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[729] military to interfere in restoring slaves to their masters. The law upon this point was definitely settled.

Thus ended the year 1861. The force of circumstances had brought up the question of slavery in an indirect form; the following year was to witness its solution. We shall briefly show how, in proportion as the war added fuel to the passions of men, this solution, from which the wisest statesmen still shrank, soon came to absorb the attention of all, appearing to them at last as a necessity.

The victory of Port Royal had delivered a portion of the rich plantations with which the coast of South Carolina is covered into the hands of the Federal authority. Just as the Secretary of War had predicted, this territorial occupation presented the question of the treatment of negroes in a new light. Indeed, if a few slaves left the estates to which they were attached, to find refuge near the Federal fleet, a much larger number were abandoned by their masters on the approach of that fleet, and the Union officers found them quietly settled in their old cabins, near the deserted residence of the proprietor or his agent. The district occupied by the Federals consists of a succession of islands, large and small, adapted to the cultivation of the finest qualities of cotton, whose inhabitants, at least four-fifths of them, were of African descent. The situation of these islands protected them against any offensive return on the part of the enemy, and the Federals thus found themselves at the beginning of the year obliged to regulate, if not to govern, a population of more than eight thousand negroes, scattered over two hundred plantations. They had, moreover, to take care of about three or four thousand fugitives, whose number was daily increasing. They had hoped to derive considerable advantage from the occupation of the Sea Islands in a commercial point of view, and to obtain a sufficient quantity of the cotton which had given them their celebrity, to relieve the distress caused by the scarcity of that article in the markets of America and of Europe. This hope was not to be realized; the trouble caused by the war was too deeply rooted to admit of such a fortunate result. But the efforts made in this district to prepare the slaves for the condition of free laborers were none the less important, and the success was as great as could

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