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I know as fully as one can know the opinions of others that some of the commanders of our armies in the field, who have given us our most important victories, believe the Emancipation policy and the use of colored troops constitute the heaviest blows yet dealt to the Rebellion, and that at least one of those important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders who hold these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called “Abolitionism,” or with “Republican party politics,” but who hold them purely as military opinions. I submit their opinions as entitled to some weight against the objections often urged that emancipation and arming the blacks are unwise as military measures, and were not adopted as such in good faith. You say that you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively, to save the Union. I issued the Proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time then for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes. I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive, even the promise of freedom. And the promise, being made, must be kept. The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea. Thanks to the great Northwest for it; nor yet wholly to them. Three hundred miles up they met New England, Empire, Keystone, and Jersey, hewing their way right and left. The sunny South, too, in more colors than one, also lent a helping hand. On the spot, their part of the history was jotted down in black and white. The job was a great national one, and let none be slighted who bore an honorable part in it. And while those who have cleared the great river may well be proud, even that is not all. It is hard to say that anything has been more bravely and well done than at Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, and on many fields of less note. Nor must Uncle Sam's web feet be forgotten. At all the watery margins they have been present, not only on the deep sea, the broad bay, and the rapid river, but also up the narrow, muddy bayou, and wherever the ground was a little damp they have been and made their tracks. Thanks to all. For the great Republic—for the principle it fives by and keeps alive—for man's vast future—thanks to all.
Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that among freemen there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost. And there will be some black men who can remember that with sient tongue, and clinched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation, while I fear there will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have striven to hinder it.
Still, let us not be over-sanguine of a speedy, final triumph. Let us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in His own good time, will give us the rightful result.
Yours, very truly, A. LINCOLN.
The result of the canvass justified the confidence of the friends of the Administration. Every State in which elections were held, with the single exception of New Jersey, voted to sustain the Government; and in all the largest and most important States the majorities were so large as to make the result of more than ordinary significance. In Ohio, Wallandigham, who had been put in nomination mainly on account of the issue he had made with the Government in the matter of his arrest, was defeated by a majority of nearly 100,000. New York, which had elected Governor Seymour the year before, and had been still further distinguished and disgraced by the anti-draft riots of July, gave a majority of not far from 30,000 for the Administration; and Pennsylvania, in spite of the personal participation of General McClellan in the canvass against him, re-elected Gov. Curtin by about the same majority. These results followed a very active and earnest canvass, in which the opponents of the Administration put forth their most vigorous efforts for its defeat. The ground taken by its friends in every State was that which had been held by the President from the beginning—that the rebellion must be suppressed and the Union preserved at whatever cost —that this could only be done by force, and that it was not only the right but the duty of the Government to use all the means at its command, not incompatible with the laws of war and the usages of civilized nations, for the accomplishment of this result. They vindicated the action of the Government in the matter of arbitrary arrests, and sustained throughout the canvass, in every State, the policy of the President in regard to slavery and in issuing the Proclamation of Emancipation as a military measure, against the vehement and earnest efforts of the Opposition. The result was, therefore, justly claimed as a decided verdict of the people in support of the Government. It was so regarded by all parties throughout the country, and its effect upon their action was of marked importance. While it gave renewed vigor and courage to the friends of the Administration everywhere, it developed the division of sentiment in the ranks of the Opposition, which, in its incipient stages, had largely contributed to their defeat. The majority of that party were inclined to acquiesce in the deliberate judgment of the country, that the rebellion could be subdued only by successful war, and to sustain the Government in whatever measures might be deemed necessary for its effectual prosecution:-but the resolute resistance of some of its more conspicuous leaders has thus far withheld them from open action in this direction.
THE CONGRESS OF 1863–4.—MESSAGE OF THE PRESIDENT.ACTION OF THE SESSION.
CoNGREss met on Monday, December 7, 1863. The House of Representatives was promptly organized by the election of Hon. Schuyler Colfax, a Republican from Indiana, to be Speaker—he receiving 101 votes out of 181, the whole number cast. Mr. Cox, of Ohio, was the leading candidate of the Democratic opposition, but he received only 51 votes, the remaining 29 being divided among several Democratic members. In the Senate, the Senators from Western Virginia were admitted to their seats by a vote of 36 to 5.
On the 9th, the President transmitted to both Houses the following MEssage:
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Another year of health and of sufficiently abundant harvests has passed. For these, and especially for the improved condition of our national affairs, our renewed and profoundest gratitude to God is due. We remain in peace and friendship with foreign Powers. The efforts of disloyal citizens of the United States to involve us in foreign wars to aid an inexcusable insurrection have been unavailing. Her Britannic Majesty's Government, as was justly expected, have exercised their authority to prevent the departure of new hostile expeditions from British ports. The Emperor of France has, by a like proceeding, promptly vindicated the neutrality which he proclaimed at the beginning of the contest. Questions of great intricacy and importance have arisen out of the blockade, and other belligerent operations between the Government and several of the maritime Powers, but they have been discussed, and, as far as was possible, accommodated in a spirit of frankness, justice, and mutual good-will. It is especially gratifying that our prize Courts, by the impartiality of their adjudications, have commanded the respect and confidence of maritime Powers. The suppleinental treaty between the United States and Great Britain for the suppression of the African Slave trade, made on the 17th day of February last, has been duly ratified and carried into execution. It is believed that so far as American ports and American citizens are concerned, that inhuman and odious traffic has been brought to an end. I have thought it proper, subject to the approval of the Senate, to concur with the interested commercial Powers, in an arrangement for the liquidation of the Scheldt dues, upon the principles which have been heretofore adopted in regard to the imposts upon navigation in the waters of Denmark. The long-pending controversy between this Government and that of Chili, touching the seizure at Sitana, in Peru, by Chilian officers, of a large amount in treasure, belonging to citizens of the United States, has been brought to a close by the award of His Majesty the King of the Belgians, to whose arbitration the question was referred by the parties. The subject was thoroughly and patiently examined by that justly respected magistrate, and although the sum awarded to the claimants may not have been as large as they expected, there is no reason to distrust the wisdom of His Majesty's decision. That decision was promptly complied with by Chili when intelligence in regard to it reached that country. The Joint Commission under the act of the last session for carrying into effect the Convention with Peru on the subject of claims, has been organized at Lima, and is engaged in the business intrusted to it. Difficulties concerning interoceanic transit through Nicaragua, are in course of amicable adjustment. In conformity with principles set forth in my last Annual Message, I have received a representative from the United States of Colombia, and have accredited a Minister to that Republic. Incidents occurring in the progress of our civil war have forced upon my attention the uncertain state of international questions touching the rights of foreigners in this country and of United States citizens abroad. In regard to some Governments, these rights are at least partially defined by treaties. In no instance, however, is it expressly stipulated that in the event of civil war a foreigner residing in this country, within the lines of the insurgents, is to be exempted from the rule which classes him as a belligerent, in whose behalf the Government of his country cannot expect any privileges or immunities distinct from that