previous next

[725] once to the consideration of this question by passing the confiscation law, which, as we have said, was promulgated on the 6th of August. This law, in assimilating fugitives to contraband of war, declared that no demand for the restoration of slaves who had been in any way employed to the detriment of the Federal armies should be admitted. In this case the fugitive slave law was formally suspended. Congress went farther than either General Butler or the Secretary of War had ventured to go; for so far from making any reservation in behalf of the ultimate rights of the proprietor, it annulled them. The law did not explicitly emancipate the fugitives; it even adhered to the hypocritical circumlocutions which Southern men had introduced into national legislation, and only designated them as persons subject to forced labor, but in declaring that they no longer belonged to their masters it virtually set them free. This measure, although cautiously worded, since it only referred to slaves used in resisting the national authority, was susceptible of being interpreted as implying the enfranchisement of all fugitives coming from the insurgent States and encouraging the flight of many more.

The day after the enactment of this law the Secretary of War hastened to take measures for securing its execution by addressing a letter to General Butler, intended to serve as a rule of conduct to all the commanders of the Federal armies. The object of the war being simply the restoration of the Union, the military, wherever the authority of the Constitution had not been disputed, were to allow the local courts to follow their own course without interfering in any manner. In those States where the Federal government was not recognized, the latter did not deem it expedient to apply the local laws themselves, when such an application might place arms in the hands of its enemies. It was necessary to discriminate between the slaves found at home with their masters and those who came to seek refuge in the Federal armies, and in regard to the latter class of refugees to distinguish those whose owners had not participated in the war from those who had been or might be employed in hostile works. No encouragement was to be given to slaves found at home with their masters to run away. The others were protected by the law

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.

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.
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.
August 6th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: