THE EXTRA SESSION OF CONGRESS, AND THE MILITARY EVENTS OF THE SUMMER OF 1861.
FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE. - ACTION OF CONGRESS. - SLAVE BY AND CONFISCATION.
- THE DEFEAT AT BULL RUN. - TREATMENT OF THE SLAVERY QUESTION.
- GENERAL FREMONT AND THE PRESIDENT. - THE TRENT AFFAIR.
IN pursuance of the President's proclamation of the 15th of April, Congress met in extra session on the 4th of July, 1861. The Republicans had control of both houses, counting thirty-one votes out of forty-eight in the Senate, and one hundred and six out of one hundred and seventy-eight in the House; there being, moreover, five in the Senate and twenty-eight in the House who, without belonging to the Republican party, supported the Administration in its efforts to preserve the Union. Hon. G. A. Grow was elected Speaker of the House; and, on the 5th, the President communicated to Congress his first Annual Message, as follows:
Fellow- Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Having been convened on an extraordinary occasion, as authorized by the Constitution, your attention is not called to any ordinary subject
At the beginning of the present Presidential term, four months ago, the
functions of the Federal Government were found to be generally suspended within the several States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, excepting only those of the Post-Office
Within these States all the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, custom-houses,
and the like, including the movable and stationary property in and about
them, had been seized, and were held in open hostility to this Government, excepting only Forts Pickens, Taylor, and Jefferson, on and
the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South
Carolina. The forts thus seized had been put in improved condition, new ones had been built, and armed forces had been organized and were organizing, all
avowedly with the same hostile purpose.
The forts remaining in the possession of the Federal Government in and near these States were either besieged or menaced by warlike preparations, and especially Fort Sumter was nearly surrounded by well protected hostile batteries, with guns equal in quality to the best of
its own, and outnumbering the latter as perhaps ten to one. A disproportionate share of the Federal muskets and rifles had somehow found their
way into these States, and had been seized to be used against the
Government. Accumulations of the public revenue, lying within them, had been seized for the same object. The Navy was scattered in distant seas,
leaving but a very small part of it within the immediate reach of the
Government. Officers of the Federal Army and Navy had resigned in great numbers; and of
those resigning, a large proportion had taken up
arms against the Government. Simultaneously? and in connection with all this, the purpose to sever the Federal Union was openly avowed. In
accordance with this purpose, an ordinance had been adopted in each of
these States, declaring the States, respectively, to be separated from
the National Union. A formula for instituting a combined government of these States had been promulgated; and this illegal organization, in
the character of the Confederate States, was already invoking recognition,
aid, and intervention from foreign Powers.
Finding this condition of things, and believing it to be an imperative
duty upon the incoming Executive to prevent, if possible, the consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a choice of means to that end became indispensable. This choice was made, and was declared in the Inaugural Address. The policy chosen looked to the exhaustion of all
peaceful measures before a resort to any stronger ones. It
sought only to hold the public places and property not already wrested
from the Government, and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on
time, discussion, and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the
mails, at Government expense, to the very people who were resisting the
Government; and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people, or any of their rights. Of all 'that which a
President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, every thing
was forborne^without which it was believed possible to keep the Government
on foot. *
On the 5th of March (the present incumbent's first full day in office),
a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter, written on the
28th of February, and received at the War Department on the 4th of March, was by that Department placed in his hands. This letter expressed the professional opinion of the writer, that reinforcements
could not be thrown into that fort within the time for his relief, rendered
necessary by the limited supply of provisions, and with a view of holding
possession of the same, with a force of less than twenty thousand good
and well-disciplined men. This opinion was concurred in by all the officers of his command, and their memoranda on the subject were made
enclosures of Major Anderson's letter. The whole was immediately laid
before Lieutenant-General Scott, who at once concurred with Major Anderson in opinion. On reflection, however, he took full time, consulting with other officers, both of the army and the navy; and at the
end of four days came reluctantly, but decidedly, to the same conclusion
as before. He also stated at the same time that no such sufficient force
was then at the control of the Government, or could be raised and brought to the ground within the time when the provisions in the fort
would be exhausted. In a purely military point of view, this reduced the duty of the Administration in the case to the mere matter of getting
the garrison safely out of the fort.
It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position, under the
circumstances, would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity under
which it was to be done would not be fully understood; that by many it would
be construed as a part of a voluntary policy; that at home it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its adversaries, and go far
to insure to the latter a recognition abroad; that, in fact, it would be
our National destruction consummated. This could not be allowed. Starvation was not yet upon the garrison; and ere it would be reached Fort
Pickens might be re-enforced. This would be a clear indication of
policy, and would better enable the country to accept the evacuation, of Fort
Sumter as a military necessity. An order was at once directed to be sent
for the landing of the troops from the steamship Brooklyn into Fort Pickens. This order could not go by land, but must take the longer and
slower route by sea. The first return news from the order was received
just one week before the fall of Fort Sumter. The f news itself was,
that the officer commanding the Sabine, to which vessel the troops had been
transferred from the Brooklyn, acting upon some quasi armistice of the
late Administration (and of the existence of which the present Administration, up to the time the order was dispatched, had only too vague and
uncertain rumors to fix attention), had refused to land the troops. To
now re-enforce Fort Pickens before a crisis would be reached at Fort Sumter, was impossible rendered so by the near exhaustion of provisions
in the latter-named fort. In precaution against such a conjuncture, the
Government had a few days before commenced preparing an expedition, as well adapted as might be, to relieve Fort Sumter, which expedition
was intended to be ultimately used or not, according to circumstances.
The strongest anticipated case for using it was now presented, and it
was resolved to send it forward. As had been intended in this contingency,
it was also resolved to notify the Governor of South Carolina that he
might expect an attempt would be made to provision the fort; and that,
if the- attempt should not be resisted, there would be no effort to
throw in men, arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort. This notice was accordingly given; whereupon the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even awaiting
the arrival of the provisioning expedition.
It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sumter was
in no sense a matter of self-defence upon the part of the assailants.
They well knew that the garrison in the fort could by no possibility commit
aggression upon them. They knew they were expressly notified that the giving of bread to the few brave and hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that occasion be attempted, unless themselves,
by resisting so much, should provoke more. They knew that this Government desired to keep the garrison in the fort, not to assail them,
but to maintain visible possession, and thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate dissolution trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to
time, discussion, and the ballot-box for final adjustment; and they assailed and reduced the fort for precisely the
reverse object - to drive
out the visible authority of the, Federal Union, and thus force if to
immediate dissolution. That this was their object the Executive well understood;
and having said to them in the Inaugural Address, "You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors," he took pains not only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free
from the power of ingenious sophistry that the world should not be able to
misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants
of the Government began the conflict of arms, without a gun in sight,
or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the few in the fort,
sent to that harbor years before for their own protection, and still ready to
give that protection in whatever was lawful. In this act, discarding all
else, they have forced upon the country the distinct issue, " immediate
dissolution or blood."
And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It
presents to the whole family of man the question, whether a constitutional republic or democracy a government of the people by the same people can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own
domestic foes. It presents the question, whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration, according to organic
law, in any case, can always, upon the pretences made in this case, or
on any other pretences, or arbitrarily, without any pretence, break up
their Government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask, "Is there, in all republics, this
inherent and fatal weakness?" "Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own
So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power
of the Government; and so to resist force employed for its destruction,
by force for its preservation.
The call was made, and the response of the country was most gratifying surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine expectation.
Yet none of the States commonly called Slave States, except Delaware,
gave a regiment through regular State organization. A few regiments have been organized within some others of
those States by individual
enterprise, and received into the Government service. Of course, the seceded States, so called (and to which Texas had been joined about the
time of the inauguration), gave no troops to the cause of the Union. The Border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some of
them being almost for the Union, while in others as Virginia, North Carolina,
Tennessee, and Arkansas the Union sentiment was nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable perhaps the most important. A convention, elected by the people of that State to consider this very question of disrupting the Federal Union,
was in session at the Capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this
body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter many members of that majority went over to the original disunion minority, and with them adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether
this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their great resentment at the Government's resistance to that
assault, is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance
for ratification to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then
somewhat more than a month distant, the Convention and the Legislature (which was also in session at the same time and place), with leading men of the State not members of either, immediately commenced acting as if the State were already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the United States armory at Harper's Ferry, and the navy-yard at Gosport,
near Norfolk. They received perhaps invited into their State large bodies of troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called
seceded States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary
alliance and co-operation with the so-called "Confederate States," and sent
members to their Congress at Montgomery; and, finally, they permitted
the insurrectionary Government to be transferred to their capital at
The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders; and this Government has no choice left but to deal with it where it finds it. And it has the less regret,
as the loyal citizens have in due form claimed its protection. Those loyal
citizens this Government is bound to recognize and protect as being Virginia.
In the Border States, so-called in fact, the Middle States there are
those who favor a policy which they call "armed neutrality" that is, an arming of
those States to prevent the Union forces passing one way,
or the disunion the other, over their soil. This would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it would he the
building of an impassable
wall along the line of separation and yet not quite an impassable one,
for, under the guise of neutrality, it would tie the hands of Union men,
and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which
it could not do as an open enemy. At a stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession, except only what proceeds from the
external blockade. It would do for the disunionists that which of all
things they most desire feed them well, and give them disunion without
a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution,
no obligation to maintain the Union; and while very many who have favored it are doubtless loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very
injurious in effect.
Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that at first a call was made for seventy-five
thousand militia; and rapidly
following this, a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the
insurrectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of a blockade. So far
all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the
insurrectionists announced their purpose to enter upon the practice of privateering.
Other calls were made for volunteers to serve for three years, unless
sooner discharged, and also for large additions to the regular army and
navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon
under what appeared to be a popular demand and a public necessity; trusting then, as now, that Congress would readily ratify them. It is
believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress.
Soon after the first call for militia, it was considered a duty to
authorize the Commanding-General, in proper cases, according to his discretion,
to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or, in other
words, to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms
of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public
safety. This authority has purposely been exercised but very sparingly. Nevertheless, the legality and propriety of what has been done under it are
questioned, and the attention of the country has been called to the proposition, that one who has sworn to " take care that the laws be faithfully executed," should not himself violate them. Of course, some
consideration was given to the question of power and propriety before
this matter was acted upon. The whole of the laws which were required
to be faithfully executed were being resisted, and failing of execution
in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of
execution, even had it been perfectly clear that by the use of the means
necessary to their execution some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizen's liberty that practically it relieves more of
the guilty than of the innocent, should to a very limited extent be
violated? To state the question more directly: Are all the laws but one to go
unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces, lest that one be
violated? Even in such a case, would not the official oath be broken if the Government should be overthrown, when it was believed that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it? But it was not believed that
this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated. The provision of the Constitution that " the privilege of the
writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it," is equivalent
to a provision is a provision that such privilege may be suspended when,
in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety does require it. It
was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety
does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ which was
authorized to be made. Now, it is insisted that Congress, and not the
Executive, is vested with this power. But the Constitution itself is
silent as to which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision was
plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be believed the framers of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should
run its course until Congress could be called together, the very
assembling of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion.
No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion, at some length, will probably be presented by the Attorney-General. "Whether there shall be any legislation on the subject, and, if any, what, is
submitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress.
The forbearance of this Government had been so extraordinary, and so long continued, as to lead some foreign nations to shape their action
as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable. "While this, on discovery, gave the Executive some concern,
he is now happy to say that the sovereignty and rights of the United States are now everywhere practically respected by foreign powers; and
a general sympathy with the country is manifested throughout the world.
The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, "War, and the Navy, will give the information in detail deemed necessary and convenient for
your deliberation and action; while the Executive and all the Departments will stand ready to supply omissions, or to communicate new facts
considered important for you to know.
It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and decisive one; that you place at the control of the
Government, for the work, at least four hundred thousand men and $400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth of
those of proper
ages within the regions where, apparently, all are willing to engage;
and the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now. is a less sum per head than was the debt of our
Revolution when we came out of that struggle; and the money value in the country now
bears even a greater proportion to what it was then, than does the population. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties, as each had then to establish them.
A right result, at this time, will be worth more to the world than ten
times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reaching us from the country leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant,
and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal
sanction, and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and efficiency.
One of the greatest perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving
troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will
save their Government, if the Government itself will do its part only
It might seem, at first thought, to be of little difference whether
present movement at the South be called "secession" or
"rebellion." The movers, however, will understand the
difference. At the beginning, they knew they could never
raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name
which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to
law and order, and as much pride in, and reverence for the history and
Government of their common country, as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the
teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps, through all the incidents, to the complete destruction of
the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may, consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and
peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union,
or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to
be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judges of
its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.
"With rebellion thus sugar-coated they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length
they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretence of taking their State out of the Union, who could have
been brought to no such thing the day before.
This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency
from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State to each State of our Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution no one of them ever having been a State out
of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they
cast off their British colonial dependence; and the new ones each came
into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas
And even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated a
State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into
the Union, while that name was first adopted by the old ones in and by
the Declaration of Independence. Therein the "United Colonies" were declared to be "free and independent States;" but, even then, the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another, or of
the Union, but directly the contrary; as their mutual pledge and their
mutual action before, at the time, and afterwards, abundantly show. The
express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in
the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual,, is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in
substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of "State Rights," asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union
itself? Much is said about the "sovereignty" of the States; but the word even is not in the National Constitution; nor, as is believed, in
any of the State constitutions. "What is " sovereignty " in the political
sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it " a political community
without a political superior?" Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty. And even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union; by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States, and the laws and treaties of the
United States made in pursuance of the Constitution, to be for her the supreme
law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so
against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or
purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence or liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and, in fact,
it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and, in turn, the Union threw of? their old dependence for them,
and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course, it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they
entered the Union; nevertheless dependent upon, and preparatory to, coming into the Union.
Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved to them
in and by the National Constitution; but among these, surely, are not
included all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive;
but, at most, such only as were known in the world, at the time, as governmental powers; and, certainly, a power to destroy the Government itself had never been known as a governmental as a merely administrative power. This relative matter of National power and State Eights, as a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and
locality. Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the whole to the General Government; while whatever concerns only the State should be
left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original
principle about it. Whether the National Constitution, in defining boundaries between the two has applied the principle with exact accuracy, is not to
be questioned. We are all bound by that defining, without question.
What is now combated, is the position that secession is consistent with
the Constitution is lawful and peaceful. It is not contended that there is any express law for it; and nothing should ever be implied as law
which leads to unjust or absurd consequences. The Nation purchased with money
the countries out of which several of these States were formed; is it
just that they shall go off without leave and without refunding? The Nation
paid very large sums (in the aggregate, I believe, nearly a hundred millions) to relieve Florida of the aboriginal tribes; is it just that she
shall now be off without consent, or without making any return? The Nation is now in debt for money applied to the benefit of these so-called
seceding States in common with the rest; is it just either that creditors shall
go unpaid, or the remaining States pay the whole? A part of the present National debt was contracted to pay the old debts of Texas; is it just
that she shall leave and pay no part of this herself?
Again, if one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded, none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to
creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the seceders to
go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others choose to
go, or to extort terms upon which they will promise to remain.
The seceders insist that our Constitution admits of secession. They have
assumed to make a national constitution of their own, in which, of
necessity, they have either discarded or retained the right of secession, as
they insist it exists in ours. If they have discarded it, they thereby admit
that, on principle, it ought not to be in ours. If they have retained
it, by their own construction of ours, they show that to be consistent they
must secede from one another whenever they shall find it the easiest way
of settling their debts, or effecting any other selfish or unjust
object. The principle itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no Government
can possibly endure.
If all the States save one should assert the power to drive that one out
of the Union, it is presumed the whole class of seceder politicians
would at once deny the power, and denounce the act as the greatest outrage upon State rights. But suppose that precisely the same act, instead of
being called " driving the one out," should be called "the seceding of
the. 1 others from that one," it would be exactly what the seceders claim to do
; unless, indeed, they make the point that the one, because it is a
minority, may rightfully do what the others, because they are a majority, may not
rightfully do. These politicians are subtile and profound on the rights
of minorities. They are not partial to that power which made the Constitution, and speaks from the preamble, calling itself " We,
It rimy well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina,
in favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe that the Union men
are the majority in many, if not in every other one, of the so-called
seceded States. The contrary has not been demonstrated in any one of them.
It is ventured to affirm this even of Virginia and Tennessee; for the
result of an election held in military camps, where the bayonets are all on one
side of the question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as
demonstrating popular sentiment. At such an election, all that large class who
are at once for the Union and against coercion would be coerced to vote
against the Union.
It may be affirmed, without extravagance, that the free institutions we
enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of our whole
people beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a striking and an impressive illustration. So large an army as the Government
has now on foot was never before known without a soldier in it but who
had taken his place there of his own free choice. But more than this:
there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess
full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and
whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; and there
scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet a. Congress, and
perhaps a court, abundantly competent to
administer the Government itself. Nor do I say this is not true also in the army of
our late friends, now adversaries in this contest; but if it is, so
much better the reason why the Government which has conferred such benefits
on both them and us should not be broken up. Whoever, in any section,
proposes to abandon such a Government, would do well to consider in deference to what principle it is that he does it; what better he is
likely to get in its stead; whether the substitute will give, or be intended to
give, so much of good to the people? There are some foreshadowings on this
subject. Our adversaries have ad opted some declarations of
independence, in which, unlike the good old one, penned by Jefferson, they omit the
words, "all men are created equal." Why? They have adopted a temporary national constitution, in the preamble of which, unlike our good
old one, signed by Washington, they omit "We, the People," and substitute, " We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States."
Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of view the rights of men and the authority of the people?
This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is
a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of Government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift
artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable
pursuits for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the
race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this
is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.
I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note, that while in this the Government's
hour of trial, large numbers of those in the army and navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand
which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag.
Great honor is due to
those officers who remained true, despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor, and most
important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers
and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts of
those whose commands but an
hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic instinct
of plain people. They understand, without an argument, that the destroying the Government which was made by Washington means no good to them.
Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled the successful establishing
and the successful administering of it. One still remains its successful
maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It
is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry
an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the
rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and
constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets
that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at
succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace; teaching
men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take by a
war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.
Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what is to be the course of the Government towards the Southern States after
the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper
to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be guided by the
Constitution and the laws; and that he probably will have no different understanding of the powers and duties of the Federal Government relatively
to the rights of the States and the people under the Constitution than
that expressed in the Inaugural Address.
He desires to preserve the Government, that it may be administered for
all, as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens
everywhere have the right to claim this of their Government, and the Government has no right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived that in
giving it there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation, in
any just sense of those terms.
The Constitution provides, and all the States have accepted the provision, that "the United States shall guarantee to every State in this
Union a republican form of Government." But if a State may lawfully go out of the Union, having done so, it may also discard the republican form of
Government; so that to prevent its going" out is an indispensable means
to the end of maintaining the guarantee mentioned; and when an end is
lawful and obligatory, the indispensable means to it are also lawful and
It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of employing the war power in defence of the Government forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the Government. No compromise by public servants could in this case be a cure;
not that compromises are not often proper, but that no popular Government can long survive a marked precedent that
those who carry an election can only save the Government from immediate destruction by giving
up the main point upon which the people gave the election. The people
themselves and not their servants, can safely reverse their own
As a private citizen the Executive could not have consented that these
institutions shall perish; much less could he, in betrayal of so vast
and so sacred a trust as these free people have confided to him. He felt that
he had no moral right to shrink, or even to count the chances of his own
life, in what might follow. In full view of his great responsibility he has so
far done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to your
own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens
who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration
to them, under the Constitution and the laws.
And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and
with manly hearts.
July 4, 1861.
Congress imitated the President in confining its attention exclusively to the rebellion and the means for its suppression. The zealous and enthusiastic loyalty of the people met a prompt response from their representatives. The Judiciary Committee in the House was instructed on the 8th to prepare a bill to confiscate the property of rebels against the Government; and on the 9th, a resolution was adopted (ayes ninety-eight, noes fifty-five), declaring it to be "no part of the duty of the soldiers of the United States to capture and return fugitive slaves." A bill was promptly introduced to declare valid all the acts of the President for the suppression of the rebellion previous to the meeting of Congress, and it brought on a general discussion of the principles involved and the interests concerned in the contest. There were a few in both Houses, with John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, at their head, who still insisted that any resort by the Government to the use of the war power against the rebels was unconstitutional, and could only end in the destruction of the Union; but the general sentiment of both Houses fully sustained the President in the steps he had taken. The subject of slavery was introduced into the discussion commenced by Senator Powell, of Kentucky, who proposed on the 18th to amend the Army Bill by adding a section that no part of the army should be employed " in subjecting or holding as a conquered province any sovereign State now or lately one of the United States, or in abolishing or interfering with African slavery in any of the States." The debate which ensued elicited the sentiments of members on this subject. Mr. Sherman, of Ohio, concurred in the sentiment that the war was " not to be waged for the purpose of subjugating any State or freeing any slave, or to interfere with the social or domestic institutions of any State or any people; it was to preserve this Union, to maintain the Constitution as it is in all its clauses, in all its guarantees, without change or limitation." Mr. Dixon, of Connecticut, assented to this, but also declared that if the South should protract the war, and "it should turn out that either this Government or slavery must be destroyed, then the people of the North the Conservative people of the North would say, rather than let the Government perish, let slavery perish." Mr. Lane, of Kansas, did not believe that slavery could survive in any State the march of the Union armies. These seemed to be the sentiments of both branches of Congress. The amendment was rejected, and bills were passed ratifying the acts of the President, authorizing him to accept the services of half a million of volunteers, and placing live hundred millions of dollars at the disposal of the Government for the prosecution of the war.
On the 15th of July, Mr. McClernand, a democrat from Illinois, offered a resolution pledging the House to vote any amount of money and any number of men to suppress the rebellion, and restore the authority of the Government, which was adopted, with but five opposing votes; and on the 22d of July, Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky, offered the following resolution, defining the objects of the war:
Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United
States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the
country by the disunionists of the Southern States, now in arms against
the Constitutional Government, and in arms around the Capital; that in
this national emergency, Congress, banishing all feelings of mere
passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that
this war is not waged on their part in any spirit of oppression, or for any
purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or
interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to
defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States
unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.
This resolution was adopted, with but two dissenting votes. II, was accepted by the whole country as defining the objects and limiting the continuance of the war, and was regarded with special favor by the loyal citizens of the Border States, whose sensitiveness on the subject of slavery had been
skillfully and zealously played upon by the agents and allies of the rebel confederacy. The war was universally represented by these men as waged for the destruction of slavery, and as aiming, not at the preservation of the Union, but the emancipation of the slaves; and there was great danger that these appeals to the pride, the interest, and the prejudices of the Border Slave States might bring them to join their fortunes to
those of the rebellion. The passage of this resolution, with so great a degree of unanimity, had a very soothing effect upon the apprehensions of these States, and contributed largely to strengthen the Government in its contest with the rebellion.
The sentiments of Congress on this matter, as well as on the general subject of the war, were still further developed in the debates which followed the introduction to the House of a bill passed by the Senate to "confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes." It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, and reported back with an amendment, providing that whenever any slave should be required or permitted by his master to take up arms, or be employed in any fort, dock-yard, or in any military service in aid of the rebellion, he should become entitled to his freedom. Mr. Wickliffe and Mr. Burnett, of
Kentucky, at once contested the passage of the bill, on the ground that the Government had no right to interfere in any way with the relation existing between a master and his slave; and they were answered by the Northern members with the argument that the Government certainly had a right to confiscate property of any kind employed in the rebellion, and that there was no more reason for protecting slavery against the consequences of exercising this right, than for shielding any other interest that might be thus involved.
The advocates of the bill denied that it was the intention of the law to emancipate the slaves, or that it would bear any such construction in the courts of justice. They repudiated the idea that men in arms against the Union and Constitution could claim the protection of the Constitution, and thus derive from, that instrument increased ability to secure its destruction; but they based their proposed confiscation of slave property solely on the ground that it was a necessary means to the prosecution of the war, and not in any sense the object for which the war was waged. After a protracted debate, that section of the bill which related to this subject was passed ayes sixty, noes forty-eight in the following form:
That whenever, hereafter, during the present insurrection against the
Government of the United States, any person claimed to be held to labor
or service under the laws of any State, shall be required or permitted
by the person to whom such labor or service is claimed to be due, or by the
lawful agent of such person, to take up arms against; the United States,
or shall be required or permitted by the person to whom such service or
labor is claimed to be due, or his lawful agent, to work or to be
employed in or upon any fort, navy-yard, dock, armory, ship, or intrenchment, or
in any military or naval service whatever, against the Government and
lawful authority of the United Spates, then, and in every such case,
person to whom such service is claimed to be due, shall forfeit his
claim to such labor, any law of the State, or of the United States, to the
contrary notwithstanding; and whenever thereafter the person claiming such
labor or service shall seek to enforce his claim, it shall be a full and
sufficient answer to such claim that the person whose service or labor is claimed, had been employed in hostile service against the Government of
the United States, contrary to the provisions of this act.
Congress closed its extra session on the 6th of August. It had taken the most vigorous and effective measures for the suppression of the rebellion, having clothed the President with even greater power than he had asked for. in the prosecution of the war, and avoided with just
fidelty all points which could divide and weaken the loyal sentiment of the country. The people responded with hearty applause to the patriotic action of their representatives. The universal temper of the country was one of buoyancy and hope. Throughout the early
part of the summer the rebels had been steadily pushing troops through Virginia to the borders of the Potomac, menacing the National Capital with capture, until in the latter part of June they had an army of not far from thirty-five
thousand men, holding a strong position along the Bull Run Creek its left posted at Winchester, and its right resting at Manassas. It was determined to attack this force and drive it from the vicinity of Washington, and the general belief of the country was that this would substantially end the war. The National army, numbering about thirty
thousand men, moved from the Potomac, on the 16th of July, under General McDowell, and the main attack was made on the 21st. It resulted in the defeat, with a loss of four hundred and eighty killed and one
thousand wounded, of our forces, and their falling back, in the utmost disorder and confusion, upon Washington. Our army was completely routed, and if the rebel forces had known the extent of their success, and had been in condition to avail themselves of it with vigor and energy, the Capital would easily have fallen into their hands.
The result of this battle took the whole country by surprise. The most sanguine expectations of a prompt and decisive victory had been universally entertained; and the actual issue first revealed to the people the prospect of a long and bloody war. But the public heart was not in the least discouraged. On the contrary, the effect was to rouse still higher the courage and determination of the people. No one dreamed for an instant of submission. The most vigorous efforts were made to reorganize the army, to increase its numbers by volunteering, and to establish a footing for National troops at various points along the rebel coast. On the 28th of August Fort Hatteras was surrendered to the National forces, and on the 31st of October Port Royal, on the coast of South Carolina, fell into possession of the United States. On the 3d of December Ship Island, lying between Mobile and New Orleans, was occupied. Preparations were also made for an expedition against New Orleans, and by a series of combined movements the rebel forces were driven out of "Western Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri States in which the population had from the beginning of the contest "been divided in sentiment and action.
On the 31st of October General Scott, finding himself unable, in consequence of illness and advancing age, to take the field or discharge the duties imposed by the enlarging contest, resigned his position as commander of the army, in the following letter to the Secretary of War:
HEAD-QUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
WASHINGTON, October 81, 1861. )
The Hon. S. CAMERON, Secretary of War:
SIR: For more than three years I have been unable, from a hurt, to mount a horse, or to walk more than a few paces at a time, and that with
much pain. Other and new infirmities dropsy and vertigo admonish me that repose of mind and body, with the appliances of surgery and medicine, are necessary to add a little more to a life already
protracted much beyond the usual span of man.
It is under such circumstances made doubly painful by the unnatural and unjust rebellion now raging in the Southern States of our (so late)
prosperous and happy Union that I am compelled to request that my name may be placed on the list of army officers retired from active service.
As this request is founded on an absolute right, granted by a recent act
of Congress, I am entirely at liberty to say it is with deep regret that
I withdraw myself, in these momentous times, from the orders of a President who has treated me with distinguished kindness and courtesy; whom
I know, upon much personal intercourse, to be patriotic, without
sectional partialities or prejudices; to be highly conscientious in the
performance of every duty, and of unrivalled activity and perseverance.
And to you, Mr. Secretary, whom I now officially address for the last
time, I beg to acknowledge my many obligations, for the uniform high consideration I have received at your hands; and have the honor to remain, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,
President Lincoln waited upon General Scott at his residence, accompanied by his Cabinet, and made personal expression to him of the deep regret which he, in common with the whole country, felt in parting with a public servant so venerable in years and so illustrious for the services he had rendered. He also issued the following order:
On the first day of November, 1861, upon his own application to the President of the United States, Brevet Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott
is ordered to be placed, and hereby is placed, upon the list of retired
officers of the army of the United States, without reduction of his
current pay, subsistence, or allowances.
The American people will hear with sadness and deep emotion that General Scott has withdrawn from the active control of the army, while
the President and unanimous Cabinet express their own and the Nation's
sympathy in his personal affliction, and their profound sense of the important public services rendered by him to his country during his long
and brilliant career, among which will ever be gratefully distinguished
his faithful devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the Flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.
The command of the army then devolved by appointment upon Major-General McClellan, who had been recalled from Western Virginia after the battle of Bull Run, and had devoted himself to the task of recruiting the army in front of Washington, and preparing it for the defence of the Capital, and for a fresh advance upon the forces of the rebellion.
It cannot have escaped attention that thus far, in its policy concerning the war, the Government had been very greatly influenced by a desire to prevent the Border Slave States from joining the rebel confederacy. Their accession would have added immensely to the forces of the rebellion, and would have increased very greatly the labor and difficulty of its suppression. The Administration and Congress had, therefore, avoided, so far as possible, any measures in regard to slavery which could needlessly excite the hostile prejudices of the people of the Border States. The Confiscation Act affected only
those slaves who should be "required or permitted" by their masters to render service to the rebel cause. It did not in any respect change the condition of any others. The President, in the Executive Department, acted upon the same principle. The question first arose in Virginia, simultaneously at Fortress Monroe, and in the western part of the State. On the 26th of May, General McClellan issued an address to the people of the district under his command, in which he said to them, "Understand one thing clearly: not only will we abstain from all interference with your slaves, but we will, on the contrary, with an iron hand crush any attempt at insurrection on their part." On the 27th of May, General Butler, in command at Fortress Monroe, wrote to the Secretary of War that he was greatly embarrassed by the number of slaves that were coming in from the surrounding country and seeking protection within the lines of his camp. He had determined to regard them as
contraband of war, and to employ their labor at a fair compensation, against which should be charged the expense of their support the relative value to be adjusted afterwards. The Secretary of War, in a letter dated May 30th, expressed the approval by the Government of the course adopted by General Butler, and directed him, on the one hand, to " permit no interference by the persons under his command with the relations of persons held to service under the laws of any State," and on the other, to "refrain from surrendering to alleged masters any such persons who might come within his lines."
On the 8th of August, after the passage of the Confiscation Act by Congress, the Secretary of War again wrote to General Butler, setting forth somewhat more fully the views of the President and the Administration upon this subject, as follows:
It is the desire of the President that all existing rights in ah the
States be fully respected and maintained. The war now prosecuted on the part
of the Federal Government is a war for the Union, and for the preservation of all constitutional rights of States and the citizens of the
States in the Union. Hence no question can arise as to fugitives from service
within the States and Territories in which the authority of the Union is fully
acknowledged. The ordinary forms of judicial proceeding, which must be respected by military and civil authorities alike, will suffice for
the enforcement of all legal claims. But in States wholly or partially under
insurrectionary control, where the laws of the United States are so far
opposed and resisted that they cannot be effectually enforced, it is
obvious that rights dependent on the execution of those laws must
temporarily fail; and it is equally obvious that rights dependent on the laws of
the States within which military operations are conducted must be
necessarily subordinated to the military exigencies created by the insurrection, if
not wholly forfeited by the treasonable conduct of parties claiming them. To
this general rule rights to services can form no exception.
The act of Congress approved August 6th, 1861, declares that if persons held to service shall be employed in hostility to the United
States, the right to their services shall be forfeited, and such persons shall
be discharged there from. It follows of necessity that no claim can be
recognized by the military authorities of the Union to the services of such
per sons when fugitives.
A more difficult question is presented in respect to persons escaping
from the service of loyal masters. It is quite apparent that the laws of
the State, under which only the services of such fugitives can be
claimed, must needs be wholly, or almost wholly suspended, as to remedies, by the
insurrection and the military measures necessitated by it; and it is
equally apparent that the substitution of military for judicial measures, for
the enforcement of such claims, must be attended by great inconveniences,
embarrassments, and injuries.
Under these circumstances, it seems quite clear that the substantial rights of loyal masters will be best protected by receiving such
fugitives, as well as fugitives from disloyal masters, into the services of the
United States, and employing them under such organizations and in such occupations as circumstances may suggest or require. Of course a record should
be kept, showing the name and description of the fugitives, the name and
the character, as loyal or disloyal, of the master, and such facts as
may be necessary to a correct understanding of the circumstances of each
case, after tranquillity shall have been restored. Upon the return of peace,
Congress will doubtless properly provide for all the persons thus
received into the service of the Union, and for just compensation to loyal
masters. In this way only, it would seem, can the duty and safety of the Government, and the just rights of all, be fully reconciled and harmonized.
You will therefore consider yourself as instructed to govern your future
action, in respect to fugitives from service, by the principles herein
stated. and will report from time to time, and at least twice in each month,
your action in the premises to this Department. You will, however, neither
authorize nor permit any interference, by the troops under your command,
with the servants of peaceful citizens, in house or field, nor will you,
in any way, encourage such servants to leave the lawful service of their
masters; nor will you, except in cases where the public safety may seem
to require it, prevent the voluntary return of any fugitive to the
service from which he may have escaped.
The same policy was adopted in every part of the country. All interference with the internal institutions of any State was expressly forbidden; "but the Government would avail itself of the services of a portion of the slaves, taking care fully to provide for compensation to loyal masters. On the 16th of August, Hon. C. B. Smith, Secretary of the Interior, in a speech made at Providence, Rhode Island, took occasion to declare the policy of the Administration upon this subject. Its theory, said he, is, that "the States are sovereign within their spheres; the Government of the United States has no more right to interfere with the institution of slavery in South Carolina than it has to interfere with the peculiar institution of Rhode Island, whose benefits I have enjoyed."
On the 31st of August, General Fremont, commanding the Western Department, which embraced Missouri and a part of Kentucky, issued an order "extending and declaring established martial law throughout the State of Missouri," and declaring that "the property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri, who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men." The President regarded this order as transcending the authority vested in him by the Act of Congress, and wrote to General Fremont, calling his attention to this point, and requesting him to modify his proclamation so as to make it conform to the law. General Fremont, desiring to throw off from himself the responsibility of changing his action, desired an explicit order whereupon the President thus addressed him:
WASHINGTON, D. C., September 11, 1861.
Major-General JOHN C. FREMONT:
SIR: Yours of the 8th, in answer to mine of the 2d instant, was just
received. Assured that you upon the ground could better judge of the necessities of your position than I could at this distance, on seeing
your proclamation of August 30, I perceived no general objection to it; the
particular clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property
and the liberation of slaves, appeared to me to be objectionable in its nonconformity to the Act of Congress, passed the 6th of last August, upon
the same subjects, and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that that
clause should be modified accordingly. Your answer, just received, expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order for
the modification, which I very cheerfully do. It is therefore ordered
that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held, and
construed, as to conform with, and not to transcend, the provisions on the same
subject contained in the act of Congress entitled "An Act to confiscate
property used for insurrectionary purposes," approved August 6, 1861,
the said act be published at length with this order.
Your obedient servant,
These views of the Government were still farther enforced in a letter from the Secretary of War to General T. W. Sherman, who commanded the expedition to Port Royal, and in orders issued by General Dix in Virginia, on the 17th of November, and by General Halleck, who succeeded General Fremont in the Western Department, prohibiting fugitive slaves from being received within the lines of the army. During all this time strenuous efforts were made in various quarters to induce the President to depart from this policy, and not only to proclaim a general emancipation of all the slaves, but to put arms in their hands, and employ them in the field against the rebels. But they were ineffectual. The President adhered firmly and steadily to the policy which the then existing circumstances of the country, in his judgment, rendered wise and necessary; and he was sustained in this action by the public sentiment of the loyal States, and by the great body of the people in the Slave States along the border. The course which he pursued at that time contributed largely, beyond doubt, to strengthen the cause of the Union in
those Border States, and especially to withdraw Tennessee from her hastily formed connection with the rebel Confederacy.
In the early part of November an incident occurred which threatened for a time to involve the country in open war with England. On the 7th of that month the British mail steamer
Trent left Havana for St.
Thomas, having on board Messrs. J. M. Mason and John Slidell, on their way as commissioners from the Confederate States to England and France. On the 8th the
Trent was hailed from the United States frigate San Jacinto, Captain Wilkes, and brought-to by a shot across her bows. Two officers and about twenty armed men from the latter then went on board the
Trent, searched her, and took from her by force, and against the protest of the British officers, the two rebel commissioners, with Messrs. Eustis and McFarland, their Secretaries, who were brought to the United States and lodged in Fort Warren, the
Trent being released and proceeding on her way. The most intense excitement pervaded the country when news of this affair was received. The feeling was one of admiration at the boldness of Captain Wilkes, and of exultation at the capture of the rebel emissaries. In England the most intense and passionate resentment took possession of the public mind. The demand for instant redress was universal, and, in obedience to it, the Government at once ordered troops to Canada and the outfit of vessels of war,
Our Government met the matter with prompt and self possessed
decision. On the 30th of November Mr. Seward wrote to Mr. Adams
a general statement of the facts of the case, accompanied by the
assurance that ' ' in the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell
Captain Wilkes had acted without any instructions from the
Government," and that our Government was prepared to discuss the
matter in a perfectly fair and friendly spirit as soon as the
ground taken by the British Government should be made known.
Earl Russell, under the same date, wrote to Lord Lyons,
rehearsing the facts of the case, and saying that the British Government was "willing to believe that the naval officer who committed the aggression was not acting in compliance with any authority from his Government," because the Government of the United States "must be fully aware that the British Government could not allow such an affront to the national honor to pass without full reparation." Earl Russell trusted, therefore, that when the matter should be brought under its notice the United States Government would, "of its own accord, offer to the British Government such redress as alone could satisfy the British nation, namely, the liberation of the four gentlemen and their delivery to the British minister, that they may again be placed under British protection, and a suitable apology for the aggression which has been committed." In a subsequent note Lord Lyons was instructed to wait seven days after its delivery for a reply to this demand, and in case no answer, or any other answer than a compliance with its terms, should be given by the expiration of that time, he was to leave Washington with the archives of the legation, and repair immediately to London.
On the 26th of December the Secretary of State, by direction of the President, sent a reply to this dispatch, in which the whole question was discussed at length, and with conspicuous ability. The Government decided that the detention of the vessel, and the removal from her of the emissaries of the rebel confederacy, was justifiable by the laws of war and the practice and precedents, of the British Government; but that in assuming to decide upon the liability of these persons to capture for himself, instead of sending them before a legal tribunal where a regular trial could be had, Captain Wilkes had departed from the rule of international law uniformly asserted by the American Government, and forming part of its most cherished policy. The Government decided, therefore, that the four persons in question would be "cheerfully liberated." This decision, sustained by the reasoning advanced in its support, commanded the immediate and universal acquiescence of the American people; while in England it was received with hearty applause by the friends of this country, especially as it silenced the clamors and disappointed the hostile hopes of its enemies. The French Government had joined that of England in its representations upon this subject, and the decision of our Government was received there with equal satisfaction. The effect of the incident, under the just and judicious course adopted by the Administration, was eminently favorable to the United States increasing the general respect for its adherence to sound principles of public law, and silencing effectually the slander that its Government was too weak to disappoint or thwart a popular clamor. One of the immediate fruits of the discussion was the prompt rejection of all demands for recognizing the independence of the Confederate States.