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It would, perhaps, add astonishment to his regret, were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to answer that question I have purposely forebore any public expression upon it. As appears to me, that question has not been, nor yet is a practically material one, and that any discussion of it while it thug remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may become, that question is had as a basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all—a merely pernicious abstraction. We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union, and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States, is to again get them into their proper practical relation. I believe that it is not only possible, but, in fact, easier to do this without deciding, or even considering, whether those States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restore the proper practical relations between those States and the nation, and each forever after innocently indulge his own opinion whether in doing the acts he brought the States from without into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it. The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all if it contained 50,000, or 30,000, or even 20,000, instead of 12,000, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers. Still the question is not whether the Louisiana government, as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, will it be wiser to take it as it is, and help to improve it, or to reject and disperse? Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State government? Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave State of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a Free State constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. This Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union and to perpetuate freedom in the State; committed to the very things, and nearly all things, the nation wants, and they ask the nation's recognition and its assistance to make good this committal. Now if we reject and spurn them we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We in fact say to the white man, you are worthless or worse; we will neither help you, nor be helped by you. To the blacks, we say: This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, held to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where and how. If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have so far been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize LAST PROCLAMATION. 529
and sustain the new government of Louisiana, the converse of all this is made true. We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms of 12,000 to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man, too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it, than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg, than by smashing it. [Laughter.] Again, if we reject Louisiana we also reject one vote in favor of the proposed amendment to the national constitution. To meet this proposition it has been argued that no more than three-fourths of those States which have not attempted secession are necessary to validily ratify the amendment. I do not commit myself against th'ia, further than to say that such a ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently questioned, while a ratification by three-fourths of all the States would be unquestioned and unquestionable. I repeat the question. Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining, or by discarding her new State Government? What has been said of Louisiana will apply to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each State, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same State, and withal so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and collaterals. Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible. In the present situation, as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some neio announcement to the people of the South I am considering and shall not fail to act when satisfied that action will be proper."
The President, during the delivery of the above speech, was frequently interrupted by applause, and on its conclusion, in the midst of the cheering, the band struck up a patriotic air, when he bowed and retired.
THE LAST PROCLAMATION.
The last Proclamation issued by the lamented President, was one claiming that our vessels of war in foreign ports should no longer be subjected to restrictions, but should have the same rights and hospitalities which are extended to foreign vessels of war in the ports of the United States, and declaring that hereafter the cruisers of every nation shall receive the treatment which in their ports they accord to ours. The Proclamation reads as follows: u By the President of the United States of America:
"Whereas, For some time past vessels of war of the United States have beea refused in certain ports privileges and immunities to which they were entitled by treaty, public law, or the comity of nations, at the same time that vessels vof war of the country wherein the said privileges and immunities have been withheld, have enjoyed them fully and uninterruptedly in the ports of the United States, which condition of things has not always been forcibly resisted by the United States; although, on the other hand, they have not failed to protest against and declare their dissatisfaction with the game. In the view of the United States, no condition any longer exists which can be claimed to justify the denial to them by any one of said nations of the customary naval rights, such as has heretofore been so unnecessarily persisted in; now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby make known that, if, after a resonable time shall have elapsed for the intelligence of this proclamation to have reached any foreign country in whose ports the said privileges and immunities shall have been revised, as aforesaid, they shall continue to be so refused; then and thenceforth the same privileges and immunities shall be refused to the vessels of war of the country in the ports of the United States, and this refusal shall continue until the war vessels of the United States shall have been placed upon an entire equality in the foreign ports aforesaid with similar vessels of other countries. The United States, whatever claim or pretence may have existed heretofore, are now at least entitled to claim and concede an entire and friendly equality of rights and hospitalities with all maritime nations.
"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this eleventh day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and of the independence of the United States of America the eighty-ninth.
"By the President: Abraham Lincoln.
"Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State."
In concluding this chapter, there is a letter of President Lincoln's so remarkable for embodying the principles which governed his administration that it is here inserted entire. It shows his long suffering and patience, and that extreme measures with slavery were employed only when milder ones failed. We precede and accompany it with some extracts from the North American Review, of January, 1865:
THE KENTUCKY LETTER. "Unquestionably there is matter for difference in respect to many of the acts of Mr. Lincoln's administration. In the pressure of events of a character utterly novel, and involving consequences of the utmost importance, with the need frequently of prompt decision and immediate action upon them, mistakes have been committed, and errors of judgment have occurred, such as were inevitable in a
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season of such stress and difficulty. Still further, the period has been one full of instruction to every man of candid and intelligent mind. The whole nation has been at school. It has been taught new ideas in respect to duty and to policy. Old ideas have been rudely shaken, and have given way to others more conformed to the necessities and changes of the time. A policy fit for 1861 is not the policy for 1864. Principles do not change, but their application to events is continually changing. The consistent statesman is not he who never alters his policy, but he who, adapting his policy to shifting exigencies, is true always to the fixed north star of duty and of principle. Above all, in a period of social convulsion, a true and honorable consistency does not consist in adherence to the details of any preconceived plan or system, but in the ready adjustment of its details to the novel demands of the time; and it is this consistency which, in our opinion, Mr. Lincoln has eminently displayed. In his Inaugural Address, he said, 'The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and posts belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.' But he also said, c I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the union of these States is perpetual.' And in support of this fundamental doctrine, his declaration that'there will be no using of force against or among the people anywhere' was rightly and consistently disregarded, and the tramp of the soldier in every seceded State was its commentary.
"On no subject have the sentiments of the Northern people undergone a more entire change since 1861, than on the question of the right of the general government to interfere with slavery. Not only is their view of the relation of the Constitution to slavery essentially modified, but within the powers with which the Constitution invested the President, has been found the arm from which slavery has received its death-blow. The idea of being called upon to use this arm had never crossed the mind of Mr. Lincoln up to the time of his inauguration. He, in common with the mass of the people of the North, was ready then to guarantee to the people of the South protection for slavery within its existing limits. His oath as President to support the Constitution was interpreted by him as depriving him of all lawful right to interfere, directly or indirectly, with the institution of slavery in the States where it then existed. But the progress of events taught him, as it taught the people, that slavery, like every other partial interest or relation, was subordinate to the general interest; that it was subject to the Constitution; that if, to preserve the Union, slavery must be destroyed, the Constitution, which formed the bond of the Union, could not be pleaded in its defence. His course on the matter was in accordance with the fundamental principles of his political creed. Other men, no doubt, earlier reached the same conclusions at which he arrived, and urged upon him the adoption of the policy which he at length pursued. But on them the responsibility of decision and action did not rest; and Mr. Lincoln's deep sense of that responsibility caused him to seem to reach slowly the point to which more eager and less considerate men had long before attained.
"Moreover, in Mr. Lincoln's position, the conflicting interests and the contradictory opinions of men of the loyal, and especially of the Border States, have made it a task of extreme difficulty and delicacy to learn the true sentiment of the North. To unite and to keep united the people of the loyal States in the support of the administration, so far as such union was possible, was Mr. Lincoln's arduous task. On this union depended the power to carry on the war. Every delay, every disaster to our arms, every imcompetence, every personal disappointment and private grief, every wounded vanity, all partizan hates and jealousies, every danger, in fine, against which an American statesman could be called on to provide, lay in his path. He could not, if he did his duty, expect either wholly to please his friends or to win his enemies; he could not force compliance with his views, or insist on the adoption of measures which he might esteem desirable or essential. His character was not fitted to secure a strong body of personal supporters. He stood comparatively isolated and alone; and his duty was to save the Union, and to save it with its institutions sound and whole. Popular opinion was changing and developing rapidly. Mr. Lincoln's own views were changing and advancing with it. But it was impossible to make sure of popular opinion, so diverse were the voices of the people. * I am