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[549]

There had been already, some weeks before the meeting of the Confederate Congress, an important conference of the governors of the different States, at Augusta, Georgia, October 17th, at which the subject under consideration had been freely discussed, but without positive action. Governor Smith, of Virginia, in his message to the Virginia Legislature, December 7th, now took the ground that the time had come to put the slaves in the field, and to sacrifice slavery to the cause of independence. The slaveholders should take the initiative in this, in order that people might no longer say, as they had been saying, that this “was the rich man's war;” and Governor Smith gave plenty of other good reasons why the negroes should be made soldiers of. The Sentinel of the 10th quotes, with approval, the remarks of the St. Louis Republican upon the language attributed to Lincoln, that the war could not be carried on “according to Democratic arithmetic,” “then, if the rebels put two hundred and fifty thousand slave negroes in the field, they cannot be conquered, according to Mr. Lincoln's arithmetic.” Senator Hunter, of Virginia, who was constantly and throughout opposed to the policy of negro enlistments, introduced a bill into the Confederate Congress, on December 9th, to regulate impressments. On the same day, Governor Bonham, of South Carolina, sent his message to the Legislature of that State, in which he denied the authority of the Confederate Government to enlist slaves, as well as the expediency of such enlistments. The “reserved rights of States” played a big part in these last days of the Confederacy, when all who valued their persons or their property more than they did the “cause,” were sedulous to contrive means to save them.

Events, public opinion, and the newspapers, meantime, moved much more swiftly than the Confederate Congress. The limits of the Confederacy were being narrowed continually by the Federal arms, and there were great and bitter dissensions at Richmond, and throughout what was left of the Confederacy. The politicians wrangled, the contractors robbed, the government was helpless, the soldiers starved. The columns of the Sentinel, for six weeks from December 13th, are doleful reading indeed. During this period, Congress approached the matter of negro enlistments in many ways, but never had the courage to grapple with it. There were bills to pay for slaves, to regulate impressments, etc., to create negro home guards, but the bull was never taken resolutely by the horns. But, in the meantime, the dissatisfaction grew, the pressure from the camps increased, the area of the Confederacy diminished, and with the appreciation of slavery as a money interest. On the 28th

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