President Signs Legislation Abolishing Slavery in District of Columbia

April 16, 1862

Illinois Congressman Isaac N. Arnold recalls: “The bill passed the House by ninety-two ayes to thirty-eight noes, and, on the 16th of April, was approved by the president.  Lincoln said: ‘Little did I dream in 1849, when I proposed to abolish slavery at this capital, and could scarcely get a hearing for the proposition, that ti would be so soon accomplished.’  Still less did he anticipate that he as president would be called upon to approve the measure.”

Despite some misgivings, President Lincoln signs legislation to emancipate slaves in the nation’s capita.  He writes members of Congress:

The Act entitled “An Act for the release of certain persons held to service, or labor in the District of Columbia” has this day been approved, and signed.

I have never doubted the constitutional authority of congress to abolish slavery in this District; and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way.  Hence there has never been, in my mind, any question upon the subject, except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances.  If there be matters within and about this act, which might have taken a course or shape, more satisfactory to my jud[g]ment, I do not attempt to specify them.  I am gratified that the two principles of compensation and colonization, are both recognized, and practically applied in the act.

In the matter of compensation, it is provided that claims may be presented within ninety days from the passage of the act “but not thereafter”; and there is no saving for minors, femes-covert, insane or absent persons.  I presume this is an omission by mere over-sight, and I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or supplemental act.

The president also appoints three commissioners to “act for abolition of slavery in District of Columbia.”

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Published in: on April 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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