« AnteriorContinuar »
Message. Change of Laborer's Condition. Population.
hired. Men, with their families—wives, sons, and daughters— work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital, on the one hand, nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital—that is, they labor with their own hands, and also buy or hire others to labor for them ; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class. “Again, as has already been said, there is not, of necessity, any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that, condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States, a few years back in their lives, were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhilg, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just, and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way to all— gives hope to all, and consequent energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost. “From the first taking of our National Census to the last are seventy years; and we find our population at the end of the period eight times as great as it was at the beginning. The increase of those other things which men deem desirable has been even greater. We thus have at one view what the popular principle, applied to Government through the machinery of the States and the Union, has produced in a given time, and
Asessage. Acts of Congress. Conflscation.
also what if firmly maintained, it promises for the future. There are already among us those who, if the Union be preserved, will live to see it contain two hundred and fifty millions. The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us. 3. “ABRAHAM LINCOLN. “WASHINGTON, December 3, 1861. "
At this session, provision was made for the issue of legal tender notes, and an internal revenue bill was matured, for the purposing of increasing largely the receipts of the Treasury, affording a basis for the payment of interest on authorized loans, and insuring confidence in the National currency.
A Congressional committee on the conduct of the war was also appointed, the evidence obtained by which was submitted to the President for his consideration and eventually given to the public.
A confiscation bill was passed, with a special provision for conditional pardon and amnesty, limiting the forfeiture of real
estate to the lifetime of its rebel owners.
THE SLAVERY QUESTION.
Situation of the President–His Policy—Gradual Emancipation Message—Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia—Repudiation of General Hunter's Emancipation Order—Conference with Congressmen from the Border Slave States-Address to the same—Military Order—Proclamation under the Confiscation Act.
WHAT was to be the final disposition of the question of slavery could not be thrust aside. The intimate connection of this institution with our military operations, was perpetually
Message. Position touching Slavery. Special Message.
forcing it upon the attention of the nation. This subject had, since it had been rendered patent to all, that it was to be no holiday struggle in which we were engaged, but a life and death grapple with desperate and determined foes, been ever present to Mr. Lincoln's mind. His action was, however, to a certain extent, not suffered to be independent. Could he have boldly assumed the initiative, assured that the great mass of the people were at his back, he could have acted far otherwise than he was necessitated to act, considering the delicate nature of the question, the utter lack of precedents, the intertwining of interests, the dangers resulting from a single misstep, the divisions on this point, existing in the ranks even of his own political supporters, and the conflicting views held "by men whose loyalty and devotion to the country were unimpeachable. He chose not to go far ahead of popular indications; he deemed it the wiser statesmanship, in the existing state of affairs, to keep in the lead but a little, feeling, so to speak, his way along—making haste slowly. That this would dissatisfy many of his political friends he well knew; but he, upon mature deliberation, decided that it was for the interest of the country, and that to that consideration everything else must yield. On the 6th of March, 1862, he sent to the Congress the following message concerning this question, the resolution embodied in which, was passed by both Houses:
“FELLow-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND House of REPRESENTATIVES:—I recommend the adoption of a joint resolution by your honorable bodies, which shall be substantially as follows:
“Resolved, That the United States ought to coöperate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
Special Message. Gradual Emancipation.
“If the proposition contained in the resolution does not meet the approval of Congress and the country, there is the end; but if it does command such approval, I deem it of importance that the States and people immediately interested, should be at once distinctly notified of the fact, so that they may begin to consider whether to accept or reject it. The Federal Government would find its highest interest in such a measure as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation. The leaders of the existing insurrection entertain the hope that this Government will ultimately be forced to acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region, and that all the slave States north of such part will then say, ‘the Union for which we have struggled being already gone, we now choose to go with the southern section.” To deprive them of this hope substantially ends the rebellion, and the initiation of emancipation completely deprives them of it as to all the States initiating it. The point is not that all the States tolerating slavery would very soon, if at all, initiate emancipation, but that, while the offer is equally made to all, the more northern shall, by such initiation, make it certain to the more southern that in no event will the former ever join the latter in their proposed confederacy. I say “initiation,” because in my judgment, gradual, and not sudden emancipation, is better for all. In the mere financial or pecuniary view, any member of Congress, with the census tables and treasury reports before him, can readily see for himself how very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase, at fair valuation, all the slaves in any named State. Such a proposition on the part of the general Government sets up no claim of a right by Federal authority to interfere with slavery within State limits, referring, as it does, the absolute control of the subject in each case to the State and its people immediately interested. It is proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them.
“In the annual message last December, I thought fit to
Special Message. Abolition of Slavery in District.
say, ‘the Union must be preserved; and hence all indispensable means must be employed.' I said this not hastily, but deliberately. War has been made, and continues to be an indispensable means to this end. A practical re-acknowedgment of the national authority would render the war unecessary, and it would at once cease. If, however, resistance continues, the war must also continue, and it is impossible to foresee all the incidents which may attend, and all the ruin which may follow it. Such as may seem indispensable, or may obviously promise great efficiency toward ending the struggle, must and will come.
“The proposition now made, though an offer only, I hope it may be esteemed no offence to ask whether the pecuniary consideration tendered would not be of more value to the States and private persons concerned, than are the institutions and property in it, in the present aspect of affairs.
“While it is true that the adoption of the proposed resolution would be merely initiatory, and not within itself a practical measure, it is recommended in the hope that it would soon lead to important practical results. In full view of my great responsibility to my God and to my country, I earnestly beg the attention of Congress and the people to the subject.
“March 6, 1862. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.”
A bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia having passed both Houses of Congress early in April, the President, in communicating his approval of the measure, judged it necessary to accompany the same with the following message:
“FELLow-CITIZENS OF THE SEN ATE AND House of REPRESENTATIVES :—The act entitled ‘An act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia,' has this day been approved and signed.
“I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Con gress to abolish slavery in this District, and I have ever desired to see the National Capital freed from the institution in