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LINCOLN'S INCONGRUOUS IDEAS.
military act. The State would emancipate its own, when it chose.
The South seemed never able to understand, if it ever believed, that President Lincoln would save the Union, and at the same time protect slavery. The ideas were too incongruous. When, at the interview with the borderState representatives, the President assured Maryland, that she "had nothing to fear, either for her institutions or her interests on the points referred to," a Maryland Congressman immediately added, that if the people of the State could hear this, they would consider the proposition with much better feeling. But a constituency is not a Congressman; the people of Maryland, in March, 1862, were not yet persuaded that they were in the midst of a rebellion, which was radically to change their civil and social institutions.
Public opinion in the State was expressed in the resolutions of its legislature, characterizing the effort of its Congressmen to devise schemes of abolition of slavery in rebellious States, as a waste of time.2
Even more antagonistic were the people themselves, who in many meetings, passed resolutions against emancipation; for as yet, they would not tolerate the thought of abolition. As in Louisiana, slaves were owned chiefly in the rural dis
1 Memorandum of an interview between the President, March 10, 1862, and some slave State representatives. Lincoln's Works, II, 134.
2 At the same time a bill was before the legislature for calling a constitutional convention, and it included a clause that the convention, when assembled, should pass no law interfering with the existing relation of master and slave,-using the language of the constitution in the clause cited above. It passed in the Senate by sixteen to two, but in the House the delegates expunged it from the Bill on the ground that the legislature had no power to bind the convention. See Debates, p. 581.
EMANCIPATION IN MARYLAND.
tricts; Baltimore was almost a free city, and it was there that a radical, though long a minority, party in the State arose, favoring a constitutional convention and the abolition of slavery. This party was encouraged by the Emancipation Proclamation; though Maryland, like Missouri, was not included within its operation. Public opinion was changing in the State, and one of its representatives in Congress introduced a resolution in January, 1863, raising the question of Congressional aid in emancipation. But a bill to this end got no further than a select committee, and, for the reason, as it is believed, that the Maryland members, like their constituents, opposed it.? The Maryland radicals lacked organization and the power that goes with the control of a strong party machine. The Union men of the State were much divided, and, as had been the case in Missouri and Louisiana, emancipation was delayed by local and factional
1 The relatively small number of slaves in the City of New Orleans was the subject of much discussion in the Louisiana constitutional convention of 1845. See Proceedings and Debates of the Convention of Louisiana, which assembled at the City of New Orleans January 18, 1844, to May 16, 1845; New Orleans, 1845, 960 pages. The discussion runs through the volume, and shows that slavery could not prosper other than in agricultural regions, therefore, in manufacturing and commercial centers, labor must be performed by free persons, more or less skilled. For this reason New Orleans was practically a free city; Baltimore was ultimately in the same class. From the evidence presented in Louisiana and Maryland (see Debates of this convention of 1850 before cited) one is led to the conclusion that the multiplication of cities in the South would ultimately contribute, if not compel, the abolition of slavery, for slavery, at least in modern times, cannot long exist in a manufacturing community. For an account of slavery in Louisiana see my Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850, Vol. I, Chapters xiii, xiv, xv; that the institution could exist only in an agricultural community, see Vol. II, Chapters i, vi.
2 See the Congressional Globe from January 12 to February 26, 1863. The resolution was introduced by Francis Thomas, of Maryland; the bill by John A. Bingham, of Ohio.
SENTIMENT OF THE PEOPLE.
quarrels, more than by the real sentiments of the people. But, in the three States, a liberal, public sentiment was growing and constantly strengthening, and it was encouraged by the progress of the war, and particularly by the attitude of the President toward slavery, as indicated in his message to Congress in December, 1863.
In this he declared “that the general government had no lawful power to effect emancipation in any State; that whatever he did in emancipation, must be a military act.” "Maryland," he said at this time, "was only disputing as to the best mode of removing it.” The dispute, though factional, was earnest. It was no secret that he wished success to the movement. "It would aid much," said he, “to end the rebellion." It was a matter of national consequence, and its friends should "allow no minor consideration to divide and distract them."1 That factional feeling was subsiding, was manifested from an act of the legislature, passed in the January session, 1864, appointing an election for the sixth of April, when the question of a convention should be decided, and delegates chosen.2
The majority in favor of a convention was large, and, of the ninety-six delegates elected, sixty-one were in favor of emancipation.3
While the convention was in session, the National
1 Lincoln to Creswell, March 16, 1864. Lincoln's Works, Vol. II, p. 298.
2 Acts of the General Assembly of January Session, 1864, p. 5; also see the Convention Bill, pp. 22 and 24 of the Debates of the constitutional convention of the State of Maryland, assembled at the City of Annapolis, April 27, 1864; Annapolis: Printed by Richard P. Bailey, MDCCCLXIV, Vol. I, 744 pages; Vol. II, 745, 1,384 pages; Vol. III, 1385, 1,988 pages.
3 The convention was in session from the 27th of April to the 6th of September, and briefly on the first of November, when it adjourned sine die. Its session was not only one of the most interesting on record, but its debates are among the most voluminous, covering nearly two thousand octavo pages.
Union Convention to nominate candidates for the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States, met in Baltimore, June seventh and eighth, renominated President Lincoln, and associated Andrew Johnson of Tennessee with him as Vice-President. The first clause of the platform on which they were nominated declared it the highest duty of every American citizen to maintain the paramount authority of the Constitution and the laws of the United States. This doctrine of a powerful party, if true, would eventually reconstruct the Union. It was the antithetic of State sovereignty. Before the year closed it was to be incorporated in the constitution of two States: Maryland, a member of the original thirteen, and a slaveholding State, and a new State,-Nevada. Maryland was the first to discuss the new doctrine, and the debate ran through nearly half the summer. The whole constitutional history of the Union was reviewed. The intentions of the Fathers were re-examined, and the Federalist, and the debates in the Convention of 1787, were cited in proof, and in disproof, of the doctrine of national supremacy. On the thirty-fourth day, just a week after the Republican party had proclaimed the principle, 4 Maryland, by a vote of fifty-three to thirty-two, incorporated this idea in its Declaration of Rights. Our history gives no like instance of the transformation and adoption, in so brief a time, of a party doctrine into a State constitution."
1 Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions, 1856, 1860, 1864; Charles M. Johnson, Minn., p. 225.
2 It is found chiefly in the first volume of the Debates.
3 See the discussion in the Federal Convention, Vol. I, pp. 315, 352, 371, 383, 389, 392, 413, 445, 451, 483, 518, 525, 555.
4 Adopted, 53 to 32, June 16, 1864. Debates, Vol. I, p. 534.
5 “We all know," said Edward W. Belt, of Prince George County, “that the people who held the consolidation theory, and the people who held the States-rights theory were there; and now it 1 Clark's Resolution, Debates, p. 110.
But the Maryland convention was not called primarily to formulate the doctrine of the paramount authority of the national government; the great and immediate subject before it was emancipation. In entering upon its solution, the members could not forget, even if the majority could ignore, the prejudices of a lifetime.
This was illustrated in their manner of approaching the subject, which might fitly be compared to that of a skirmish before a battle. Many resolutions re-echoing the slave laws of the State, were introduced and discussed as preliminary to the work which the hour demanded. All these had a familiar sound. One would exclude free negroes from the State, declaring them incompetent to make contracts. Another, for the offence of employing a free negro or of encouraging him to remain, would impose a fine of not less than fifty or more than five hundred dollars. This treatment of free negroes only followed the precedents set by Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Had it not always been the policy of non-slaveholding States to get rid of the free negro, lest, if allowed to remain in the State, he come in competition with the white laborer ?? But, it was is proposed, for the first time in history, to incorporate into the organic law of a sovereign political community what is, in fact, nothing in the world but one of the dogmas of a party platform. You here wish to put into the convention (constitution?) of Maryland the declaration, that we who have held the States-rights theory are wrong, while you who have held the contrary are right, because you thus make it the fundamental law." Debates, June 3, 1864; P. 321. "The Constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance thereto being the supreme law of the land, every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and Government of the United States, and is not bound by any law or ordinance of this State in controversion or subversion thereto.” Maryland Constitution, 1864, Declaration of Rights, Article V.
2 For an account of the treatment of free persons of color by Northern States, see my Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850, Vol. I, Chapter XII, and Index, "Free Negroes."