flanking Pope's Army, again resumed their Northern advance. August 28th and 29th witnessed the bloody Battles of Groveton and Gainesville, Virginia; the 30th saw the defeat of Pope, by Lee, at the second great Battle of Bull Run, and the falling back of Pope's Army toward Washington; and the succeeding Battle of Chantilly took place September 1, 1862.
It is not necessary at this time to even touch upon the causes and agencies which brought such misfortune to the Union Arms, under Pope. It is sufficient to say here, that the disaster of the second Bull Run was a dreadful blow to the Union Cause, and correspondingly elated the Rebels.
Jefferson Davis, in transmitting to the Rebel Congress at Richmond, Lee's victorious announcements, said, in his message: "From these dispatches it will be seen that God has again extended His shield over our patriotic Army, and has blessed the cause of the Confederacy with a second signal victory, on the field already memorable by the gallant achievement of our troops."
Flushed with victory, but wisely avoiding the fortifications of the National Capital, Lee's Forces now swept past Washington; crossed the Potomac, near Point of Rocks, at its rear; and menaced both the National Capital and Baltimore.
Yielding to the apparent necessity of the moment, the President again placed. McClellan in command of the Armies about Washington, to wit: the Army of the Potomac; Burnside's troops that had come up from North Carolina; what remained of Pope's Army of Virginia; and the large reinforcements from fresh levies, constantly and rapidly pouring in.
[This was probably about the time of the occurrence of an amusing incident, touching Lincoln, McClellan, and the fortifications around Washington, afterward told by General J. G. Barnard, then Chief of Engineers on the staff of General George B. McClellan. —See New York Tribune, October 21, 1885. It seems that the fortifications having been completed, McClellan invited Mr. Lincoln and his Cabinet to inspect them. "On the day appointed," said Barnard, "the Inspection commenced at Arlington, to the Southwest of Washington, and in front of the Enemy. We followed the line of the works southerly, and recrossed the Potomac to the easterly side of the river, and continued along the line easterly of Washington and into the heaviest of all the fortifications on the northerly side of Washington. When we reached this point the President asked General McClellan to explain the necessity of so strong a fortification between Washington and the North.
"General McClellan replied: 'Why, Mr. President, according to Military Science it is our duty to guard against every possible or supposable contingency that may arise. For example, if under any circumstances, however fortuitous, the Enemy, by any chance or freak, should, in a last resort, get in behind Washington, in his efforts to capture the city, why, there the fort is to defend it.'
"'Yes, that's so General,' said the President; 'the precaution is doubtless a wise one, and I'm glad to get so clear an explanation, for it reminds me of an interesting question once discussed for several weeks in our Lyceum, or Moot Court, at Springfield, Ill., soon after I began reading law.'
"'Ah!' says General McClellan. 'What question was that, Mr. President?'
"'The question,' Mr. Lincoln replied, 'was, "Why does man have breasts?"' and he added that after many evenings' debate, the question was submitted to the presiding Judge, who wisely decided 'That if under any circumstances, however fortuitous, or by any chance or freak, no matter of what nature or by what cause, a man should have a baby, there would be the breasts to nurse it.'"]
Yet, it was not until the 17th of September that the Battle of Antietam was fought, and Lee defeated—and then only to be allowed to slip back, across the Potomac, on the 18th—McClellan leisurely following him, across that river, on the 2nd of November!
[Arnold, in his "Life of Abraham Lincoln," says that President Lincoln said of him: "With all his failings as a soldier, McClellan is a pleasant and scholarly gentleman. He is an admirable Engineer, but" he added, "he seems to have a special talent for a stationary Engine."]
On the 5th, McClellan was relieved,—Burnside taking the command,—and Union men breathed more freely again.
But to return to the subject of Emancipation. President Lincoln's own words have already been given—in conversation with Carpenter—down to the reading of the Proclamation to his Cabinet, and Seward's suggestion to "wait for a victory" before issuing it, and how, adopting that advice, he laid the Proclamation aside, waiting for a victory.
"From time to time," said Mr. Lincoln, continuing his narration, "I added or changed a line, touching it up here and there, anxiously waiting the progress of events. Well, the next news we had was of Pope's disaster at Bull Run. Things looked darker than ever. Finally, came the week of the Battle of Antietam. I determined to wait no longer.
"The news came, I think, on Wednesday, that the advantage was on our side. I was then staying at the Soldiers' Home (three miles out of Washington.) Here I finished writing the second draft of the preliminary Proclamation; came up on Saturday; called the Cabinet together to hear it; and it was published the following Monday."
It is not uninteresting to note, in this connection, upon the same authority, that at the final meeting of the Cabinet prior to this issue of the Proclamation, when the third paragraph was read, and the words of the draft "will recognize the Freedom of such Persons," were reached, Mr. Seward suggested the insertion of the words "and maintain" after the word "recognize;" and upon his insistence, the President said, "the words finally went in."
At last, then, had gone forth the Fiat—telegraphed and read throughout the Land, on that memorable 22d of September, 1862—which, with the supplemental Proclamation of January 1, 1863, was to bring joy and Freedom to the millions of Black Bondsmen of the South.
Just one month before its issue, in answer to Horace Greeley's Open letter berating him for "the seeming subserviency" of his "policy to the Slave-holding, Slave up-holding interest," etc., President Lincoln had written his famous "Union letter" in which he had conservatively said: "My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any Slave, I would do it—and if I could save it by freeing all the Slaves, I would do it—and if I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone, I would also do that."
No one outside of his Cabinet dreamed, at the time he made that answer, that the Proclamation of Emancipation was already written, and simply awaited a turn in the tide of battle for its issue!
Still less could it have been supposed, when, on the 13th of September —only two days before Stonewall Jackson had invested, attacked, and captured Harper's Ferry with nearly 12,000 prisoners, 73 cannon, and 13,000 small arms, besides other spoils of War—Mr. Lincoln received the deputation from the religious bodies of Chicago, bearing a Memorial for the immediate issue of such a Proclamation.
The very language of his reply,—where he said to them: "It is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is, I will do it! These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation. I must study the plain physical aspects of the case, ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and right"—when taken in connection with the very strong argument with which he followed it up, against the policy of Emancipation advocated in the Memorial, and his intimation that a Proclamation of Emancipation issued by him "must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's Bull against the Comet!"—would almost seem to have been adopted with the very object of veiling his real purpose from the public eye, and leaving the public mind in doubt. At all events, it had that effect.
Arnold, in his "Life of Lincoln," says of this time, when General Lee was marching Northward toward Pennsylvania, that "now, the President, with that tinge of superstition which ran through his character, 'made,' as he said, 'a solemn vow to God, that, if Lee was driven back, he would issue the Proclamation;'" and, in the light of that statement, the concluding words of Mr. Lincoln's reply to the deputation aforesaid:—"I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will, I will do," —have a new meaning.
The Emancipation Proclamation, when issued, was a great surprise, but was none the less generally well-received by the Union Armies, and throughout the Loyal States of the Union, while, in some of them, its reception was most enthusiastic.
It happened, too, as we have seen, that the Convention of the Governors of the Loyal States met at Altoona, Penn., on the very day of its promulgation, and in an address to the President adopted by these loyal Governors, they publicly hailed it "with heartfelt gratitude and encouraged hope," and declared that "the decision of the President to strike at the root of the Rebellion will lend new vigor to efforts, and new life and hope to the hearts, of the People."
On the other hand, the loyal Border-States men were dreadfully exercised on the subject; and those of them in the House of Representatives emphasized their disapproval by their votes, when, on the 11th and 15th of the following December, Resolutions, respectively denouncing, and endorsing, "the policy of Emancipation, as indicated in that Proclamation," of September 22, 1862, were offered and voted on.
In spite of the loyal Border-States men's bitter opposition, however, the Resolution endorsing that policy as a War Measure, and declaring the Proclamation to be "an exercise of power with proper regard for the rights of the States and the perpetuity of Free Government," as we have seen, passed the House.
Of course the Rebels themselves, against whom it was aimed, gnashed their teeth in impotent rage over the Proclamation. But they lost no time in declaring that it was only a proof of what they had always announced: that the War was not for the preservation of the American Union, but for the destruction of African Slavery, and the spoilation of the Southern States.
Through their friends and emissaries, in the Border and other Loyal States of the Union,—the "Knights of the Golden Circle,"—
[The "Knights of the Golden Circle" was the most extensive of these Rebel organizations. It was "an auxiliary force to the Rebel Army." Its members took an obligation of the most binding character, the violation of which was punishable by death, which obligation, in the language of another, "pledged them to use every possible means in their power to aid the Rebels to gain their Independence; to aid and assist Rebel prisoners to escape; to vote for no one for Office who was not opposed to the further prosecution of the War; to encourage desertions from the Union Army; to protect the Rebels in all things necessary to carry out their designs, even to the burning and destroying of towns and cities, if necessary to produce the desired result; to give such information as they had, at all times, of the movements of our Armies, and of the return of soldiers to their homes; and to try and prevent their going back to their regiments at the front."
In other words the duty of the Organization and of its members, was to hamper, oppose, and prevent all things possible that were being done at any time for the Union Cause, and to encourage, forward, and help all things possible in behalf of the Rebel Cause.
It was to be a flanking force of the Enemy—a reverse fire—a fire in the rear of the Union Army, by Northern men; a powerful cooperating force—all the more powerful because secret—operating safely because secretly and in silence—and breeding discontent, envy, hatred, and other ill feelings wherever possible, in and out of Army circles, from the highest to the lowest, at all possible times, and on all possible occasions.]
—the "Order of American Knights" or "Sons of Liberty," and other Copperhead organizations, tainted with more or less of Treason—they stirred up all the old dregs of Pro-Slavery feeling that could possibly he reached; but while the venomous acts and utterances of such organizations, and the increased and vindictive energy of the armed Rebels themselves, had a tendency to disquiet the public mind with apprehensions as to the result of the Proclamation, and whether, indeed, Mr. Lincoln himself would be able to resist the pressure, and stand up to his promise of that Supplemental Proclamation which would give definiteness and practical effect to the preliminary one, the masses of the people of the Loyal States had faith in him.
There was also another element, in chains, at the South, which at this time must have been trembling with that mysterious hope of coming Emancipation for their Race, conveyed so well in Whittier's lines, commencing: "We pray de Lord; he gib us signs, dat some day we be Free" —a hope which had long animated them, as of something almost too good for them to live to enjoy, but which, as the War progressed, appeared to grow nearer and nearer, until now they seemed to see the promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, its beautiful hills and vales smiling under the quickening beams of Freedom's glorious sun. But ah! should they enter there?—or must they turn away again into the old wilderness of their Slavery, and this blessed Liberty, almost within their grasp, mockingly elude them?
They had not long to wait for an answer. The 1st of January, 1863, arrived, and with it—as a precious New Year's Gift—came the Supplemental Proclamation, bearing the sacred boon of Liberty to the Emancipated millions.
At last, at last, no American need blush to stand up and proclaim his land indeed, and in truth, "the Land of Freedom."
Little over five months had passed, since the occurrence of the great event in the history of the American Nation mentioned in the preceding Chapter, before the Freed Negro, now bearing arms in defense of the Union and of his own Freedom, demonstrated at the first attack on Port Hudson the wisdom of emancipating and arming the Slave, as a War measure. He seemed thoroughly to appreciate and enter into the spirit of the words; "who would be Free, himself must strike the blow."
At the attack (of May 27th, 1863), on Port Hudson, where it held the right, the "Black Brigade" covered itself with glory.
At Baton Rouge, before starting for Port Hudson, the color-guard of the First Louisiana Regiment—of the Black Brigade—received the Regimental flags from their white colonel, (Col. Stafford,) then under arrest, in a speech which ended with the injunction: "Color-guard, protect, defend, die for, but do not surrender these flags;" to which Sergeant Planciancois replied: "Colonel, I will bring these colors to you in honor, or report to God the reason why!" He fell, mortally wounded, in one of the many desperate charges at Port Hudson, with his face to the Enemy, and the colors in his hand.
Banks, in his Report, speaking of the Colored regiments, said: "Their conduct was heroic. No troops could be more determined or more daring. They made, during the day, three charges upon the batteries of the Enemy, suffering very heavy losses, and holding their positions at nightfall with the other troops on the right of our line. The highest commendation is bestowed upon them by all the officers in command on the right."
The New York Times' correspondent said:—"The deeds of heroism performed by these Colored men were such as the proudest White men might emulate. Their colors are torn to pieces by shot, and literally bespattered by blood and brains. The color-sergeant of the 1st Louisiana, on being mortally wounded (the top of his head taken off by a sixpounder), hugged the colors to his breast, when a struggle ensued between the two color-corporals on each side of him, as to who should have the honor of bearing the sacred standard, and during this generous contention one was seriously wounded."
So again, on Sunday the 6th of June following, at Milliken's Bend, where an African brigade, with 160 men of the 23rd Iowa, although surprised in camp by a largely superior force of the Enemy, repulsed him gallantly —of which action General Grant, in his official Report, said: "In this battle, most of the troops engaged were Africans, who had but little experience in the use of fire-arms. Their conduct is said, however, to have been most gallant."
So, also, in the bloody assault of July 18th, on Fort Wagner, which was led by the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment with intrepidity, and where they planted, and for some time maintained, their Country's flag on the parapet, until they "melted away before the Enemy's fire, their bodies falling down the slope and into the ditch."
And from that time on, through the War—at Wilson's Wharf, in the many bloody charges at Petersburg, at Deep Bottom, at Chapin's Farm, Fair Oaks, and numerous other battle-fields, in Virginia and elsewhere, right down to Appomattox—the African soldier fought courageously, fully vindicating the War-wisdom of Abraham Lincoln in emancipating and arming the Race.
The promulgation of this New Year's Proclamation of Freedom unquestionably had a wonderful effect in various ways, upon the outcome of the War.
It cleared away the cobwebs which the arguments of the loyal Border-State men, and of the Northern Copperheads and other Disunion and Pro-Slavery allies of the Rebels were forever weaving for the discouragement, perplexity and ensnarement, of the thoroughly loyal out-and-out Union men of the Land. It largely increased our strength in fighting material. It brought to us the moral support of the World, with the active sympathy of philanthropy's various forces. And besides, it correspondingly weakened the Rebels. Every man thus freed from his Bondage, and mustered into the Union Armies, was not only a gain of one man on the Union side, but a loss of one man to the Enemy. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Disunion Conspirators—whether at the South or at the North—were furious.
The Chief Conspirator, Jefferson Davis, had already, (December 23, 1862,) issued a proclamation of outlawry against General B. F. Butler, for arming certain Slaves that had become Free upon entering his lines —the two last clauses of which provided: "That all Negro Slaves captured in arms, be at once delivered over to the Executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong, to be dealt with according to the laws of said States," and "That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned Officers of the United States, when found serving in company with said Slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy."
He now called the attention of the Rebel Congress to President Lincoln's two Proclamations of Emancipation, early in January of 1863; and that Body responded by adopting, on the 1st of May of that year, a Resolution, the character of which was so cold-bloodedly atrocious, that modern Civilization might well wonder and Christianity shudder at its purport.
[It was in these words:
"Resolved, by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, In response to the Message of the President, transmitted to Congress at the commencement of the present session, That, in the opinion of Congress, the commissioned officers of the Enemy ought not to be delivered to the authorities of the respective States, as suggested in the said Message, but all captives taken by the Confederate forces ought to be dealt with and disposed of by the Confederate Government.
"SEC. 2.—That, in the judgment of Congress, the proclamations of the President of the United States, dated respectively September 22, 1862, and January 1, 1863, and the other measures of the Government of the United States and of its authorities, commanders, and forces, designed or tending to emancipate slaves in the Confederate States, or to abduct such slaves, or to incite them to insurrection, or to employ negroes in war against the Confederate States, or to overthrow the institution of African Slavery, and bring on a servile war in these States, would, if successful, produce atrocious consequences, and they are inconsistent with the spirit of those usages which, in modern warfare, prevail among civilized nations; they may, therefore, be properly and lawfully repressed by retaliation.
"SEC. 3.—That in every case wherein, during the present war, any violation of the laws or usages of war among civilized nations shall be, or has been, done and perpetrated by those acting under authority of the Government of the United States, on persons or property of citizens of the Confederate States, or of those under the protection or in the land or naval service of the Confederate States, or of any State of the Confederacy, the President of the Confederate States is hereby authorized to cause full and ample retaliation to be made for every such violation, in such manner and to such extent as he may think proper.
"SEC. 4.—That every white person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such, who, during the present war, shall command negroes or mulattoes in arms against the Confederate States, or who shall arm, train, organize, or prepare negroes or mulattoes for military service against the Confederate States, or who shall voluntarily aid negroes or mulattoes in any military enterprise, attack, or conflict in such service, shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection, and shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the Court.
"SEC. 5.—Every person, being a commissioned officer, or acting as such in the service of the Enemy, who shall, during the present war, excite, attempt to excite, or cause to be excited, a servile insurrection, or who shall incite, or cause to be incited, a slave to rebel, shall, if captured, be put to death, or be otherwise punished at the discretion of the court.
"SEC. 6.—Every person charged with an offense punishable under the preceding resolutions shall, during the present war, be tried before the military court attached to the army or corps by the troops of which he shall have been captured, or by such other military court as the President may direct, and in such manner and under such regulations as the President shall prescribe; and, after conviction, the President may commute the punishment in such manner and on such terms as he may deem proper.
"SEC. 7.—All negroes and mulattoes who shall be engaged in war, or be taken in arms against the Confederate States, or shall give aid or comfort to the enemies of the Confederate States, shall, when captured in the Confederate States, be delivered to the authorities of the State or States in which they shall be captured, to be dealt with according to the present or future laws of such State or States."]
But atrocious as were the provisions of the Resolution, or Act aforesaid, in that they threatened death or Slavery to every Black man taken with Union arms in his hand, and death to every White commissioned officer commanding Black soldiers, yet the manner in which they were executed was still more barbarous.
At last it became necessary to adopt some measure by which captured Colored Union soldiers might be protected equally with captured White Union soldiers from the frequent Rebel violations of the Laws of War in the cases of the former.
President Lincoln, therefore, issued an Executive Order prescribing retaliatory measures.
[In the following words:
"WASHINGTON, July 30, 1863.
"It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The Law of Nations, and the usages and customs of War, as carried on by civilized Powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of War, as public enemies.
"To sell or Enslave any captured person, on account of his Color, and for no offense against the Laws of War, is a relapse into barbarism, and a crime against the civilization of the age.
"The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the Enemy shall sell or Enslave any one because of his color, the offense shall be punished by Retaliation upon the Enemy's prisoners in our possession.
"It is therefore Ordered, that, for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the Laws of War, a Rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one Enslaved by the Enemy or sold into Slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard work on the public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of War.
"By order of the Secretary of War. ABRAHAM LINCOLN. E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General."]
It was hoped that the mere announcement of the decision of our Government to retaliate, would put an instant stop to the barbarous conduct of the Rebels toward the captured Colored Union troops, but the hope was vain. The atrocities continued, and their climax was capped by the cold-blooded massacres perpetrated by Forrest's 5,000 Cavalry, after capturing Fort Pillow, a short distance above Memphis, on the Mississippi river.
The garrison of that Fort comprised less than 600 Union soldiers, about one-half of whom were White, and the balance Black. These brave fellows gallantly defended the Fort against eight times their number, from before sunrise until the afternoon, when—having failed to win by fair means, under the Laws of War,—the Enemy treacherously crept up the ravines on either side of the Fort, under cover of flags of truce, and then, with a sudden rush, carried it, butchering both Blacks and Whites —who had thrown away their arms, and were striving to escape—until night temporarily put an end to the sanguinary tragedy.
On the following morning the massacre was completed by the butchery and torture of wounded remnants of these brave Union defenders—some being buried alive, and others nailed to boards, and burned to death.
[For full account of these hideous atrocities, see testimony of survivors before the Committee on Conduct and Expenditures of the War. (H. R. Report, No. 65, 1st S. 38th Cong.)]
And all this murderous malignity, for what?—Simply, and only, because one-half of the Patriot victims had Black skins, while the other half had dared to fight by the side of the Blacks!
In the after-days of the War, the cry with which our Union Black regiments went into battle:—"Remember Fort Pillow!"—inspired them to deeds of valor, and struck with terror the hearts of the Enemy. On many a bloody field, Fort Pillow was avenged.
It is a common error to suppose that the first arming of the Black man was on the Union side. The first Black volunteer company was a Rebel one, raised early in May, 1861, in the city of Memphis, Tenn.; and at Charleston, S. C., Lynchburg, Va., and Norfolk, Va., large bodies of Free Negroes volunteered, and were engaged, earlier than that, to do work on the Rebel batteries.
On June 28th of the same year, the Rebel Legislature of Tennessee passed an Act not only authorizing the Governor "to receive into the Military service of the State all male Free persons of Color between the ages of fifteen and fifty, or such number as may be necessary, who may be sound in mind and body, and capable of actual service," but also prescribing "That in the event a sufficient number of Free persons of Color to meet the wants of the State shall not tender their services, the Governor is empowered, through the Sheriffs of the different counties, to press such persons until the requisite number is obtained."
At a review of Rebel troops, at New Orleans, November 23, 1861, "One regiment comprised 1,400 Free Colored men." Vast numbers of both Free Negroes and Slaves were employed to construct Rebel fortifications throughout the War, in all the Rebel States. And on the 17th of February, 1864, the Rebel Congress passed an Act which provides in its first section "That all male Free Negroes * * * resident in the Confederate States, between the ages of eighteen and fifty years, shall be held liable to perform such duties with the Army, or in connection with the Military defenses of the Country, in the way of work upon the fortifications, or in Government works for the production or preparation of materials of War, or in Military hospitals, as the Secretary of War or the Commanding General of the Trans-Mississippi Department may, from time to time, prescribe:" while the third section provides that when the Secretary of War shall "be unable to procure the service of Slaves in any Military Department, then he is authorized to impress the services of as many male Slaves, not to exceed twenty thousand, as may be required, from time to time, to discharge the duties indicated in the first section of the Act."
And this Act of, the Rebel Congress was passed only forty days before the fiendish massacre of the Union Whites and Blacks who together, at Fort Pillow, were performing for the Union, "such duties with the Army," and "in connection with the Military defenses of the Country," as had been prescribed for them by their Commanding General!
Under any circumstances—and especially under this state of facts —nothing could excuse or palliate that shocking and disgraceful and barbarous crime against humanity; and the human mind is incapable of understanding how such savagery can be accounted for, except upon the theory that "He that nameth Rebellion nameth not a singular, or one only sin, as is theft, robbery, murder, and such like; but he nameth the whole puddle and sink of all sins against God and man; against his country, his countrymen, his children, his kinsfolk, his friends, and against all men universally; all sins against God and all men heaped together, nameth he that nameth Rebellion."
The inconsistency of the Rebels, in getting insanely and murderously furious over the arming of Negroes for the defense of the imperiled Union and the newly gained liberties of the Black Race, when they had themselves already armed some of them and made them fight to uphold the Slave-holders' Rebellion and the continued Enslavement of their race, is already plain enough.
[The writer is indebted to the courtesy of a prominent South Carolinian, for calling his attention to the "Singular coincidence, that a South Carolinian should have proposed in 1778, what was executed in 1863-64—the arming of Negroes for achieving their Freedom"—as shown in the following very curious and interesting letters written by the brave and gifted Colonel John Laurens, of Washington's staff, to his distinguished father:
HEAD QUARTERS, 14th Jan., 1778.
I barely hinted to you, my dearest father, my desire to augment the Continental forces from an untried source. I wish I had any foundation to ask for an extraordinary addition to those favours which I have already received from you. I would solicit you to cede me a number of your able bodied men slaves, instead of leaving me a fortune.