Cabinet Meeting Discusses Changes in Policy Regarding Slavery

July 21, 1862

In the wake of congressional legislation regarding confiscation of Confederate property, slaves, and black soldiers, the Cabinet began discussions of new policy directions by the Lincoln Administration.  Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “After [Count Gurowski] left, I received a notice to attend a Cabinet meeting, at 10 o’clock.  It has been so long since any consultation has been held that it struck me as a novelty.”  Chase added:

I went at the appointed hour, and found that the President had been profoundly concerned at the present aspect of affairs, and had determined to take some definitive steps in respect to military action and slavery.  He had prepared several Orders, the first of which contemplated authority to Commanders to subsist their troops in the hostile territory – the second, authority to employ negroes as laborers – the third requiring that both in the case of property taken and of negroes employed, accounts should be kept with such degrees of certainty as would enable compensation to be made in proper cases – another provided for the colonization of negroes in some tropical country.

A good deal of discussion took place upon these points.  The first Order was universally approved.  The second was approved entirely; and the third, by all except myself.  I doubted the expediency of attempting to keep accounts for the benefit of the inhabitants of rebel States.  The Colonization project was not much discussed .

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes that he met Illinois Congressman Isaac N.

“Arnold between the War Department and the Presidents.  He is eager for the President to issue a proclamation declaring all the slaves of rebels free.  He thinks it would ‘fire the public heart,’ encourage enlistments and go far towards ending the war.  I have always been in favor of seizing and appropriating all the slaves of reels that we could lay our hands on, and make any valuable use of, but I have no faith in proclamations or laws unless we follow them by force and actually do the thing – and when done we don’t need either the proclamation or law.”

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Published in: on July 21, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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