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A New Era Inaugurated.—Emancipation.—Mesaago of the Freai dent.—Last Session of the Thirty-seventh Congress.
The elections, prior to the autumn of 1862, had shown large majorities for the Administration. Brilliant successes had been won by its armies in the West, until, in June, the tide of victory paused before Vicksburg. In the East, military inefficiency had culminated on the Peninsula and before Washington. Lee had invaded Maryland, and leisurely retired, unpursued. Political defeat followed military disaster. Ohio and Pennsylvania gave small majorities against the Administration in October. New York, in the next month, followed the example. The lower House of the next Congress was already claimed as secured by the Opposition. Popular discontent and despondency were every-where manifest. Opposition politicians held the President responsible before the people for the non-action of their favorite General, whom they did not cease to lament when removed. Peace Democrats rallied behind banners inscribed, "For a more vigorous prosecution of the war;" yet their repre- entative man was the one who, evading orders of the Administration, and thwarting the President's wishes, had wasted lavish preparations and abundant military forces, during a whole year, in organizing failure.
Long before this disheartening epoch, however, President Lincoln, as seen in previous pages, had earnestly directed his thoughts to the proper mode of dealing with slavery, in its necessary relations to the war. His final speech to the Border State men on compensated emancipation, as we have seen, plainly indicated that, as early as July, his mind was nuide up to wrest this element of military power from the support of the Rebellion.
In the month of May, 1862, Gen. Hunter, then commanding the Department of the South, issued an unauthorized order, in which he attempted, by logical deduction from the promise of Secession, to establish the conclusion that, in his military department, all slaves had become manumitted. As a result of this logical exercise, he declared such persons to be " forever free." This order, like the rhapsody on Slavery and Romanism, issued by Gen. Phelps, in his proclamation at Ship Island, might have been suffered to pass without public notice by the Executive, had it not emanated from a commanding general in whose department were two of the States in which slaves were the most numerous, and had it not the appearance of an authentic announcement of a new policy, which Gen. Hunter had lately been sent out to put in operation. The President felt constrained to set aside this order, which he did in the following well-considered proclamation:
Whereas, There appears in the public prints what purports to be a proclamation of Major General Hunter, in the words and figures following, to wit:
Headquarters Department Op The South, |
General Orders No. 11.]
The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the twenty-fifth day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these three States, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.
David Hunter, Major General Commanding.
Official: Ed. W. SMiih, Acting Assistant Adjutant General.
And Whereas, The same is producing some excitement and misunderstanding,
Tlicrrfore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, proclaim and declare that the Government of the United States had no knowledge or belief of an intention, on the part of Gen. Hunter, to issue such a proclamation, nor has it yet any authentic information that the document is genuine; and, further, that neither Gen. Hunter nor any other commander, or erson, has been authorized by the Government of the United tates to make proclamation declaring the slaves of any State free, and that the supposed proclamation now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.
I further make known that, whether it be competent for me, as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the slaves of" any State or States free, and whether, at any time, or in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I can not feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders in the field. These are totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies and camps.
On the sixth day of March last, by a special message, 1 recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolution, to be substantially as follows:
"Resolved, That the United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State in its discretion to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system."
The resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large majorities in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentie, definite, and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most immediately interested in the subject matter. To the people of these States I now earnestly appnal. I do not argue; I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves. You can not, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of Heaven, not rending or wrecking any thing. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time, as, in the Providence of God, it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this nineteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixtytwo, and of the Independence of the United States the eightysixth. Abraham Lincoln.
The policy on which the Government had heen acting, in the Slave districts, was substantially that repeated in an Executive order, under date of July 22, 1862:
That military and naval commanders shall employ as laborers, within and from said States, so many persons of African descent as can be advantageously used for military or naval purposes, giving them reasonable wages for their labor.
That, as to both property, and persons of African descent, accounts shall be kept sufficiently accurate and in detail to show quantities and amounts, and from whom both property and such persons shall have come, as a basis upon which compensation can be made in proper cases; and the several departments of this Government shall attend to and perform their appropriate parts toward the execution of these orders.
In August, Mr. Greeley, of New York, published in his Journal, the Tribune, an editorial article on this subject, in the form of a letter addressed to the President, severely criticising his action, and complaining, in no very gentle terms, of various matters, wherein the Administration had, in his opinion, fallen short of the just expectations of "twenty millions" of loyal people. The whole letter proceeded from the mistaken assumption that the President had not, all along, reflected as earnestly, and felt as deeply, in regard to the question of emancipation, as any man living. It was written in ignorance of the fact that the President had already fully matured and resolved upon a definite policy in regard to Slavery, and was only awaiting the fitting moment for its announcement.
Mr. Lincoln thought proper to address Mr. Greeley the following letter, in reply to his complaints:
Executive Mansion, Washington, ) August 22, 1862. j Hon. Horace Greelet—Dear Sir: I have just read yours of tho 19th, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements or assumptions of fact which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them. If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whoso heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing," as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the National authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save Slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy Slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts tho cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have hero stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, every-where, coi\ld be free.
Yours, A. Lincoln.
Although the proclamation of Emancipation had been propared sometime before this letter was written—in fact as early as July—it was not deemed a fitting occasion to announce this great measure, when our army was recoiling from before Richmond, or when our Capital itself was threatened and Maryland invaded. The battle of Antietam, followed by the withdrawal of Lee's army into Virginia, occurred on the 17th day of September. The President, five days later, issued the following
Proclamation Of Emancipation.
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do horeby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States and the people