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Chapter 26:

  • Forced emancipation concluded
  • -- emancipation acts of President Lincoln -- order of General Hunter revoked by President Lincoln -- one cause of our secession -- the time to throw off the mask at hand -- men United in defense of liberty called traitors -- conference of President Lincoln with Senators and Representatives of border States -- failure of the proposition -- three hundred thousand more men called for -- declarations of the antislavery press -- the watchword adopted -- memorial of so-called Christians to the President -- reply of President Lincoln -- issue of the proclamation of emancipation -- the military necessity asserted -- the consummation verbally reached -- declarations by the United States government of what it intended to do -- true nature of the party Unveiled -- vindication of the sagacity of the Southern people -- declarations to European cabinets -- object of these declarations -- the boast of Mr. Lincoln calmly considered.

The attention of the reader is now invited to a series of usurpations in which the President of the United States was the principal actor. On March 6, 1862, he began a direct and unconstitutional interference with slavery by sending a message to Congress recommending the adoption of a resolution which should declare that the United States ought to cooperate with any state which might adopt the gradual abolition of slavery, giving to such state pecuniary aid, to be used by such state in its discretion, to compensate for the inconvenience, public and private, produced by such change of system. The reason given for the recommendation of the adoption of the resolution was that the United States government would find its highest interest in such a measure as one of the most important means of self-preservation. He said, in explanation, that ‘the leaders of the existing rebellion entertain the hope that this 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 part 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 deprives them of it and of all the States initiating it.’ [152]

When it was asked where the power was found in the Constitution to appropriate the money of the people to carry out the purposes of the resolution, it was replied that the legislative department of the government was competent, under these words in the preamble of the Constitution, ‘to provide for the general welfare,’ to do anything and everything which could be considered as promoting the general welfare. It was further said that this measure was to be consummated under the war power; that whatever was necessary to carry on the war to a successful conclusion might be done without restraint under the authority, not of the Constitution, but as a military necessity. It was further said that the President of the United States had thus far failed to meet the just expectations of the party which elected him to the office he held; that his friends were to be comforted by the resolution and the message, while the people of the border slave states could not fail to observe that with the comfort to the North there was mingled an awful warning to them. It was denied by the President that it was an interference with slavery in the states. It was an artful scheme to awaken a controversy in the slave states, and to commence the work of emancipation by holding out pecuniary aid as an inducement. In every previous declaration the President had said that he did not contemplate any interference with domestic slavery within the states. The resolution was passed by large majorities in each house.

This proposition of President Lincoln was wholly unconstitutional, because it attempted to do what was expressly forbidden by the Constitution. It proposed a contract between the state of Missouri and the government of the United States which, in the language of the act, shall be ‘irrepealable without the consent of the United States.’ The words of the Constitution are as follows:

No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation, grant letters of marque and reprisal, coin money, etc.1

This is a prohibition not only upon the power of one state to enter into a compact, alliance, confederation, or agreement with another state, but also with the government of the United States.

Again, if the state of Missouri could enter into an irrepealable agreement or compact with the United States, that slavery should not therein exist after the acceptance on the part of Missouri of the act, then it would be an agreement on the part of that state to surrender its sovereignty and make the state unequal in its rights of sovereignty with the other states of the Union. The other states would have the complete [153] right of sovereignty over their domestic institutions while the state of Missouri would cease to have such right. The whole system of the United States government would be abrogated by such legislation. Again, it is a cardinal principle of the system that the people in their sovereign capacity may, from time to time, change and alter their organic law; a provision incorporated in the Constitution of Missouri that slavery should never thereafter exist in that state could not prevent a future sovereign convention of its people from reestablishing slavery within its limits.

It will be observed, from what has been said in the preceding pages, that the usurpations by the government of the United States, both by the legislative and executive departments, had not only been tolerated but approved. Feeling itself, therefore, fortified in its unlimited power from ‘necessity,’ the wheels of the revolution were now to move with accelerated velocity in their destructive work. Accordingly, a manifesto soon comes from the Executive on universal emancipation. On April 25, 1862, the United States Major General Hunter, occupying a position at Hilton Head, South Carolina, issued an order declaring the states of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina under martial law. On May 9th the same officer issued another order, declaring ‘the persons held as slaves in those States to be for ever free.’ The Executive of the United States, on May 19th, issued a proclamation declaring the order to be void, and said:

I further make known that, whether it be competent for me as commanderin-chief of the army and navy to declare the slaves of any State or States free, and whether at any time or in any case it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to examine such supposed power, are questions which under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I can not feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders in the field.

Speaking of this order of Major General Hunter soon afterward, President Lincoln, in remarks on July 12, 1862, to the border states representatives, said:

In repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offense, to many whose support the country can not afford to lose. And this is not the end of it. The pressure in this direction is still upon me, and is increasing.

This pressure consisted in the demanding of his extreme partisans that the whole authority of the government should be exerted for the immediate and universal emancipation of the slaves.

By a reference to the statement of the causes of our withdrawal from the Union of the United States, it will be seen that one of them consisted in the conviction that the newly-elected officers of the government would [154] wield its powers for the destruction of the institutions of the Southern states. The facts already related in these pages furnish ample proofs of the justice and accuracy of this conviction.

The time was now close at hand when the mask was to be thrown off and, at a single dash of the pen, four hundred millions of our property was to be annihilated, the whole social fabric of the Southern states disrupted, all branches of industry disarranged, good order destroyed, and a flood of evils many times greater than the loss of property inflicted upon the people of the South, thus consummating the series of aggressions which had been inflicted for more than thirty years. All constitutional protections were to be withdrawn, and the powers of a common government, created for common and equal protection to the interests of all, were to be arrayed for the destruction of our institutions. The President of the United States says: ‘This is not the end. The pressure in this direction is still upon me, and is increasing.’ How easy it would have been for the Northern people, by a simple, honest obedience to the provisions of the Constitution, to have avoided the commission of all these crimes and horrors! For the law which demands obedience to itself guarantees in return life and safety. It is not necessary to ask again where the President of the United States or the Congress found authority for their usurpations. But it should be remembered that, if the necessity which they pleaded was an argument to justify their violations of all the provisions of the Constitution, the existence of such a necessity on their part was a sufficient argument to justify our withdrawal from union with them. If necessity on their part justified a violation of the Constitution, necessity on our part justified secession from them. If the preservation of the existence of the Union by coercion of the states was an argument to justify these violent usurpations by the United States government, it was still more forcibly an argument to justify our separation and resistance to invasion; we were struggling for our natural rights, but the government of the United States has no natural rights.

How can a people who glory in a Declaration of Independence which broke the slumbers of a world declare that men united in defense of liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are ‘traitors’? Is it henceforth to be a dictum of humanity that man may no more take up arms in defense of rights, liberty, and property? Shall it never again in the course of human events become lawful ‘for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them’? Is the highwayman, [155] henceforth, to be the lord of the highway, and the poor, plundered traveler to have no property which he may defend at the risk of the life of the highwayman?

On July 12, 1862, the President of the United States, persistent in his determination to destroy the institution of slavery, invited the Senators and Representatives of the border slave-holding states to the Executive Mansion, and addressed them on emancipation in their respective states. He said:

I intend no reproach or complaint when I assure you that, in my opinion, if you all had voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of last March, the war would now be substantially ended. And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent and swift means of ending it. Let the States which are in rebellion see definitely and certainly that in no event will the States you represent ever join their proposed confederacy, and they can not much longer maintain the contest. But you can not divest them of their hope to ultimately have you with them so long as you show a determination to perpetuate the institution within your own States. Beat them at elections as you have overwhelmingly done, and, nothing daunted, they still claim you as their own. You and I know what the lever of their power is. Break that lever before their faces, and they can shake you no more for ever.

He further said that the incidents of the war might extinguish the institution in their states, and added:

How much better for you as seller and the nation as buyer to sell out and buy out that without which the war could never have been, than to sink both the thing to be sold and the price of it in cutting one another's throats!

The reply of the majority, consisting of twenty of the twenty-nine Senators and Representatives, subsequently made to the President, is worthy of notice. They said that they were not of the belief that funds would be provided for the object, or that their constituents would reap the fruits of the promise held out, and added:

The right to hold slaves is a right appertaining to all the States of the Union. They have the right to cherish or abolish the institution, as their tastes or their interests may prompt, and no one is authorized to question the right, or limit its enjoyment. And no one has more clearly affirmed that right than you have. Your inaugural address does you great honor in this respect, and inspired the country with confidence in your fairness and respect for law.

After asserting that a large portion of our people were fighting because they believed the administration was hostile to their rights, and was making war on their domestic institutions, they further said:

Remove their apprehensions; satisfy them that no harm is intended to them and their institutions; that this Government is not making war on their rights of property, but is simply defending its legitimate authority, and they will gladly return to their allegiance.


This measure of emancipation with compensation soon proved a failure. A proposition to appropriate five hundred thousand dollars to the object was voted down in the United States Senate with great unanimity. The government was, step by step, ‘educating the people’ up to a proclamation of emancipation, so as to make entire abolition one of the positive and declared issues of the contest.

The so-called pressure upon the President was now organized for a final onset. The governors of fifteen states united in a request that three hundred thousand more men should be called out to fill up the reduced ranks, and it was done. The antislavery press then entered the arena. Charges were made against the President, in the name of

Twenty millions of people, that a great proportion of those who triumphed in his election were sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy he seemed to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of the rebels.

This is a simple statement of the progress of events, and it shows to the world how well founded were our apprehensions, at the hour of its election, that the administration intended the destruction of our property and community independence. They further said:

You are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipation provisions of the new confiscation act.

They further boldly added:

We complain that the Union cause has suffered, and is now suffering, immensely from mistaken deference to rebel slavery. Had you, sir, in your inaugural address, unmistakably given notice that, in case the rebellion already commenced was persisted in, and your efforts to preserve the Union and enforce the laws should be resisted by armed force, you would recognize no loyal person as rightfully held in slavery by a traitor, we believe the rebellion would therein have received a staggering if not fatal blow.

The President replied at length, saying:

I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

The education of the conservative portion of the Northern people up to emancipation was becoming more complete every day, notwithstanding the professed reluctance of the President. Another call for three hundred thousand men was made, but enlistments were slow, so that threats of a draft and most liberal bounties were required. The champions of emancipation sought to derive an advantage from this circumstance. [157] They asserted that the reluctance of the people to enter the army was caused by the policy of the government in not adopting bold emancipation measures. If such were adopted, the streets and by-ways would be crowded with volunteers to fight for the freedom of the ‘loyal blacks,’ and thrice three hundred thousand could be easily obtained. They said that slavery in the seceded states should be treated as a military question; it contributed nearly all the subsistence which supported the Southern men in arms, dug their trenches, and built their fortifications. The watchword which they now adopted was ‘the abolition of slavery by the force of arms for the sake of the Union.’

Meantime, on September 13th, a delegation from the so-called ‘Christians’ in Chicago, Illinois, presented to President Lincoln a memorial, requesting him to issue a proclamation of emancipation, and urged in its favor such reasons as occurred to their minds. President Lincoln replied:

What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world would see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I can not even enforce the Constitution in the rebel States? Is there a single court, or magistrate, or individual that would be influenced by it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines? Yet I can not learn that that law has caused a single slave to come over to us. And suppose they could be induced by a proclamation of freedom from me to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we feed and care for such a multitude? . . .

If, now, the pressure of the war should call off our forces from New Orleans to defend some other point, what is to prevent the masters from reducing the blacks to slavery again? . . . Now, then, tell me, if you please, what possible result of good would follow the issuing of such a proclamation as you desire? I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement.

Nine days after these remarks were made—on September 22, 1862— the preliminary proclamation of emancipation was issued by the President of the United States. It declared that at the next session of Congress the proposition for emancipation in the border slaveholding states would be again recommended, and that on January 1, 1863—

All persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and for ever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.


Also, all persons engaged in the military and naval service were ordered to obey and enforce the article of war and the sections of the confiscation act before mentioned. On January 1, 1863, another proclamation was issued by the President of the United States declaring the emancipation to be absolute within the Confederate States, with the exception of a few districts. The closing words of the proclamation were these:

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

Let us test the existence of the military necessity here spoken of by a few facts. The white male population of the Northern states was then 13,690,364. The white male population of the Confederate States was 5,449,463. The number of troops which the United States had called into the field exceeded one million men. The number of troops which the Confederate government had then in the field was less than four hundred thousand men. The United States government had a navy which was only third in rank in the world. The Confederate government had a navy which at that time consisted of a single small ship on the ocean. The people of the United States had a commerce afloat all over the world. The people of the Confederate States had not a single port open to commerce. The people of the United States were the rivals of the greatest nations in all kinds of manufactures. The people of the Confederate States had few manufactures, and those were of articles of inferior importance. The government of the United States possessed the treasury of a union of eighty years with its vast resources. The Confederate States had to create a treasury by the development of financial resources. The ambassadors and representatives of the former were welcomed at every court in the world. The representatives of the latter were not recognized anywhere.

Thus the consummation of the original antislavery purposes was verbally reached; even that achievement was attended with disunion, bloodshed, and war. In the words of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. . . . When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.


It is thus seen what the United States government did, and our view of this subject would not be complete if we should omit to present their solemn declarations of that which they intended to do. In his proclamation of April 15, 1861, calling for seventy-five thousand men, the President of the United States government said:

In any event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

On July 22, 1861, Congress passed a resolution relative to the war, from which the following is an extract:

That this war is not waged on our part in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those [Confederate] States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that, as soon as these objects are accomplished, the war ought to cease.

The vote in favor of the resolution was: in the Senate, yeas 30, nays 4; in the House of Representatives, yeas 117, nays 2.

It may further be observed that these proclamations cited above afforded to our whole people the complete and crowning proof of the true nature of the designs of the party which elevated to power the person then occupying the presidential chair at Washington, and which sought to conceal its purposes by every variety of artful device and by the perfidious use of the most solemn and repeated pledges on every possible occasion. A single example may be cited from the declaration made by President Lincoln, under the solemnity of his oath as chief magistrate of the United States, on March 4, 1861:

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that, by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehensions. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the public speeches of him who now addresses you. I do not quote from one of those speeches when I declare that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations, and had never recanted them. And more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power [160] on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest crimes.

Nor was this declaration of the want of power or disposition to interfere with our social system confined to a state of peace. Both before and after the actual commencement of hostilities, the Executive of the United States repeated in formal official communications to the cabinets of Great Britain and France, that it was utterly without constitutional power to do the act which it subsequently committed, and that in no possible event, whether the secession of these states resulted in the establishment of a separate Confederacy or in the restoration of the Union, was there any authority by virtue of which it could either restore a disaffected state to the Union by force of arms, or make any change in any of its institutions. I refer especially for the verification of this assertion to the dispatches addressed by the Secretary of State of the United States, under direction of the President, to the ministers of the United States at London and Paris, under date of the 10th and 22d of April, 1861.

This proclamation was therefore received by the people of the Confederate States as the fullest vindication of their own sagacity in foreseeing the uses to which the dominant party in the United States intended from the beginning to apply their power.

For what honest purpose were these declarations made? They could deceive no one who was familiar with the powers and duties of the federal government; they were uttered in the season of invasion of the Southern states, to coerce them to obedience to the agent established by the compact between the states, for the purpose of securing domestic tranquillity and the blessings of liberty. The power to coerce states was not given, and the proposition to make that grant received no favor in the convention which formed the Constitution; and it is seen by the proceedings in the states, when the Constitution was submitted to each of them for their ratification or rejection as they might choose, that a proposition which would have enabled the general government, by force of arms, to control the will of a state, would have been fatal to any effort to make a more perfect union. Such declarations as those cited from the diplomatic correspondence, though devoid of credibility at home, might avail in foreign countries to conceal from their governments the real purpose of the action of the majority. Meanwhile, the people of the Confederacy plainly saw that the ideas and interests of the administration were to gain by war the empire that would enable it to trample on the Constitution which it professed to defend and maintain. [161]

It was by the slow and barely visible approaches of the serpent seeking its prey that the aggressions and usurpations of the United States government moved on to the crimes against the law of the Union, the usages of war among civilized nations, the dictates of humanity and the requirements of justice, which have been recited. The performance of this task has been painful, but persistent and widespread misrepresentation of the cause and conduct of the South required the exposure of her slanderer. To unmask the hypocrisy of claiming devotion to the Constitution, while violating its letter and spirit for a purpose palpably hostile to it, was needful for the defense of the South. In the future progress of this work it will be seen how often we have been charged with the very offenses committed by our enemy—offenses of which the South was entirely innocent, and of which a chivalrous people would be incapable. There was in this the old trick of the fugitive thief who cries ‘Stop thief!’ as he runs.

In his message to Congress one year later, on December 8, 1863, the President of the United States thus boasts of his proclamation:

The preliminary emancipation proclamation, issued in September, was running its assigned period to the beginning of the new year. A month later the final proclamation came, including the announcement that colored men of suitable condition would be received into the war service. The policy of emancipation and of employing black soldiers gave to the future a new aspect, about which hope and fear and doubt contended in uncertain conflict. According to our political system, as a matter of civil administration, the General Government had no lawful power to effect emancipation in any State, and for a long time it had been hoped that the rebellion could be suppressed without resorting to it as a military measure. . . . Of those who were slaves at the beginning of the rebellion, full one hundred thousand are now in the United States military service, about onehalf of which number actually bear arms in the ranks, thus giving the double advantage of taking so much labor from the insurgent cause, and supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men. So far as tested, it is difficult to say they are not as good soldiers as any.

Let the reader pause for a moment and look calmly at the facts presented in this statement. The forefathers of these negro soldiers were gathered from the torrid plains and malarial swamps of inhospitable Africa. Generally they were born the slaves of barbarian masters, untaught in all the useful arts and occupations, reared in heathen darkness, and, sold by heathen masters, they were transferred to shores enlightened by the rays of Christianity. There, put to servitude, they were trained in the gentle arts of peace and order and civilization; they increased from a few unprofitable savages to millions of efficient Christian laborers. Their servile instincts rendered them contented with their [162] lot, and their patient toil blessed the land of their abode with unmeasured riches. Their strong local and personal attachment secured faithful service to those to whom their service or labor was due. A strong mutual affection was the natural result of this lifelong relation, a feeling best if not only understood by those who have grown from childhood under its influence. Never was there happier dependence of labor and capital on each other. The tempter came, like the serpent in Eden, and decoyed them with the magic word of ‘freedom.’ Too many were allured by the uncomprehended and unfilled promises, until the highways of these wanderers were marked by corpses of infants and the aged. He put arms in their hands, and trained their humble but emotional natures to deeds of violence and bloodshed, and sent them out to devastate their benefactors. What does he boastingly announce?—‘It is difficult to say they are not as good soldiers as any.’ Ask the bereaved mother, the desolate widow, the sonless aged sire, to whom the bitter cup was presented by those once of their own household. With double anguish they speak of its bitterness. What does the President of the United States further say?—‘According to our political system, as a matter of civil administration, the General Government had no lawful power to effect emancipation in any State.’ And further on, as if with a triumphant gladness, he adds, ‘Thus giving the double advantage of taking so much labor from the insurgent cause, and supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men.’ A rare mixture of malfeasance with traffic in human life! It is submitted to the judgment of a Christian people how well such a boast befits the President of the United States, a federation of sovereigns under a voluntary compact for specific purposes.

1 Article I, section 10.

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