Chapter 48: Seward.—emancipation.—peace with France.—letters of marque and reprisal.—foreign mediation.—action on certain military appointments.—personal relations with foreigners at Washington.—letters to Bright, Cobden, and the Duchess of Argyll.—English opinion on the Civil War.—Earl Russell and Gladstone.—foreign relations.—1862-1863.
The third session of the Thirty-seventh Congress began Dec. 1, 1862, and ended March 3, 1863.
Early in the session there was a movement for the displacement of Mr. Seward
as Secretary of State
It came from a wide-spread feeling in the country, as well as in Congress, that he was wanting in earnest convictions as to the character of the great struggle; that he was an obstruction to a decided policy, and a paralyzing influence in the Administration.
As was then believed, and has since been found to be true, he had opposed in the Cabinet
the issue of the proclamation of emancipation.
had been on the whole friendly to him,—more so than most of the senators.
He was, indeed, sorely grieved at the secretary's exclusion, in his diplomatic correspondence, of ‘opposing moral principles’1
from the Civil War
at its beginning, and at his further assurance that slavery was to remain untouched by the conflict;2
had added a grave cause of offence.
In a despatch to Mr. Adams
, July 5, 1862, which had recently come to Sumner
's attention, he treated armed rebels (‘the extreme advocates of African
slavery’) and loyal antislavery men (‘its most vehement opponents’) as ‘acting in concert together to precipitate a servile war,— . . .the former by making the most desperate attempts to overthrow the federal Union; the latter by demanding an edict of universal emancipation as a lawful and necessary if not, as they say, the only legitimate way of saving the Union
The general dissatisfaction of the Republican
senators with Mr. Seward
took formal shape in a caucus which was convened shortly after the session began.
They took unanimous action (Mr. King
of New York alone not voting), which it was supposed would effect his withdrawal from the Cabinet
Without naming him, it was agreed to call upon the President
to make such changes in his Cabinet as would secure unity of purpose and action, and include in it only the cordial and unwavering supporters of a vigorous and successful prosecution of the war. The committee of the caucus, consisting of Collamer
, and Wade
, waited on the President
, December 18.
presented the formal paper which had been agreed upon, and the senators individually stated their objections to Mr. Seward
's continuance in the Cabinet
When Mr. Lincoln
's attention was called, probably by Sumner
, to the despatch of July 5, he expressed surprise, and disclaimed any knowledge of it,—a disclaimer which he subsequently repeated to Sumner
The President stood firmly by the secretary, and the effort to displace him proved futile.
It received a check in an unexpected quarter,—from one of the secretary's associates.
on hearing of it sent to the President
his resignation before the senators had their interview with him; and Mr. Chase
, who singularly enough saw fit to construe the terms of the request as including himself, took occasion also to resign.
The President by a joint letter to both secretaries requested them to resume their places.
promptly assented without consulting Chase
, and the latter then followed with a withdrawal of his resignation.6
The defeat of McClellan
's army before Richmond
in June, 1862, marks an important stage in the controversy concerning emancipation and the arming of negroes, whether free or slave.
This appears in the debates in the Senate, July 9 and 10, particularly in the speeches of Sherman
, and Rice
—none of whom had been disposed hitherto to move in that direction.
Congress passed two acts which expressly authorized the employment of persons of African
descent in the military or naval service.
The President called, July 4, for three hundred thousand volunteers, and ordered a month later a conscription.
Before the year ended voluntary enlistments, except under the offer of high bounties, had practically ceased, and the quotas could be filled only by drafts.
Good citizens, whatever theoretic opinions they might have held on the slavery question, saw the necessity of resorting to every means for maintaining the army.
Those who feared that in a draft the lot might fall on themselves were no longer unwilling that colored volunteers should take the places which they themselves might be forced to take as conscripts.
The Secretary of War
by an order, August 25, authorized Brigadier-General Saxton
, commanding at Beaufort, S. C.
, to enlist slaves, and in January, 1863, gave a similar authority to Governor Sprague
of Rhode Island
and Governor Andrew
With the beginning of the new year the enlistment of colored soldiers became the fixed policy of the government.
To the same period belong Mr. Lincoln
's proclamations of emancipation of Sept. 22, 1862, and Jan. 1, 1863.
This was the act and the policy which Sumner
had continued to urge on the President
ever since July, 1861, and had from time to time in speeches, resolutions, and bills pressed on the country and on Congress.
It was the doom of the institution whose struggle for supremacy brought him into public activity.
Hereafter his contest was to be with the inequalities and caste distinctions which it left behind.
He wrote to E. L. Pierce
, Dec. 3, 1862:—
If there be anything in the message which you do not like, treat it as surplusage.8 The operative part is the last paragraph, where the President announces and vindicates emancipation.
The country will be saved!
To his colored friend, J. B. Smith
, on Christmas day:—
I am happy to assure you that the President will stand firm.
He is now in favor of employing colored troops to occupy the posts on the Mississippi River, South Carolina, and the Southern places.
To Dr. Howe
, December 28:—
You will be glad to know that the President is firm.
He says that he would not stop the proclamation if he could, and he could not if he would.
Let New Year's day be a day of jubilee!9
The year 1862 closed disastrously to our arms; and the first half of the next year was discouraging to the patriot heart.
in the West
still resisted siege and assault.
In December, 1862, our army was defeated at Fredericksburg
, and in May, 1863, at Chancellorsville
Rebel war-vessels, built and equipped in England
, with more in process of construction, were destroying our commerce; and our slow progress in the suppression of the rebellion was stimulating unfriendly opinion in England
to press intervention.
It was a period of despondency among soldiers and among the people.
Many of Sumner
's correspondents describe the deep and prevailing gloom in the community.
He, however, never lost heart, even in the darkest hours.
He expected reverses, assured of ultimate success.
The basis of his trust in our final triumph was, as already stated, largely moral
,—‘in the providence of God,’ to which he often referred.
He would not believe it possible that a conspiracy founded on slavery as a corner-stone could ever prevail; and his confidence was assured when our government at last, by declaring emancipation and arming the slaves, had placed itself before mankind openly and irrevocably on the side of freedom.
was relieved from command in November, 1862, and from that time took no part in the war. Late in January
following he accepted an invitation to visit Boston
, where he was entertained with elaborate receptions (one at Mr. Everett
's), and presented with a pitcher and a sword.
and other members of the State
government were ignored in the festivities.
It was almost the last effort of the expiring conservatism of Boston
to rally on the old lines.
The plot was already in progress to put