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Some four or five of the chief men in the affair are to be arrested to-day. When they meet on the 17th, you will please have everything prepared to arrest the whole party, and be sure that none escape. * * If successfully carried out, it will go far towards breaking the back-bone of the rebellion. * * I have but one thing to Impress upon you; the absolute necessity of secresy and success.
The order was successfully executed; the meeting of the Legislature broken up, and Maryland saved from a civil war among her own citizens.
This act has been censured as an arbitrary arrest. How- . ever arbitrary, it was a necessary measure, and in the propriety of which General McClellan fully coincided.
Governor Hicks, said in the Senate of United States, “I believe that arrests, and arrests alone, saved the State of Maryland from destruction. I approved them then, and I approve them now."
SECOND SESSION, THIRTY-SEVENTH CONGRESS –CONGRESS OF 1862.
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE-REPORT OF SECRETARY OF WAR-Modi
FIED THE PRESIDENT STANTON SUCCEEDS CAMERON ANTI-SLAVERY MEASURES — ARTICLE OF WAR PROHIBITING THE RETURN OF FUGITIVE SLAVES - SLAVERY ABOLISHED AT THE CAPITAL PROHIBITED IN ALL THE TERRITORIES NEGRO SOLDIERS — MILITARY ORDERS IN REGARD TO SLAVES-HUN. TER'S NEGRO REGIMENTS IN South CAROLINA — WICKLIFFE's RESOLUTION - HUNTER'S REPLY-BILL TO GIVE FREEDOM TO THE FAMILIES OF NEGRO SOLDIERS.
ONGRESS assembled at its regular session, December 2d,
1861, and found the grand drama of rebellion fully opened and developed. Two hundred thousand Union troops on the banks of the Potomac, confronted a rebel army then supposed to be of equal numbers, but now known to have been far less. The magnitude of the American rebellion, and the principles involved, had attracted the attention of the world, which was watching with deep interest the progress
of events. The common people, the lovers of liberty and free institutions, were hopeful, yet anxious for the issue. Those who had no faith in man's capacity for self-government, those whose interests were in making firm and permanent old dynasties, were already exulting over the failure of the American Republic, as “another bubble burst,” another fruitless effort at self-government. Meanwhile, the issue between freedom and slavery began to be more sharply defined.
The forbearance of the Government on the subject of slavery, was cited by rebel emissaries in Europe, as evidence
that the issue was not freedom against slavery, but empire and subjugation against independence and self-government.
It was obvious that sound statesmanship, as it regarded our cause both at home and abroad, required a more vigorous policy. It became every day more clear that slavery was not only the cause of the war, but, as treated thus far, an element of great strength, and a bond of union to the rebel States. The neglect of the government to strike decisive and fatal blows at this institution, especially to those who did not know and appreciate the condition of affairs in Maryland and Kentucky, was inexplicable, and had encouraged the enemies, and paralyzed the friends of the republic abroad. The friends of the administration impatiently asked, if the time had not arrived for making war directly upon slavery? They insisted that this source of strength to the rebels could be made a source of weakness; that the millions of colored people were the friends of the Republic, and could be made to aid its cause against their masters. The period was critical. Bull Run and Ball's Bluff were unavenged, and the great army under McClellan had as yet done nothing to give confidence to the country. The Confederates were striving to secure recognition abroad, Mason and Slidell, were in Fort Warren as prisoners taken from beneath the folds of the British flag, and England, backed by France, would make the refusal to surrender them a cause of war.
Such was the condition in which Congress assembled, and received the President's message, in December, 1861.
This message has fewer of the characteristics of Mr. Lincoln, than any other of his State papers. The truth is, he was feeling his way, revolving the slavery question, and was scarcely yet ready to announce a settled policy on that subject. He congratulates Congress that the patriotism of the people had proved equal to the occasion, and that the number of troops tendered, greatly exceeded the force called for.
He calls the attention of Congress to the fact, that Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, neither of which at his first call for troops in April, had promised a single soldier, had, at the date of the message, not less than 40,000 men in the field under the Union flag; and that in West Virginia, the Union men, after a severe struggle, were masters of the country. He announced the retirement of General Scott, and stated that public sentiment and the recommendation of the Lieutenant General, and Executive confidence, had all indicated General McClellan as the man upon whom to place the command.
He said that the insurgents at the beginning, confidently claimed a strong support from North of Mason and Dixon's line, and that the friends of the Union were not free from apprehension on the point. But this was soon settled, the people of the free States were united for the Union. Of the slave States, little Delaware was right from the first. Maryland was made to seem against the Union. The soldiers of the Republic were assaulted, bridges were burned, and railroads torn up within her limits, and the Government had been at one time, for several days without the ability to bring a single regiment over her soil to the Capital. Now all this was changed. She had already given seven regiments to the Union cause, and none to the enemy. Kentucky, for sometime in doubt, was now, decidedly, and he hoped, unchangeably, on the side of the Union. Missouri was comparatively quiet, and he believed could not be again overcome by the insurrectionists.
Upon the policy on the slavery question, he said, “I have adhered to the act of Congress, confiscating property, and freeing persons held to service, used for insurrectionary purposes.” On the subject of emancipating and arming negroes, he said, “The Union must be preserved, and all indispensable means must be used, but he deprecated haste in the use of extreme measures, which might reach the loyal, as well as disloyal.”
It is worthy of notice as illustrative of his views of the condition of the insurgent States, and the power of Congress over them in time of war, that he recommends the establishment by act of Congress, of courts in the insurgent States, when brought under the control of the National Government, in which civil rights might be adjudicated.
This is his language on that subject:
“I have been urgently solicited to establish by military power, courts to administer summary justice in such cases. I have thus far declined to do this, because I have been unwilling to go beyond the pressure of necessity in the unusual exercise of power. But the power of Congress I suppose, is equal to the anomalous condition, and therefore I refer the whole matter to Congress with the hope that a plan may be devised for the administration of justice in all such parts of the insurgent States as may be under the control of this Government."*
The courts were to be temporary, but the recommendation is conclusive, that he recognized fully, the right of Congresaj to legislate for the insurgent States, while in a condition of war, and before they were restored to their proper relations to the Union.
He reviewed at some length, the condition of affairs, the advantages of our democratic institutions; and expressed his deep convictions that the fate of free government was involved in the contest. “ The struggle,” said he,“ of to-day, is not altogether for to-day. It is for a vast future also.”
Mr. Cameron's report, as Secretary of War, was a very important paper. After reciting the operations of the army, he states that under the call for 75,000 men, made by the President, and under the call for 500,000 volunteers for three years, authorized by act of Congress in July, there had been raised an army of 600,000 men.
His report, as originally prepared, ably discussed and strongly recommended the arming and emancipation of the slaves of the seceding States. This part of the report was not submitted to the President until it was in print. When it was then brought to the knowledge of Mr. Lincoln, he expressed surprise and some displeasure, that a member of his Cabinet should have prepared and printed such a report, without first submitting it to him, and he caused the report to be modified. A portion of this report is here presented as a very clear and able presentation of the great question which was then agitating the public mind :
“It has become a grave question for determination, what shall be done with the slaves abandoned by their owners on the advance of our
• Message of December 30, 1861. McPherson's Political History, p. 182.