It has become a grave question for determination what shall be done with the slaves abandoned by their owners on the advance of our troops into Southern territory, as in the Beanfort district of South Carolina. The whole White population therein is six thousand, while the number of negroes exceeds thirty-two thousand. The panic which drove their masters in wild confusion from their homes leaves them in undisputed possession of the soil. Shall they, armed by their masters, be placed in the field to fight against us? or shall their labor be continually employed in reproducing the means for supporting the armies of rebellion? The war into which this Government has been forced by rebellious traitors is carried on for the purpose of repossessing the property violently and treacherously seized upon by the enemies of the Government, and to reestablish the authority and laws of the United States in the places where they are opposed or overthrown by armed insurrection and rebellion. Its purpose is to recover and defend what is justly its own.< War, even between independent nations, is made to subdue the enemy, and all that belongs to that enemy, by occupying the hosthe country, and exercising dominion over all the men and things within its territory. This being true in respect to independent nations at war with each other, it follows that Rebels, who are laboring by force of arms to overthrow a Government, justly bring upon themselves all the consequences of war, and provoke the destruction merited by the worst of crimes. That Government would be false to national trust, and would justly excite the ridicule of the civilized world, that would abstain from the use of any efficient means to preserve its own existence, or the overcome a rebellious and traitorous enemy, by sparing or protecting the property of those who are waging war against it.< The principal wealth and power of the Rebel States is a peculiar species of property, consisting of the service or labor of African slaves, or the descendants of Africans. This property has been variously estimated at the value of from seven hundred million to one thousand million dollars. Why should this property be exempt from the hazards and consequences of a rebellious war? It was the boast of the leader of the Rebellion, while he yet had a seat in the Senate of the United States, that the Southern States would be comparatively safe and free from the burdens of war, if it should be brought on by the contemplated Rebellion; and that boast was accompanied by the savage threat that “Northern towns and cities would become the victims of rapine and military spoil,” and that “Northern men should smell Southern gunpowder and feel Southern steel.” No one doubts the disposition of the Rebels to carry that threat into execution. The wealth of Northern towns and cities, the produce of Northern farms, Northern workshops and manufactories, would certainly be seized, destroyed, or appropriated as military spoil. No property in the North would be spared from the hands of the Rebels; and their rapine would be defended under the laws of war. While the loyal States thus have all their property and possessions at stake, are the insurgent Rebels to carry on warfare against the Government in peace and security to their own property? Reason and justice and self-preservation forbid that such should be the policy of this Government, but demand, on the contrary, that, being forced by traitors and Rebels to the extremity of war, all the rights and powers of war should be exercised to bring it to a speedy end. Those who war against the Government justly forfeit all rights of property, privilege, or security, derived from the Constitution and laws, against which they are in armed rebellion; and, as the labor and service of their slaves constitute the chief property of the Rebels, such property should share the common fate of war to which they have devoted the property of loyal citizens. While it is plain that the slave property of the South is justly subjected to all the consequences of this rebellious war, and that the Government would be untrue to its trust in not employing all the rights and powers of war to bring it to a speedy close, the details of the plan for doing so, like all
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1 Dec. 1, 1861.
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