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William D. (William Darrah) Kelley.

Speeches of Hon. William D. Kelley. Replies of the Hon. William D. Kelley to George Northrop, Esq., in the joint debate in the Fourth Congressional District online

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capture as enemies' property does not in any manner depend upon the personal allegiance of
the owner."

In other words, the court decided that the rebels were to be treated as foreign enemies
invading our soil, and that it was our right to seize all the property of every citizen of that
territory that could be made available for strengthening our enemies.

But the gentleman says we had no right to take their slaves, because it was unconstitutional.
I have shown you that they have discarded the Constitution, have trampled and spit upon it,
and made war upon those who maintained it. You cannot reject an instrument and yet claim
your benefits under it. The Supreme Court has decided that you can take the property of
belligerents, and there it stands. No man will deny that slaves digging entrenchments, haul-
ing cannon, furnishing commissary and quartermaster stores, and doing all that the slaves of
rebels have done, were property, and property used to aid in carrying on the war. Therefore,
under the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, it was not only the right but
the duty of the Government to seize that property.

But let not the assertion of this right rest on a single decision of our own court. In the



very same case, that court, following every writer on international law from Grotins to Philli-
more, decided that the right of one belligerent not only to coerce the other by direct force,
but also to cripple his resources by the seizure or destruction of his property, is a necessary
result of a state of war.

Let us, then, come back to the question : Are slaves property? If they are, it is our right
by the broad code of international law— it is our right by the express decision of the Supreme
Court to seize that property and prevent the enemy from using it. and to put it to use our-
selves to bring the war to an end. I say that slaves are property. But my friend may
quibble, and say that slaves are persons and not property, and that the slaveholder owns,
under the Constitution, only the right to the slave's labor— that slavery is a debt— that the
slave owes his labor and service to his master in return for his food, clothing, and medicine.
Very well, then ; I will consider slavery as a debt. I have demonstrated that, if slaves are
property, we must take such property. I now look at the slave as a person owing a debt.

One of the clearest principles laid down in international law is. that two governments being
at war, either of them may confiscate del its due to citizens of the other. Thus, in Vattel I
find perhaps the clearest expression of the principle.

"We have a right," says Vattel (Book 3, sec. 161), "to deprive our enemy of his posses-
sions, of everything which may augment his strength and enable him to make war. This every
one endeavors to accomplish in the manner most suitable to him. Whenever we have an
opportunity, we seize on the enemy's and convert it to our own use; and thus, besides
diminishing the enemy's power we augment our own, and obtain at least a partial indemnifica-
tion or equivalent, either for what constitutes the subject of the war, or for the expenses and
losses incurred in its prosecution."

Again, in Book 3, sec. 77, Vattel says : —

"Among the many things belonging to the enemy are likewise incorporeal things— all his
rights, claims, and debts."

This principle of the right of a nation to seize the debts due to citizens of another nation
with which it is at war is as old as international law itself. That it has been fully recognized
by our own courts, I will prove by reading a short extract from the opinion delivered by Chief
Justice .Marshall in the case of Amity Brown v. The United States, .'{ Curtis, 48 : "The right
of the sovereign to confiscate debts' being precisely the same with the right to confiscate
property found within the country, the operation of a declaration of war on debts and on other
property found within this country must be the same." Justice Story dissented from the
opinion of the court in this case, but concurred in this principle in the following language:
'• 1 take upon me to say, that no jurist of reputation can be found who has denied the right of
confiscation of enemy's debts."

My competitor is a distinguished lawyer, and he will not peril his reputation by denying
any of these positions. Thus you see that it was our duty, in the way of humanity — it was
our duty to the white men of the North— it was our duty as a means of shortening the war by
crippling the enemy's power, to take their slaves and make soldiers of them; and the only
reason that we did not do it earlier was that the Democratic press and Democratic orators
inflamed the passions of Northern men against the negro, and cried out that in trying to use
him to save the white man we were making a war for the "nigger."

Now Congress did not hurry in the work of employing the negro of the South to assist our
cause. It was all too slow in rising to the level of its high duty. It was not until the 27th
of July, 18G'_\ that it passed a law for the confiscation of slave property, and at that time
it enacted " That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against
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 enemy; 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 ao-ain held as slaves."

That enactment was passed on the 17th of July, 1862. On the 25th of duly, eight days
thereafter. President Lincoln issued a proclamation announcing the passage of that act, and
warning the rebels of the South, the insurgents engaged in war. that at the end of sixty days
that act would be carried into effect, and their slaves would lie emancipated. The sixty
Jays rolled round ; but the fiat of freedom did not go forth for three long months and more
thereafter. The thunder and lightning that were to make millions free were suspended in the
hope that those who had once been our brethren would again resume their allegiance to the
Government and bless the land with peace. But on the first of January following, Abraham
Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of his war power, issued a proclamation
which, after reciting certain premises, declares as follows : —

"Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the
power in me vested as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, in
time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and Government of the United States,
and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of
January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accord-



nnce with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred ilnvs
from the day first mentioned above, order and designate as the States and parts of States
wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States,
the following, to wit : —

" Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson,
St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche. St. Mary,
St. Martin, and Orleans, including* the city New Orleans, Mississippi Alabama, Florida,
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, except the forty-eight counties desig-
nated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomae, Northampton, Eliza-
beth City, York, Princess Ann and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth),
and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if the proclamation were not
issued.

" And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all
persons held as slaves within said designated Stales and parts ofStates are, and henceforward
shall be free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the mili-
tary and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of the said per-
sons.

" And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free, to abstain from all violence,
unless in necessary self-defence ; and I recommend them that, in all cases when allowed they
labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

"And] further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be
received into the armed service of the United States, to garrison forts, positions, station.-,
and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution
upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor
of Almighty God."

Who says that that proclamation was wrong ? Which man among yon all will not say that
it was made in pursuance of the law and the judgments of the courts? Which one will not
say that it is sanctioned by the code of international law which has grown up through the
long centuries? Which of you will deny that it is sanctioned by civilization and by Chris-
tianity — that it is in accordance with the great history and the greater hopes of our country?
Which of you will deny that, from the hour when the proclamation reached the nations of
Europe, the heart of humanity thrilled anew, and over the hills and vales, in the cottages and
huts of oppressed Europe, mankind felt that freedom had received a new guarantee, and that
America was henceforth, as heretofore, to be the land of the free and the refuge of the op-
pressed from all lands ?

[Mr. Northrop followed in a speech of one hour and a half.]

Judge Kelley replied thus : —

My fellow-citizens, I submit to you whether, if a stranger had come into this hall as the
gentleman began, not knowing the circumstances of the case, he could have told for which
Government he was pleading, the Confederate or that of the United States; or whether he
might not well have concluded that a body of the loyal people of the North had been assembled
to hear a commissioner from the Confederate Government plead their cause and ask for time.
The whole drift of his argument has been against the cause of the country and the Constitu-
tion, and in favor of those with whom we are at war.

He asks whether, as 1 say States can commit suicide, we are marching our armies after
"the dead body." Oh no. sir. we are not going after the corpse, but alter the broad estate
that our revolutionary ancestors left us, and to which our fathers and we have made such
splendid additions.

We mean to have every acre of it ; and we mean to reconstruct the Union of free States.
The gentleman says that he and his party want reconstruction. Yes; but they want it under
Southern dictation. We do not want "to hold provinces;" there is no power to do it; but
while a foreign foe (made foreign by its own acts and the law of nations) stands in arms
against us, we must, as we conquer that territory, hold it under military rule. What the
government and the loyal people mean to do is to bring that territory and the people who are
on it into subjection to the government to which they owe allegiance; and whenever they lay
down their arms, reorganize State governments, elect senators and representatives to the Con-
gress of the United States, allow the United Slates judges to hold court, and the United
States postmasters and collectors to perform their functions, the war will be at an end. That
is what we want.

The gentleman and his party do not want reconstruction. Let me prove this assertion.
We have admitted into the Union the State of West Virginia, containing 48 counties (while
Pennsylvania contains but little over 60) : and having within her limits nearly half a, million
of people. The people drove the rebels out of their limits; they elected delegates to a con-
vention ; they adopted a constitution and asked admission into the Union. She was regularly
admitted as other States have been. Yet the Democratic party, in their processions, carry
flags witli 34 stars, because they will not recognize the reconstructed State of West Virginia
by adding the thirty-fifth. When some of the people of that State sent delegates to the



Chicago Convention the Democratic party in grand council assembled refused those delegates
admission, because that party does not recognize the reconstructed State of Virginia.

In view of these facts the gentleman's assertion that they are in favor of reconstruction
puts me in mind of the anecdote of the woman and her drunken husband. lie had kicked
the children out of doors and knocked her down, and then picking her up, he said, " Peggy,
J do love you." "Do you love me, John ?" said she "Yes. Peggy, 1 do." "Well, thou.' 1
replied she, -why the devil do you knock me down and drive the children out of doors, if yoa
love me so?" So 1 say to the Chicago Convention and its adherents, " If you want recon-
struction, why do you refuse to recognize West Virginia until General Lee and the other
slave-driving traitors in arms against your country give their consent, and, meanwhile, kirk
her delegates out of doors ?"

No. fellow-citizens, the Democratic party do not want reconstruction. They want to recog-
nize the independence of the Sou thorn Confederacy, and then to put this proposition to the
people of the country — "Now, gentlemen, let us have a new deal. The mouth of the Mis-
sissippi is just as essential to us as it ever was. New England has a. free labor system. New
England, it is true, pays wages to everybody who works ; she has a common school system,
and educates all her children and the child of every poor emigrant who conies within her
borders. But New England is a manufacturing district, and Pennsylvania is a manufacturing
disl rict. The South does not produce manufactured articles ; and. therefore, it will he to your
interest to cut loose from New England, your rival, and go with your customers, the South."
That is the argument they wish to make, and that is what they want to do. They want to have
a, new deal and crowd out freedom-loving, wages-paying, Bible-reading New England, and bring
the laborers of Pennsylvania, and lite other JYI iddle States under the iron heel of the slave driver,
and into competition with the system of unpaid labor thai prevails in the South. That is
why this gentleman, whose alma mater is in the bosom of New England, goes round excit-
ing prejudices, on the one hand, against the oegro, and on the other, against New England,
that furnished more men for the Revolutionary War than all the Southern States together.
New England, the land that poured out (save the blood of one Pennsylvania negro who was
assaulted in Baltimore on the 18th of April, 1861) the firsl Mood that was shed in this rebel-
lion — that of the soldiers id' her 6th Massachusetts regiment, who were attacked on the L9th
of April, 1861, in the city of Baltimore.

Workingmen, this is a question for you to consider. What we are after is. as T have said,
not the corpse, hut the grand estate our Revolutionary fathers left us. The gentleman doi 9
not Want hundreds of thousands of Northern soldiers to hold the South in subjugation. Then
.let him and the Democratic party say to the South. " We are going to fight this through, and
you may as well succumb now as hereafter," and the South would succumb. Their only hope
is in the election of the Democratic ticket, and the attainment of such a, peace as the gentle-
man prays for. I answer him that we do not want to hold the people of the South in subju-
gation. The people of the South are constantly escaping to us for protection. Take up a
paper of any (lay and read the account from which of our armies you will, and you will learn
how many deserters are coming into our lines, taking the oath of allegiance, air! being sent
North. You will learn how many are taking up arms and aiding us to fighl the despots of
the South; and in the paper of this evening ] read a speech made by Jefferson Davis, made
at Macon'Georgia, on the 24th of September, in which he says. " We want our soldiers in the
held, and we want the sick and wounded to return home. It is not proper for me to speak
of the number of men in the field, hut this 1 will say, that two-thirds of our men arc absent,
some sick, some wounded, but most of Hn-m absent without leave."

Two-thirds of their army are " absent without leave," and yet the gentleman says thai the
war is to he interminable, and he does not want Northern soldiers to hold the South in sub-
jection for centuries. "Some sick, some wounded, hut most of them absent without, leave!"
Aye! absent in the Northern States, seeking the protection of the flag they worshipped in
childhood, and devoting themselves to the restoration of the Constitution of their fathers, and
the unity of the broadest, richest, grandest country God ever gave to any people. And it is
for this dying Confederacy that the gentleman pleads with you, men of the Twenty-fourth
Ward, that you will hand over the graves of your sons and brothers who have died in this

war. to an alien government, so that when you desire to visit those graves you shall I bliged

to do it in a foreign land, and while doing it have a foreign Bag flouted in your face, and be
insulted by being told that just when you had your enemies whipped, you became panic and
terror stricken, and made a cowardly peace. It is for this that the gentleman pleads. Am 1
not right? His closing argument last night was that we should pause and hold an interview
with Confederate commissioners. He considers theirs a government which we should r
nize ; and he said that when we should have come to terms, the armies could be withdrawn.
That was his language. I say, never withdraw an army from our own territory while there is
an enemy arrayed against that army; and least of all, in the very hour of victory and con-
quest, surrender and withdraw our armies ! Whose country is it on which those armies stand ?
Ours — ours by the right of inheritance —ours by our duty to posterity — ours by our duty to
mankind at large. And do not pause when Davis almost weeps over the sad story of defeat,
that now stares him in the face; do not pause, and parley, and withdraw your armies, and



surrender into slavery two hundred thousand men, who to-night are under arms fighting your
battles ; do not force Maryland and Missouri, whose people have abolished slavery, to re-
establish it ; do not strike from the flag of your country the star of West Virginia, and do it
all in compliance with the demand of those who have frightened the soul out of the lenders
of the Democratic party. I did not mean last evening to challenge the courage of individual
members of that part}'. I merely meant to say that the leaders had made a wretchedly
cowardly platform, which, for peace, would surrender an empire.

" Withdraw your armies when you come to terms !" Withdraw your armies ! Where to ?
For what? lu order that Sherman may have to retake Atlanta? In order that Grant shall
have to do again what McClellan never could do — put a cordon around Richmond and
Petersburg?

"Who saved your capital?" exclaimed the gentleman. Abraham Lincoln saved it by
retaining McDowell, with forty thousand men, between Lee and Washington, when McClellan
insisted on the whole army being sent to the Peninsula, that Washington might be left entirely
uncovered. Abraham Lincoln, by his firm adherence to McClellan's stipulation that 120,000
men were enough for the Peninsula campaign, and that he would leave at all times 40.000 men
to cover the capital, saved it. The gentleman also sneered at General Pope. Who betrayed
John Pope ? Ah ! it does not lie iu the mouth of a McClellan man to taunt John Pope with
his defeat. Here are the proceedings on the trial of Fitz John Porter, and let me read yen
one of the many charges and specifications which nine officers, all West Pointers, found to be
every one sustained fully by the evidence :—

" Specification First. In this, that the said Major-General Fitz John Porter, during the
battle of Manassas, on Friday, the 29th of August, 1862, and while within sight of the field,
and in full hearing of its artillery, did receive from Major-General John Pope, his superior
and commanding officer, a lawful order to attack the enemy, iu the following figures and letters,
to wit : —

" ' Headquarters in the Field, Aug. 29, 1862 — 4.30 F.~M.— Major-General Porter : Your
line of march brings you in on the enemy's right flank. I desire you to push forward into
action at once on the enemy's flank, and, if possible, on his rear, keeping your right in com-
munication with General Reynolds.

" 'The enemy is massed in the woods in front of us, but can be shelled out as soon as you
engage their flank. Keep heavy reserves, and use your batteries, keeping well closed to your
right all the time. In case you are obliged to fall bark, do so to your right and rear, so as to
keep you in close communication with the right wing.

(Signed) " 'JOHN POPE, Major-General Commanding.'

"Which said order the said Major-General Porter did then and there shamefully disobey,
and did retreat from advancing forces of the enemy, without any attempt to engage them, or
to aid the troops who were already fighting greatly superior numbers, and were relying on the
flank attack he was thus ordered to make to secure a decisive victory and to capture the
enemy's army — a result which must have followed from said flank attack, had it been made
by the said General Porter in compliance with said order, which he so shamefully disobeyed.
This, at or near Manassas, iu the State of Virginia, on or about the 29th of August, 1862.

"Specification Second. In this, that the said Major-General Fitz John Porter, being with
his army corps, on Friday, the 29th of August, 1862. between Manassas and the field of a
battle then pending between the forces of the United States and those of the rebels, and
within sound of the guns and in presence of the enemy, and knowing that a severe action of
great consecpience was being fought, and that the aid of his corps was greatly needed, did
fail all day to bring it on the field, and did shamefully fall back and retreat from the advance
of the enemy, without any attempt to give them battle, and without knowing the force from
which he shamefully retreated. This, near Manassas Station, in the State of Virginia, on the
29th of August, 1862."

While thus betraying General Pope and his army, Fitz John Porter was telegraphing that
he hoped McClellan was pleased with what he was doing ! I appeal to history to prove this
assertion. I stand ready to sustain it in any court of justice or council chamber of the world.
Said I not truly that Abraham Lincoln by his firmness saved the capital? He had sworn "to
preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution:" and in his annual message to Congress, of
December, 1861, he had said, "The Union must be preserved, and hence all indispensable
means to that end must be employed." And slowly, but surely, he has used all " indispensable
means," and if we sustain him at the coming election, and give him a Congress to stand by
him, before that Congress shall begin its official term, you will find the whole of the rebellious
States reconstructing and the lesson will have been taught for all time that the American
people will not tolerate insurrection, rebellion, or treason, let who may be engaged in it.

The gentleman holds up to us the history of Italy. Why, sir, it was early in the Christian
era that Italy was dismembered ; and now, in the latter half of the nineteenth century she is
reconstructing ! Every month of her intervening history has been a record of war and blood.
And if we allow the American republic to be dismembered, it may be another cycle of war
before the work of reconstruction begins.



The rebellion is now fulling. It needs but the grasp of Grant, and Sherman, and Butler,
and Farragut, and their brave men, to crush the shell ; and let us stand by them until they do
it. Let us transmit unbroken to our posterity the heritage which we received from our
ancestors. Let us proclaim to the world that the free institutions of America still cover the
broad land of America, and that henceforth as heretofore, the poor and the oppressed shall


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Online LibraryWilliam D. (William Darrah) KelleySpeeches of Hon. William D. Kelley. Replies of the Hon. William D. Kelley to George Northrop, Esq., in the joint debate in the Fourth Congressional District → online text (page 19 of 20)