American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - E

EARLE, John Milton, 1794-1874, Leicester, Massachusetts, businessman, abolitionist, statesman, political leader, newspaper publisher, pioneer and leader in the anti-slavery/abolitionist movement.  Member of Whig and Free Soil parties.  Husband of abolitionist Sarah H. Earle.


EARLE, Thomas, 1796-1849, Worcester, Massachusetts, Society of Friends, Quaker, abolitionist leader, journalist, lawyer, political leader, Philadelphia, PA.  Edited Pennsylvania Freeman.  Petitioned Congress to amend U.S. Constitution to compensate slaveholders in the South who freed their slaves.  Vice presidential candidate for abolitionist Liberty Party. Manager, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), 1839-1840.

See also Liberty Party

(Bonner, 1948; Drake, 1950, p. 149; Dumond, 1961, p. 297; Goodell, 1852, p. 471; Wilson, 1872, pp. 549, 569, 571; Pennsylvania Freeman, April 23, 1840; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 288-289; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 1, p. 597; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 231)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

EARLE, Thomas, lawyer, b. in Leicester, Mass., 21 April, 1796; d. in Philadelphia, Pa., 14 July, 1849, was educated at Leicester academy, In 1817 he removed to Philadelphia, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits for a few years, but subsequently studied law and practised his profession. He became distinguished also as a journalist, editing in succession the “Columbian Observer,” “Standard,” “Pennsylvanian,” and “Mechanics’ Free Press and Reform Advocate.” In 1837 he took an active part in calling the Constitutional convention of Pennsylvania, of which he was a prominent member, and it is supposed that he made the original draft of the new constitution. He lost his popularity with the Democratic party by advocating the extension of the right of suffrage to negroes. He was the candidate of the liberty party for vice-president in 1840, but the nomination was repudiated by the abolitionists, whom that party was supposed to represent. Mr. Earle subsequently took little part in political affairs. He devoted his time principally to literary work, and published an “Essay on Penal Law”; an “Essay on the Rights of States to Alter and to Annul their Charters”; “Treatise on Railroads and Internal Communications” (1830); and a “Life of Benjamin Lundy.” At the time of his death he was engaged in a translation of Sismondi's “Italian Republics,” and in the compilation of a “Grammatical Dictionary of the French and the English Languages.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 288-289.



TO the average American in 1789 the most pressing national duty was to develop the vast resources which lay all around him. The national domain embraced about eight hundred and thirty thousand square miles, and the average density of population was less than five persons to each square mile. That the day would come when the country would be as well settled and as rich as the old countries of Europe was believed by all. A desire to anticipate such a development led to much speculation in land, and sometimes to rash public enterprises which could not be supported in the state of society then existing. In spite of such mishaps there went on from the beginning a rapid growth in all the forms of industry. The wars in Europe made a strong demand for provisions, wheat rose in price till it brought as much as two dollars a bushel, and in spite of the restrictions on neutral trade business conditions were good.

More than nine-tenths of the people were engaged in agriculture. Hamilton realized the disadvantage of this concentration of interests which made the country dependent on foreign markets for manufactured commodities, and preserved that bucolic cast of thought which is ever the weakness of an entirely rural people. In his report on manufactures he announced a plan for the artificial encouragement of town-building by protective duties or bounties, the chief purpose of which was to bring about a better distribution of rural and urban population. He Was in advance of his day: the small duties which Congress could be induced to lay gave only incidental protection, and that did little towards developing manufactures.

Food products, tobacco, 1 and lumber were the chief articles marketed by the rural communities. Wheat was raised everywhere except in the coast plains of the far south. The farms of New England were not rich enough to give the world much surplus beyond home requirements, but the forests were still abundant, and staves, masts, timber, and boards were still exported. Fishing was also an important industry, for the West India market was always open, though not for American vessels. The best wheat lands were in the middle states and in the tipper parts of Maryland and Virginia. The tobacco industry of the latter suffered heavily from the duties which as an independent people we now had to encounter in England, and from the exhaustion of lands where tobacco grew. The Virginians, who saw the commerce of the north encouraged by the national government, raised many complaints that nothing was done to protect their ancient industry; but it is not clear that the government could have found a remedy for the evil. 1 Naval stores and pork were the chief exports from North Carolina, a rich agricultural region in which the lack of harbors was to retard its development till the days of railroads. South Carolina and Georgia raised rice and indigo with great profit. But the south stood at the beginning of its cotton cultivation, the most significant development in the history of American agriculture.

The raising of cotton in this region passed its experimental stage even before 1789. It was evident that the vast alluvial plains of the south, which produced neither wheat nor rice profitably, were peculiarly adapted to cotton. One difficulty only stood in the way, and that was the expense of removing the seed by hand. In response to this economic demand, Whitney invented the cotton-gin in 1793· He was a New England school-teacher then resident in the south. His ingenious mind fashioned a machine which he patented in 1794 He attempted to market his invention by a system of licenses approved and guaranteed by the state legislatures. This plan afforded abundant opportunity of fraud, and the inventor reaped but little advantage from his ingenuity. l

In the north, free hired labor was generally

1 Tyler, Tylers, I., 164.

2 See Olmsted, Whitney; Correspondence of Eli Whitney (Am. Hist. Rev., Ill., 90-127).

employed. The old system of indentured servants had not entirely disappeared, but it furnished an inconsiderable part of the labor supply. There is some reason to suppose that it was used frequently in bringing skilled labor into the country. Of such laborers the country had very few: the predominance of rural life was not calculated to develop artisans, and many such workmen who came to the country were drawn off into agriculture by the cheapness of land and the uncertain demand for their crafts.

In the south, slavery displaced all the lower forms of hired labor. The “new negroes "just from Africa tended to keep the standard of efficiency among the slaves at a point lower than that of fifty years later. The new arrivals were unaccustomed to the work they were expected to perform, and frequently intractable. Some of them pined away for their African homes, a few of them ran off to the forests, but the majority were absorbed into the mass of the black people among which they were distributed, took the habits of their associates, and their children became like other slaves. At its best, slave labor was rarely more than three-fourths as efficient as white labor. Among the small farmers of the interior of the south, slaves were at first found only in small numbers; but the extension of cotton cultivation into this region is marked by a rapid increase of the slave population there.1

1 Bassett, Slavery in North Carolina (Johns Hopkins University Studies, XVII.), 394. .


Commerce, of course, existed in every part of the country, but in the south it was small. Slavery precluded the existence of a wage-earning class, and thus mightily lessened the purchasing element. There was also a tendency for the plantation system to supply many of its wants from its own resources. The money of the planters was spent in large orders which could be filled most profitably through commission merchants in remote places. Local trade was thus reduced to trifling proportions.

The conditions of retail trade were, therefore, abnormal in the south. In the north trade proceeded in the usual manner. Local commerce looked to large commercial centers, sending thither its products and receiving from thence its manufactured goods. A commercial class was thus built up in a normal way, and in the large towns it was powerful and stood in close alliance with the financiers. In the rich opportunities of the day, trade became so prosperous, and so overtopped the modest exchanges of the rural regions, that deep-seated conviction spread in those parts that the merchants and ship-owners had not reached success by honest means.

The new status of American trade after the Revolution was the source of much distress; for although England made only trivial discriminations against it, it was a disappointment that she put it out of the pale of her navigation laws and steadily neglected to make the long-desired treaty of commerce through which American merchants hoped to get special concessions. 1 Hard feelings were more easily produced in America, because it was felt that we could not afford to break our trade relations with the only country which was prepared to give us the requisite credit and to furnish on short notice those assorted cargoes which our general trade demanded. The non-commercial classes in America talked bravely about breaking commercial bondage as easily as political bondage, but men who had embarked all their fortunes in the trade with England thought differently about it. To them it seemed that it would be possible to induce England to relent. They were not mercantile economists, and they were in a position to see the advantages of liberal intercourse between nations. 

One British statesman, at least, did see these advantages, but he was impotent against the combined will of the English merchants. Pitt in 1783 offered a bill in Parliament to give trading concessions to the United States. He wisely saw that a conciliating spirit might preserve to his country the advantages of keeping one of her best customers. But he was in no position to encounter the opposition of the merchants, and the bill failed. In 1791 a slight concession was secured by which we were allowed to import into Great Britain on equal terms 

1 McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution (American Nation, X.), chap. vi. 

with other nations certain articles which her own colonies did not largely produce. 1

The next step was the Jay treaty.2 This instrument, after the omission of the twelfth article, left our trade in the following condition: each nation might freely trade with the other, subject to its ordinary customs duties and regulations; and the United States might trade freely with the British East Indies. Under this treaty our imports from Great Britain increased from $23,313,000 in 1795 to $39,519,000 in 1801; and our exports from $6,324,000 to $30,931,000 in the same period.3 Our trade with the French West Indies, which grew rapidly from 1793 to 1795, fell off to inconsiderable proportions by 1801,4 no doubt because of the distressed condition of those islands by reason of internal commotions and the activity of English ships of war. In 1795 the total exports were $47,855,000, and in 1801 they were $93,020,000, the imports were $69,756,000 in the former year, and $111,363,000 in the latter; 5 but of the exports nearly $25,000,000 in 1795, and over $46,000,000 in 1801, were foreign products re-exported. 6

One of the greatest economic difficulties of this period was a lack of capital. A mint was established in 1793 and proceeded to coin into American money

1 Pitkin, Commerce of the United States, 177·

2 See above, pp. 124-135.

3 Pitkin, Commerce of the United States, 179, 188.

4 Ibid., 218.

5 Ibid, 257-262.

6 Seybert, Statistical Annals, 93.

the indiscriminate English, French, and Dutch coins which had up to that time been the money of the people. But at its best speed it could not make the transition quickly, and foreign coins were still in wide popular use. Credit also was freely employed, and by l 80 r many banks of issue had been established. The following statistics are taken from the estimate of a contemporary and are probably nearly correct .1



Number of banks 


Metallic currency



















Although some of the bank-notes issued by these banks must have been poorly secured, the mass of bank money was not greatly discounted, and it did valuable service in aid of the business of the young nation. The extravagance of "wild-cat" banking was yet to come. In the abundance of business opportunities the rate of interest rose till ten per cent or more was not unusual. The cheap rates in Holland tended to counteract this rise in America, but when the European war involved that country, money was no longer to be got there; and then the rate rose so high in the United States that the government itself at times paid eight per cent on the funds actually realized from the sale of bonds. 2

The collapse of the group of stock speculators 

1 Knox, Banking in the U. S., 307; Blodgett, Economica, 216.

2 Dewey, Financial Hist. of the U. S., 112, 

whom Duer led 1 did not put an end to over-speculation: land companies embarked in extravagant enterprises; development companies of one kind and another undertook tasks which could not be remunerative in a long time; and merchants went deeply into debt in anticipation of enormous volumes of trade which did not materialize. The seizure of American ships by both Britain and France involved losses also. In 1797 all these forces came to a crisis. Many a wealthy man was forced into bankruptcy, among them Robert Morris, the patriotic banker of the Revolution. He had bought large holdings of western lands and had engaged also in a real-estate venture in Washington. From neither could· he realize the money necessary to keep him out of a debtor's prison.2 The panic, however, was only a temporary check to the business of the country. By the end of the century matters assumed a normal condition, and the economic forces of a new country carried industry forward with the usual rapid stride.

Manufactures came slowly into a country where the simpler forms of industry were so profitable. English policy had thwarted their rise in colonial times, 3 and the Revolutionary era was no time for new developments of this kind. Power machinery and other inventions in England were effectively

1 See above, p. 52.

2 Oberholtzer, Robert Morris, 300-354.

3 Cf. Greene, Provincial America, chap. xvi.; Howard, Preliminaries of the Revolution, chap. iii. (Am. Nation, VI., VIII.). 

developed by 1785, and it was impossible for the old hand system, still used in America, to compete in the production of manufactured commodities. Both capital and governmental protection were necessary to overcome the initial difficulties of such a step and to enable the Americans to undersell England, and the mild tariff policy of the period had not much effect in this direction.

In the manufacture of cotton goods an early beginning was made which was to have an important result in the history of manufactures in America. In 1789, Samuel Slater landed in New York. He was an ingenious and well-intentioned English lad who had just completed an apprenticeship in one of the newly established cotton factories of his country. Slater expected to introduce the English machinery into America, but strict regulations in England prevented any of the models or drawings of the new machinery from getting out of the country. The lad, however, relied on his memory for the designs. He came at last to Moses Brown, of Rhode Island, who had been making some unsuccessful attempts in the same direction through persons who proved themselves incompetent to reproduce the coveted machines. Slater was able to do the things expected of him, and became a partner with his employer. In 1793, the same year in which Whitney invented the cotton-gin, the firm of Almy, Brown & Slater set up at Pawtucket the first successful New England cotton factory. By the end of the century other factories were established; 1 and from that time this industry has been exceedingly important in American economic, social, and even political life.

In the period from 1789 to 1801 there was a thriving hand industry in the homes of the people. In New England, for example, many families made nails in the long winter evenings. Furniture, hats, shoes, simple iron implements, and a hundred other articles which in later times have yielded to the advance of machinery construction, were then made by village artisans in the north or by plantation mechanics in the south.

Dealing in frontier lands was ever a favorite way of making money with the colonial capitalists. Many a great fortune in the south and middle states was made in this way. The method was for men of wealth to get large grants from the government in advance of the tide of settlement, hold them till they came into the market, and then sell at a profit. There was a notion abroad that this was the best way to settle the new lands, for men of means alone were able to induce small farmers to emigrate thither.

The beginning of national life turned men's attention to the west, where speculators began to buy up the lands. They secured in large quantities the warrants of soldiers who had received land bounties for their services in the army. These warrants were presented in great batches at the western land

1 Bagnall, Textile Industries of the United States, I., 144-161, 

offices, and expert judges of good land were employed to locate the best tracts for the owners. In this way much of the land of Tennessee and Kentucky was first taken up. From that region the movement went into the northwest and into the western portion of New York. These land speculators differed in their methods of procedure in no respect from the land-boomers of the more recent west. Voluble, overconfident, and not too truthful, they deluded the credulous in many cases, although it must be confessed that they planted the seed of American communities in many waste places. Sometimes they sold land to settlers the title to which they had not absolutely acquired, and this practice was called "dodging.'' They frequently sold to European peasants and shopkeepers, and in such transactions many instances of delusion occurred. In colonial times land speculations were usually conducted by individuals, and the tracts taken ran from twenty-five thousand to one hundred thousand acres. But after the Revolution, companies were organized which secured tracts ten times as great. In 1789 three great grants aggregating one million two hundred and fifty thousand acres in the northwest were secured from Congress.

The first regulations for the sale of lands provided that they should be sold at Philadelphia. Individual settlers were thus almost prevented from purchasing directly from the government, and the people of the west protested that it put them at the mercy of the speculators. It was more calculated, also, to draw settlers from abroad than from the east, and the people of the west believed that the east supported it in Congress from this design. From the beginning of our national existence easy sale of public lands has been a favorite policy of the frontiersmen.

Albert Gallatin, who was himself a westerner, in 1796 secured the passage of a new law which tended to satisfy the settlers. It applied to the lands of the Northwestern Territory, defined the township system which later became universal in the west, and authorized the sale of land in sections of six hundred and forty acres. Land offices were opened at Pittsburg and Cincinnati, and the price was fixed at not less than two dollars an acre. The sales of land went on so slowly under this act that in 1800 the principle of popular distribution was further extended. Four district land offices were now created, and purchasers were allowed to buy land on credit, complete payment not being required for four years.1

The land speculators were not exempt from the frauds which have so often existed in connection with government franchises. At one time a scheme was unearthed by which a company made extensive plans to secure a large part of the Michigan peninsula by means of a collusive grant from Congress. The most prominent scheme of this kind, however, was

1 Adams, Gallatin, 167; Donaldson, Public Domain, 202.

that which grew out of the old Yazoo companies 1 which had first been prominent in connection with western filibustering. These companies were revived under other names, and in 1795 the legislature of Georgia granted them for five hundred thousand dollars about thirty million acres on the Mississippi. It was soon discovered that every man but one of those who voted for the charters was concerned in the speculation. The land was actually sold at about one and a half cents an acre. Great indignation was aroused among the people of the state. James Jackson, noted for his peppery Republican speeches in Congress, resigned his seat in the federal Senate to lead the fight against the perpetrators of fraud, and the next legislature revoked the franchises. Such action was later held by the Supreme Court to be contrary to the clause in the Constitution which forbids a state to violate a contract; but Georgia persisted in her position. Congress was not prepared to coerce her, and in 1802 the dispute was compromised by a payment of money by the national government to the members of the fraudulent companies.2

1 Haskins, Yazoo Land Companies (Am. Hist. Assoc., Papers, V.), 414-423.

2 Donaldson, Public Domain, 83-85; see also Haskins, Yazoo Land Companies (Am. Hist. Assoc., Papers, V.), 414-437.

Source:  Bassett, John Spencer, The Federalist System. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 11, 190-203. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


EDGERTON, Sidney, 1818-1900, New York, abolitionist.  U.S. Congressman.  First Territorial Governor of Montana.  Free Soiler, delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1856.  Elected to U.S. Congress in 1858; served two terms.  In Congress, he proposed abolition of slavery in the territories and the District of Columbia.  

(Dictionary of American Biography, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 2, p. 20)


EDWARDS, Dr. Reverend Jonathon, 1745-1801, clergyman, anti-slavery activist, college president.  Wrote The Injustice and Impolicy of the Slave Trade, 1791.  Son of noted theologian, Jonathan Edwards. 

(Bruns, 1977, pp. 290, 293-302, 317, 340; Dumond, 1961, pp. 47, 345; Goodell, 1852, pp. 28, 92, 111, 127, 130; Locke, 1901, pp. 41, 90, 103, 183, 186, 187, 191; Zilversmit, 1967, pp. 107, 153; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 311-312; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 2, p. 37; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 334)



The question still remains, how far did the abolitionists accomplish what they set out to do? After thirty years of agitation, suddenly slavery ceased to be, through the use of that military power which John Quincy Adams had foreseen and almost invoked.1 The abolitionists naturally believed that they had pulled down the heavens and let the freedmen escape through the cracks. Are they entitled to the credit for this tremendous result?

The work of the abolitionists can be estimated only in contrast with their aims, motives, and results, up to the breaking out of civil war. So far as the effect upon the conditions of the slave was concerned, the abolitionist accomplished little of what he set out to do: the slave codes were more severe in 1860 than in 1830; the national fugitive slave act was more drastic; the law of the territories was more favorable to slavery; the square miles open to slavery had doubled in the thirty years; the

1 See chap. xviii., above.

number of slaves had increased from two millions to nearly four millions ; even the bulwark against the African slave-trade seemed weakening, under the vigorous demands of the lower south for cheaper slaves.1 As for the attempt to affect the slave-holder by moral suasion or by hard language, it was a total failure. A few slave-holders, like John S. Wise, shocked by the brutality of the system as they saw it, privately put their heads together and "agreed that a system in which things like that were possible was monstrous; and that the question was, not whether it should be abolished and abolished quickly, but as to the manner of its abolition" 2; but the community in general defended slavery in all its ramifications, accepting the worst features of it as disagreeable but inevitable incidents. The insurmountable difficulty in the whole controversy over slavery was that the two sides were not dealing with the same thing. The starting-point in the north was the individual, his inborn God-given right to make the best of himself, no matter what his race or color. As Lincoln put it, "in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he [the negro] is my equal, . . . and the equal of every living man." 3

1 See Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. xx.

2 Wise, End of an Era, 87; cf. Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter, 190-192.

3 Lincoln, Works, I., 289.

From that stand-point all arguments of social or economic advantage to the whites seemed foreign to the subject. On the other hand, the slaveholders were thinking of their community, of its vested rights, of the superiority of favored men backed up and supported by a powerful social system which protected them in their hold on the resources of their section, both natural and human.  The basis of slavery was the conviction that the negro was put into the world for the benefit of the white man, and his highest glory and advancement was in serving the superior race well. As for the mulattoes, they bore the mark of their sinful origin in their complexions, and their white blood must be submerged in their negro blood for the protection of the white race.

With two such widely differing conceptions of the basis of society and of the right and wrong in human life, the contestants might have argued for a century without convincing each other. Contradiction stood out of every phase of the discussion. With the same breath the pro-slavery advocates declared that the negro was a barely human creature, saved from barbarism only by his contact with the whites; and that he was a docile, affectionate, and faithful servitor, a friend of his master and a fit companion and playmate of his master's family. The negro was incapable of political organization because sunk in sloth and licentiousness; and at the same time a dangerous conspirator, who was kept from cutting his master's throat only by unceasing watchfulness. Doubtless some negroes were bad and some negroes were good, but as a race the negro could not be at the same time a brute and a happy serf, a criminal and a family friend.

This confusion, which can be traced in almost every southern book dealing with the subject, was combined with a tactical error which gave the north a great advantage in the discussion; and that was the prohibition after 1835 of all open criticism of slavery in the lower south. The reason given was the danger of such discussion before slaves; but it went on habitually in almost every house in the south, for people somehow forgot that those standing behind their chairs had ears to hear and tongues to repeat. To assure the world that slavery was God-given, hallowed by the experience of mankind, enjoined by Scripture, the foundation of republican government, the source of all southern blessings, and then to insist that it could be overthrown by the mere wind of doctrine, was a confession that it was really unstable and iniquitous. No great institution contributing to human enlightenment has ever needed to be protected by silence.

 Another advantage of the abolitionists throughout the controversy was that nobody was able to suggest a remedy for slavery that was any more acceptable to the slave-holders than outright emancipation. Southside Adam's naive remedy was for the northern people to invite slave-holders to come up and bring their slaves with them, so as to prove how mild the system was. Some visitors suggested that slaves be paid small wages, encouraged to thrift and saving, and taught to read and write; but this seemed to the south absolutely incompatible with safety. Channing proposed that in the slave states every slave should have a guardian for his protection and should be encouraged to buy himself and his family; then, if the free negroes should be educated and upraised, the whole problem would be solved.1 Another proposition was to restrict the sale of slaves, as by forbidding the sale of a slave for debt or the separation of a young child from its mother; another was to fix a time beyond which fugitives could not be recoverable. 2

Had any of these minor remedies been taken up in good faith by the south, the abolition movement would have lost much of its force. A trial on a small scale of the slave-wages scheme was considered to be a total failure. 3 Not a single state took action to facilitate self -purchase; a few ineffective acts were passed to limit the sale of little children from - their mothers-and that was all. The south had an instinctive feeling that to admit that anything was wrong in slavery was to give up the principle

1 Adams, Southside View, 147-156; Buckingham, Slave States, I., 168; Channing, Works, II., 109-111; Bremer, Homes of the New World, 328, 443-448.

2 Adams, Southside View, 135. 151; cf. Nott, Slavery and the Remedy, passim; T. S. Clay, Detail of a Plan, passim.

3 Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 426-428.

that it was a beneficent institution; and it seemed to the southern people era craven to yield anything to the undistinguishing abolition attacks.1

In fact, the only plan that had any adherents in the south was gradual emancipation, combined with the expatriation of all the free negroes, a plan set forth in detail by Henry Clay, in a letter of 1849 ;2 but even that plan was based upon the theory that the negro race should somehow pay for its own transportation,· and the history of the Colonization Society showed the lack of interest in the south and the hopelessness and the futility of any attempt to carry all the negroes away.3 In forty years of activity, from the first emigration in 1820 to the end of the year 1860, the Colonization Society, with an expenditure of $1 ,806,000, succeeded in carrying over to Africa 10,586 negroes (besides about a thousand sent by state societies) ; of these about 4500 were born free, 344 purchased their freedom, and about 6000 were emancipated to go to Liberia; the largest number transported in any late year was 783, in the year 1853. Out of this whole number the seven cotton states furnished less than 4000; and the customary surplus of births over deaths in those states £µled up this thirty years' depletion in a single month.4 Colonization was a hopeless suggestion: first, and finally, because it would have cost

1 Dew, in Pro-Slavery Argument, 426-428.

2 Colton, Clay, III., 346-352.

3 See chap. xvii., above. American Colonization Society, Fiftieth Annual Report, 1867, p. 65.

seven hundred million dollars to remove the four millions of people whose labor alone could earn the seven hundred million dollars, provided they remained in America.

It must never be forgotten that the whole theory of abolition depended upon accepting the negro as a brother American, who had as good a right to his place in the community as his master; and after a few years of agitation the abolitionists realized that the only means to secure their end was by arousing the north. In this result their enemies co-operated by their gag resolutions and appeals for silence, but on the northern people the movement, after 1840, seemed to have spent its force. Agitators, funds, and public interest diminished. Other reforms--woman suffrage, the care of the insane, temperance --seemed more to interest the public. At this point two questions arose, neither of which primarily involved abolition, and both of which gave the abolitionist a new opportunity: one was the annexation of Texas; 1 the other was fugitive slaves.2 On both these questions the attitude of the abolitionists did much to arouse the northern mind, although the two movements outran them and were taken up by the non-abolitionist anti-slavery people.

Long before this point was reached the abolitionists had organized a political movement, which was destined to have far greater effects than their philanthropic propaganda.

1 Garrison, Westward Extension (Am. Nation, XVII.), chapter ix.

2 Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chapter v.

The entry of the abolitionist into politics was cautious and timid. Channing, in 1836, complained that "by assuming a political character they lose the reputation of honest enthusiasts . . . Should they in opposition to all probability become a formidable party, they would unite the slave-holding states as one man . . . No association like the abolitionists . . . can, by becoming a  political organization, rise to power." 1 The uproar in Congress from 1835 to 1837 put a different face upon the whole question of political action. The very sensitiveness of the pro-slavery leaders showed that here was a good point of attack; and there were too many questions upon which the federal government could take action for anybody convincingly to assert that slavery was wholly outside the jurisdiction of the federal government.

In vain did Garrison inveigh against an abolition party or abolitionist votes. In 1843 he proposed to read out of the abolitionist ranks any man who would take an oath to the Constitution or vote for its support.2 The next year his Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, as a body, accepted this dogma, set forth in extravagant speeches by Wendell Phillips; and they made an effort to fix a stigma upon every abolitionist who should vote in the election of that year.3

So far from accepting Garrison's dictum, the

1 Channing, Works, VI., 69.

2 Garrisons, Garrison, III., 90.

3 ibid., 96-112, n7-n9.

middle states and western abolitionists began to use their votes directly and to some purpose. Exasperated at the failure of members of the legislature to carry out their pre-election promises, the Ohio abolitionists, in the state election of 1838, used their balance of power to elect a Democratic governor, and they sent Giddings to Congress. When the legislature turned its back upon them and enacted a state fugitive-slave act in 1839, the abolitionists began to put up independent candidates. Meantime, Holly, a New York abolitionist, and Torrey, a New-Englander, were organizing like movements in the east; and in November, 1839, while many of the· New England abolitionists were breaking away from Garrison, a convention of abolitionists at Warsaw, New York, nominated James G. Birney for president. This action, repeated by a formal Liberty convention in 1840, was followed by state Liberty conventions in Ohio and then in northwestern states; and thus the first abolitionist national political party was born, in defiance of Garrison's teachings and a protest against his leadership.

The movement was still feeble: though in 1840 the societies included probably 50,000 voters, only 7100 votes were cast for Birney, of which about a third came from New England. But the change in method was startlingly significant: it gave a new impulse to the flagging spirits of the abolitionists; it formed a new center for the open discussion of slavery; it was one method of organizing opposition to the annexation of Texas; above all, in the next two national elections the political abolitionists proved to have the balance of power in decisive states, and thus gained an importance and consideration vastly greater than their scanty numbers would warrant.

The Liberty party, in all its ramifications, was substantially an abolitionist movement, at which the anti-slavery men in both Whig and Democratic parties looked askance. Nevertheless, it swept into its ranks two of the most conspicuous men in the struggles of the next quarter-century. In 1841, Salmon P. Chase, a former Whig, came over into the little Ohio Liberty party, became its leader, and with voice and pen tellingly set forth its principles. Thus, in a printed address in 1845, he prophesies the destruction of slavery by the following methods: "By repealing all legislation, and discontinuing all action, in favor of slavery, at home and abroad; by prohibiting. the practice of slaveholding in all places of exclusive national jurisdiction, in the District of Columbia, in American vessels upon the seas, in forts, arsenals, navy yards: by ... declaring that slaveholding, in all states created out of national territories is unconstitutional, ... and by electing and appointing to public station such men, and only such men as openly avow our principles, and will honestly carry out our measures." 1

The other man was Charles Sumner, of Massachusetts,

1 Hart, Chase, 60.

a man of high education, who, from his first interest in the cause in 1835, objected to Garrison's pronunciamentos against voting. Sumner matured slowly, and did not enter public life until 1845, but in the next year he broke away from the Whigs because they supported the Mexican War, and thenceforward was a power in the abolition councils and a noted anti-slavery orator.

A writer of great weight, in discussing the election of 1840, has said that the " Liberty Party in running Birney, simply committed a political crime, evil in almost all its consequences; they in no sense paved the way for the Republican Party, or helped forward the anti-slavery cause, or hurt the existing organizations." 1 This criticism proceeds upon the assumption that the abolitionists expected eventually to elect a president or a majority of Congress. Such a platform as Chase's was a counsel of perfection: its author for more than ten years was animated by the hope of compelling the Democratic Party to take over principles which he thought akin to its genius. Old Whigs like Giddings had similar hopes for the Whig party. The abolitionist use of their balance of power to defeat Clay, an opponent of the annexation of Texas, in 1844, and Cass, a northern man, in 1848, was not a childish freak: they wanted to convince the Whig and Democratic parties that unless they made concessions to the anti-slavery feeling they would lose the election; and they hit hardest

1 Roosevelt, Benton (ed. of 1887), 293.

at those men who seemed to them to owe most respect to their feelings. The anti-slavery party, in its various forms of Liberty men in 1840 and 1844, Free-Soilers in 1848, and Free Democrats in 1852, shaped the principles, forged the arguments, and trained the leaders who, in 1856, formed the combination of anti-slavery Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats which the abolitionists had so long desired.1

It is this political movement which most conclusively shows how little Garrison is entitled to be taken as the typical or the chief abolitionist. The power and force of the abolitionists diverged from Garrison upon that issue, and attempted ends of which Garrison strongly disapproved.2 Abolitionists like Chase adhered to the Union cause, and appealed to the Constitution as an anti-slavery document. Yet many of the most moderate abolitionists foresaw a terrible end to the discussion. Said Channing, "The blow that would sever the Union for this cause, would produce an instantaneous explosion to shake the whole land. The moral sentiment against slavery, now kept down by the interests and duties which grow out of union, would burst its fetters, and be reinforced by the whole strength of the patriotic principle.'' 3 Indeed, some of the most sagacious southerners recognized the fact that slavery

1 Hume, The Abolitionists; Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the Northwest, chaps. xvii., xix.; Hart, Chase, chaps. iv., v.

2 See chap. xii., above.

3 Channing, Works, V., 71.

and the free discussion of slavery could not exist within the same federation. To say that the abolitionists revealed the contradiction between a free republic and human bondage does not throw upon them the responsibility of the catastrophe.

For, with all their one-sidedness and intensity, and the vituperation indulged in by many of their number, the abolitionists laid hold of a principle without which the republic could not exist-the principle, namely, that free discussion is the breath of liberty; and that any institution which could not bear the light of inquiry, argument, and denunciation was a weak and a dangerous institution. If the slaveholders could have sat quietly behind their own boundaries and invited the critical world to come and see for themselves how good slavery was, if they had pruned away the worst excrescences of the institution, if they had been able to show by superior refinement and wide - spread culture that slavery made even the white man's lot more enviable, the abolitionists would have had no fighting ground.

Another immense advantage of the abolitionists was that the evil which they were attacking was localized. In the contemporary movement against the use of strong drink, the defenders were in every state and in every community, and the agitators had to confront and attack their own neighbors; while the abolitionists were dealing with something which every state in the north by its own statutes reprobated. Hence the main function of the abolitionist movement was to convince the northern people that slavery was not only harmful to the south but contrary to their own interests. This process put'' a terrible torsion on the federal government, but it was in the end effective.

Perhaps, after all, the main reason for the eventual spread of anti-slavery, till it became the tenet of a considerable majority of the northern people, was that the abolitionists were taking hold .of the "great wheel going uphill," that they were marching with modern civilization, while the defenders of slavery were standing for the obsolete, the abnormal, and the impossible. This difference was not obscured by the intemperate language so plentiful on both sides of the controversy, or the prejudice and violence of extremists of the two opposite schools, who stretched the principles of the Constitution to the utmost, or threw them to the winds. The breaking strain in the argument for slavery was its underlying assumption that a minority of the community was entitled to compel the services of the majority. Nobody ever more clearly brought out that paradox than Abraham Lincoln in a memorandum of 1854: "If A can prove, however conclusively, that he may of right enslave B, why may not B snatch the same argument and prove equally that he may enslave A? You say A is white and B is black. It is color, then; the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule you are to be slave to the first man you meet with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule you are to be slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own. But, you say, it is a question of interest, and if you make it your interest you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest he has the right to enslave you." 1

This was the argument that most affected the plain, common people of the north; the workingman, however slight his sympathy with the slave, had an instinctive apprehension that the liberty of the white laborer was somehow at stake. He did not understand the economic reasons why slavery was a profitless method of organizing labor; he did not comprehend how it weakened the community in which it existed; but he did see clearly that slavery depreciated the lot of the man who had nothing but his own strong arm. As Lowell put it:

“God works for all. Ye cannot hem the hope of being free with parallels of latitude, with mountain-range or sea. Put golden padlocks on Truth's lips, be callous as ye will, From soul to soul, o'er all the world, leaps one electric thrill." 2

1 Lincoln, Works, I., 178, 179.

2 Lowell, Poems (Riverside ed.), VII., 224.

Source:  Hart, Albert Bushnell, Slavery and Abolition. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 16, 296-308. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


ELIOT, Thomas Dawes, 1808-1870, lawyer.  Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts, 1854-1855, 1859-1869.  Founder of the Republican Party from Massachusetts.  Opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill as a member of Congress.  Voted for Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.  Active in the Free soil Party. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 325; Congressional Globe)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

ELIOT, Thomas Dawes, congressman, b. in Boston, Mass., 20 March, 1808; d. in New Bedford, Mass., 12 June, 1870. He was graduated at Columbian college, Washington, D. C., in 1825, studied law in Washington and New Bedford, and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. After being a member of both houses of the legislature, he was elected to congress as a Whig, to fill the unexpired term of Zeno Scudder, serving from 17 April, 1854, till 3 March, 1855, and making an eloquent speech on the Kansas-Nebraska bill, which was published (Washington, 1854). He was prominent in the Free-soil convention at Worcester, Mass., in 1855, and on the dissolution of the Whig party was active among the founders of the Republican party in Massachusetts. He declined its nomination for attorney-general in 1857, but was afterward elected to congress again for five successive terms, serving from 1859 till 1869. Mr. Eliot took an active part in the proceedings of the house, particularly in the legislation on the protection and welfare of the negroes. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


ELIOT, William Greenleaf, 1811-1887, educator, clergyman, opponent of slavery.  Active in Sanitary Commission in the Civil War. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 325)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

ELIOT, William Greenleaf, educator, b. in New Bedford, Mass., 5 Aug., 1811; d. at Pass Christian, Miss., 23 Jan., 1887. His great-grandfather was brother to the great-grandfather of Charles William Eliot, president of Harvard. He was graduated at Columbian college, Washington, D. C., in 1831, and at Harvard divinity-school in 1834. In the latter year he was ordained pastor of the Church of the Messiah (Unitarian) in St. Louis, Mo., a place which he held until 1872. During all this time he was energetically employed in improving the condition and advancing the interests of the public schools of St. Louis. A man of untiring energy and rare administrative ability, he was engaged in all sorts of public and philanthropic enterprises, and has probably done more for the advancement of St. Louis and all the southwest than any other man that has lived in that section. He was always a bold and outspoken opponent of slavery. In 1861 he was found among the small band of resolute men who assisted Gens. Nathaniel Lyon and Francis P. Blair in preserving Missouri to the Union; and during the war he was active in the western sanitary commission. In 1872 he was chosen to succeed Dr. Chauvenet as chancellor of Washington university in St. Louis, and held the office until his death. He has published a “Manual of Prayer” (Boston, 1851); “Discourses on the Doctrines of Christianity” (Boston, 1852; 22d ed., 1886); “Lectures to Young Men” (1853; 11th ed., 1882); “Lectures to Young Women” (1853; 13th ed., enlarged, with the title “Home Life and Influence,” St. Louis, 1880); “The Unity of God” (Boston, 1854); “Early Religious Education” (1855); “The Discipline of Sorrow” (1855); “The Story of Archer Alexander, from Slavery to Freedom” (Boston, 1885); and a great number of pamphlets, tracts, discourses, and review articles. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.


ELLERY, William, 1727-1820, founding father, jurist, signer of the Declarartion of Independence.  Supported Rufus King in trying to abolish slavery in the country. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, p. 326; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 2, p. 86)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

ELLERY, William, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. in Newport, R. I., 22 Dec., 1727; d. there, 15 Feb., 1820. His father, of the same name, was graduated at Harvard in 1722, became a successful merchant in Newport, served successively as judge, senator, and lieutenant-governor of the colony, and died in 1764. The younger William received his early education mostly from his father, and was graduated at Harvard in 1747. He married in 1750, engaged in business in Newport, and was for some time naval officer of Rhode Island. He began the practice of law in Newport in 1770, having served for two years previous as clerk of one of the courts. He was an active patriot, and in May, 1776, was chosen the colleague of Stephen Hopkins, as delegate to the Continental congress, and took his seat on the 14th of that month. He became an influential member of that body, serving on the committee to consider the ways and means of establishing expresses between the continental posts, on those on the treasury and on marine affairs, and on the special committee for purchasing clothing for the army. During this session he signed the Declaration of Independence, and he was accustomed in later years to relate with great vivacity the incidents connected with that event. “I was determined,” he said, “to see how they all looked as they signed what might be their death-warrant. I placed myself beside the secretary, Charles Thomson, and eyed each closely as he affixed his name to the document. Undaunted resolution was displayed in every countenance.” Mr. Ellery continued a member of the congress till 1786, with the exception of the years 1780 and 1782, and, overcoming his natural diffidence, became a ready debater. He was a member of important committees, but did especially good service on the board of admiralty, where he had much influence, and probably originated the plan of fitting out fire-ships at Newport. During the British occupation of Rhode Island, Mr. Ellery's house was burned and much of his other property injured. In 1779 he was a member of a committee to arrange some diplomatic difficulties among the American commissioners to Europe, and was chairman of a committee to consider means of relieving the distress brought upon the Rhode Islanders by the British occupation. In 1782 he presented to congress a plan for organizing a department of foreign affairs. In 1785 he actively supported Rufus King in his effort to abolish slavery throughout the country, seconding King's resolution to that effect. He was appointed commissioner of the continental loan-office for Rhode Island in 1786, was for a short period chief justice of the Rhode Island superior court, and from 1790 till his death was collector of Newport, being retained in the office in spite of frequent and frank avowals of political differences with several administrations. Mr. Ellery was of moderate stature, with a large head and impressive features. He was fond of study and literature, and was highly esteemed for his social qualities, being intimate with all the distinguished men of his time. He retained the full use of his faculties to the close of his long life, and died holding in his hand a copy of Cicero's “De Officiis,” which he had been reading. See a biography of Ellery by his grandson, Edward T. Channing, in Sparks's “American Biography,” vol. vi., and Goodrich's “Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence.” Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888.






See also Lincoln, Abraham

Chapter: “Proclamation of Emancipation,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

The Proclamation of Emancipation was the great historic event of the war. It was far more memorable than any of its great battles, strategic movements, or the final surrender of the Rebel army at the Appomattox Court-House. Its issuance was the crowning act of its author's career, for which he will be longer remembered and celebrated in history than for the fact that he was called to be the President of the Great Republic. And yet it was so indissolubly linked to other events, similar in character, aim, and result, that no satisfactory account can be given of it, or them, without repeated reference to the same facts and features of the history now under review sustaining a common relation, and without reiterating what may have been the subject of previous mention. It was an act or policy, as has been repeatedly stated, which was not contemplated at the outset by either himself or the party that had elected him, — a policy, indeed, he did not personally favor, except as connected with his favorite idea of colonization, — to which he was led by slow and cautious approaches, and on which he finally determined as a military necessity only. Though opposed to slavery from principle, never remembering, he said, the time when he was "not antislavery," his constitutional scruples, which were very strong, and perhaps the prejudice against color, so general among his countrymen, and of which he was not altogether free, held him back from a policy to which he could not without hesitation give his consent. A brief resume of the leading facts, some of which have already been referred to, will make this more apparent, besides making the final result more intelligible.

On the 9th of July, 1861, Major-General John C. Fremont was appointed to the command of the Western Department. He reached St. Louis on the 25th, which he made his headquarters. The battle of Bull Run had been fought and lost. The slaveholders of Missouri were untiring in their efforts to strengthen the Rebel cause and to increase the Rebel forces in that State; guerilla bands were organized, and the Union cause was seriously menaced. General Lyon was defeated on the 9th of August, and affairs wore a threatening aspect. General Fremont fortified St. Louis and other important points, and sought, in every available way, to strengthen himself against these formidable encroachments and preparations of the enemy. In pursuance of this purpose, he issued, on the 31st of August, a proclamation, confiscating the property and making free the slaves of all citizens of Missouri who had taken or should take up arms against the government.

This bold action of General Fremont, though it was but the enunciation of a conclusion to which events seemed rapidly tending, was very differently received even by those equally intent on saving the Union. Antislavery men received it with joy as the approaching culmination of a struggle in which they had been long engaged, the realization of their fondly cherished hopes, an answer to their prayer, an omen of good, and a new claim to his title of "pathfinder" for the general who had shown the sagacity of discovering that way to success. Others, who had not sympathized in these views of slavery, but were equally intent on saving the Union, accepted the policy proposed as the probable solution of the great problem they were seeking to solve. But the Union men of the border States were greatly alarmed; for the proclamation not only came in conflict with their prejudices, their love of slavery, but it was putting a new and potent argument into the hands of the disunionists of those States which threatened the most serious consequences.

The President was greatly embarrassed by this action of his general. For whatever may have been his wishes, hopes, and final expectations, he could not but see that such action was premature, at least unauthorized. So important a step, involving such vast and far-reaching consequences should have been taken only at the motion and with the sanction of the government itself. Besides, he deemed it inconsistent with the act of Congress just passed, which set free only the slaves who were employed by the Rebels in the prosecution of hostilities. He accordingly wrote to the general, requesting him to modify his proclamation in these particulars. General Fremont replied, requesting the President to issue an open order making the required modification himself. This he did in a special order, issued on the 11th of September, in which he ordered that "the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held, and construed, as to conform with and not to transcend the provisions on the same subject contained in an act of Congress, 'An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,' approved August 6; and that the said act be published at length with this order." This action of the President could not but disappoint the antislavery men who had been so much encouraged by the proclamation, thus summarily set aside; and Mr. Lincoln was sharply criticised for his hesitation and apparent lack of sympathy for what they deemed so pre-eminently right and essential to success.

This unsettled policy and purpose of the government, or rather the conflicting views entertained by its different officials, received another illustration in South Carolina. On the 14th of October, 1861, General T. W. Sherman, commander of forces on the coast, in accordance with instructions from the War Department, issued a proclamation to the people of that State, assuring them that the forces under him should not interfere with "their lawful rights, or their social and local institutions." Major-General David Hunter, succeeding in command and having his headquarters at Hilton Head, proclaimed the States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina under martial law, and issued, on the 9th of May, 1862, an order in which occur these words: "Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these States — Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina — heretofore held as slaves are therefore declared forever free." Though the President was by no means unmindful of the feeling elicited by his retraction of Fremont's proclamation, had felt the full force of the pressure that had been brought, and was then brought, to bear upon him to adopt the policy of emancipation, and could readily apprehend the additional dis appointment that would be felt, and the odium that would attach to his administration for so doing, he resolved to revoke the order. Accordingly, a few days afterward, he issued a proclamation for that purpose. In it he stated that the government had no knowledge of any intention of General Hunter to issue such an order; that "neither General Hunter nor any other commander or person has been authorized by the government of the United States to make proclamation declaring the slaves of any State free." "I further make known," he continued, "that whether it be competent for me, as Commander-in-chief of the army and navy, to declare the slaves of any State or States free; and whether, at any time or in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the government to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I cannot feel justified in leaving to commanders in the field." He then referred to a special message he had sent to Congress in March recommending national aid to any State or States which would adopt any plan for the "gradual abolishment of slavery," and to its adoption by “large majorities” of both houses. By this action and proffer of the general government in behalf of gradual emancipation he felt himself estopped from indorsing the more summary process of General Hunter. Add now the above-mentioned fact that he was personally favorable, and had been previously committed, to the policy of gradual abolishment, coupled with that of colonization, and it becomes clearly apparent why he was exceedingly anxious that the great problem before them should find this mode of solution. He closed his message by an appeal to "the people of these States," with an eloquence and pathos seldom found in official documents or state papers. Reminding them of the signs of the times, to which they could not be "blind," he sought for his proposal "a calm and enlarged consideration, “ranging" far above personal and partisan politics." "I do not argue," he said, "I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves." Saying that the proposal made common cause for a common object, that it cast no reproaches, that it did not "act the Pharisee," that the change it contemplated "would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything," he asked with paternal earnestness: "Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by our effort in all past time as, in the providence of God, it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it."

Not only did he make this formal and open appeal, but within a short time he sought interviews with the representatives of the border States, reiterating and pressing with still greater earnestness his entreaty for the adoption of his proposal. To one of these delegations he presented, in writing, his views and wishes, which has been referred to and quoted from in another connection. In this paper he elaborated more at length the considerations he deemed so important. He spoke of the "unprecedentedly stern facts of our case," of the necessity of "discarding the maxims of more manageable times," of the diminishing value of their slaves, and of the better policy of realizing something before that value was completely extinguished.

There cannot be better indexes of the obscurity resting upon public affairs, as well as the conflicting views that obtained among the leaders at that stage of the Rebellion, than are afforded by these proclamations of Fremont and Hunter, and the papers of the President annulling them. Fremont and Hunter would make free the slaves by the simple fiat of a military proclamation; Buell and Hooker actually allowed slave-masters to come within the Union lines to search for their slaves; Butler declared them contraband of war; Wool would employ them and pay them for their service; while Halleck drove them from the Union lines, and McClellan avowed his purpose to put down anything like servile insurrection "with an iron hand." Mr. Cameron, as Secretary of War, would employ slaves, and actually instructed generals thus to employ them, while the President modified and in a measure actually countermanded this order of his Secretary. Meanwhile there was a growing conviction at the North that all this tenderness toward the provoking cause of the war was misplaced and wrong, and that it was putting in extremest peril the nation's life. This impatience and importunity found voice from pulpit and press in unsparing measure and in thunder tones. On the 19th of August the editor of the New York "Tribune " addressed an open letter to the President, over his own signature, entitled "The Prayer of Twenty Millions." In it he urged, if not a proclamation of emancipation, the rigorous execution of such laws as Congress had already enacted on the subject. He denounced all attempts to put down a Rebellion of which slavery was the provoking cause, without touching that cause, as "preposterous and futile." A large delegation of the Protestant clergy of Chicago visited Washington and called upon the President with a like errand. Similar delegations of clergymen and others pressed upon him the importance and necessity of adopting the proposed policy. While he received them courteously, he gave them little encouragement of listening to their prayers or of adopting their suggestions. Indeed, his arguments all pointed in the opposite direction. His reply to Mr. Greeley was very widely read, produced a profound impression, and was particularly disrelished by antislavery men. Saying that his paramount object was to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery, he added the famous epigrammatic utterance already quoted in these pages, and which was so often repeated, that if he could save it with or without touching slavery, or by touching a part or the whole, he would do it. To the Chicago delegation he responded in a similar, though perhaps a more discouraging, vein, dwelling more upon the inutility of the proposed policy.

The President seemed to hesitate. Subsequent developments, however, showed that his hesitation was more seeming than real, though there was much that was real in it. For he could not give up his long-cherished opinions upon the subject; he still thought the proffer of aid by the government in behalf of compensated emancipation forbade in principle this wholesale abolishment; he had grave doubts, as he expressed them to the Chicago clergymen, of its working as advantageously as hoped; and he did very much dread its effects upon the border States, and feared that it would snap the cords that bound them to the Union, which were none too strong at best. He grasped somewhat the tremendous significance of the act, and it is not wonderful that he hesitated. Had he more fully comprehended its fearful meaning, would his hesitation have been less?

But the President was earnest, honest, and God-fearing, and he seems fully to have appreciated that he and the nation were in the drift of events that received their impulse and direction from a higher than any human agency, and that it behooved them, one and all, to conform their plans with the Divine plan. Nor did he make any secret of his conviction, or concealment of his purpose. After expressing to the Chicago clergymen his fears that a proclamation of emancipation would be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet, that it would prove less advantageous than they hoped, and that these were difficulties that had hitherto held him back, though he had the matter under advisement, he added, "And I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and by night, more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will I will do." In a letter to Mr. Hodges, written in 1864, he thus expresses the convictions forced upon him by a review of the past and the part he had acted. "I claim not," he said, "to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is not what any party or any man expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new causes to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God." Seldom have reverent loyalty to God and an unselfish and unpartisan fealty to equity found simpler or sweeter expression.

The President, observant of both the Divine and human, the moral as well as the military, aspects of the conflict, taught, by disasters in the field and the poor success of his overtures to the border States, was learning fast. None can ever know all that passed through his mind during those sleepless vigils of which he spoke to the Chicago clergymen; but it is safe to conjecture that there were not only sharp conflicts between opposing policies, but grave questionings concerning the course he had hitherto pursued, the seemingly deaf ear he had turned to the importunities and expostulations of antislavery men, his repeated interference with the action of those generals who had proclaimed the freedom of slaves, his expressed willing ness that slavery might continue if the Union could be pre served. With the views he entertained and so often expressed of the Divine justice and the reason the nation had to fear the full force of its righteous workings, it can hardly be doubted that he sometimes coupled in his own mind his course towards Fremont and Hunter with the sad defeats of the Union cause, the terrible disasters of the Chickahominy, the repulse of Pope so near the capital, and other reverses, so distressing in their immediate results and so depressing in their influence upon the popular mind and heart. He might perhaps have used the same language he employed a month previous in his letter, which grated so harshly upon Northern ears, to Mr. Greeley, but it is probable he would have used it with less confidence and with greater mental reservation. He knew, too, that not alone the antislavery men and women of the land were thus intent upon a change of measures, but that the religious sentiment of the loyal States was deeply moved, and that prayer unceasing was offered by the churches of the North and the slaves of the South for him, and in behalf of a policy that would suppress the Rebellion by striking at the guilty cause.

But whatever may have been the workings of the President's mind, and however he may have been moved thereto, he was rapidly reaching the conclusion that, however contrary it may have been to his prejudices and preconceived opinions, and whatever may have been the risks involved in the new departure, to this complexion it must come at last. Indeed, it has since transpired that in June, before the letter of Mr. Greeley and the visit of the Chicago clergymen, to whose appeals he had given replies so little satisfactory, he had pre pared a draft of the proclamation he afterward sent forth. This draft, before submitting it to his Cabinet, he read to Hiram Barney, collector of the port of New York. Near the close of July or the first of August Mr. Lincoln summoned his Cabinet for the purpose of reading the document which he had prepared. He told its members that he had not called them together to ask their advice on the general question, for on that his mind was made up, but to apprise them of his purpose, and to receive suggestions on minor points as they might make. Among the suggestions was one by Mr. Seward that, while he approved of the measure proposed, the time was not opportune. Referring to recent reverses and the consequent depression of the public mind, he said, " It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government, — a cry for help, — the government stretching its hand to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the government; our last shriek on the retreat." Mr. Lincoln admitted the force of the suggestion; and the document was held in abeyance, awaiting more cheering fortunes, which, however, did not come till the public heart had been repeatedly saddened by the retreat of Pope on Washington and the invasion of Maryland. But the good tidings came at length in the national success at the battle of Antietam.

True to his convictions, and obedient to the promise which, he told Mr. Chase, he had made to God if he would grant success to the Union arms, he sent forth the paper which has immortalized his name, and which, more than any act of his administration, has signalized both it and the age of which it formed the great event. The battle of Antietam was fought on the 17th of September, 1862, and on the 22d the President sent forth to the nation and the world his Proclamation of Emancipation, bearing his own signature, that of his Secretary of State, and the great seal of the Republic. In it he declared, what he had so often declared before, that "the object of the war is that of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States and each of the States " in which that relation had been or might be " disturbed"; that at the next meeting of Congress he should recommend another proffer of national aid to any States which should " voluntarily adopt immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits"; that "all persons held as slaves on the 1st of January, 1863, in any States or parts of States then in rebellion, should be then, thenceforward, and forever free," and that the government "will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons"; that "the Executive will, on the 1st of January aforesaid, by proclamation designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof shall be in rebellion"; and the fact that any State is represented in Congress in good faith and without countervailing testimony shall be deemed conclusive evidence that they are not in rebellion. He called attention to and quoted the acts of Congress of March 13, 1862, and of July 16, 1862, prohibiting the military and naval service from returning or permitting the seizure of fugitives from slavery, and he enjoined upon all persons connected with the army or navy to obey and enforce said legislation. He also announced his purpose to recommend that all persons who had remained loyal should, on the suppression of the Rebellion, be "compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves"; so tender was he of vested rights, so anxious was he to carry out in good faith any pledges of his own or of the party which had elected him.

This unheralded and, for the moment, unexpected announcement of the Executive purpose startled the nation, and evoked very different responses. Antislavery and Christian men, with their appeals long unnoticed and hopes long deferred, were especially gratified. They regarded it as the consummation they had so devoutly wished, the something they had been longing for, looking for, and laboring for through the weary years of the irrepressible conflict, — the ripe, rich fruitage of seed sown in days of darkness and storm. But they had never constituted more than an inconsiderable fraction of the whole. At the other extreme larger numbers received it with deadly and outspoken opposition; while between these extremes the great body of even Union men doubted, hesitated, and were at best only "willing" that the slaves should be free. Its immediate practical effect did perhaps more nearly answer the apprehensions of the President than the expectations of those most clamorous for it. It did, as charged, very much "unite the South and divide the North." The cry of "the perversion of the war for the Union into a war for the negro " became the Democratic watchword, and was sounded everywhere with only too disastrous effect, as was plainly revealed by the fall elections with their large Democratic gains and Republican losses. Indeed, it was the opinion of Mr. Greeley, that, could there have been a vote taken at that time on the naked issue, a large majority would have pronounced against emancipation.

But Mr. Lincoln did not falter. Notwithstanding these discouraging votes at the North, and the refusal of any Southern State to avail itself of the proffered immunity and aid of his Proclamation of September, he proceeded, at the close of the hundred days of grace allowed by it, to issue his second and absolute Proclamation, making all the slaves of the Rebel States and parts of State's forever and irreversibly free. He began by reciting those portions of his first Proclamation which contained the conditional purpose of freeing the slaves in those portions of the country then in rebellion, "Now, therefore," he added, "I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual rebellion, . . . . as a fit and necessary war measure, . . .and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days…. order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively this day are in rebellion against the United States." Specifying such States and parts of States to be affected by the measure, he then proclaimed that all persons held as slaves therein "are and henceforward shall be free," and that the government in all its branches "will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons." Enjoining upon the people so declared to be free that they should "abstain from all violence unless in necessary self defence," and that, "when allowed, they labor for reasonable wages," he declared that they might be "received into the armed service of the United States." "And upon this act," he said, "sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God." This last clause was suggested by Mr. Chase, and readily accepted by the President.

Though the immediate effects of the Proclamation might not have answered all that was expected of it, it was not many months before its happy influences became manifest. Its tendency from the first was to unify and consolidate the antislavery and Christian sentiment of the land, to give dignity and consistency to the conflict. It took away the reproach, which had been freely cast upon the government, that the war was a mere sectional strife for ascendency, and made it appear what it really had become, — a struggle for human rights, and a vindication of the primal truths of the Declaration of Independence. It strengthened, too, the cause immensely with other nations, secured the sympathy and moral support of Christendom, and diminished, if it did not entirely remove, the danger of foreign intervention.

And yet there were many at the North who continued inflexibly and violently hostile to the measure, and who permitted no opportunity to pass unimproved of holding it up to popular odium. Not only did the Democrats universally condemn it in their conventions and through their presses, but Union men, even some Republicans, of whose loyalty there could be no question, doubted the expediency, if they did not deny the right, of its issuance. Even in the President's own State there was a mass meeting, in September, 1863, of those opposed. To this meeting he addressed a letter, in which, with much force and point and in his own inimitable manner, he vindicated his course, and showed how indefensible was the position of those whose carping criticisms he thus noticed. Assuming that they were all equally anxious for peace, he said that there were but three possible ways in which it could be secured, — by the force of arms, which he was trying to effect; by giving up the Union, to which he was unalterably opposed; and by some compromise, which he deemed impossible with a maintenance of the Union, at least so long as the whole South was under the control of the Rebel army. Alluding to a probable difference that existed between them in their estimate of the negro, he admitted that personally he certainly desired his freedom, but claimed that he had adopted or proposed nothing for that purpose inconsistent with a simple desire to preserve the Union. To the wish that the Proclamation should be retracted on the plea that it was unconstitutional and unauthorized, and that it put in greater peril the Union cause, lie replied that he had no question of his right to do it as Commander-in-chief in the exercise of the war power. Continuing his response to this objection, he said it was, or was not, valid. If it was not valid, it needed no retraction. If it was valid, it could not be retracted, " any more than the dead can be brought to life." To the plea that its retraction would increase the chances of Union success, he said that the war had been prosecuted a year and a half without it, and that it had certainly " progressed as favorably for us since the issue of the Proclamation as before. "To their avowed refusal to fight for negroes, he caustically replied: "Some of them seem willing to fight for you"; adding that what the black soldiers had done left "just so much less for the white soldiers to do to save the Union." But like others, lie said, they did not act without motives; and he asked why they should do anything for us if we will do nothing for them. "If they stake their lives for us," he said, "they must be prompted by the strongest motive, even the promise of freedom, and the promise being made must be kept." Saying that the signs looked better, and that peace did not appear as distant as it did, and expressing the hope that " it will soon come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time," he closed with this sharp and significant rebuke: "And there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue and clenched teeth, and steady eye and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation, while, I fear, there will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have striven to hinder it."

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 380-393.


EMBREE, Elihu, 1782-1820, Quaker, abolitionist (former slaveholder). Published anti-slavery newspaper, Manumission Intelligencer, in 1819 in Jonesboro, then The Emancipator, founded 1820.  These may have been the first American periodicals solely devoted to the anti-slavery cause.  Member of the Manumission Society of Tennessee.  Embree also supported racial equality. Opposed the admission of Missouri as a slave state. 

(Drake, 1950, pp. 127-128; Dumond, 1961, pp. 95, 136, 166; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 36, 130, 276-277, 310, 571-572; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 478; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 2, p. 124)





Chapter: “Colored Soldiers. — Pay,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1878.

On the 8th of April, 1863, General Thomas, who had been commissioned to have charge of enlisting colored soldiers in the Southwest, addressed a company of Union troops, stationed at Lake Providence, Louisiana. In the course of his remarks he said: "You know full well, for you have been over the country, that the Rebels have sent into the field all their available fighting men, — every man capable of bearing arms, — and you know they have kept at home all their slaves for the raising of subsistence for their armies in the field. In this way they can bring to bear against us all the strength of their so-called Confederate States, while we at the North can only send a portion of our fighting force, being compelled to leave behind another portion to cultivate our fields and supply the wants of an immense army. The administration has determined to take from the Rebels this source of supply, — to take their negroes and compel them to send back a portion of their whites to cultivate their deserted plantations….

"I would like to raise on this river twenty regiments at least before I go back. They can guard the rear effectually. Knowing the country well, and familiar with all the roads and swamps, they will be able to track out the accursed guerillas and run them from the land. When I get regiments raised, you may sweep out into the interior with impunity. Recollect, for every regiment of blacks I raise, I raise a regiment of whites to face the foe in the field. This, fellow-soldiers, is the determined policy of the administration. You all know full well the President of the United States, though said to be slow in coming to a determination, when he once puts his foot down, it is there, and he is not going to take it up."

These words, it is to be noted, were spoken not only to announce the policy the administration had finally reached, but, singular as it may seem, to reconcile the soldiers to its adoption. Standing alone, without regard to time and purpose, they seem sensible, legitimate, and such as would naturally occur to any clear-headed and sound-thinking man or administration; but, read with that time and purpose in mind, they are doubly significant. To utilize such a potent force as was concentrated in the black race, to take such an auxiliary from the enemy and appropriate it as an efficient element in the nation's defence, appears a conclusion little less than axiomatic. It would seem to the most superficial that an administration thoroughly in earnest in the prosecution of the war on its hands could hardly do otherwise than avail itself of " those thews and sinews thus at its command, and for the most part ready and willing for its service." And yet it required two years' teaching in the hard school of stern experience before this sensible conclusion was reached. That it was a reasonable measure, important, if not essential, to the success of the Union forces, the trial proved, and the President, though "slow" in its adoption, bore no equivocal testimony to its efficacy. A year after its adoption he thus spoke of it: "More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force, — no loss by it anyhow or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavilling. We have the men, and we could not have had them without the measure. And now, let any Union man who complains of this measure test himself by writing down in one line that he is for subduing the Rebellion by force of arms, and in the next, that he is for taking these one hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side and placing them where they would be best for the measure he condemns. If he cannot face his case so stated, it is only because he cannot see the truth." And yet it required two years to grasp what seemed at the outset, to many at least, so reasonable, and what the trial so conclusively established.

Nor did this hesitation result from any lack of advocates of a contrary policy. For not only did the antislavery men of the North urge with great earnestness and pertinacity the employment of negro soldiers, but several of the generals of the army, and even Mr. Lincoln's first Secretary of War, advocated it as a policy essential to success. In the preparation of his annual report for the assembling of Congress in December, 1861, Mr. Cameron had asked: "Shall the negroes, armed by their masters, be placed, in the field to fight against us, or shall their labor be continually employed in producing the means for supporting the armies of the Rebellion? .... It is, therefore, madness to leave them in peaceful and secure possession of slave property, more valuable and efficient to them for war than forage, cotton, and military stores. Such policy would be national suicide…. If it shall be found that the men who have been held by the Rebels as slaves are capable of bearing arms and performing efficient military service, it is the right and may become the duty of the government to arm and equip them." This was, however, a policy too clearly de fined, if not too sensible, for the popular sentiment at that stage of the war. Neither the President, Congress, nor the country was prepared therefor. Though others connected with the army, beside the Secretary of War, had reached the conclusion that such was the true policy, and had, on their individual motion and responsibility, acted upon it, like Fremont in Missouri, Hunter in South Carolina, and Butler in New Orleans, the administration had never, until near the close of the second year of the war, given its countenance thereto, but its disapproval rather. The "border-State policy," as it was sometimes termed, prevailed; as for the time at least the President deemed it of greater importance to conciliate and keep the Unionists of the South than to propitiate the antislavery sentiments of the North. But it is due to the martyr President that his memory should have the vindication of his own words. "When early in the war," he said, "General Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not think it an indispensable necessity. When, a little later, General Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not deem it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When in March and May and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure." Whether right or wrong, politic or impolitic, such were unquestionably his convictions, and it is in such a light that his "slow" and cautious policy should be viewed and estimated.

There were many, however, in the country and in Congress, who took different views, and gave expression thereto, not only through the ordinary channels of communication in the former, but in acts of legislation in the latter.

On the 8th of July, 1862, Mr. Wilson reported to the Senate, from the Committee on Military Affairs, a bill to amend the act of 1795, calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel invasion, by allowing the President to make the call for a specified time. The bill was taken up the next day, in Committee of the Whole, and gave rise to an animated and able debate, which arose on two amendments moved by Mr. Grimes of Iowa and Mr. King of New York. The main provisions of these amendments were for calling into the service of the Union "persons of African descent"; and providing that, when such person should be employed, then "he and his mother and his wife and children shall forever thereafter be free."

The first to speak were the representatives of the border slave States, who, in addition to personal interests, were greatly hampered at home by the Rebel element in maintaining their loyalty, which they sought to do by showing that men could be true to both the Union and slavery. Mr. Saulsbury spoke contemptuously of the attempt "made on every occasion to change the character of the war, and to elevate the miserable nigger not only to political rights, but to put him in your army and to put him in your navy." He stigmatized the amendment of Mr. Grimes as "a wholesale scheme of emancipation." Mr. Carlile of Virginia asserted that "the negro" constituted "no part of the militia" of his State; expressed the belief that it was "an effort to elevate him to an equality with the white man"; and added, that "the effect of such legislation will be to degrade the white man to a level of the negro." The voice of Mr. Davis of Kentucky was raised in frantic ex postulation against the policy of putting arms into the hands of negroes, and of putting them in the army. Saying that they had nearly a hundred thousand slaves, and that the policy contemplated putting arms into the hands of the men, and manumitting "the mass, men, women, and children," to be left "among them," he asked: "Do you expect us to give our sanction and our approval to these things? " "No, no!" he answered the question himself, "we would regard their authors as our worst enemies; and there is no foreign despotism that could come to our rescue that we would not joyously embrace, before we could submit to any such condition of things as that. But before we had invoked this foreign despotism that could come to our rescue, we would arm every man and boy that we have in the land, and we would meet you in a death-struggle, to overthrow together such an oppression and our oppressors."

There were members, however, who, though not unmindful of the importance of the continued loyalty of the border States, regarded the price demanded as too great, and the dangers involved too imminent. Among them were Mr. Sherman of Ohio and Mr. Fessenden of Maine, though neither of them had been prominent in the antislavery struggle. Indeed, the former, in his speech on this very measure, disavowed all "sympathy with the general policy of the emancipation of slaves, or any interference with the rights of the Southern people," especially of the "loyal" Southern people.

"This proposition," he said, "is one of the most important that has been presented to Congress, and the times are meet for its consideration. The question must be decided whether the negro population of the United States shall be employed to aid the Rebels. Hitherto they have been the mainstay of this Rebellion. Their labor has furnished food; they have built intrenchments, they have relieved the Rebel soldiers of the burdensome duties of the camp, and have left their masters to perform simple military duty The policy heretofore pursued by the officers of the United States has been to repel this class of people from our lines, to refuse their services. They would have made the best spies, and yet they have been driven from our lines. They would have relieved our soldiers from many a hard task, many an irksome duty; but instead of that, our soldiers have been required to guard the property of the owners of slaves This must no longer be." After admitting that the whites and the blacks must always be "separate," that the latter must always be " inferior," and that " the law of caste is the law of God," and yet affirming that, if permitted, they would help the Union cause "heartily," he added: "Now, shall we avail ourselves of their services, or shall the enemy alone use them? That is the question." Saying, too, that the nation was "somewhat saddened by recent disasters," and that "the whole country is now a scene of mourning," he added, "and yet the spirit and determination are not checked in the least."

Mr. Fessenden, speaking of Union soldiers being required to guard Rebel property, said: " They do not like it; they do not feel easy that they should stand protecting a traitor, sleeping quietly in his bed, when they need repose themselves; that they should be employed in digging trenches in the swamps about the Chickahominy, when there are numbers already acclimated," ready and glad to do it for them. Referring to his reputation as a "conservative" man, he said: "I believe I am one; that is, I am a tolerably prudent, cautious man," and yet he was prepared to say, because it ought, in his judgment, to be said, and said publicly, that " this mode of white kid-glove warfare will not do." "Our adversaries do not hesitate in these matters; why should we? " He who refuses to employ men to render an important service — men, too, who are ready and anxious to render such service — because they are negroes, "makes me feel," he said, "a doubt whether there is not something wanting after all in the heart of such a man." Speaking of the proposed measure, he said: "I tell the President from my place as Senator, and I tell the generals of our army, they must reverse their practices and their course of proceeding upon the subject Treat your enemies as enemies, as the worst of enemies, and avail yourselves, like men, of every power which God has placed in your hands to accomplish your purpose, within the rules of civilized war fare." Mr. Rice, a Democratic Senator from Minnesota, was no less unequivocal. "Not many days can pass," he said, "before the people of the United States North must decide upon one of two questions: we have either to acknowledge the Southern Confederacy as a free and independent nation, and that speedily, or we have as speedily to resolve to use all the means given us by the Almighty to prosecute this war to a successful termination. The necessity for action has arisen. To hesitate is worse than criminal." "We may as well meet this question directly," said Mr. King, "and see whether we are prepared to use for the defence of our country the powers which God has given it, — the men who are willing to be used to preserve it."

Mr. Saulsbury and others had insinuated that the white soldiers would not fight with negroes. " Did not American soldiers," asked Mr. Wilson, " fight at Bunker Hill with negroes in the ranks, one of whom shot down Major Pitcairn as he mounted the works? Did not American soldiers fight at Red Bank with a black regiment from your own State, Sir? [Mr. Anthony of Rhode Island in the chair.] Did they not fight on the battle-field of Rhode Island with that black regiment, one of the best and bravest that ever trod the soil of this continent? Did not American soldiers fight at Fort Griswold with black men? Did they not fight with black men on almost every battle-field of the Revolution? Did not the men of Kentucky and Tennessee, standing on the line of New Orleans, under the eye of Andrew Jackson, fight with colored battalions whom he had summoned to the field, and whom he thanked publicly for their gallantry in hurling back a British foe? " He said it was idle to contend that the volunteers, who were " fighting the battles of the country, would be deterred by prejudices, — the results of the teachings of demagogues and politicians." He spoke, too, of the " awful burdens " placed upon the Union army, by the "ditchings" and "fortifications" on the banks of the Potomac and Chickahominy, " worn out and broken down by such employment." "The shovel and the spade," he said, "and the axe have ruined thousands of the young men of the country, and sent hundreds of them to their graves." He spoke of the "something of admiration" with which he looked upon the rigor and unscrupulous use of every means within the reach of the traitorous leaders, and he spoke of learning wisdom from their example. "It is of no use to despise them," he said. "We are, I think, in one of the darkest periods of this contest, and we had better look our position in the face, meet the responsibilities of the hour, rise to the demands of the occasion, pour out our money, summon our men to the field, go ourselves if we can do any good, and overthrow this Confederate power that feels to-day, over its recent magnificent triumphs, that it has already achieved its independence." Mr. Rice also asked if Washington did not put arms into the hands of negroes; and whether, too. General Jackson did not call upon them for aid in the exigencies of war. 

To this appeal to the precedents of the Revolution and of the "war of '12" Mr. Davis made an elaborate reply, which, if not a complete refutation of the arguments of those he attempted to answer, was a revelation of the embarrassments, apprehensions, and inconsistencies of those who adhered to both slavery and the Union, and who sought to save the one without detriment to the other. He began by referring to the want of "analogy" between the case under consideration and that of employing slaves in the wars of the Revolution and of 1812. In the first of those wars, he said, "the struggling States were in the greatest possible strait, pressed by an over powering enemy," the number of slaves was small, and the only persons to be injured were "men in arms in the cause of a foreign tyrant." In the war of 1812, he said, the case was "analogous "to that of the Revolution. In the case under consideration he contended that they were " invading the Southern States," in which the slaves "in the aggregate are about equal to the white population," the great mass of whom are "women, children, and aged and defenceless men." "We remonstrate," he said, "against the employment of slaves in this case, because they will be called upon to precipitate themselves against and upon a helpless population, and from their nature and disposition, and from the manner in which their passions can be inflamed and maddened, they having been heretofore in a state of slavery to the people against whom they are to be armed, they could not be restrained with the rules and usages of civilized war." He made a point, too, that in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Jefferson had included among the charges against the British king the fact that he had excited the slaves to "rise in arms among us," and that they were now proposing to do the very thing for which the fathers so severely censured George III.

He disclaimed any objection to the appropriation by the general government of negro labor, like that of the ox, "as other property is applied to military purposes." What he protested against was "the making discrimination between that and other property." Of the effects of the proposed policy upon the Rebel mind he thus spoke: "Why, sir, there is not a secessionist in the State of Kentucky but what is greatly and sincerely gratified at your measures, but what will not be more gratified when he hears of the propositions that have been presented to-day, and the speeches that have been made in regard to arming the negroes. There is not a Rebel in all secessia whose heart will not leap when he learns that the Senate of the United States is originating such a policy. It will strengthen his hopes of success by an ultimate union of all the slave States to fight such a policy to the death." Rehearsing the history of the Southampton insurrection, of the St. Domingo revolt, the John Brown raid, and other risings of the slave population, and noting the lessons to be deduced therefrom, he thus appealed to Northern members : "Ah, gentlemen, you can smile very derisively and very securely, — you who inhabit the regions of the North, where there is no danger of servile war, where the secessionists will never tread your sacred homesteads "; but we on the borders are exposed to all these dangers, liable to be set upon by the secessionists themselves, and then by "the upheaving of this domestic foe, demoniac in its character when it has once tasted blood." Speaking of "the spell of some sinister and fatal delusion in relation to the slave," that had fallen upon the majority, and of himself as having "no party but my country, no creed but the Constitution," and of the value of the Union as "inestimable," he said: "All my hopes are in it; all my affections are given to it. Come weal, come woe, I am for the Union and the armies of the Union, and I want victory always to perch upon the standard of those armies." Mr. Davis also moved an amendment to strike out the words, "or any military or naval service for which they may be found competent "; but his motion received but eleven votes.

But it was not alone the principle of the bill that caused earnest and even angry discussion. There were subordinate considerations and matters of detail on which arose great divergence of views, and which found expression in several amendments and remarks thereon. Among those who demurred at the sweeping character of the bill was Mr. Henderson of Missouri, who claimed that loyal slaveholders should be exempted from its workings. Saying that there were many loyal slaveholders in his State who were "carrying the flag of their country," he complained of the "absolute injustice" of such legislation towards them, and of the "irritation, resentment, and ill feeling" it would occasion. He therefore moved an amendment, " confining the proposition to free persons of color and to the slaves of Rebels." "I think," he said, "Senators might yield that much at least to the feelings of loyal men in the slave States." His amendment was rejected by a vote of thirteen to twenty-two. Another amendment, providing for compensation to legal owners for such loss of service was adopted by a vote of twenty to seventeen. Mr. Sherman also moved to restrict the operation of the bill to the slaves of Rebels, and this was adopted by a vote of twenty-two to sixteen.

Mr. Browning of Illinois moved to amend by striking out the words " his mother, and his wife and children," which provoked a brief and sharp debate; but it was rejected by a vote of seventeen to twenty-one. Mr. Harlan of Iowa made an elaborate and eloquent argument for the bill, urging the imperative demand that was then challenging their most serious attention. " If I read," he said, "the signs of the times correctly, this has become a necessity. We cannot, if we persist in our folly, thwart the ultimate purposes of the Almighty. By his providential interposition he has thrown open the door for the liberation of the nation of bondmen; he has removed the constitutional impediment, he has caused their assistance to be necessary to the perpetuity of the Union and the integrity of the nation." The bill, on motion of Mr. Wilson, was postponed, and was not again taken up.

The next day Mr. Wilson, from the same committee, introduced a new bill, substantially the same, but containing some additional matter, in regard to enrolment, rations, and pay; making, however, no discrimination between the slaves of loyal and disloyal citizens. Mr. Sherman immediately moved that such discrimination be made. It excited sharp opposition, but was ultimately carried by a majority of one. Mr. Lane was willing the loyal master should be remunerated, but he deprecated the idea of remanding a man to slavery after he had fought in defence of his country. "I could not bear the idea," said Mr. Howard of Michigan, "if I were a slaveholder, of suffering my slaves to be employed in defending me and my rights, of risking their lives to defend my life and family, and afterwards reducing those poor creatures to slavery. I should regard it as a burning and eternal shame." An amendment, by Mr. Browning restricting the workings of the bill to the slaves of the disloyal was, however, carried by a vote of twenty-one to sixteen; and the bill as thus amended was carried by a vote of twenty-eight to nine.

This strong and decisive vote received the support of several who had questioned the necessity of any legislation, had expressed doubts of its constitutionality, and had proposed amendments which had not been adopted. Mr. Hale, though expressing his willingness to go as far as he who goes farthest to sustain the President, said he could not forget that it was "a republican and constitutional government" he was sent to maintain. Mr. Collamer thought legislation unnecessary because the President was clothed with plenary power; but, deferring to the opinions of others, he voted for the bill. Mr. Cowan entertained the same opinion, and believed, too, that white soldiers would be repelled by the introduction of colored. "Three opinions prevail in this body," said Mr. Doolittle of Wisconsin, "in regard to the war power. One was that the whole power was in the hands of the President, rendering all legislation ' unnecessary '; another was that the President was ' not clothed with any military discretion ' which Congress might not 'control’ and the third was, that Congress might declare what powers might be exercised by the President, “while it was left for him to decide "when the military necessity has arisen for the exercise of that power." But under the pressure of that supreme moment they forgot all minor differences, desiring not only to be, but to appear, united in heart and purpose, to meet the stern exigencies of the hour. "Let all know," said Mr. Doolittle, "that in the midst of apparent disasters, in spite of threatened intervention from abroad, we, the representatives of American States and of the American people, standing fast by the Constitution and the Union, here and now renew our pledge before high Heaven, and swear by Him who liveth and reigneth forever, that we will put down this Rebellion, we will sustain this Constitution, and preserve this Union forever."

The bill was taken up in the House on the 16th, and a motion by Mr. Holman, a Democratic member from Indiana, to lay it on the table was defeated by a vote of thirty to seventy-seven. The previous question was then moved and sustained, and the bill was passed to be engrossed, and received the President's signature July 17, 1862.

But, notwithstanding this action of Congress, little use was made of negroes in the Union army during the first two years of the war. The President had not become convinced that the time had arrived for the general adoption of the policy authorized thereby. They were employed to some extent, but mainly confined to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and New Orleans. "Public opinion," said a contemporaneous writer as late as the opening of 1863, "had not yet decided that they could become an integral portion of the army, and as such be available for every species of military service, notwithstanding that Congress by two acts passed in July, 1862, had expressly authorized the employment of colored men as troops." But events were strongly tending in the right direction, and both the administration and the country were being rapidly educated up to the true policy. Among those who interested themselves most strenuously in securing a reversal of the policy hitherto pursued was Rev. Mansfield French, a Northern clergyman who had been appointed a chaplain of a regiment in South Carolina. Having been long identified with the antislavery movement, he was prepared to appreciate and use the arguments in favor of summoning the black man to join in the desperate conflict, and he determined to secure from the administration an order for the enlistment and organization of colored regiments for the Federal service. During the month of August, with a despatch from General Saxton, commanding at Hilton Head, he waited upon the Secretary of War with the request that he would give the requisite order. At first unsuccessful, he finally prevailed, and received on the 25th the long-desired order, directed to General Saxton, to raise five thousand troops, accompanied with the suggestive remark that "this must never see daylight, because it is so much in advance of public sentiment." The order contained seven sections, the first two pertaining mainly to "laborers, not exceeding fifty thousand"; of the remaining five, three were devoted to matters of detail, and the third and seventh were as follows: —

"3d…. You are authorized to arm, uniform, equip, and receive into the service of the United States such number of volunteers of African descent as you may deem expedient, not exceeding five thousand; and may detail officers to instruct them in military drill, discipline, and duty, and to command them. The persons so received into service and their officers to be entitled to, and receive, the same pay and rations as are allowed by law to volunteers in the service"….

“7th. By the recent act of Congress all men and boys received into the service of the United States, who may have been the slaves of Rebel masters, arc, with their wives, mothers, and children, declared to be forever free. You and all in your command will so treat and regard them." This was the first formal order from the War Department for the enrolment of colored soldiers to become "an integral portion of the army "; though it was not until the beginning of 1863 that the administration entered in earnest upon the enrolment of colored troops. The initiative of raising colored soldiers in the free States was an order from the War Department, dated January 20, 1863, to Governor Andrew of Massachusetts. It was a general order for the enlistment of troops, and the clause inaugurating the new and grand policy for which the friends of humanity and equal rights had been struggling for more than two years was couched in these simple and unpretending words: " Such volunteers to be enlisted for three years, unless sooner discharged, and may include persons of African descent, organized into separate corps."

The rest is known. How grandly they responded to the summons, how effectively they served their country's imperilled cause, and how nobly they answered the expectations and fulfilled the hopes of their friends, and at the same time disappointed and confounded the predictions of their enemies, is matter of record, testified to by the President, as already noted, and will constitute a part, and no unworthy part, of the nation's history.

In the House Thaddeus Stevens, on the 10th of February, 1864, moved to amend the Enrolment Act by striking out one of its sections and substituting therefor a provision for enrolling persons of African descent, of suitable age and health, whether citizens or not, and paying to the masters of such as were slaves three hundred dollars each, such slave becoming free thereby. A motion was made, and accepted by the mover, that only loyal masters should be paid. Mr. Boutwell moved to substitute "twenty-five dollars" for the sum specified. In connection with his motion he said: "I desire to say, in reply to the gentleman from Kentucky, that we have reached that emergency when men in the border States should understand, at least so far as I am concerned, that slaves, as inhabitants of the country, are to be used as other men are used to put down this Rebellion. No constitution or law of any State shall stand between me and what I believe to be my duty to my country." Mr. Creswell of Maryland indorsed Mr. Stevens's amendment, and Mr. Davis of the same State moved to strike out the proposed compensation to the masters of drafted slaves, on the ground that the slaves, like others, owed allegiance and duty to the government, and, consequently, that the government owed nothing to masters therefor. Mr. Mallory of the same State contended, on the other hand, that the slave was "property" and that the proposed amendment ignored the principle entirely, and was "contrary to the Constitution of the United States." The next day the debate was resumed, and Mr. Stevens accepted the amendment of Mr. Davis, who also moved to amend by authorizing the Secretary of War to appoint a commission to adjust the compensation for slaves who might volunteer, and his amendment was accepted. Mr. Kasson of Iowa expressed his willingness to make this discrimination between slaves volunteering and those who were drafted, paying the former.

Mr. Webster of Maryland, however, moved an amendment placing the two on the same footing. Mr. Kelley of Pennsylvania opposed it. "We do not," he said, "give the Northern father compensation for his minor son who is drafted; we do not give the Northern wife compensation for the husband whose labor was her support, if he be drafted; we do not give the Northern orphan child for having withdrawn the father whose labor was its support; we do not give compensation to the poor wife and child of a poor man of Maryland or Kentucky when the draft designates her husband or its father; and I cannot see that the relation of the slave-owner to his slave is one whit more sacred than that of the father to his son, the wife to her husband, or the child to its parent." Mr. Webster also moved to amend, so that the money "now paid to the drafted man" should be paid to the person to whom he owed service and labor, and it was adopted by a vote of sixty-seven to forty-four.

In behalf of the general proposition Mr. Higby of California expressed the opinion that "the government might go into every district, and take men to fill the Union armies, no matter what the color of their skin." On the policy of remanding slaves back to slavery after having fought in the Union army, he remarked that it would not only be wrong to the slaves but undesirable to the slaveholders. "When God shall please again," he said, "to bless the land with peace, shall the negro lay aside his military belt and resume the master's collar? If the country would allow it, the master would not. He would as soon introduce to the plantation a person charged with some fatal infection as his former slave, filled with antislavery ideas and military skill. He might court his industry, but not his demoralized will."

The measure, however, encountered the usual Democratic opposition. Mr. Harris of Maryland denied that the government had any right to "enlist or enroll a slave." Mr. Clay deprecated the sending a recruiting officer into Kentucky. "It will," he said, "create civil war among us." Fernando Wood called "attention to the fact that, while we are dis cussing a measure clearly and palpably in violation of the Constitution, the Confederate House of Representatives is discussing measures of peace, reunion, and conciliation." A motion was made that such troops should be organized into companies and regiments of their own color, and be commanded by white officers; but it was rejected. Mr. Stevens's amendment as amended was then adopted, providing that colored men, free or slave, when enrolled, should be considered a part of the national forces, the loyal masters of slaves receiving the hundred-dollar bounty to each drafted man on freeing their slaves.

When the bill came up in the Senate it failed of receiving a concurrent vote, and was referred to a Committee of Conference. The committee agreed upon a substitute, which was adopted by both houses. The bill, as finally adopted, enacted that every slave, whether drafted or a volunteer, shall be free on being mustered into the service. To the loyal master of a drafted slave there should be paid one hundred dollars; while the Secretary of War was charged to appoint a commission in each slave State represented in Congress, to award for each colored volunteer "a just compensation, not exceeding three hundred dollars, to each loyal person to whom he may owe service."

While the enrolment of colored soldiers was under consideration, other parts of the same general policy became subjects of earnest debate and legislation. Thus, as early as the 8th of January, Mr. Wilson had introduced a bill for the promotion of enlistments, that was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs, which reported it back with amendments, and made the subject of debate on the 21st. As amended, it provided that all of African descent who were mustered into the military service should receive the same pay, emoluments, and perquisites as "the other soldiers of the regular and volunteer forces," with "two months' pay in advance." This last condition was amended by striking out the " two months' pay," and substituting a bounty " not exceeding one hundred dollars." On the 8d of February Mr. Wilson introduced a joint resolution, providing that all soldiers of color shall have the same pay, emoluments, and perquisites, "other than bounty," as other soldiers, "during the whole term in which they shall be or shall have been in such service," and every person of color who shall hereafter be mustered into the service should receive like pay and perquisites, and bounty "not exceeding one hundred dollars."

In the debate upon the resolution, Mr. Fessenden of Maine and Mr. Conness of California questioned the propriety of the proposed retrospective action in paying these men for services already rendered; the latter expressing the opinion that neither the condition of the treasury nor the public credit could "afford" such "acts of justice," and moving an amendment that the pay should begin "from and after the passage of this act." The proposition, however, was vigorously opposed. Wilson, Ten Eyck of New Jersey, Lane and Pomeroy of Kansas, pleaded for the retrospective feature, contending that to strike it out would be unjust, would occasion "great dissatisfaction, not only in the minds of the troops, but of all their friends at home," and that the true policy would be to place colored soldiers in precisely the same position as white soldiers. Mr. Sumner would not press the retroactive principle, "unless where the faith of the government is committed “; and there he would not "hesitate." "The treasury," he said, "can bear any additional burden better than the country can bear to do an injustice"; and Mr. Foster of Connecticut sustained the same position, remarking that "justice is always the highest expediency."

Mr. Lane of Indiana, having coupled the idea that placing the colored soldiers "hereafter on an equality with the white troops” was all that could be expected, with the remark that "no man in his sober senses will say that their services are worth as much, or that they are as good soldiers," Mr. Wilson interposed for reply the testimony of the colonel of a colored regiment to the good conduct of his soldiers, and that of other officers who "took these troops with prejudices against them," to their industry, deferential manners, and "zeal, and an earnestness unsurpassed." And he added: "There is a reason for all this. Take a colored man who has been degraded by popular prejudice, or by law, or in any other way, put the uniform of the United States upon him, and let him follow the flag of the country, and he feels proud and elevated. They are fighting for the elevation of their race, as well as for our country and our cause, and well may they perform their duty." Mr. Sumner expressed his surprise at the remarks of Mr. Lane, and commented on "his lack of generosity and his lack of justice toward these colored soldiers." Mr. Conness withdrew his amendment.

Mr. Sumner then moved that, in regard to all past services, if the Secretary of War shall become convinced that these colored soldiers believed " that they were mustered into the service under the act of July 22, 1861, they shall receive full pay." Mr. Anthony of Rhode Island expressed his doubts whether that would " cover the case"; and Mr. Grimes and Mr. Howe expressed the apprehension that the matter was " being compromised by attempting to cover some individual cases in a general law." Mr. Wilson, despairing of getting his resolution through in the shape reported, moved an amendment, that the act should take effect "from and after the first day of January, 1864 "; and his amendment was agreed to.

Mr. Cowan of Pennsylvania moved to strike out all after the enacting clause, and to substitute an act providing that all soldiers "of the same grade and service shall be entitled to the same pay, rations, and pension." "I am in favor," he said, " of treating the negro precisely the same as any other man. He is a citizen of the United States. When I say that the negro is a citizen, I do not mean to say that he is equal to the white man." Mr. Saulsbury entered his protest against such sentiments, and the general substitution of the term "colored soldiers" for the usual term "negro." "Now, lo and behold," he said sneeringly, "in the advancement of civilization and Christianity and refinement, of which we hear so much, the negro has got to be a ‘colored person '; and when you come to provide for calling him into the public service, there must be perfect equality."

Several amendments having been made and lost, on the 23d Mr. Davis offered a substitute, the main idea or purport being that all colored persons in the service should be discharged and disarmed. Against this proposition Mr. Clark of New Hampshire entered his earnest protest. "I want," he said, "the black man to have arms in his hands. I glory in the opportunity of putting arms in his hands, that, when he puts down the Rebellion, he may put down forever the institution which has enslaved him. I hail in it the safety of the black man." Saying that, having had arms placed in his hands, it would be impossible to again enslave the negro, and that he had proved himself faithful and efficient in his country's service, he asked: "Then, if the black man makes a good soldier, if he goes readily to the fight, if he stands up firmly and bravely, and gives his blood and his life to the country, I ask, why should he not be paid? Can anybody tell me? " Mr. Davis's amendment received but seven votes.

The points of difference and divergence of opinion among the friends of the joint resolution were rather technical and matters of interpretation than of any doubt or hesitation in regard to the principle involved. Most were in favor of doing justice to the negro, and of placing him on terms of equality with the white soldier, though there were some who voted finally for the measure that did not rise entirely above the old prejudice against color, and did not fully ignore their longtime habit of treating him as an inferior. Mr. Collamer having offered an amendment, placing all who responded to the call of October 17, 1863, on the same footing, Mr. Foot of the same State urged its adoption as only the fulfilment of the nation's plighted faith, in the offer by the War Department of a bounty of three hundred dollars to any one that responded to that call. "This is simply," he said, "a proposition to redeem that promise, — a promise published and proclaimed everywhere throughout the country; in every nook" and corner of the country, at the threshold of every hamlet in the country, — a promise everywhere and by everybody understood as applying to and embracing all accepted volunteers, without exception of class or color, — a promise everywhere and by everybody so interpreted, and so relied upon, and so acted upon." Mr. Sumner moved an amendment, which was adopted adding that those who were entrusted under the act of July, 1861, should receive "the pay promised by that enlistment."

The debate was prolonged through several days, and elicited much plain and straightforward speaking. "Pass the bill," said Mr. Fessenden, "and settle the principle as it ought to be settled; place the colored troops on the same level with the white troops in all cases; let them receive the same pay and rations and everything else." Mr. Howard of Michigan spoke strongly. Condensing his thought, he described with terse and truthful words the essential injustice and iniquity of slavery, and the little real credit due to the nation for decreeing its abolishment. Concerning the policy that would discriminate against the colored man, he said: "You call him to your aid in your wars; your necessities remit him to the condition in which Nature herself placed him. The hand of robbery becomes palsied. Freedom, his birthright, accrues to him as a responsible being; and he again enjoys what it was not yours to give, and which human force and crime have withheld. The Almighty, not you, restores to him the gift of liberty. He owes you nothing for it; not even gratitude." But dis agreement on the details of the proposed measure was too great to allow the passage of the resolution; and the whole subject was recommitted.

On the 2d of March Mr. Wilson reported a new bill, placing all soldiers on an equality from the 1st of January, 1864; giving the same bounties to all under the call of October, 1863; giving to all persons of color enlisted into the service the pay allowed to other volunteers from the date of muster, if promised by any authorized persons, it being left with the Secretary of War to decide all questions of fact. Mr. Davis offered an amendment, which received but six votes; and the bill was passed by a vote of thirty-one to six. On the 22d of April Mr. Wilson offered this bill as an amendment to the army appropriation bill. In support of his amendment he spoke of the failure of Congress to increase the pay of colored soldiers as "not only checking enlistments but disastrously affecting the men in the field." "Sir," he said, " can we, dare we, hope for the blessing of Heaven upon our cause, while we perpetrate these wrongs, or suffer them to remain unredressed? Can we demand that the Rebels shall give to our colored soldiers the rights of civilized warfare while we refuse to them the equality of rights?" Referring to the "shocking barbarities" perpetrated on their colored soldiers, and " the bloody butchery of Fort Pillow," he said, "I feel that the nation is doing a wrong to the colored soldiers hardly less wicked than the wrongs perpetrated by slaveholding traitors." The amendment was agreed to by a vote of thirty-two to six.

When the army-appropriation bill was taken up in the House, Mr. Holman of Indiana made strenuous opposition to this amendment of the Senate. "I protest against it," he said, "as but a part of your general policy, which seeks by the force of power to extinguish every vestige of the old Republic of our fathers, wild, reckless, impracticable. I protest against it in the name of a distracted and bleeding country, which, struggling with defiant treason, and demanding prudence and patriotism in the conduct of its affairs, and the noblest incentives to constancy and courage, receives at your hands only the paralyzing counsels of fanaticism and passion." To these unfounded and inhuman words Mr. Stevens replied with his usual force and directness. "I despise," he said, "the principle that would make a difference between them in the hour of battle and of death. The idea that we are to keep the distinction is abhorrent to the feelings of the age, is ab horrent to the feelings of humanity, is shocking to every instinct of our nature. And I take it that no man who is not wedded to the institution of slavery, or does not foster it for the sake of power, will go with the gentleman from Indiana." The amendment equalizing the pay of soldiers was then carried by a vote of eighty to forty-nine. But the two Senate amendments, giving to colored soldiers the same bounty allowed to white soldiers under the call of October, 1863, and that allowing the Secretary of War to allow full pay to volunteers who were promised it, were stricken out.

In the Senate the House amendments were rejected, and, the House insisting, a Committee of Conference was appointed, but it failed to agree. Another committee was appointed, but their report was rejected by the House. A third committee was appointed, and reported that the House recede from its amendment reducing the bounty of volunteers under the call of October, 1863; that all persons of color, free on the 19th of April, 1861, and enlisting and being mustered in, shall receive what was allowed to such persons by the laws existing at the time of their enlistment ; and the Attorney-General was authorized to determine any question of law arising under this provision, and the Secretary of War was authorized to make all necessary regulations required thereby. This report was subjected to sharp criticism. Mr. Sumner did not "think it creditable to Congress," Mr. Pomeroy thought it "unjust to regiments from his State," Mr. Conness complained of its "unjust discrimination," and Mr. Johnson said it was not "intended to settle anything, except contingently." It was, however, accepted by both houses and became the law of the land. Substantially it provided that colored troops were placed on the same footing with white after the 1st of January, 1864; colored volunteers in the loyal States were allowed the same bounty as white; all colored soldiers, free on the 19th of May, 1861, were to receive full pay, and the Attorney-General was authorized to decide whether such as were not free at that time were entitled to the same, which in a subsequent decision he admitted to be their rightful due.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 3.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1878, 357-379.


EQUIANO, Olaudah (Olauda Ikwuano), c. 1745-1797, African American, author, merchant, explorer, former slave, abolitionist. Wrote autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African, 1789, England. 

(Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 101, 184, 382, 394, 395; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 7, p. 547; Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 4, p. 260)


EWING, Thomas, 1789-1871, West Liberty, Ohio, statesman, attorney, Whig U.S. Senator, 1831-1837, from Oho, opposed slavery as a Senator.  Secretary of the Treasury, 1841-1847.  Secretary of the Interior.  Opposed Fugitive Slave Law, Henry Clay’s Compromise Bill, and called for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.  Adopted Civil War General William T. Sherman as a boy. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. II, pp. 393-394; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 3, Pt. 2, p. 237)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

EWING, Thomas, statesman, b. near West Liberty, Ohio co., Va., 28 Dec., 1789; d. in Lancaster, Ohio, 26 Oct., 1871. His father, George Ewing, served in the Revolutionary army, and removed with his family in 1792 to the Muskingum river, and then to what is now Athens county, Ohio. In this unsettled district young Ewing's education was necessarily imperfect. His sister taught him to read, and in the evenings he studied the few books at his command. In his twentieth year he left his home and worked in the Kanawha salt establishments, pursuing his studies at night by the light of the furnace-fires. He remained here till he had earned enough money to clear from debt the farm that his father had bought in 1792, and had qualified himself to enter the Ohio university at Athens, where, in 1815, he received the first degree of A. B. that was ever granted in the Northwest. He then studied law in Lancaster, was admitted to the bar in 1816, and practised with success for fifteen years. In 1831-'7 he served as U. S. senator from Ohio, having been chosen as a Whig. He supported the protective tariff system of Clay, and advocated a reduction in the rates of postage, a recharter of the U. S. bank, and the revenue collection bill, known as the “force-bill.” He opposed the removal of the deposits from the U. S. bank, and introduced a bill for the settlement of the Ohio boundary question, which was passed in 1836. During the same session he brought forward a bill for the reorganization of the general land-office, which was passed, and also presented a memorial for the abolition of slavery. In July, 1836, the secretary of the treasury, issued what was known as the “specie circular.” This directed receivers in land-offices to accept payments only in gold, silver, or treasury certificates, except from certain classes of persons for a limited time. Mr. Ewing brought in a bill to annul this circular, and another to make it unlawful for the secretary to make such a discrimination, but these were not carried. After the expiration of his term in 1837 he resumed the practice of his profession. He became secretary of the treasury in 1841, under Harrison, and in 1849 accepted the newly created portfolio of the interior, under Taylor, and organized that department. Among the measures recommended in his first report, 3 Dec., 1849, were the establishment of a mint near the California gold-mines, and the construction of a railroad to the Pacific. When Thomas Corwin became secretary of the treasury in 1850, Mr. Ewing was appointed to succeed him in the senate. During this term he opposed the fugitive slave law, Clay's compromise bill, reported a bill for the establishment of a branch mint in California, and advocated a reduction of postage, and the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. He retired from public life in 1851, and again resumed his law-practice in Lancaster. He was a delegate to the peace congress of 1861. During the civil war he gave, through the press and by correspondence and personal interviews, his counsel and influence to the support of the National authorities. While he devoted much of his time to political subjects, the law was his favorite study and pursuit. He early won and maintained throughout his life unquestioned supremacy at the bar of Ohio; and ranked in the supreme court of the United States among the foremost lawyers of the nation. In 1829, just after his father's death, Gen. William T. Sherman, then a boy nine years of age, was adopted by Mr. Ewing, who afterward appointed him to the U. S. military academy, and in 1850 he married Ellen, the daughter of his benefactor. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888.




To the most pressing question of the time the election of 1848 gave no answer; that was, what should be done with the new territorial acquisitions? North and South now began to realize the hopeless incompatibility of their respective industrial and social systems, and any agreement between them became ever more difficult. Since slavery constituted the most essential difference, it was, of course, the point of greatest friction. As the national boundaries expanded westward, the North showed itself increasingly anxious to prevent slavery from extending also. Up to 1850 each addition of territory was made the occasion of an effort to limit the spread of that institution: the Northwest Ordinance excluded it from that part of the old West which lay north of the Ohio River; and that exclusion was repeated in several acts for the organization of territories within the area. After a severe clash between the opposing sections, the Missouri Compromise excluded it also from that part of the Louisiana Purchase north of 36° 30' except in the state of Missouri; and it was excluded by the terms of annexation in 1845 from the territory claimed by Texas north of the same line. Now the question was whether it should be allowed to enter the vast area surrendered by Mexico at the end of the war; and, if so, to what extent.

In New Mexico and California, when the conquest took place, slavery was forbidden by law. Those provinces had not, like Texas, been exempted from the operation of Guerrero's decree of September 15, 1829, abolishing slavery throughout the republic of Mexico,1 and in them, therefore, the institution had no legal existence. The promulgation of this decree was by no means in harmony with republican methods, and it seems to have received little attention; 2 but a decree of April 5, 1837, provided that slavery in Mexico should be abolished without exception and with compensation to the owners.3 As a matter of fact, however, there were practically no negroes anywhere in Mexico, and chattel slavery had little chance in the economic contest with the Mexican system of peonage. So far, therefore, as negro slavery was concerned, New Mexico and California were, at the time when they were occupied by the United States troops, both legally and actually free soil.

The effect of the conquest on the status of the

1 See p. 27, above.

2 Bancroft, Mexico, V., 80 3

3 Dublan y Lozano, Legislacion Mexicana, III., 352.

government, and especially of slavery, in the territory occupied was by no means clear. As soon as the occupation took place temporary governments were organized by direction of the president, who claimed to be acting under authority, not of the Constitution, but of the power conferred by the law of nations on a conqueror.1 Nevertheless, in a message of December 22, 1846, in response to a resolution of inquiry from the House, he disavowed the acts of General Kearny in setting up a government for New  Mexico, so far as they looked towards the establishment of a permanent territorial organization.2 While, however, the executive could not establish permanent governments for the conquered territory, Congress could; and Polk vainly recommended in his message of December 6, 1847, that it should do so without waiting for the treaty. When the treaty was concluded, the effect of it, as the president interpreted it, was to extend the Constitution and laws of the United States over California and New Mexico, so that the local organization set up by executive authority became simply a de facto government, which was allowed to stand till Congress should provide otherwise, because there seemed to be no more reasonable or safer alternative. 3

The question as to the status of slavery in the

1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 494.

2 Ibid., 506; Polk, MS. Diary, December 19, 1846. ,

3 Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 638.

territory acquired by the treaty was still more complicated. Calhoun claimed that Congress had no right nor constitutional power to discriminate between the states by passing a law which would "directly, or by its effects, deprive the citizens of any of the states of this Union from emigrating, with their property, into any of the territories of the United States." 1 On the other hand, it was contended that by Mexican law, valid so far as not in conflict with the Constitution and laws of the United States, slavery was already abolished in New Mexico and California. 2 Unless, therefore, the Constitution operated of itself to secure the right of property in slaves in the acquired territory, slavery could not exist there except by an act of Congress. The right to hold slaves had, however, been founded by judicial decisions primarily on state or local law and custom rather than the Constitution or federal statutes.3

As soon as the progress of the war brought in sight the possibility of new territorial acquisitions in the southwest, the question as to the legal status and prospective existence of slavery therein arose at once. Many political leaders in the free states desired first to make certain that slavery would be permanently excluded from the territory, if

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 455.

2 Ibid., 31 Cong., 1 Sess., 342.

3 Walker (Miss.), 85; Martin (La.), N. S., 402; 2 Marshall (Ky.), 470; 16 Peters, 611.

acquired, and then leave the struggle over the acquisition to result as it might. Many in the slave states, on the other hand, while favoring the acquisition, contended that neither North nor South could rightly claim as an exclusive field for its industrial and social organization the ground that had been won by a common expenditure of money and of blood.1

Several different solutions were offered for the problem concerning the expansion of slavery that was thus taking shape. One consisted in the Wilmot Proviso, but its impracticability had been clearly demonstrated before New Mexico and California were acquired. Another proposed the old expedient of geographical division, employed in 1820, in the days before the abolition movement, when nationalization had not gone so far, and also applied in the annexation of Texas. If such a settlement could prevail at all, it would involve the extension to the Pacific of the line of 36° 30', dividing free soil from that where slavery might exist; and the result would be to separate the new acquisitions into two unequal parts, from the larger of which slavery should be excluded. Since the South had obtained so small a share of the Louisiana purchase, it seemed to be extremely moderate for her to content herself with a like meagre allotment in the southwest; nevertheless, many southerners wished to extend the compromise line, and among them

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 453, App., 90, 160, 367.

was the president himself, who had the unanimous concurrence of his cabinet. 1

Polk, however, favored such a compromise mainly in order to quiet the agitation of the subject. He told Senator Crittenden that "the question of slavery would probably never be a practical one if we acquired New Mexico and California, because there would be but a narrow ribbon of territory south of the Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30', and in it slavery would probably never exist." 2 It should be remembered that in the successive compromises based on the principle of division of territory the slave -holding interests had agreed that slavery should be excluded from states formed north of the li1ie of 36° 30'--except Missouri--if only those formed below it should be given their option as to whether they would have slaves or not; it was therefore theoretically possible for free states to be formed below the compromise line.

Another suggestion was that Congress should provide for the organization of territorial governments for New Mexico and California, but should prohibit the legislatures of those territories from passing any law on the subject of slavery, and should leave the questions connected with it to be decided by the territorial judiciary. Calhoun would have preferred that the decision should be without appeal to the supreme court of the United States, but was

1 Polk, MS. Diary, January 16, 1847.

2 Ibid., January 23, 1847.

willing, for the sake of a judicial settlement, to give up his preference. 1

Finally came the most important of all the proposed solutions, that of leaving the question of slavery altogether to local determination. Inasmuch as this method involved settlement by local action before the territorial status had given way to statehood, it was derisively termed "squatter sovereignty." The principle appealed strongly to the political instincts of the West, and there were many throughout the Union who were tired of the agitation over slavery and were willing to try a plan which promised to localize it and to relieve the national government of all responsibility as to the expansion of the system. The earliest suggestions of this method came in 1847, 2 and it was doubtless born of the discussions of the Wilmot Proviso. December 14, 1847, Dickinson of New York introduced resolutions in the Senate affirming the doctrine; and on December 29 Cass approved it in a letter to A. 0. P. Nicholson of Nashville.3 Douglas afterwards became the great champion of the doctrine, and it has been associated especially with his name, but he was not its author.4 Though the Democrats in 1848 refused it a place in 

1 Polk, MS. Diary, July 17 and 19, 1848.

2 See remarks of Leake, February 15, 1847, in Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 444.

3 Niles' Register, LXXIII., 293; Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 25.

4 See Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. vii.

their platform, it nevertheless soon became the very core of Democratic policy. Calhoun, however, and his followers repudiated it, declaring that the power to legislate for the territories was vested in Congress, and that the people of a territory had no power to abolish slavery.1

After the defeat of the Wilmot Proviso as an amendment to the "Three Million" bill, February 7, 1847, the next important struggle relative to the westward extension of slavery took place over Oregon. 2 It was becoming gravely important that a territorial government be framed for the region to which the compromise with Great Britain in 1846 had given the United States undisputed possession. The president urged it, first in his special message of August 5, 1846, transmitting the convention agreed upon with Great Britain; then in his annual messages in 1846 and 1847; and finally in another special message of May 29, 1848, transmitting a petition from the authorities of the Oregon provisional government, asking the aid and protection of the United States. 3

To the recommendations of the president the House responded with a bill for a territorial organization, passed January 16, 1847, which excluded slavery from Oregon, not directly by the use of a proviso similar to Wilmot's, but indirectly by repeating the restrictions of the Northwest Ordinance,

1 Calhoun, Works, IV., 563-568.

3 Gray, Oregon, 542-547.

2 See p. 171, above.

These restrictions were inherited by the territories and states formed out of the territory northwest of the Ohio, one of them being Michigan. An act of Congress of June 28, 1834, extended the boundary of Michigan territory westward so as to include nearly all the unorganized part of the Louisiana purchase lying east of the Missouri River, and the restrictions of the ordinance followed this expansion of Michigan and reappeared in the organization of the territories of Iowa and Minnesota without a protest; indeed, slavery was already excluded from the added district by the Missouri Compromise, if not by the laws of nature. One more westward step for the ordinance would include Oregon, and the framers of the Oregon bill now avoided the unpopular proviso which had been invented to check the expansion of slavery in the South, and fell back upon the older precedent of the measure which had stopped its progress in the North. The difference was largely in sentiment, but sentiment was highly important. Burt of South Carolina, who still clung to the principle of division, offered an amendment giving as a reason for the exclusion of slavery from Oregon the fact that all the territory lay north of the Missouri Compromise line; 1 but the House, by a vote of 82 to 113, refused to adopt this explanation.

In the Senate this bill was tabled, and a Senate bill for the organization of the territory was checked

1 Cong. Globe, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., 178.

by a proposed amendment for the exclusion of slavery. After waiting nearly a month for .action by Congress, President Polk undertook to remove the cause of delay by securing the extension of the Missouri Compromise line through all the new acquisitions to the Pacific. He prepared an amendment embodying this proposition, which was placed in charge of Senator Bright of Indiana, acting chairman of the committee on territories, and was immediately introduced, June, 27, 1848. He also held interviews with members of both houses, and obtained the concurrence of a number of them.1 Meanwhile the Free Soil convention had been called, and the Barnburners had already nominated Van Buren at Utica. To the question concerning Oregon was now added that relative to California and New Mexico. July 6 the president transmitted to Congress the ratified treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, and urged the formation of a territorial government for the new possessions. 2 The feeling aroused by the slavery agitation was becoming dangerous; 3 the necessity for prompt and decisive action by Congress was apparent.

Therefore, July 12, 1848, the Senate attacked the troublesome question from a new direction-that of compromise. A special committee of eight, two northern and two southern men from each of the

1 Polk, MS. Diary, June 24, 27, July 10, 1848; Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 87 5.

2 See pp. 239, 297, above.

3 See speech of Johnson, in Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 917.

two great parties, with Clayton of Delaware as chairman, was selected to consider the questions relating to the extension of slavery then before Congress, and have them settled by a single measure, relieved as far as possible of partisan and sectional influences, that might commend itself to both North and South as a remedy to prevent threatened disunion.

The select committee reported a single bill for the organization of Oregon, New Mexico, and California, which passed the Senate, after an all-night session, on the morning of July 27, 1848.1 The bill validated the provisional laws of Oregon-which excluded slavery-·so far as not incompatible with the Constitution of the United States or with the bill itself, subject to the action of its territorial legislature; but prohibited the territorial legislature of New Mexico and California from passing laws relative to slavery, and provided for appeals from the territorial courts to the supreme court of the United States that would finally decide the question as to the status of slavery in the territories. This measure was called the Clayton Compromise.

The Senate bill went to the House, and was tabled at once. The House then proceeded with a new bill of its own for the organization of the territory of Oregon, which it passed August 2, again excluding slavery by the application of the "conditions, 

1 For the bill as passed, see Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess. 1002-1005.

... restrictions, and prohibitions'' of the Northwest Ordinance to the new territory. The Senate amended the bill by extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. The House refused to concur by a vote of 82 to 121; the Senate receded, after another all-night session, by 29 to 25; and the bill was finally passed on the morning of Sunday, August 13, with the prohibition of slavery by applying to the territory of Oregon the restrictions of the Northwest Ordinance.1

The question of a territorial government for Oregon was now with the president. He and his cabinet were unanimously of the opinion that a veto would array geographical sections of the country against one another and that he ought to sign the bill. Calhoun besought him earnestly to veto it on constitutional grounds, but he refused. 2 Polk insisted, however, against .the advice of Buchanan, on sending a message to explain that he approved it only because Oregon lay wholly north of the proposed westward extension of the Missouri Compromise line.3

Meanwhile another serious question involving the extension of slavery had risen in relation to the limits of Texas. July 10, Stephens of Georgia offered a series of resolutions asking the president

1 For the exact terms- of the amendment, see Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., l Sess., 1062; the final bill is printed in Ibid., 1078-1080.

2 Polk, MS. Diary, August 12, 13, 1848.

3 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 1081.

for information as to the proper boundaries of New Mexico and California, and as to the civil governments said to be in existence in those districts. Stephens asserted that nine-tenths of the people of the country understood the president's annual message, of December, 1846, to claim for Texas the Rio Grande boundary from mouth to source; that General Kearny, alleging authority from the president, had set up a territorial government in New Mexico, with the capital at Santa Fe, though in the instructions to Slidell it was admitted that Texas had never established jurisdiction in New Mexico.1 In pointing out these apparent inconsistencies, the southern Whig Stephens was bent mainly on scourging the southern Democrat Polk. The slavery issue was kept out of the discussion, yet it was evidently involved. If the country lying east of the Rio Grande above El Paso belonged to Texas, then slavery existed there potentially by the act of the state itself; otherwise it was part of New Mexico, from which slavery was excluded by Mexican law.

The president replied, on July 24, that the temporary governments both in New Mexico and California had been set up by the officers in command there, by the right of conquest, in pursuance of instructions from Washington which had been somewhat exceeded. The governments had been supported, not from the United States treasury, but by military exactions, and they had ceased to exist

1 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 910.

with the ratification of the treaty of peace. He thought the right of Texas to the country east of the upper Rio Grande well founded, but it had never been reduced to occupancy; and a temporary government for the district had been set up because the Mexicans had been found in actual possession.1 

Whether or not the Texan claim was valid, New Mexico and California were yet to be organized. August 27, 1848, Benton wrote a letter to the people of California intended for those of New Mexico also-advising them to meet in convention, form a "cheap and simple government," and take care of themselves till Congress could provide for them. 2 Polk thought the purpose of the letter was to make Fremont governor; and it was agreed in cabinet meeting to instruct the United States postal agent, who was about to start for California, to inform the people that they had no legal right to take such action, and to advise them rather to continue obedience to the de facto temporary government.3

In his annual message at the opening of the next session of Congress, in December, 1848, the president again urged the organization of territorial governments for California and New Mexico, and recommended the extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific; suggesting, however, as an alternative that the question relative to slavery

1 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 989.

2 Niles' Register, LXXIV., 244.

3 Polk, MS. Diary, September 30, October 3, 1848.

in the territories might be referred to the judiciary. But the agitation concerning slavery was renewed at once, becoming fiercer than ever, and it looked as if no measure involving the subject could command enough votes in both houses to pass it. December 11, 1848, a bill for the organization of the whole of the Mexican cession into a single state to be called California, with the right reserved to Congress to form new states out of any part of it east of the Sierra Nevada, was introduced in the Senate by Douglas.1 Two days later a petition was received purporting to be from a convention of the people of New Mexico, asking for a territorial government, protesting against any '' dismemberment'' of the territory in favor of Texas, and requesting the protection of Congress against the introduction of slavery.

The president favored statehood for California and a territorial government for New Mexico; 2 and his views prevailed with Douglas to the extent that the latter at length offered an amendment to his own bill making states of both the territories, 3 but ignoring the subject of slavery. Meanwhile the majority of the committee of the judiciary had reported adversely on the bill, recommending that territorial governments be organized for California west of the Sierra Nevada and New Mexico west of Texas.4 The Senate did not get to the point of

1 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., 21.

2 Polk, MS. Diary, December 12, 23, and 26, 1848.

3 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., 381.

4 Ibid., 192.

accepting either proposition; the action of the House was rather slow, but positive enough when it came. Under a resolution offered by Root of Ohio, December 13, 1848, instructing the committee on territories to report promptly a bill or bills providing for terr1torial governments in California and New Mexico, and for the exclusion of slavery, bills were introduced; and on February 29, 1849, that which concerned California was passed, but the Senate refused to take it up.

During this period another question concerning slavery was forcing itself on the attention of the national authorities and of the American people, a question more fruitful of sectional discord and alienation than any which had previously arisen; it was the status of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia. As the sections drew apart in interest and feelings, the North grew steadily less tolerant of the peculiar views of the South, and less willing that the special demesne of the national government, though geographically southern and situated in the heart of a slave-holding preserve, should be like the country around it. If the protection which the South believed the Constitution gave to the right of property in slaves, but which the North was now denying, was to be withdrawn at any point, surely the District of Columbia, standing under the direct jurisdiction of Congress, was the place.1

1 See earlier stages of the question in Hart, Slavery and Abolition (Am. Nation, XVI.), chaps. xi., xviii.

So it came to pass, December 13, 1848, John G. Palfrey of Massachusetts, the preacher and author, asked the, House, according to previous notice, for leave to introduce a bill to repeal all legislation by Congress establishing or maintaining slavery or the slave-trade in the district.1 Permission was refused by a vote of 69 to 82; but on December 18 Giddings of Ohio was allowed to introduce a bill authorizing the people of the district to vote on the question as to whether they desired the continuance of slavery.2 On being questioned as to the purport of the bill, he explained it as providing that negroes, bond as well as free, should take part in the vote. The bill was laid on the table by 106 yeas to 79 nays. Three days later Gott of New York offered a resolution instructing the committee for the District of Columbia to bring in a bill prohibiting the slave-trade in the district, which was adopted by a vote of 98 to 88; 3 but on January 10, 1849, it was reconsidered, and disappeared in the list on the calendar. In the course of the struggle over its reconsideration, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois offered an amendment, which did not come to a vote, defining a plan for the suppression of the slave-trade and the gradual extinction of slavery in the district, if the majority of the white votes thereof should decide in favor of the plan at an election to be held for the purpose. Finally, on January 31, Edwards, of the

1 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., 38.

2 Ibid., 55.

3 Ibid., 83.

committee for the District of Columbia, reported a bill to prevent the importation of slaves into the district for sale or hire, which caused a sharp debate, but which also seems to have died on the calendar.

In the course of this movement the agitation concerning slavery revealed itself in still another issue, which was soon to become its most irritating and dangerous aspect. This was the fugitive-slave law. When Gott's resolution was reconsidered, January 10, and was again before the House, Meade of Virginia offered an amendment to instruct the committee for the district to report a bill “more effectually to enable owners to recover their slaves escaping from one state into another." 1 Though the amendment was promptly ruled out of order, the abject of the introducer was accomplished in presenting an additional grievance of the South.

The sectionalizing effect of the agitation soon became apparent. On the evening of the day after the passage of Gott's resolution a meeting of about seventy southern members of Congress belonging to both political parties was held for the purpose of deciding on some common policy for the South. 2 Two subsequent meetings were held on January 15 and January 22, at which about eighty members were present. Calhoun was the dominant spirit,

1 Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., 216.

2 Polk, MS. Diary, December 22, 23, 1848; Niles' Register, J,.,XXIV., 401

and the final result was the adoption of an address of the southern members of Congress to their constituents, reported from a committee of fifteen, of which Stephens was chairman, and prepared by a subcommittee of five, of which Calhoun was chairman. Stephens tried to prevent action by the caucus, and Polk also opposed the movement, but in vain.1 The address dwelt upon the gradual alienation between the sections that had begun with the dispute over the admission of Missouri into the Union; charged the North with a breach of the Constitution in refusing to give up fugitive slaves, and with want of respect for the Missouri Compromise line; complained of the disposition to refuse the South its share of the Mexican cession, which it had done more than the North to win, and of the attacks on slavery by Congress, forecasting complete abolition if no remedy were found ; and finally recommended unity of action on the part of the South.2

The resentful complaint of injustice made in the address soon rang through the entire South. It was repeated in resolutions by the legislatures of Virginia and Missouri and in various other forms; a mass-meeting in Trimble County, Kentucky, called on Clay to resign his senatorship because he had written a letter favoring gradual emancipation; and the toasts at a dinner to Senator Butler in South

1 Polk, MS. Diary, January 17, 1849.

2 Niles'. Register, LXXV., 84-88.

Carolina boldly proclaimed disunion. 1 The North was hardly less excited; the legislatures of all the states of that section except Iowa passed resolutions favoring congressional prohibition of slavery in the territories, and a number took action looking towards the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia. 2

Thus, amid energy-consuming sectional quarrels that prevented the discharge of urgent national duties, the strenuous Polk administration drew to a close. Though it had accomplished large results, it left much unfinished work involving an exceedingly complex and difficult group of problems. Should slavery be excluded from California and New Mexico by congressional action? Should it be excluded from a part of both by extending the line between slavery and free soil to the Pacific? Or should they be left free to exclude it or not, as they might choose, on the principle of squatter sovereignty? Should that part of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande follow the fortunes of the part west of the river? Or should it be made a slave-holding district by conceding the boundary claimed by Texas? The struggle for solutions to these pressing problems necessarily brought under review the whole subject of sectional differences concerning slavery, and suggested a compromise that should endeavor to adjust them all. Thus were added to the group of troublesome issues those relating to the return of

1 Rhodes, United States, I., 105-107.

2 Ibid., 107.

fugitive slaves, and to slavery and the slave-trade in the District of Columbia. The series of problems which had been raised by the expansion movement originally included the question as to whether slavery should be unconditionally excluded from Oregon; but through the earnest endeavors of President Polk the territory was organized, and this question settled separately before a general bargain could be reached. Action, however, in providing for the organization of Oregon did rela4ively little to simplify the puzzling issue that was absorbing the situation of the president and Congress; and the triumph of the Whigs in 1848 brought them an inheritance of trouble and responsibility which they were ill prepared to face.

Source:  Garrison, George Pierce, Westward Extension. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 17, 294-314. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.


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