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In the exercise of my best discretion I have adhered to the blockade of the ports held by the insurgents, instead of putting in force, by proclamation, the law of Congress enacted at the late session for closing those ports. So, also, obeying the dictates of prudence, as well as the obligations of law, instead of transcending, I have adhered to the act of Congress to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes. If a new law upon the same subject shall be proposed, its propriety will be duly considered The Union must be preserved; and hence, all indispensable means must be employed. We should not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme measures, which may reach the loyal as well as the disloyal, are indispensable.
Apparently these propositions covered the simple recommendation of colonization, an old and familiar topic which had friends in both free and slave States; but the language, when closely scanned, is full of novel suggestions: that the war has already freed many slaves; that the war may free many more; that the President will impartially consider any new law of Congress increasing emancipation for rebellion; that he will not hastily adopt extreme measures; but that, finally, to preserve the Union, all indispensable means must be employed. These declarations, in fact, cover the whole of his subsequent treatment of the slavery question.
Congress was too busy with pressing practical legislation to find time for immediately elaborating by debate or enactment any of the recommendations thus made. It is not likely that the President expected early action from the national Legislature, for he at once turned his own attention to certain initiatory efforts which he had probably carefully meditated. He believed that under the pressure of war necessities the border slave States might be
Can. xn. induced to take up the idea of voluntary emancipation if the General Government would pay their citizens the full property value of the slaves they were asked to liberate; and this experiment seemed to him most feasible in the small State of Delaware, which retained only the merest fragment of a property interest in the peculiar institution.
Owing to the division of its voters between Breckinridge, Bell, Lincoln, and Douglas, the electoral vote of Delaware had been cast for Breckinridge in the Presidential election of 1860; but more adroit party management had succeeded in effecting a fusion of the Bell and Lincoln vote for Member of Congress, and George P. Fisher had been elected by a small majority. It is of little importance to know the exact shade of Mr. Fisher’s politics during the campaign; when the rebellion broke out he was an ardent Unionist, a steadfast friend of Mr. Lincoln, and perhaps more liberal on the subject of slavery than any other border State Representative. He entered readily into Mr. Lincoln’s views and plans, which were to induce the Legislature of Delaware to pass an act of gradual emancipation of the 1798 slaves which it contained by the census of 1860, on condition that the United States would pay to Delaware, to be distributed among its slave-owners in proper ratio, the sum of $400 for each slave, or a total of $719,200.
1861. Mr. Lincoln during the month of November had with his own hand written drafts of two separate bills embracing the principal details of the scheme. By the first, all negroes in Delaware, above the age of thirty-five years, should become free on the passage of the act; all born after its Cm. xn.
passage should remain free; and all others, after suitable apprenticeship for children, should become free in the year 1893; also, that the State should meanwhile prevent any of its slaves being sold into servitude elsewhere. The provisions of the second draft were slightly different. Lincoln’s manuscript explains: “On reflection I like No. 2 the better. By it the nation would pay the State $23,200 per annum for thirty-one years. All born after the passage of the act would be born free. All slaves above the age of thirty-five years would become free on the passage of the act. All others would become free on arriving at the age of thirtyfive years until January, 1893, when all remaining of
all ages would become free, subject to apprenticeship for minors born of slave mothers, up to the
respective ages of twenty-one and eighteen.” Upon consultation with the President, Mr. Fisher undertook to propose and commend the scheme to his influential party friends in Delaware, and if possible to induce the Legislature of that State to adopt it.
One of the drafts prepared by Mr. Lincoln was rewritten by the friends of the measure in Delaware, embodying the necessary details to give it proper force and local application to become a law of that State. In this shape it was printed and circulated among the members of the Legislature, then holding a special session at Dover. The Legislature of Delaware was not a large body; nine members of the Senate and twenty-one members of the House constituted the whole number. We have no record of the discussions, formal or informal, which the
C11AP.XIL proposition called forth. The final action, however, indicates the sentiment which prevailed.
The friends of emancipation probably ascertained
that a hostile majority would vote it down, there
fore the laboriously prepared bill was never introduced. The pro-slavery members, unwilling to
lose the opportunity of airing their conservatism, immediately prepared a joint resolution reciting
the bill at full length and then loading it with
the strongest phrases of condemnation which their
party zeal could invent. They said it would encourage the abolition element in Congress; that
it evinced a design to abolish slavery in the States;
that Congress had no right to appropriate a dollar
for the purchase of slaves; that they were unwill
ing to make Delaware guarantee the public faith
of the United States; that when the people of Dela
ware desired to abolish slavery within her borders
they would do so in their way; and intimated that
the “suggestions of saving expense to the people”
were a bribe, which they scornfully repelled. A majority of the twenty-one members of the House passed this joint resolution; but when it came to
mm. the Senate, on the 7th of February, four of its nine Delaware members voted “aye,” four voted “no,” and one
§§§§‘$_' went back “non-concurred in.” This seems to have closed the legislative record on the subject.
Mr. Lincoln was doubtless disappointed at the failure to give his plan of compensated gradual abolishment a starting-point by the favorable action of the State of Delaware. But he did not abandon the project, and his next step was to
bring it, through Congress, to the attention of the