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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 14 of 46)
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pression to him of the deep regret which he, in common with
the whole country, felt in parting with a public servant so
venerable in years and so illustrious for the services he had
rendered. He also issued the following order :

On the first day of November, 1861, upon his own application to
the President of the United States, Brevet Lieutenant-General Win-



TREATMENT OF THE SLAVERY QUESTION. 157

field Scott is ordered to be placed, and hereby is placed, upon the list
of retired officers of the army of the United States, without reduction
of his current pay, subsistence, or allowances.

The American people will hear with sadness and deep emotion that
General Scott has withdrawn from the active control of the army, while
the President and unanimous Cabinet express their own and the na
tion s sympathy in his personal affliction, and their profound sense of
the important public services rendered by him to his country during
his long and brilliant career, among which will ever be gratefully dis
tinguished his faithful devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the
Flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

The command of the army then devolved by appointment
upon Major-General McClellan, who had been recalled from
Western Virginia after the battle of Bull Run, and had de
voted himself to the task of recruiting the army in front of
Washington, and preparing it for the defence of the capital,
and for a fresh advance upon the forces of the rebellion.

It cannot have escaped attention that thus far, in its policy
concerning the war, the government had been very greatly in
fluenced by a desire to prevent the Border Slave States from
joining the rebel confederacy. Their accession would have
added immensely to the forces of the rebellion, and would
have increased very greatly the labor and difficulty of its sup
pression. The administration and Congress had, therefore,
avoided, so far as possible, any measures in regard to slavery
which conld needlessly excite the hostile prejudices of the
people of the Border States. The Confiscation Act affected
only those slaves who should be " required or permitted" by
their masters to render service to the rebel cause. It did not
in any respect change the condition of any others. The Pres
ident, in the executive department, acted upon the same prin
ciple. The question first arose in Virginia, simultaneously at
Fortress Monroe and in the western part of the state. On the
2Gth of May, General McClellan issued an address to the peo-



158

pie of the district under his command, in which he said to
them, " Understand one thing clearly : not only will we ab
stain from all interference with your slaves, but we will, on
the contrary, with an iron hand crush any attempt at insurrec
tion on their part." On the 27th of May, General Butler, in
command at Fortress Monroe, wrote to the Secretary of War
that he was greatly embarrassed by the number of slaves that
were coming in from the surrounding country and seeking
protection within the lines of his camp. lie had determined
to regard them as contraband of war, and to employ their
labor at a fair compensation, against which should be charged
the expense of their support the relative value to be adjusted
afterwards. The Secretary of War, in a letter dated May
30th, expressed the approval by the Government of the course
adopted by General Butler, and directed him, on the one
hand, to " permit no interference by the persons under his
command with the relations of persons held to service under
the laws of any state," and on the other, to " refrain from sur
rendering to alleged masters any such persons who might
come within his lines."

On the 8th of August, after the passage of the Confiscation
Act by Congress, the Secretary of War again wrote to General
Butler, setting forth somewhat more fully the views of the
President and the administration upon this subject, as follows :

It is the desire of the President that all existing rights in all the States
be fully respected and maintained. The war now prosecuted on the part
of the Federal Government is a war for the Union and for the preserva
tion of all constitutional rights of States and the citizens of the States
in the Union. Hence no question can arise as to fugitives from service
within the States and territories in which the authority of the Union is
fully acknowledged. The ordinary forms of judicial proceeding, which
muit be respected by military and civil authorities alike, will suffice for
the enforcement of all legal claims. But in States wholly or partially
under insurrectionary control, where the laws of the United States are
so for opposed and resisted that they cannot be effectually enforced, it



THE SLAVE QUESTION. 159

is obvious that rights dependent on the execution of those laws must
temporarily fail ; and it is equally obvious that rights dependent on the
laws of the States within which military operations are conducted must
be necessarily subordinated to the military exigencies created by the
insurrection, if not wholly forfeited by the treasonable conduct of par
ties claiming them. To this general rule rights to services can form no
exception.

The act of Congress approved August 6th, 1861, declares that if per
sons held to service shall be employed in hostility to the United States,
the right to their services shall be forfeited, and such persons shall be
discharged therefrom. It follows of necessity that no claim can be re
cognized by the military authorities of the Union to the services of such
persons when fugitives.

A more difficult question is presented in respect to persons escaping
from the service of loyal masters. It is quite apparent that the laws of
the State, under which only the services of such fugitives can be
claimed, must needs be wholly, or almost wholly suspended, as to
remedies, by the insurrection and the military measures necessitated by
it, and it is equally apparent that the substitution of military for
judicial measures, for the enforcement of such claims, must be attended
by great inconveniences, embarrassments, and injuries.

Under these circumstances it seems quite clear that the substantial
rights of loyal masters will be best protected by receiving such fugitives,
as well as fugitives from disloyal masters, into the service of the United
States, and employing them under such organizations and in such occu
pations as circumstances may suggest or require. Of course a record
should be kept, showing the name and description of the fugitives, the
name and the character, as loyal or disloyal, of the master, and such
facts as may be necessary to a correct understanding of the circum
stances of each case after tranquillity shall have been restored. Upon
the return of peace, Congress will doubtless properly provide for all the
persons thus received into the service of the Union, and for just com
pensation to loyal masters. In this way only, it would seem, can the
duty and safety of the Government, and the just rights of all, be fully
reconciled and harmonized.

You will therefore consider yourself as instructed to govern your
future action, in respect to fugitives from service, by the principles
herein stated, and will report from time to time, and at least twice in
each month, your action in the premises to this Department. You will,
however, neither authorize nor permit any interference, by the troops



160

under your command, with the servants of peaceful citizens, in house or
field, nor will you, in any way, encourage such servants to leave the
lawful service of their masters ; nor will you, except in cases where the
public safety may seem to require it, prevent the voluntary return of any
fugitive to the service from which he may have escaped.

The same policy was adopted in every part of the country,
All interference with the internal institutions of an} 7 state was
expressly forbidden ; but the Government would avail itself of
the services of a portion of the slaves, taking care fully to pro
vide for compensation to loyal masters. On the 16th of Au
gust, Hon. C. B. Smith, Secretary of the Interior, in a speech
made at Providence, R. I., took occasion to declare the policy
of the administration upon this subject. Its theory, said he,
is that " the states are sovereign within their spheres ; the
Government of the United States has no more right to inter
fere with the institution of slavery in South Carolina than it
has to interfere with the peculiar institution of Rhode Island
whose benefits I have enjoyed."

On the 31st of August, General Fremont, commanding the
western department, which embraced Missouri and a part of
Kentucky, issued an order " extending and declaring estab
lished martial law throughout the state of Missouri," and
declaring 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" The President regarded
this order as transcending the authority vested in him by the
Act of Congress, and wrote to General Fremont, calling his
attention to this point, and requesting him to modify his
proclamation so as to make it conform to the law. General
Fremont, desiring to throw off from himself the responsibility
of changing his action, desired an explicit order whereupon
the President thus addressed him :



GENERAL FREMONT AND THE PRESIDENT. 161

WASHINGTON, D. C., September 11, 1861.
Major-General JOHN C. FREMONT :

SIR : Yours of the 8th, in answer to mine of the 2d inst., was just
received Assured that you upon the ground could better judge of the
necessities of your position than I could at this distance, on seeing your
proclamation of August 80, I perceived no general objection to it ; the
particular clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property
and the liberation of slaves appeared to me to be objectionable in its
noil-conformity to the act of Congress, passed the 6th of last August,
upon the same subjects, and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that
that clause should be modified accordingly. Tour answer just received
expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order
for the modification, which I very cheerfully do. It is therefore
ordered that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held
and construed as to conform with, 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, and the said act be published at length with thia
order. Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.

These views of the Government were still farther enforced
in a letter from the Secretary of War to General T. W. Sher
man, who commanded the expedition to Port Royal, and in
orders issued by General Dix in Virginia on the 17th of Xo-
veinber, and by General Halleck, who succeeded General Fre
mont in the western department, prohibiting fugitive slaves
from being received within the lines of the army. During all
this time strenuous efforts were made in various quarters to
induce the President to depart from this policy, and not only
to proclaim a general emancipation of all the slaves, but to
put arms in their hands and employ them in the field against
the rebels. But they were ineffectual. The President ad
hered firmly and steadily to the policy which the then exist
ing circumstances of the country, in his judgment, rendered
wise and necessary ; and he was sustained in this action by
the public sentiment of the loyal States, and by the great body



162 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

of the people in the slave States along the border. The
course which he pursued at that time contributed largely,
beyond doubt, to strengthen the cause of the Union in those
Border States, and especially to withdraw Tennessee from her
hastily formed connection with the rebel confederacy.

In the early part of November an incident occurred which
threatened for a time to involve the country in open war with
England. On the 7th of that month the British mail steamer
Trent left Havana, for St. Thomas, having on board Messrs.
J. M. Mason, and John Slidell, on their way as commissioners
from the Confederate States to England and France. On the
8th the Trent was hailed from the U. S. frigate San Jacinto,
Captain Wilkes, and brought to by a shot across her bows.
Two officers and about twenty armed men from the latter then
went on board the Trent, searched her, and toot from her by
force and against the protest of the British officers, the two
rebel commissioners, with Messrs. Eustis and McFarland, their
secretaries, who were brought to the United States and lodged
in Fort Warren, the Trent being released and proceeding on
her way. The most intense excitement pervaded the country
when news of this affair was received. The feeling was one
of admiration at the boldness of Captain Wilkes, and of exult
ation at the capture of the rebel emissaries. In England the
most intense and passionate resentment took possession of the
public mind. The demand for instant redress was universal,
and, in obedience to it, the Government at once ordered troops
to Canada and the outfit of vessels of war.

Our Government met the matter with prompt and self-pos
sessed decision. On the 30th of November Mr. Seward
wrote to Mr. Adams a general statement of the facts of the
case, accompanied by the assurance that "in the capture of
Messrs. Mason and Slidell Captain Wilkes had acted without
any instructions from the Government," and that our Gov
ernment was prepared to discuss the matter in a perfectly fair



THE TKEOT AFFAIR. 163

and friendly spirit as soon as the ground taken by the British
Government should be made known. Earl Russell, under
the same date, wrote to Lord Lyons, rehearsing the facts of
the case, and saying that the British Government was " willing
to believe that the naval officer who committed the aggression
was not acting in compliance with any authority from his
Government," because the Government of the United States
" must be fully aware that the British Government could not
allow such an affront to the national honor to pass without full
reparation." Earl Russell trusted, therefore, that when the
matter should be brought under its notice the United States
Government would, " of its own accord, offer to the British
Government such redress as alone could satisfy the British
nation, namely, the liberation of the four gentlemen and their
delivery to the British minister, that they may again be placed
under British protection, and a suitable apology for the
aggression which has been committed." In a subsequent note
Lord Lyons was instructed to wait seven days after its delivery
for a reply to this demand, and in case no answer, or any other
answer than a compliance with its terms, should be given by
the expiration of that time, he was to leave Washington with
the archives of the legation, and repair immediately to
Lonclon.

On the 26th of December the Secretary of State, by direc
tion of the President, sent a reply to this dispatch, in which
the whole question was discussed at length, and with conspic
uous ability. The Government decided that the detention of
the vessel and the removal from her of the emissaries of the
rebel confederacy, was justifiable by the laws of war and the
practice and precedents of the British Government; but that
in assuming to decide upon the liability of these persons to
capture for hirns^p instead of sending them before a legal
tribunal where a regular trial could be had, Captain Wilkes
had departed from the rule of international law uniformly



164 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

asserted by the American Government, and forming part of its
most cherished policy. The Government decided, therefore,
that the four persons in question would be " cheerfully liber
ated." This decision, sustained by the reasoning advanced
in its support, commanded the immediate and universal ac
quiescence of the American people ; while in England it was
received with hearty applause by the friends of this country,
especially as it silenced the clamors and disappointed the
hostile hopes of its enemies. The French Government had
joined that of England in its representations upon this subject,
and the decision of our Government was received there with
equal satisfaction. The effect of the incident, under the just
and judicious course adopted by the Administration, was
eminently favorable to the United States, increasing the
general respect for its adherence to sound principles of public
law, and silencing effectually the slander that its Government
was too weak to disappoint or thwart a popular clamor. One
of the immediate fruits of the discussion was the prompt rejec
tion of all demands for recognizing the independence of the
Confederate States.



MEETING OF OONGBESS PRESIDENT S MESSAGE. 165



CHAPTER V.

THE REGULAR SESSION OF CONGRESS, DEC. 1861. THE MES
SAGE. DEBATES, ETC.

CONGRESS met in regular session (the second of the thirty-
seventh Congress) on the 2d of December, 1861. On the
next day the President sent in his Annual Message, as follows :

FELLOW-CITIZENS OP THE SENATE AND HOUSE OP REPRESENTATIVES:

In the midst of unprecedented political troubles, we have cause of
great gratitude to God for unusual good health, and most abundant
harvests.

You will not be surprised to learn that, in the peculiar exigencies of
the times, our intercourse with foreign nations has been attended with
profound solicitude, chiefly turning upon our own domestic affairs.

A disloyal portion of the American people have, during the whole
year, been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union. A
nation which endures factious domestic division, is exposed to disrespect
abroad ; and one party, if not both, is sure, sooner or later, to invoke
foreign intervention.

Nations thus tempted to interfere are not always able to resist the
counsels of seeming expediency and ungenerous ambition, although
measures adopted under such influences seldom fail to be unfortunate
and injurious to those adopting them.

The disloyal citizens of the United States who have offered the ruin
of our country, in return for the aid and comfort which they have in
voked abroad, have received less patronage and encouragement than
they probably expected. If it were just to suppose, as the insurgents
have seemed to assume, that foreign nations, in this case, discarding all
moral, social, and treaty obligations, would act solely and selfishly for
the most speedy restoration of commerce, including especially the ac
quisition of cotton, th^^nations appear, as yet, not to have seen their
way to their object more directly, or clearly, through the destruction,
than through the preservation, of the Union. If we could dare to be
lieve that foreign nations are actuated by no higher principle than this,



166 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

I am quite sure a sound argument could be made to show them that
they can reach their aim more readily and easily by aiding to crush this
rebellion, than by giving encouragement to it.

The principal lever relied on by the insurgents for exciting foreign
nations to hostility against us, as already intimated, is the embarrass
ment of commerce. Those nations, however, not improbably, saw from,
the first, that it was the Union which made, as well our foreign as our
domestic commerce. They can scarcely have failed to perceive that the
effort for disunion produced the existing difficulty ; and that one strong
nation promises more durable peace, and a more extensive, valuable,
and reliable commerce, than can the same nation broken into hostile
fragments.

It is not my purpose to review our discussions with foreign States ;
because whatever might be their wishes or dispositions, the integrity of
our country and the stability of our Government mainly depend, not
upon them, but on the loyalty, virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of
the American people. The correspondence itself, with the usual reser
vations, is herewith submitted.

I venture to hope it will appear that we have practised prudence and
liberality towards foreign powers, averting causes of irritation ; and with
firmness maintaining our own rights and honor.

Since, however, it is apparent that here, as in every other State,
foreign dangers necessarily attend domestic difficulties, I recommend
that adequate and ample measures be adopted for maintaining the pub
lic defences on every side. While, under this general recommendation,
provision for defending our sea-coast line readily occurs to the mind, I
also, in the same connection, ask the attention of Congress to our great
lakes and rivers. It is believed that some fortifications and depots of arms
and munitions, with harbor and navigation improvements, all at well-
selected points upon these, would be of great importance to the national
defence and preservation. I ask attention to the views of the Secretary
of War, expressed in his report upon the same general subject.

I deem it of importance that the loyal regions of East Tennessee and
Western North Carolina should be connected with Kentucky and other
faithful parts of the Union by railroad. I, therefore, recommend, as a
military measure, that Congress provide for the construction of such
road as speedily as possible. ^

Kentucky will no doubt co-operate, and, tlm>ugh her Legislature,
make the most judicious selection of a line. The northern terminus
must connect with some existing railroad, and whether the route shall



THE PRESIDENT S MESSAGE. 167

be from Lexington or Nicholasville to the Cumberland Gap. or from
Lebanon to the Tennessee line, in the direction of Knoxville, or on some
still different line, can easily be determined. Kentucky and the General
Government co-operating, the work can be completed in a very short
time, and when done it will be not only of vast present usefulness, but
also a valuable permanent improvement worth its cost in all the future.
Some treaties, designed chiefly for the interests of commerce, and
having no grave political importance, have been negotiated, and will be
submitted to the Senate for their consideration. Although we have
failed to induce some of the commercial Powers to adopt a desirable
melioration of the rigor of maritime war, we have removed all obstruc
tions from the way of this humane reform, except such as are merely of
temporary and accidental occurrence.

I invite your attention to the correspondence between her Britaunic
Majesty s Minister, accredited to this Government, and the Secretary of
State, relative to the detention of the British ship Perthshire in June
last by the United States steamer Massachusetts, for a supposed breach
of the blockade. As this detention was occasioned by an obvious mis
apprehension of the facts, and as justice requires that we should com
mit no belligerent act not founded in strict right as sanctioned by public
law, I recommend that an appropriation be made to satisfy the reason
able demand of the owners of the vessel for her detention.

I repeat the recommendation of my predecessor in his annual message
to Congress in December last in regard to the disposition of the surplus
which will probably remain after satisfying the claims of American
citizens against China, pursuant to the awards of the commissioners
under the act of the 3d of March, 1859.

If, however, it should not be deemed advisable to carry that recom
mendation into effect, I would suggest that authority be given for in
vesting the principal over the proceeds of the surplus referred to in
good securities, with a view to the satisfaction of such other just claim
of our citizens against China as are not unlikely to arise hereafter in the
course of our extensive trade with that Empire.

By the act of the 5th of August last, Congress authorized the Presi
dent to instruct the commanders of suitable vessels to defend themselves
against and to capture pirates. This authority has been exercised in a
single instance only.

For the more effectutl protection of oar extensive and valuable com
merce in the Eastern seas, especially, it seems to me that it would also
be advisable to authorize the commanders of sailing-vessels to recapture



1G8 PRESIDENT LINCOLN S ADMINISTRATION.

any prizes which pirates may make of the United States vessels and



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 14 of 46)