« AnteriorContinuar »
CONFISCATION ACT AMENDED.
scheme for that State by which slavery should gradually disappear. But Delaware, though small, fully represented opposition to the idea, which, its assembly declared by a disapproving vote, would only encourage the supporters in Congress and in the North in favor of abolition. The right alone belonged to Delaware, as to any other State, to abolish slavery within its own boundary. The attitude of Delaware was typical of that of other border States.
The confiscation act, of 1861, was amended, in July of the following year, and made more comprehensive and explicit, especially as to slaves found within any place occupied by rebel forces or escaping from masters engaged in rebellion against the United States, and taking refuge in any of its armies. They were to be treated as captives of war and be forthwith and forever free. But even more significant of the great change going on in the country was the authority the act gave the President to employ as many persons of African descent as he thought necessary and proper for the suppression of rebellion; for which purpose he might organize and use them for the public welfare, in such manner as he might judge best; and he might colonize persons freed by the act, who were willing to emigrate, the consent of the country to which they would go having been first obtained. The colonists were to have all the rights and privileges of freedmen.
This authority given the President to organize negro regiments was without precedent. Louisiana at the close of the war of 1812, had authorized the enrollment of regiments of free persons of color. A few free negroes fought in the ranks in the battles along the Northern frontier during this war, and a few served in some of its naval engagements; but no distinct organization of negro troops
1 See Statutes at Large, Vol. XII, pp. 591, 592. 2 Act of January 30, 1812.
SLAVERY ABOLISHED IN THE TERRITORIES.
had ever been known in the United States military service. The constitutions of more than thirty of the States expressly forbade the enrollment of negroes in the militia.1 The act of July, therefore, was a startling departure from precedent, which, it seemed improbable, even the free States would follow. But Congress was doing many things quite without precedent. On the nineteenth of June, it cut the Gordian knot which so long had defied the strongest and most cunning of our statesmen, by abolishing slavery in all the territories of the United States.2
This act put into legal form a clause in the platform on which Lincoln was elected, declaring that the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom; that, as our Republican Fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that “no person should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” it was our duty, by legislation, whenever necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it. The authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any Territory of the United States was denied. 3
The transformation of a plank in a party platform into an act of Congress, well illustrates what, in the United States, we understand by the term, "the administration of government.” The abolition of slavery in the territories was approved throughout the North, and was the
1 In all the States practically, excepting New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. For a discussion of the exemption of free negroes from military duty, see my Constitutional History of the American People, 1776-1850, II, 235, et seq.
2 Statutes at Large, XII, 432. June 19, 1862.
3 Johnson's Republican National Conventions (1860), 132 (No. 8).
ABOLISHED IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
final answer of Congress in 1862 to the great question discussed in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, four years before, when the Republican party was first formulating its political principles, whether Congress was empowered, under the Constitution, to control as to slavery in the territories,
A week before this act was passed, slavery was abolished in the District of Columbia, and the old law of excluding witnesses on account of color, in judicial proceedings, was repealed. On the seventh of April, the United States and Great Britain concluded a treaty at Washington for the suppression of the African slave trade.3 ment between the two nations contained instructions for the employment of their navies to prevent the traffic. Thus in the months of June and July, 1862, Congress exercised the power of the United States toward the abolition and extinction of slavery as never before. But as yet abolition was restricted to the territories.
Though Delaware refused to co-operate with the President, in gradual and compensatory emancipation, he did not cease his efforts to inaugurate a compensatory plan. On the sixth of March, 1862, he had sent a special message to Congress, recommending compensated emancipation, basing his proposition upon a resolution, the adoption of which he urged upon the two Houses,—that the United States ought to co-operate with any State which might adopt gradual abolition, by giving pecuniary aid, to be used by the State at its discretion. It passed, as a joint
1 See these debates either in Lincoln's Works, I, or in their original form as published at Columbus, Ohio, by Follett Foster and Company, 1860; also see the address at Cooper Institute, February 27, 1860. Lincoln's Works, I, 599, 612.
2 Statutes at Large, XII, 539.
GRADUAL EMANCIPATION PROJECTED.
resolution, on the tenth of April following. It showed the way public events were trending. In an interview with some members of Congress from the border States, on the tenth of March, the President explicitly stated that he desired his proposition accepted voluntarily, as "emancipation was a subject exclusively under the control of the States, and must be adopted, or rejected, by each for itself.” He did not claim that the United States had "any right to coerce them for that purpose. Clearly the power of Congress to control as to slavery in a territory was very different from the power in a State, and the President was careful to recognize this. It was about this time that he communicated to Senator McDougall, of California, an estimate of the cost of gradual emancipation, with compensation. The cost of the war for eighty-seven days,—one hundred and seventy-four millions of dollars,– would pay for all the slaves in the four border States and the District of Columbia.3
Lincoln saw clearly what was coming, as is evident from his appeal to the border States representatives to favor his plan, which was the payment, to the States, of four hundred dollars for each slave in twenty equal annual instalments in six per cent national bonds. He did not neglect to point out the advantage of distributing the cost over
1 Statutes at Large, XII, 617.
2 Lincoln's Works, II, 133. 3 Thus, slaves in Delaware.
3,181 .225,490 . 114,965
Cost of slaves...
.$173,048,800 Eighty-seven days' cost of the war.... 174,000,000 4 March 14, 1862, Lincoln's Works, II, 137.
SOUTH AMERICAN COLONIZATION.
a long period of time, as compared with the disadvantage of raising an equal amount for war purposes. But the border States Congressmen, who listened to him, could see no way of removing the well known and oft declared objections of State sovereignty, the inexpediency of abolition, and the denial of the right of the United States to initiate emancipation in a State. He frankly asked them what better their States could do than to follow this plan. Would they prefer to restore the constitutional relation of other States of the Nation without destroying the institution of slavery? If this was done, he said that his whole duty in the matter under the Constitution and his oath of office would be performed. But it was not done, and the Nation was trying to accomplish it by war. The incidents of war could not be avoided. If the war continued long, as it must if the object was not sooner obtained, the institution in the border States would be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion—by the mere incidents of war. It would be gone and their people would have nothing valuable in lieu of it. He then made a strong appeal both to their cupidity and their patriotism. Better save the money than sink it in war; better have the border States as sellers and the Nation as a buyer, "than to sink both the thing to be sold and the price of it in cutting one another's throats." Abundant room could be had in South America for colonization.
In the preceding May, Major General Hunter had declared the slaves in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina forever free, but the President, ten days later, countermanded this order and declared that he alone as Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy, was competent to issue such a proclamation. But, to a border State representative, he confessed that in repudiating Hun
1 May 9, 1862.