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West Virginia into the Union is expedient. On December thirty-first, 1862, he signed the bill.
The State convention reassembled on the twelfth of February following, and substituted the provision adopted by Congress for the clause in the original Constitution; and, on the twenty-sixth of March, the amended instrument was ratified by the popular vote. On the nineteenth of June, West Virginia became the thirty-fifth State in the Union. It was the first slaveholding State which provided for gradual emancipation, but so swiftly did public opinion change that in less than two years from the day of its admission its legislature was preparing to submit a constitutional amendment for the immediate abolition of slavery.
In accordance with the notice given in the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the President, in his annual message, in December, recommended to Congress an amendment to the Constitution, providing for compensation from the United States to every State that should abolish slavery before the first day of January, 1900; all slaves freed by the chances of war, during the rebellion should be forever free, and Congress might provide for colonizing free colored persons, with their own consent, at any place without the United States. This proposed amendment the President supported by argument and elaborate illustration. His plan called for “a permarent constitutional law.”2 The success of the national forces, early in 1862, prepared the way for the reconstruction of civil affairs in those portions of the rebel States under national authority. The President's policy
1 Lincoln's Works, II, 285-287. The original language is closely followed.
2 Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862; Lincolo's Works, II, 261-277,
LINCOLN'S RECONSTRUCTION POLICY.
in the case of West Virginia was continued, but in a military form. In brief, the loyal population of the States in rebellion should be recognized as the body constituting these States and should be protected in organizing loyal governments. These necessarily took a military form, because the loyal inhabitants were not able to protect themselves, and must for some time depend upon national support.
On the fourth of March, 1864, Andrew Johnson was confirmed as military governor of Tennessee; on the nineteenth of May, Edward Stanley, of North Carolina; in March, Colonel G. F. Shipley, of Louisiana, and John S. Phelps of Arkansas. In no two of these States was the condition or course of affairs alike, but the general policy of the President was uniform for all. The military power of the Nation should protect the loyal inhabitants of the States until they should organize civil governments in conformity to the Constitution.
It would appear, from our imperfect knowledge of the President's ultimate plan (which suddenly came to an end with his untimely death), that he intended to withdraw the military power as soon as Congress was convinced that loyal governments had been permanently established. The bearing of these first provisional governments upon the abolition of slavery is somewhat indirect, but yet of great importance, because they were fully in accord with the President's attitude toward slavery, which, it should be remembered, was as he expressed it in his letter to Horace Greeley, that all men everywhere should be free. Although brief the authority of these military governors, they were hostile to slavery and contributed effectually to its abolition. That Southern men recognized this is evident from the interpretation which was soon put upon the efforts toward mili
tary occupation of the South put forth by the general government. In his brief correspondence with these military governors and with others on the subject of reconstruction, Mr. Lincoln expressed his purpose of leaving the loyal citizens of the South free to set up State governments conforming to the national Constitution. They should have the protection of the army, but it should be withdrawn as soon as the State government could dispense with its aid.1
The gradual occupation of States in rebellion by the national armies constantly increased the number of freedmen, and made it the more necessary for the government to employ the negroes as laborers, soldiers and marines. It is well to keep in mind that the whole policy of the Proclamation of Freedom was “one of general military emancipation.”2 Designed as a military measure, it was inevitable that its beneficiaries should be used for military purposes. During the summer of 1862 the public mind became familiar with the thought of negro troops, organized, equipped and officered for the defense of the Union, and the conclusion was reached, though slowly, that equal dangers and services demanded equal pay and recognition. The American mind is essentially fair and judicious, and it was bound, sooner or later, to recognize the civil and political claims of the colored people, as soldiers in the ranks, fighting for the preservation of the Union. Hostility to negro troops3 was intense among
1 The correspondence of the President in the matter of reconstruction begins practically with his letter to Reverdy Johnson, July 26, 1862, and continues at intervals till shortly before his death; see letter to Cuthbert Bullitt, of New Orleans, July 28, 1862. Lincoln's Works, II, 215-217.
2 Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, VI, 440.
3 For a succinct and comprehensive account of the negro troops see Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, VI, 20, 21,
NEGROES IN THE ARMY AND NAVY.
many white regiments, officers and privates, and a powerful political party in the country was never reconciled to them, but valor in the field speedily silenced the more bitter opposition, for a man who will offer himself for his country, be he white or black, is an unanswerable argument to all sorts and kinds of constitutional and legal objections as to his racial position and his social rank. The conduct of the negro troops during the crucial summer of 1862 was a factor almost equal in potency with the Emancipation Proclamation itself, in working out the abolition of slavery. It was literally turning the guns of the enemy against him. It was an agency that won the Nation's heart. We must remember that, after all, it is public opinion that makes constitutions and laws.
The Emancipation Proclamation was not issued, nor were negroes armed by the United States, as a matter of mere sentiment. Both Proclamation and black regiments were the stern necessity, and we incline to believe that both must be ranked as almost equal forces in the overthrow of slavery. The Proclamation could not be repealed; the negroes could not be put back into slavery. When, therefore, on the first of January, 1863, the final proclamation, of which the country had been duly warned, was issued the people were prepared to accept it, not only as a military, but also as a political, ultimatum. The Proclamation, though it did not abolish slavery, forever freed nearly four millions of human beings living, at
1 The President was ever watchful and considerate of the negro regiments. He constantly exercised his authority to secure them equal treatment with white troops. See his letter to Charles Sumner, 1863. Lincoln's Works, II, 342. Also his order of retaliation, July 30, 1863, Id., p. 378, and his letter to General Grant, August 1863, Id., 384. See also the Congressional Globe for March, 1863, p. 93.
THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION.
the time, in the States, and portions of States, engaged in rebellion against the national authority. Between the preliminary and the final proclamation, West Virginia had adopted a plan of gradual emancipation, so that the new year opened with the United States pledged to freedom, and with former slaveholding Commonwealths initiating a policy of abolition and gradual emancipation. Both national and State authorities were now cooperating to abolish the institution.
The new year, opening with the edict of freedom, was to witness a profound change in the opinion of the people of the slaveholding States regarding slavery. The Proclamation of the first of January had made known the President's intention of receiving the freedmen into the armed service of the United States. The inclusion of this provision was profoundly significant; its effect upon the negroes themselves was inspiring and quite beyond measure. To the white people of the country it signified that the millions of blacks, so long the cause of discord in the Union, were henceforth not only to be free, but were immediately, so far as practicable, to help bear the burden of nationality. Perhaps the President, in his large wisdom, knew of no other way in which to give employment to freedmen of suitable condition. It was an exceptionally wise arrangement, and, as was frequently heard, in a homely phrase of the day, "it made good use of the negro.” It put a new value upon him in his own estimation; gave him a taste of the duties and privileges
1 The number actually set free by the proclamation is not accurately known; a strong minority party in the North and all the South claimed that it set none free. For a discussion maintaining the impotency of the Proclamation see Joel Parker's Law Lectures, delivered at Harvard College, 1866, and at Harvard and Dartmouth, 1867-8, 1869. Hurd and Houghton, New York, 1866-9.