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of October, the and went to sea, Tohn Slidell,
effectually closed one avenue of blockade running, and the Port Royal expedition was of like value in sealing another important harbor.
On the 12th of October, the steamer Theodora evaded the blockading fleet off Charleston, and went to sea with two noted Rebel leaders on board, James M. Mason and John Slidell, recently Senators of the United States, now "accredited," respectively, to the Governments of England and France, as Representatives of the Davis Confederacy. Their immediate destination was Cardenas, with the intention of proceeding to Europe by steamer from Havana. At the time of the arrival of these emissaries in Cuba, Com. Wilkes, cruising for the Rebel privateer Sumter, was at Cienfuegos, on the southern coast of that island. Having been notified by Consul Shufeldt, he made all haste to intercept the Theodora od her return, but on arriving at Havana, Oct. 31st, he found she had already gone, and that Mason and Slidell were waiting there, intending to leave for St. Thomas in the British Mail steamer Trent. Com. Wilkes took position with his vessel, the San Jacinto, to intercept the Trent, designing to make prisoners of her two diplomatic passengers. This purpose he accomplished on the 8th of November. The intelligence of this capture, of course, created no little excitement in this country and in Europe. As involving a question of international rights and jurisdiction, the event was widely discussed, while the loyal sentiment of the people undeniably went strongly with Com. Wilkes in his bold action. Secretary Welles promptly congratulated that officer, complimenting him, and his subordinates and crew fully appreciating the worthy motive, and the energy of the procedure. Meanwhile, Mason and Slidell, having arrived at New York, were transferred to close quarters at Fort Warren, in Boston harbor.
CHAPTER V. The President's Message, December, 1861.-Proceedings of Con
gress.—Emancipation.-Confiscation. -Messages and Addresses of Mr. Lincoln.
CONGRESS reassembled on the 2d day of December, 1861. During the last few months public attention had been earnestly directed to the policy of turning to account the great element of Rebel strength or weakness—as it should prove-in shortening a war becoming gigantic. in its dimensions and cost. A large portion of the people had come to believe that a proper exercise of the war power would require the slaves of the rebels to be not only withdrawn from producing for the support of the Confederate armies, but also to be actively employed, so far as might be, on the right side. A small class, more radical in their views, insisted on setting aside, by Executive act, all legal or constitutional guarantees of slavery in general, and not merely in so far as they inured to the benefit of Rebels, who had repudiated all laws, and the Consti. tution itself, by taking up arms against the supreme authority. Had every Slave State joined in the Secession movement, this question would have been free from all embarrassments. But when Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated, only seven of these States had been ranged on the side of the rebellion, while eight remained in an attitude of loyalty. And, in the final event, but four of the remaining eight were drawn into Secession. As the President of an undivided Union, the President had thus far felt compelled, as well in the avowals of his Inaugural Address as in his subsequent action, not to interfere directly with the relations of master and slave. It was only where the slave, in accordance with all the laws of war, could be actually used by military commanders in the field, to subserve military purposes, and not by any general blow at a recognized insti.
tution, that he had authorized the relation to be forcibly disturbed.
The existence of this popular agitation, as well as of a similar debate in his own mind, perceptibly appears in the President's annual Message to Congress.
It is likewise to be observed, that the military results, thus far, had not been quite satisfactory, either to the President or to the people. Despite the lavish means provided at the July session of Congress, with a manifest view to energetic aggressive war, little more had been accomplished—and that certainly not a little, however short of expectation—than to protect the National capital, and to save Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, from being subjugated by Rebel armies. Manassas and Ball's Bluff, in the East, were still unavenged, or but partly compensated by the capture of Hatteras and Port Royal. In the West, large Rebel armies were threatening to overrun Kentucky from Bowling Green and Columbus, and Missouri from the Southwest, as well as holding the Mississippi river to within a few miles of Cairo.
In addition, was the exciting question growing out of the arrest of Mason and Slidell, on board a British ship on the high seas. The popular feeling, on the one hand, seemed to be unanimous in favor of retaining possession of these prisoners, as conspirators and traitors; while on the other, the British Government, in spite of its own precedents, and backed by French influence, seemed determined to regard such action on our part as a cause for war. The juncture was critical. Every sympathizer with rebellion was exultant in the confidence that the Administration would be wrecked upon Scylla or Charybdisthat it would be ruined at home, or involved in a foreign war that must end any further effective effort to put down the rebellion.
The President, fully sensible of the besetting dangers, and mindful of the situation of affairs in these and other respects, submitted to Congress the following views, in a message which was received with great popular favor:
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES : In the midst of unprecedented political troubles,
we have cause of great gratitude to God for unusual good health and most abundant harvests.
You will not be surprised to learn that, in the peculiar exigences of the times, our intercourse with foreign nations has been attended with profound solicitude, chiefly turning upon our own domestic affairs.
A disloyal portion of the American people have, during the whole year, been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union. A nation which endures factious domestic division, is exposed to disrespect abroad; and one party, if not both, is sure, sooner or later, to invoke foreign intervention.
Nations thus tempted to interfere, are not always able to resist the counsels of seeming expediency and ungenerous ambition, although measures adopted under such influences seldom fail to be unfortunate and injurious to those adopting them. . The disloyal citizens of the United States who have offered the ruin of our country, in return for the aid and comfort which they have invoked abroad, have received less patronage and encouragement than they probably expected. If it were
just to suppose, as the insurgents have seemed to assume, that foreign nations, in this case, discarding all moral, social and treaty obligations, would act solely, and selfishly, for the most speedy restoration of commerce, including, especially, the acquisitions of cotton, those nations appear, as yet, not to have seen their way to their object more directly, or clearly, through the destruction than through the preservation of the Union. If we could dare to believe that foreign nations are actuated by no higher principle than this, I am quite sure a sound argument could be made to show them that they can reach their aim more readily and easily by aiding to crush this rebellion than by giving encouragement to it.
The principal lever relied on by the insurgents for exciting foreign nations to hostility against us, as already intimated, is the embarrassment of commerce. Those nations, however, not improbably, saw from the first, that it was the Union which made, as well our foreign, as our domestic commerce. They can scarcely have failed to perceive that the effort for disunion produces the existing difficulty; and that one strong nation promises more durable peace, and a more extensive, valuable and reliable commerce, than can the same nation broken into hostile fragments.
It is not my purpose to review our discussions with foreign States ; because whatever might be their wishes or dispositions, the integrity of our country and the stability of our Government mainly depend, not upon them, but on the loyalty, virtue, patriotism and intelligence of the American people. The correspondence itself, with the usual reservations, is herewith submitted.
I venture to hope it will appear that we have practiced prudence and liberality toward foreign powers, averting causes of irritation, and with firmness maintaining our own rights and honor.
Since, however, it is apparent that here, as in every other State, foreign dangers necessarily attend domestic difficulties, I recommend that adequate and ample measures be adopted for maintaining the public defenses on every side. While, under this general recommendation, provision for defending our seacoast line readily occurs to the mind, I also, in the same connection, ask the attention of Congress to our great lakes and rivers. It is believed that some fortifications and depots of arms and munitions, with harbor and navigation improvements, all at well-selected points upon these, would be of great importance to the National defense and preservation. I ask attention to the views of the Secretary of War, expressed in his report, upon the same general subject.
I deem it of importance that the loyal regions of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina should be connected with Kentucky, and other faithful parts of the Union, by railroad. I therefore recommend, as a military measure, that Congress provide for the construction of such road as speedily as possible. Kentucky, no doubt, will coöperate, and, through her Legislature, make the most judicious selection of a line. The northern terminus must connect with some existing railroad; and whether the route shall be from Lexington or Nicholas. ville to the Cumberland Gap, or from Lebanon to the Tennessee line, in the direction of Knoxville, or on some still different line, can easily be determined. Kentucky and the General Government coöperating, the work can be completed in a very short time; and when done, it will be not only of vast present usefulness, but also a valuable permanent im. provement, worth its cost in all the future.
Some treaties, designed chiefly for the interests of com, merce, and having no grave political importance, have been negotiated, and will be submitted to the Senate for their consideration.
Although we have failed to induce some of the commercial powers to adopt a desirable melioration of the rigor of maratime war, we have removed all obstructions from the way of this humane reform, except such as are merely of temporary and accidental occurrence.
I invite your attention to the correspondence between Her Britannic Majesty's Minister, accredited to this Government,