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Doc. 79.-the emancipation message.

sent to Congress March 6, 1862.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I recommend the adoption of a joint resolution by your honorable bodies which shall be substantially as follows:

Resolved, That the United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.”

If the proposition contained in the resolution does not meet the approval of Congress and the country, there is the end; but if it does command such approval, I deem it of importance that the States and people immediately interested should be at once distinctly notified of the fact, so that they may begin to consider whether to accept or reject it. The Federal Government would find its highest interest in such a measure as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation. The leaders of the existing insurrection entertain the hope that the Government will ultimately be forced to acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region, and that all the slave States north of such parts will then say: “The Union for which we have struggled being already gone, we now choose to go with the southern section.” To deprive them of this hope, substantially ends the rebellion, and the initiation of emancipation completely deprives them of it as to all the States initiating it.

The point is not that all the States tolerating slavery would very soon, if at all, initiate emancipation, but that while the offer is equally made to all, the more northern shall, by such initiation, make it certain to the more southern that in no event will the former ever join the latter in their proposed confederacy. I say “initiation,” because, in my judgment, gradual and not sudden emancipation is better for all. In the mere financial or pecuniary view, any member of Congress, [237] with the census tables and the treasury reports before him, can readily see for himself how very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase, at a fair valuation, all the slaves in any named State.

Such a proposition on the part of the general Government sets up no claim of a right by Federal authority to interfere with slavery within State limits, referring as it does the absolute control of the subject in each case to the State and its people immediately interested. It is proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them.

In the annual message last December I thought fit to say: “The Union must be preserved, and hence all indispensable means must be employed.” I said this not hastily, but deliberately. War has been, and continues to be an indispensable means to this end. A practical reacknowledgment of the national authority would render the war unnecessary, and it would at once cease. If, however, resistance continues, the war must also continue, and it is impossible to foresee all the incidents which may attend, and all the ruin which may follow it. Such as may seem indispensable, or may obviously promise great efficiency toward ending the struggle, must and will come. The proposition now made is an offer only, and I hope it may be esteemed no offence to ask whether the pecuniary consideration tendered would not be of more value to the States and private persons concerned than are the institution and property in it, in the present aspect of affairs. While it is true that the adoption of the proposed resolution would be merely initiatory, and not within itself a practical measure, it is recommended in the hope that it would soon lead to important results. In full view of my great responsibility to my God and to my country, I earnestly beg the attention of Congress and the people to the subject.

Opinions of the press.

[From the Louisville Journal.]

The measure is obnoxious to no constitutional objection, so far, at least, as the rights of the States are concerned, whatever objections of this sort the Abolitionists may bring forward in relation to the powers of the Federal Government. The measure is in itself a lawful and innocent one. Herein we agree with the President.

The end is certainly legitimate. Is the measure adapted to accomplish the end? The President is persuaded that it is. Herein we differ with the President. The whole efficacy of the measure, as the President admits, depends on the “free choice” of the States concerned. But what one even of the Border slaveholding States has in any manner shown the slightest indication of a wish or willingness to adopt a system of emancipation, gradual or otherwise? Assuredly not one. On the contrary, the settled opinion of these States, without exception, appears to be that the present is, of all times, the most opportune for the voluntary agitation of the question of emancipation in any of its aspects. We believe this is in fact the settled opinion of them all. Consequently the measure, if adopted by Congress, would be inoperative. It would lie inert on the statute-book. As not one of the States would call for the cooperation the measure offers, the measure would be not merely ineffectual but in the line of its purpose absolutely without results. Nay, it might, by serving to inaugurate a domestic controversy which in the nature of things could not be determined one way or the other for many years, nourish instead of extinguishing the hope at which the President would strike. The casting of an apple of discord into the loyal ranks of the Border slaveholding States, at this time, could but prove unfavorable to the true interests of the country; and there is danger that the adoption of this measure would be such a movement. In short, the measure, if adopted, could not, as we conceive, produce the effect the President designs, and might produce the very opposite effect. We, therefore, whilst agreeing with the President that the measure is in itself lawful and innocent, differ with him in respect to its policy. We do not think it is adapted to accomplish the end proposed, but rather the contrary. Indeed, there is, according to our judgment, but one feasible mode of accomplishing the end proposed so far as it yet remains unaccomplished, and that mode is the wise and vigorous prosecution of the war for the reestablishment of the Government.

[From the Frankfort (Ky.) Commonwealth.]

For ourselves, we are free to confess that we would rather the President had left this matter alone, and let the appeal come from such States as desired the assistance of the Federal Government.

Our main objection to the Message is, that it will be wrested from its real meaning, and be so construed as to represent the President as giving way to Abolition pressure, which we are satisfied would be an unjust imputation. We believe that there is an irreconcilable disagreement between him and them.

[From the St. Louis Republican.]

There can be no objection to the mere principle of the Federal Government assisting a State in any lawful enterprise in which the latter may engage, and none will pretend that any State may not, under the Constitution, legislate with perfect right upon all matters of domestic concern. Expediency is another and quite different question, but this consideration is far from alarming, in view of the fact that it is left wholly to the determination of those who feel the greatest social and material interest in the decision.

We receive this document as a renewal of the President's assurance that the war is not to degenerate into a violent revolutionary struggle, but to be conducted in the spirit and according to the forms of the Constitution, for the restoration of the Union, with all the rights of the States unimpaired. It is sufficient that Mr. Lincoln recognises the complete and sole authority of the different States to form, change and regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, and [238] that he puts himself in opposition to all violent revolutionary measures affecting the loyal in the same manner as the disloyal. Whenever the question of emancipation in this State, or any other, comes up for the consideration of the people who are alone interested in it, and who alone can determine it, then it will be time enough to take a hand in it. If Congress shall stop all agitation just where Mr. Lincoln proposes to leave it, and kick the whole subject out of it, the citizens of the several States will be in a better temper to discuss it, in all its bearings.

[From the St. Louis News.]

The President's Special Message to Congress, recommending the adoption of a resolution declaratory of the duty of the Federal Government to cooperate with any State that may adopt a plan for the gradual removal of slavery, brings before the public a subject of vast importance, and yet suggests it with a carefulness and a prudence of manner fitting the dignity of the question . . . . It leaves the subject of emancipation where it properly belongs, to the States themselves merely proposing to aid such a measure if a State should adopt it.

Such being the character of the President's recommendation, we cannot but think it will meet with the deliberate and decided approval of the conservative minds of the country. The radical press will, no doubt, vehemently oppose it, since it overthrows their revolutionary idea of confiscatory abolition, by substituting the better and wiser measure of gradual emancipation; but the assaults of the radicals against the proposition will only demonstrate its wisdom and eventually lead to the adoption of it as a policy.

[From the National Intelligencer.]

We have been greatly gratified to observe that the recent Message of President Lincoln, recommending the adoption of measures looking to the “gradual and not sudden emancipation” of slaves as being “better for all” concerned, and this too on terms recognising the right of slave-owners to be reimbursed for the sacrifice of the interest they now possess in persons held to service for life under the laws of certain States, is received with favor by the only class who might have been suspected of an unwillingness to accept a proposition so just and at the same time so prudent in its leading features. We allude, of course, to that class of men who have been distinguished for the fervor of their anti-slavery opinions, and in whose eyes the very act of slaveholding, however entailed on its unwilling, or, in many cases, at least, its unassenting subjects, has seemed such an odious anomaly in morals, politics, and religion, that nothing short of its immediate and unconditional abolition could satisfy the demand of justice. From time to time the project of paying for the slaves of the South, out of the national purse, has been suggested by many well — meaning and thoughtful men, but the idea has been loudly denounced by those who held that the “body and soul” of man could not be made the subject of pecuniary purchase or compensation, except at the sacrifice of admitting the rightfulness of the slave-owner's “claim” to his “pretended property.”

In the proposition now submitted to Congress, the President very clearly signifies that he has no sympathy with this extreme theoretical view, and therefore aims to treat a great practical subject as a practical man, “in full view of his responsibility to God and his country.” Should any object to the proposition on the ground of its expensiveness, he suggests that “in the mere financial or pecuniary view, any member of Congress, with the census tables and the Treasury reports before him, can readily see for himself how very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase, at a fair valuation, all the slaves in any named State.”

To this we may add that, as the President contemplates a “gradual and not a sudden emancipation of slaves,” the cost of their “purchase” will, on his theory, be spread over a wide space of time. It is well said by a contemporary that the policy advocated by the President recognises three distinct principles, which underlie the foundations of the social system of slavery, and which are necessary to be regarded in the ultimate removal of the institution:

1. That the relation of master and slave is a relation of ownership and property, for which compensation ought to be made.

2. That the people of the whole nation, North and South, either from having in common tolerated the system, which once existed by British law and under British protection throughout the land, or for other political reasons, may of right be called on to aid those who are pecuniarily interested in the system to remove or modify it, so as gradually to extinguish the quality of property now sanctioned by State law in the relation of master and slave.

3. That the several States are the proper and only powers to accept or reject emancipation plans.

Such being the nature and effect of the proposition, it should be a matter of gratification to find that it has received such an unanimous approval at the hands of the ultra-anti-slavery journals equally with the more moderate organs of public opinion in the country. And it is so received with a cheerful recognition of its true character, and with very little disposition, so far as we can perceive, to bring it, by construction or misconstruction, into conformity with individual wishes or opinions.

In illustration of this fact, we may cite the subjoined language of the New-York Tribune, a leading anti-slavery paper:

The Message ought, and we think will, unite all parties. The conservative, who abhors rash measures, and dreads innovation, will approve a measure which proposes to get rid of the cause of rebellion, to give the country permanent peace and not periodical panic, and to do this gradually and with as little injustice as is possible in so great a social revolution. The radical will not withhold his approbation from a proposal that [239] promises to the eye of faith so much. It may be that some of the Border slave States will gladly avail themselves of the offer of Mr. Lincoln, and if they do, the North will as gladly accept its share of so great an act.

Of similar purport is the following language of the New-York Daily Times, an influential Republican journal:

In dealing with this vexed subject, we think the President has hit the happy mean, upon which all parties in the North and all loyalists in the South can unite. The radical will wish he had gone further, but will be content with the national expression in favor of freedom. The conservative will see that no rash or ill-advised steps will be taken; while all will admit that Government should be conservative, and not accept every ebullition of passion or expression of immature sentiment as the sober sense of the nation.

To these expressions of opinion, selected from the Anti-slavery and Republican press, we may add the following endorsement of the President's policy by the New-York Journal of Commerce, a paper representing a different class of political ideas:

The President adopts the views of Washington and his contemporaries, for which we have so often and so laboriously contended against much obloquy and reproach, and the principles on which the Constitution was founded, and expresses his conviction that, whatever plan be adopted, gradual emancipation would be better than immediate abolition. Good men, from the earliest days, have desired to see some plan for the removal of the slave-system, and the substitution of another labor-system in its place; and their desires would long ago have been accomplished in several States, now known as slave States, but for the interference of the radical abolition schemes, which effectually blocked all the advance of free-labor plans in Maryland, Virginia, and other States.

It only remains for us, in common with all these journals, and in the words of the latter, to express the hope that “the resolution proposed by the President will be adopted by Congress. Whenever a State shall propose to emancipate its slaves, we regard it as eminently proper that the nation should lend its aid, judiciously, to effect the object. The Crown of Great Britain, once the governing power of all the country, forced the institution on unwilling colonists, and it became a part of their social system. Let the whole people, who have in one sense succeeded to the government of the nation, aid any State that may need it, and that shall desire and ask for aid in changing from slave-labor to free-labor. This is right. Hereafter, when the principle is established, we can discuss and arrange the amount of aid, and the terms on which it is to be granted to each State as it shall need. And each State will decide for itself whether it will ask or accept such aid.”

We cannot dismiss the subject from this present consideration without recalling to the memory of our readers that the rightfulness of President Lincoln's policy was prefigured by Mr. Webster in his great speech delivered on the seventh of March, 1850, when the relations of slavery, as they then existed, were passed in comprehensive review. On that occasion the eminent Massachusetts statesman found an equitable basis for the policy in the fact of the great and valuable territorial cession made to the Union by the most distinguished of the slaveholding States. His language in that speech was as follows:

In my observations upon slavery as it has existed in the country, and as it now exists, I have expressed no opinion of the mode of its extinguishment or melioration. I will say, however, though I have nothing to propose on that subject, because I do not deem myself so competent as other gentlemen to consider it, that if any gentleman from the South shall propose a scheme of colonization, to be carried on by this Government upon a large scale, for the transportation of free colored people to any colony or any place in the world, I should be quite disposed to incur almost any degree of expense to accomplish that object. Nay, sir, following an example set here more than twenty years ago, by a great man, then a Senator from New-York, I would return to Virginia, and through her for the benefit of the whole South, the money received from the lands and territories ceded by her to this Government for any such purpose as to relieve, in whole or in part, or in any way to diminish or deal beneficially with the free colored population of the Southern States. I have said that I honor Virginia for her cession of this territory. There have been received into the Treasury of the United States eighty millions of dollars, the proceeds of the sales of the public lands ceded by Virginia. If the residue should be sold at the same rate, the whole aggregate will exceed two hundred millions of dollars. If Virginia and the South see fit to adopt any proposition to relieve themselves from the free people of color among them, they have my free consent that the Government shall pay them any sum of money out of its proceeds which may be adequate to the purpose.

Opinions of the foreign press.

[From the London Times, March 31.]

For some time it has been expected among the people of the Northern American States, that their Government was about to make some important decision in respect to slavery. A manifesto which should electrify the Old World, cause a general revulsion of feeling to the side of the North, and seal the doom of the rebellion even in the more remote slave States, has been looked for by persons supposed to share in some measure the confidence of the Government. We do not know how far the Americans will consider that their expectations have been fulfilled. President Lincoln has made a move towards emancipation. He has ventured to look “the everlasting negro” in the face. The highest person in the State does not continue to ignore what has been in the minds and on the tongues of millions since the outbreak of the war. So far, then, the Abolitionists and the [240] Black Republicans may be satisfied. The President has invited the discussion of a very delicate and dangerous question, and may give courage to all who wanted to speak their minds on it, but who were withheld by the fear of hampering the policy of the Government. Like the sovereign at an old tournament, Mr. Lincoln gives the signal to the knights to come forward and show their prowess. But the message which has just been sent to Congress can hardly be looked upon as anything more than such an invitation. The champions and the foes of slavery are summoned to the fight in the halls of Congress and in the Legislatures of the Border States. But, as yet, the President does not show that he has any plan for assuring victory to the latter. Indeed, it is already clear that, if slavery is to cease, even in the Border States, the change must be accomplished by other means than those at which he points.

It is not strange that we on this side of the ocean should read and re-read the paragraphs of the President's Message in the endeavor to understand their purpose, for the Americans themselves are evidently puzzled. The abolitionist newspapers are, of course, pleased to find that the Government at length gives countenance to their cause, and there is, moreover, in all probability, such a feeling of satisfaction in the public mind as is naturally produced among a people who are exhausting themselves in a contest of which they cannot see the end by the semblance of a vigorous and original policy in their chiefs. But the President's outline of legislation does not seem to have commended itself even to journals most favorable to his administration. It is that Congress should pledge itself to cooperate with the slave States for the abolition of slavery, and should devote the Federal revenues to the compensation of the masters. Now, the first thing that occurs to us is, that this is a scheme totally inapplicable to the whole Union which Mr. Lincoln and his friends declare to be still in existence. The slaves throughout the States were returned by the last census at four millions. Their value is so enormous that it is of little use to calculate it. Since the great increase in the cultivation of cotton, the price of a good field-hand has more than doubled; and in one or two of the States, the slaves are by far the most valuable property possessed by the inhabitants.

When we consider the immense sums that these negroes represent, and then consider the comparative poverty of the Federation, the difficulty of taxation, the present financial embarrassments, the debt so rapidly increasing, the flood of paper money, and the real lukewarmness of the American people in the cause of the negro, it is not difficult to see that the plan of Mr. Lincoln is not intended to apply to the whole South. The negroes of Alabama or Texas may be as much objects of interest to philanthropists as the negroes of Maryland; they have the same claims to be men and brothers; they are, beyond a doubt, more hardly worked; they are more often sold away from their families, and the pictures which orators and novelists have given of negro suffering have been copied from incidents sought for in the annals of the Cotton States. But the abolitionist zeal of the President stops short of the region where slaves are most numerous and most coerced. With a frankness which seems to be natural, he avows that his design is to emancipate the slaves in certain of the Border States, as a matter of policy. The negroes of Maryland and Delaware are few, and comparatively of little value. In Missouri, Kentucky, and even Tennessee, they form but a small part of the population. It has entered the minds of Mr. Lincoln and his friends that it will be not impossible to induce these Border States to sell their slaves to the Federal Government, or, in other words, to abolish slavery on the receipt of compensation from the treasury of the United States. In a doubtful tone, and with awkward phraseology, the President tells Congress that he recommends the scheme to their notice, but that if it does not meet with their approval and the approval of the country, it is at an end. He then goes on to give his reasons for inviting their consideration.

The leaders of the insurrection, we are told, believe that the Federal Government will be ultimately forced to acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region, and that then, even though the Border States might remain for the time with the North, they would take the earliest opportunity of seceding and joining the Southern Republic, which would by that time be fully organized and capable of giving them help. We know not if this policy has really found advocates at Richmond. It certainly seems in contradiction with the very last resolutions of the confederate Congress, which were to the effect that the Confederacy would never make peace on the basis of giving up any State which belonged to it. However, the theory of the Washington Government is, that as long as Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and even Maryland, contain slave-owners and slaves, the confederates will count on their sympathy and be disposed to prolong resistance; but that if slavery be abolished in these important States, the confederates, reduced to the Cotton and Tobacco States, and being the most populous members of their league thereby incorporated in the old Union, will be glad to submit. Thus, the great object of the “moderate” men at the North would be attained. There would be in the newly reconstituted Union a sufficient preponderance of free States to make another secession impossible; while the material interests of New-England and New-York would not be endangered by any ill-advised application of abolitionist principles at the extreme South, where negro slavery is necessary for the production of the great national staple.

We fear, however, that this Utopia of compromise will be difficult of access. Although Mr. Lincoln talks in the most cautious manner of “initiation,” and says that “a gradual and not a sudden emancipation will be better for all,” and although he suggests in a rather significant manner that “the current expenditure of the war [241] would very soon purchase all the slaves in any named State,” yet we cannot think that there is much chance of Congress voting the purchase even of the three quarters of a million of negroes to be found in the Border States. A people which is obliged to pay in paper for every article which its army requires, which cannot obtain a loan in any European market, and which now, in the desperate hope of raising a revenue, is putting on all the war-taxes which our benighted country has abolished, is not likely to fancy an additional expenditure of some hundreds of millions of dollars to transform a horde of negroes into citizens. Nor can we conceive that the Border States are likely, except under the pressure of military occupation, to abolish slavery within their limits. Nor do we believe that it will shake the resolution of the South. The causes of conflict between the two lie much deeper than the question of free and slave labor. A jealousy of the growing preponderance of the North in Congress — a preponderance caused by the tide of immigration which flowed into the States of more temperate climate — has now deepened into an antipathy which overcomes all considerations of interest.

But there is one light in which the President's Message may be favorably viewed. As a proposition which may possibly lead to the cessation of this frightful conflict, it will be worthy of discussion, though we think there is little advantage in adopting it in its present form. The President truly said that the expenses of the war would buy up the slaves in any given State. If this has any meaning, it is that the money now devoted to keeping up the four armies of the North might be more advantageously devoted to the extinction of slavery in those regions which are incontestably in its power. But it is impossible for the North to spend the same money on fighting and on emancipation. If the people of the Northern States wish to make any real progress in the settlement of the slave question, they will give up the policy of burdening themselves and their children with an European debt paying American interest. Another year of such war will make it impossible for them to buy negro liberty even in Maryland. If they are content to keep the slave States which have not seceded, and to try the plan of emancipation and compensation on them, they may, if they are really in earnest, accomplish after a time a great work. But, with an expenditure of two million dollars a day, and with nothing but “shinplasters” for money, the plan of attaching wavering slave-owners by compensation must follow the fate of so many other attempts at compromise.

[From the London News, March 21.]

Military successes, unequivocal and extensive, have enabled President Lincoln to propose a political measure from which important consequences may reasonably be expected. In a message to Congress he recommends the two Houses to agree in a resolution to cooperate with the several States, by pecuniary aid, for the gradual emancipation of the slaves. Mr. Lincoln explains his views and expectations with a frankness which some may deem excessive, but which is very characteristic, and at least leaves no excuse for misunderstanding his meaning. At every crisis of the present conflict, the President has declared that the first object of the war was the preservation of the Union. This was one side of his policy, that one which was naturally brought into prominence by the circumstances in which he was placed. The other side, that which aims at the final extinction of slavery, has not been seen until now, because hitherto no opportunity of displaying it, has arisen. Indeed, not only has this part of Mr. Lincoln's policy been concealed, but it has seemed to be denied by facts. He was advised to adopt the principle of abolition in all its naked absolutism, and it is well known that he refused. He would proceed to his end legally and constitutionally. Many of us thought that, to say he would only attain it in that way, was equal to saying, that he gave it up altogether. But let justice be done. Whatever merits are denied to Mr. Lincoln, as the ruler of a great nation, the simplicity and sincerity of his character will not be called in question.

The time has come when Mr. Lincoln believes he has found a political basis, a basis of fact, for his policy of emancipation. And he seems careful to make it plain, that it is a thoroughly political measure which he proposes. He tells the Federal Congress, that the Federal Government “would find its highest interest” in assisting the States as proposed, “as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation” He avows that his immediate aim is to secure the Border States to the Union. Mr. Lincoln seems to convey that he does not hold the Gulf States in much account. He knows very well that they cannot exist as a separate nation without the Border States; that their poverty and weakness would expose them to general contempt, and make separate existence intolerable. And although he will not permit them, on that account, to secede, and so give a foothold to ambitious and intriguing European powers, he is not much concerned about their opinion of his scheme. If the Federal Congress assents, and the Border States adopt it, slavery in North-America is doomed, and the Gulf States may be left to come their senses. Whenever they do so, the Federal Government will assist them in getting rid of a curse.

Mr. Lincoln's proposition appears to have startled the American public by its comprehensiveness, and we shall have to wait to learn what impression it will make on the country. The extracts We give from the New-York papers, can tell us little. It is natural for us, accustomed as we are to learn the state of public opinion in the various countries of Europe from journals published in capitals, where government and public life is centralized, to study the opinions published in a great American city, and take them for those of the Union. This error has led us astray a thousand times during the last twelve months. But in truth, there is no country in the world where all that belongs to government, is so completely [242] decentralized as in the United States. In looking at the probabilities of the situation, we must remember that Mr. Lincoln propounds rather an aim than a plan.

Should Congress adopt this resolution, it will proclaim a policy, and assume a duty, but the means and mode of its execution,will be left open to deliberation. We do not gather from the President's words, that it is a part of his plan that the Federal Government should assume the burden of the compensation, to be paid to slave-owners on the emancipation of their slaves, but rather the Federal Government should cooperate for that purpose with the government of the States. The President intimates gently, but plainly, that the slave-owners of the Border States may fare worse if they refuse his proposition. The war has been, and will be, one for the preservation of the Union; but it is impossible to carry war into a slave State, without depreciating property in slaves. When the masters are in trouble, the blacks run away, or become unprofitable from the interruption of industry.

Such is the fair, moderate and magnanimous policy of the Government of the United States, in the hour of success. And what are the leaders of secession doing? In the face of Mr. Davis's admission, that the Confederacy attempted more than it could carry out when it undertook to force secession on the Border States, it has passed a resolution declaring “that the honor of the government imperatively demands that the existing war be prosecuted until the enemy shall have been expelled from every foot of soil within each and every one of the confederate States; and no proposition of peace shall be considered, which contemplates, however remotely, the relinquishment, by this government, of any portion of any of the States of the Confederacy.” Mr. Lincoln's Message, and the resolution of the confederate Senate, aptly distinguish the character and circumstances of the two governments.

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