« AnteriorContinuar »
on the 9th a resolution was adopted (ayes 93, noes 55), declaring it to be “no part of the duty of the soldiers of the United States to capture and return fugitive slaves.” A bill was promptly introduced to declare valid all the acts of the President for the suppression of the rebellion previous to the meeting of Congress, and it brought on a general discussion of the principles involved and the interests concerned in the contest. There were a few in both Houses, with John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, at their head, who still insisted that any resort by the Government to the use of the war power against the rebels was unconstitutional, and could only end in the destruction of the Union ; but the general sentiment of both Houses fully sustained the President in the steps he had taken. The subject of slavery was introduced into the discussion commenced by Senator Powell, of Kentucky, who proposed on the 18th to amend the Army Bill by adding a section that no part of the army should be employed “in subjecting or holding as a conquered province any sovereign state .now or lately one of the United States, or in abolishing or interfering with African slavery in any of the States.” The debate which ensued elicited the sentiments of members on this subject. Mr. Sherman, of Ohio, concurred in the sentiment that the war was “not to be waged for the purpose of subjugating any state or freeing any slave, or to interfere with the social or domestic institutions of any State or any people ; it was to preserve this Union, to maintain the Constitution as it is in all its clauses, in all its guarantees, without change or limitation.” Mr. Dixon, of Connecticut, assented to this, but also declared that if the South should protract the war, and " it should turn out that either this Government or slavery must be destroyed, then the people of the North—the Conservative people of the North-would say, rather than let the Government perish, let slavery perish.” Mr. Lane, of Kansas, did not believe that slavery could survive in any state the march of the Union armies. These seemed to be the sentiments of both branches of Congress. The amendment was rejected and bills were passed ratifying the acts of the President, authorizing him to accept the services of half a million of vollunteers, and placing five hundred millions of dollars at the disposal of the Government for the prosecution of the war.
On the 15th of July, Mr. McClernand, a democrat from Illinois, offered a resolution pledging the House to vote any amount of money and any number of men necessary to suppress the rebellion, and restore the authority of the Government, which was adopted with but five opposing votes; and on the 22d of July, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, offered the following resolution, defining the objects of the war :
Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against the constitutional Government, and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country ; that this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of oppression, or for any. purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.
This resolution was adopted with but two dissenting votes. It was accepted by the whole country as defining the objects and limiting the continuance of the war, and was regarded with special favor by the loyal citizens of the Border States, whose sensitiveness on the subject of slavery had been skilfully and zealously played upon by the agents and allies of the rebel confederacy. The war was universally represented by these men as waged for the destruction of slavery, and as aiming, not at the preservation of the Union, but the emancipation of the slaves; and there was great danger that these appeals to the pride,
the interest, and the prejudices of the Border Slave States might bring them to join their fortunes to those of the rebellion. The passage of this resolution, with so great a degree of unanimity, had a very soothing effect upon the apprehensions of these states, and contributed largely to strengthen the Government in its contest with the rebellion.
The sentiments of Congress on this matter, as well as on the general subject of the war, were still further developed in the debates which followed the introduction to the House of a bill passed by the Senate to “confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes.” It was referred to the Judiciary Committee and reported back with an amendment, providing that whenever any slave should be required or permitted by his master to take up arms, or be employed in any fort, dock-yard, or in any military service in aid of the rebellion, he should become entitled to his freedom. Mr. Wickliffe and Mr. Burnett of Kentucky at once contested the passage of the bill on the ground that the Government had no right to interfere in any way with the relation existing between a master and his slave;—and they were answered by the northern members with the argument that the Government certainly had a right to confiscate property of any kind employed in the rebellion, and that there was no more reason for protecting slavery against the consequences of exercising this right, than for shielding any other interest that might be thus involved. The advocates of the bill denied that it was the intention of the law to emancipate the slaves, or that it would bear any such construction in the courts of justice. They repudiated the idea that men in arms against the Union and Constitution could claim the protection of the Constitution, and thus derive from that instrument increased ability to secure its destruction; but they based their proposed confiscation of slave property solely on the ground that it was a necessary means to the prosecution of the war, and not in any sense the object for
which the war was waged. After a protracted debate, that section of the bill which related to this subject was passedayes 60, noes 48, in the following form :
That whenever hereafter, during the present insurrection against the Government of the United States, any person claimed to be held to labor or service, under the laws of any State, shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due, or by the lawful agent of such person, to take up arms against the United States, or shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, or his lawful agent, to work or to be employed in or upon any fort, navy-yard, dock, armory, ship, or intrenchment, or in any military or naval service whatever, against the Government and lawful authority of the United States, then, and in every such case, the person to whom such service is claimed to be due, shall forfeit his claim to such labor, any law of the State, or of the United States, to the contrary notwithstanding; and whenever thereafter the person claiming such labor or service shall seek to enforce his claim, it shall be a full and sufficient answer to such claim that the person whose service or labor is claimed, had been employed in hostile service against the Government of the United States, contrary to the provisions of this act.
Congress closed its extra session on the 6th of August. It had taken the most vigorous and effective measures for the suppression of the rebellion, having clothed the President with even greater power than he had asked for in the prosecution of the war, and avoided with just fidelity all points which could divide and weaken the loyal sentiment of the country. The people responded with hearty applause to the patriotic action of their representatives. The universal temper of the country was one of buoyancy and hope. Throughout the early part of the summer the rebels had been steadily pushing troops through Virginia to the borders of the Potoinac, menacing the national capital with capture, until in the latter part of June they had an army of not far from 35,000 men, holding a strong position along the Bull Run creek,—its left posted at Winchester, and its right resting at Manassas. It was determined to attack this force and drive it from the vicinity of Washington, and the general belief of the country was that this would substantially end the war. The national army, numbering about 30,000 men, moved from the Potomac, on the 16th of July, under General McDowell, and the main attack was made on the 21st. It resulted in the defeat, with a loss of 480 killed and 1,000 wounded, of our forces, and their falling back, in the utmost disorder and confusion, upon Washington. Our army was completely routed, and if the rebel forces had known the extent of their success, and had been in condition to avail themselves of it with vigor and energy, the Capital would easily have fallen into their hands.
The result of this battle took the whole country by surprise. The most sanguine expectations of a prompt and decisive victory had been universally entertained; and the actual issue first revealed to the people the prospect of a long and bloody war. But the public heart was not in the least discouraged. On the contrary, the effect was to rouse still higher the courage and determination of the people. No one dreamed for an instant of submission. The most vigorous efforts were made to reorganize the army, to increase its numbers by volunteering, and to establish a footing for national troops at various points along the rebel coast. On the 28th of August Fort Hatteras was surrendered to the National forces, and on the 31st of October Port Royal, on the coast of South Carolina, fell into possession of the United States. On the 3d of December Ship Island, lying between Mobile and New Orleans, was occupied. Preparations were also made for an expedition against New Orleans, and by a series of combined movements the rebel forces were driven out of Western Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri-States in which the population had from the beginning of the contest been divided in sentiment and in action.
On the 31st of October General Scott, finding himself un