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Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

History of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 13 of 46)
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THE PRESIDENT S MESSAGE. 147

tive power. This relative matter of national power and State rights, as
a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and locality.
Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the whole to the
General Government ; while whatever concerns only the State should be
left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original principle
about it. Whether the national Constitution in defining boundaries be
tween the two has applied the principle with exact accuracy, is not to be
questioned. We are all bound by that defining, without question.

What is now combated, is the position that secession is consistent
with the Constit ution is lawful and peaceful. It is not contended that
there is any express law for it ; and nothing should ever be implied as
law which leads to unjust or absurd consequences. The nation pur
chased with money the countries out of which several of these States
were formed ; is it just that they shall go off without leave and with
out refunding ? The nation paid very large sums (in the aggregate,
I believe, nearly a hundred millions) to relieve Florida of the aboriginal
tribes ; is it just that she shall now be off without consent, or without
making any return? The nation is now in debt for money applied
to the benefit of these so-called seceding States in common with the
rest ; is it just either that creditors shall go unpaid, or the remaining
States pay the whole ? A part of the present national debt was COD tracted
to pay the old debts of Texas ; is it just that she shall leave and pay no
part of this herself?

Again, if one State may secede, so may another ; and when all shall
have seceded, none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to
creditors ? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we bor
rowed their money ? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the
seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others
choose to go, or to extort terms upon which they will promise to re
main.

The seceders insist that our constitution admits of secession. They
have assumed to make a national constitution of their own, in which, of
necessity, they have cither discarded or retained the right of secession,
as they insist it exists in ours. If they have discarded it, they thereby
admit that, on principle, it ought not to be in ours. If they have retained
it, by their own construction of ours, they show that to be consistent
they must secede from one another whenever they shall find it the
easiest way of settling their debts, or effecting any other selfish or unjust
object. The principle itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no
Government can possibly endure.

If all the States save one should assert the power to drive that one out
of the Union, it is presumed the whole class of seceder politicians would
at once deny the power, and denounce the act as the greatest outrage
upon State rights. But suppose that precisely the same act, instead of
being cidled "driving the one out," should be called " the seceding of



148

the others from that one," it would be exactly what the seceders claim to
do ; unless, indeed, they make the point that the one, because it is a mi
nority, may rightfully do what the others, because they are a majority,
may not rightfully do. These politicians are subtile and profound on the
rights of minorities. They are not partial to that power which made the
Constitution, and speaks from the preamble, calling itself " We, the
People."

It may well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the
legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina, in
favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe that the Union men
arc the majority in many, if not in every other one, of the so-called
seceded States. The contrary has not been demonstrated in any one of
them. It is ventured to aifirin this even of Virginia and Tennessee ; for
the result of an election held in military camps, where the bayonets are
all on one side of the question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as
demonstrating popular sentiment. At such an election, all that large
class who are at once for the Union and against coercion would be co
erced to vote against the Union.

It may be affirmed, without extravagance, that the free institutions we
enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of out-
whole people beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a
striking and an impressive illustration. So large an army as the Govern
ment has now on foot was never before known without a soldier in it but
who had taken his place there of his own free choice. But more than
this ; there are many single regiments whose members, one and another,
possess full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and
whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world ; and
there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President,
a Cabinet, a Congress and perhaps a court, abundantly competent to ad
minister the Government itself. Nor do I say this is not true also in the
army of our late friends, now adversaries in this contest ; but if it is, so
much better the reason why the Government which has conferred such
benefits on both them and us should not be broken up. Whoever, in any
section, proposes to abandon such a Government, would do well to con
sider in deference to what principle it is that he does it ; what better he
is likely to get in its stead ; whether the substitute will give, or be in
tended to give, so much of good to the people? There are some fore-
shadowings on this subject. Our adversaries have adopted some decla
rations of independence, in which, unlike the good old one, penned by
Jctferson, they omit the words, "all men are created equal." Why?
They have adopted a temporary national constitution, in the preamble^of
which, unlike our good old one, signed by Washington, they omit " We,
the People," and substitute, " We, the deputies of the sovereign and in
dependent States." Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of view
the rights of men and the authority of the people ?



149

This is essentially a people s contest. On the side of the Union it is a
struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of govern
ment whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men ; to lift
artificial weights from all shoulders ; to clear the paths of laudable pur
suits for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race
of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this
is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.

I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and ap
preciate this. It is worthy of note, that while in this the Government s
hour of trial, large numbers of those in the army and navy who have been
favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which
had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known
to have deserted his flag.

Great honor is due to those officers who remained true, despite the ex
ample of their treacherous associates ; but the greatest honor, and most
important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers
and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have suc
cessfully resisted the traitorous efforts of those whose commands but an
hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic insL ict
of plain people. They understand, without an argument, that the de-
stroying the Government Which was made by Washington means no
good to them.

Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. T\vo
points in it our people have already settled the successful establishing
and the successful administering of it. One still remains its successful
maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is
now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry
an election can also suppress a rebellion ; that ballots are the rightful and
peaceful successors of bullets ; and that when ballots have fairly and con
stitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets ,
that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at
succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace ; teaching
men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take by
a war ; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.

Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what
is to be the course of the Government towards the Southern States after
the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper
to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be guided by the Constitu
tion and the laws ; and that he probably will have no different under
standing of the powers and duties of the Federal Government relatively
to the rights of the States and the people under the Constitution than
that expressed in the inaugural address.

He desires to preserve the Government, that it may be administered
for all, as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens
everywhere have the right to claim this of their Government, and the



150 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

Government has no right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived
that in giving it there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation,
in any just sense of those terms.

The Constitution provides, and all the States have accepted the provis
ion, that " the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union
a republican form of Government." But if a State may lawfully go out
of the Union, having done so it may also discard the republican form of
Government; so that to prevent its going out is an indispensable means
to the end of maintaining the guarantee mentioned; and when an end is
lawful and obligatory, the indispensable means to it are also lawful and
obligatory.

It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of
employing the war power in defence of the Government forced upon him.
He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the Govern
ment. No compromise by public servants could in this case be a cure ;
not that compromises are not often proper, but that no popular Govern
ment can long survive a marked precedent that those who carry an elec
tion can only save the Government from immediate destruction by giving
up the main point upon which the people gave the election. The people
themselves, and not their servants, can safely reverse their own deliberate
decisions.

As a private citizen the Executive could not have consented that these
institutions shall perish ; much less could he, in betrayal of so vast and
so sacred a trust as these free people have confided to him. He felt that
he had no moral right to shrink, or even to count the chances of his own
life, in what might follow. In full view of his great responsibility he has
BO far done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to
your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views
and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens
who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restora
tion to them, under the Constitution and the laws.

And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure pur
pose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and
with manly hearts.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

July 4, 1861.

Congress imitated the President in confining its attention
exclusively to the rebellion and the means for its suppression.
The zealous and enthusiastic loyalty of the people met a prompt
response from their representatives. The Judiciary Committee
in the House was instructed on the 8th to prepare a bill to
confiscate the property of rebels against the Government, and






ACTION OF CONGRESS.



on the 9th a resolution was adopted (ayes 93, noes 55), de
claring it to be " no part of the duty of the soldiers of the
United States to capture and return fugitive slaves." A bill
was promptly introduced to declare valid all the acts of the
President for the suppression of the rebellion previous to the
meeting of Congress, and it brought on a general discussion
of the principles involved and the interests concerned in the
contest. There were a few in both Houses, with John C.
Breckinridge, of Kentucky, at their head, who still insisted
that any resort by the Government to the use of the war
power against the rebels was unconstitutional, and could only
end in the destruction of the Union ; but the general senti
ment of both Houses fully sustained the President in the steps
he had taken. The. subject of slavery was introduced into the
discussion commenced by Senator Powell, of Kentucky, who
proposed on the 1 8th to amend the Army Bill by adding a
section that no part of the army should be employed "in sub
jecting or holding as a conquered province any sovereign state
now or lately one of the United States, or in abolishing or in
terfering with African slavery in any of the States." The
debate which ensued elicited the sentiments of members on
this subject. Mr. Sherman, of Ohio, concurred in the senti
ment that the war was " not to be waged for the purpose of
subjugating any state or freeing any slave, or to interfere with
the social or domestic institutions of any State or any people ;
it was to preserve this Union, to maintain the Constitution as
it is in all its clauses, in all its guarantees, without change or
limitation." Mr. Dixon, of Connecticut, assented to this, but
also declared that if the South should protract the war, and
u it should turn out that either this Government or slavery
must be destroyed, then the people of the North the Con
servative people of the North would say, rather than let the
Government perish, let slavery perish." Mr. Lane, of Kansa<=,
did not believe that slavery could survive in any state the



152

march of the Union armies. These seemed to be the senti
ments of both branches of Congress. The amendment was re
jected and bills were passed ratifying the acts of the President,
authorizing him to accept the services of half a million of vol-
lunteers, and placing five hundred millions of dollars at the
disposal of the Government for the prosecution of the war.

On the 15th of July, Mr. McClernand, a democrat from Illi
nois, offered a resolution pledging the House to vote any
amount of money and any number of men necerssary to sup
press the rebellion, and restore the authority of the Govern
ment, which was adopted with but five opposing votes ; and
on the 22d of July, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, offered the
following resolution, defining the objects of the war:

Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United
States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the
country by the disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms agaiuet
the constitutional Government, and in arms around the capital ; that in
this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion
or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country ; that
this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of oppression, or for any
purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or inter
fering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to
defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve
the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States
unimpaired ; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war
ought to cease.

This resolution was adopted with but two dissenting votes.
It was accepted by the whole country as defining the objects
and limiting the continuance of the war, and was regarded with
special favor by the loyal citizens of the Border States, whose
sensitiveness on the subject of slavery had been skilfully and
zealously played upon by the agents and allies of the rebel con
federacy. The war was universally represented by these men as
waged for the destruction of slavery, and as aiming, not at the
preservation of the Union, but the emancipation of the slaves ;
and there was great danger that these appeals to the pride,



SLAVERY AND CONFISCATION. 153

the interest, and the prejudices of the Border Slave States
might bring them to join their fortunes to those of the rebel
lion. The passage of this resolution, with so great a degree
of unanimity, had a very soothing effect upon the apprehen
sions of these states, and contributed largely to strengthen the
Government in its contest with the rebellion.

The sentiments of Congress on this matter, as well as on
the general subject of the war, were still further developed in
the debates which followed the introduction to the House of a
bill passed by the Senate to " confiscate property used for
insurrectionary purposes." It was referred to the Judiciary
Committee and reported back with an amendment, providing
that whenever any slave should be required or permitted by
his master to take up arms, or be employed in any fort,
dock-yard, or in any military service in aid of the rebellion, he
should become entitled to his freedom. Mr. Wickliffe and
Mr. Burnett of Kentucky at once contested the passage of the
bill on the ground that the Government had no right to inter
fere in any way with the relation existing between a master
and his slave ; and they were answered by the northern mem
bers with the argument that the Government certainly had a
right to confiscate property of any kind employed in the
rebellion, and that there was no more reason for protecting
slavery against the consequences of exercising this right, than
for shielding any other interest that might be thus involved.
The advocates of the bill denied that it was the intention of
the law to emancipate the slaves, or that it would bear any
such construction in the courts of justice. They repudiated
the idea that men in arms against the Union and Constitution
could claim the protection of the Constitution, and thus derive
from that instrument increased ability to secure its destruction ;
but they based their proposed confiscation of slave property
solely on the ground that it was a necessary means to the
prosecution of the war, and not in any sense the object for
7*



154

which the war was waged. After a protracted debate, that
section of the bill which related to this subject was passed
ayes 60, noes 48, in the following form :

That whenever hereafter, during the present insurrection against the
Government of the United States, any person claimed to be held to labor
or service, under the laws of any State, shall be required or permitted
by the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due, or by
the lawful agent of such person, to take up arms against the United
States, or shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such
service or labor is claimed to be due, or his lawful agent, to work or to
be employed in or upon any fort, navy-yard, dock, armory, ship, or in-
trenchment, or in any military or naval service whatever, against the
Government and lawful authority of the United States, then, and in
every such case, the person to whom such service is claimed to be due,
shall forfeit his claim to such labor, any law of the State, or of the
United States, to the contrary notwithstanding ; and whenever thefe-
after 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 per
son whose service or labor is claimed, had been employed in hostile ser
vice against the Government of the United States, contrary to tho
provisions of this act.

Congress closed its extra session on the 6th of August. It
had taken the most vigorous and effective measures for the
suppression of the rebellion, having clothed the President with
even greater power than he had asked for in the prosecution
of the v^ar, and avoided with just fidelity all points which
could divide and weaken the loyal sentiment of the country.
The people responded with hearty applause to the patriotic
action of their representatives. The universal temper of the
country was one of buoyancy and hope. Throughout the early
part of the summer the rebels had been steadily pushing troops
through Virginia to the borders of the Potomac, menacing the
national capital with capture, until in the latter part of June
they had an army of not far from 35,000 men, holding a strong
position along the Bull Run creek, its left posted at Win
chester, and its right resting at Manassas. It was determined



TIIE DEFEAT AT BULL RUN. 155

to attack this force and drive it from the vicinity of Washing
ton, and the general belief of the country was that this would
substantially end the war. The national array, numbering
about 30,000 men, moved from the Potomac, on the 16th of
July, under General McDowell, and the main attack was made
on the 21st. It resulted in the defeat, with a loss of 480
killed and 1,000 wounded, of our forces, and their falling back,
in the utmost disorder and confusion, upon Washington. Our
army was completely routed, and if the rebel forces had known
the extent of their success, and had been in condition to avail
themselves of it with vigor and energy, the Capital would
easily have fallen into their hands.

The result of this battle took the whole country by surprise.
The most sanguine expectations of a prompt and decisive
victory had been universally entertained ; and the actual issue
first revealed to the people the prospect of a long and bloody
war. But the public heart was not in the least discouraged.
On the contrary, the effect \vas to rouse still higher the
courage and determination of the people. No one dreamed
for an instant of submission. The most vigorous efforts were
made to reorganize the army, to increase its numbers by
volunteering, and to establish a footing for national troops at
various points along the rebel coast. On the 28th of August
Fort Hatteras was surrendered to the National forces, and on
the 31st of October Port Royal, on the coast of South
Carolina, fell into possession of the United States. On the
3d of December Ship Island, lying between Mobile and New
Orleans, was occupied. Preparations were also made for an
expedition against New Orleans, and by a series of combined
movements the rebel forces were driven out of Western Vir
ginia, Kentucky and Missouri States in which the population
had from the beginning of the contest been divided in senti
ment and in action.

On the 31st of October General Scott, finding himself un-



156 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADillXISTBATIOX.

able, in consequence of illness and advancing age, to take the
field or discharge the duties imposed by the enlarging contest,
resigned his position as commander of the army, in the fol
lowing letter to the Secretary of War :

HEAD-QUARTERS OF THE ARMY, )
WASHINGTON, October 31, 18G1. )
The Hon. S. CAMERON, Secretary of War :

SIR : For more than three years I have been unable, from a hurt, to
mount a horse, or to walk more than a few paces at a time, and that
with much pain. Other and new infirmities dropsy and vertigo
admonish me that repose of mind and body, with the appliances of
surgery and medicine, are necessary to add a little more to a life
already protracted much beyond the usual span of man.

It is under such circumstances made doubly painful by the unnatural
and unjust rebellion now raging in the Southern States of our (so late)
prosperous and happy Union that I am compelled to request that my
name be placed on the list of army officers retired from active service.

As this request is founded on an absolute right, granted by a recent
act of Congress, I am entirely at liberty to say it is with deep regret
that I withdraw myself, in these momentous times, from the orders of a
President who has treated me with distinguished kindness and courtesy;
whom I know, upon much personal intercourse, to be patriotic, without
sectional partialities or prejudices ; to be highly conscientious in the
performance of every duty, and of unrivalled activity and perseverance.

And to you, Mr. Secretary, whom I now officially address for the last
time, I beg to acknowledge my many obligations, for the uniform high
consideration I have received at your hands ; and have the honor to
remain, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant.

WINFIELD SCOTT.

President LINCOLN waited upon General Scott at his resi
dence, accompanied by his Cabinet, and made personal ex



Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondHistory of the administration of President Lincoln : including his speeches, letters, addresses, proclamations, and messages. With a preliminary sketch of his life → online text (page 13 of 46)