Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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probability, he asked —

"Do you imagine that while, in the very
nature of things, your own Southern and
Sooth- western States must be the battle-field
upon which the last great conflict must be
fought between Slarery and Emancipation
^-do 70U imagine that your Congress, will
have no constitutional authority to interfere
with the institution of Slavery in any way,
in the States of this confederacy ? Sir, they
must and will interfere with it — perhaps
to sustain it by war ; perhaps to abolish it
by treaties of peace : and they will not only
possess the constitutional power so to inter-
fere, but they will be bound in duty to do
it, by the express provisions of the Consti-
tution itself. From the instant that your
slaveholding States become the theater of
war— civil, servile, or foreign — ^from that
instant, the War powers of Congress extend
to interference with the institution of Slav-
ery in every way by which it can be inter-
fered with, from a claim of indemnity for
slaves taken or destroyed, to the cession of
the State burdened ^nth Slavery to a for-
iegn power."

In 1842/ when the prospective
annexation oi Texas, and a conse-
quent war with Mexico, first loomed
above the horizon, Mr. Adams re-
turned to the subject ; and, with ref-
erence to certain anti-Slavery resolves
recently offered by Mr Giddings, of
Ohio, and the adion of the House
thereupon, said :

" What I am now to say, I say with great
relactance and with great pain. I am well

aware that it is touching upon a sore plaoe ;
and I would gladly get over it if I could.
It has been my effort, so fiftr as was in my
power, to avoid any allusion whatever to
that question which the gentleman from
Virginia tells us that the most lamb-like dis-
position in the South never can approach
without anger and indignation. Sir, that is
my sorrow. I admit that the fact is so.
We can not touch that subject without rais-
ing, throuj^out the whole South, a mass of
violence and passion, with which one might
as well reason as with a hurricane. That, I
know, is the fact in the Sooth ; and that is
the fact in this House. And it is the reason
why members coming from a Free State are
silenced as soon as they rise on this floor;
why they are pronounced out of order;
made to sit down ; and, if they proceed, are
censured and expelled. But in behalf of
the South and of Southern institutions, a
man may get up in this House and-ezpatiate
for weeks together. On this point, I do
complain; and I must say I have been
rather disappointed that I have not been
put down already, as speaking out of order.
What I say is involuntary, because the sub-
ject has been brought into the House from
another quarter, as the gentleman himself
admits. I would leave that institution to
the exclusive consideration and manage-
ment of the States more peculiarly inter-
ested in it, just so long as they can keep it
within their own bounds. So far, I admit
that Congress has no power to meddle with
it. So long as they do not step out of their
own boun£, and do not put the question to
the people of the United States, whose peace,
welfare, and happiness, are all at stsike, so
long I will agree to leave them to them-
selves. But when a member from a Free
State brings forward certain resolutions, for
which, instead of reasoning to disprove his
positions, you vote a censure upon him — and
that without hearing — ^it is quite another
affair. At the time this was done, I sud
that, so far as I could understand the reso-
lutions proposed by the gentleman from
Ohio [Mr. Giddings], there were some of
them for which I was reiady to vote, and
some which I must vote against ; and I will
now tell thb House, my constituents, and
the world of mankind, that the resolution
against which I would have voted was that
in which he declares that what are called
the Slave States have the exclusive right of
consultation on the subject of Slavery. For
that resolution, I never would vote; be-
cause I believe that it is not just, and does
not contain constitutional doctrine. I be-
lieve that, so long as the Slave States are
able to sustain their institutions, without
going abroad or calling upon other parts of

•April 16.

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the Union to aid them or aot on the sub-
ject, so long I will consent never to inter-
fere. I have said this; and I repeat it:
bnt, if they come to the Free States and say
to them, * Yon must help ns to keep down
our slaves ; you must aid i^s in an insurrec^
tion and a civil war;' then I say that, with
that call, comes a full and plenary power
to tliis House and to the Senate over the
whole subject. It is a War power. I say it is
a War power ; and when your country is ac-
tually in war, whether it be a war of invasion
or a war of insurrection, Congress has power
to carry on the war, and must carry it on ac-
cording to the laws of war ; and, by the laws
of war, an invaded country has allits laws and
municipal institutions swept by the board,
and martial law takes the place of them.

**This power in Congress has, perhaps,
never been called into exercise under the
present Constitution of the United States,
^ut, when the laws of war are in force,
what, I ask, is one of those laws? It is
this: that when a country is invaded, and
two hostile armies are set in martial array,
the commanders of both armies have power
to emancipate all the slaves in the invaded
territory. Nor is this a mere theoretic
statement. The history of South America
shows that the doctrine has been carried
into practical execution within the last
thirty years. Slavery was abolished 4n
Colombia, first by the Spanish General
Murillo ; and, secondly, by the American
General Bolivar. It was abolished by virtue
of a military command, given at the head of
the army ; and its abolition continues to be
law to this day. It was abolished by the
laws of war, and not by municipal enact-
ments. The power was exercised by mili-
tary commanders, under instructions, of
course, from their respective Governments.

" And here I recur again to the example
of Gren. Jackson. What are you now about
in Congress? You are about passing a grant
to refund to Gen. Jackson the amount of a
certain fine Imposed upon him by a judge
under the laws of the State of Louisiana.
You are going to refund him the money,
with interest ; and this you are going to do,
because the imposition of the fine was un-
just. And why was it unjust? Because
Gen. Jackson was acting under the laws of
war ; and because, the moment you place a
military commander in a district which is
the theater of war, the laws of war apply to
that district. ♦ ♦ ♦ I might furnish a
thousand proofs to show that the preten-
tions of gentlemen to the sanctity of their
municipal institutions, under a state of actual
invasion and of actual war, whether servile,
civil, or foreign, is wholly unfounded; and
that the laws of war do, in all such oases,
take precedence. I lay tlus down as the

law of nations. I say that the military
authority takes, for the time, the place of
all municipal institutions, and of Slavery
among the rest ; and that, lender that state
of things, so far from its being true that the
States where Slavery exists have the exclu-
sive management of the subject, not only
the President of the United Stated but tlie
commander of the army, has power to order
the universal emancipation of the slaves. I
have given here more in detail a principle
which I have asserted on this floor before
now, and of which I have no more doubt
than that you. Sir, occupy that chair. I
give it in its development, in order that any
gentleman from any part of the Union may,
if he think proper, deny the truth of the
position, and may maintain his denial— not
by indignation, not by passion and fury, but
by sound and sober reasoning ttom the laws
of nations and the laws of war. And, if my
position can be answered, and refuted, I
shall receive the refutation with pleasure ; I
shall be glad to listen to reason, aside, as I
say, from indignation and passion. And if^
by the force of reasoning, my understanding
can be convinced, I here pledge myself to
recant what I have asserted.

" Let ;ny position be answered ; let me be
told, let my constituents be told, let the peo-
ple of my State be told — ^a State whose soil
tolerates not the foot of a slave — that
they are bound by the Constitution to
a long and toilsome march under burning
Summer suns and a deadly Southern clime,
for the suppression of a servile war ; that
they are bound to leave their bodies to rot
upon the sands of Carolina — ^to leave their
wives widows and their children orphans —
that those who can not march are bound to
pour out their treasure, while their sons or
brothers are pouring out their blood, to sup-
press a servile, combined with a civil or a
foreign war ; and yet that there exists no
power, beyond the limits of the Slave State
where such war is raging, to emancipate the
slaves! I say, let this be proved — I am
open to conviction ; but, till that conviction
comes, I put it forth not as a dictate of feel-
ing, but as a settled maxim of the laws of na-
tions, that in such a case the military super-
sedes the civil power ; and on this account
I should have been obliged to vote, as I have
said, against one of the resolutions of my ex-
cellent friend from Ohio [Mr. Giddings], or
should at least have re<^uired that it be
amended in conformity with the Constitu-
tion of the United States."

Hon. Joshua R. Giddings, while a
member of the House of Eepresen-
tatives, thirteen years prior to the
appearance of Mr. Lincoln's Ph)cla-

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mation of Freedom, in reply to slave-
holding threats of a dissolution of

the Union, said :

" When that contest shall come ; when the
thander shall roll and the lightnings flash ;
when the slaves of the South shall rise in
the spirit of Freedom, actuated by the sonl-
stirring emotion that they are fMn^ destined
to immortality, entitled to the rights which
God bestowed upon them ; when the mas-
ters shall tarn pale and tremble ; when their
dwellings shall smoke, and dismay sit on each
ooantenance ; then. Sir, I do not say we will
langh at yonr calamity, and mock when
your fear cometh, but I do say, the lover of
our race ioill then itand forth and exert the
legitimate powers of this Oovemment of
^freedom. We shall then have constitutional
power to act for the good of our country^
and to do justice to the slaift, Wb will


UHBS. The Government will then have
power to act hettoeen Slavery and Freedom ;
and it can best make peace hy giving liberty
to the slates. And let me tell you, Mr.
Speaker, that time hastens; the President
is exerting a power that will hurry it on ;
and I shall hail it as the approaching dawn
of that Millennium which I know must come
upon the earth."

Our great Civil "War was opened
on the part of the Union, not
only with an anxions desire, bnt
with a general expectation, that it
would be prosecuted to a successful
issue without seriously disturbing the
foundations and buttresses of Slav-

Mr. Lincoln's solicitude on this
head, as evinced in his Inaugural Ad-
dress,* was deepened by the dubious,
vacillating attitude of the Border
Slave States, especially of his native
Kentucky, which he was particularly
anxious to attach firmly to the cause
of the Union, while she seemed fran-
tically wedded to Slavery.

Gov. Seward, in his elaborate ini-
tial dispatch ^ to Mr. Dayton, our new
Minister to the Court of France, ap-
proaching the topic of Slavery with

unfeigned reluctance, in a paper
designed to modify the ideas and in-
fluence the action of a foreign Gov-
ernment — indeed, of all foreign gov-
ernments — argued that the Rebellion
had no pretext that did not grow out
of Slavery, and that it was causeless,
objectless, irrational, even in view of
Slavery, because of the " incontesta-
ble " fact set forth by him, as follows :

" Moral and physical causes have deter-
mined inflexibly the character of ea«h one
of the Territories over which the dispute
has arisen ; and both parties, after the elec-
tion [of Lincoln to the Presidency], harmo-
niously agreed on all the Federal laws
required for their organization. The Ter-
ritories will remain in all respects the same,
whether the revolution shall succeed or fail.
The condition of Slavery in the several
States will remain just the same, whether it
succeed or fail. There is not even a pretext
for tfie complaint that the disalfected States
are to be conquered by the United States,
if the revolution fail ; but the rights of the
States, and the condition of every human
being in them, will remain subject to the
same laws and forms of administration,
whether the revolution shall succeed or
whether it shall fail. In the one case, the
States would be federally connected with
the new confederacy; in the other, they
would, as now, be members of the United
States; but their constitutions and laws,
customs, habits, and institutions, will in
either case remain the same."

Our regular Army oflScers, educa- .
ted at West Point in a faith that
identified devotion to Slavery with
loyalty to the Federal Constitution
and Government, were of course im«
bued with a like spirit. Gen. Mc-
Dowell, in his General Order * gov-
erning the first advance from the
Potomac into Virginia, was as pro-
foundly silent respecting Slavery and
slaves as if the latter had no modpm
existence ; while Gen. McClellan, on
making a like advance into Western
Virginia, issued ' an address to the
people thereof, wherein he said :

«yclI.,I»p.43ft-6L *I>iited April 22, 186L 'June20. 8ee Yd. L, pp. 634-5. ^MugrSt*

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" I have ordered troo];)8 to cross the river.
They come as your friends and your broth-
ers — as enemies only to armed Rebels who
are preying upon yon. Yoar homes, yoar
families, and your property, are safe under
our protection. All your rights shall be
religiously respected.

** Notwithstanding all that has been sidd by
the traitors*to induce you to believe that our
advent among you will be signalized by in-
terference with your slaves, understand one
thing clearly — ^not only will we abstain from
all such interference, but we will, on the
contrary, with an iron hand, crush any at-
tempt at insurrection on their part."

TbBBe volunteer officers, however,
who had not been blessed with a
West Point training, did not always
view the matter in precisely this
light. Directly after* Gen. Butler's
accession to ccmimand at Fortress
Monroe, three negro slaves came
within his lines from the Sebel lines
adjacent ; stating that they were held
as property by Col. Mallory, of the
Confederate forces in his front, who
was about to send them to the North
Carolina seaboard, to work on the
Rebel fortifications there in progress,
intended to bar that coast against
our arms. Gen. Butler heard their
story, was satisfied of its truth, and
said : " These men are contraband of
war:* set them at work." He was,
very soon afterward, invited to a con-
ference by Maj. Carey, commanding
opposite; and accordingly met the
Major (in whom he recognized an
old political compatriot) a mile from
the fort. Maj. Carey, as agent of his
absent friend Mallory, demanded a
return of those negroes ; which Gen.
Butler courteously but firmly de-

clined ; and, after due debate, the ocmi*
fer^ice terminated fruitlessly. Y^frj
naturally, the transit of n^roes from
SlaTtry to Fortress Monroe was
thenceforth almost continuous.

Gen. Butler wrote" forthwith to
Lt-Gen. Scott, soliciting advice and
direction. In this letter, he said :

'^ Since I wrote my last; the question ia
regard to slave property is hecoming one of
very serious magnitude. The inhabitants
of Virginia are using their negroes in the
batteries, and are preparing to send their
women and children south. The escapes
from them are very numerous ; and a squad
has come in this morning," and my
pickets are bringing in their women and
children. Of course, these can not be dealt
with upon the theory on which I designed
to treat the services of able-bodied men and
women who might come within my lines,
and of which I gave you a detailed account
in my last dispatch.

^^ I am in the utmost doubt what to do
with this species of property. Up to this
time, I have had come within my lines men
and women, with their children — entire
families — each family belonging to the same
owner. I have, therefore, determined to
employ — as I can do very profitably — the
able-bodied persons in the party, issuing
proper food for the support of all ; charging
against their services the expense of care
and sustenance of the non-laborers; keep-
ing a strict and accurate account, as well
of the services as of the expenditures, hav-
ing the worth of the services and the cost
of the expenditure determined by a board
of survey hereafter to be detailed. I know
of no other manner in which to dispose of
this subject, and the questions connected
therewith. As a matter of property, to the
insurgents it will be of very great moment
— the number that I now have amounting,
as I am informed, to what in good times
would be of the value of $60,000.

" Twelve of these negroes, I am informed,
have escaped from the erection of tJie bat-
teries on Seweirs Point, which fired upon
my expedition as it passed by out of range.
As a means of offense, therefore, in the ene-

• May 22, 1861.

* " In this matter, he [Gen. Butler] has stnidc
this Southern Insurrectioa in a place which is
as vulnerable as the heel of Achilles; and we
dare say tliat, in receiving and seizing the slaves
of Rebels as contraband of war, this Southern
Confederacy will be substantially suppressed
with the paciacation of Virginia."— jV. F. Heraid^
ICay 31, 1861.

*• May 27, 1861.

" "These fugitive slaves, at this rate, will soon
prove more powerfiil in suffocating this Southern
White insurrection than all the armies of Qen.
Scott. This man Butler, in this thing, has
proved himself the greatest lawyer we have be-
tween a pair of epaulets." — N, Y, JBmtid, June
28, 186L

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toy's hands, these negroes, when able-bod-
ied, are of great importance. Without them,
the batteries conld not have been erected ;
at least, for manjr weeks. As a military
question, it would seem to be a measure of
necessity, and deprives their masters of their

** How can this be done? As a political
question, and a question of humanity, can I
receive the services of a father and a mo^er
and not take the children ? Of the humani-
tarian aspect, I have no doubt ; of the po-
litical one, I have no right to judge, I
therefore submit all this to your better
judgment; and, as these questions have a
political aspect, I have ventured — and I
tmst I am not wrong in so doing — to dupli-
cate the parts of my dispatch relating to tliis
subject, and forward them to the Secretary
of War. Your obedient servant,

"Bmw. F. BuTLM.


He was answered by the head of
the War Department as follows :

"Sta: — Your taction in respect to the
negroes who came within your lines, from
the service of the Rebels, is approved. The
Department is sensible of the embarrass-
ments which must surround officers con-
ducting military operations in a State, by
the laws of which Slavery is sanctioned.
The Government can not recognize the re-
jection by any State of its Federal obliga-
tions, resting upon itself. Among these Fed-
eral obligations, however, no one can be
more important than that of suppressing
and dispersing any combination of the
former for the purpose of overthrowing
its whole constitutional authority. While,
therefore, you will permit no interference,
by persons under your command, with the
relations of persons held to service under
the laws of any State, you will, on the
other hand, so long as any State within
which your military operations are conduct-
ed remains nnder the control of such armed
combinations, refrain from surrendering to
alleged masters any persons who come with-
in your lines. You will employ such persons
in the services to which they will be best
adapted ; keeping an account of the labor
by them performed, of Jhe value of it, and
the expenses of their maintenance. The
question of their final disposition will be re-
served for future determination.

** Simon Oameron, Secretary of War.
**ToMnj.-Qen. Bdtlib,"

Time passed. Bull Btm had been
fongbt and lost ; the cfidled session of
Congress had been held ; pablic opin-

ion on ihe Slavery questitm had made
very considerable strides ; when Gen.
Fremont, on assuming civil as well
as military control of the State of
Missouri, issued the memorable Gen-
eral Order," wherein he proclaimed
that " The property, real and person-
al, of aU persons in the State of Mis-
souri who shall take up arms against
the United States, or shall be direct-
ly proven to have taken active part
with their enemies in the field, is de-
clared to be confiscated to the public
use ; and their slaves, if any they have^
are hereby declared fi-ee men."

This position was in advance of
any that had yet been sanctioned at
Washington ; and, though it was very
generally sustained or acquiesced in
by the journals supporting the "War,
President Lincoln wrote Gen. Fre-
mont that he must withdraw or mod*
ify it. This, Gen. F. declined to do,
unless openly directfd by his superior ;
hence the followingx)rder:

" Washington, D. 0., Sept 11, 1861.
" Mig.-Gren. John 0. Frbmoitt :

"Sir: — Yours of the 8th, in answer to
mine of the 2d inst, is just received. As-
sured that you, upon the ground, oould
hetter judge of the necessities of your posi-
tion than I could at this distance, on seeinff
your proclamation of August 80, 1 perceived
no general objection to it; the particular
clause, however, in relation to the confisca-
tion of property and the liberation of slaves,
appeared to me to be objectionable in ita
non-conformity to the Act of Congress,
passed the 6th of last August, upon the
same subjects ; and hence I wrote you ex-
pressing my wish that that clause should
be modified accordingly. Your answer, just
received, expresses the preference on your
part that I should make an open order
for the modification ; which I very cheer-
fully do. It is, therefore, ordered that the
said clause of said proclamation be so modi-
fied, 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,*

» See it in flill, Vol L, p. 585.

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approved Angnst 6, 1861 ; and that the said
act be published at length with this order.
Your obedient servant, A. Lincoln."

In view of the Bailing from Fort-
iresB Monroe of the Port Royal expe-
/Hition against the Sea Islands and
coast of South Carolina, General In-
structions were issued " to its military
chief, whereof the gist is as follows :

"You will, in general, avail yourself of
the services of any persons, whether fugi-
tives from labor or not, who may offer them
to the National Government ; you will em-
ploy such persons in such service as they
may be fitted for, either as ordinary em-
ployes, or, if special circumstances seem to
require it, in any other capacity, with such
- organization, in squads, companies, or other-
wise, as you deem most beneficial to the
service. ThiSy however, not to mean a gen-
eral arming cf them for military service.^^
You will assure all loyal masters that Con-
gress will provide just compensation to them
for the loss of the services of the persons so
employed. It is believed that the course
thus indicated will best secure the substan-
tial rights of loyal masters, and the benefits
to the United States of the services of all
disposed to support the Government, while
it avoids all inter^Brence with the social
systems or local institutions of every State,
beyond that which insurrection makes un-
avoidable, and which a restoration of peace-
ful relations to the Union, nnder the Con-
stitution, will immediately remove.

" Simon Camsron, Secretary of War."

Gen. T. W. Sherman," having oc-

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 33 of 113)