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Chapter 8: Civil affairs in 1863.--military operations between the Mountains and the Mississippi River.

Before proceeding to a consideration of military affairs in 1864, let us take a brief glance at the aspect of civil affairs at the beginning of that year.

The management of the finances of the nation was yet in the able hands of Secretary Chase; and so fully did the people and Congress confide in his judgment and patriotism, that his suggestions were generally accepted as eminently wise, and the measures he proposed were usually carried into execution. From the day when he assumed the duties of Minister of Finance, and his plans began to develop, the public credit became stronger every hour; and at the time we are considering, when the public debt had reached the appalling sum of over a thousand million dollars, the great war in full career, and that debt increasing enormously every day, the public credit, especially among the people of this country, had never stood higher. “The history of the world,” said the Secretary, a year later, when he had been fully sustained by the people, “may be searched in vain for a parallel case of popular financial support to a National Government.” 1

When Congress met in December, 1862, Secretary Chase laid before them a statement and estimate which would have appalled the representatives of a less hopeful people. He reported, that, on account of greatly increased expenditures, there remained a balance of disbursements to the amount of nearly two hundred and seventy-seven million dollars, for which provision must be made; and he asked for an additional sum to meet the estimated expenditures of the Government to the close of the fiscal year, at the end of June, 1864, which would make the whole sum to be provided for, for the next eighteen months, more than nine hundred million dollars.2 The important question, How is this vast sum to be provided? had to be met. The able Minister of Finance was ready with an answer. Keeping in mind the four objects in view which had controlled his action up to that time, namely, “moderate interest, general distribution, future controllability, and incidental utility,” he now renewed propositions which he had already made, and recommended two immediate measures of safety, in connection with a [227] scheme for establishing a system of National bank paper. One of these was to drive home, by a tax, the State bank paper circulation, and the other was the funding of Government notes.

The Secretary proposed a moderate tax on the State bank circulation; that no issue of Government notes beyond the limits authorized should be made, unless a clear public exigency should demand it; the organization of banking associations for the improvement of the public credit, and to supply the public with a safe and uniform currency; and the repeal of restrictions concerning the conversion of certain Government bonds. To these propositions Congress responded, first by authorizing

January 17, 1864.
an additional issue of $100,000,000 of Government notes; then by an act, approved on the 25th of February, to provide a National currency through a National banking system; then by another, approved on the last day of the session,
March 3.
authorizing the Secretary to issue $300,000,000 for the current fiscal year, and $600,000,000 for the next fiscal year, ending June 30, 1864. These amounts were to be issued in “10-40” bonds, at six per cent. interest, both principal and interest to be paid in coin. The Secretary was authorized to exchange the same for certificates of indebtedness or deposit, any Treasury notes or lawful money of the United States. He was also authorized to issue $400,000,000 of six per cent. Treasury notes, payable within three years, to be a legal tender for their face value, excluding interest, and exchangeable for and redeemable by Government notes, for which purpose alone $150,000,000 of the latter was authorized. He was given authority, also, to issue $150,000,000 Government notes, including the $100,000,000 authorized in January; also to issue $50,000,000 of fractional notes, in lieu of the postage and revenue stamps, for fractional currency. He was also authorized to receive deposits of gold coin and bullion, and to issue certificates therefor; and to issue certificates representing coin in the Treasury, in payment of interest, which, with the certificates of deposits issued, should not exceed twenty per cent. beyond the amount of coin and bullion in the Treasury. A tax of one per cent. half-yearly was imposed on the circulation of the State banks.

Such was one of the provisions of Congress, made early in 1864, for carrying on the war vigorously. These acts concerning the finances were followed by an immediate revival of the public credit,3 and within two months after the adjournment of Congress,

March 4.
the whole mass of suspended requisitions had been satisfied, all current demands promptly met, and full provision made for the pay of the army and navy.

The Confederates, at the beginning of 1864, were sadly straitened, financially. The fiscal agent of the Conspirators (Memminger) reported their public debt, in round numbers, at $1,000,000,000, of which $800,000,000 were treasury notes, with a prospective increase, at the end of 1864, to about $2,510,000,000. The currency in circulation amounted to $600,000,000, and was so depreciated that the Conspirators could see nothing ahead but ruin, [228] unless a change in their system of finance might be adopted. Davis declared that there was no other remedy than a “compulsory reduction of the currency to the amount required by the business of the country.” To do this, it was proposed to substitute for the outstanding notes, interest-bearing bonds, which the holders of the currency would be obliged to take in exchange, to render their property of any possible value. Memminger, at the same time, told the victims of his financial mismanagement, that the “Government” found itself “unable to comply with the letter of its engagement,” and with this assurance he offered his bonds to the people.

These bonds, as well as all other “Government” securities issued by the Conspirators, never had a really substantial basis, and were now avoided by every sensible person in the Confederacy, as far as possible. Through the grossest misrepresentations by the Confederate agents abroad, European capitalists were induced to take their bonds to the amount of $15,000,000, their payment professedly secured by the sales of cotton, to be sent to England. These bonds were eagerly sought after by confiding and hopeful Englishmen, who sympathized with the Conspirators, and a large number of the members of the Southern Independence Association 4 became heavy holders of the worthless paper.

The Confederate currency, at the close of 1863, had become so nearly worthless, that it was sold at four and six cents on the dollar, and the prices of every necessary of life to be purchased with it, ruled correspondingly. Producers, such as agriculturists, were unwilling to exchange their products for the detested stuff, and starvation for the army was threatened. In consequence of this state of things, the “Congress” at Richmond proceeded with a high hand, and, as we have seen, authorized the seizure of supplies for the troops.5 Had not the despotic heel of the Conspirators been firmly planted on the necks of the people, a revolution would have followed. As it was, no man dared to murmur audibly. At the same time the railways in the Confederacy were rapidly decaying, and means for transportation were hourly decreasing, while the blockade, rendered more and more stringent by the repossession of sea-ports by the Government, diminished supplies of every kind from abroad. The country in the vicinity of the great armies was stripped, and poverty and want stalked over the land. The distress of the people was very great and almost universal, while favored officers of the “Government,” having large ownership in blockade-runners, were living on luxuries brought from Europe and the islands of the sea, and growing rich at the expense of the suffering people.6 [229]

Notwithstanding these disabilities, and the fading away of every hope of recognition by foreign governments, or the moral support of any civilized people, the Conspirators at Richmond, holding the reins of despotic power with firm grasp, resolved to carry on the war regardless of consequences to their deluded and abused victims.7 The Emancipation Proclamation “fired the Southern heart” somewhat, and, for a time, strengthened the power of the Conspirators. It produced great exasperation, and led to the authorization of cruel retaliatory measures by the Confederate Congress, on the recommendation of Jefferson Davis.8 The most flagrant misrepresentations were put forth as solemn truths, in order to inflame the passions of the people at home and excite the sympathies of those abroad. In this work Confederate clergymen were not ashamed to appear conspicuous. Ninety-six per sons of that class signed an “Address to Christians throughout the world,” which was sent out from Richmond in April, 1863, in which, after asserting that the Union could not be restored, said they considered the President's proclamation of freedom to the slaves a “suitable occasion for a solemn protest on the part of the people of God, throughout the world.” Then, without a shadow of truth, they, like the chief Conspirator, charged Mr. Lincoln with intending to produce a general insurrection of the slaves,9 and solemnly declared that such insurrection “would make it absolutely necessary for the public safety that the slaves be slaughtered.”

The advice of more sagacious men in Confederate councils was heeded, through fear of consequences; and threats of vengeance and retaliation were seldom executed. The most serious result, in this regard, of the President's Proclamation, was the suspension, for a time, of the exchange of captives, in consequence of the Confederate authorities refusing to recognize Negro soldiers as legitimate and exchangeable prisoners of war.10 The Government took the just ground, that it would give equal protection to all its soldiers, and, at the close of July,

the President issued an order to that effect, in which he declared, in allusion to a threat to reduce negro captives to bondage, that if the Confederates should sell or enslave any Union captive, in consequence of his color, the offense should be punished by retaliation upon the prisoners of the enemy.11 The sad consequences of [230] the suspension of exchange fell heavily upon the Union captives, who suffered terribly in Confederate prisons. The story of their wrongs in that respect forms one of the darkest chapters in the history of crime.

In regard to the fiat of emancipation, the President stood firm. He did not recede a line from the original stand-point of his proclamation. It was the exponent of the future policy of the Government. Congress passed laws in consequence of it, and authorized the enlistment into the military service of the Republic of one hundred and fifty thousand negroes. The slave-holding Oligarchy raved. The voices of their organs, especially of those at Richmond, sounded like wails from Bedlam. The Peace Faction protested. They denounced every thing calculated to crush the rebellion to be “unconstitutional.” 12 Yet the President and Congress went steadily forward in the path of duty prescribed by the necessities of the hour.13 The successes of the National arms at Gettysburg and on the Mississippi gave the most strengthening encouragement. In the campaigns in the West, fifty thousand square miles of the National domain had been recovered from the Confederates before the middle of August, when the President said: “The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea, thanks to the great Northwest for it. Nor yet wholly to them. Three hundred miles ,up, they met

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