Everybody will remember the dismay with which the news of the first battle of Bull Run
spread through the country.
Two or three days after this event, Mr. Sumner
called upon the President
, with a view of urging for the first time, the policy of Emancipation.
I saw the Senator
shortly after, and he gave me an account of that interview which lasted till midnight.
He said the President
did not agree with him; that he still adhered to the policy of forbearance, believing that the country was not prepared to go so far as Mr. Sumner
Least of all did the President
favor either of the two bills he had introduced before the battle of Bull Run
, one of which—that of July 16th—was ‘For the confiscation of property of persons in rebellion against the Constitution
and laws of the United States
;’ and the other, two days later, ‘For the punishment of
conspiracy, and kindred offenses against the United States
, and for the confiscation of the property of the offenders.’
No mention had been made of Slavery in these bills, but they indicated a policy altogether too vigorous to command at that time the approval of Mr. Lincoln
The difference—and a very great one it was—between the two men's views, was, that Mr. Sumner
believed the hour had come for resorting to the full exercise of the War Power
, desiring to have the President
boldly lead the way in the enunciation.
But Mr. Lincoln
could not see it in that light; and on the 17th of July, the day that intervened between Mr. Sumner
's two bills, the following General Order
from Headquarters, was issued by Mr. Cameron
, Secretary of War
Fugitive slaves will under no pretext whatever be permitted to reside, or in any way be harbored in the quarters and camps of the troops serving in this Department; neither will such slaves be allowed to accompany troops on the march.
Commanders of troops will be held responsible for a strict observance of the Order.
In fact, during the first year of the war, Mr. Lincoln
's administration acted in superfluous good faith with the Rebels
Only a week after the Secretary
's Order, the Attorney-General
instructed the Marshals of Missouri to execute the Fugitive Slave Act
throughout their districts.
But some interruptions were to take place in carrying it out in Virginia
; for on the 30th of July, Gen. Butler
, in a letter to the Secretary of War
, expressed the opinion that ‘since an able-bodied Negro, fit to work in the trenches, is property liable to be used in aid of the Rebellion
, he consequently becomes a contraband of War;
’ and without any hesitation he defined his policy, as a General in the service, by saying:
In a state of Rebellion, I would confiscate that which was used to oppose my arms, and take all that property which constituted the wealth of that State, and furnished the means by which the war is prosecuted, besides being the cause of the war. And if, in so doing, it should be objected that human beings were brought to the free enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, such objections might not require much consideration.