Henry Winter Davis.

Speech of Hon. H. Winter Davis, of Maryland, on the President's colonization and compensation scheme : delivered in the House of Representatives, Feb. 25, 1864 online

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Online LibraryHenry Winter DavisSpeech of Hon. H. Winter Davis, of Maryland, on the President's colonization and compensation scheme : delivered in the House of Representatives, Feb. 25, 1864 → online text (page 1 of 2)
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The House having resumed the consideration of the bill to establish a Bureau of Freed-
men'e Affairs, Mr. DAVIS said:

Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen: The bill 'which is now under consideration in-
volves a subject foreed on lis by the events of the war, and which must be
detennined one way or the other — the disposition of the freed negroes in tb^
rebel States. The range of debate has naturally been very wide upon a bill
of this character ; and topics not, perhaps, at first sight verj' directly related
to it have been dragged into the discussion.

The votes of the gentlemen from the loyal slave States cast a new light ca
the mind of the gentleman from New York [Mr. Brooks] respecting the fate
of the negro race on this coiitinent. But while he justly appreciated the great
and decisive weight of that vote upon the speakership of this House, he took
occasion to discredit the moral power of that vote by impeaching the election
of the Representatives who cast it He thinks they speak words not author-
ized by the people. He said :

"I know that the people of Maryland and of Delaware, if they fiad baen a%
" lowed to vote, intended no such decree" —

That is, of emancipation — •

'* And I know that it is said those two States are better represented by the
" honorable gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Schenok] than by their Representatives
" here.'"

If this were merely meant as a compliment to my distinguished friend frorn
Ohio I would be among the first to admit that any district of Maryland, aa
well as any in New York, would be better represented by him than by any
gentleman representing either State — even the gentleman from New Yor3<.
But when it comes in the shape of an imputation upon the validity and moral
force of the election, it questions the legitimacy of the Administration majority/
in this House, and must not pass unanswerfd. When the gentleman from New
York says " it is said those two States are better represented by the honorabl'j
gentleman from Ohio than by those who represent them here," n# person who
cares to have any respect for his knowledge of the public affairs of the day ha<»
60 said. And when the honorable gentleman says that " ke knows that thie
people of Maryland and Delaware, had they been allowed to vote, intended no
such decree," I desire to say that the hoHorable gentleman from New York
does not know any such thing, and knows no fact that makes the error excusa-

"Had they been allowed to vote I" Who hindered them from voting!
Where were they stopped from voting? "The people of Marylandl" If the
gentleman means to say that becanse <Ae pfop/c o/J/(»,ry^an<i determined that
the traitors of Maryland^ who disavowed their allegiance to the Government,
should not tai-nish the ballot-box by their votes, we differ about the terms but
not about the facts. We did mean they should not vote, and we so meant be-
cause by the laws of Maryland such men are not entitled to vote. They who
disavow, deny, and disown their allegiance to the United States, and declare
and avow they are not citizens of the United States, hav« no right to vote ;

and so tlie judges of election held, almost from one end of Maryland to the
other. If tliiit is not good election law, this House can say so ; the General
Assemhl}' of Mar3-laud can say so; and if both be silent the law is confessed.

If the gen||lenian referred to the complaints which are made of the inter-
ference of tne military in the election, I desire to say that that complaint
comes from nob'id}' but heated pai-tisans who howl because they are beaten.
Even they confined the complaint to one single congressional district out of
live, and to four out of eight counties in that congressional district; and tliere-
fore, conceding everything that is complained of, and everything that is in-
feried from the complaint, we have an undisputed election in four fifths of the
t>tate, which the gentlemen who make the complaint do not dispute. No one
questions the election of the honorable member from the fifth congressional
district, [Mr. Harris,] where the divided Union vote was overborne by the
united secession vote, and where the aggregate vote of the district fell, only a
little below the normal vote of the distiict before the rebellion attracted many
of its young men to the rebel ranks. My honorable friend in my eye from the
second congressional disti'ict [Mr. Webster] could find no competitor to meet
liim before the people. The distinguished gentleman, the senior of the dele-
gation, [Mr. Thomas,] from the fourth congressional district, is here for the
second time an unopposed candidate. And I am here because my political op-
ponents did not care to take the responsibilities of a canvass, although aided
and urged to oppose me by a distinguished adviser of the President up to within
a week of the election. So that of all the State of Maryland, whose election
is here impeached, in three fifths of it there was no contest whatever ; in one
fifth there was a contest in which our opponents had so free an election that
they have their Representative on this iloor; and in the other fifth the contest
is only impeached in four of the eight counties; and if the whole vote which
was not cast in that district be added to the aggregate vote of our oppo-
nents, the emancipationists will still have a majoiity of thirteen or fourteen
thousand in the State. And yet, in the face of such facts, a gentleman, who
is entitled to be regarded as an intelligent observer of public affairs, rises
here and says that he knows that if the people of Maryland had h'ien permitted
to vote they would not have allowed the emancipation candidate for comptrol-
ler to carry the State by twenty thousand majority!

In Delaware the case is still more absurd; for after an animated canvass the
opponent of the Representative from that State withdrew on the eve of the
election ; and yet the vote for the gentleman from Delaware was the largest
ever cast in that State for any candidate, and a majority of the whole vote of
the State.

Mr. Speaker, the Legislature of Maryland is overwhelmingly Union, but not
overwhelmingly for emancipation. There is a majority in the Senate opposed
to it, and there is a majoritj- in the' House who were not in favor of it when
they came to Annapolis; because, though elected by emancipation constitu-
encies they were nominated before their constituents had developed their views
\:pon the subject. But this election which the gentleman from New" York
wishes to impeach carried with it such moral power that its enemies in the
Senate and its lukewarm and doubtful friends in the House of Delegates are
dragged backward over their prejudices and compelled to pass just such a bill
as we dictated to them, and it stands now the law of the State of Maryland
by the votes of a majority of both Houses of the Legislature. They confessed
that moral ^wer which the honorable gentleman ignorantly^denies.

"Slavery IS dead," says the honorable gentleman. "Slavery is dead," is
echoed by some on this side of the House. "Slavery is dead," is echoed from
the too sanguine people of the country. He may be a very sick man, Mr.
Speaker, but I assuie gentlemen of this House and the country that he is not
dead ; and if he is not dune to death he will be your master again. That is
my opinion, and I think my friend from Kentucky in my eye [Mr. Mallory]
agrees with me.

Slavery is not dead in Maryland. We have to carry a majority of the con-
vention on the old slavery ap|.>ortionment, where one fourth of the population
ties the body; and whether the hostile iniluence that presides near the Presi-
dent's ear will allow Maryland to become a free State, or will fail her in her
hour of need, remains yet to be seen. Up to this day Maryland is under no
obligations to the President of the United States for the great strides that the
cause of emancipation has made there. A convention of the loyal men, the
emancipationists of Maryland, on the '22d of this month, while declaring them-
eelves in favor of immediate and unconditional emancipation, and while ex-

pressing; theii' confidence in the. Preeident and Uieir appreciation of his Bervices,
added this significant admonition, worthy of the State and of the people that
uttered it:

' '''Resolved, That this convention is in favor of the entire and immediate ab-
"olitioti of slavery in this State and in the States in rebellion-, and is opposed to
"any reorganization of State governments in those States which do not recog-
"nize the immediate and final abolishment of slavery as a condition precedent,
"That this convention express their sympathy with the radical emaneipation-
"ista in Missouri, and in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana, and regret that
"influences in the Cabinet have, in Maryland and those States, depressed the
"efforts of the radical friends of the Administration and of emancipation, and
"given prominence to those who are the unwilling advocates of emancipation."

I trust that that admonition will have its weight, and that these sinister in-
fluences will cease to be the controlling element near the presidential ear in
this grave crisis of emancipation in Maryland; and I desire that the country
shall understand that, being under small obligations to the President for what
has been done in Maryland up to this time, the people of Maryland thought
it wise while expressing their confidence in the President to put thatsignfiicaut
resolution before him for his serious consideration, so as to show that their de-
votion is not personal, but to principle; that their interest is in the cause and
not in a man, and that while they will support the man as long as the man
supports the cause, if the cause fail by any failure elsewhere, there may be a
revision of their judgment respecting the person.

But "slavery is dead in the rebel States." K"o, sir. No, sir. Far from it.
If our honorable friends on the other side elect their President in the coming
fall, slavery is as alive as it was the day that the first gun blazed against Sum-
ter. If we lose the majority in the next Congress, slavery is as powerful as it
ever was. We are, it is true, in the condition in which we cannot stand still.
We must go backward or we must go forward. My face, sir, is to the future.
I wish so to look at it, and so to say, to the men of my day and generation,
what 1 think about the great measures which now touch the salvation of the
country, that, whether I be on the winning or on th6 losing side, whether the
nation triumph or fail, wh«y|ever anybodj^ shall by accident hereafter rake
about among the ashes of the past and find my name, he will find at least that
I did not fear to say to friend and foe what the times demand; and it may be
that it will be well if it were heeded.

Slavery is not dead by the proclamation. What lawyer attributes to it the.
least legal effect in breaking the bonds of the slave? Execiited by the bayo-
nets, legally valid to the extent of the duration of the wai", under the law of
1862 which authorizes the President to use'the people of African descent as he
may see fit for the suppression of the rebellion, it is undoubtedly valid to the ex-
tent of turning them loose from their masters during the rebellion. So long as the
military power is engaged in suppressing resistance, they are free from their mas-
ters. Re-establish the old governments, allow th6 dominant aristocracy to repos-
sess the State power in its original plenitude, how long will they be fi'ce ? What
courts will give them their rights? What provision is there to protect them ?
Where is the writ of habeas corpus? How are the courts of the United States
to be open to them? Who shall close the courts of the States against the
master? Does the the master resort to the court against the slave ? No; he
seizes him by the neck. The law of last Congress freeing a few slaves provides
that that act may be pleaded in defense. But when is the slave sued by his
master ? When is the time to plead in any such process ? Gentlemen legislate
without a knowledge of the country or of the people they are legislating for.
Their laws are on the statute-book, and the opinions of the dominant faction
conspire to perpetuate the master's rights and the slave's wrongs. Nothing but
the resolute declaration of the United States that it shall be a condition prece-
dent that slavery shall be their constitutions, and that the United
States shall give judicial guarantees to the negroes, freedom in fact, and that
the United States shall be kept under the the control of men of such political
views and purposes that the law will be executed as a constitutional law and
imposed on reluctant people — nothing else can accompilish the death of slavery.

Supposing that to be done, Mr. Speaker, what then? This bill relates to the
other grave social problem of the destiny of the negro race when their bond is
broken. Now many of them are thrown on our hands. We have to take
care of them. To that extent the bill is right, and I shaH vote for it for that

purpose. How •well it will answer, how far it must be modified after the
national cause shall triumph, remains to be seen. Let the things of the future
be cared for by the future. But it is necessary now to determine our policy
respecting the negroes when freed; to form some definite ideas as to what shall
be the future of the negro race ; in other words, what dispositions we will
make of them wheYi we have broken the master's yoke, when Marj-land shall
have broken it hereafter, when Missouri shall have finally broken it, when
West Virginia shall have finally broken it, and when slavery in all the rebel
States shall have been destroyed and broken up in fact.

There are on that subject two, and only two, theories. The President says,
"Colonize and pay for them." The people say, "Leave them where they
ere." In favor of colonization, and comp^^nsation to all loyal persons in the
rebel States, we have the declaration of the President of the LTnited States,
which naturally carries with it great weight. He has formally proposed it
for the consideration of the people as his preferred policy. It is for that rea-
son that it is the more important to look at it directly in "the face, and to deal
with it, subject to the conditions which it involves, if it be adopted as the
policy of the nation. It has been discussed and commented on by a dis-
tinguished gentleman, a member of his Cabinet, supposed, on that and other
subjects, more accurately to represent his opinion than any other person. (The P.
M. G.) These comments throw a flood of light on the views which prevail in high
quarters on the practical execution of the scheme of colonization and the
industrial and social reasons which prompt or justify it. These comments
have been published broadcast over the country as comments upon the eman-
cipation policy of the President of the United States. Those comments have
never been disavowed. They are entitled to our grave and respectful con-
sideration, both from the high position and character of the gentleman from
whom thej^ emanate, and his pecviliar relations to the President, and the con-
currence of view between him and the President asserted and not disavowed.
Those comments are in the form of an attack upon the "radical abolitionists;"
but, while that is the form, the substance is a vindication of the colonization
ffolicy of the President, a demonstration of its necessity to the sueccess of the
emancipation policy proclaimed by the President, and the "radical abolitionists"
are all who differ from the President and his commentator ! I am one of them,

"What are the grounds? First of all it is said th§t the "radical abolitionists"
wish to change the Constitution of the United States and all of our laws, to elevate
to an equality this race, which is wholly untrue ; and in the nest place that une-
qual raeescannot live together on termsof equality and peace, and, therefore that
it is necessary to prevent the massacre of the negro that he should be expatriated.
Mr. Speaker, what is the foundation of this view? The negro must'be colon-
ized if he be free, or a war of races will exterminate him! What justifies this
alternative? Will gentlemen tell me where in the history of the world they
find the fact upon which they base that astounding generalization? Civilizeci
people have overborne savages, men of one religion have borne down men of
a different religion, ambition has overturned one nation by another; but where
in the history of the world is there any case of a nation going to work to ex-
terminate a large portion of its people of another race living in the midst of
it, of the same religion, civilized i-n the same manner, conforming to its laws,
subject to its will, willing to work for its wages, not ambitious, and not dis-
turbing the public peace, because they are of a different race ? Where is the
instance in tl^^ histor}^ of theworld of the subjugation and massacre of a dif-
ferent race under these circumstances? In eailier times great masses of peo-
ple poured from Central Asia over Europe. They were of a different race
from. the inhabitants of the Roman empire, in any ethnological sense in which
the word can bft used. I do not know that the}' enslaved the whole mass of
the people of the Roman empire. My impression is thnt the conquered civil-
ized the conqueror, and that it did not end in the social war such as is con-
templated here ; but the descendants of both form now the people of Europe.

The distinguished commentator on the colonization views of the President
refers to the Moors of Spain. In an ethnological sense they were far from kin
in point of race to the Spaniards. But race was not the ground of war :
it was religion ; and every decree which undertook to expel them gave them
the alternative of bapti.-!in or exile. The Spaniards wanr.ed them to stay, and
Ferdinand and Isabella would have been glad if they had remained to decor-
ate the southern portion of their empire, the perpetual glory of their mission-
ar)' zeal.

Then we are refefred to San Domingo. That is exactly what gentlemen on

the other side of the House are preparing for us in the future. Tliere was no
revolt of slaves against their masters, tliere was no war of one race against
a.nother, unwilling to live in peace and industry; but the French As?einbly,
having freed the slaves of San Domingo, undertook to reduce them to slaver}-
agaiii. They revolted against the authority which attempted to reduce them
to slavery, and under Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose military genius Thiers
thinks it worth while to conunend, defeated both France and England in their
attempt to reduce and hold tlie island.

These are the examples of wars of race! But why do they pass over the
peaceful example of emancipation of Jamaica and the French colonies, where
the circumstances would be more analogous? Why do they not invoke the
great example of Mexico and South Ameriaa? The Indian of those cout]tries
13 as far removed rrom the Spaniard as our Indians from us, and as we are
from the negro. The Spaniard gained and wielded the empire over them,
but neither is exterminated; the two races are not blended, neither is reduced
to slavery, and in Mexico both unite against the common foe. llace has nothing
to do with the question. The Indian and Spaniard live together because both
are, civilized and both are Christian and both are interested in the same laws
and government and industry. ^

I wait patiently till the gentlemen adduce their historic facts upon which to
rest their theory of the necessary contest of races to reply to them. 1 have
dealt only with Ihose they have furnished.

The honorable gentleman from New York [Mr. Brooks] arraigned the harsh,
hard-hearted conduct of Massachusetts toward the Indians. The war of Mas-
sachusetts on the Indians was that of a civilized and Christian people against
a people of different religion, and which refused every form of American civili-
zation. The same differences of religious and social organization pi events the
toleration of a Mormon people in any of our States hitherto. . He might have
found an example nearer at home. The only example upon the American con-
tinent of a war on the peace and quiet of the negro is the riots in New York
city last summer, when Seymour s friends, the Pahdees, undertook to show their
Democratic mercy to the wretched negro. I agree that it is possible that such
a class of population as that might be tempted to oppress the negro, but no
class of American population would condescend to do it. There was more of
Democratic hostility to the Gol^rnment than Celtic hostility to the negro. An
argument without a fact is not likely to carry conviction; but the gentleman
from New York did not venture to use the only one pertinent to his purpose,
which bad men had prepared at his very threshhold.

Then what are you going to do with them? The President and the comraen-'
tator say, go to kindred races and congenia^|Pimes. Where ? To Texas? That
is abandoned. To Central America fof the purpose of making a connection
between the great oceans? That was respectfully declined. To South Ameri-
ca? I have not heard that the President has been successful there in finding
a kindred race willing to receive them. Back to Africa? Won't you ask as a
matter of kindness to transplant the Irish back to Ireland, to a kindred race
and congenial bogs? Who inhabit Mexico? Who inhabit Central America?
Who inhabit South America? I take it the Indian of this Peninsula is further
removed from the negro of the African peninsula than we are who come
raoref directly fi'ora the common stock of central Asia. Then to transplant
them there would be putting a greater diversity of races together to come
into collision. Or will the}' love each other, though alien in race, because of
their color? Is skin deep the depth of their philosophy ?

In the imagination of the commentator Cuba is the central empire of the
negro; and.strange as it appeal's, while one party of colonizationists are talking
of transplanting the negro to the coast of Africa, the commentator on the
President's policy grows enthusiastic over the vision of the negroes settled
in the Amei-ican tropics inviting their brethren from Africa to this western
world — a new Canaan for that outcast and rescued race? What becomes of
the Spaniard and his rights? What becomes of the rights of the white popu-
lation? What becomes of the aristocratic Spaniard who has been crushing
. generation after generation in Cuba to enhance his wealth ? How is he to re-
ceive the African in spite of the diversity of race? Is the Spaniard nearer in
blood because Spain is nearer geographically to Africa? The theory of the
incompatibility of different races has no foundation in histoiy. The moment
you come to state it in words, and ask what it means, all the theory, all the
philosophy, and all the facts break down, and there is the en(J of it Its very
advocates discard it in their dreams. .

But we fire ourselves interested a little in this question of exportation of the
negro. The President proposes to pay loyal owners for loss of slaves by the
acts of the United States. That is part of his scheme of settlement. But who
will submit lo additional millions of taxation for slaves freed by the United
States? Such a debt would equal the war debt: it would prostrate the re-
sources of the country for generations: it would inflict the scourge of per-
petual debt on a land destroyed by civil war, and made a desert by the de-
portation of its laboring population. The free men of the free Stales will not
mortgage the labor of their son's and daughters for such a purpose; and the
loyal men of •the South must, and will, find their indemnity in the increased
value of their lands, if they are not deprived of their labor.

But if the schemes of colonization be persisted in, who will pay the
cost? "Who will pay for the transportation? Who will supply the deple-
ted labor of the country? "Who is going to pay the increased price of
bread to tlie poor mechanic? "Who is going to pay the increased price of
cotton? "Who is going to fill up the enormous vacuum of labor swept


Online LibraryHenry Winter DavisSpeech of Hon. H. Winter Davis, of Maryland, on the President's colonization and compensation scheme : delivered in the House of Representatives, Feb. 25, 1864 → online text (page 1 of 2)