The Object and Cause of the American Civil War
Editor's Note: State departments
of education and, consequently, text book writers, have constructed a false
impression over the last one hundred years, of what exactly caused the American
Civil War. Invoking a chain of abstractions, they present the cause of the war
as a series of economic and political events that induced the North and the
South to engage in violent conflict. Resentments over governmental policies of tariffs,
taxes, and immigration into the territories, coupled with the splintering of
the Democratic Party into factions, they teach, essentially constitute the sum
of the complex causes of the Civil War. Yet, the evidence they ignore shows
indisputedly that the real cause of the Civil War was simply white racism, a
deep virulent prejudice by all but a very few of the white people that
inhabited the States both north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line, in 1861.
Nowhere in the textbooks these
educators provide, can the intelligent high school or college student find the
objective truth of history. As a consequence americancivilwar.com offers those
students interested in understanding what was really at the bottom of the war
this abridged version, transcribed verbatim in all essential parts, of the
Congressional Record of the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress of
the United States, as printed by the court reporter, John Rives, in 1862.
In The United States Senate—Slavery In The District
April 1, 1862
Mr. Wright, of Indiana: Mr. President, I
earnestly hoped that when I took my seat here, I would be able to do something
that would tend to the putting down of this rebellion; and I had hoped that
these embarrassing questions which have disturbed our country for years would
at least not be presented in the present unfortunate condition of our country.
I have no tastes which would be gratified by going back to
the past. I leave it to other senators to speak of the history of the
organization of the Government of our fathers. I know that your fathers and
mine had trouble in forming the principles of this Government. This evil which
we now have in our land was then among us. And I apprehend that our fathers did
the best they could under the circumstances.
What do I find here? Instead of senators avoiding questions
which are calculated to enlist the bitterest feelings, bill after bill is
presented which is calculated to inflame and irritate and cause sectional
discord; and my purpose is today to give my reasons for the votes I will give on
them. I am no apologist for slavery. I am opposed to it. But I cannot vote for
this bill abolishing slavery in the District.
My reason is that the Senate has decided against the
principle of colonization. In Indiana we have settled this question explicitly
and firmly by constitutional provision. Illinois is doing it. Ohio will do it.
We tell you that the black population shall not mingle with the white
population in our States. We tell you that in your zeal for emancipation you
must ingraft colonization upon your measure. We intend that our children shall
be raised where their equals are; and not in a population partly white and
partly black; and we know that equality never can exist between the two races.
The State of Illinois has just ingrafted a provision into
its constitution, in these words:
"Sec 1. No negro shall migrate or
settle in this State after the adoption of this constitution.
Sec. 2. No negro shall have the right
of suffrage, or hold any office in this State."
We in the Northwest feel the force of the idea that was
alluded to by my friend from Wisconsin, Mr. Doolittle, when he said that one
sixth of all the population in his town was likely to be black, if they
took their share of the negroes if emancipation goes through. Thus do
we understand the matter; and we do not intend to allow our region of the
country to be overrun with the black race. Such is the prejudice, such is the
settled conviction of our people, that the wall which we have erected is to
stand. We intend to have in our State as far as possible, a white population,
and we do not intend to have our jails and penitentiaries filled with the free
In this connection I allude to the message from the
President which proposes that we resolve to inform the slave States that Congress
will provide financial help to them if they emancipate their slaves. As far as
I know this is the first effort in the history of this country where the
Government of the United States has ever proposed to a sovereign State of this Union anything connected with her domestic policy. I remember reading of a
distinquished gentleman who, having crossed over the Potomac, and looking at
the army of one hundred thousand glittering bayonets, and then looking back at
the Capitol, exclaimed: `this is the last of this Government. State lines will
be blotted out.' This may be so, but never by my vote.
The Senator from Massachusetts yesterday repeated the
sentiment that 'freedom is national, slavery is sectional.' But there is
another sentiment—the Constitution is national, and the right of the
people of the States to make their own domestic policy is national."
The proposition of the President is at variance with all my recognized notions
of State rights.
Note: Here is highlighted the
essential political fact that what the people of the United States did by civil
war was to strip this right from the constitution, transferring the right from
the people of the States to the people of the United States, in Congress
assembled. Today, one hundred and fifty years later, almost a third, if not
half, of the voters seem to desperately wish this right to come back to the
States. The wish lies just beneath the surface of the debates over abortion,
gay marriage, illegal immigrants, gun and drug control, and other equally unsettling
political issues. The question, thus, in our time, recurs: do we as a people
want each State to be in exclusive control of its domestic policy, or do we
want the Federal Government to impose upon the States collectively one domestic
policy. Surely the American Civil War teaches us the answer.
Mr. Jefferson, as early as 1809, was concerned that the
Federal Government might swallow up the States. If Mr. Jefferson said that,
then, I do not know what he would say now when the House has passed a resolution,
suggested by the President, telling the people of a certain section of the
country, on a subject of their domestic policy, `do this, and we will do that.'
I am for the old-fashioned State rights doctrine. I mean that each State has a
right to regulate its domestic policy, including all the social relations and
the internal government of the State, and that the national Government has no
right to interfere. As Jefferson said, so do I: `The true theory of our
Constitution is that the States are independent as to everything within
themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. (Jefferson's Works, Vol 4., p. 331.)'
Note: An obvious attribute of the
change caused by the Civil War is seen in the fact that Congress, almost daily,
passes laws now which transfer funds to the States for their use, if but only
if the States modify their domestic policies as the Congress specifies.
Congress, in effect, says, "Do this, and we will do that."
It is my conviction that in ninety days from now, if this
Congress will attend to what appropriately belongs to it in this hour, we can
have peace in every county in Tennessee, and in ninety days more we may have a
Governor in every one of the slaveholding States. If Congress stands by and
leaves the Constitution as it is, and leaves the institution of slavery to take
care of itself, we shall put down this rebellion.
Mr. Pomeroy of Kansas: I do not wish to vote
compensation to slaveholders here in the district. I do not believe we have the
right to give away a million dollars from the Treasury for this purpose. The
holders of slaves here are running out every day. I live in a State where
slavery was abolished at once, on the 29th of March last year, at midnight, every slave in our State passed from a condition of slavery to freedom. They all
went to bed slaves, if, indeed, they had any beds, and in the morning they got
up and walked about, freemen. I have not seen any trouble arising from that.
Note: Mr. Pomeroy, a Radical
Republican, a bit corrupt and in the pocket of the railroads, is ignoring the
5th Amendment to the Constitution which specifies that no person may be
deprived of property without due process of law and with "just
compensation."Or perhaps not.
Mr. Sumner of Massachusetts: How many were
there, I should like to ask the senator?
Mr. Pomeroy: I am unable to say exactly. I
suppose there were some hundreds. If we are to give compensation, I say
we settle the account between master and slave with justice. The senator from Vermont, Mr. Collamer, said that [in In Re Dred Scott (1856)] the Supreme
Court had decided that negroes had no rights that white men were bound to
respect. Does the Senate intend to enact that decision of the court? By giving
compensation to the slaveholders and dealing out not one dime to the men who
have spent their lives in slavery and rendered labor which has been unpaid for,
I say that is reenacting the dogma that negroes have no rights that white men
are bound to respect.
I call attention to the fact that there are men here who
have spent forty years in slavery, and during all this time have never had
anything more than was necessary to support them; and now, at an advanced age,
this Senate proposes to turn them out without a dollar. I insist that we should
weigh out justice to these parties.
Do gentlemen call upon us, because we are prosecuting this
war, to forget all we have said, and all we have been struggling to accomplish
for years? What, sir, have we been struggling for? It was to place this
government in a position where it should not lend its aid to the support of
slavery. Since its formation it has been devoted to that object; and what the
Republican party contended for was to free the Government from the incubus that
had been laid upon it through its unnatural connection with this peculiar
Now, sir, are gentlemen so unreasonable as to ask us that we
shall forget all we have tried to attain; that we shall ignore the question of
slavery? You are asking too much of us, and the reasoning of the gentlemen who ask
this is hardly a fair one. Let me ask the Senator from Virginia, Mr. Willey,
does it follow that because we adopt one measure that we mean to adopt another?
The honorable Senator has connected all the measures before Congress together,
and he views them as parts of a whole. In the first place, here is the
recommendation of the President; in the next place, here is the bill for the
abolition of slavery in the District; and in the third place, here are the
questions regarding the confiscation of property; and the honorable Senator
thinks they are parts of a system.
Well, sir, I do not hesitate to say here that I dissent
entirely from the conclusions of Senator Sumner, as stated in his resolution to
make States territories. I do not look upon the States of this Union as gone and destroyed. The fundamental idea upon which we started in this contest
was, that no State could take itself out of the Union; no State could destroy
its existence as a State, or change its relations to the Union. We have not
recognized State action. From the beginning we have considered all action as individual
action, as having nothing whatever to do with the States as
Mr. Willey, of "Virginia:" If the
honorable senator will allow me, he misstates my point: I say that in the excited
state of the country these measures will be construed as parts of a system
which, taken together, will destroy the Union sentiment by which it is hoped to
reorganize the State governments.
Mr. Fessenden, of Maine: Let me say that that
the Congress has no right to touch, by legislation, the institution of slavery
in the States where it exists by law. But, sir, I say further that so far as
the people have the power under the Constitution to weaken the institution of
slavery, to deprive it of its force, to subject it to the laws of the land, to
take away political influence, they have the right to do so.
Why, sir, do you suppose we came into power to sit still and
be silent on this subject; that we came into power to do nothing; to think
nothing; to say nothing lest by some possibility a portion of the people of the
country might be offended? That was the argument of the honorable Senator from Indiana, Mr. Wright, this morning, as I understand it.
Sir, reflect: have we not duties to perform with our opinions?
Can we defer the consideration of some of these subjects? Are they not before
us everyday? Do they not meet us at every turn?
This question of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, I have stated, has been always most nearest my heart. Gentlemen say
it is a bad time to take it up. But, sir, whom do we injure? The slaves? The
slave will bear the injury. The owner? What claim have the owners of slaves
have upon us. They knew one day this day would come. We can say this thing
should not exist where we have the power to abolish it.
Let me call attention to one fact. Virginia has as much
territory as all New England. It is vastly superior to it in every particular.
It has mines, it has water power unequaled, it has facilities for trade which
are not surpassed in any quarter; it has all the elements of greatness, for
manufacture, for commerce, and for agriculture. In the days of the Revolution
it had more population than all New England; more commerce, more wealth.
Compare the State of Virginia as it was when the rebellion broke out, with New England, and see the difference between the two. At that day you had less than a
million of white population and we had three millions. In all the branches of
life we were vastly your superiors. What is the reason for this? Can you give
any for the difference except the fact that you had an institution which we had
not? What I say about Virginia is true of all the slave states. Slavery
is a curse and a ruin that the nation can no longer afford.
Note:" Slavery is a curse
and a ruin that the nation can no longer afford:" this is the policy statement
of the Republican Party. By 1860, the politicians in the Northern and Western
States were keenly aware that the vast territory of the United States, west of the
Mississippi, was ripe for development which meant millions of people were being
drawn into it, and those millions—white people of European ancestry—were
infected with an incurable antagonism toward Africans, whether free or not. At
the same time, the politicians were seeing the number of free Africans
immigrating into their States to be increasing, creating rumblings that were
resulting in the passage of laws of exclusion. At the same time, also, they
were seeing that the birth rate of the Africans was causing their total
population to increase annually. Four million Africans were residing in the United States, in 1860, and it was clear to the Republican politicians that somehow a start
had to be made in integrating them into society as free persons, if the country
was to maximize its economic potential.
Mr. Morrill, of Maine: There are objections to this
bill which cannot stand. An objection is brought that it does not provide for
the care and custody of infant children discharged from service, and we are
told that this bill turns the children out upon the world as free, without
measures to support them. In my investigation, one fact stands out: almost all
infants have mothers, though it is a little question about their fathers.
If you confer on the black population of the District the boon of freedom, they
ask no favors of you; they do not ask your charity; they do not ask you to
assign guardians; they do not ask you to find persons to take charge of them.
Just take your feet off these people, let them up, give them their rights, and
my word for it they will take care of themselves.
Now, in regard to the provision for old men. I admit the
price of $150 is arbitrary, but I think all will agree with me that $150 is not
too much to take care of persons sixty or seventy years of age. When these
people have been used all their lives in the service of another, it seems to me
at least to be enlightened charity to provide this much for their support when
they are set free.
April 2, 1862
Mr. Sherman, of Ohio: It is proposed to
emancipate the slaves of this District. I am informed that the number of slaves
in the District is less than fifteen hundred. To add one thousand to the number
of free negroes in this District, now about 11,000, is a matter of very small importance.
It is the idea of emancipation which makes the issue such a big deal. It is
this reason that has excited the hostility of Mr. Davis, of Kentucky, and Mr.
Willey, of Virginia.
I would abolish slavery simply for its affect on property. The
abolition of slavery in this District will bring here active, intelligent
mechanics and laboring men, who never will compete with the labor of slaves,
and who, finding none here but free men, will develop the great advantages of
There is another reason. This is the best place to try the
experiment of emancipation. We shall set the example which the slave states
will surely one day follow.
There is another good reason to begin emancipation in this
place. This is a very paradise for free negroes. Here they enjoy more social
equality than they do anywhere else. In the State where I live, we do not
like negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from
Indiana, Mr. Wright, said yesterday, the whole people of the northwestern
States are opposed to having many negroes among them, and that principle of
prejudice has been ingrafted in the legislation of nearly all the northwestern
States. Here there is but little prejudice against them, and here they have
the best chance of thriving. Here they are the laborers, the hackmen, the
servants, and are of great service.
There is the objection raised by the Senator from Maine that the bill does not provide for colonization. If it is our duty to emancipate
these slaves, it is equally our duty to give the negroes the right of choice
whether they will live here in a land where they will always be held as a
subordinate race, or try the experiment of freedom in another and more
favorable clime. I think it a just idea that we, as a nation, owe these people
the obligation to allow them to develop their freedom and their capacity to
govern themselves in a country where they will not be met at every step with
caste and prejudice, hate and contumely; where they can exercise no political
rights; where they cannot vote; where they cannot serve as jurors; where they
cannot exercise any of the rights of freemen. When you give negroes freedom in
this country you give them freedom stripped of everything but the name. You
make them freemen without the right to govern themselves.
Let me say another thing. We are the majority in this body.
We are the majority in the other House. We have a Republican administration. If
we do not show to the people of the United States that we have a definite
policy, and have manhood to stand by it, we ought to be overthrown. We ought to
adopt a policy and adhere to it. We ought now to abolish slavery in the
District. We ought religiously to abstain from all interference with the
domestic institution of slavery in the States. We ought to stand by the
Constitution as it is, by the Union as it is. Whether rebels are in arms or
not, our duty is to stand by our pledges, and I, for one, will do it.
Note: Here is the first whiff of
the great danger to the liberties of the people that war brings. The experience
of one hundred and fifty years of American history demonstrates that the paper
limits imposed on Government by the Constitution are ignored by those, whoever
they are, in control of the Government when war is instigated.
Mr. Davis, of Kentucky: Will the gentleman
permit me a moment. Mr. President, the two gentlemen, Mr. Morrill and Mr.
Collomer, when I occupied the floor on this subject a few days ago, propounded
several questions to me. I now ask their courtesy to permit me to return the
Mr. Morrill: Whom does the Senator want to
Mr. Davis: Both of you.
Mr. Morrill: You may begin with me.
Mr. Davis: Tell me whether property
in slaves can exist or not, whether those who are called the owners of slaves
can have a property in them or not? Second whether Congress can take from the
citizens of this District who own real estate, that real estate, or not, and if
they answer the second question in the negative, to point to the clause in the
Constitution that create a different title to slaves and real estate.
Mr. Morrill: If I understand the Senator he
inquires of me whether I recognize the right of property in a slave?
Mr. Davis: That is the first question.
Mr. Morrill: Very well, sir; I will answer you
in a trice. I do not hold in the common acceptation of the term that an owner
has property in his slave. I do not hold that the owner of a slave owns his
slave as he owns his horse. I hold that the sense of mankind does not regard
property in a slave as in a horse or in lands. That is repugnant to the common
sense of mankind throughout the civilized world; and in this instance I hold
that the title or claim which the owner of a slave has to his slave in this
District rests entirely upon an act of Congress, and that act does not establish
the relation of owner and property but establishes the relation
of master and slave. Repeal that law and slavery topples and
falls instantly to the ground. Therefore, my answer is, that I do not recognize
the right of property in slaves; but I do recognize, under the act of Congress
of 1801, the relation of master and slave.
Mr. Davis: My friend's answer was not quite as
broad as my question. It was not limited to slaves in this District, but it was
a question of general application, whether the owners of slaves in the District
or out of it have a property in slaves or not.
Mr. Morrill: The principles I have now laid
down are applicable to any case in the States. I hold that there is no precise
property in slaves, in the sense in which we have property in lands, or
property in horses or other animals. It has a different origin; slavery
is founded on force, originates in force, never is maintained anywhere
except by a statute which is founded in force. Slavery is abhorrent to the
common sense of mankind.
Mr. Davis: I laid down a few days ago this
proposition—and I defy the Senator from Maine to refute it—that there is
no positive written law which establishes property in a slave or in land or in
a horse, that the law upon that subject arises, from the uniform custom and
usage of the civilized world.
And I laid down this further proposition: that my
legal right to my slave was precisely of the same nature and character with my
legal right to my land; and that if I were a citizen of the District of
Columbia Congress would have no more right to deprive me of the one subject of
property than of the other.
The gentleman denies that property can exist in a human
being. That is his broad proposition. Upon that point I am totally at issue
with him, and I am sustained by the Constitution of the United States wherever the question has been mooted and decided. The Senator now concedes
explicitly that Congress has no power to take from the people of this District
their houses or their lands, or any property but their slaves, as I understand
him. I ask the gentleman for the law or the provision of the Constitution which
forms the interdict and he gives me the provision that no citizen's property
shall be taken for public use except by due process of law and just compensation.
I maintain that that prohibition on the power of Congress applies as
legitimately and with as much truth and logic to slaves as it does to real
My proposition a few days ago was that slavery was general
and that the abolition of slavery was local; and that proposition I sustained
by reading from the opinion of Chief Justice John Marshall in the Antelope
case. Marshall decides the principle broadly, that slavery exists by public
Mr. Morrill: I take issue with that point. Slavery
is acknowledged by international law only in such nations as recognize it.
Mr. Davis: No, sir. Chief Justice Marshall
decided that slavery and the slave trade existed by national law, and that this
national law may be repealed locally by the proper legislation of every country
upon the earth; and that this national law exists in every country save in
those countries where, by positive enactment, it has been repealed.
I do not deny that slavery is contrary to the law of nature, but I
say that the law created by the usages of mankind overrules the law of nature
in relation to this subject. What is the law of nature? When this traffic in
slaves was indulged in by the civilized world, and the States of Massachusetts
and Rhode Island were inundating the colonies with slaves torn from Africa, and selling them for a price, what was the law of nature then in Massachusetts that
indulged such a traffic; and what was the law of nature in the civilized world?
What is the law of nature now in Turkey and in China? What was the law of
nature in Europe two centuries ago? What is the law of nature in Utah?
The law of nature varies with the altered condition of
civilization and the condition of the world; and what is the law of nature in
one age and in one country and in one generation, is not the law of nature
It is because of this want of uniformity in the law of
nature, and because there is no common tribunal to define and establish what
the law of nature is, that it has been uniformly decreed to be subservient to
the positive laws of any country, and to the laws of nations, as established
upon the usages of the civilized world.
Let me read from Chief Justice Marshall's opinion:
"That slavery is contrary to the
law of nature will scarcely be denied. That every man has the natural right to
the fruits of his own labor is generally admitted; and that no other person can
rightfully deprive him of those fruits, and appropriate them against his will,
seems to be the necessary result of this admission. But from the earliest
times war has existed, and war confers rights in which all have
acquiesced. Among the most enlightened nations of antiquity, one of
those was, that the victor might enslave the vanquished."
That was once a principle of the law of nations as
recognized by the whole world. I admit that the principle has been exploded by
the Christian civilization of this age. Let me read again from Marshall's opinion.
"Slavery, then, has its origin in
force; but as the world has agreed that it is a legitimate result of force, the
state of things which is thus produced by general consent, cannot be pronounced
What does Chief Justice Marshall here decide? That although
slavery has its origin in force and is against the law of nature, yet as it has
been universally recognized by the civilized world, it exists and is
acknowledged by the law of nations.
As Marshall says:
"Throughout Christendom this harsh
rule has been exploded, and war is no longer considered as giving a right to
enslave captives. But this triumph of humanity has not been universal. The
parties to the modern law of nations do not propagate their principles by
force; and Africa has not yet adopted them. Through the whole extent of this
immense continent, so far as we know of its history, it is still the law of
nations that prisoners are slaves. Can those who have themselves
renounced this law, be permitted to participate in its effects by purchasing
the beings who are its victims?"
Here is the principle to which the honorable Senator from Maine referred:
"Whatever might be the answer of a
moralist to this question, a jurist must search for its legal solution in those
principles of action which are sanctioned by the usages, the national acts, and
the general assent of that portion of the world of which he considers himself
as a part, and to whose law the appeal is made.
If we resort to this standard as the
test of international law, the question is decided in favor of the legality of
slavery and the slave trade. Both Europe and America embarked in it; and for
nearly two centuries it was carried on without opposition and without censure.
A jurist cannot say that a practice thus supported was illegal, and that those
engaged in it might be punished either personally, or by deprivation of
In this commerce, thus sanctioned by
universal assent, every nation had an equal right to engage. How is this right
lost? Each may renounce it for its own people; but can this renunciation affect
others? No principle of general law is more universally acknowledged than the
perfect equality of nations. It results from this equality that no one can
rightfully impose a rule on another. A right, then, which is vested in all by
the consent of all, can be divested only by consent; and this trade, in which
all have participated, must remain lawful to those who cannot be induced to
Note: Of course, we know that,
since World War II, this rule of international law, with the appearance of the
United Nations, is in decline. At least the United States Government considers
it so. We insist on meddling in the domestic policies of independent nations: North Korea, Iran, Russia, Cuba, and Iraq, to name a few.
Mr. Morrill: Will the gentleman permit me.
Slavery was universal because it was made so by the acts of the several nations
themselves. It was not a law of nations; it was the law of each nation, and
therefore of all; that a nation might repeal it while another does not, shows
it is not a law of nations. Another thing, it was never a law of nature. The
laws of nature can never change, until nature changes.
Mr. Davis: The gentleman is still mistaken. I
admit that the law of nations was made by the practice of nations, and that is
what Marshall says. No Senator here can find any positive written law of any
nation upon the earth sanctioning the slave trade, except the Constitution of
the United States, which continued the traffic until 1808.
I will try another authority; it is Justice McLean, who the
Senator from Massachusetts the other day praised so. It was a case of this
character. A slave had eloped from Kentucky into Ohio where a certain citizen
gave him aid in making his escape to Canada. The owner of the slave sued this
citizen for damages for having aided the slave in his escape. Defense counsel
argued that there was no positive law, no statute enacted in Kentucky which
established slavery. Judge McLean concede that to be the fact; but instead of
that being a denial that the right of property existed in the plaintiff, he
expressly stated in words that it was no defense at all, pointing out that in
our colonial governments no general provision existed for the surrender of
slaves. From our earliest history, he said, slavery existed in all the
How did it exist in the colonies? Not by positive enactment,
not by any positive law; it existed only by public, national law, based upon
the usage of the civilized world. That is the origin and foundation of the
property of the owner of a slave to that slave.
Judge McLean put the principle this way:
"Property takes its designation
from the laws of the States. It was not the object of the Federal Government to
regulate property. A Federal Government was organized by conferring on it
certain delegated powers, and by imposing certain restrictions on the States.
Among those restrictions it is provided that no State shall impair the
obligation of contract, nor liberate a person who is held to labor in another
State from which he escaped. In this form the Constitution protects contracts
and the right of the master, but it originates neither."
There is a decision in which the right of the master to his
slave is expressly recognized, and yet the honorable Senator from Maine assumes that there can be no property in slaves.
Now, Mr. President, we are entering a new epoch. We have
some great heresies attempted to be put into practice in the southern States
and they all have their origin in Massachusetts. The State of Massachusetts
entered early and largely, and with great profit, into the slave trade; they
brought the mass of the slaves that were imported from Africa into the colonies
and into the States up to 1808. After having themselves planted this obnoxious
weed in society, as soon as the Constitution prohibits them from continuing
this lucrative traffic they turn around and want to emancipate the slaves they
had before sold to innocent parties!
The honorable Senator from Massachusetts, Mr. Sumner, in his
splendid oration upon the subject of slavery the other day, said that slavery
was not destroyed by local legislation in the British West Indies but by the
national government. That is true. If the people of England had had the same
financial interest in slaves as did the West Indies planters, they would have
sung a different tune. Suppose the honorable Senator now and every one of us
owned two thousand acres of cotton land, and had upon it a hundred slaves, and
the annual produce of this estate of land and labor was one thousand bales of
cotton, yielding an income of $50,000. Suppose every Senator was thus possessed
of this property, I ask how many of these Senators, without regard to their
locality or their present opinions, would be willing to give up such an estate
for nothing? The man is green indeed who believes that one of
them would. (Laughter).
We are the creatures of the circumstances that surround us,
and of education. If you and I had been born and reared in Constantinople, we
should have been Mussulmans. If we had been brought up in desolate Utah, the honorable Senator from Massachusetts might have been a polygamist. (Laughter)
Now, Mr. President, we have a party in this country called
Abolitionists. There is a party in this country who believe that their mission
is to overthrow slavery, and they are marching to this work regardless of the Constitution
of the United States, of all its compromises, and of all the rights which it
secures to the States and to the citizens. Sir, it is in defense of the
Constitution, with all its limitations of power, with all the rights that it
secures to the States and to the people, with all its restrictions on the
Congress, that the great Union party to which I belong has drawn the sword. Mr.
President, we stand upon the Constitution as Washington and his associates made
it, as it has been expounded by the Supreme Court, and we are fighting this war
for those immortal principles of liberty and of security to the rights of
property, without which that sacred instrument could never have been formed and
agreed to by the States. The Constitution is the ark of our liberty; it is the
bond of our Union. When that bond is broken the Union is gone forever. I say to
you Abolitionists that you are worse enemies of the Union than Jeff Davis and
his hosts in battle.
Note: Here, of course, we see the
reason "States Rights" has a bad odor. What we must not ignore,
however, is that the fault, if it was a fault in 1787, lies with the framers
who inserted the principle into the plain meaning of the Constitution. The
Constitution was Mr. Davis's ark of liberty, to the Africans, though, residing
in the United States, in 1862, it was the iron hammer that welded their chains.
Mr. President, it has been frequently inquired what brought
about this war. I will tell you what I religiously believe, that the States of
Massachusetts and South Carolina and their mischievous isms have done more to
bring about our present troubles than all other causes. I believe that if it
had been possible to unmoor those two States and drift them away into the ocean
together, and let them fight out their antagonism side by side in some distant
sea, the rest of the States would have got along most harmoniously. I
religiously believe that those two States have been the hotbed of ambition, of
religious, social, and political heresies and isms, and they have been pressed
upon the rest of us with an energy that has brought us to our present great
difficulty. If there is any people that ought to be held to special account for
the present condition of the country, it is the people of Massachusetts and South Carolina.
Mr. Morrill: I understand the proposition of
the honorable Senator from Kentucky to be this: that he has precisely the same
right to his slave that he has to his horse or his lands, and that the origin
of the right of property in slaves and the origin of the right of property in
lands is one and the same.
This is not the notion common to American jurisprudence; nor
is it a notion that is common to the country from which we originate. Instead
of a man's having the same claim, the same sanction, and the same right to a
slave that he has to his property, the law of England, the law of the mother
country, has always held that the right to slaves, that property which was
claimed in slaves, was in violation of natural right, and was in violation of
natural law. Why, sir, the great commentator on English law lays down this
proposition—that the origin of the right of property springs from the
Deity. That is his distinction. The origin of the right of property
springs from the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and there is no origin
outside of it.
Note: So it's "God's"
The honorable Senator says, `show me a statute on this
subject, giving me a right to my horse, which does not give me the same right
to my slave.' Well, I will refer him to a positive statute on this subject,
"And God blessed them"—
Mr. Davis: Will the honorable Senator permit
me to ask him a question?
Mr. Morrill: When I have read my authority I
"And God blessed them, and God
said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue
it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
The commentary of the great English commentator runs back to
that as the origin of the right of property; and here is the obvious
distinction between the right of persons and the right of things. Man has
dominion over things; he has no dominion over persons—
Mr. Davis: I will ask the honorable gentleman
from Maine if he ever knew any property to be recovered in a court of justice
upon that law, or ever knew a claim to property to depend on the law which he
has just read, in a court of law?
Mr. Morrill: We never had any occasion to
plead that statute in my part of the country, yet it is always recognized. (Laughter)
I only state in opposition to the notions of the Senator what every lawyer
knows to be the common learning of the law, and that is the distinction between
persons and things. Things are subjected to the dominion of man; persons never,
never! And let me say that the law of nature never changes. Men may disregard
it, communities may disregard it, but the law stands.
Mr. Wilmot: Why does not the gentlemen propose
compulsory emigration or colonization? If the races cannot live together,
then surely we should adopt compulsory emigration.
Mr. Browning: We are acting upon too small a
scale to justify us in broaching so momentous a question as that is at this
time. The time may come when compulsory colonization may be found necessary for
the good of both races. If we were in a condition to remove the colored race
from our midst, and place them elsewhere, where they would be better provided
for, where they would be given the full stature of freemen—they never can
attain to the full stature of freemen in our midst—if we are prepared
to remove them, give them pecuniary aid, settle them, for a time to protect
them and school them until they can take care of themselves, I would have no
scruple about making it compulsory emigration or colonization. But, sir, the
subject now before us is so small a matter, scarcely a drop in the bucket; you
may strike off the bonds of every slave in the District today and there is not
a slave State in the Union that will feel the effect of it one atom. (nor
a free State.)
I further assert what we have often said, that freeing
slaves in the District does not justify the charge of any intention of
interfering with the institution of slavery in the States. We disclaim the
power to do so, we disclaim the right to do so, and we disclaim the intention
to do so. With slavery in the States we have nothing on earth to do. It is a
thing of local law.
But here in the District we have the right to deal with it.
Just as long as they remain among us they are free negroes; they are nothing
else; they are a poor, degraded caste, and I am afraid always will be. When you
come to propose the admission of the negro to social equality and to family
alliance, it is a test that reduces all our sympathies to dross and ashes. It
is a test that none of us can bring ourselves up to.
Mr. Bayard: Mr. President, let us look to the
Fifth Amendment, that no man shall be deprived of property without due process
of law and just compensation. Well, sir, what is the effect of this bill?
Gentlemen, when they are abolishing slavery in the District tend to mix up with
it their ideas of confiscation. On what principle is it, sir, that you can
require of any man if you take his property, a condition that he prove himself
loyal to your Government? A man may be guilty of murder; but until his
conviction you have no right to confiscate his property. You admit the
necessity of compensation but you would have a board of commissioners determine
on the question of loyalty and withhold payment if the finding is disloyalty.
What is that but punishment, without trial, without offense known to the laws?
Sir, I know that personal liberty is dead in the United States
under the stale plea of State necessity, but I am not aware that the
Government, in any State in which the courts are open, has undertaken to
confiscate the property of a citizen without trial. It is an onward step. It is
a further step in the destruction of free government and the establishment of a
government of will in this country, depending upon the will of the
present administration. No general rule or principle, no written
constitution, meant, as it is, to guard against the violation of private
rights, seems to have the slightest control over the actions either of the
Executive or of Congress.
Mr. President, I am aware that there is a kind of answer
given by certain members of this body that slaves are not property. Well, sir,
it is not worth an argument. The foundations of property do not rest in the law
of nature; they rest on the complex relations of civilized society.
Sir, if this war is to be prosecuted for the preservation of
the Constitution, its principles must be adhered to during the prosecution of
the war. We are not wantonly to violate it because gentlemen have a theory it
will be a benefit to the District to set slaves free here. Honorable Senators
may think that adherence to the provisions of the Constitution is of little
moment now when they are in power; but I tell them that they will find
hereafter that there is a Nemesis in all human affairs, and that it is far
easier to throw away the precious jewel of civil liberty than to recover it
when it is lost.
I pass now, for a moment, to the issue of the relation of
the races. Mr. Sherman expects that the passage of this bill will produce a
paradise in the District, but I tell him it will not be so in a few years or
so, to the white men. The question of the relation of the races depends
upon relative numbers. The honorable Senator from Ohio, with thirty-six
thousand negroes in his State out of two millions three hundred and fifty
thousand population, can form no opinion as to what would be the effect of emancipation
in the State of Maryland with one fourth of the population negroes.
Sir, I tell him that the skilled labor will not come where
the black race exists as freemen half as soon as where they exist as slaves. It
is the principle of equality which the white man rejects where the negro exists
in large numbers. It is that which creates the antagonism of race. The
people of Indiana restricted the immigration of the inferior race into their
State years ago by constitutional provision. The people of Illinois have done
so recently. The people of Ohio will do it yet; the people of New Jersey will
do it yet; the people of Pennsylvania will do it yet; and this bill and similar
bills will force it on them. You cannot overcome the law of nature; I speak of
the primary law of nature, the instinct of race. The white man will not consent
in this country that the mass of the white people shall amalgamate with the
blacks, and be reduced to a level with the Mexicans.
Gentlemen may war, if they please, against the law of nature
and the characteristics of the race; but though they may have the power today
to enforce by legislation doctrines and measures which will be injurious to the
country, rely upon it its reacting sense will teach them that their doctrines
and their theory are a fallacy.
The Presiding Officer: The question is on the
passage of the bill manumitting the slaves in the District of Columbia, upon which
the yeas and nays have been ordered.
The Secretary proceeded to call the roll. The
result was announced—yeas 29; nays 14. So the bill was passed. (By almost
a two to one margin.)
In The House of
Representatives Of The United States:
April 10, 1862
Freedom for the Slaves in the District
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair decides that the bill
can be laid aside.
The motion was agreed to.
Senate Bill No. 108, being an act for the release of certain
persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia, was next reached
on the Calendar.
Mr. Webster: I move that that bill be laid
The motion was not agreed to; and the
bill was before the committee for consideration.
Mr. Thomas, of Massachusetts: Mr. Chairman, I
avail myself of the indulgence of the committee to say something upon the
relation of the `seceded states' to the Union, the confiscation
of property, and the emancipation of slaves in such States.
The peculiar feature of our civil policy is, that we live
under written constitutions, defining and limiting the powers of Government and
securing the rights of the individual subject. Our political theory is, that
the people retain the sovereignty and that the Government has such
powers only as the people, by the organic law, have conferred upon it.
Doubtless these inflexible rules sometimes operate as a restraint
upon measures which for the time being seem to be desirable. The compensation
is that many times our experience has shown that in the long run the restraint
is necessary and wholesome.
Designed as the bond of perpetual union, and as the
framework of permanent Government, we should be very slow to conclude that the
Constitution lacks any of the necessary powers of self-defense and
self-preservation. (Quite a different thing.)
But when a measure is in apparent conflict with the
Constitution, we may well pause to consider whether after all the measure is
necessary, and whether we may not bend to the Constitution rather than that the
Constitution should give way to us. When we make necessity our
law-giver, we are very ready to believe necessity exists.
Nor are we to forget that the Constitution is a bill
of rights as well as a frame of government; that among the most
precious portions of the instrument are the first ten amendments; that it is
doubtful whether the people of the United States could have been induced to
adopt the Constitution except upon the assurance of the adoption of these
amendments; which are our Magna Carta, embodying the securities of life,
liberty, and property.
Mr. Chairman, there is but one issue before the country, and
that is whether the Constitution shall be the supreme law of the land. The
Constitution was formed by the people of the United States. It acts not upon the States, nor through the States upon us as citizens of
the several States, but upon us as citizens of the United States, claiming on
the one hand our allegiance and giving to us on the other its
protection. It is not a compact between the States or the
people of the several States. It is itself a frame of Government ordained and
established by the people of the United States.
Note: Let's look close at this:
How was the Constitution "formed by the people of the United States?" According to the preamble, "We the People of the United State s [ordained] and establish[ed] this Constitution of the United States of America."Restating this, does not answer the question, how? The
people did not come together in a national convention and ratify it, they came
together in their native States, in convention assembled, and each convention, on
behalf of the people of their State, assented to join the Union which became
known among the nations of the world as the "United States of
Mr. Thomas is also plainly wrong
in his statement that the Constitution "is not a compact between the
States." The instrument, itself, defines expressly the mode in which the
framework—the Constitution—was "formed." Article VII reads: "The
Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the
Establishment of this Constitution between the States so Ratifying the
Thus, the Constitution became
operative upon the consent of less than the whole people residing in North
America, in 1789; the "whole" people of the United States at the time
the Constitution sprang into operation was the people of the nine states that
first ratified it, and these people did so in their sovereign capacity as
citizens of their native States. And, in ratifying the instrument, no one can
reasonably dispute the plain fact that their States retained sovereignty (and,
thus, full control) over their domestic policies.
The very essence of a Nation is
found in the fact that it, and only it, controls its domestic policy. Iran is a Nation if but only if it is solely in control of its domestic policy—Let's obtain
nuclear power for our people. Other nations may quite legitimately refuse to
engage in economic relations with Iran, as a result; but they cannot claim, by
the law of nations, the right to wage war against Iran to prevent its domestic
policy from gaining the result sought.
What seems to be happening, in
terms of the law of nations, is that nations which adopt certain domestic
policies are deemed to lose the right to be let alone. When Germany adopted the
domestic policy of exterminating Jews, it lost the right to be let alone; and
even if it had not invaded France, igniting World War II, the United Nations,
in terms of evolving international law, had the right to invade its territory
and topple its government and install a substitute in its place. There is
nothing in this emerging principle that justifies the United States' invasion of Iraq, or its threats to attack Iran.
Such being the relation of the Government of the United
States to its citizens and to the States, the first question that arises is,
how far this relation is affected by the fact that several of the States have
assumed, by ordinances of secession, to separate themselves from the Union. An
ordinance of secession has no legal meaning or force, it is wholly inoperative
Note: Mr. Thomas, in the real
world, could hardly be more wrong. Whether lawyers may argue over the nice
question of the "legality" of Virginia's ordinance of secession, it
clearly had, in fact, force; and it was hardly "inoperative and
void." On the basis of it Virginia was at war with the rump of the United States.
The act of secession, therefore, cannot change in the least
degree the legal relation of the State to the Union.
Note: As of April 10, 1862, under the law of nations, the "legal relation" of Virginia to the Union was that of a public enemy, a belligerent, entitled to exercise all the rights
recognized by the law of war. Whether it might gain the status of a
"nation," recognized as such by the law of nations, depended strictly
upon its military success in the field. But that is the test all nations must
face when their independence is challenged by an aggressor's force of arms.
It is the necessary result of these principles that no State
can abdicate or forfeit the rights of its citizens to the protection of the
Constitution. The primary, paramount allegiance of every citizen of the
United States is to the nation, and the State authorities can no more
impair that allegiance than a country court or a village constable.
Note: Again, Mr. Thomas is wrong:
allegiance, as the framers understood it, was primarily owed to the State of
which a person was a citizen. It was the fact that the person was a citizen of
the State that made the person a "citizen of the United States." Mere habitation within a State did not, in 1789, make one a citizen of
Of course, the people of a State
can abdicate or forfeit their rights as citizens of the United States, by meeting in convention assembled and by a majority of votes agree to the
secession of their State from the Union. That is how the framers designed the
system of national government, in the abstract. In the real world, though, they
knew the seceding States would have to defend themselves against the natural
threat of conquest the act of secession would create. It seems hardly
imaginable, doesn't it, that, had the framers been asked whether they intended
the Federal Government to have the power to use force of arms to coerce the
people of Virginia to remain subject to its jurisdiction, they would have
nodded their assent?
Now, in case of conquest, even though the people of the
conquered territory change their allegiance, their rights of property remain
undisturbed. The modern usage of nations would be violated if private property
should be generally confiscated and private rights annulled. When, therefore, States
are reduced to territories, the national Government could not abolish
slavery therein, except under the power of eminent domain, and by giving just
Note: Again, Mr. Thomas is wrong,
but he is striving to reach a goal, refuting, with abstract argument, the right
of the Congress to free the slaves. The right of property in men (i.e., the
right to claim the service or labor of a person) can only be recognized by the
domestic policy of the State. If the State is now a mere territory of the United States, it is for the Federal Government to decide its domestic policy.
What, then, it may be asked, is the legal character of this
great insurrection? The answer is, it is a rebellion of citizens of the United States against the Government of the United States. Nothing the President said can
be more explicit: `I, Abraham Lincoln, in virtue of the power vested in me as
President, have thought fit to call forth the militia to suppress [rebellion]
and enforce the laws.' Thus, then, this is not a conflict of States, nor is it
a war of countries. It is a conflict between Government and its
disobedient subjects. (How the framers must turn groaning in their
graves: their sons, it turns out, are "subjects" of the
"Government" controlled by Republicans.)
The difference between a war and a rebellion is clear and
vital. War is the hostile relation of one nation to another, involving all the
subjects of both. Rebellion is the relation which disloyal subjects hold to the
nation. The legal relation between them is not that of war,
though the rebellion has assumed gigantic proportion; the array of numbers does
not change the essential legal character. It is still treason—the levying
of war against the United States by those who owe it allegiance.
Note: Mr. Thomas needs to read
the Constitution more carefully. The definition of "treason" is found
in Article III which deals solely with the Judicial Power of the United States. Its provisions inform the Judicial Branch what is and is not
"treason." Section 3 reads: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their
enemies."The problem of logic for Mr. Thomas lies in the framers' use of
the plural pronouns, "them" and "their." The Constitution,
as the framers wrote it, did not recognize the entity labeled "The United States" to be an "it."
For example, as long as General
Lee was a citizen of Virginia and Virginia was a member of the Union, his allegiance to Virginia required him to avoid "levying war" against the
Union of which his native state was a part. Once, Virginia seceded, however, and
found herself being invaded by armies of the United States, under the control
of the Republican party, General Lee's duty, if he wished to remain a
legitimate citizen of Virginia, was to defend her borders against the United
While using the powers and appliances of war for the purpose
of subduing rebellion, we are by no means acting outside the scope of the
Constitution. We are using precisely the powers with which the Constitution has
clothed us for this end. We are seeking domestic tranquility by the sword
the Constitution has placed in our hands.
Note: "We are seeking
domestic tranquility by the sword."They, in control of the Federal
Government, were using it to conquer the Confederate States of America, reduce them to the status of territories, and thereby take control of their
It is a plain proposition, that in seeking to enforce the
law we are, as far as possible, to obey the law. We are not to destroy in
seeking to preserve. The people do not desire a bitter and remorseless struggle
over the dead body of the Constitution. We may raise armies and pour out
treasure and life blood of the people, but we cannot die well for the Republic,
unless we keep clearly in view the end of all our labors, the Union of our
fathers and the Constitution which is its only bond.
The bills and joint resolutions before the House propose,
with some differences of policy and method, two measures: the confiscation of
the property of rebels and the emancipation of their slaves. The acts of
confiscation proposed would defeat the great end the Government has in view:
the restoration of order, union, and obedience to law. They would take from the
rebels every motive for submission; they would create the strongest motive for resistance.
In the maintenance of the Confederate Government they might find protection, in
the restoration of ours, spoliation. You leave them with the great weapon of
Note: At this time, with the
Union sweep of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, and western Tennessee, and with
McClellan moving toward Richmond on the Yorktown Peninsula, there was a feeling
in the Congress that the war might come to a quick end; just a few more months,
the conservative men were thinking, and it would be over and things going back
Apart from the injustice of these acts of sweeping
confiscation, I have not been able to find in the Constitution the requisite
authority to pass them. The acts are defended on the grounds that they
constitute punishment for crime and that they are justified by the
war power of the Government. But, as to the concept of
"crime," the Constitution expressly denies Congress the power to
impose ex post facto laws, and it commands that no person can be deprived
of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. To do so, the
Government must indict him, and try the issue of his guilt by trial
of his peers. As to basing confiscation on the war power,
such power is limited by the law of war which does not recognize
the right of the Government to seize private property, except in precise
circumstances, none of which are applicable here. By the modern usages of
nations private property on the land is generally exempt from confiscation.
Note: Mr. Thomas's argument of abstractions
was intended to lead the audience to the conclusion that, since the rebels are
still citizens of the United States, they are entitled to the rights defined in
the Bill of Rights, and thus their private property cannot be taken unless
those rights are respected. But, of course, in the real world, it is plain that
General Lee and his fellow Virginia citizens are in fact public enemies of the Union which the Republican party through its control of the Union Government means to
conquer or destroy. And, yet though they are outside the pale of the
Constitution, they are still entitled to the protection afforded them by the
usages of nations, the law of war.
To avoid misconstruction, I desire to say that the power of
Congress over slavery in the District is absolute; that no limitation exists in
the letter or spirit of the Constitution. All that is required for abolishing
slavery here is just compensation to the master. Desiring the extinction of
slavery with my whole mind and heart, I watch the workings of events with
patience. If in pursuit of objects however humane, if impelled by hatred and a
desire for vengeance or retribution, we yield to such unconstitutional change, we
shall destroy the best hope of freemen and slave, and the best hope of humanity
this side the grave.
April 11, 1862
Mr. Nixon, of New Jersey: Mr. Chairman, I am
in favor of the general principles of the bill. The gradual emancipation of the
slave would have been more in harmony, would be more in accordance with my view
of public policy, but if immediate emancipation, with just compensation, be the
sentiment of the House, I am prepared to vote to remove the blot of slavery
from the Capitol.
I have not risen to comment on the details of the bill, but to throw
some light on the maladies afflicting the nation's life. The origin of our
national troubles has been traced to various sources. Philosophical gentlemen
will tell you that this is a contest between two forms of civilization; in
irrepressible conflict between antagonistic ideas of the objects and ends of
Government; the one side agreeing to the unity of the race and struggling for
its emancipation and political equality, the other side denying its unity, and
trying to perpetuate the distinctions of caste. The deduction from this view is
that the war must go on until one side annihilates the other. If this be true,
if the mere existence of slavery were sufficient to produce rebellion, then the
Constitution is a failure; the wisdom of the fathers who framed it, was folly;
and the sooner we strike hands with the southern traitors the better for us,
and for mankind.
But it is not true. There was no need of such a contest. The
history of the world, of our own country, prove that no such necessity existed.
It was not the institution of slavery, but the ambition of southern men,
that made slavery aggressive. It was not the desire for the emancipation of the
slave, but the ambition of northern leaders, struggling to get
into power, that made abolition aggressive.
Other differences arise from the confusion of ideas as to
the relations of the States to each other and to the Federal Government, and
the powers vested in the Government by the Constitution. A large class of
southern politicians have long held that the Constitution does not
establish a government acting directly on individuals, but that it is a
mere compact to which the States are parties, and which may be dissolved at the
will of either party.
Note: Of course, considering the
issue in an objective light, using cold reason as the guide, it is clear from
the undisputed historical evidence that, indeed, the Constitution did not
"establish a government acting directly on individuals." Such a fact can
only be true, in the application of cold logic and reason, if the Constitution
was intended by its framers to control the domestic policy of the State, and
not leave control in the hands of the people of the several States; to operate
upon individuals, it is hardly likely the framers would have used language that
specifies its ratification shall be through "the Conventions of nine
States" and that the "Establishment of the Constitution" shall
be "between the States ratifying the same."Instead, the framers would
have logically specified that the "Establishment of the Constitution shall
be between the peoples of the nine States ratifying the same."
The pestilent heresy of secession, with its brood of evils,
is the offshoot of this false assumption. Hence, these men regard an ordinance
of secession to be valid, absolving them of all allegiance to the Federal
Government; and they call this war "coercion of sovereign States." It
was just here that the late President (Buchanan, now dead) gave so much
aid and comfort to the conspirators.
Note: The objective facts of
history show conclusively that the political party in control of the Federal
Government until November 1861 (the Democrats) followed reasonably closely the
theory of the Union as the framers designed it; that is, "theory"
applied in the abstract.
In his message to Congress (in December 1860) President
Buchanan said that if a State seceded there was no remedy, because there
was no power in the Constitution to coerce a State.
Note: Here, of course, President
Buchanan was wrong. The Constitution gives the Federal Government the war
power, the power to make war aggressively against any political entity that, in
its self-interest, it considers necessary to conquer or destroy. That is the
fundamental law of war, and it is that law that justifies, if at all, the
Federal Government from using the armed forces of the United States to attack independent nations, whether the nation attacked is Germany, Japan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or the Confederate States of America.
But it is not the State that is in rebellion and deserving
punishment, but individuals who, acted upon by the laws of the United States, forcibly resisted their execution, and owing fealty to the Government,
raised their hands for its overthrow. (As it affected them.)
The propositions now pending in this House and the Senate
for the organization of territorial governments over the seceded States contain
the germ of this fallacious reasoning. It was not so intended by the movers,
but these propositions when carried to their logical conclusion, recognize the
right in a State to secede. They assume that South Carolina, for instance, is
out of the Union, and as she was not able to carry her territory with her,
Congress should organize a territorial government over it. But how did South Carolina get out of the Union? Not by an ordinance of secession, because we
(Republicans) all agree that these ordinances are void. Nor did she get out by
the dissolution of a compact, because the ties that bind cannot be broken
unless everyone unanimously agrees.
Note: This is silly. If you
repudiate the crucial terms of the agreement—the terms that induced me to
agree—your breach excuses me, it gives me just cause to assert the agreement is
at an end.
Other propositions look to acts of emancipation of the
slaves, not only as one of the objects of the war but also as an efficient
means of carrying the war to a successful conclusion. The authority to do this
is found by some in the false theory that States lose their right to hold men
to service, through their domestic laws, in consequence of their pretended
secession; and by others in some vague notion that the right exists as incident
to the war power, as if the powers conferred upon Congress were intended by the
framers to be elastic, expanding and contracting as the exigencies seem
to demand. I do not say that the right of emancipation does not exist.
I say it does exist by virtue of the President's war powers.
Note: This view has carried
forward to the present day and it has led us to the Congress's present
imposition of martial law upon the country; this is manifest in its suspension
of the writ of Habeas Corpus, denying American citizens the right to be
indicted, the right to communicate confidentially with an attorney, the right
to trial by a jury of your peers.
I do not say that because the power is not expressly
prohibited, it may be exercised; for every intelligent man will see at once to
what consequences such a rule of interpretation would lead us. We do not look
to see if the power is granted. We do not say that the power is not denied, and
therefore exists. We say that it is not granted, and therefore does not exist.
Note: Mr. Nixon is twisting
himself into knots here. Since the Constitution did not expressly prohibit the
Federal Government from passing laws emancipating slaves, it necessarily
follows, some would argue, that if the result wished for—in this case,
emancipation—flows from the exercise of a power that is granted, such as the
power to take care that the general welfare of the Union is furthered, then the
Congress has the power to achieve the result. But the Constitution, in the Bill
of Rights attached to it at the time it was ratified, expressly states that no
person's property can be taken by Government without due process of law and
without just compensation made. At no time did the Congress pass a law, to
abolish slavery anywhere, which carried with it a provision to provide
"just (market value) compensation."
This contest was not begun by us, it was forced upon
us. As if to fill to the brim the cup of their wickedness, a peaceful
vessel (the Star of the West), freighted with provisions for a
starving garrison (accompanied by nine U.S. Navy warships and U.S. Army infantry
aboard transports) was diverted from her errand of mercy (resupply
a U.S. fort positioned inside a South Carolina harbor) by the cannon of
the insurgents, and as if to make the cup overflow the fort at Charleston was
invested by an army and the flag of the nation insulted and dishonored.
Then, thank God, the reaction came (as Lincoln instigated). The Government and the people woke from their strange apathy. The
blood kindled in patriotic veins. The President's proclamation was issued and
found a quick response. The President asked for 75,000 volunteers. What for?
Not to coerce States, but to put "down combinations too powerful to
suppress with the ordinary course of judicial proceedings." Not to
emancipate slaves but to repossess the government. Not to execute new arbitrary
laws, but to enforce the old laws.
I stand today with the Administration to secure the objects
set forth by the President in his proclamation. There is the limit. This war is
only justifiable because we intend to live by the Constitution. If we go beyond
this limit we are guilty of the very transgressions of which we complain
in them, and are making ourselves justly obnoxious to the charge of
waging a war outside the Constitution to reduce the South to the will of the
majority. It is always easy, in the whirl of fierce excitement, for men and
nations to find pretexts to transcend the powers of the fundamental law.
The Constitution, it is alleged, was made for periods of
peace. Its framers could not anticipate such a gigantic conspiracy against the
national life, and therefore made no provision for it. Besides, the laws are
always silent in the midst of arms. Necessity, everybody knows, is above the
Note: And here we find ourselves,
today, reliving Mr. Nixon's experience. What possible "necessity"
justifies the Congress suspending the writ of habeas Corpus, denying an
American citizen the protection of the Bill of Right, in our day and age? What makes
a cell in Cuba necessary for the incarceration of American citizens, that a cell
in Illinois cannot provide?
Is the Constitution silent? Did its authors, in their zeal
to guard against the encroachments of the Federal Government, overlook the
dangers to be apprehended by the encroachments of the people? The
Constitution states it is the supreme law. It is the duty of the President to
take care that law be executed. Congress has the power of war. It is only the
amplification of the marshall's power to enforce the laws.
Mr. Blair, of Missouri: The charge has
frequently been made that the President is without a policy. This is false.
There can be no dispute as to the object of the war as far as he is concerned.
He says in his annual message that he has been anxious that it "shall
not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle."
(What else did he think it would be, when he started it?) "I have
therefore," he says, "in every case thought it proper to keep the
integrity of the Union prominent as the primary object of the contest."
But it is objected to by some of those who aided in his election that he has
not in aid of this object made the war upon the cause of the war,
and decreed emancipation by an order as Commander-in-Chief as an
effective agency in suppressing the rebellion.
Note: In April 1862, with huge
military success in the field, many in Congress, aside from the radicals, think
the war will be ended by June, and so the radicals, although pushing their
agenda, are sitting back and waiting for the war to devolve into a remorseless
struggle, at which point they will press Lincoln hard to issue a
"proclamation" of emancipation for the slaves. Lincoln will do it,
only when the pressures of the war make him frigthened that Kentucky is about
to go over to the Confederacy.
The measure might unquestionably be justified if it were
deemed necessary for the purpose of accomplishing his object.
Note: And here we are again, at
today. So, by Blair's reasoning, the President may do whatever he deems
necessary to accomplish his objective if he can convince who, the Congress, the
American people, the world, that his act is "justified" by "necessity?"
One need waste no time drilling into the meaning of the Constitution, to an
examination of its grants of power, its exceptions, reservations, and
limitations; one needs only announce the President "deems" a certain
action "necessary?" This is the ground of political science to which Lincoln's actions in instigating civil war has brought us to stand on.
In his canvas for the Senate with Mr. Douglas, Lincoln's views
respecting the subject of slavery were very fully developed, and his position
led logically to his present attitude. In his declaration, that above all
things he desired "a separation of the black and white races," he
showed he knew that the excitement occasioned at the South by the idea of
emancipation was not due to the fears of the loss of property it would occasion
to those holding slaves. His birth in a slave state, and subsequent residence
in Indiana and Illinois, among a people a large proportion of whom also sprung
from the slaves States, taught him that the greatest repugnance to this
measure (emancipation) was to be found among men who had no such property
interest at stake. He knew, also, that these men were attached to the Union. This demonstrates it is not a good idea, to think the rebellion can be suppressed by
a policy of emancipation.
The rebellion originated chiefly with the non-slaveholder
residents of the South, springing from an antagonism of the race and hostility
to the idea of equality with the blacks involved in simple emancipation.
This idea was naturally of greater intensity in proportion to the number of
slaves about them, and its force in extinquishing Union feeling diminished as
we approach the high and mountain regions where the slaves are few. It was the negro
question and not the slavery question which made this
Note: For a hundred and fifty
years the educators have been pretending that the war was caused by a
slaveholders rebellion, or that it was caused by a number of abstract issues,
when in the real world it is plain to see that Mr. Blair is dead right. White
racism, European white racism, caused the Civil War. See how this fact emerges
in the speeches that follow Blair's.
If the rebellion has grown out of the abhorrence of the
non-slaveholders for emancipation and amalgamation, and their dread of
"negro equality," how will their discontent be cured by the very
measure the mere apprehension of which has driven them into rebellion?
No wise man wishes to increase the number of enemies to the
State within the hostile regions, or divide its friends outside. Mr. Lincoln
knew a decree of emancipation would certainly have this effect. Such an act, he
knew, would strengthen the rebels and weaken the sympathy of a large number of
working men of the North, who are not ready to see their brethren in the South
put on an equality basis with negroes.
Query: What changed Lincoln's mind, on September 20, 1862, when he published the Emancipation Proclamation?
To disarm the jealousy of race, which he knew
lay at the bottom of the rebellion, he recommended in his recent annual message
to Congress (December 1861) that homes should be provided in some
neighboring county for such of the blacks as should be made free by
events of the contest.
The President's policy is fully vindicated by the condition
of things. The North is a solid unit, and the South is divided on the question
of the Union. The gentlemen who advertise for emancipation think they can get
more efficient help from the negroes. If they could show that more negroes
would run away because of such a decree, they might have ground for debate. But
there is not the slightest reason for supposing this. All run away now who can
get away. We cannot reach the remainder by decree but only by force. These
considerations demonstrate that, in a military calculation, the President's
policy is correct.
The outbreak, as I have already said, sprang from the
convictions in the common mind in the disturbed region that the negroes were to
be liberated and put upon an equal footing with the whites. The mere idea of
this amalgamation was instrumental in producing the rebellion. There was no
actual emancipation. The idea of the separation of the races is a
complete antidote to that poison.
How will you execute a decree of emancipation which will set
free the slaves of the South upon the soil and among a people the whole body of
which is opposed to it, and who have taken up arms in rebellion against
the very idea of negro equality? It can only be done by the presence
of an immense army, and by waging war on the white people to protect the black
people. How long will the North endure such a war?
We can make emancipation acceptable to the whites only by a
policy of colonization. It is objected that we have no right to remove the
negroes. We can send them all the Mexico and South America where they will be
happy to live away from us. This is the only true solution to the negro
Mr. Crittenden, of Kentucky: Mr. Chairman, I
rise with reluctance to address this House on the question presented by this
bill. We are upon no summer sea, sir. We are in the midst of the storm of war,
our country convulsed from end to the other, and the issue for a long time
doubtful; no man could tell what was reserved for us in the destiny of nations.
The situation was novel to the Congress; without a parallel, perhaps, I might
say, in the history of the whole world. Where did rebellion ever assume such
gigantic proportions as it has assumed here? (Huh? The colonies rebelling
against England's King?)
But, sir, I do not mean to waste time on generalities. The
immediate question before us is the abolition of slavery in the District. This
measure has been repeatedly pressed over the years and has been rejected time
after time. Mr. Chairman, I have lived long enough to pay due attention to the
past. Why should we do it now?
We are not only engaged in this tremendous war, now, I
trust, coming to an end, but we are engaged in a war founded on
the apprehension of the people that it is the intention of Congress ultimately
to violate the constitutional rights of the different States in adopting or
rejecting slavery as they please. It is that apprehension that has
kindled this war. No one will dispute that.
The masses of the people were, I say, influenced to unite in this
rebellion by the apprehension of such an intention on the part of Congress.
They are now laboring under that apprehension. Under that apprehension they
have fought us with fury. This is the situation under which we are asked to
pass this bill. What will be the effect of it? Will it not strengthen the
mind-set of the people that it is the intent of Congress to emancipate the
You may produce much mischief by this bill. What is the
good? Slavery has been disappearing in the District for years. Your bill will
not, probably, have more than a thousand slaves to act upon. What, then, is the
deep anxiety to pass this bill? Obviously, the views of the gentlemen who press
this bill extend far beyond the slaves of the District. No, sir, it is the
commencement of a great system; it is the beginning, not the end.
You (the Republicans) try your power here. You execute it here. This thing
done, it opens the prospect of future action. You are practicing for the
greater combat. From this ground, occupied as a sort of camp, you intend to
make war on the institution in the States.
There are now on the table some twenty bills, all
contemplating the confiscation, or, in terms, the liberation of the slaves of
the people of the United States. This is one of them. The public mind cannot
help but make the connection. You first attack the weakest link. You carry your
point and move on to the next. The people of the United States are alarmed by
it. The weary rebels, who are now fainting under the defeats which our armies
have inflicted on them, will feel a new desperation. That is the nature of man.
And will it not be said, Mr. Chairman, that we are taking
advantage of the disturbed condition of the country, which has banished ten States
from this Congress?
There is another principle applicable to this bill we ought
not to pass by. There is the question whether there can be property in
man. If there can be, all that is valuable in that property, the
substance of that property, is in the labor of the slave, is
it not? You cannot have more of him. Whether you hire or you buy that is all
the value you can have in him. Those that deny there can be property in man
cannot deny that there can be property in the service of the man who is apprenticed
Now, whether the property be in man or in the service of
man, seems to me to be immaterial. It is not upon any technical question of law
that I desire to address upon this bill. Here is by law, constitutional law, a
right given to certain States, and in the District, to the services of persons
they hold as slaves. To take that from them is as little constitutional as to
take any property they own from them. Can you do it in the face of that
constitutional command that holds no man can be deprived his property without
due process of law and just compensation given? Where do we get the power to
confiscate? To liberate? It is not in the Constitution.
The answer you give is that war is supposed to give us
this power, which peace does not. The Constitution denies it in time of
peace. There is none here so bold to deny this. But the state of war is
supposed to give the power to Congress. Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that the
Constitution is an utter fallacy, or that it is the same today and tomorrow, in
peace and in war. It was made for peace and for war. It was made, as Mr.
Madison says, for duration, for all time. It has that power which prohibits it
in time of peace to emancipate slaves in a State. Can that power rise up out of
any state of things against the Constitution? The Constitution gives you a
right to make war, and the Constitution gives you impliedly all of the powers incidental
to it. The war power, as it may be called, gives you that. Does it
include a power hostile to the Constitution itself? That would have
been a strange harmony indeed. No, sir; all must harmonize with the
Note: Here, in a nutshell, is the
same dilemma of logic being played out in our own time, with the
Congress—first, in the control of one party, then another—passing laws under
the manufactured excuse "we are in a state of war," which puts
American citizens into military custody without indictment, without
confidential access to lawyers, without trial by a jury of their peers, without
appeal; laws which no sane, educated person can believe are authorized by the
language of the Constitution, when interpreted by judges operating in a time of
peace. We had better start paying attention to this business about "war on
terror."By coining such a phrase, the politicians can use it to trump the
Constitution at will?
There are some gentlemen, sir, who seem to me to think that
no war measure can be of sufficient energy that does not find its beginning and
source somewhere outside the limits of the Constitution. But the Constitution
is a tame, sober instrument that yields nothing to peace, or to war. It has no
sensations. It has no enthusiasms. It is a calm, steady, cold rule of the
Government at all times, through the night and through the day, through storms
and sunshine, through peace and war. That is what it is. (The rhetoric
Mr. Chairman, the Constitution is our strength. What has
filled the fields with six hundred thousand men in arms in opposition to this
rebellion? It is this Constitution, the bond of freemen, the bond of free
Government. Let that admonish us that our strength is in the Constitution. The
Constitution is the limit of your power, it is the landmark of the rights and
privileges of your constituents. Its limits, today, protects me here.
To say, as some men do, that power can be derived of a
general and unlimited character from the words, "to provide for the common
defense and general welfare" is to subvert the whole Constitution. The
Constitution is said to be a Constitution of specific and enumerated powers.
What would become of all the specifications and enumerations of power if here
is a general provision which gives an unlimited power? What becomes of all the
specified powers if these terms give you an unlimited power? This general
language was obviously intended only to show the object for which the
enumerated powers were given.
As I understand the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Bingham, he apparently
finds in the language "to provide for the common defense and general
welfare" an indefinite and unlimited and discretionary power. This, I say,
is subversive of the whole spirit of the Constitution. It opens a new source of
powers utterly indefinite. Suppose Congress should say that trial by jury
is very troublesome in time of war; men must be brought to speedier
trial and punishments; courts are too tedious in their processes; abolish them
and establish military tribunals or send out commissioners, as the Government
of Revolutionary France did, to execute their will, and to judge men on their
lives and property. According to the gentleman's argument, it seems to me that
this may be done as easily as emancipating slaves.
Note: For those of you that have
read this far, and are aware of what has been happening in the world, Mr.
Crittenden's hypothetical is the reality of our times.
Let me leave it with Madison who responded to the same
argument Mr. Bingham makes, this way: "some argue that the `the power to
provide for the common defense and general welfare' amounts to an unlimited commission
to exercise every power which may be alleged as necessary for the common
defense and general welfare. Had no other enumeration or definition of the
powers of Congress been found in the Constitution than the general expressions
just cited, those that argue so might have had some color for it; though it
would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing
an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the
freedom of the press, the trial by jury must be very singularly expressed by
the terms `to provide for the common defense.'"
We are now in a condition, or soon will be, to exhibit
generosity, to repair, to build up, to consolidate, not our Government, but our
Union. That is the great task which now devolves upon the country. (Mr.
Crittenden is getting way ahead of events here) Let us take care of the
Constitution and it will take care of us.
Mr. Bingham, of Ohio: Mr. Chairman, I had
hoped that this House would have gone direct to the question whether the bill
should pass, without further debate. This bill is very simple. The grant of
power in the Constitution which permits this bill is as comprehensive as words
can make it. "Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive
jurisdiction over the District." All, then, that remains to be
considered is, is the bill wise, is it just? Mr. Crittenden deems it an
inauspicious time for the Government to exercise this unquestioned power to
legislate for the liberation of the slaves wrongfully deprived of their liberty
in the national capital.
The question today before the House is, whether the
representatives of the people will faithfully execute their great trust and
declare that hereafter, in all the coming future, no American citizen nor
human being shall, within the limits of the District, be deprived of life,
liberty or property without due process of law.. That, sir, is the
great question of today.
At this point
Mr. Bingham introduces the concept of Africans being Citizens.
I have said that these persons who are the subject
matter of this bill were natural born citizens of the Republic. Shall
we hesitate, can we hesitate, within the admitted limits of our power, to do
justice to our own citizens by the enactment of this law? I regret that the
bill is worded to say, "all persons held to service by reason of
African descent." I would have preferred that the bill read, "all
American citizens held to service or labor within the District are hereby
discharged from such service and are free."
Mr. Bingham now
constructs the basis of his theory.
The Constitution leaves no room for doubt upon the subject.
The words "natural born citizen of the United States"
occur in it, and the other provision also occurs in it that, "Congress
shall have power to pass a uniform system of naturalization." To
naturalize a person is to admit him to citizenship. Who are the natural
born citizens but those born within the Republic? Those born within the
Republic, whether black or white, are citizens by birth—natural born
citizens. There is no such word as white in your
Constitution. Citizenship, therefore, does not depend upon complexion. All from
other lands who become naturalized are adopted citizens of the United States; all other persons born within the Republic, or parents owing allegiance to
the United States, are natural born citizens. (This whole paragraph is
argument in a circle detached from context.)
Does not the Constitution provide that the citizens of each State,
being ipso facto citizens of the United States, shall be entitled
to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several States? (The
answer is "Yes," but so what?) The Constitution does not
read, as I have heard it quoted upon this floor, that the citizens of each
State should be entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens of the
several States. (This is correct, but, again, so what?) No, sir,
the word used in the Constitution in this clause is not of, but in,
the several States. "All privileges and immunities of citizens of
the United States in the several States" is what is guaranteed by
the Constitution. (Here Bingham misstates the language.) There is
an ellipsis in the Constitution, as gentlemen doubtless know, which must be
supplied to express clearly its meaning. (The language actually reads, "The
Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of
Citizens in the several States.")
Note: What Bingham hopes to
achieve by conjuring up an "ellipsis" where none exists, escapes
intelligence completely. What Bingham pretends to be blind to, here, is that
what makes you a citizen of the United States, as the framers wrote the
Constitution, is the fact that you are a citizen of a State. As the Supreme
Court's opinion, in In Re Dred Scott (1556) makes plain, "African negro
slaves" were not recognized by anyone, in 1787, as "citizens" of
any State.) Therefore, given the plain language of Article IV, Section 2 of the
Constitution, Africans, in 1862, were not "citizens of the United States;" they were alien residents of the States in which they lived. Bingham
eventually becomes the "Madison" of the 14th Amendment, and, thus,
one of the modern framers of the Constitution.
Already, as we have seen, the
Republicans have drafted legislation that is sitting on the table waiting to be
debated, the subject of which is to override this Constitution barrier. As the
war plays itself out, the Republicans, now having grabbed control of the
majority of State Legislatures in the North, and having inserted their agents
as military governors in control of the conquered States, turn to the amendment
process to eradicate the constitutional barrier. They force down the throat of
the conquered States the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments which radically change
the original intent of the founders. From henceforth, unless further amended by
the activities of such political groups as the "tea party," the people
of the States have given up for all time, in the South solely by force of arms,
their right to be in exclusive control of their domestic policy. Now there is
but one domestic policy and it is national. This is what the Civil War achieved
for Americans. And that is what now has the country divided almost evenly
between "blue" and "red" States. Taking back power is a
great deal harder than resisting the original grab of it.
Mr. Wickliffe, of Kentucky: But what civil
political right does the State of Ohio give to the black man? Does it allow him
to vote? Does it allow him to intermarry with the whites?
Mr. Bingham: The gentleman would get a full
answer to his question if he would read the statutes of the State of Ohio.
Mr. Wickliffe: I have read them.
Mr. Bingham: Then the gentleman from Kentucky knows that the law of Ohio fully provides for the protection of the right of every
citizen, black or white, to life, liberty or property.
Mr. Wickliffe: My question was, What political
rights do the black men hold in the State of Ohio?
Mr. Bingham: The right to vote has nothing to
do with it. It is a trifling quibble, as if a man's right to breath has
anything to do with the right to vote. (at this point Bingham grabs God
for his anchor). . . That is not the lesson learned by the founders.
They learned their lesson from Him who went about doing good; who made the
distant land of his nativity forever sacred to mankind. By his great apostle
came to men and nations with a new message declaring the true God, that God who
made the world, and hath made one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the
face of the earth. What was your declaration at Philadelphia on the 4th of July 1776, that "All men are created equal." But a
reiteration of the great truth announced by the apostle of the Nazarene? What
but this is the sublime principle of your Constitution, the equality of
men before the law?
Note: Setting God aside for the
moment—the Framers clearly did not equate Black and White as equal in drafting
their constitution—Mr. Bingham, of Ohio, ignores the legal reality of his time.
But that's what men do when they have the power.
First, how did the Constitution
originally read, as to the question who exactly is a "Citizen of the United States?" What makes a person, under the constitution as framed, in 1787, a
"citizen of the United States?"
In Article I, we learn that to be
a representative or senator, a person must be a "citizen of the United States" and, at the time of his election, be an "inhabitant of that
State" in which he is elected. In Article II, we learn that the President
must be "a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution."In Article III, we
learn that the judicial Power extends to "controversies between an State
and citizens of another State, and between citizens of different States."
Then we come to Article IV, from which Mr. Bingham attempts to find words
supportive of his theory that the Constitution included, at the time of its
formation, Africans as "citizens of the United States."
Article IV, Section 2 reads:
"The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and
Immunities of Citizens in the several States." In the same
section of the Constitution we find this clause: "No person held to
service or labor in one State, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of
any law therein, be discharged from such service, but shall be delivered
up" to his owner. One would have to be blind to the meaning of language
not to grasp the fact that the framers did not intend African negro slaves to
be recognized as "citizens of the United States" eligible to be
representatives, senators, or President of the United States.
But men say the time is not propitious to ameliorate the
condition of men who, in flagrant violation of your Constitution, are deprived
of the right to enjoy the freedom of their own person; who are deprived of the
right to enjoy the product of their own toil; who are deprived of their right
to enjoy the comforts of their own homes, and to give their protection and care
to their own children. The time never was and never can be unpropitious for an
honest endeavor to do right. (i.e., to do the "just," the
"moral" thing, regardless of preexisting hard-nosed and cold
political contracts between peoples of States with distinctly different
Mr. Riddle, of Ohio: Mr. Chairman, a great
truth is weakened by what men call elucidation. A great truth is never so
strong than when it is left to stand on its simple assertion. The thing right
forever remains right, under all possible circumstances and conditions; in all
times, places and seasons. So, too, its great opposite, wrong, must forever be
wrong, and not right. No matter, though taken from its native hell and
enthroned a crowned king; though a universe bow to it, and cry "all
hail!" Though Constitutions be written to sustain it; though laws be
enacted in its name, and ermined judges wrench the maxims of law to its
Note: Of course, Mr. Riddle is
correct in his philosophy, but then he must be honest and admit that, in
overthrowing the plain political compact the founders made with themselves, he
is acting the revolutionary, he is intent on upending the law as it is written
and replacing it with a new law, using the wand of "justice"—backed
by physical force— to accomplish it. If the truth be told, then, it is plain to
see that the Confederates were indeed "rebels," and Lincoln and his parry,
It is idle to establish to me the inferiority of that sinless race—I
see that they are men; useless, by curious physiological and ethnological
disquisition, to affirm a difference between the African and Caucasian
tribes—for I know that God created both. (God again) It is, to
me, blasphemy to attempt to show that the Creator intended this race for
slaves, for the very elements of our common nature, which are the common basis
upon which God planted the races, gives that dogma the lie. Slavery is a
hideous anachronism, coming to us out of the barbarism and the dead night of
the past, with no good in it and must be consumed by the heat of our Christian
Note: Who in our enlightened age
argues with this? But Mr. Riddle, of course, Is not being fair to history or to
his times, is he? The plain fact, as this congressional record proves, was that
the white men of the North, as one whole, did not want to live with Africans, whether
they were free or not free. At the same time this debate over slavery in the
District is going on, there are bills waiting to be debated which provide white
men with homesteads in the West, and to build railroads that will carry their
families into the Great Plains and beyond, to occupy the homesteads. Had the
people of the North been as pure in motive as Mr. Riddle claims for himself,
they would have offered the Africans, who, as Mr. Bingham says, are
"citizens of the United States" just like them, a place at the table
where these great gifts are being handed out. And they would be striking down
their own domestic policy which prohibits the presence of Africans in their
States, and they would be offering to take some fair percentage of the Africans
off the Slave States' hands, helping to disperse the population equally
throughout the United States, so that everyone shares in the obvious burdens
freedom entails. Who believes the Civil War would have erupted upon Lincoln's election, had the North done these things?
I may here say a word upon this matter of the
responsibility of the free States for the existence of slavery. Whatever may be
said or claimed as their responsibility for it in the States, they are
responsible for it here in the District. Generations of this race have been
born and have groaned and died in shackles under the shadow of this dome. Think
of it. Think of it. And yet learned and grave men stand here to argue that we
should still trudge and stagger on under this fearful load. For one I will not,
nor shall my people.
To free fifteen hundred slaves is but to add so many to the
free colored population of the country—a matter of itself of no moment. But to
emancipate four millions is to change the status of the race, and our relations
to it; and one may well feel the profoundest anxiety for the
result. I would nonetheless fearlessly commit the country to its consequences.
This war, without compromise or concession, will go forward till its end is
accomplished. Every day of its continuance, every delay, every dragging moment,
makes this end the more inevitable. Every step on slave soil, every battle
fought, no matter what temporary result, every musket fired, every sword
brandished, every soldier that suffers, and every heart that mourns, but make
this result the more absolute.
Note: So there it is: the object
of the war is to eradicate slavery in the land and leave the freed Africans as
Citizens of the United States, bottled up in the South.
Mr. Fessenden, of Maine: I do not rise to
discuss the merits of this bill. The hour of discussion has passed. The hour in
which to put it upon the seal of the nation has come. I trust it is, indeed,
the harbinger of that brighter, brightest day at hand when slavery shall be
abolished wherever it exists in the land. This will be the one finality that
will give us a righteous and lasting peace.
To be envied, indeed, would be the transit of the man who
had held the office of President of the United States who could bear in his
hand to the throne of God the broken fetters of the millions of
slaves of this nation as evidence of the welcome obedience to the golden rule.
Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania: I move that the
committee rise for the purpose of closing debate.
The motion was agreed to. So the committee rose; and the
Speaker having resumed the chair, Mr. Dawes reported that the Committee of the
Whole on the State of the Union had, according to order, had under
consideration bill (S.No. 108) for the relief of certain persons held to
service and had come to no resolution thereon.
Mr. Stevens: I move that all debate on the
bill shall cease in one minute after the Committee shall resume consideration
Mr. Richardson: I move to amend the
motion so as to allow one hour more for debate.
The yeas and nays were ordered. The question was taken; and
it was decided in the negative—yeas 56, nays 73. So the amendment was not
agreed to. The question recurred upon Mr. Steven's motion to close debate in
one minute. The motion was agreed to.
Mr. Stevens moved that the rules be suspended, and that the
House resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole. The motion was agreed to.
So the rules were suspended and the House resumed the
consideration of S. No. 108.
Mr. Cradlebaugh, of Nevada: Mr. Chairman, I
regret very much that the House has concluded to close debate in one minute
after I have gained the floor for the first time since I held a seat here. My
regret grows out of the fact that the debate is not complete. I cannot see why—
(Here the hammer fell, amidst much laughter, the one minute
allowed for debate having expired.)
So the main question was ordered to be put. The yeas and
nays were ordered.
The question was taken; and it was decided in the
affirmative—yeas 92, nays 38.
So the bill was passed.
In The Senate of the United States—Confiscation of Property
April 7, 1862
The Senate resumed the consideration of the bill (S.No. 151,
to confiscate the property and free the slaves of rebels.
Mr. Trumbull: Those on the other side of the
aisle claim that the bill is not necessary to accomplish the purpose of
punishing rebels. I will show that this view is wholly untenable and at war
with both the spirit and letter of the Constitution. I deny that the
Constitution puts the force of the nation into the President's hands,
`investing him with the war-making power' which he may direct and control as he
pleases, `and only restrained in so far by Congress in that he must depend on
it to foot his bills. There is no warrant in the Constitution for the
assumption of such powers by the Executive. So far from it, the war-making
power is, by the Constitution, expressly vested in another department of
government, and, the Supreme Court has decided that the power to confiscate
enemy property does not reside in the Executive but in Congress, and nowhere
else. There is not a syllable in the Constitution conferring on the President
war powers. The Constitution simply makes him Commander-in-Chief of the Army
and Navy when called into being, but he has no power to raise the one or
provide for the other. As Commander-in-Chief when an army is raised, in the
absence of any rules adopted by Congress for its government, he may have the
right to control it, according to his discretion, but not violating the
established rules of civilized warfare, but he would not have the right to
confiscate enemy property because that is a power which can only be exercised
And yet, strange as it may seem, these advocates of prerogative, who
claim war powers for the President higher and above and beyond the Constitution
are alarmed beyond measure at the bare proposal to enact a law whereby rebel
property may be appropriated to the expenses of the war.
What is the answer to all this? How is it, in the face of
the Fifth Amendment, that Congress may provide for taking the lives and
property of rebels without `due process of law?' The answer is to be found in
the grants of power in other parts of the Constitution, which declare that
Congress shall have power to `declare war, make rules regarding captures, and
raise and support armies.' This principle was settled by the Supreme Court.
But it is said that passage of this bill would be
inexpedient because it would make the rebels desperate, and unite the South as
one man against the Union. How so, let me ask? It does not propose to touch the
property of any loyal citizen and why, therefore, should it drive him from the Union?
April 10, 1862
Mr. Henderson: If the Union can be restored in
no way except through the instrumentality of arms, and a peace must be
conquered at the point of a bayonet, confiscation acts will add nothing to the
complete and perfect ruin of the southern people. Whether the southern people
in rebellion be regarded as insurgents, rebels, belligerents, or public
enemies, according to the technical signification of those terms, I shall not
undertake to decide. I deem it merely my duty to examine the rules by which we
must be governed as an enlightened nation, existing under a written
Constitution, in our conduct towards them.
If they are public enemies, they are entitled to the rules
of international law. We cannot put to death those we hold as prisoners of war;
we cannot enslave them; we cannot sack their defenseless cities; nor wantonly
lay waste to their country; we cannot seize their lands and colonize them with
a new people, depriving the present inhabitants of possession, when peace shall
have returned; we cannot war upon women and children, nor turn them over to the
mercy of the soldiers. I do not mean to say these thing cannot be physically
done, for possibly the power of government might accomplish them all.
Note: In one form or another all
these things were in fact done under the banner of the Republican party in
control of the Federal Government; but that is the nature of war. There is no
such thing in the real world as "civilized" warfare.
It cannot escape observation that the whole machinery of
this bill carefully excludes any judicial condemnation of the property that may
be seized in the rebel States, or as the bill terms it, `in States or districts
now in a state of insurrection or rebellion.' I find the proposition to be
simply this: a legislative edict is fulminated against a class of persons,
stripping them of all their property, which edict would be a `bill of
attainder' and therefore unconstitutional, except for the existence of
hostilities which is supposed to invest the nation with the extraordinary
powers of international law, to which we in common with other civilized nations
Thus it becomes necessary to inquire what are those rights
conferred upon us by the law of nations. Mr. Wheaton, in his Elements of
International Law, says that,
"The taking of private property in
the storming of cities is now recognized as booty which is not allowed under
the laws of war; contributions can be levied upon territory occupied by a
hostile army in lieu of a general confiscation of the property belonging to the
inhabitants, and that the object of wars by land being conquest or the
acquisition of territory, the regard of the victor for those who are to be his
subjects, naturally restrains him from confiscating their property
Private property on land is exempt from
confiscation, with the exception of such as may become booty in special cases,
when taken from enemies in the field, for example, or in besieged towns, and of
military contributions levied upon the inhabitants of a hostile territory. But
since the time of the Romans, conquest has been followed by no general or
partial transmutation of landed property."
Chancellor Kent, in discussing the rights of belligerent
"In the ancient past an enemy was
regarded as a criminal and an outlaw, who had forfeited all his rights, and whose
life, liberty, and property lay at the mercy of the conqueror. But these barbarous
rights of war have been questioned and checked in the progress of
Such, then, Mr. President, I find to be the limitations upon
our (extraconstitutional) power to seize and take property from
citizens of the seceded States, if we elect to regard them as
belligerents or public enemies.
I speak now of the right of seizure for purposes of
confiscation, and not of the proceedings necessary to its condemnation after
seizure. By the law of nations, no department of the Government can be authorized
to seize for confiscation or to confiscate the real estate of the
private citizen, which this bill proposes to do. By that law, also, the right
of seizing slaves has been well nigh, if not entirely, abandoned, with the
single exception of such property left without our own territory by a
By this bill, it is proposed to issue a legislative decree
of confiscation against a class of people, depriving them of the right of
ownership in all their property, and afterwards to send among them agents to
execute that decree by gathering up the booty and spreading desolation and
misery, I fear, throughout their land.
I assume, Mr. President, that the authorities cited on the
subject make plan that the seizure contemplated by this bill is in direct
contravention of the plain principles of international law.
There must be some limit to the powers of our Government,
even in the midst of hostilities, when zeal and anger too often disregard the
means used in the accomplishment of a desired end. Either the Constitution in
its plain language, or that system of reason adopted by the general consent of
civilized nations must be the limit of congressional power.
In my judgment, the Constitution is the limit. I believe not
only that all can be done that is necessary to crush out the rebellion in
strict accordance with that instrument, but I honestly believe that the Union cannot be maintained except by obedience to its provisions. But suppose, for the sake
of argument, it be admitted that the existence of a state of hostilities gives
some new virtue to the Constitution, which, however dormant in peace, becomes
developed in war, and authorizes Congress to do whatever may tend to its
successful prosecution, and that the seizure of the enemy's property is an efficient
means toward the accomplishment of this end, yet the difficulties in the way of
executing other provisions of the bill are not diminished.
It cannot be seriously argued that in the exercise of implied
powers, or even to secure the blessings indicated in the preamble of the
Constitution, Congress may, in its discretion, usurp powers that are
specifically denied in the instrument itself.
For example, ex post facto laws should not be
passed as an incident to the power `to define and punish felonies on the high
seas,' nor could a `tax be laid on articles exported from a state' under the
general power to `lay and collect taxes.' This bill proposes not only to seize
the property of the individual, but it assumes of its own force to pass the title
from the citizen to the Government.
Let it be granted that when Congress shall have `declared
war' such acts may be passed as `shall be necessary for carrying into
execution' the said powers, yet it cannot well be urged that this positive
prohibition of the Constitution may be disregarded, which, in peace as well as
in war, has been found to be one of the most important safeguards to human
liberty, which declares, `nor shall any person be deprived of life,
liberty or property without due process of law.' The party to be
affected is entitled to his day in court, has a right to know the allegations
against him and present his defense; to hear his accusers and to have process
to show the falsehood of charges against him, and to have his rights adjudged
by an impartial tribunal, separate and distinct from the executive or
legislative departments of the Government.
Note: Here in a nutshell is what
we, in this generation, are allowing our Government to do wrong, in violation
of the plain requirements of the Constitution. We are now living, whether we
recognize it or not, in a state of martial law where American citizens are
taken hold of by the military, kept in a military prison, brought before a
classic star chamber, without any of the rights enumerated by Senator Henderson,
of Missouri, 150 years ago, and where sentence is pronounced without any real
opportunity to appeal.
When by the act of Congress a state of war exists, the
President, it is said, is authorized to conduct the war without the control of
Congress. In other words, this theory assumes that Congress, having sanctioned
the existence of war, has discharged its full powers, so far as concerns its
future conduct; that this is left to the executive department; that the
President, in his own discretion, may carry it on in such manner as may promise
the most speedy and certain success, provided he does not violate those
well-settled principles of human reason and morality by which all civilized
nations are now governed in the management of hostilities; that, as an incident
of war, he made cause seizures to be made on land; but the captured property
must be turned over to what is supposed to be an honest and impartial
judiciary. But we are told, by Mr. Trumbull, that the military may seize the
property and may proceed, itself, to condemn the property and transfer its
title to whom it may please.
If the Senator from Illinois is disposed to regard the
rebels in the light of alien enemies, personally outside the jurisdiction of
the United States, then under the law of nations the enemy's property may be
seized but the issue of its title (i.e., the right to possess it) must be
resolved in an impartial court of law. But to make this admission—the rebel is
an alien enemy—is to concede that the Union is dissolved; to refuse
the admission is to destroy the authority of the case.
But, Mr. President, if we elect, on the other hand, to treat
the insurgents as rebels against the authority of a good government, we are
bound to extend to them the privileges and safeguards which the Constitution
has erected for every American citizen. If we all agree that the seceding
States are yet States of the Union, then it must be admitted that the citizens
of those States are citizens of the United States. Unless this is true, the war
should be prosecuted no further. If Georgia and Louisiana are not members of
the Union, it must be because ordinances of secession have destroyed that
connection. If these ordinances be clothed with such power, the power
must have come from the Constitution, and then what right have we to interfere
with their discretion?
Note: The power comes from the fact
that the people of a State, under the political theory of the Constitution as
the framers designed it, retained their sovereignty when, in convention assembled,
they ratified the Constitution. This is because what made them "citizens
of the United States," under the Constitution, was simply the fact that
they were citizens of a State in the Union; their primary allegiance therefore
was to their native state, not the Federal Government. And, thus, as a
sovereign people they had the natural right, if not the
"constitutional," as much as did the framers, to secede from a
political union that, to their will, had become oppressive and threatened to
destroy their lives, liberty, and happiness. Of course, once they deemed
themselves out of the Union, they exposed themselves, as all alien nations do,
to the risk the Union would conquer them by force of arms.
No, sir, the ordinances are void and of no effect. They gave
no new rights to the States seceding, nor to the citizens thereof; and being
absolutely void, they of themselves took away from the citizen no
constitutional right to which he previously was entitled. It is only when the
citizen, upon whom and not upon the State our Government operates, attempts by
force and violence to uphold this void act of secession; it is that that
subjects him to the punishment of treason.
Note: The problem for Senator
Henderson, as well as the others who argue that the secession ordinances were
void, is that the language of the Constitution, in its definition of what
"treason" is, makes plain "treason" is the making of war
against "them"—that is, against the States collectively, the
"United States." The framers did not design the Constitution to mean
the "Union" to be synonymous with the "Federal Government."
A citizen of Virginia, owing allegiance to it, can hardly be a traitor to the
"Union" of which Virginia, by virtue of the sovereign act of its
people, is not any longer a part.
There is another express
provision of the Constitution that is clearly relevant here; it reads, in
pertinent part: "Art. I, Section 9, No State shall engage in war, unless
actually invaded." The Lincoln Government clearly "invaded" Virginia when it sent its army across the Potomac, seized possession of General Lee's home
at Arlington, and moved upon Virginia's army standing on the defensive at Bull Run.
I am fully aware of the uncontrollable prejudices which this
war has excited against the institution of slavery. The agitation has been
going on until the two sections have become ignorant of the true character of
each other. Northern revolutionaries seized upon the sympathies excited by it
to excite hostile convulsions, while many in the other half of the Union were using it as a pretext to cover up personal schemes of ambition. How strange and
inconsistent, too, the positions taken. The northern abolitionist taught the
equality of the races, and demanded universal emancipation, without attempting
to elevate the negro in his own State, and even rejecting all association with
him where the practical test of sincerity is applied. In one breath he
denounces the Constitution as a `covenant with hell' because it gives sanction
to slavery, in the next he blesses it because it gives `liberty' to every human
being. For near twenty years he labors for the dissolution of the Union. Suddenly it comes; his hopes are realized and straightaway he invokes the horrors of
war to prevent, If possible, the consummation of his own wishes.
It may be that each section is now entertaining views at war
with its own best interests. It is possible that the South in upholding slavery
is hugging to its bosom a serpent that stings and poisons its vitality. Is not
this the belief of every Republican senator in this body? And now, permit me to
suggest that the sudden immigration into the Northern states of four million
uneducated blacks, as wretched and miserable as their present owners, may prove
neither beneficial nor acceptable to your people.
But the war is upon us. The pretext is slavery. It is
therefore argued that slavery having produced the war, must be exterminated in
order to end it. It seems to me with equal fairness to say that men have seized
upon it as an effectual means of arraying sectional parties to gratify personal
We have proclaimed to the seceded States, the words our
President uttered on the day of his inauguration: "I have no purpose
to interfere with slavery in the States." After the ordinances of
secession were proclaimed, Secretary of State Seward announced: "The
citizens of these States remain our kindred and countrymen." And,
again, after the fall of Sumter, Seward said, "the rights of the
States will be guarded." After the bloody field of Manassas, we were further encouraged by new guarantees of faith, proclaimed in
congressional resolutions that "This war is not waged for the
purpose of overthrowing slavery."
I have no objection to taking the property of rebels, but
let it be according to the Constitution which means guilt must be established
under the forms of judicial investigation. I crave this not for the sake of the
traitor, but for our own sake and in behalf of constitutional liberty. If we
cling to the Constitution, whatever is right will yet be accomplished. If we
depart from it no man can tell the excesses of the future. In the midst of
storms, the mariner's only trust is in his compass. In the midst of revolution,
our only trust is in the Constitution.
April 9, 1862
Great Victory in the West
I ask permission to read a telegraphic dispatch received this
morning from the theater of operations of our army in Tennessee:
The bloodiest battle of modern times
just closed, resulting in complete rout of the enemy, who attacked us on Sunday
morning. Battle lasted until Monday, 4:30 p.m. when the enemy commenced their
retreat, and are still flying towards Corinth, pursued by large force of our
cavalry. Slaughter on both sides immense. Lost in killed, wounded, missing
twenty thousand. The fight was brought on by the 25th Missouri Regiment
contacting the advance of the enemy. Rebels immediately advanced upon General
Prentiss. General Hurlbut's division was thrown forward to support Prentiss,
when a desperate conflict ensued. At five o'clock the enemy had driven back our
left wing almost to the river, fighting their way forward with desperate
courage to drive us into the river, at the same time heavily attacking our
right. The gunboats Lexington and Tyler, laying in the river, kept raining shells on the rebels to ward them off.
Night fell and during its hours Wallace's division arrived from Crump's Landing
and Nelson's division, of Buell's army, crossed the river and took position on
our right. The battle began again at dawn and it raged, back and forth, back
and forth, all day, when, finally, at sundown came, the rebels left the field.
Confiscation of Property Again
Mr. Willey, of "Virginia:" Allow me
to say to the distinguished senator from Illinois, what I think the policy and
public voice of his own State have sufficiently indicated, that the two races,
the white race and the black race, in this country, can never live together in
harmony to the advantage of either race, where, in point of numbers, the races
stand anything nearly equal. The black man, the negro, cannot live and prosper
in the presence of the white man. He is an inferior. He must be an inferior. If
the numbers of the two races in a section are near equal, there will not be
peace and security. The negro, whatever we may say about the rights of man,
must be forever an inferior race. He never can be socially equal and, after
all, that is the distinguishing characteristic of equality.
I have introduced an amendment to this bill, which calls for the
President to make provision for the transportation of all freed negroes to some
foreign country. I did not introduce the amendment to embarrass the Senator
from Illinois at all, but to show that this bill is impossible to execute,
without leaving the Africans here.
I will take Virginia by way of example. We have nearly sixty
thousand free negroes in the State of Virginia. It is not unreasonable to think
that the passage of this bill will throw twice that number of Africans upon our
community. Sir, the honorable Senator from Ohio, Mr. Sherman (unlike Mr.
Bingham and Riddle in the House) the other day spoke of the fact that he was
not willing to receive into his State any more free negroes than exist there;
and yet senators are willing to throw broadcast upon Virginia, one hundred thousand
of this useless, inferior class of population. Sir, is this just? Is this fair?
(ah! "justice" is in the eye of the beholder.)
Now, sir, let us look for a moment into the practical
operation of this bill. It will drive Virginia into reenslaving those negroes
in the State already free as well as those this bill makes free. That will be
the policy in Kentucky, in Maryland, in Delaware.
We made a resolution the other day, offering to help States
in the process of gradual emancipation. The operation of this bill will be to
throw upon the community all at once a great mass of ignorant, servile,
useless, dangerous, disorganizing population. While they state in the abstract
that it will be the duty of the Government to help in the removing of this
population to another country, they do not now provide the means.
Here you are surrounding us by an impassable barrier of
constitutional interdictions against the diffusion of this population,
while at the same time you want to manumit our slaves and throw them broadcast
upon our community. Sir, the result will be that we will necessarily have to
Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire: Mr. President, I
have not said a word about this bill, but I declare I cannot sit still and hear
such sentiment as Mr. Willey gives. He states that Virginia and the other border States will reenslave any negroes made free by our bills as well as the colored
population now free. I say that when they try it they set themselves against
the moral sentiment of the country and the world. I laugh to scorn all
attempts and all threats of enslaving this people. I tell you it cannot be
Sir, this is a great problem. We are working out today some
of the greatest problems that have ever been wrought in the world, and this
rebellion is not the greatest. It is the ultimate result that is to grow out of
this juxtaposition of these two races here together; and I tell you, sir,
that here together they have got to work out this destiny.
The idea of removing the whole colored population from this
country is one of the most absurd ideas that ever entered the mind of anyone.
Let the rebellion be over, and then take your whole national Navy, and let them
do nothing else, and they cannot carry off the annual increase of this black
race. (Cries from the gallery of "Oh No!") If any
gentleman will take the trouble to look at the figures, he will find that what
I say is true. Do Senators know how many are born daily? If they will look at
the census and at the actual figures they will be astonished.
Mr. Cowan: What is the annual increase?
Mr. Trumbull: One hundred thousand a year, and
more than just that.
Mr. Hale: Well, sir, it will do just as well
for gentlemen to say I am wrong as not; the thing will never be tried. (Laughter
in the gallery) Any gentleman that will take the tonnage of our
national vessels and calculate the number of souls each would carry to Liberia,
the number of voyages each vessel could make, and the time that would be
necessary, and compute it all out, will find that what I say is no figure of
speech, but literally true, that the whole Navy of the United States could not
carry off the annual increase, much less the principal. No, sir; this is
a problem that we have got to solve.
I remember asking Mr. Barnwell, of South Carolina, some time
ago the question: "Have you any theory by which the removal of the
Africans from this country might be done?" He waited a moment or two, and
told me it was a subject upon which he had reflected much; but he was ready to
admit that he did not see any solution of the problem; that he was not wise
enough to see an answer. He said, "We take the thing as it exists;
we do not educate these people, because we see no better future for them, and
no better position than that which they now occupy; we confine ourselves to the
duties of the day."
Note: How grossly sad is this:
"We do not educate these people because we see no better future for
them" Why not? Because we as white people cannot envision a day when we
might live in social equality with Africans. The slow, harsh reversal of this
began with the outcome of the American Civil War. Name a nation in the world
today that has assimilated into what was essentially a completely white
society, on equal terms, millions and millions of Africans? Of Asians? Of
Hispanics? Making up half, if not more, of the country's current, and
continuing to expand, population.
Well, sir, it would be good if we confined ourselves now to
the duties of the day. We need not be concerned with the future. My friend from
Virginia says that the honorable Senator from Kentucky, Mr. Davis, says that
reenslavement will happen.
Mr. Davis: I said that.
Mr. Hale: You are mistaken. At the time of the
Romans, the empire consisted of one hundred and twenty millions, half of whom
were slaves. It was proposed in the councils of the empire that every slave
should wear a peculiar dress, so that he might be known by his costume. The
proposition was met with the suggestion that this would be unsafe, because if
it were so the slaves would know each and thus know their strength in numbers.
Well, sir, here in this case God has done it for you. It doesn't take much
thought to realize the result that will follow from reenslavement.
The great law of nature will go on. The Africans are
increasing faster than the whites. They are here and despite all your puny
efforts they will remain here. They will increase.
Mr. Willey: I certainly had no expectation of
provoking this discussion. The nominal boon of freedom to the negro in this country
is a mockery and delusion. He will forever be in a condition worse in fact than
he would be in sustaining his relation of slave to master.
If it is right to manumit slaves, if they are to remain in
this country, if the shackles of the slaves are to be broken off and he is to
be set free, if the great doctrine of human rights and human freedom is so
sacred that the slave ought to enjoy this high boon, I beg the Senator not to
prohibit my slave, when I set him free, from finding a refuge in the rich soil of
New Hampshire. Let the Senator not come here to me talking about the abstract
right of freedom and the duty of setting slaves free, while his idea of
the extent of freedom of the slave is to confine him to the manor where he was
born. He may be free while he remains there; but he is to have no
freedom, no right to go into Illinois or into Indiana, or Ohio, or New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. That is what I complain of.
Note: Here is the very essence of
the cause of the American Civil War. How could Mr. Bingham's "Citizen of
the United States" be barred from taking up residence in Illinois, the
home of Lincoln? Because the Constitution does not grant the Federal Government
the power to interfere with the domestic policy of the States, at least as the
original framers wrote it.
Mr. Trumbull: I cannot understand the Senator
from Virginia. I do not know how it is that a Senator, who lives in a State
where his neighbors have been hunted down, driven from their homes, murdered in
the night, jumps to his feet the moment a proposition is made to weaken the
traitors and denounces it, attempting to create the false impression in the
country that we are attempting to increase the number of negroes in Virginia.
Why, sir, the bill proposes, without any amendment of his, to colonize every
negro made free by it who is willing to go; and yet he gets up here with a
tirade against the State of Illinois because we do not want to receive free
negroes from Virginia. And he is willing to allow these rebels to use these
negroes in support of their wicked rebellion. Does he want to protect these
traitors? That he will fight here in the Senate to strengthen their hand? Why,
sir, hundreds and thousands of our loyal soldiers are lying upon the
battlefield at Pittsburg, slain by those traitors supported by their slaves and
he is here fighting for them. Why is this? I cannot understand it.
He wants to know why we will not take them. We do not want
them. What has the colonization of the free negroes to do with a bill to
cripple rebellion? Anything? Sir, I have been astounded at the course of the
Virginia Senator. I am surprised that he should fight against every proposition
that is started here to crush out rebellion at once. Because we will not take
your negroes, therefore the rebels shall be permitted to hold their negroes to
Note: After a tirade such as
this, and in the atmosphere of war, a senator may well feel it is best to shut
up, or his head might suddenly find itself on the block. And that is
essentially what Mr. Willey understood.
Mr. Willey: Mr. President, the Senator must
certainly see that I am not opposing this bill at all. The ruin of the
rebellion itself is widespread enough, without letting it result through
legislation in Congress here in imposing upon us not a generation of rebels,
but a generation of free negroes, which will be, I had almost said, worse than
the rebels after the war is over.
The President: The Senator from Illinois calls for the yeas and nays on the motion to proceed to the consideration of
executive business. The yeas and nays were ordered and the result
announced—yeas 22, nays 13. So the motion was agreed to. After nearly two hours
spent in executive session, the doors were reopened, and the Senate adjourned.
April 11, 1862
Mr. Willey: Sir, I am grieved at the
intimations of Senators that my colleague and myself were here by a kind of
charity (This must have be said in executive session) I admit the
delicate relations which I sustain to the Senate. (How is it he is
holding a Senate seat for Virginia?) I know how we came here. But, sir,
I was admitted on this floor and took my oath as a Senator, and I demand, and
will have, the rights of a Senator and I claim the rights of a Senator of the United States. (To speak his mind without being threatened with the scream of
treason.) I have been pained at intimations thrown against my
colleague and myself that because we came here from a slave State we come here
as a kind of semi-barbarians. I scorn to ventilate the record of the North or
of the New England States. If I had the inclination, how readily I could
indulge it. I do not wish to go get the blue laws and read that it is a penal
offense to kiss your wife on Sunday, or to the other extreme to show the
free-loveism that thrives in there, and put a barbarous jargon of sentiments in
Daniel Webster's mouth. An equal charity, I would think, should induce
Senators, even when referring to old Virginia, to see if there might be
something nice to say. Why are those men of Illinois, to whom the Senator alluded
to yesterday as lying on the plains around Pittsburg Landing—why are they
there? In the defense of the Constitution, written by Virginians.
On motion of Mr. Sumner the Senate went into executive
The Top Ten
States, in Population and Property Value, as of 1860
State Population Value
New York 3,880,000 $1,830,000,000
Georgia 1,057,000 645,000,000
Note: Two of ten are active
members of the Confederacy in April 1862.
April 16, 1862
Emancipation in the District
The President by unanimous consent laid before the Senate
the following message from the President of the United States:
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and
The act entitled "An act for the
release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia"
has this day been approved and signed.
I have never doubted the constitutional
authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this District, and I have ever
desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some
satisfactory way. Hence there has never been in my mind any question upon the
subject, except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the
April 16, 1862
Note: When Lincoln was a member
of the House of Representatives, in 1848, he introduced a bill to emancipate
the slaves residing in the District.
April 22, 1862
Mr. Davis, of Kentucky: Mr. President, I want
the spirit of secession exterminated. That spirit is yet subdued. It exists in
my own State, and although it is still and quiet, it has as much latent energy
and as much disposition to work mischief as it has had since it made its
appearance. The position of my State in this great contest heretofore has not been
wholly satisfactory to me, and it is not now. I would have preferred my native
State had planted herself immediately upon the side of the Union when this
rebellion broke out. From the force of circumstance, the Union men of my State,
could not perform the task and they cannot now put the State completely, fully,
and squarely on the plain platform of duty.
I think there are now impending two conflicts in arms, the
one at Yorktown, and the other on the Tennessee River, upon which hang very
largely the continuance of this war. I have regretted that the Republicans have
seen fit to in calling exclusive party caucuses and holding their councils in
secretly and determining upon the measures by which this war was to be waged
and brought to a close.
The white population of the disloyal States amounts to
5,450,831. The slaves amount to about 3,500,000. The result of this bill you
have created and which is before is, is to take from the white people the slave
population, an amount of property worth five thousand millions of dollars. Now,
sir, is that not as gigantic a thing as the war itself? Where does Congress get
the power to do this? I say it must be from the Constitution. I assume that the
law of nations, even if it was adopted by express language in the Constitution,
or by necessary implication, confers upon Congress no power whatever to pass
this bill. And even if the law of nations were to be incorporated into the
Constitution, any provision in it that was contrary to express prohibitions in
the document would have to be discarded.
The Constitution grants the Government the power of self-defense. The
power of self-defense must be made by the means and in the mode prescribed by
the Constitution. The power of Congress to carry on this war is restricted to the
suppression of the insurrection and when it ends the power ends. The
Constitution expressly states the definition of treason and it authorizes
Congress to declare the punishment for treason, "but," it
reads, "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood or
forfeiture except during the life of the person attained." Under
this power, then, the offender, if proven to be a traitor in a court of law,
may lose his life as well as his property. Both are the punishment of the
offender, and not of the offense or property forfeited. The idea of punishment
being attached to the offense or the offender's property is simply absurd and
But let me turn to the most practical problem connected with
it all: the idea of this vast amount of people becoming free. Where are they to
Mr. President, what do these liberal gentlemen propose to
do, and how do they talk in relation to slavery and the negroes after they
shall have been emancipated? An honorable Senator from Delaware the other day
proposed that the free States should take all the slaves they propose to free,
and immediately the whole hive was in a buzz, and every man rose up in
indignant protest against any such atrocious measure. Mr. Hale, of New Hampshire, indulged himself in the expression of vehement indignation because of some
remarks I made. I was rebuked by Mr. Wilson, of Massachusetts, because of my
position and he charged me with making threats. I intended to state them as
But, sir, I will now present a few facts to the honorable
Senator from New Hampshire which I have in a table before me. California has 3,816 free negroes. How many would she have to take if all the negroes
were liberated and if they were then distributed equally among the States?
Her ratio would be 56,003. She is not prepared, I reckon, for such an
importation of free negroes. Connecticut, the land of steady habits, what would
be her condition? She has now 8,542 free negroes, and she would have to take
65,733. Illinois now has 7,069. You found that both Senators from Illinois were a little tender-footed on the subject; and they might be, for her portion
would be 244,536 free negroes. Next I come to Indiana; and what would be her
portion? She has a goodly number now, comparatively. She has 10,869, and her
proportion would be 192,991, an increase making nearly 200,000. The young and
growing State of Iowa, that has become an empire in the Northwest, and,
according to my information, has more of fertile and productive land than any
State in the Union, how many of these slaves would she have to take? She now
has 1,023 free negroes. She would have to take 96,451. Kansas has 623. She
would have to take 15,301. I wish Kansas had every one of them. (Laughter)
Maine is pretty strong upon the bit on this slavery question. My friend, Mr.
Morrill is not in his seat. Maine has 1,195 free negroes. She would have to
take 89,673. Massachusetts has 9,454. She would have to take 175,866. I wish
she had her full quota. (Laughter); and I believe that, instead
of sending them all to Kansas, I would send at least half to Massachusetts, and
if the Kansas Senators protested, I would sent the whole of them to
Massachusetts. Michigan has now 6,823. She would have to take 121,501.
Mr. Howard, of Michigan: Canada is very near us, and affords a fine market for "wool."
Mr. Davis: And I believe they starve and
freeze there in the long winters. I believe they form them into regiments and
ship them to the West Indies occasionally. Here is Minnesota one of the
youngest sisters. She has only 299 free negroes now. She would have to take
24,754. New Hampshire has 450. She has not her pro rata of the
present free negroes. She would have to take 46,581; and I wish from the bottom
of my heart that she had the whole of them this day. New Jersey is very liberal,
more so than any of the States except Maryland, in proportion to population.
She has 24,947 now; and she would have to add to her numbers until they reached
96,007. Then there is New York, the Empire State. What is her number? She has
now 49,005. How many would she have to take? Upwards of 500,000 more than she
has—557,000.Where are the Senators from New York that we cannot make a compact
with them just to lead that number of free negroes into the Empire State right at once. Then here is Ohio, the oldest sister of the Northwest, and the
strongest one yet. She has 36,225; and she is the Botany Bay for the negroes
from Kentucky and Tennessee. Every man there wants to liberate his slaves takes
them to Ohio, buys land there, and settles them on those lands. The reason is
that Illinois and Indiana, and the other Northwestern States, frown upon that
policy. But Ohio still opens her bosom to the reception of that people, and I
hope to God she will receive her surfeit before a great while. She has now
36,925. She will have to take 334,304. Oregon has 121. She would have to take
7,509. Pennsylvania has 56,376. She would have to take 423,761.
Well, now, what may be the effect of this bill? I am not
against forfeiture. I want the property of traitors forfeited, and their lives
too. I want them to pay for this wicked and causeless rebellion; but I want a
legal and a constitutional and a humane forfeiture. This forfeiture may operate
to the disenthralling of 3,500,000 negroes.
It is utterly impossible, in the Cotton States, especially,
for the negro population and the white population to remain and live together,
both being free. As the honorable Senator from Illinois, Mr. Browning, said, it
would be better altogether, if the two races are to remain, that the black race
should be in a state of slavery and the whites should have the mastery. The
present form of slavery may be broken up, and may be abolished; it probably
will be; but it will spring up as a great social necessity in some other
As to the equality of the races and bringing them up to our
level in this country, it is all a chimera, a dream. There is Africa, a great
part of it populated by the negro race. It has about thirty millions of the
true negro race; it has five million square miles of territory; it was
populated next to Asia in point of time. Yet that race has not risen to any
considerable degree of civilization. Why, it is because by their natural
organization they are incapable of marching forward and upward.
Mr. President I do not presume to interpret the will of God,
upon the subject of slavery.(opps! God again) I receive it as his
apostles received it, as an existing fact. We occupy one of the smallest
planets in our system; and this is but one of millions of systems that are
upheld by His omnipotent power and wisdom, and that are harmoniously executing
their laws, which He enacted, throughout the enduring years of time. That the
great being who created and upholds such a vast and incomprehensible systems
permits and knows of the existence of slavery is evidence of His omniscience.
He has tolerated slavery for three thousand seven hundred years and in his own
time he will bring it to its termination.
Sir, I shall detain the Senate only a few minutes longer;
but before I close, a word or two more. The President and the Senate and the
House have pledged their honor, their faith, and their word upon this
subject, our right to property in slaves. On July last, the House
resolved, "This war is not being waged to overthrow the right of
property in slaves." This resolution passed the House with only
two dissenting votes. The resolution was then adopted by the Senate. The vote
of my friends, Mr. Trumbull was against it. The vote of Mr. Wilson was in
favor. All the other Republican Senators (then seated) that were here in this
chamber at that time, stand committed by that pledge to abide by the principles
of that resolution. The President, in his inaugural address said, "I
have no purpose to interfere with slavery as it exists." In his
annual message of July 4, 1861, he restated the same thing. On the 25th of July
both Houses of Congress resolved, unanimously not to interfere with
slavery as it exists. The Republican party had then been inaugurated
in power, but it was in those dark days, just after Bull Run, that it gave that
pledge. It was then, of course, uncertain what direction the border States
Of course, had the Republicans made their attitude, now
expressed, plain then, the people of the border States would have come unanimously
to the conclusion that the party lately installed in power—the Republican
party—did intend to make war upon slavery. They denied it. Your President
denied it. Both Houses of Congress, with unparalleled unanimity, denied it.
They denied it after the great disaster to their arms.
Sir, suppose these border States—little Delaware, Maryland,
Western Virginia, Kentucky, Western Tennessee, and Missouri had all been
unified, as were South Carolina and the cotton States, against the Government,
and you had made the border States the theater of war, what additional force
would you have had to oppose the reconstruction of the Union? You would have
had fully two hundred and fifty thousand more men in the field against you.
With such an increase in power to the Confederate arms, where, then, would have
been your Union? That was the imposing condition of circumstances that
brought Congress and the President to these pledges.
Note: At Shiloh, in the armies of
Grant and Buell, the record shows 99 regiments; of these 10 were from Missouri, 20 from Kentucky, none from Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland or Delaware. Still, 30 regiments constitute 6 more than the total regiments constituting
Grant's army These 30 regiments amounted to, about 25,000 men. Had they been
with Sidney Johnston's army, when it attacked Grant's on April 6, it seems
doubtful Grant could have held his last stand.
What were those pledges made for? Were they to be kept in
good faith, as they should be by honest, true, and patriotic men, or were they
made that they might deceive and betray? Did they make the pledge to the ear
that they might break it in the hope?
I ask that the pledge be redeemed. If you do not, I tell
you, sir, that this war has only begun.
Mr. Trumbull: I object to any other business
until we can get some action on this bill. If we are to go into executive
session, I shall call for the yeas and nays upon it. The bill has been delayed
already too long.
Mr. Trumbull called for the yeas and nays, and they were
ordered, and being taken, resulted—yeas 19, nays 19. So the motion was not
Then the hammer fell and the bill was put over.
Source: The Congressional Record, The Second
Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress. John Rives, Court Reporter, published