Table of Contents:
The negro question in the Yankee Congress.In the Yankee House of Representatives, on the 14th of May, the appropriation bill being under consideration, Mr Calvert, of Md., offered the following: ‘ "Provided that no portion of the appropriation in this bill shall be applied to keeping, supporting, or equipping negroes or fugitive slaves for service in the Army of the United States." ’ Mr. Wickliffe offered an amendment, as follows: ‘ "Nor shall they employ or enlist in the service of the United States slaves or runaway negroes" ’ I offer this amendment for the purpose of eliciting information with reference to a subject upon which I addressed the War Department, but received no answer. I want a disclosure made with reference to certain facts, of which I am myself perfectly satisfied. I have information, direct from Port Royal, that the slaves who have been taken mostly all desire to return to their masters, and are prohibited from doing so by the military authorities governing them. I have the assurance that when some of these slaves had attempted to leave the camp for the purpose of getting back to their masters, they were fired on by the sentinels, acting under the orders of their superior officers, and some eight of them were killed. I want to show that the people of the country who are taxed, taxed fully and largely, white will go to pay these taxes for the support of the army and navy engaged in putting down the rebellion, are not willing to submit to everything I want to show that the slaves within the lines of the Army of the Mississippi have been provided with a uniform — red trousers and a speckled waistcoat — and employed in the army in turning their arms against the while men of the country. I am sure that, while this course may be approved of by members of this House and others in official position, the honest men of the country, who desire this rebellion put down as speedily as possible, and to see the Union restored, cannot sanction, ratify or confirm such an application of the public money. Mr. Stevens, (rep.,) of Pa., did not intend to have replied to the amendment, thinking that some one of those specially authorized by the conservative party which met the other day would have taken this question in hand — my friend from Illinois, for instance (Mr. Kellogg)--to keep this negro matter out of Congress altogether. [Laughter] I had hoped, failing that, that the Secretary of that conservative party would interpose, and save us the trouble of discussing the amendment. I think it better that both amendments should be voted down. I trust that we shall not be troubled with any further agitation on this question of slavery--[laughter]--inasmuch as we find Congress has no power over slavery, according to a gentleman; and, therefore, I had hoped that gentlemen would refrain from attempting to control the Executive through legislation in Congress. I hope, therefore that both amendments will be voted down. Mr. Fessenden, (rep.,) of Me.--I ask the gentleman from Kentucky. (Mr. Wickliffe,) what assurance he has that slaves at Port Royal, who desired to return, and were not permitted to do so, were not the slaves of rebel lenders, and wanted to return that they might be used to promote this rebellion? Mr. Wickliffe--I do not know whether those eight negroes who were killed belong to rebels in arms, or to women and children; but in answer as to their being employed in raising fortifications and other works, I suppose that is a fact. But that is no reason why the Government of the United States should act disgracefully, and in a manner opposed to the laws of humanity and Christianity. Mr. Fessenden--It is no disgrace to any man, white or black, to do what he can to kill this rebellion; neither is it wrong to employ colored men — colored soldier, if it be necessary, or if the Secretary of War considers it expedient, in order that the rebellion may be the more speedily put down. Mr. Kellogg, (rep,) of Ill.--I oppose the amendment, because I consider it as a cheek on the action of the War Department in its distribution of money for the support of the army. I oppose it, because I have unbounded and unqualified confidence in the President and in the chief of the war Department. I would not limit the power of the Administration, none more than the limitation heretofore placed upon them, and none, than to my recollection, was placed upon, the disbursements for the army. I entertain no doubt that the Administration is carrying on the war to crush this rebellion very efficiently, discreetly, justly, and well, and would not cripple it or control it. I am opposed to these continual and continuous efforts to direct the action of our Generals, to censure them, and to tie up their hands in carrying on the war. I do not believe that I am quite as good a General as those Generals who are in the field fighting our battles, but I doubt not I am as good a General as any of those in this House who indulge in such criticisms with regard to our officers. I am opposed to this amendment because I am anxious to keep mischievous legislation from entering here, and it by any act of mine I can contribute in any degree to prevent unnecessary excitement and mischievous legislation, I will feel that I have well discharged my duties as a representative. If the gentleman from Pennsylvania will join the conservative party as he calls it — or rather if he will adhere to the conservative policy that alone can sustain the Government — he will do well Mr. Stevens.--When will that party meet again? Mr. Kellogg.--They will meet every time that mischievous legislation may be presented; and I trust in God we may be as successful at we have already been in compelling those opposed to us to make a hasty retreat, under cover of the Chicago platform, from which they have so far gone astray. Mr. Stevens.--Then you had better meet immediately. [Laughter.] Mr Kellogg.--I don't hear the gentleman. He talks like a querulous old woman.--[Laughter] Mr. Phelps, (opp.,) of Mo — This is a war of white men, not of Indians and negroes, and the proposition to employ negroes to fight again it white men is worse than one to employ, to fight against white men-- the American Revolution, when a proportion was made to employ savages for purpose of putting down the rebellion of the thirteen colonies, it was denounce in the British Parliament. The slave lders, or a majority of them, were the last to give into this rebellion, but those who, from the first, plotted this rebellion, placed themselves at once at the head of the governments in nearly all the Southern States. They had the Executive and other State officers, and they controlled the Legislature, and they could do, therefore, whatever they saw fit to do. When the people of the seceding States met in convention and passed the ordinance of secession, by which they declared that they no longer owed allegiance to this Government, they enacted the necessary ordinances to adapt themselves to the condition in which they were then placed. There are laws on the statute book of every State punishing persons for treason against their State Governments, and a Union man in any one of these rebellious States, if he had risen up to assert the supremacy of the United States, and declared allegiance to the Government, would thereby subject himself to three old punishments--first, the punishment of treason against the so-called Confederate Government; secondly, for treason against the Government of his State; and, third, the punishment of being arrested by the military authorities, either of the Confederate Government, to do service or be despoiled of his property. As to the employment of negroes, the people were compelled to give the labor of their servants to aid in the construction of fortifications and entrenchments in the vicinity of the rebel armies. They did not do so willingly. They were coerced by military authority, for the people themselves, or a majority of them, were opposed to the rebellion. It would be wicked and unjust to turn the arms of these negroes against their former owners, on the plea that they were opposed to and in arms against the Government. The amendments were rejected.
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.