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EMANCIPATION IN LOUISIANA.
should elect their State officials under the constitution and laws of the State, except so much as related to slavery, which should be inoperative and void. The legislature should provide for a convention, which should take into consideration, with other matters, the question of emancipation. If abolition was made a condition of permitting the loyal citizens to organize their government, it might defeat the whole purpose. "A government organized upon the basis of immediate and universal freedom, with the general consent of the people, followed by the adaptation of commercial and industrial interests to this order of things, and supported by the army and navy, the influence of the civil officers of the Government and the administration at Washington could not fail by any possible chance to obtain an absolute and permanent recognition of the principle of freedom upon which it would be based; any other result would be impossible. The same influence would secure, with the same certainty, the selection of proper men in the election of officers.” The great question,-immediate emancipation,—would be covered ab initio by a conceded and absolute prohibition of slavery. This plan conformed to the principle that the abolition of slavery rested with the States; it left Louisiana free to adopt abolition; it practically excluded the hateful element of coercion.
The President approved of this practical plan, for constructing a free State government speedily for Louisiana,? and gave it his full and zealous co-operation. By a proclamation issued on the eleventh of January, General Banks named the twenty-second of February as the day
1 General Banks' letter to the President, cited in Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, VIII, 428-430.
2 President Lincoln to General Banks, January 13, 1864. Works, II, 469.
VICTORY OF FREE-STATE PARTY.
when electors in the State, qualified under the President's amnesty proclamation, should choose State officers. The constitution and laws of Louisiana, excepting so much as recognized and related to slavery, should regulate the election. On the twenty-eighth of March delegates should be chosen to the convention for revising the constitution." These announcements were expressed in general military orders, for the State was under martial law; but the commander explicitly announced that, at the earliest possible moment, it was competent and just for the government to surrender to the people as much of military power as might be consistent with the successes of military operations, in order to prepare the way for the full restoration of the State to the Union, and of its power to the people. At the State election nearly twelve thousand votes were cast,? of which Michael Hahn, the Free State candidate, received nearly one-half; and the Pro-Slavery candidate, J. Q. A. Fellows, received about one-fourth. General Banks' procedure greatly displeased the Free State committee, which, in consequence, nominated its own candidate, who received about one-fifth of the vote.3
1 Official Journal of the Proceedings (English and French) of the Convention, for the Revision and Amendment of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana, New Orleans, W. R. Fish, Printer to the Convention, 1864. In English, 171 pages; in French, 187 pages, with Index, x pages. For returns of the election, reported by the Secretary of State, see pp. 3 and 4.
2 11,411. General Orders No. 35, January 11, 1864, cited in part in Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, VIII, 431.
3 Hahn received 6,183; Fellows, 2,996; Flanders, the committee's candidate, 2,232. Official returns cited in Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, VIII, 432. At the Presidential election of 1860 the vote of the State was 7,625 for Douglas; 22,861 for Breckinridge; 20,204 for Bell, total 50,690; the total population was 708,002, consisting of 357,629 whites, 331,726 slaves, and 18,647 free persons of color. Preliminary Report of the Eighth Census, p. 131. Thus the election of Gove or Hahn was effected by more than on tenth of the vote of 1860.
INAUGURATION OF HAHN.
On the fourth of March the new Governor was inaugurated with much ceremony. According to General Banks, his authority was somewhat anomalous. He represented “a popular power only subordinate to the armed occupation of the State for the suppression of the rebellion, and the full restoration of the authority of the government.” This was expressed in his oath. He was a substitute for the military governor. In a private letter to Governor Hahn, the President congratulated him on having fixed his name in history "as the first free State Governor of Louisiana.” “Now,” said he, "you are about to have a convention, which, among other things, will prepare and define the elective franchise. I barely suggest, for your private consideration, whether some of the colored people may not be let in; as, for instance, the very intelligent, and especially those who have fought so gallantly in our ranks. They would probably help in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom.” Two days later, the President formally invested him "with the powers exercised hitherto by the military governor.” This was the first suggestion from President Lincoln, that the right to vote might be given to the negro. It will be noticed that the President considered the right, in this case, as a suitable reward for gallant military service in defense of the Union.
The convention assembled in Liberty Hall, New Orleans, on the sixth of April. It considered itself “invested
1 President Lincoln to Governor Hahn, March 13, 1864. Works, II, 496.
2 See Debates in the Convention for the Revision and Amendment of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana, assembled at Liberty Hall, New Orleans, April 6, to July 25, 1864. New Orleans: W. R. Fish, Printer to the Convention, 1864, 643 pages. It consisted of ninety-eight delegates. Judge E. A. H. Durell was chosen president.
NEGRO SCHOOLS IN LOUISIANA.
with plenary powers, which in our institutions, belong to organic, political bodies,” and elected for the purpose of restoring the State to the Union, and of removing the chief cause of the rebellion, slavery. In Missouri and Arkansas, nothing had been said of establishing schools for the freedmen. In Louisiana, the subject received careful attention, almost from the opening of the session. General Banks had been educated under the free school system of his native State, and doubtless had that system in mind when he urged the convention to establish common schools in every district, supported by public taxation, and under the direction of a superintendent of public education.? The proposition to establish the Massachusetts school system in Louisiana, for the benefit of negroes, rather startled the convention, and many members pronounced the scheme both unconstitutional and derogatory to the honor of the State. In times of revolution men live fast, but it may safely be said that no man at this time in Louisiana had lived fast enough to be quite ready to tax the State in organizing school districts for the benefit of negroes.3
Many members, and probably the majority of the planters in the State, whatever they thought of slavery in the abstract, believed that as the institution had existed in the State since its earliest settlement and had been sanctioned by the constitution and laws, both of the State and of the Nation, slave-owners ought to be compensated for loss of slave property. This sentiment was strongest among the loyal slaveholders, but a majority of the mem
1 Debates, p. 8.
3 For the attitude of Louisiana toward the negro, both free and slave before the war, and the ideas of its people respecting social and civil organization, see my Constitutional History the American People, 1776-1850, Vol. I, Chapters xii, xiii, xiv, xv.
APPREHENSION OF THE WHITES.
bers were determined on "immediate, unconditional and permanent abolition.”1
This was the thought of the ordinance which the Committee on Emancipation brought in, on the twenty-seventh. Not only was the institution forever abolished, but the legislature was forbidden to recognize the right of property in man. The black code and laws on the subject of slavery were annulled. Persons of African descent should be equal to white persons before the law, and laws regulating indentures and apprenticeships should not discriminate between the races.? There was a minority report, signed by only one member. Emancipation should not be immediate, nor without compensation; for the highest authorities, legislative and judicial, State and national, had recognized a vested right in slave property. The tendency of the race to idleness, the general ignorance of negroes and their lack of skill to provide for themselves would leave them a prey to vice, disease and death. They would be at the mercy of designing speculators. What could Louisiana do with over three hundred thousand free negroes within its borders ? Would they not make the State an asylum for millions of blacks, and, at last, would it not be necessary to establish some system of peonage, lest all inducements for white labor be overridden, and the safety of the State be imperiled? But this dissenting voice was not listened to,3 though it echoed the fears of thousands of white men in Louisiana and all through the South.
There was so much to reorganize in the State, it seemed as if the delegates knew scarcely where to begin. The very foundations of society were broken up, and the duty of the hour seemed to be no less than the creation of civil
1 Debates, pp. 34 and 35. 2 Debates, p. 9. 3 Debates, pp. 97, 98.