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[271]

I have given you freedom of elections, greater than you have ever enjoyed.

I have caused justice to be administered so impartially, that your own advocates have unanimously complimented the judges of my appointment.

You have seen, therefore, the benefit of the laws and justice of the government against which you have rebelled.

Why, then, will you not all return to your allegiance to that government — not with lip-service, but with the heart?

I conjure you, if you desire ever to see renewed prosperity, giving business to your streets and wharves — if you hope to see your city become again the mart of the Western world, fed by its rivers for more than three thousand miles, draining the commerce of a country greater than the mind of man hath ever conceived — return to your allegiance.

If you desire to leave to your children the inheritance you received of your fathers — a stable constitutional government — if you desire that they should, in the future, be a portion of the greatest empire the sun ever shone upon — return to your allegiance.

There is but one thing that stands in the way.

There is but one thing that at this hour stands between you and the government, and that is slavery.

The institution, cursed of God, which has taken its last refuge here, in his providence will be rooted out as the tares from the wheat, although the wheat be torn up with it.

I have given much thought to this subject.

I came among you, by teachings, by habit of mind, by political position, by social affinity, inclined to sustain your domestic laws, if by possibility they might be with safety to the Union.

Months of experience and of observation have forced the conviction that the existence of slavery is incompatible with the safety either of yourselves or of the Union. As the system has gradually grown to its present huge dimensions, it were best if it could be gradually removed, but it is better, far better that it should be taken out at once than that it should longer vitiate the social, political, and family relations of your country.

I am speaking with no philanthropic views as regards the slave, but simply of the effect of slavery on the master. See for yourselves.

Look around you and say whether this saddening, deadening influence has not all but destroyed the very framework of your society.

I am speaking the farewell words of one who has shown his devotion to his country, at the peril of his life and fortune, who in these words can have neither hope nor interest, save the good of those whom he addresses; and let me here repeat, with all the solemnity of an appeal to heaven to bear me witness, that such are the views forced upon me by experience.

Come, then, to the unconditional support of the government. Take into your own hands your own institutions; re-model them according to the laws of nations and of God; and thus attain that great prosperity, assured to you by geographical position, only a portion of which was heretofore yours.


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Benjamin F. Butler (1)
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