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[239] s hands, these negroes, when able-bodied, are of great importance. Without them, the batteries could not have been erected; at least, for many weeks. As a military question, it would seem to be a measure of necessity, and deprives their masters of their services.

How can this be done? As a political question, and a question of humanity, can I receive the services of a father and a mother and not take the children? Of the humanitarian aspect, I lave no doubt; of the political one, I have no right to judge. I therefore submit all this to your better judgment; and, as these questions have a political aspect, I have ventured — and I trust I am not wrong in so doing — to duplicate the parts of my dispatch relating to this subject, and forward them to the Secretary of War.

Your obedient servant,


He was answered by the head of the War Department as follows:

Sir:--Your action in respect to the negroes who came within your lines, from the service of the Rebels, is approved. The Department is sensible of the embarrassments which must surround officers conducting military operations in a State, by the laws of which Slavery is sanctioned. The Government can not recognize the rejection by any State of its Federal obligations, resting upon itself. Among these Federal obligations, however, no one can be more important than that of suppressing and dispersing any combination of the former for the purpose of overthrowing its whole constitutional authority. While, therefore, you will permit no interference, by persons under your command, with the relations of persons held to service under the laws of any State, you will, on the other hand, so long as any State within which your military operations are conducted remains under the control of such armed combinations, refrain from surrendering to alleged masters any persons who come within your lines. You will employ such persons in the services to which they will be best adapted; keeping an account of the labor by them performed, of the value of it, and the expenses of their maintenance. The question of their final disposition will be reserved for future determination.

Simon Cameron, Secretary of War. To Maj.-Gen. Butler.

Time passed. Bull Run had been fought and lost; the called session of Congress had been held; public opinion on the Slavery question had made very considerable strides; when Gen. Fremont, on assuming civil as well as military control of the State of Missouri, issued the memorable General Order,1 wherein he proclaimed that “The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, or shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public uso; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men.”

This position was in advance of any that had yet been sanctioned at Washington; and, though it was very generally sustained or acquiesced in by that journals supporting the War, President Lincoln wrote Gen. Fremont that he must withdraw or modify it. This, Gen. F. declined to do, unless openly directed by his superior; hence the following order:

Sir:--Yours of the 8th, in answer to nine of the 2d inst., is just received. Assured that you, upon the ground, could better judge of the necessities of your position than I could at this distance, on seeing your proclamation of August 30, I perceived no general objection to it; the particular clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberation of slaves, appeared to me to be objectionable in its non-conformity to the Act of Congress, passed the 6th of last August, upon the same subjects; and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly. Your answer, just received, expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order for the modification; which I very cheerfully do. It is, therefore, ordered that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held, and construed, as to conform with, and not to transcend, the provisions on the same subject contained in the Act of Congress entitled “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,”


1 See it in full, Vol. I., p. 585.

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