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ment in the States we represented; strengthened the CHAP. XII. hopes of the Confederates that at some day the border States would unite with them and thus tend to prolong the war; and he was of the opinion, if this resolution should be adopted by Congress and accepted by our States, these causes of irritation and these hopes would be removed, and more would be accomplished towards shortening the war than could be hoped from the greatest victory achieved by Union armies. That he made this proposition in good faith, and desired it to be accepted, if at all, voluntarily, and in the same patriotic spirit in which it was made ; that emancipation was a subject exclusively under the control of the States, and must be adopted or rejected by each for itself; that he did not claim, nor had this Government any right to coerce them for that purpose ; that such was no part of his purpose in making this proposition, and he wished it to be clearly understood. That he did not expect us there to be prepared to give him an answer, but he hoped we would take the subject into serious consideration, confer with one McPherson,
“ History another, and then take such course as we felt our duty
Rebellion," and the interests of our constituents required of us. p. 210 et seq.
It is not to be wondered at that his auditors were unable to give him affirmative replies, or even remote encouragement. Representing slaveholding constituencies, their natural attitude was one of unyielding conservatism. Their whole tone was one of doubt, of qualified protest, and of apprehensive inquiry. They had not failed to note that in his annual message of December 3, and his special message of March 6, he had announced his determination to use all“ indispensable means” to preserve the Union, and had hinted that necessity might force him to employ extreme measures; and one of them asked pointedly “if the President looked to any policy beyond the acceptance or rejection of this scheme." His answer was frank and direct.
CHAP. XI. Mr. Crisfield of Maryland writes: “The President
replied that he had no designs beyond the action of the States on this particular subject. He should lament their refusal to accept it, but he had no designs beyond their refusal of it. . . Unless he was expelled by the act of God or the Confederate armies, he should occupy that house for three years,
and as long as he remained there Maryland had “History
nothing to fear, either for her institutions or her Rebellion,"
interests, on the points referred to.”
The day on which this interview was held, Roscoe Conkling introduced into the House of Representatives the exact joint resolution which the President had recommended in his message of the 6th, and debate on the subject was begun. The discussion showed a wide divergence of views among Representatives. Moderate Republicans generally supported the resolution; even pronounced antislavery men, such as Lovejoy in the House and Sumner in the Senate, indicated their willingness to join in the liberal compensation the President had proposed, if the loyal slave States would consent to relinquish their portion of the disturbing and dangerous evil. Since it was not a practical measure, but simply an announcement of policy, the opposition was not strenuous; a few border State Representatives and the more obstinate Democrats from free States joined in a somewhat ill-natured dissent. The resolution was passed on the following day (yeas, 89; nays, 31). The action of the Senate was very similar, though the debate was a little more delayed. The resolution was passed in that body April 2 (yeas, 32; nays, 10), and received the President's signature on the 10th of April, 1862.
By his initiative and influence Mr. Lincoln thus CHAP. XI. committed the executive and legislative departments of the Government to the policy of compensated emancipation; and there is no doubt that, had his generous offer been accepted by the border States within a reasonable time, the pledge embodied in the joint resolution would have been promptly redeemed. Though it afterwards turned out that this action remained only sentimental and prospective, it nevertheless had no inconsiderable effect in bringing to pass a very important practical measure.
In its long contest for political supremacy, slavery had clung with unyielding tenacity to its foothold in the District of Columbia, where it had been the most irritating eyesore to Northern opinion. Whatever might be conceded to the doctrine of State sovereignty, antislavery men felt that the peculiar institution had no claim to the exclusive shelter of the Federal flag; on the other hand, pro-slavery men saw that to relinquish this claim would be fatal to their determination to push it to national recognition. Hence the abolition or the maintenance of slavery in the District of Columbia had become a frequent issue in party politics. The prohibition of the slave-trade in the District was indeed effected in the great compromise of 1850; but this concession was more than counterbalanced by the pro-slavery gains of that political bargain, and since then the abolition of slavery itself in this central Federal jurisdiction seemed to have become impossible until rebellion provoked the change. Under the new conditions antislavery zeal was pushing its lance into every joint of the monster's
Chap. XII. armor, and this vulnerable point was not over
looked. The Constitution placed the District of Columbia exclusively under the legislation of Congress, and by their rebellious withdrawal from their seats in the two Houses the Southern Senators and Representatives had voluntarily surrendered this citadel of their propagandism.
President Lincoln had not specifically recommended abolishment in the District in his annual message; but he had introduced a bill for such a purpose when he was a Member of Congress in 1849, and it was well known that his views had undergone no change. Later on, the already recited special message of March 6 embraced the subject in its larger aspects and recommendations. Thus, with perfect knowledge that it would receive Executive sanction, the Senate on April 3 (yeas, 29; nays, 14), and the House on April 11 (yeas, 92; nays, 38), passed an act of immediate emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia, with compensation to the owners, to be distributed by a commission, the whole not to exceed an aggregate of $300 per slave. The act also appropriated the sum of $100,000 for expenses of voluntary emigration to Hayti or Liberia.
President Lincoln signed the act on the 16th of April, and in his short message of approval said: “I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this District; and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way. Hence there has never been in my mind any question upon the subject except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances. . . I am
gratified that the two principles of compensation CHAP. XII. and colonization are both recognized and practi- "Globe,"
April 16, cally applied in the act.” Certain omissions in the law, which the President pointed out, were remedied by supplementary enactments, which among other provisions added to the boon of freedom the privilege of education by opening public schools to colored children.