Doc. 79. the contraband institution.
A slave was restored to his master yesterday by a Pennsylvania regiment. A file of soldiers escorted the pseudo contraband two miles beyond our lines.The above is taken from this morning's (October 10) despatches from Washington. Similar transactions are of almost daily occurrence. I object to them for the following, among other reasons: 1. It is a purely volunteer service on the part of the Government. Neither the Constitution nor the Fugitive Slave Law, in spirit or letter, requires it. It exhibits the Government, therefore, in the light of a voluntary patron of slavery. 2. It is degrading to our army. The people of the North responded nobly to the call of their country for the defence of the Constitution and law. Must our brave soldiers now be compelled to perform the despicable work of slave catching, and peril their lives in returning those panting for the inestimable boon of liberty to worse than Egyptian bondage? 3. These acts are rapidly destroying, in the minds of the great mass of the people, confidence in the Administration of the Government. 4. They are depriving us of the sympathy of the friends of freedom abroad, and making us a by-word and reproach throughout Christendom. 5. Must they not be offensive to a God of justice, and may we not be suffering his rebukes? No doubt the subject has been an embarrassing one to the Government, and it should be judged charitably. But, certainly, honesty is the best policy for Governments as well as individuals. Now, which side does the Government intend to favor, freedom or slavery? In the present state of affairs it cannot ignore the question. It must show itself for or against slavery. It is due to all parties that it be distinctly understood what is to be the character of the Administration of the Government in this respect. If the South is to be won back, and kept in union with the North only as the Government makes it its special business to throw the aegis of its protection over the institution of slavery, let the North understand what is to be the result of the immense sacrifices it is making in maintaining the present war. If, on the other hand, the Government is to sympathize with freedom, doing no more for slavery than a strict construction of the Constitution requires, let the South, including the border, so understand it. To deceive them now is to lay up trouble for the future. To the former policy the North never will submit. Against the latter the South has already protested, and in support of its protest has appealed to the sword. It takes issue distinctly. Let the Government accept it, and meet it fairly and honestly. Then when peace shall come its basis will be understood,  and there will be ground for hope that it may be perpetual. It is time the policy of the Government was understood. It is useless to disguise the fact that the people of the northern States are becoming seriously dissatisfied with the ambiguous position of the Administration upon this vital question. And is there not reason to fear that there is dissatisfaction elsewhere? We are, at least nominally, a religious people. We believe there is a God, and that he sides with the oppressed. Let us beware lest we be found fighting against him.
F. M. Ohio Wesleyan University, October 10, 1861.
--Cincinnati Commercial, October 12.