President Lincoln Concerned with Blacks in South Carolina and District of Colombia

April 14, 1862

After a Cabinet meeting “to consider establishing military government over islands along coast of South Carolina,” Attorney General Edward Bates reacts skeptically in his diary; “C.C. called specially today, to consider of a proposition to establish a miltiary govt. over the sea islands!!  It seems that it is an abolition contrivance, to begin the establishment of a negro country along that coast.  After a little conversation, [Edwin M.] Stanton, in a few words, shewed it up, and it was agreed to leave the whole matter to the War Dept.”

Meanwhile, legislation to abolish slavery in the nation’s capitol was making its way through Congress.  “A night went to Presidents to lay before him the bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia.  Had a talk with him.  He told me he would sign the bill, but would return it with a special message recommending a supplemental bill making savings in behalf of infants &c. And also some other amendments,” wrote Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning.

He further told me he regretted the bill had been passed in its present form — that it should have been for gradual emancipation — that now families would at once be deprived of cooks, stable boys &c and they of their protectors without any provision for them.    He further told me that he would not sign the bill before Wednesday — That old Gov Wickliffe had two family servants with him who were sickly, and who would not be benefitted by freedom, and wanted time to remove them, but could not get them out of the City until Wednesday, and that the Gov had come frankly to him and asked for time.   He added to me that this was told me in the strictest confidence.

President Lincoln would eventually sign the legislation for compensated emancipation without any restriction.  In Congress in 1849, Lincoln himself had proposed legislation to end slavery in Washington.  Senator Charles Sumner would write of the sequence of events: “We adjourned on Friday at 5 o’clk till Monday–not knowing then that the Bill would pass the House that day.  It did not pass till after 6 o’clk, when the House promptly adjourned till Monday.  The Bill was not enrolled or signed by the Speaker, so that had the Senate come together on Saturday, it could not have received it.  In point of fact, the Bill, though hastened did not reach the Senate till Monday evng after 5 o’clk when it was promptly despatched to the President.

I regretted that the Presdt. held the Bill back for two days — making himself, as I told him, for the time being, the largest slave-holder in the country.  During all this time poor slaves were in concealment, waiting on the day of Freedom to come out from the hiding places.

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Published in: on April 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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