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LINCOLN OBJECTS TO CONFISCATION ACT.
ter's general order he had given dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many whose support the country could not afford to lose. Nor was that the end; the pressure upon him was increasing. Why could not the border States yield to his suggestion and relieve the country in this important point ?1
The form of original confiscation bill was not fully approved by the President. He transmitted to Congress a brief statement of what he considered its imperfections: "It is startling to say that Congress can free a slave within a State, and yet, if it were said the ownership of the slave had first been transferred to the Nation, and that Congress had then liberated him, the difficulties would vanish.”2 Slaves as property and munitions of war in the hands of the enemy were forfeitable to the general government, like any other form of property. Congress could then decide the future status of this property, and there could be no objection to its declaring the slave a free man.
The right of a State to control its domestic affairs, its police right, recognized, from the earliest history of the government, in its constitution and confirmed by judicial decisions, must be respected. If Congress were to invade this ancient right, it would antagonize the loyal States. Emancipation, therefore, must proceed with due respect to this ancient right. If by the fortune of war, or by purchase, a slave should become the property of the United States, the general government could do as Kentucky and other States had done, liberate him; but Congress had no power, under the Constitution, to invade the right of a State, and declare slaves to be free men. In other words, emancipation must proceed as a war meas
The slaves were equal to a large and effective con
1 Lincoln's Works, II, 155, 205. 2 Lincoln's Works, II, 210.
federate army in the field. The national government must therefore maintain a force to offset the power of slavery. Why not treat slaves in those portions of the United States in rebellion as munitions of war and eliminate them from the contest?
But a military procedure of this kind must follow national victories, otherwise it could be of no effect; therefore the great thing the government wanted in the summer of 1862 was a victory. On the twenty-second of July the War Department issued an order authorizing military and naval commanders, within the States in rebellion, to seize and use, for military purposes, any real or personal property necessary or convenient for their commands, and also to employ, as laborers, and for military and naval purposes, as many persons of African descent as could advantageously be used. On the same day, the President submitted to his cabinet the draft of an Emancipation Proclamation. He based it upon the authority of the act of Congress of July seventeenth. It warned all persons, in rebellion against the government of the United States, to return to their allegiance, on pain of the forfeiture and seizure authorized by the act; and it made known the purpose of the President again to recommend to Congress the adoption of practical measures for compensated emancipation and gradual abolition, as a fit, military measure for effecting this object.
As Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy, the President now declared that on the first day of January, 1863, all persons held as slaves, within any State wherein the constitutional authority of the United States should not then be practically recognized and maintained, should "then, thenceforward and forever be free.”2 The emanci
1 Lincoln's Works, II, 212. 2 Lincoln's Works, II, 213.
LINCOLN TO GREELEY.
pation of the slaves in the States in rebellion was thus made a military matter. The proposed proclamation would free slaves, but would not, because it could not,abolish slavery. The method conformed to the President's ideas, already expressed, of recognizing the right of a State to control its police and domestic institutions, but of exercising the military right of the national government to destroy the resources of the enemy. With forfeiture of the enemy's property, its title went to the Nation, and it could then do with the property as it chose. The proposed Proclamation announced what treatment and use the national government would make of this property. Had the States, in rebellion, returned then to their allegiance, the Proclamation would not have been issued.1
While anxiously waiting for a national victory, the President was engaged in appeasing the clamor of the more radical supporters of his administration, who were demanding immediate abolition.
His position, in the great change going on, was again and again clearly stated, and nowhere more explicitly than in his letter to Horace Greeley in answer to an unjust criticism: "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 prime 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 of the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save 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
1 The President issued this preliminary Proclamation July 5, 1862. Lincoln's Works, II, 214.
LINCOLN ON NEGRO COLONIZATION.
believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I intend no modification of
oft expressed personal wish, that all men everywhere could be
About a week before this letter was written, in an address to a deputation of free colored men, the President discussed at length the advantages of colonization in Liberia, or in Central America, plainly telling his listeners, that, even when they ceased to be slaves, they were far removed from equality with the white race; it was far better for them to dwell apart by themselves;2 and he outlined, what he considered, a practical colonization plan. But the Emancipation Proclamation was on his mind, and on the twenty-second of September, he read it to his Cabinet and invited their criticisms.
Convinced that the Proclamation would be supported by the people of the loyal States, he was awaiting a favorable moment for issuing it. His plan was to compensate loyal owners of slaves; to carry out a system of voluntary colonization, and to emancipate all slaves, in States in rebellion, on the first day of the new year. On the seventeenth of September, the national arms were victorious at Antietam, and on the twenty-second the Preliminary Proclamation was issued. It freed the slaves in designated States, and parts of States that might be engaged in rebellion on the first day of January, 1863, but it did not abolish slavery, as an institution, in the designated or in other regions. The effect of the Proclamation was at first somewhat disastrous, as the ensuing fall elections
1 Lincoln's letter to Greeley, August 22, 1862. Lincoln's Works, II, 227.
2 August 14, 1862. Lincoln's Works, II, 225. 8 Lincoln's Works, II, 237, 238.
resulted in a choice of Congressmen, the majority of whom were opposed to the administration; but most of the loyal Governors and a large majority of the Republicans in Congress supported the measure both as expedient and as fully warranted by the Constitution. The issuing of this Proclamation by the President was the exercise of all authority possessed by the executive branch of the government of the United States for the abolition of slavery. It was strictly a military measure. What constitutional changes might follow could only be conjectured; but, interpreted by the principle which the President had himself laid down, the States alone could abolish slavery within their own borders. If abolishment was to be permanent; if the institution of slavery was to be destroyed, must not the States themselves destroy it?
Events leading to such a result had meanwhile been pressing fast. For more than a half century, Virginia had consisted of two parts and two peoples: the Eastern and lower portion, the lowlands; the Western and newer portion, the highlands. As far back as 1830, when Madison, Marshall, Monroe, Upshur and Giles were assembled, with many other delegates, to frame a new constitution for the Commonwealth, the differences between its eastern and western portions were clearly recognized, and were harmonized, for a time, at least, by the plan of compromise projected and carried through by Madison. These differences arose chiefly from inequalities in representation, and from hostility to slavery, in the western counties. 2
1 The action of the House, December 15, 1862, as given in Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln: A History, VI, 171. See also The Congressional Globe for December, 1862.
2 See the Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-30, to which are subjoined the New Constitution of Virginia, and the Vote of the People. Richmond: Printed by