previous next


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 would advise. 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 [357] 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: [358]

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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (4)
Missouri (Missouri, United States) (2)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Charles Sumner (8)
Abraham Lincoln (6)
Simon Cameron (2)
B. F. Butler (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 30th (2)
July 17th (2)
July 16th (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: