The Object and Cause of the American Civil War
Congress to Confiscate Rebel Slaves
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
Confiscation of Rebel Property
March 4, 1862
The Vice President: Senate Bill No. 151, to
confiscate the property and free the slaves of rebels is now
before the Senate; and upon that question the Senator from Pennsylvania, Mr.
Cowan, is entitled to the floor.
Mr. Cowan of Pennsylvania: We are standing now
squarely face to face with questions of most pregnant significance. Shall we
stand or fall by the Constitution, or shall we leave it and adventure ourselves
upon the wide sea of revolution? Shall we attempt to liberate the slaves of the
people of the rebellious states, or shall we leave them to regulate their
domestic institutions the same as before the rebellion?
If we can suppose consummated the scheme the bill proposes, we shall
have the following result: This bill proposes, at a single stroke, to strip
four millions of white people of all their property, real and personal, and
mixed, of every kind whatsoever, and reduce them at once to absolute poverty;
and that, too, at a time when we are at war with them, when they have arms in
their hands, with four hundred thousand of them in the field opposing us
Now, Sir, it does seem to me that if there was anything in
the world calculated to make that four millions of people and their four
hundred thousand soldiers in the field now and forever hostile to us and our
Government, it would be the promulgation of a law such as this.
I do not know the value of the property forfeited by this
bill; except to say it is enormous—to be computed in billions. But, Sir, the
bill goes farther and forfeits a vast amount of property which, when forfeited,
cannot be confiscated. I mean their property in negro slaves.
Now, I do not mean to stop here to discuss their right to
this species of property. What I mean to say is, that this bill would liberate,
perhaps, three millions of slaves; surely the most stupendous stroke for
universal emancipation ever before attempted in the world.
Those who favor this bill seem determined to impose yet a
greater project, of procuring a home for these emancipated millions in some
tropical country, and of transporting, colonizing, and settling them there.
Surely, sir, we must have been recently transported away from the sober domain
of practical fact, and set down in the regions of eastern fiction, if we can
for a moment entertain this proposition seriously.
At a time when every energy of the country is put in
requisition to suppress the rebellion, when we are in debt equal to our
resources or payment, is it not strange that this scheme, which would involve
us in a cost more heavy than even the present war, should be so coolly
presented for our consideration, and urged to its final consummation with a
kind of surprise that anyone should oppose it?
The bill is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the
United States, requiring us to set aside and ignore that instrument in all its
most fundamental provisions; those which guarantee the life, liberty, and
property of the citizen, and those which define the boundaries between the
powers delegated to the several departments of the Government.
Pass this bill, sir, and all that is left of the
Constitution is not worth much. Certainly it is not worth a terrible and
destructive war, such as we now wage for it. And it must be remembered that
this war is waged solely for the Constitution, and for the ends, aims, and
purposes sanctioned by it, and for no others.
I am aware, however, that some think the Constitution is a
restraint upon the free action of the nation in the conduct of war, which they
suppose could be carried on a great deal better without it.
We have here in these Halls of Congress solemnly declared
that the war was for no such purpose as conquest and subjugation; but that it
was for the purpose of compelling obedience to the Constitution and the law.
The Constitution and the laws being restored and obedience tendered, is this
law one of them? Thousands of these people have been duped into rebellion by
being told that we of the North were all abolitionists, intent, when we had the
power, to wield it for the emancipation of their slaves, and the destruction of
their social system. That slander, sir, was the moving cause of the war.
But when the rebel leaders attempted to provoke a struggle
as to whether the common Territories of the nation should be the homes of free
white men or of servile negroes, the people of the North resisted it. It was a
simple question between the white men and the negroes—which should have the
Territories; if the negroes succeeded, the white man would not
inhabit them in his company, and if the white succeeded, the negro should
The victory was won by the white man; and the creed and
doctrine which animated him in achieving it is `Republicanism.' Nothing more,
nothing less. So it declared and published everywhere; so it is understood by
the people; so it was put forth almost unanimously by the present Congress. We
have said we had no right, and we claimed none, to meddle with slaves or
slavery in the slave States. All which has been and is now perfectly understood
by all not willfully blind.
Then, sir, I say again, that as a Republican, standing upon
the Constitution as construed by that party, I protest against this bill as
being a total and entire departure from the principles of that instrument. . . I
know that many people suppose that our powers under the Constitution have been
indefinitely enlarged by the fact that a civil war is now raging, calling into
play what is called the `war power' of Congress, by virtue of
which we can pass any law we choose which tends or is supposed to tend toward
the suppression of the rebellion, and that under it this Bill is warranted by
I think all this will be found a delusion and a snare. Our
power today is no greater than it ever was. Nobody pretends that if Jefferson
Davis alone had been guilty of treason last year or the year before, and had
escaped the jurisdiction of the courts, that Congress could have attained him
as a traitor, or forfeited his property, or emancipated his slaves. Even the
simplest man would have known that in such case he must be tried, convicted,
and punished by law. Nor can the case be altered if one hundred thousand other
traitors were in the same category. The grants of power to us in the
Constitution were fixed in it from the beginning, and we stand just where we
But the case has arisen where the laws are inadequate to the
preservation of the order of society, and the question is, what remedy? Since
the laws are silent, the courts destroyed, and the will of the nation
discarded, how does the Constitution meet the emergency? Does it meet it, and
effectively? I say it does; since the law is of no avail it resorts to force,
military force, in other words, war, and those who resist are treated as
Then, who shall make this war and determine how it shall be
carried on? Shall it be Congress, the President, or the judges? Some think the
power is in Congress, Some think the President. The Constitution declares that
the President shall be the Commander-in-Chief, or, in other words, the force of
the nation is put into his hands, investing him with the war-making power, and
he must wield it until all resistance has ceased or till peace is made. He is
dependant upon the Congress only so far as he needs it to foot his bills and
authorize his levies.
In this case the President has the right to take, by way of
capture, all the public property of the rebels used in the war, such as forts,
ships, ammunition, stores of every kind, but he could not do as this bill
proposes to do; he could not follow the rebel after his surrender and take from
his house the private property which he had left there for his wife and
children, while he was at war. And all this because a Christian civilization
has taught the nations that such mode of making war is mischievous and
injurious. The modern rule of the law of nations is plainly understood by all:
`Private property on land is exempt from confiscation, with the exception
when taken from enemies in the field or besieged towns, and of military
contributions levied upon the inhabitants of hostile territory.
I am well aware, sir, that there are many who think
emancipating the slaves of the rebels ought to be done, because they think
slavery is the only cause of the rebellion. In considering this, it is well to
remember that there are many evils in the world. Four millions of negros are
now in bondage. Where are the signs of their emancipation? Have not hundreds of
thousands of these had ample opportunity to throw off their chains within the
last few months? Have they done so? And if they have not done so, can you
compel them to exchange voluntary servitude for involuntary freedom? I thought
the world was old enough for everyone to know, if you want freedom, you must
strike the blow which is to secure it.
March 6, 1862
Mr. Morrill of Maine: The great measure before us has
been characterized in this debate in earnest, eloquent, indignant, satirical
speech, as extraordinary, unconstitutional, oppressive, and inexpedient. The
bill contemplates the exercise of the extreme legislative power of the nation
for the purpose of self-preservation and for the overthrow of its domestic
enemies. The primary object of the bill is the suppression of the rebellion. It
proceeds upon the assumption that the insurrection is incited by a faction in
the slave States, holders of the vast proportion of the property and slaves in
those States; that this property and these slaves constitute the incentive and
form the material base of the rebellion; and that, therefore, it becomes the
right and duty of the nation, from the height of its extreme authority, to
award the penalty of condemnation of estate and forfeiture of control over persons
to those who thus conspire against the Government and make war on its
But, sir, at the threshold of this measure, we are met with
a flat denial of adequate constitutional authority. The nation is involved in
the perils of civil war, demanding the instant and decisive exercise of its
upmost powers, and yet it is painfully obvious that there exists the most
embarrassing contrariety of opinions as to the constitutional powers of
Congress, and the policy demanded by the public emergency.
Constitutionally speaking is the nation in a state of war;
and if so, what are its powers, under the Constitution, and to what extend to
the public perils render the exercise of those powers necessary and expedient?
First, is the nation, for purposes offensive and defensive,
for all questions of its authority, to be regarded as in a state of war?
The Government has made no formal declaration of war, and the conflict is
between the established Government and members of the same Government. Yet it
will not be questioned that a state of war may exist between the Government and
a portion of the people, and that no formal declaration is necessary to
legalize hostilities. As to the policy of war all now happily
The nation, sir, is in a state of war,
involuntary war on its part, insurrectionary, causeless, rebellious war on the
part of its domestic enemies. As, sir, it matters not that it is not purely
public war, conflict between two nations; civil conflict is unqualifiedly war,
and has its laws as well defined as conflict between two nations.
Our condition, sir, being that of civil war, I think it must
be manifest that the nation possesses all the rights and powers necessary for
self-preservation and for dealing with its enemies that are common to a nation
in that situation. Clearly the Constitution contemplates the contingency when
the Government may be required to draw the sword against internal enemies, and
wisely provides for such an event by the institution of an army and navy; and
in such contingency imposes no limitation on its power, but plainly designed
that it should be left wholly unrestricted, to exercise all the powers and
rights of a nation forced to take up arms for its defense.
While, under the Constitution, a state of peace is the
normal condition of the nation, a state of insurrectionary war is contemplated,
and in such event, the power of the Government over all its enemies is
unlimited and unrestrained, and is controlled only by the law of nations. The
nation may then deal with its enemies in any way its exigencies may require,
not repugnant to the principles of international law.
In its civil functions the Constitution provides for
Government with limited power and duties, general in their character. Its war
power is of the most absolute character; the right of making war is expressly
given to the Federal Government, and the States are expressly forbidden to
exercise it. And, sir, the war power is not incidental, but a substantive
power, and is that extreme power known to nations as the ultima ratio
at the declaration of which civil privileges are in abeyance and municipal laws
I am aware, sir, that there are those who do not agree to
this assumed power of the Government; in the words of the late president (Mr.
Buchanan), `the Federal Government has no authority to decide what shall be the
relations between the Federal Government and the States; that Congress
possesses no authority, by force of arms, to compel a State to remain in the
Union; that while Congress possesses many powers of preserving the Union by
conciliation, the sword was not placed in their hands to preserve it by force.'
There is, sir, some fatal delusion misleading the minds of
those who thus reason and act. The history of the origin of the Constitution
shows that its founders designed to provide for a government with the essential
attributes of government for `domestic tranquility.'
Assuming, then, we are in a state of war, the question is,
in what department of government does this power of self defense reside. This
is not an open question. The supreme power of making and conducting war is
expressly placed in Congress by the Constitution. The "whole
power of war," says the Supreme Court, is vested in Congress. Surely we
can all agree there is no such power in the judiciary, and the Executive is simply
`Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy;' all other powers and duties, not
necessarily implied in the command of the military and naval forces, are
expressly given to Congress. Congress declares war, grants letters of marque,
makes rules for captures on land and water, raises and supports armies,
provides for and maintains a navy, makes rules for the government of the armed
forces, provides for organizing the militia, and is thus invested, in the
language of the Supreme Court, `with the whole powers of war.' (Brown
v. U.S. 1 Cranch)
There is, then, sir, no limit on the power of Congress; but
it is invested with the absolute powers of war—the civil functions of
government are, for the time being, in abeyance when in conflict, and all State
and national authority subordinated to the extreme authority of Congress, as
the supreme power in the peril of internal hostilities. The ordinary provisions
of the Constitution, peculiar to a state of peace, and all laws must yield to the
force of martial law, as resolved by Congress.
Now, sir, upon principles of international law, what are
some of the rights of nations in a state of hostility? In war, says Grotius,
"We have the right to deprive the enemy of his possessions, of anything
which may augment his strength and enable him to make war.' In the language of
Professor Martin, `The conqueror has a right to seize on the property of the
enemy, whether moveable or immoveable.' Says the Supreme Court: `War gives the
full right to take the persons and confiscate the property of the enemy
Thus, sir, we see that Congress is invested with the whole
power of war, and that confiscation of the enemy's property is one of its
powers. Confiscation, sir, is the fate of the property of the belligerent—the
penalty of war—and there can be no fair pretense that these principles do not
apply in the case of a domestic enemy. Confiscation of the estate of the
domestic enemy of the nation is the current judgment of the civilized world.
And, sir, necessarily connected with the question of the
confiscation of the property of rebels, is that affecting his right to control
his slave. If it be allowable to take his property, why not his slave, and
which is, indeed, in this case the casus belli? Sir, the well-defined notions
of mankind in relation to persons and property, in peace or war, seems wholly
to fail to guide us when the shadow of the sable African falls upon us. He is
the riddle we cannot tell; the nondescript we constantly fail to comprehend;
the visible outline of man with the invisible quality of property, mysteriously
united, that confounds us; the grim idol of an idolatry that shocks while it
enchants and infatuates. Plainly, that judgment which condemns the person and
property of the rebel, necessarily absolves the allegiance of his slave.
The senator from West Virginia, Mr. Blair, supposes slave
property to possess a constitutional immunity. He seems to regard the
institution as possessing a sanctity akin to that which attaches to the
Constitution—its existence essentially the bond of union
between the States, and which was carefully protected by the framers of the
Constitution. That a war for the liberation of the slaves would be a war for
the overthrow of the Constitution. Now, sir, the plain import of this is that
the institution is indissolubly bound up with the Constitution and so an
element of the essential life of the nation. That the institution and the
Constitution must stand or fall together.
Sir, I do not care at this time, to attempt the refutation
of these ideas, nor do I stop to take issue with the Senator whether slavery is
the real or the predisposing cause of the rebellion. Sufficient that it is the
ostensible cause. The Government has inaugurated no war on slavery; but, sir,
it has raised the great battle ax of war on rebellion; and on whatever is
inseparably connected with rebellion—its guilty cause and support. The right
of slavery to exemption from interference is lost in its audacious revolt and
armed assault on the Government.
March 10, 1862
Mr. Browning of Illinois: We will have
prosecuted the war to a melancholy end if its result shall be only to restore
the authority over the revolted States, and overthrow the Constitution. Unless
we can save the Constitution with the Union we had better let them both go.
I concede that the bill exceeds in the importance of the principles
which it involves. Its constitutionality is questioned. The power to pass bills
of attainder is expressly prohibited to Congress by the Constitution, and I
believe it is not denied that this is a bill of attainder. How, then, can we
constitutionally pass it?
I understand the Senator from Maine to derive the power not
from the Constitution, but from the existing state of war. Or, to state the
proposition in his own language, `the ordinary powers of Government, under the
Constitution, are applicable to the nation in a state of peace; and yet, as
clearly, the Constitution contemplates the exercise of powers peculiar to a
state of war.' The truth of this proposition, I am willing to concede, but I
controvert the deductions which the Senator has thought proper to make from it.
The powers of the Government are
unquestionably enlarged by a state of war; that is, the Government may
constitutionally exercise powers in a state of war which it cannot in a state
of peace; powers which are in entire harmony with the Constitution, but which
lie dormant during peace, and are brought into exercise and constitutionally
asserted only in a state of war.
But is Congress the Government? Do these extraordinary
powers belong to Congress; and may Congress exercise them at all either in
peace or war? I think not. All the powers which Congress possesses are those
which are granted by the Constitution, and they are the same yesterday and
today and forever. They do not change, expand, and contract with the uncertain
and fluctuating tide of human affairs. The infirmity of the Senator's contrary
argument is to be found in the distribution of the powers of Government, a distribution,
in my judgment, directly in the teeth of the Constitution.
Says the honorable Senator: `There is no limit on the power
of Congress; but it is invested with the absolute power of war. The civil
functions of Government are, for the time being, in abeyance when in conflict,
and all State and national authority subordinated to the extreme authority of
Congress, as the supreme power in the peril of external and internal
There, sir, is as broad and deep a foundation for absolute
despotism as was ever laid. In a time of war, and especially in a time of
domestic war, when the restraints and protection of the Constitution are more
than at any other time needed to check and control inflamed passions, and
protect minorities from the oppression and tyranny of excited majorities, life,
liberty, property, all are to be held at the will and caprice of Congress,
without limitation, or restraint of any kind or character upon its power.
If these extreme war powers be prostituted to the
purposes of tyranny and oppression by the President, to whom the Constitution
has entrusted them, when peace returns he is answerable to the civil power for
If Congress usurps and prostitutes them, the liberty of the
citizen is overthrown, and he is hopelessly without remedy for his grievances.
The Constitution was not constructed upon a sliding scale; and I know of no
single act which Congress may constitutionally do in a time of war that it may
not, in equal accord with the Constitution, do in time of peace.
The extraordinary powers which the Government may exercise
in time of war, but the assertion of which is denied to it in times of peace,
are war powers, vested in and to be wielded by that part of the visible
organism which represents the sovereignty of the Government in the actual and
potential conduct and prosecution of the war—and that is not Congress. Congress
can no more command the Army, or interfere with the command of it when in the
field, than it can adjudicate a case at law or control the decision of the
The war powers belong to another department of Government.
The Congress can exercise no war powers. This question has been considered and
I think fully passed upon the Supreme Court, in Luther v. Borden.
The Supreme Court there said: `The elevated office of President, chosen
as he is by the people, and the high responsibility he could not fail to feel
when acting in a case of so much moment, appear to furnish as strong safeguards
against a willful abuse of power as human prudence and foresight could well
provide. At all events, it is conferred upon him by the Constitution and must
therefore be respected and enforced by the judicial tribunals.'
But, sir, if Congress should assume the exercise of the war
powers, should usurp them, and should use them for the purpose of tyranny,
there is absolutely no remedy to be found anywhere.
I read these cases for the purpose of showing that the
war-executing powers are vested in the President and Congress has no more right
to touch them than it has to usurp the judicial function of the Government.
This bill is not restricted to property which, by its
character or uses, is adapted to aid the rebellion, but strikes at all the
property of every kind and character of all the citizens of the seceded States.
It sweeps away everything, even the most ordinary comforts and necessities of
domestic life, and reduces all to absolute poverty and nakedness. It leaves
them the ownership of nothing, and when executed will leave them the possession
and enjoyment of nothing. If the bill is constitutional, the instant it passes
millions of people in the private walks of life will be stripped of the
ownership of everything. They may repent of their past rebellion and return to
their allegiance the next day or the next month, but they return bankrupts and
beggars, with nothing on earth to make government desirable.
If we recognize the existing state of things as war, then we
must also recognize the rebels are public enemies, and deal with them according
to the rules of war established by the law of nations. We must deal with them
precisely as we would deal with a foreign nation with which we were at war. And
if at war with a foreign nation, the law of nations would forbid us to pass a
law to confiscate the property of the private citizens of that nation, or even
plunder them when our victorious army had invaded their country. Our
Constitution, I concede, would not restrain us. We would be restrained by the
law of nations.
If we do not recognize the rebellion as war and the rebels
as public enemies, but as insurgent citizens only, and deal with them and treat
them as citizens, then we cannot pass the law proposed, because the
Constitution forbids the enactment of bills of attainder, and this is, in the
meaning of the Constitution, a bill of attainder.
Thus, Mr. President, whether we regard the rebels as public
enemies with whom we are at war, or only as insurgent citizens, we are, in
either case, without power to pass this bill.
I now proceed to submit some views upon the subject which
has caused the war. I believe, sir, that slavery is the sole, original cause of
the war; that is, I believe, without slavery there would have been no war. And
I believe it is slavery alone that maintains the war. A large majority of the
people believe as I do, and are anxious that the war shall be made the occasion
of wiping slavery out. Suggestions are made that it is the duty of the
President to proclaim universal emancipation to the slaves and many people
believe he has the power to do so. Your table is crowded with petitions
calling on Congress, under the war power, to pass laws for the emancipation of
all slaves and I suppose this bill is intended as the first step.
I confess, sir, that I do not comprehend this. All the power
of legislation that Congress possesses is derived from the Constitution and the
power of emancipating slaves is not included.
To ask the President to proclaim emancipation to the
slaves, is to ask him to usurp a power which, in the existing state of things,
he does not possess. To ask Congress to do it, is to assume that
Congress may disregard all constitutional guarantees, and transcend all
constitutional limitations. A state of war does not justify the civil power in
abrogating constitutions, nor in violating the rights of person or property.
The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is as inalienable in
the citizen in time of war as in time of peace.
I pass by all refinements as to the name that shall be used
to designate the existing state of things. Call it treasonable insurrection,
call it rebellion, it is nevertheless war—real, actual, present war. The
so-called Confederate states are public enemies. They are at war with the United States and all the laws of war apply.
What are these laws and the enemies' rights? The rebel
States by making war upon the United States have, for the time being, dissolved
the state of society which previously existed between them; and they can no
longer invoke the protection of the Constitution. The state of war permits us
to use every method of recognized warfare to subdue them. By the laws of war,
we have the belligerent right to seize all the property of those who are in
arms against the Government. The Government has the right to seize and
confiscate all the property, of every character, including slaves, of those in
armed rebellion against this Government, so far as such property may come
within reach of our army, and so far as its seizure may tend to cripple the
enemy. To accomplish this, neither legislation or adjudication is necessary.
The power is a war power, the right a belligerent right.
No officer should be permitted to return slaves to their
masters; but they should be received, and used in whatever they could be made
most available and efficient in the prosecution of the war; and if any come
that cannot be useful, let them pass through the lines and shift for
themselves. The Army is not bound to take care of them, and cannot have them as
camp followers, to be provided for at the expense of the Government. Let them
do the drudgery and labor which would otherwise devolve on our soldiers. Let
them open roads, build bridges, dig ditches, erect fortifications, and do labor
of every kind which may be needed by our army; and if need be to save the
Government from overthrow, the country from ruin, and our homes from
desolation. Let them be formed into regiments and companies, and drilled and
disciplined and armed, to take their chances for wounds and death in the front
I would not do this now, because it is not required by the
stress of war, and because the measure will be distasteful, if not offensive,
to our friends in the slave States. Their situation is peculiar, delicate and
embarrassing; and I appreciate the difficulties that surround them.
Two governments cannot exist where before there was but one.
Whenever the Confederate States shall be recognized as one of the family of
nations, the struggle with us becomes a struggle for our own throats. Our only
alternative will be to subjugate or be subjugated, to exterminate, or be exterminated.
The responsibility for this state of things is not with us. Then is the time to
bring on the negroes. We will then be fighting for our individual lives and the
lives of our wives and children; and it would be wicked to refuse to arm
fugitives, but to drive them back to be armed against us. And why should we hesitate?
Can any one give a reason why, when the necessity arises, we should hesitate?
I know, Mr. President, there are those whose sensibilities
are shocked at the idea of the Government accepting the armed
assistance of the colored race. They are willing that traitors shall slay our
soldiers with every weapon. That is all right; but we must fight them with kid
gloves and if even by accident we knock a traitor down, we must wait till he
gets up and call to time before we strike again. I am tired, sir, of this war
on one side. I am tired of using our soldiers for the base purpose of holding
negroes for rebels. If it is war, let it be war in earnest. Let
it be quick, fierce, and terrible.
If, on the contrary, we are fighting only to protect the
institution of human slavery, if we are fighting only to rivet the fetters more
firmly, if the preservation of slavery, and not the preservation of the
Government, is the great end and object of the war, then let us disband our
armies, break our swords, abase our souls, and cease this wicked and unholy
March 11, 1862
Mr. Carlile of "Virginia:" The bill
is entitled `A Bill to confiscate the property and free the slaves of rebels.'
Such a sweeping proposition, one better calculated to continue the war forever
and exhaust the whole country, never has been in the history of the world.
The ablest speech made this session in favor of converting
the struggle into an antislavery war, was made by Senator Conway of Kansas. Let him speak: `The wish of the masses of our people is to conquer the seceded
States and hold them as subject provinces.' To accomplish his purpose, he would
recognize the so-called Confederate States as a separate nation, and wage war
upon them because he believes that the law of war would enable him to deprive
the citizens of those States of $2 billion worth of slave property.
They on the other side are pulling the same string at
different ends. They want the Confederate Government recognized, they want the
rebellion dignified with the name of war.
The bill makes it the duty of the President to colonize the
negroes at the cost of the Government. Of course the Government gets its money
by taxing the people. The people are to be taxed for lying down, getting up,
standing or walking, asleep or awake, all for the glorious privilege of
evincing to the work that enlarged philanthropy that can view with complacency
the sufferings and groans of the white race, but is horrified at the sight of
four millions of negroes comfortable, contended, and unconscious of suffering
until informed by some Greeley.
The bill fails to make provision for the negroes who shall be
unwilling to leave the land of their birth and the home of their nativity. That
this latter class will comprise at least 99% of the slaves, is a fact known to all acquainted with the race
The advocates of this bill have a scheme, it is clear, to Africanize
American society in the southern States. If this is their purpose, I assure
them they are mistaken. Self-preservation would compel the States within which
slavery now exists, if the slaves were emancipated, either to expel them from
the State or reenslave them. If expelled where would they go? The
non-slaveholding States, many of them, exclude negroes by express
constitutional provisions; others would do so, for we are told by the advocates
of emancipation that the negro is not to be permitted, when liberated, to come
into their States. What follows? Extermination or reenslavement.
Can it be possible that the Christian sentiment of the
North, which it is said demands the abolition of slavery, desires the
extermination of the negro race? Such, I trust, is not the sentiment of any
considerable number of people anywhere. The result would be that the States
would do what they have the acknowledged constitutional right to do, reenslave
them. The well being, if not the existence, of the white race would demand
their reenslavement, and it would be done. I ask, then, what good to either
race would be accomplished by the passage of this bill?
It should never be forgotten that the struggle in which we
are engaged is on our part, constitutionally speaking, not a war. We are not
engaged in war. Congress makes war, declares war. Congress has made no such
declaration, nor has Congress declared that war exists. When we speak of war we
generally mean public war. The war spoken of by the writers on the laws of war
is public war, that which takes place between nations and sovereigns, where one
nation seeks to enforce its alleged rights against another and separate nation.
The struggle we are engaged in is, on our part, an effort to suppress
Sir, I deny this is a civil war. I pronounce it a rebellion
and those engaged in it, rebels. I deny, therefore, that the laws of war would
authorize or justify the enactment of this bill. Congress has the power to
legislate for the suppression of insurrection, but the insurrection must be
suppressed and the rebellion put down by constitutional means, otherwise all
that would be necessary to overthrow the Constitution would be to incite
insurrection. If Congress were to suppress the rebellion with unconstitutional
means there would be nothing for the loyal citizen to fight for.
Mr. President, the Senator from Maine argues that we are
engaged in a war, and contends that Congress has the power to do what he says
the law of nations authorizes nations to do. Therefore, he argues, we have the
power to confiscate the property of the rebels. He would concede to the rebels
what they claim, that they are not engaged in rebellion, but in waging war
against a foreign government. We are not at war, Mr. President, with a
belligerent Power but with rebellious citizens.
There are those who say if there had been no slavery there
would have been no rebellion. As well they might attribute the rebellion to the
Union, for, if there had been no Union there would be no rebellion against it.
Think you, Mr. President, if General Halleck had announced
to the people of Tennessee that his purpose was to confiscate their property
and turn them houseless and homeless upon the world, and to free their slaves, Nashville and Clarksville would have been ours? Would they not have been reduced to ashes,
and would not their people have rushed to the field and arrayed themselves
under the banner of rebellion? Pass this bill and interminable never-ending war
will be the result.
Slavery in the District of Columbia
March 12, 1862
Mr. Morrill of Maine: I move to take up for
consideration the bill (S.No. 108) for the release of certain persons held to
service or labor in the District of Columbia.
The motion was agreed to; and the Senate, as a Committee of
the Whole, proceeded to consider the bill.
Mr. Davis of Kentucky: I offer by way of amendment to
this bill, this clause, `That all persons liberated under this act shall
be colonized out of the limits of the United States and the sum of $100,000
from the Treasury will be used for this purpose.
I ask for the yeas and nays.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin: I understand that
the effect of this amendment to be to colonize them whether they are willing to
be colonized or not. If the amendment was to make colonization voluntary I
would vote for it; as it is I cannot.
Mr. Davis: I think I am better acquainted with
negro nature than the honorable Senator from Wisconsin. He will never find one
slave in a hundred that will consent to be colonized., when liberated. The
liberation of the slaves in this District, or in any State, will be just
equivalent to settling them in the country where they live; and whenever the
policy is inaugurated, it will inevitably and immediately introduce a war of
extermination between the two races.
Here there are a great many vagabond negroes in a state of
slavery in this city. They are now idle and comparatively worthless; and
whenever they are liberated they become greatly more so. A negro's idea of
freedom is freedom from work. After they are liberated they become lazy,
indolent, thievish vagabonds, Men may hug their delusions, but these are facts
heretofore, and they will remain facts in the future. I know this just as well
as I know that these gentlemen around me belong to the Caucasian race.
The negroes that are now liberated, and that remain in the
city, will become a sore and a burden and a charge upon the white population.
They will be criminals; they will become paupers, and the power that would
liberate them ought to relieve the white population of their presence.
Mr. President, whenever any power, constitutionally or unconstitutionally,
assumes the responsibility of liberating slaves where slaves are numerous, they
establish as inexorably as fate a conflict between the races that will result
in the exile or the extermination of the one race or the other. I know it. We
have now about two hundred and twenty-five thousand slaves in Kentucky. Think
you, sir, that we should ever submit to have those slaves manumitted and left
among us? No, sir; no, never; nor will any white person in the United States of America where the slaves are numerous. If by unconstitutional legislation
you should by laws which you shrink from submitting to the test of
constitutionality in the courts, the moment you reorganize the white inhabitants
of those States as States in the Union, they would reduce those slaves again to
a state of slavery, or they would expel them and drive them upon you, or they
would hunt them like beasts and exterminate them.
If at the time you commenced this war, you had announced as
the national policy that was to prevail the measures and visionary schemes and
ideas of some gentlemen on this floor, you should not have had a solitary man
from the slave States to support you. You will unite the slave States by this
conduct as one man, one woman, to resist your deadly policy.
March 19, 1862
Mr. Pomeroy of Kansas: I have noticed that
persons who have some constitutional objections in regard to having free colored men among them, never
have any very severe difficulties to having slaves about them. Colored men are
as sweet as flowers in slavery, but if they are free they have a tremendous
odor, and men are anxious to colonize and to banish them. There are about
eleven thousand colored persons of whom three thousand are slaves. I do not
think we need to open a country for their colonization.
We have been told that slavery was established in Maryland, and that the laws of Maryland have been extended to the District. The law of Maryland was passed in 1715, and it limited slavery to two generations. As slavery was not
perpetual in Maryland I would like to know who made it perpetual in this
If the Senate shall come to the strange conclusion that
money must be paid, that $1 million must be appropriated to compensate the
owners of the slaves, then I say let it be measured out in justice. There are
families here holding slaves that have served their masters for forty years. Are
you going to give the master of such a slave $300 and turn the slave loose
without any settlement for his unpaid labor? To give a man $300 to rid himself
of some old slave that he does not like to keep any longer, is an act of
injustice that I think the Senate will not commit.
March 20, 1862
Mr. Willey of "Virginia:" I shall
speak today as a border state man, as a representative of the loyal people of Virginia. Sir, in the name of two hundred thousand southwestern Virginians who have been
immured for many months in the dungeons of rebellion at Richmond, I appeal to
you today for your forbearance.
I remember what Webster said here in 1850: `There are men
who, with clear perceptions, as they think, of their own duty, are disposed to
mount upon some duty as a warhorse and to drive furiously on, and upon, and
over all other duties that may stand in the way. There are men, in such times,
who think human duties may be ascertained with the precision of mathematics.
They deal with morals as with mathematics, and they think what is right may be distinguished
from what is wrong with the precision of an algebraic equation. Men too
impatient to wait for the slow progress of moral causes in the improvement of
Mr. President, the question which I want to discuss is, is
it wise, under the existing circumstances, to pass this bill? Sir, this bill is
part of a series of measures, already initiated, all looking to the same
ultimate result—the universal abolition of slavery by Congress.
Mr. President, I shall not trouble the Senate with any
argument respecting the constitutional power of Congress to pass laws
emancipating slaves. The arguments already made against this power have not
been answered, and I believe they never will be. But I do not think the
argument against the practicability of emancipation has been exhausted. I
cannot understand these bills: They punish the traitor, indeed, but they only
increase the burdens and taxes of the loyal people. Why thrust these questions
upon the country and upon Congress now, when both are staggering beneath the pressure
of exigencies involving the very integrity of our national existence? Sir, in
no degree can the agitation and adoption of the policy contained in these
measures contribute to the success of our arms, the peace of the country, or to
the restoration of the Union. No, sir, the agitation of these questions must be
mischievous. It will create strife and division and disturb the country.
The people of the South have been taught to believe that the
object and design of the Republican party was to abolish slavery in all the
States. These bills will be seized upon as evidence of this intention. They
will say: `Look at their unconstitutional confiscation law. Look at the bill to
make slaves free in the District. Especially will they point to sweeping resolutions
of the great apostle of abolition, Senator Sumner, which by one dash of the
pen, deprives every southern man of his slaves.
Mr. President, is it desired to make this a war of total
extermination? Let us beware how we drive our friends in the South into the ranks
of our adversary! One year's experience has taught us that a divided South was
no contemptible foe. What will it be united? Seven hundred thousand square
miles of fruitful territory, full of natural resources, inhabited by six
millions of united, desperate people, may not be easily overcome and brought
back to their allegiance.
Besides, sir, there is no necessity for driving these people
to such desperate extremities. They love the old flag, they love the Union. Show them their rights under the Constitution will be respected and you will strike
a blow more fatal to the rebel cause that a score of such victories as that at Fort Donelson.
I understand that Mr. Lincoln himself to be actuated by such
principles. I understand that these were his principles long ago. Mr. Lincoln,
in 1858, in his discussion with Mr. Douglas, at Quincy, used this language:
`We have a due regard to the
actual presence of slavery among us, and the difficulties of getting rid of it
in any satisfactory way, and all the constitutional obligations thrown about
it. I suppose that, in reference to its actual existence in the nation and to
our constitutional obligations, we have no right at all to disturb it in the
States where it exists. . . We think the Constitution would permit us to
disturb it in the District of Columbia. Still, we do not propose to do that,
unless it should be on terms which I do not expect the Nation likely to agree
to—the terms of making the emancipation gradual and compensating the unwilling
Mr. President, I ask Senators to consider what must be the practical
effects of emancipation. What then will be the effect upon the slave? Suppose
they are emancipated; what then? Are they freemen in fact? Will they have the
rights of freemen? Sir, such an idea is utterly fallacious. It will practically
amount to nothing. You cannot enact the slave into a freeman by act of
Congress. The servile nature of centuries cannot be eradicated by the rhetoric
of Senators. A freeman has the right of locomotion; he has the right of going
into any State, and of becoming the citizen of any State. Let me ask the
Senator from Illinois whether, if I set my slave free, he will allow him to
come to Illinois. Let me ask the same question of the Senators of Indiana. Sir,
the constitutions of both these States prohibit free negroes from becoming
citizens of those States, or even residents thereof; and that is the liberty
you propose for the slave.
Now, sir, I ask, can the free negro be a freeman clothed
with the rights of freemen in this country? In how many States is he entitled
to the right of suffrage or to be a juror, or a judge, or to a seat in the
Legislature; to make, interpret, or execute the laws of the State in which he
lives? I understand there are some negroes living in the North who possess
large estates, are well educated, and of good morals and manners. Do you
receive them into your families on terms of equality? Do you give them your
daughters in marriage? Why not? Are they not wealthy, intelligent, polite,
and, for aught I know, handsome? Are not `all men born free and equal?'
Sir, I am not going to discuss the dogma of the natural
equality of men. I am only referring to facts, fixed facts; and I
say, right or wrong, naturally equal or naturally inferior, the negro never can
be a freeman in this country, enjoying social and political equality.
We must take things as they actually exist. We shall not deserve the
name of statesman if we do not. Sir, would you recommend the Chinese to adopt a
republican form of government? Would you advise the native African, cannibals
and all, to organize a government on the model of the Constitution of the United States? The idea is preposterous. And now, sir, candidly considering the ignorance,
degradation, and helplessness of the four millions of slaves in the South, can
you desire their immediate emancipation? Would it not be an act of cruelty to
the slave? Sir, what would become of them? Think of it. Think of these four
millions of these degraded, helpless beings, without a dollar of money, without
an acre of land or an implement of trade or husbandry, without house or home,
thrust out upon the community to maintain themselves. Sir, they would starve to
death, or they would steal, or they would murder and rob. Better drive them
into the Gulf of Mexico at once, than perpetrate such a monstrous cruelty as
this upon them.
And now you, men of the North, I beg to ask, what would be the
consequences of this wholesale emancipation on your own communities? How long
would it be until this miserable population, like the frogs of Egypt, would be infesting your kitchens, squatting at your gates, and filling your
almshouses? Sir, are you willing to receive them? If you set them free, you
must receive them. Will you extend your hand and receive them as coequals and co-laborers
in your fields and shops? Meantime, what will become of the cotton fields of
the South, and the cotton factories of the North? While you are increasing your
laborers, you will be destroying the sources of their employment.
The answer to all this is, transport and colonize the
emancipated slave in some tropical country. What then? Whither shall they be
sent? Where shall we find a tropical country for four millions of slaves? And
where shall we find the money to pay for a territory sufficient to settle four
millions? How much will it cost? Then, sir, there is the cost of
transportation, the cost of outfitting and the cost of houses to be built, and
the cost of implements of trade and husbandry, the cost of food and clothing
for the first year at least. And then, sir, our task has just begun. We must
provide for their continued supervision, direction, and protection. And how
long must this continue? How long will it be before this mass of ignorant and
servile population will become capable of self-government and self-subsistence?
How many generations will it be before he is clothed with the independence of
freemen? Who can pay this debt? The accumulating millions of the current war
debt, now rising mountain high, sink into mole hills before the Atlas-like
dimensions of the sum that will be required for the accomplishment of this
stupendous scheme of philanthropy.
I am happy to perceive that the northern mind is beginning
to appreciate the difficulties surrounding these schemes of immediate
emancipation. I find the following in a recent edition of the New York World:
`The negro race is multiplying with
such rapidity in this country that, in a few generations more, its relation to
the white population will have become a question of fearful magnitude. At the
time of our first census, in 1790, there were in the United States only seven
hundred and fifty thousand negoes; at our last census, in 1860, there were four
millions. Before the end of the century there will be a negro population of
thirteen millions. What is now wanted is an enlightened system, for bringing to
bear on a collective mass of plantation negroes all the educative and
humanizing influences of which their condition is susceptible. To furnish
facilities for such an experiment is work worthy of an enlightened government.'
I cannot close these remarks without making these
observations: Sir, what is the object of the present war? For what are we
fighting? To what purpose are we taxing the people and expending the treasures of
the country? Why are thousands of our sons yielding their lives on the
battlefield? I had supposed it was for the preservation of the Union. I had supposed, in the language of the President, it was to `protect, maintain, and
defend the Constitution.' I had supposed the Congress meant what it said when,
at the last session, it declared that the object of the war was to suppress the
rebellion and restore the Union and the Constitution and nothing more. The flag
as it was, the Union as it was, the Constitution as it was—this was the
What now? We are told that the rebels have forfeited their
rights under the Constitution, that the States in rebellion have abdicated
their authority as States, and may be no longer recognized as members of the
Confederacy. What is to become of the loyal inhabitants of the South, of Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina? We may well pray, save us from our friends.
It would have been better to have been crushed to death at once beneath the
iron heel of the rebellion.
March 24, 1862
Mr. Davis again: The natural law gives no right of
property to man in anything save what he is using at the moment. It is the
public law that gives security to the owner of property. My right to land and
to a slave is based on the same law. African slaves were introduced more than
two centuries ago into this country by Las Casas, in humanity to the Indian
race. The Spaniards were enslaving the Indians and making them work in mines,
and treating them with great cruelty; and in tenderness toward the Indian race,
Las Casas himself originated the slave trade in Africans, and he marshalled the
way to the introduction of the negro from his native country to this country to
serve here as a slave. Slavery was in that way introduced into the thirteen
colonies, except Pennsylvania. Then our difficulties with the mother country
commenced. Slavery was existing as an institution and slaves were recognized as
property. They united together as slaveholding colonies to resist the aggressions
of England. Then the present Constitution came to be formed. The existence of
slavery is recognized in that instrument under a mild phrase, but just as
clearly and as certainly recognized as though the term slave
itself were used. Hence it is a delusion, not true in fact or law, when
gentlemen assume that slavery is local and freedom is universal.
As Chief Justice John Marshall decided, the slave trade and
the existence of slaves as property was recognized at one time throughout the
whole civilized world, according to the usages and practices of every European
Power that had a colony either on the continent or on the islands of North
America. It therefore results that slavery is the normal condition in the United States, and the abolition of slavery the exception.
I say that the prohibitions of the Constitution restrict
Congress's power to legislate freedom for slaves living in the District. One of
the rights secured by the Constitution is the right of property; the Congress
cannot take a person's property without due process which means just
compensation, and then can take it only for a public use.
There is a very different spirit and there are very
different purposes now in the dominant party in this chamber, in relation to
slavery, than what was declared a few months ago. If the present policy had
been declared before or immediately after Bull Run, what now would be the
condition of this Government and of your Army? I know that the Army of the West
is not engaged in a crusade against slavery.
Just days after Bull Run, the Senate, by overwhelming
margin, passed this resolution: `This war is not being prosecuted for the
purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights of established
institutions of the seceded States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of
the Constitution and preserve the Union, and that when these objectives have
been met the war shall cease.' Now, sir, if you intended to make that
pledge in good faith, you have no right now to enlarge the purposes of the war.
Mr. Clark of New Hampshire: Does the Senator
understand this to be a purpose of war that we are now about?
Mr. Davis: Yes, sir; this is a purpose of war
now. It is an entering wedge. You want to get the head in, and then you intend
to push the monster through. That is what you are after. If there was to be no
other movement upon slavery, we never should have heard of this bill to abolish
slavery in the District. This is but a preliminary experiment. You are
endeavoring to experiment now how far you can go, and how far the moderate men
in your party will go with you.
You are men. You act as all parties do. The possession of
power intoxicates you as it intoxicates others. You abuse it; you trample upon
the Constitution in the exercise of powers of Government that it gives you; you
commit acts of injustice and oppression; you go to such extremes and excesses
as to revolt the public mind, and sooner or later the people will rise and
overthrow you as they have overthrown the parties that preceded you.
Now, Mr. President, there is one gentlemen in the Republican
party who understands. Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin. As he justly remarked, there
is a question beyond that of manumitting slaves in the District; and that
question is the separation of the races. He said, very correctly, that God, who
made both races, has in effect decreed that they shall be separate. They can
never live together in any considerable numbers except as master and slave, and
all the puny efforts of man can never repeal that law. Whenever liberation
comes, separation must follow. If it does not follow, the war of races is
inevitable, and one or the other must and will be exterminated. We have two
hundred and twenty-five thousand slaves in Kentucky. They are owned mostly by
Union men. If you proceed upon the principle of manumitting all the slaves in
that State that have belonged to person who were in the rebel army, you will
find that it is impossible, that you will have no power to enforce the law, and
you will never enforce it. There is no being in that state who would not rise
up in revolt.
What right have you to force your views on the people of the
District? Why do you not go out into the city and hunt up the blackest,
greasiest, fattest old negro wench you can find and lead her to the altar of
Hymen? You do not believe in any such equality, nor do I. Yet your emissaries
proclaim here that the slaves, when you liberate them, shall be citizens, shall
be eligible to office in this city. A few days ago I saw several negroes
thronging the open door listening to the debate on this subject, and I suppose
in a few months they will be crowding white ladies out of these galleries.
I have some statistics. The free negroes in the District in
the 1860 census was 11,500, the slaves 3,000. All these 11,500 were not manumitted
here; how did they come here? This is a general receptacle for the free
negroes, refugees negroes from Virginia and Maryland. The white population is
37,000. Are you willing to take that portion of free negroes into your
communities? If you are so humane, buy the slaves from their owners at a fair
price and take them to your homes, and there make them your neighbors, if you
choose, your equals in politics and in the social circle. When you do this the
world will give you credit, but now it is all cant, it is all ambition.
March 25, 1862
Mr. Wilson of Massachusetts: The Constitution
gives Congress the "power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases
whatsoever," over this ceded ten miles square we call the District of Columbia. Instead of providing a code of humane laws for the government of the
Capital of a Christian nation, Congress enacted, in 1801, that the laws of Maryland and Virginia, as they then stood, should be in force in the District. By this act,
the indecent slave codes became the laws of republican America for the government of its chosen capital. By this act of national legislation the
people of Christian America began the first year of the nineteenth century by
accepting for the government of their capital, the colonial legislation,
enacted for the wild hordes of Africa, which the colonial and commercial policy
of England forced upon Maryland and Virginia.
In spite of oppressive and cruel laws which have pressed
with merciless force upon the black race, bond and free, slavery, has grown
weaker, and the free colored stronger, at every decade that passes. Within the
last half century, the free colored population of the District has increased
from four to twelve thousand. In spite of the degrading influences of
oppressive statutes, and a perverted public sentiment, this free colored
population, as it increased in numbers has increased also in property, in
churches, in schools, and all the means of social, intellectual, and moral
development. This despised race is industrious and law-abiding, loyal to the
Government and its institutions. Today the free colored men of the District
possess hundreds of thousands of dollars of property. They are compelled to pay
for the support of the public schools for the instruction of white children from
which their own children are excluded by law, custom, and public opinion. Some
of these free colored men are distinguished for intelligence, business
capacity, and the virtues of grace that adorn men of every race.
This bill proposes to strike the chains from the limbs of
three thousand bondmen in the District, to erase the name slave from their
foreheads, to convert them from personal chattels into free men, to place them
in the ranks of free colored men
The bill tenders compensation to the master out of the earnings of
the toiling freemen of America. The proposed compensation is full, ample, and
equitable. But the Senator from Kentucky predicts in excited, even angry tones,
that the passage of this bill will bring into this District beggary and crime,
that the liberated negroes will become a sore, a burden and a charge; that they
will be criminals, that they will become paupers. The Senator emphatically
declares, `I know what I talk about!' `I speak from what I know!`
The Senator may have the right to talk about colored folk in
Kentucky, but he knows nothing of free colored persons in the District. As a
class, the free colored people of this District are not worthless, vicious,
thriftless, indolent, vagabonds, criminals, paupers, nor are they a charge and
pest upon society. Do they not support themselves? Support their churches,
their schools? Do they not take care of their sick and their dying? Do they not
bury their dead free of public charge? What right does the Senator from Kentucky have to come into this chamber and attempt to deter us from executing this act of
emancipation, by casting undeserved reproaches upon the free colored people of
The Senator from Kentucky chooses to indulge in vague talk
about the deadly resistance which the whole white population of the
slaveholding States would make to unconstitutional encroachments. Why, sir,
does he indulge in such allusions? Have not the American people the
constitutional right to relieve themselves from the shame of upholding slavery
in their capital? Sir, I tell the Senator from Kentucky that the day has
passed by in the Senate of the United States for intimidation, threat, or
menace, from the champions of slavery.
I remind the Senator from Kentucky that the people, whose
representatives we are, now realize in the storms of battle that slavery is,
and ever must be, the relentless and unappeasable enemy of free institutions in
America, of the unity and perpetuity of the Republic. Slavery plunged the
nation into the fire and blood of rebellion. The loyal people of America have
seen hundreds of thousands of brave men abandon their peaceful pursuits, leave
their quiet homes, follow the flag of their country to the field, to do a
soldier's duty, and fill, in need be, soldiers' graves. They know that slavery
has caused all this.
The Senator from Kentucky proposes the bill be amended so
that the emancipated may be removed from the District. He tells us that where
slaves are numerous, they establish a conflict between the races that will
result in the exile or extermination of one or the other. `I know it!`
exclaims the Senator. How does he know it? In what age and in what country has
the emancipation of one race resulted in the extermination of the one race or
the other? Nearly a quarter century ago, England struck the chains from eight
hundred thousand of her West Indies bondmen. There has been no conflict between
the races. Other European nations have emancipated their colonial bondmen. No
wars of races have grown out of these deeds of emancipation. The existence in Delaware of a large class of emancipated slaves has not produced a war of the races. The
people of Delaware have never sought to hunt them down like beasts and
No, sir, no, sir, Emancipation does not lead to wars of the
races. In our country enfranchisement of bondmen has tended to elevate both
races, and has been productive of peace, order and public security. The bill,
if it shall become law, will blot out slavery forever from the national
capital, transform personal chattels into freemen, obliterate oppressive,
odious, and hateful laws and ordinances, which press with merciless force upon
persons of African descent.
Mr. Kennedy of Maryland: I shall content
myself with entering the most solemn protest against this bill. The census
figures show that we have the largest free colored population than any other
State. The six New England States, have 65,000 square miles of territory and,
in 1850, had 23,000 free colored persons living there. The little State of Maryland
has but 10,000 square miles and today has 84,000 free colored people.
The State of Pennsylvania had 46,000 square miles and she has 53,000 free
colored people. These facts present to us the alarming consideration that we
are about to become the great free negro colony of this country. Then, sir,
what becomes of the argument that slaves tend to demoralize the laboring class
of white people? What must be the bitter feeling in Maryland when the people
realize that this Congress interferes to throw more of this class of free
negroes in direct competition with the white labor of our State?
Mr. President, I say in conclusion, that while we of
Maryland avoided the rock of secession, still clinging to the Constitution upon
which we were embarked, we may find ourselves drifting into the dark and
overwhelming whirlpool of a relentless, unyielding, and reckless sectional
policy, which will end forever the last hope of bringing together the
dismembered and broken ties that bound this great and prosperous nation in one fraternal
bond of union and power. In the name of my State, I protest against this
Mr. Saulsbury of Delaware: I will remark now only that
if this bill passes it is to pass by the votes of Senators from the
non-slaveholding States, gentlemen representing States that are not afflicted
with the great curse of a free negro population. I propose this amendment: That
the said persons liberated, within thirty days thereof, be transported to the
States of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut,
Vermont, and New York.
The yeas and nays were called for and the Secretary
proceeded to call the role. The result was then announced: yeas 2, nays 31.
Mr. Harlan of Iowa: Mr. President, I regret
very much that Senators depart so far from the proprieties as to make the
allusions that they do. I refer to the allusions to white people embracing
colored people as their brethren and the invitations of Senators to white men
and women to marry colored people.
I do not deem it proper to enter into a labored
investigation of the probabilities of amalgamation of the white with the negro
race if the negroes should be set free. How is it in point of fact? Do you find
white gentlemen and white ladies marrying the free negroes that are now in this
District? I have known but three cases and in all those men marrying wenches
have been citizens of slave States, where, I doubt not they acquired their
tastes. (Laugher) Liberating the negroes carries with it no
obligation to marry their wenches to white men.
Mr. Saulsbury: I will say to the Senator from
Iowa that that man wherever he exists within this Union—who would make the
emancipation of the slave population a paramount consideration to the
preservation of his country is a disloyal man; and he cannot cover up his
disloyalty under the cry of Union, or by wrapping around himself the American
flag and thanking God that he is not as other men or even as these poor
slaveholders. (Applause in the galleries).
The Presiding officer called for order.
Mr. Saulsbury: Senators, abandon now at
once and forever your schemes of wild philanthropy and universal emancipation;
proclaim to the people of this whole country everywhere that you mean to
preserve the Union established by Washington and Jefferson and Madison, and the
fathers of the Republic, and the rights of the people as secured by the
Constitution and your Union never can be destroyed; but go on with your wild
schemes of emancipation, throw doubt and suspicion upon every man simply
because he fails to look at your questions of wild philanthropy as you do, and
the God of heaven only knows after wading through scenes before which even the
horrors of the French Revolution pale their fires, what ultimately may be the
March 31, 1862
Mr. Sumner of Massachusetts: Mr. President,
with unspeakable delight I hail this measure and the prospect of its speedy
adoption. It is the first installment of that great debt which we all owe to an
enslaved race, and will be recognized in history as one of the victories of
As the moment of justice approaches we are called upon to meet the
question of ransom of the slaves of the Capital. At some other time the great
question of emancipation in the States may be more fitly considered, together
with those questions the Senator from Wisconsin has allowed himself to take
sides so earnestly, whether there is an essential incompatibility between the
two races, so that they cannot live together except as master and slave, and
whether the freedmen shall be encouraged to exile themselves to other lands or
to continue their labor here at home.
To all who insist that Congress may sustain slavery in the
national capital, I put the question, where in the Constitution is the power
found? If you cannot show where, do not assert the power. So hideous an
effrontery must be authorized in unmistakable words. But where are the words?
In what article, clause, line? They cannot be found. Do not forget that no nice
interpretation, no strained construction, no fancied deduction, can suffice to
sanction the enslavement of our fellow men. And do not degrade the Constitution
by foisting into its blameless text the idea of property in man. It is not
there; and if you think you see it there, it is simply because you make the
Constitution a reflection of yourself.
Let this bill pass, and the first practical triumph of freedom will
at last be accomplished. This metropolis, which bears a venerated name, will be
purified; its evil spirit will be cast out; its shame will be removed; its society
will be refined. If you hesitate to pass this bill for the blacks, then pass it
for the whites.
From the beginning of this rebellion, slavery has been
constantly manifest in the conduct of the masters. This power must be
suppressed at very cost, and if its suppression here endangers slavery
elsewhere, there will be a new motive for determined action. At the national
capital slavery will give way to freedom; but the good work will not stop here.
It must proceed. And as the whole wide spread tyranny begins to tumble, then,
above the din of battle, will ascend voices of gladness, swelling from generous
hearts to commemorate a sacred triumph, whose trophies, instead of battered
banners, will be ransomed slaves.
Mr. Wright: Mr. President, I propose to say
something on this subject and I move that it be postponed until tomorrow.
Mr. Morrill: Of course I am disposed to give
very opportunity for debate, but this matter has been grossly procrastinated,
and that after today I shall press this measure and ask for a vote upon the
The House Of
Resolution For Gradual Emancipation in the Border States
March 6, 1862
Mr. Stevens of Pennsylvania: I ask the consent
of the House to have taken up and read a message from the President of the United States, which is lying on the Speaker's table.
There being no objection, the following message from the
President of the United States was taken up and read:
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I recommend the adoption of a joint resolution by your
honorable bodies, which shall be substantially as follows: Resolved,
That the United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt
gradual emancipation of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used
by the State at its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public
and private, produced by such change of system.
Mr. Stevens: I move that the message be
referred to the Committee of the Whole on the State of the Union and printed.
The motion was agreed to.
Mr. Perry of New Jersey: The questions of
emancipation and abolition having been forced upon this House in various forms
at a time like the awful present, prompt me to trespass for a few moments on
the attention of this House.
These measures virtually ask the question, shall the
Government be maintained and the Union preserved? They present themselves at
the bar of this House clad in the borrowed garments of necessity. They bear
beneath their deceptive folds a sword drawn to destroy and sever the Union—a shield to shelter and defend the beloved African. They are, Mr. Chairman, wolves in
There is nothing in the Constitution that gives them even
the shadow of a foundation. The American Union can exist only as long as the
Constitution remains safe from the attacks of these abolition doctrines. If I
understand, sir, anything of the object of this war, it is designed for the
preservation of the country, and not for its destruction; yet you propose to
annihilate the great institution of the South that you may preserve the South.
For myself, I cannot now be made to believe that it is necessary to make slaves
our allies in suppressing this rebellion.
Never shall I consent that our army of freemen shall be
converted into so many John Browns. Why now are you so anxious to carry on the
same insurrection that Brown did on so magnificent a scale? Why will you allow
the African to cast such a black shadow over your minds? For the sake of your
country, turn your eyes away from the negro, if only for a few short months,
and let patriots see the Union restored. I do not wonder that the advocates of
emancipation are at a loss to know what to do with the immense burden that they
propose to carry. I do not wonder that they propose so many and such
impracticable methods of relief. Already have many of the States, whose
representatives on this floor are loudest in their appeals for emancipation,
cruelly closed their doors against the unfortunate African.
I send to the Clerk's desk, to be read in the hearing of
this House, extracts from the laws of Indiana and Illinois.
The Clerk read, as follows:
Indiana: "Section 1. No
negro or mulatto shall come into or settle in the State after the adoption of
Section 2. All contracts made with such negroes are void.
Section 3. Any person who may employ such a negro shall be
Illinois: "The General
Assembly shall at the first session under the amended Constitution pass such
laws as may effectively prohibit free persons of color from immigrating to and
settling in this State."
Mr. Perry: Sir, is this a war for the
subjugation of the South, or for the overthrow of rebellion? Is it a contest
for the maintenance of the Government, or for the maintenance of abolition? Is
this a war for the Union and the Constitution, or is it a war for disunion? Do
you wish to change all this strife from a grand effort to suppress rebellion
into an `irrepressible conflict.'? Our path is clear, reject this abolition
policy, let the Administration be true to its noble position, and success is
Mr. Davis of Pennsylvania: It is eighty-five
years since Adam Smith wrote: `It appears from the experience of ages and
nations, that the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that
performed by slaves.' (Wealth of Nations)
Do you believe this? My constituents will be apt to say to
claimants for compensation for the emancipated slave, `you will be paid in the
better man we will give you; if we take your slave we will return you the freed
man;' and again, `you will be paid in the first load of boards you buy.' `But I
have bought this man. I gave thirty pieces of silver for this man and he is
mine. Would you rob me?
Not so. We place you on a level with the owner of the
turnpike when the railroad was introduced. You suffer only as the owner of all
productive machines does when better and cheaper productions displace his. How
can I vote millions to remunerate the owner of the slave, when he is superceded
by a better man?
To illustrate the injustice, suppose South Carolina has four
hundred thousand slaves, and we allow the moderate sum of $400 for each slave.
This would equal $160 million in compensation to the owners, and yet the State
would contain 400,000 more efficient workers than it had before. We are made
poorer by the taxes imposed to meet this payment. They are made doubly rich by
the gift of millions of dollars and freedom to the slave.
An objection to the policy of emancipation is embodied in
the question asked by the gentlemen from Pennsylvania, Mr. Wright when he said,
`Where would you march that army of four million slaves? Would you march
them to Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or New York?'
And which he answers this way: `If this army of four million
slaves were to commence its march into Ohio and Pennsylvania, it would be worse
upon those States that the plagues of Egypt.'
But this is not true. This would not happen. By the census
of 1850, there were 136,000 free blacks residing in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Why have this people, with so many reasons to impel them, not immigrated
to the North? The census shows this people will not migrate, it is too
deep-rooted in the South.
March 10, 1862
Mr. Roscoe Conkling of New York: I ask the
consent of the House to introduce the following joint resolution: Resolved,
that the United States ought to cooperate with any
State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving
to such State pecuniary aid.
Mr. Wood of New York: I object.
Mr. Conkling: I move to suspend the rules.
This is the exact resolution recommended by the President. I call for the yeas
and nays upon my motion.
The yeas and nays were ordered.
The question was taken; and it was decided in the
affirmative—86 yeas, 35 nays. So the rules were suspended.
Mr. Richardson of Illinois: Mr. Speaker, I
confess I am struck with astonishment, when the gentleman from New York introduced this resolution. I do not believe my people are prepared, I know they
are not prepared, to enter upon this proposed work of purchasing the slaves of
other people and turning them loose in our midst. When the President suggested
sending these slaves outside the country I was elated. Then I thought there was
a way by which we might get rid of that class of people as fast as possible,
but that is not before us now.
Mr. Bingham of Ohio: The resolution involves
no principle save the power of Government to contribute in aid of the gradual
abolition of slavery in any State which, of its own motion, may initiate that
Mr. Wickliffe of Kentucky: Will the gentleman
tell me under what clause of the Constitution he finds the power of Congress to
appropriate the treasure of the United States to buy negroes, or to set them
free? Is it under the head of the `general welfare'?
Mr. Bingham: The grant of the Constitution for
the common defense has no limitation to it, express or implied,
save public necessity. I remind the gentleman of the words of Madison, `It
is in vain to oppose constitutional barriers to the impulse of
self-preservation.' And says Hamilton, `Congress have an
unlimited discretion to make requisions of men and money.' These words
authorize Congress to levy and collect taxes without limit for the common
Mr. Voorhees of Indiana: If the people I have
the honor to represent are to pay taxes for the purpose of buying the slaves of
the South, it is best for them to know it at once. I will say one thing
further: that if there is any border slave State man here who is in doubt
whether he wants his State to sell its slaves to this Government or not, I
represent a people that is in no doubt as to whether they want to become the
purchasers. It takes two to make a bargain; and I repudiate, once and forever,
for the people whom I represent on this floor, any part or parcel in such a
Mr. Bingham: If we are going to offer
inducements to any State that is loyal to the Union to initiate abolition, it
is high time that we should take up the proposition and dispose of it, in order
to give those States an opportunity to accept or reject it.
March 11, 1862
Mr. Diven of New York: After the triumphs of
our armies in Virginia, in Kentucky, in Tennessee, and after it had become
manifest that the rebels could not, by force of arms, maintain their position
in those States, Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation that in essence admitted
the Confederacy was abandoning the border states, to concentrate the rebel
forces in the heart of the Cotton States, and there maintain resistance to the
Union. It is hoped by Davis that we will annoy the Border States so that they
are pushed into the Confederacy. To prevent this the President wisely suggests
we help the Border States in the emancipation of their slaves.
The gentlemen complain about the expense of doing this. Why,
sir, half a day's expense of this war will pay for the emancipation of all the
slaves of Delaware. The cost of maintaining this war for half a month will pay
for the emancipation of the slaves of Kentucky. And if we can cut off from
these rebels their last hope by this act, we will accelerate the termination of
Mr. Crisfield of Maryland: If gentlemen on the
other side feel that slavery in this country is as much the act of the North as
of the South, and if it is to be got rid of, it is as much a moral obligation
upon them as upon us to exert themselves in that regard.
Mr. Olin of New York: Now it is not true that
either this House or the people of this country have any other motive in the
prosecution of this war than they had in August last. They are fighting this
war for the maintenance of the Constitution and the Union. That is their
object, their sole object.
Every intelligent man in the free States as well as in the
slave States knows—the whole world knows—that this institution of slavery has
been the cause of this accursed rebellion.
Yet Mr. Wickliffe says that this offer to aid in the
emancipation of the slaves is an interference with this institution. Merciful
God! Does this institution make you mad! As our armies march through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and to some extent other States, thousands and thousands of
these poor negro slaves will flock to the standard of the Union, and do you
think there is a power on earth that can induce us to surrender these men to
Mr. Crittenden of Kentucky: (His son at this time
commands a division in Sidney Johnston's army) Mr. Speaker, I do not doubt the
perfect sincerity of the President in presenting this resolution for our
consideration, but I have not been able to bring myself to the belief that it
is a measure exactly suited to the times.
Mr. Speaker, I will say nothing about the loyalty of the
State of Kentucky. Has she not parted with all her ancient allies? But this
resolution seems to require of her now, as further evidence of her fidelity
that she surrender her domestic institutions. Why should that be asked of her? And
is it to be understood that the slave States, as one after another returns to
the Union, are to give the same sort of pledge by abandoning their domestic
institutions? Is this right? Is this good faith?
The way to conciliate Kentucky is not by pressing these
questions upon her. The way to conciliate Kentucky is to leave her alone. That
will make the old State proud. But when you demand of her a revolution in her
domestic policy, I am apprehensive it may not have the good effect you suppose.
The cardinal principle upon which our whole system of government is
founded is that matters of a local and domestic character shall be under the
exclusive control of the State government, and national and external matters
under the control of the General Government. Is not that our theory?
And according to that theory, does not this institution—as has always been
admitted by you—fall within the class of those domestic subjects which belong
exclusively to the States?
Mr. Fisher of Delaware: I do not believe that
the purpose of the President in offering this resolution is to create a trap;
could I suppose for a moment that it means that if we do not in each of the
states immediately inaugurate a rapid scheme of emancipation, then the whole
power of the Government should be exerted to compel us to it. I rather view it
as an olive branch of peace presented to the border States. I see in its
adoption a final settlement of all angry discussion and agitation over this
terrible question of slavery.
But I hesitate not to declare that I believe the Almighty
intended this Union as the home of the white race, created for them, not for
the negro, and it is the duty of every patriot to consider how the separation
of the two distinct races, which can never dwell together upon terms of
political and social equality, can be effected with the least jarring to the
harmony and happiness of the country.
Mr. Hickman of Pennsylvania: Sir, any man who
sits down and carefully reads this message, cannot fail to understand just what
the President had in mind at the time he penned it. One cannot fail to observe
that the President makes direct reference to the employment of measures, in a
certain emergency, which may cause a weakening if not a total subversion of the
slave power. The President says to these gentlemen of the border States that he
may be forced, as he said in his annual message, to resort to such
extreme measures that slavery may be abolished in the cotton States.
I therefore regard this message, as an awful note of warning
to those residing in the border States that their interests, so far as they are
identified with the institution of slavery, will be in any event destroyed by
I am satisfied I cannot be mistaken as to the points in the
mind of the President when he wrote this message. He does look to a
contingency in which extreme war measures may become necessary. If
this Union is deserving of the eulogiums all gentlemen from all sections heap
upon it, it is worth more than the pecuniary interests involved in any single
If the President had postponed this message to a day after
the occurrence which he seems to anticipate had taken place, when the slave
institutions of the extreme South were undermined in the progress of the war,
and had then cautioned his friends in the border States, it would have been too
late. He says to them, in essence, `Gentlemen, the time may be near at
hand when your slave interest will be completely crushed, and I therefore
advise Congress to pass this resolution, that by proper precaution on your part
against a disastrous contingency in the future, your interests may be protected
I say, sir, that the Union must be preserved, no matter what
the cost or sacrifice to which it may lead. I therefore give as the conclusion
that that man who is not willing to save the Union by the sacrifice of a
private interest is already a rebel. I proclaim here a fact which has
studiously been concealed, as it seems to me, that the border States are not in
this Union because they love freedom. They are in it because they fear force.
Now, sir, but one word more. Allow me to say that I know no
great diversity of opinion among men whose interests are identified with
slavery. I have never been able to discover a difference in views or feelings
between a man from Maryland and a man from South Carolina. I have found
wherever the negro is there is an undivided loyalty to slavery, and every day's
proceedings here show it. The President knows it. The Cabinet knows it; and
therefore the difficulty which the President has had for a long time in dealing
with this rebellion.
Mr. Lincoln has found himself between two swords—the sword
of the party looking to a particular policy, to be pursued towards a rebellion
springing from slavery, and the sword in the hands of the border States, who
insist all the time that the war should be prosecuted in such a way as to save
their peculiar, divine, and humanizing institution.
The President of the United States, if he has any
recollection, he will remember that he was taken up by a party, sustained and
carried into his high position by a party whose very life was dedicated to the
maintenance of the Constitution and the Union; and they had the right to expect
the adoption of such measures, not inconsistent with the laws of war, as would
be most likely to crush treason at the earliest moment.
Query: The President, under the law of war, has the
power to summarily declare the Africans in the seceded states to be free? So,
too, then, must he have the power to declare the white people of the seceded
I say further, that the nation has felt a great lack of
confidence, not only in the President, but in those military leaders put in
highest position by the President. He knows this well and has made some
changes. He knows further that the people of the northern States, no matter
what interests may perish, no matter what lives may be sacrificed, will command
that the war shall be prosecuted with the greatest vigor, and that the
Government shall be reestablished, even if it be but over smouldering cities
and wasted lands.
In the Senate of the United States
March 24, 1862
Mr. Trumbull of Illinois: I move to take up
House joint resolution No. 48, re the gradual abolishment of slavery in the border States.
The motion was agreed to.
Mr. Saulsbury: The resolution is to my mind
the most extraordinary resolution that was ever introduced into an American
Congress; extraordinary in its origin; extraordinary in subject, mischievous in
its tendency. Sir, it is an ignoring of the policy which has always been
proclaimed by the party now in power. What was the declaration made by that
party before the recent presidential election? What have been their
declarations ever since they came to power? It was that they did not intend nor
contemplate any interference with the subject of domestic slavery within the
States. It is folly to say it is not interference with the States. It does not
propose, by force, to liberate the slaves. It does not say, `If you do not
emancipate them, we will.'
Now, sir, where is the propriety for such a resolution as
this? Has any one of the States asked your aid? And where do you get the
authority to tax the people to pay for emancipation of slaves? What is the
spectacle, sir, which this resolution presents? That this Government is about
to become a great negro trader and slave buyer?
Why is it that this question of slavery, slavery in the
States, slavery in the District of Columbia, slavery everywhere, must be
brought into all your legislation?
Mr.Powell: What good will be accomplished by
the adoption of this resolution. None whatever. This is but one of a series of
measures to destroy the institution of slavery. When the President sent this
resolution to the Congress he plainly violated the doctrine announced in his
inaugural address when he said, `I have no purpose directly or
indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it
exists.' Is not this resolution an interference? Is it not holding out
an inducement to the people of the border States that if they emancipate their
slaves they shall receive aid from the Federal Government? That man must be
stupid indeed who does not know that that is an interference.
Mr. Morrill: Mr. President, how can
this simple proposition be an offense to anyone? Here we are in the midst of a
gigantic rebellion that shakes the pillars of the Government. It is produced
directly by slavery. Slavery is the mainspring and cause of it. Slavery in
these states has produced the whole of it. Now, sir, the President says that it
is desirable that this nation should be rid of this great evil. He merely says
that it is well now, in these great troubles, that the nation should consider
whether it is not wise to devise some plan for the legitimate extinction of
slavery in so many of the States willing to adopt it.
In The House of Representatives
March 12, 1862
The Tax Bill
Mr. Stevens: I move that the rules be
suspended and we proceed to consideration of House Bill No. 312 to provide
internal revenue to support the Government.
The estimated amount of revenue to be collected was set
forth as $164 million.
Mr. Wadsworth of Kentucky: It is my intention,
Mr. Chairman, to discuss the questions that grow out of this great subject of
taxation; not to discuss the details of the bill, but to discuss the policy of the Government, the tendency and
object of the war, for the support of which the taxes are to be levied. Sir, I
came here leaning strongly for the Administration. I believed that the
President's view in this revolutionary crisis were moderate, and that he had no
other purpose or policy than the restoration of the Union in its former
integrity. I supposed that the restoration of the old Union was the policy of
the Administration. I am not prepared, now, to give this war an abolition turn,
and to call upon my constituents for taxes to support it for an indefinite
period of time as this bill proposes to do.
To all the millions of property in Kentucky, which it is
said is kept in the Union by fear, this Government is welcome to maintain the
Constitution. For the maintenance of this purpose alone should we vote taxes or
vote money. Is that what these taxes are being raised for? Are the rights of the
States to be preserved or are they to be shallowed up by this war? Or reserved
rights to be surrendered to a consolidated government?
I am here today a member of the Union Democracy party and I
am here to resist this new and overshadowing danger, this tendency of the
Federal Government to shallow up the powers reserved to the States and the
people respectively. I am here to resist the claim made on this floor on behalf
of the right of the Federal Government to interfere with the institution of
slavery, on the ground the institution is not compatible with the security of
the United States.
The President declared at the start that there are
institutions and laws guaranteed by State and Federal constitutions, the longer
continuance of which are incompatible with the security of the Union. That, sir, is the logic of the message, and that is the doctrine of the political
abolitionists of this country. I am not prepared to vote a dollar to accomplish
The President is an honest and a patriotic man. He has been
teased and pressed by the radical antislavery men, to whom he looks for much of
his support, until he has been compelled to offer what he supposes a compromise
between extreme abolitionists and Unionists.
Let us admit that logically we may infer from the
President's message that general confiscation of property, general emancipation
or abolition, degradation of States to Territories, is to be abandoned by those
who have advocated them heretofore; all the radicals who support the President's
policy, let us concede, give them up. We may fairly infer from the language of
the message that the President has proposed the principle of Federal pressure
on the States to compel gradual emancipation by their own action. He places
that policy upon the ground that emancipation initiated in the border States, on the proffer of aid by the Federal Government, is `one of the most
efficient means' of preserving the Union.
I say that the men who have introduced the radical measures,
although they claim to support the President, will not abandon their measures
when the President calls upon them to do so. Mr. Stevens says he will not give
up his policies to the President. I ask him now, will you?
Mr. Stevens: Whenever the President convinces
me that I am wrong, then I will give it up. Until then, no.
Mr. Wadsworth: I expected nothing less. I
merely appealed to him as testimony to show this compromise of the President
cannot be made effective. Even if we would consent in Kentucky to go for
gradual emancipation, the scheme would not satisfy men like Mr. Stevens. Mr.
Stevens, in his speeches, has said how this war should be conducted and how
these taxes should be expended:
Prejudice may be shocked, weak
minds startled, weak nerves may tremble, but they must hear and adopt it. Those
who now furnish the means of war, but who are the natural enemies of
slaveholders must be made our allies. Universal emancipation must be proclaimed
And he says again:
If an effectual course is not to
be pursued for fear of offending border State friends, better submit at once,
and, if we cannot save our honor, save, at least, the lives and treasures of
I observe also my friend from Ohio, Mr. Bingham, has
advocated a scheme of universal emancipation. Here is what he said:
Why should not this legislation
be extended so as to authorize the seizure and confiscation to the public use
of all the property, real and personal, money, goods, stocks, credits, and
effects of these rebel enemies, their aiders and abettors? Why should not the
$300 million worth of cotton, rice, corn, sugar, and tobacco, now possessed by
the enemy, be declared forfeited by law? Why should not the lands of the enemy
be seized and given to loyal citizens? And above all, sir, why should not the
four millions of slaves held by these rebels be by law declared freemen?
That shows that the gentleman from Ohio will give but a
light support to the policy of the President. There, too, is Mr. Fessenden. He
looks to the usurpation by the Federal Government of the rights reserved to the
States, to begin with the emancipation of the slaves of the rebels first, but
aiming to reach the slaves of the border States sooner or later.
I declare therefore that the President has made a mistake.
The debate in Kentucky over the issue of gradual emancipation will take years
to resolve, yet the measure is supposed to shorten the war? The policy will in
the end be rejected by Kentucky. I reject it now. I utterly spit at and despise
it, tendered as it is by a Federal Government in a dark and stormy moment like
this; by this the strongest Government that the world ever saw, with the
purse-strings wide open and the sword grasped by no feeble hand. I regard it as
the most fatal measure that could be thrown before the American people for
agitation at such a time as this.
Two hundred and fifty thousand contented and happy
creatures, of humble mental capacity, and of an inferior race, are in our
midst. The native tribes from which they sprang are still in Africa, naked
savages, wandering in the jungles, or offered as sacrifices upon the grave of
the King of Dahomey to appease the manes of his father. They know not God. All
the arts of civilization are unknown to them. We have elevated their brethren
from that barbarous condition to as high a point, perhaps, as their humble
capacity will permit them to reach. As the Anglo-Saxon race continues its grand
march to the goal of civilization, this inferior race will march with it.
I know what the African has performed in his own country
left to himself, and I know what he has performed in this country, when left to
himself. I know that if deserted by the white race he would soon degenerate
into the condition in which our ancestry found him and we now find his brethren
We have never done them any wrong, nor do we intend to
permit these people (the abolitionists) to do them any wrong. Born and raised
among them, we are attached to them; and should you attempt, by Federal
usurpation this day, by your decree, to strike what you call their `chains'
from their limbs, still we should fee a love for them and an interest in them,
and thousands and thousands of us would not permit them to leave our firesides.
And it would be a sad day for them, indeed, when they heard that you had passed
such a decree as that, and were going to enforce it by Federal bayonets.
But that is not the end of it. Suppose these States reject
the proffer; and they will reject it; the President knew it, and everybody knew
it; then comes my friend, Mr. Stevens, and my friend, Mr.Bingham, and they will
say to the President: `We have sustained your policy and the border States
reject it, now, in order to deprive the cotton States of the hope that these
half-loyal states will ever join them, we demand of you forcible emancipation.
Mr. Fessenden breaks in: I much more desire
the extermination of slavery than I do to see the Union restored. I wish to see
slavery at an end when this war is at an end, if it can be constitutionally
Mr. Wadsworth: These men like Fessenden: they
know emancipation in the cotton States is simply an absurdity—a physical,
natural, commercial, and moral absurdity and impossibility. It cannot be done.
There is not enough power in the world to compel it to be done.
Mr. Bingham: What does the words of the
gentleman from Kentucky mean? Why, that the gentleman is willing to tax, only
for the purpose of getting the cotton States back in the Union upon their
former status, with their slaves and slavery and not otherwise. This idea
pervaded the man's speech, from beginning to end, whether he knew it or not.
This divinity of civilization, chattel slavery, is sacred;
for the way to civilize men is to enslave them and convert them into brutes!
Sir, if that is the condition upon which the gentleman's allegiance is to be
retained to the Union and the Constitution, the sooner all such patriots depart
Mr. Wadsworth: Let me say a word.
Mr. Bingham: No, sir; I am not misrepresenting
the gentleman's position. He argued that chattel slavery in America is the civilizer of the children of the Kingdom of Dahomey.
Mr. Wadsworth: I do say that the
gentleman misrepresents my position. I annex no conditions to my loyalty.
Mr. Bingham: If the gentleman annexes no
condition to his loyalty then his remarks about the use of the revenue, and
retaining the cotton States, were simply meaningless, and ought not to have
been uttered. He said, if you allow, under any condition, the cotton States to
depart this Union, then Kentucky should not stay in the Union and annexed the
condition, that no matter what, you must not touch slavery.
Who, in the name of Heaven, wants the cotton States in the Union or in any other place than the state of perdition, if they are to be in the Union only on the condition that slavery continues? (laughter)
The question is whether the gentleman from Kentucky is in
favor of the Union, whether he is for the Government of the United States and for the exercise of all means which nature has given us (force)
for the putting down of this infamous, infernal rebellion? Is he for the Union to that extent that he will sanction the employment of all necessary means to
Mr. Wadsworth: I am not in favor of preserving
the Union by destroying the Constitution and inaugurating congressional
Mr. Bingham: I put the question again. If the
majority of the people of the United States, together with their
representatives in Congress and the President, conclude that to effectively put
down this rebellion, there is an indispensable necessity to sweep away
that infernal atrocity, the Dahomey civilizer, will the gentleman then stand by
the Union and the Constitution and sustain the President and his policy?
Mr. Wadsworth: No such necessity can ever
exist, except in the diseased minds of those who talk about the infamy of their
brethren of the South, for habits which their fathers approved and for
institutions which they lived under for years.
Mr. Bingham: The gentleman has still not
answered the question. I will state it again. Suppose that the contingency
shall arise when, in the judgment of the President and in the judgment of a
majority in Congress, it becomes necessary to utterly abolish this system of
slavery that the Constitution may live and the Union may be preserved, is the
gentleman for it?
Mr. Wadsworth: If the gentleman and his
abolition allies come to our State to execute such a law with force, I will
Mr. Bingham: I want to know by what right Kentucky or any other State comes upon this floor and says in advance, by her
Representative, she will not abide by the decision of a majority of the
people's representatives in the House and in the Senate?
Mr. Wadsworth: It makes no difference to me.
Mr. Bingham: I object to these constant
interruptions. When the gentleman wants to interrupt me he must first get my
Mr. Wadsworth: The gentleman put questions to
Mr. Bingham: I am not putting questions. I beg
leave now to say to the gentleman. The gentleman says in case of such a law
being passed as I have stated, and which if executed will save the Union and put an end to this war, he will stay in the Union and fight. Fight what?
Mr. Wadsworth: Will you let it be broken up?
Mr. Bingham: Who is the judge?
Mr. Wadsworth: You.
Mr. Bingham: I submit that the gentleman is
not the judge. Judge indeed! On that ground Jefferson Davis has the right to
carry on his treason. I want to know whether, if the gentleman's assumption is
good for him, it is not good for Jefferson Davis, who has assumed to go out of
the Union because you did not by law give protection to slavery property
everywhere within the legislative jurisdiction of the country, by land and by
sea; that is his position.
The gentleman seems to be an apt student of the original leader in
this rebellion. I believe it is my duty as a citizen of the Republic to bow to
the law in whatever form it comes, and, if I deem the law unjust, to seek its
repeal by my vote, my voice. That, sir, is the extent of my privilege.
In saying this, I do not deny the inherent, sacred right of
revolution in the people. I admit if the Government of the United States
arrogates powers which do not belong to it, imposes upon the people such
burdens as are to grievous to be borne, they may, as a last resort, and if
further submission is more dangerous to their liberties than armed resistance—then,
and not till then, may they employ force. That is the common judgment of
Mr. Wadsworth: I subscribe to that. (And
so does all reason in the world.)
Mr. Bingham: I am glad that the gentleman
subscribes to it. If he subscribes to it and acts upon it, he will not be so
swift to advise Kentucky to arm to resist the Government of the United States, if a majority in Congress, with the President, conclude and legislate
accordingly, that the slaves of rebels in arms shall be declared freemen.
This Government has the right of self-preservation. If it
becomes necessary, in order to preserve the State, to sacrifice the lives of
the best, the bravest, the noblest in the land, their lives must be sacrificed.
It has always been and always will be, to the end of time, a national necessity
that some must die that the State may live.
The only question really in issue is whether the
majority in this Republic shall rule. That is the question to be decided by
this conflict of arms
Much is said about private property being respected in war,
save enemy property at sea; that the usage is only to take public property on
land. I admit the usage in general, in international war; for the reason that
the subject must obey his sovereign, and is therefore not your enemy by choice.
These rebels have no sovereignty. They are simply organized
conspirators, waging civil war against the people and the people's sovereignty.
All the property they hold is enemy property, belonging only to them as rebels
and enemies in arms. They are simply an armed mob, nothing more.
Note: "These rebels have no sovereignty:"
This is the fundamental legal and constitutional error of the Republicans'
theory that underpinned their war. Under the Constitution as the founders wrote
it, sovereignty, in the sense of allegiance to one's "country,"
belonged to the States. Why? Because, under the Constitution, it is the States,
not the Federal Government, that controls who is and who is not, a citizen of
the United States. Only those persons, recognized by the civil law of each
State, can claim the legal status of being a "citizen of the United States." The Republicans, of course, by the end of the war recognized this
indisputable fact, when they forced down the throat of the conquered States the
13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution.
Mr. Bingham supported his argument at the time with
reference to Article VI of the Constitution, which reads in pertinent part:
"The members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive
and judicial officers. . . of the several States, shall be bound by oath in
support of this Constitution." Mr. Bingham, as did Lincoln and all
Republicans of the times, simply ignored, as inconvenient, the reality that the
Constitution was agreed to, only because it plainly prohibited the Federal
Government from interfering with the institution of slavery as it existed in
the States. At the end of the war, aware of this, the Republicans forced
through the amendments to the Constitution that changed
this constitutional mandate, which was the fundamental basis for the compact in
the first place.
Mr. Bingham: The gentleman spoke of Kentucky going away from the Union.
Mr. Wadsworth: I did not. She is not going.
Mr. Bingham: The gentleman says now she is not
going. But he stated before, that if Congress interfered with the civilizer she
would not stay. I would like him to tell us how Kentucky would go out of the Union if she should be mad enough to try it? We believe that the initiation of emancipation
will put an end to this civil war. After slavery is abolished, there will be
nothing left for these traitors to fight for. It is the sole cause of this
great treason. This great war is a conflict of freedom against armed traitors
who seek to build the most atrocious despotism the world ever saw.
Mr. Richardson moved that the committee rise.
The motion was agreed to.
So the committee rose; and the Speaker having resumed the
chair, Mr. Colfax reported that the Committee, on the tax bill, had come to no
Joe Ryan (Edited for brevity.)
Source: The Congressional Record, Second
Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress. John Rives Court Reporter, published
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