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

. (page 18 of 46)
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 18 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

prisonment, or the forfeiture of his property. It was opposed
on the one hand, by Mr. Trumbull, of Illinois, on the ground


that it " made treason easy" and on the other, by Mr. Davis,
of Kentucky, because it set slaves free. Mr. Sumner offered
a substitute to the whole bill, which in his judgment did not
go far enough in giving the country the advantage of the
" opportunity which God, in his beneficence, had afforded" it
for securing universal emancipation. Mr. Powell, of Kentucky,
moved to strike out the eleventh section, which authorized the
President to " employ as many persons of African descent as
he might deem necessary and proper for the suppression of
the rebellion, and to organize and use them in such manner as
he might judge best for the public welfare," but his motion
was rejected by a vote of 11 to 25. While the bill was thus
denounced by one class of Senators as too violent in its
method of dealing with the rebels, it was resisted with still
greater vehemence by another class as entirely defective in
that respect. Mr. Sumner was especially severe in his cen
sure of Senators who proposed, he said, " when the life of
our Republic is struck at, to proceed as if by an indictment
in a criminal court." His remarks gave rise to considerable
personal discussion which was interrupted by the receipt
of a similar bill which had been passed by the House of Rep
resentatives, and which was decidedly more in harmony with
the extreme views of Mr. Sumner and his friends, than the
Senate bill. It assumed that the rebels were to be treated
like a foreign enemy, without regard to the limitations and
requirements of the Constitution, and that Congress, instead
of the President, had the supreme and exclusive control of
the operations of the war. This bill on coming before the
Senate was set aside, and the bill which had been reported by
the Senate Committee substituted in its place, by a vote of
21 to 17, and the latter was finally passed; ayes 28, noes
13. The House did not concur in this amendment to its own
bill ; but on receiving the report of a Committee of Confer
ence which made some amendments to the Senate bill, it was


passed, as amended, by both Houses and sent to the President
for his signature.

The provisions of this bill were as follows:

SECTION 1 enacted that every person who should after its passage
commit the crime of treason against the United States, and be adjudged
guilty thereof, should suffer death, and all his slaves, if any, should be
declared and made free: or he should be imprisoned for not less than
five years, and fined not less than $10,000, and all his slaves made free.
SECTION 2 declared that if any person shall hereafter incite, assist,
or engage in any rebellion against the authority of the United States
or the laws thereof, or give aid or comfort thereto, or to any existing
rebellion, and be convicted thereof, he shall be imprisoned for ten years
or less, fined not more than $10,000, and all his slaves shall be set free.
SECTION 3. Every person guilty of these offences shall be forever
disqualified to hold any office under the United States.

SECTION 4. This act was not to affect the prosecution, conviction, or
punishment of any person guilty of treason before the passage of the
act, unless convicted under it.

SECTION 5 made it the duty of the President to seize and apply to the
use of the army of the United States, all the property of persons who
had served as officers of the rebel army, or had held certain civil offices
under the rebel Government, or in the rebel States, provided they had
taken an oath of allegiance to the rebel authorities, and also of persons
who, having property in any of the loyal States, shall hereafter give aid
to the rebellion.

SECTION 6 prescribed that if any other persons being engaged in the
rebellion should not, within sixty days after public proclamation duly
made by the President, cease to aid the rebellion, all their property
should be confiscated in the same manner.

SECTION 7 directed that proceedings in rem should be instituted
in the name of the United States in the court of the district within which
such property might be found, and if said property, whether real or per
sonal, should be found to belong to any person engaged in rebellion, it
should be condemned as enemies property, and become the property of
the United States.

SECTION 8 gave the several District Courts of the United States au
thority and power to make such orders as these proceedings might re

SECTION 9 enacted that all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be


engaged in rebellion against the Government of the United States, or
who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such
persons, and taking refuge within the lines of the army, and all slaves
captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the
control of the Government of the United States, and all slaves of such
persons found, or being within any place occupied by rebel forces, and
afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed
captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not
again held as slaves.

SECTION 10 enacted that no slave escaping into another State should
be delivered up, unless the claimant should make oath that the owner
or master of such slave had never borne arms against the United States,
or given any aid and comfort to the rebellion ; and every person in the
military service of the United States was prohibited from deciding on
the validity of any claim to the services of any escaped slave, on pain of

SECTION 1 1 authorized the President to employ as many persons of
African descent as he might deem necessary and proper for the suppres
sion of the rebellion, and to organize and use them as he might deem
best for the public welfare.

SECTION 12 authorized the President to make provision for the col
onization, with their own consent, of persons freed under this act, to
some country beyond the limits of the United states, having first ob
tained the consent of the Government of said country to their protection
and settlement, with all the privileges of free men.

SECTION 13 authorized the President at any time hereafter, by proc
lamation, to extend to persons who may have participated in this Re
bellion, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions, and at such time, and
on such conditions as he might deem expedient for the public welfare.

SECTION 14 gave the Courts of the United States authority to insti
tute such proceedings, and issue such orders as might be necessary to
carry this act into effect.

It soon came to be understood that the President had ob
jections to certain portions of the bill which would probably
prevent him from signing it, A joint resolution was at once
passed in the House, providing that the bill should be so con
strued "as not to apply to any acts done prior to its passage;
nor to include any member of a State legislature, or judge of


any State court who has not, in accepting or entering upon
his office, taken an oath to support the constitution of the so-
called Confederate States of America." When this reached
the Senate, Mr. Clark, of New Hampshire, offered the follow
ing, to be added to the resolution :

Xor shall any punishment or proceedings under said act be so con
strued as to work a forfeiture of the real estate of the offender beyond
his natural life.

This provision encountered a sharp opposition, Mr. Trum-
bull, of Illinois, insisting that the forfeiture of real estate for
life only would amount to nothing, and other Senators object
ing to being influenced in their action by the supposed opin
ions of the President. Mr. Clark also proposed another amend
ment, authorizing the President, in granting an amnesty, to
restore to the offender any property which might have been
seized and condemned under this act. The resolutions and
amendments were passed by the Senate, and received the
concurrence of the House. On the 17th of July Presi
dent LINCOLN sent in the following message, announcing that
he had signed the bill, and specifying his objections to the
act in its original shape :

Fellow- Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives :

Considering the bill for "An act to suppress insurrection, to punish
treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and
for other purposes," and the joint resolution explanatory of said act
as being substantially one, I have approved and signed both.

Before I was informed of the resolution, I had prepared the draft of
a message, stating objections to the bill becoming a law, a copy of which
draft is herewith submitted ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

July 12, 1862.

Fdlow- Citizens of the House of Representatives :

I herewith return to the honorable body, in which it originated, the
bill for an act entitled " An act to suppress treason and rebellion, to


seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes,"
together with my objections to its becoming a law.

Their is much in the bill to which I perceive no objection. It is
wholly prospective ; and it touches neither person nor property of any
loyal citizen, in which particular it is just and proper.

The first and second sections provide for the conviction and punish
ment of persons who shall be guilty of treason, and persons who shall
" incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection
against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall
give aid or comfort thereto, or shall engage in or give aid and com Tort
to any such existing rebellion or insurrection." By fair construction,
persons within those sections are not punished without regular trials
in duly constituted courts, under the forms and all the substantial pro
visions of law and the Constitution applicable to their several cases.
To this I perceive no objection ; especially as such persons would be
within the general pardoning power, and also the special provision for
pardon and amnesty contained in this act.

It is also provided that the slaves of persons convicted under these
sections shall be free. I think there is an unfortunate form of expres
sion, rather than a substantial objection, in this. It is startling to say
that Congress can free a slave within a State, and yet if it were said the
ownership of a slave had first been transferred to the nation, and Con
gress hud then liberated him, the difficulty would at once vanish. And
this is the real case. The traitor against the General Government for
feits his slave at least as justly as he does any other property ; and he
forfeits both to the Government against which he offends. The Gov
ernment, so far as there can be ownership, thus owns the forfeited
slaves, and the question for Congress in regard to them is, " Shall they
be made free or sold to new masters ?" I perceive no objection to
Congress deciding in advance that they shall be free. To the high
honor of Kentucky, as I am informed, she is the owner of some slaves
by escheat, and has sold none, but liberated all. I hope the same is true
of some other States. Indeed, I do not believe it will be physically
possible for the General Government to return persons so circumstanced
to actual slavery. I believe there would be physical resistance to it,
which could neither be turned aside by argument nor driven away by
force. In this view I have no objection to this feature of the bill.
Another matter involved in these two sections, and running through
other parts of the act, will be noticed hereafter.

I perceive no objections to the third or fourth sections.


So far as I wish to notice the fifth and sixth sections, they may be
considered together. That the enforcement of these sections would do
no injustice to the persons embraced within them is clear. That those
who make a causeless war should be compelled to pay the cost of it is
too obviously just to be called in question. To give governmental pro
tection to the property of persons who have abandoned it, and gone on
a crusade to overthrow the same Government, is absurd, if considered
in the mere light of justice. The severest justice may not always be
the best policy. The principle of seizing and appropriating the prop
erty of the person embraced within these sections is certainly not very
objectionable, but a justly discriminating application of it would be very
difficult, and, to a great extent, impossible. And would it not be wise
to place a power of remission somewhere, so that these persons may
know they have something to lose by persisting and something to gain
by desisting ? I am not sure whether such power of remission is or
is not in section thirteen. Without any special act of Congress, I think
our military commanders, when, in military phrase, " they are within
the enemy s country," should, in an orderly manner, seize and use
whatever of real or personal property may be necessary or convenient
for their commands; at the same time preserving, in some way, the
evidence of what they do.

What I have said in regard to slaves, while commenting on the first
and second sections, is applicable to the ninth, with the difference that
no provision is made in the whole act for determining whether a partic
ular individual slave does or does not fall within the classes defined hi
that section. He is to be free upon certain conditions ; but whether
those conditions do or do not pertain to him, no mode of ascertaining
is provided. This could be easily supplied.

To the tenth section I make no objection. The oath therein required
seems to be proper, and the remainder of the section is substantially
identical with a law already existing.

The eleventh section simply assumes to confer discretionary power
upon the Executive. Without the law, I have no hesitation to go as far
in the direction indicated as I may at any time deem expedient. And I
am ready to say now, I think it is proper for our military commanders
to employ, as laborers, as many persons of African descent as can be
used to advantage.

The twelfth and thirteenth sections are something better than unob
jectionable ; and the fourteenth is entirely proper, if all other parts of
the Act shall stand.


That to which I chiefly object pervades most part of the Act, but
more distinctly appears in the first, second, seventh, and eighth sec
tions. It is the sum of those provisions which results in the divesting
of title forever.

For the causes of treason and ingredients of treason, not amounting
to the full crime, it declares forfeiture extending beyond the lives of the
guilty parties ; whereas the Constitution of the United States declares
that "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture
except during the life of the person attainted." True, there is to be no
formal attainder in this case ; still, I think, the greater punishment
cannot be constitutionally inflicted, in a different form, for the same

"With great respect I am constrained to say I think this feature of
the Act is unconstitutional. It would not be difficult to modify it.

I may remark that the provision of the Constitution, put in language
borrowed from Great Britain, applies only in this country, as I under
stand, to real or landed estate.

Again, this Act, in rem, forfeits property for the ingredients of treason
without a conviction of the supposed criminal, or a personal hearing
given him in any proceeding. That we may not touch property lying
within our reach, because we cannot give personal notice to an owner
who is absent endeavoring to destroy the Government, is certainly sat
isfactory. Still, the owner may not be thus engaged; and I think a
reasonable time should be provided for such parties to appear and have
personal hearings. Similar provisions are not uncommon in connection
with proceedings in rein.

For the reasons stated, I return the Bill to the House in which it ori

The passage of this bill constituted a very important step
in the prosecution of the war for the suppression of the Re
bellion. It prescribed definite penalties for the crime of
treason, and thus supplied a defect in the laws as they then
existed. It gave the rebels distinctly to understand that one
of these penalties, if they persisted in their resistance to the
authority of the United States, would be the emancipation of
their slaves. And it also authorized the employment by the
President of persons of African descent, to aid in the sup
pression of the Rebellion in any way which he might deem.



most conducive to the public welfare. Yet throughout the
bill, it was clearly made evident that the object and purpose
of these measures was not the abolition of slavery, but the
preservation of the Union and the restoration of the authority
of the Constitution.

On the 14th of January SIMON CAMERON resigned his posi
tion as Secretary of War. On the 30th of April the House
of Representatives passed, by a vote of 75 to 45, a resolution,
censuring certain official acts performed by him while acting
as Secretary of War; whereupon, on the 27th of May, Presi
dent Lincoln transmitted to the House the following message :


The insurrection which is yet existing in the United States, and aims
at the overthrow of the Federal Constitution and the Union, was clan
destinely prepared during the winter of 1860 and 1861, and assumed
an open organization in the form of a treasonable provisional govern
ment at Montgomery, Alabama, on the eighteenth day of February, 1861.
On the twelfth day of April, 1861, the insurgents committed the fla
grant act of civil war by the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter,
which cut off the hope of immediate conciliation. Immediately after
wards all the roads and avenues to this city were obstructed, and the
capital was put into the condition of a siege. The mails in every direc
tion were stopped and the lines of telegraph cut off by the insurgents,
and military and naval forces which had been called out by the Govern
ment for the defence of Washington were prevented from reaching the
city by organized and combined treasonable resistance in the State of
Maryland. There was no adequate and effective organization for the
public defence. Congress had indefinitely adjourned. There was no
time to convene them. It became necessary for me to choose whether,
using only the existing means, agencies, and processes which Congress
had provided, I should let the government fall into ruin, or whether,
availing myself of the broader powers conferred by the Constitution in
cases of insurrection, I would make an effort to save it, with all its
blessings, for the present age and for posterity. I thereupon summoned
my constitutional advisers, the heads of all the departments, to meet on
Sunday, the twentieth day of April, 1861, at the office of the Xavy
Department, and then and there, with their unanimous concurrence, I


directed that an armed revenue cutter should proceed to sea to afford
protection to the commercial marine, especially to the California treasure-
ships, then on their way to this coast. I also directed the Commandant
of the Navy Yard at Boston to purchase or charter, and arm, as quickly
as possible, five steamships for purposes of public defence. I directed
the Commandant of the Navy Yard at Philadelphia to purchase or char
ter, and arm an equal number for tho same purpose. I directed the
Commandant at New York to purchase or charter, and arm an equal
number. I directed Commander Gillis to purchase or charter, and arm
and put to sea two other vessels. Similar directions were given to
Commodore Du Pont, with a view to the opening of passages by water to
and from the capital. I directed the several officers to take the advice
and obtain the aid and efficient services in the matter of his Excellency
Edwin D. Morgan, the Governor of New York, or, in his absence,
George D. Morgan, Wm. M. Evarts, R. M. Blatchford, and Moses H.
Grinnell, who were, by my directions, especially empowered by the Sec
retary of the Navy to act for his department in that crisis, in matters
pertaining to the forwarding of troops and supplies for the public de
fence. On the same occasion I directed that Gov. Morgan and Alex
ander Cummings, of the city of New York, should be authorized by the
Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, to make all necessary arrangements
for the transportation of troops and munitions of war in aid and assist
ance of the officers of the army of the United States, until communica
tion by mails and telegraph should be completely re-established between
the cities of Washington and New York. No security was required to
be given by them, and either of them was authorized to act in case of
inability to consult with the other. On tho same occasion I authorized
and directed the Secretary of the Treasury to advance, without requir
ing securing, two millions of dollars of public money to John A. Dix,
George Opdyke, and Richard M. Blatchford, of New York, to be used
by them in meeting such requisitions as should be directly consequent
upon the military and naval measures for the defence and support of
the Government, requiring them only to act without compensation, and
to report their transactions when duly called upon. The several de
partments of the Government at that time contained so large a number
of disloyal persons that it would have been impossible to provide safely
through official agents only, for the performance of the duties thus con
fided to citizens favorably known for their ability, loyalty, and patriot
ism. The several orders issued upon these occurrences were trans
mitted by private messengers, who pursued a circuitous way to the


seaboard cities, inland across the States of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and
the northern lakes. I believe that by these and other similar meas
ures taken in that crisis, some of which were without any authority of
law; the Government was saved from overthrow. I am not aware that
a dollar of the public funds thus confided without authority of law, to
unofficial persons, was either lost or wasted, although apprehensions
of such misdirections occurred to me as objections to these extraordi
nary proceedings, and were necessarily overruled. I recall these trans
actions now because my attention has been directed to a resolution
which was passed by the House of Representatives on the thirtieth of
last month, which is in these words:

Resolved, that Simon Cameron, late Secretary of "War, by intrusting
Alexander Cummings with the control of large sums of the public
money, and authority to purchase military supplies without restriction,
without requiring from him any guarantee for the faithful performance
of his duties, while the services of competent public officers were avail
able, and by involving the government in a vast number of contracts
with persons not legitimately engaged in the business pertaining to the
subject matter of such contracts, especially in the purchase of arms for
future delivery, has adopted a policy highly injurious to the public ser
vice, and deserves the censure of the House.

Congress will see that I should be wanting in candor and in justice
if I should leave the censure expressed in this resolution to rest exclu
sively or chiefly upon Mr. Cameron. The same sentiment is unani
mously entertained by the heads of the departments, who participated
in the proceedings which the House of Representatives has censured.
It is due to Mr. Cameron to say that although he fully approved the
proceedings, they were not moved nor suggested by himself, and that
not only the President, but all the other heads of departments were at
least equally responsible with him for whatever error, wrong or fault
was committed in the premises. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

This letter was in strict conformity with the position uni
formly held by the President in regard to the responsibility
of members of his cabinet for acts of the Administration. He
always maintained that the proper duty of each Secretary
was, to direct the details of every thing done within his own
department, and to tender such suggestions, information, and
advice to the President as he might solicit at his hands. But
the duty and responsibility of deciding what line of policy

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 18 of 46)