Chapter 45: an antislavery policy.—the Trent case.—Theories of reconstruction.—confiscation.—the session of 1861-1862.
was in Washington
ten days in the latter half of May, 1861, when he conferred with the President
and General Scott
, and was in his seat when the extra session opened, July 4, going to Washington
a fortnight before it began.
Forty-four senators were present, including those from Maryland
, and Tennessee
Among the Southern
senators were Breckinridge
, who was soon to join the rebellion, and Andrew Johnson
who stood almost alone among them as a Southern man of positive loyalty.
The seceded States were not represented.
Among Northern senators were Wilson
of New Hampshire
, Foot and Collamer
, Preston King
of New York, Wilmot
, and Chandler
The presence most missed was that of Douglas
, who died June 3.2
The committee on foreign relations consisted of Sumner
, and Breckinridge
's frequent motions for executive sessions showed that the committee was busy with its appropriate work.
There was a general disposition to limit the action of Congress during this session to measures directly related to the prosecution of the war, with which Sumner
expressed his concurrence in presenting an antislavery memorial.
Schemes of confiscation were started; and Sumner
introduced two bills for the punishment of conspiracy against the United States
and the confiscation of the property of persons engaged in it,—which, however, made no reference to slavery.
The session closed August 6.
Sumner on his way to Massachusetts
made visits to Mr. Jay
and Mr. Fish
's. When he reached Boston
his first duty—a deeply sad one—was to visit the home of Longfellow
, from which had been removed by tragic death the poet's wife, a noble and accomplished woman, his own constant and loyal friend for twenty years. He wrote, July 11:—
And again, July 21:—
To R. Schleiden
, May 5:—
This generous uprising of the North is a new element of force, which foretells the subjugation of the rebels.
I do not doubt the result.
I never believed that the North would be practically divided when the conflict came; but I did not expect the ferocious unity and high-strung determination which are now witnessed. . . . I feel proud of the activity and vigor displayed by my State.
Again, June 2:—
I do not doubt that England will settle down into just relations to our government if she is not prevented by sinister influences.
There has been precipitation on her part, caused naturally by our short-coming here, and also by the London Times.
The two especial things on which the South relied were (1) division at the North and (2) recognition by the great powers.
The failure with regard to the last will be as great as with regard to the first.
What then will the South do?
It must yield at last.
The end is certain; and also the extinction of slavery.
, June 23:—
I have no dread of Congress.
The session will be very brief,—a week or ten days; both houses in secret session; everything prepared in advance: (1) An army bill; (2) Navy bill; (3) Loan bill and war taxes on the free list, with perhaps an income tax; (4) Bill for treason, and to arrest supplies for traitors; and (5) Bill of embargo and non-intercourse for the whole Southern coast in lieu of the blockade, which is a great mistake.
Such at least is my programme which I have submitted to the President and his Cabinet; and I hope it will be carried out without a single speech, or one word of buncombe, so that our short session may be a mighty act. Our foreign relations especially concern me. The statement in the message will be “all's well.”
Prince Napoleon, who had come in his yacht to the United States
, visited Washington
in the last days of the extra session.
His sympathies were with the cause of the Union
and of the abolition of slavery; and he was greatly attracted to Sumner
, both on account of common sentiments and the senator's interest in the public life and literature of France
was one of the guests at a banquet given to the prince in Boston
in September, and late in the same day, as he was setting sail, bade him good-by on board his yacht.
The government abstained scrupulously during the early months of the Civil War
from acts and declarations which implied an antislavery purpose, and even expressly disavowed such a purpose.
This policy was thought necessary, not only to hold the border slave States, where what was called loyalty was largely lukewarm and uncertain, but also to retain in the free States the support of the masses hitherto opposed to the Republican party.
There was a division, too, among the Republicans,—many of whom in the Middle States
and the more southern of the Western States
, sufficient in number to reduce the party by their defection to a minority, had no sympathy with antislavery opinions, and desired the war to be strictly one for the Union
without interference with slavery.
The army also, private soldiers as well as officers, was at the time far from being inspired by antislavery sentiments; and it was the common talk of the camp that the war was for the Union
only, and that slavery would remain untouched.
During this period officers of the army in formal orders declared it to be their duty and purpose to suppress and crush out servile insurrections.
Some were reported to have offered to
return fugitive slaves to their masters.4
The war department required McDowell
to forbid the harboring of fugitive slaves in camps, or their accompanying the troops on a march; this was at the President
's instance, though the fact of his interposition was at his request kept from the public.5
Negroes were forbidden to leave Washington
except on proof of freedom.
, in a letter of instructions, recognized the duty of marshals to return fugitive slaves.
The Secretary of the Interior
at a public meeting denied the right of the government to interfere with slavery in South Carolina
The Secretary of War
abstained from approving General Butler
's doctrine that the slaves of rebels should be treated as ‘contraband of war,’ and cautioned him against interfering with the slaves of peaceable citizens, or preventing the voluntary return of fugitive slaves.
The President himself revoked