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  

Bugs Attack the White House

July 20, 1862

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes his fiancée from his office – which was adjacent to that of President Lincoln:  “My usual trouble in this room is from what the world is sometimes pleased to call ’big bugs’ — oftener humbugs — but at this present writing (ten o’clock P.M. Sunday night) the thing is quite reversed and little bugs are the pest.  The gas lights over my desk are burning brightly and the windows of the room are open, and all bugdom outside seems to have organized a storming party to take the gas light, in numbers that seem to exceed the contending hosts at Richmond.  The air is swarming with them, they are on the ceiling, the walls and the furniture in countless numbers, they are buzzing about the room, and butting their heads against the window panes, they are on my clothes, in my hair, and on the sheet I am writing on.  There are all here, the plebeian masses as well as the great and distinguished members of the oldest and largest patrician families –  the Millers, the Roaches, the Whites, the Blacks yea even the wary and diplomatic foreigners from the Musquito Kingdom. “They hold a high carnival, rather a perfect Saturnalia.  Intoxicated, and maddened and blinded by the bright gas-light, they dance and rush and fly about in wild gyrations until they are drawn into the dazzling but fatal heat of the gas-flame when they fall to the floor burned and maimed and mangled to the death, to be swept out into the dust and rubbish by the servant in the morning.”  He added: “I would go along with a long moral, and discourse with profound wisdom about its being not altogether inapt miniature picture of the folly and madness and intoxication and fate too of many big bugs, whom even in this room I witnessed buzzing and gyrating around the central sun and light and source of power of the government….”

General George B. McClellan writes President Lincoln: “I have again heard from returned prisoners that [Stonewall] Jackson’s troops commenced leaving Richmond about one week ago by rail either towards Gordonsville or Fredericksburg, & that the movement continued for some three (3) days by night & day.  This comes through so many sources that I feel obliged to call your close attention to.

I also learn that large numbers of conscripts are constantly arriving in Richmond from the south.  My cavalry scouts are today amusing themselves with the enemy at Malvern Hill.

Jackson’s movement may be against Buell — the fact of his taking the Gordonsville route would in tat case be accounted for by the necessity of their keeping the Petersburg & Danville roads free for the transit of wounded, recruits and supplies.  In any event I beg to urge concentration of the masses of troops in front of Washington, & the sending of cavalry far to the front.  If I am to have Burnside’s tops I would be glad to avail myself of at least a portion of them to occupy a point on the south bank of James River.

Health of the command improving a little.  I should be glad to hear daily from Pope’s outposts — it is important that I should do so.

Published in: on July 20, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Congressmen Press Views on President Lincoln Before Leaving Capital

July 19, 1862

Republican Senators met with President Lincoln to push for aggressive war policy.  Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning meets with the President along with Illinois

congressmen Isaac N. Arnold and William Kellogg along with former (and future) Congressman Jesse  Norton.

Late in the day, General John A. Dix arrives at the White House to discuss exchange of prisoners.

About this time (possibly later on July 22), President Lincoln drafts a rough memorandum regarding policy regarding black soldiers:

To recruiting free negroes, no objection.

To recruiting slaves of disloyal owners, no objection.

To recruiting slaves of loyal owners, with their consent, no objection.

To recruiting slaves of loyal owners without consent, objection, unless the necessity is urgent.

To conducting offensively, while recruiting, and to carrying away slaves not suitable for recruits, objection.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Congress is Gone but War Worries Continue

July 18, 1862

On a rainy day, presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes that “the adjournment of Congress took place, and which kept me on the run all the morning.  The President always goes to the Capitol on the day of adjournment in order to be at hand to sign the bills that are hurried through at the end of the session.  However as the Congressmen are getting away from the City as fast as possible I shall have a little more leisure in a few days.”  He adds: “I am heartily glad that Congress is at last gone, and am sure I shall enjoy the relief from the constant strain of petty cares and troubles which their presence imports.  They always have a multitude of trivial requirements, which keep me constantly vexed and anxious and constantly busy…”  Some congressmen linger in Washington with the kinds of requests that bother Nicolay.   Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull and Wisconsin Senator James R. Doolittle meet with President Lincoln regarding patronage appointments.  After their meeting, President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase regarding Treasury tax assessors being recommended by the Wisconsin congressional delegation: “I am in favor of adopting their ‘slate’’ at once, and so disposing of one State.”

General George B. McClellan writes his wife: “I am inclined now to think that the Presdt will make Halleck comdr of the Army & that the first pretext will be seized to supersede me in command of this army — their game seems to be to withhold reinforcements & then to relieve me for not advancing — well knowing that I have not the means to do so. If they supersede me in command of the Army of the Potomac I will resign my commission at once; if they appoint Halleck Comg Genl I will remain in command of this army as long as they will allow me to.”

Published in: on July 18, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Goes to Capitol Hill to Sign Bills as Congress Adjourns

July 17, 1862

Congress is preparing to adjourn in the early afternoon so President Lincoln travels down Pennsylvania Avenue to sign recently-passed legislation such as the Second Confiscation Act and a  Militia Act authorizing recruitment of black soldiers and their emancipation.  Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At President early this morning.  Senate met at 9 A.M. President came down to the capitol about 10, and remained in his room for the convenience of communication with the Senate.”

The most controversial legislation confronting the President is the Second Confiscation Act, which authorized the government to seize property and seize slaves belonging to supporters of the Confederacy.  Historian Maurice Baxter wrote:  “Lincoln himself had objections to the bill as it came to him.  On July 17 he prepared a veto message which he intended to send to Congress.  The President objected to the forfeiture of property beyond the life of a person convicted of treason.  This amounted to a corruption of blood, he pointed out, and therefore was not permissible.  Another fault which he saw was the use of in rem proceedings in the courts which would authorize forfeiture.  He suggested that additional time be allowed the accused in the judicial process for the preparation of an adequate defense.”  Baxter noted:

Congressional leaders were aware of Lincoln’s hesitancy about signing the bill as it had been given to him.  As a result, on July 16, the Senate hurriedly passed a resolution which gave new meaning to some of the clauses.  By this resolution the Senate sought to amend the Confiscation Act with the following words: ‘…nor shall any punishment or proceedings under said act be so construed as to work a forfeiture of the real estate of the offender beyond his natural life.’  This met one of the President’s objections, but it did not cover the other one concerning in rem proceedings; nevertheless, he signed the bill. .”

Thus, Congress, avoided a veto.  In addition to signing the legislation, President Lincoln sent a message to Congress outlining his concerns that he had drafted before the bill was passed:

I herewith return to your honorable body, in which it originated, the bill for an act entitled “An act to suppress treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes” together with my objections to it’s becoming a law.

There is much in the bill to which I perceive no objection.  It is wholly prospective; and it touches neither person or property, of any loyal citizen; in which particulars, it just and proper.  The first and second sections provide for the conviction and punishment of persons who shall be guilty of treason, and persons who shall be guilty of treason, and persons who shall “incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion, or insurrection, against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall give aid or comfort thereto, or shall engage in, or give aid and comfort to any such existing rebellion, or insurrection”  By fair construction, persons within these sections are not to be punished without regular trials, in duly constituted courts, under the forms, and the substantial provisions of law, and of the constitution, applicable to their several cases.  To this I perceive no objection; especially as such persons would be within the general pardoning power, and also the special provision for pardon and amnesty, contained in this act.  It is also provided, that the slaves of persons convicted under these sections shall be free.  I think there is an unfortunate form of expression, rather than a substantial objection, in this.  It is startling to say that congress can free a slave within a state; and yet if it were said the ownership of the slave had first been transferred to the nation, and that congress had then liberated, him, the difficulty would at once vanish.  And this is this real case.  The traitor against the general government forfeits his slave, at least as justly as he does any other property; and he forfeits both to the government against which he offends.  The government, so far as there can be ownership, thus owns the the [sic] forfeited slaves; and the question for Congress, in regard to them is, “Shall they be made free, or be sold to new masters?” I perceive no objection to Congress deciding in advance that they shall be free.  To the high honor of Kentucky, as I am informed, she has been the owner of some slaves of escheat, and that she sold none, but liberated all. I hope the same is true of some other states.  Indeed, I do not believe it would physically possible, for the General government, to return persons, so circumstanced, to actual slavery.  I believe there would be physical resistance to it, which could neither be turned aside by argument, nor driven away by force.  In this view I have no objection to this feature of the bill.  Another matter involved in these two sections, and running through other parts of the act, will be noticed hereafter.

I perceive no objection to the third and fourth sections.

So far as I wish to notice the fifth, and sixth sections, they may be considered together.  That the enforcement of these sections would do no injustice to the persons embraced within them, is clear.  That those who make a causeless war should be compelled to pay the cost of it, is too obviously just, to be called in question.  To give governmental protection to the property of persons who have abandoned it, and gone on a crusade to overthrow that same government, is absurd, if considered in the mere light of justice.  The severest justice may not always be the best policy.  The principle of seizing, and appropriating the property of the persons embraced within these sections is certainly not very objectionable; but a justly discriminating application of it, would be very difficult, and, to a great extent, impossible.  And would it not be wise to place a power of remission somewhere, so that these persons may know they have something to lose by persisting, and something to save by desisting?  I am not sure whether such power of remission is or is not within section Thirteen.

Without any special act of congress, I think our military commanders, when, in military phrase, “they are within the enemies country” should in an orderly manner, seize and use whatever of real or personal property may be necessary or convenient for their commands; at the same time, preserving, in some way, the evidence of what they do.

What I have said in regard to slaves, while commenting on the first and second sections, is applicable to the ninth, with the difference, that no provision is made in the whole act for determining whether a particular individual slave does or does not fall within the classes defined in that section.  He is to be free upon certain conditions; but whether those conditions do, or do not pertain to him, no mode of ascertaining is provided.  This could be easily supplied.

To the tenth section, I make no objection.  The oath therein required seems to be proper; and the remainder of the section is substantially identical with an already existing law.

The eleventh section simply assumes to confer discretionary powers upon the executive.  Without this law I have no hesitation to go as far in the direction indicated, as I may at any time deem expedient.  And I am ready to say now I think it is proper for our military commanders to employ, as laborers, as many persons of African de[s]cent, as can be used to advantage.

The twelfth and thirteenth sections are something better than objectionable; and the fourteenth is entirely proper if all other parts of the act shall stand.

That to which I chiefly object, pervades most parts of the act, but more distinctly appears in the first, second, seventh, and eighth sections.  It is the sum of those provisions which results in the divesting of title forever.  For the causes of treason, and the ingredients of treason, not amounting to the full crime, it declares forfeiture, extending beyond the lives of the guilty parties; whereas the Constitution of the United States declares that “no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.”  True, there is to be no formal attainder in this case; still I think the greater punishment can not be constitutionally inflicted, in a different form, for the same offence.  With great respect, I am constrained to say I think this feature of the act is unconstitutional.  It would not be difficult to modify it.

I may remark that this provision of the constitution, put in language borrowed from Great Britain, applies only in this country, as I understand, to real, or landed estate.

Again, this act, by proceedings in rem forfeits property, for the ingredients of treason, without a conviction of the supposed criminal, or a personal hearing given him in any proceeding.  That we may not touch property lying within our reach, because we can not give personal notice to an owner who is absent endeavoring to destroy the govern[ment,] is certainly not very satisfactory; still the owner may not be tush engaged, and I think a reasonable time should be provided for such parties to appear and have personal hearings.  Similar provisions are not uncommon in connection with proceedings in rem.

For the reasons stated I return the bill to the House in which it originated.

General George B. McClellan writes President Lincoln: “I have consulted fully with Genl Burnside & would commend to your favorable consideration the General’s plan for bringing (7) seven additional regiments from North Carolina by leaving Newburn to the care of the gun boats.”

It appears manifestly to be our policy to concentrate here everything we can possibly spare from less important points to make sure of crushing the enemy at Richmond, which seems clearly to be the most important point in rebeldom.  Nothing should be left to chance here.  I would recommend that Genl Burnside with all his troops be ordered to this Army to enable it to assume the offensive as soon as possible.

More colorfully, McClellan writes home: “Am quite well today — a little disgusted at the stupidity of people in Washington.  You need not be at all alarmed as to my being deceived by them.  I know that they are ready to sacrifice me at any moment & are only restrained by fear of the people.  I shall not be at all surprised to have some other Genl made Comdr of the whole army, or even to be superseded here — & to tell you the truth I don’t care how soon they do it.  I have lost confidence in the Govt, & would be glad to be out of the scrape — keep this to yourself…

So you like my letter to the Presdt?  I feel that I did my duty in writing it tho’ I apprehend it will do no good whatever — but it clears my conscience to have spoken plainly at such a time.  You do not feel one bit more bitterly toward those people than I do; I do not say much about it — but I fear they have done all that cowardice, folly & rascality can do to ruin our poor country — & the blind people seem not to see it, but to submit like serfs to the lash….

In response to a petition presented  from a Committee of Reformed Presbyterian Synod, President replies, according to a report in the Washington Star: “As to the moral character of the institution of Slavery, and as to its political bearing on the institutions of this or any other Nation, he said there was, between him and the committee, no difference of sentiment.  He went on to say, using one of his favorite analogies:

Had Slavery no existence among us, and were the question asked shall we adopt such an institution?  we should agree as to the reply which should be made.  If there be any diversity in our views it is not as to whether we should receive Slavery when free from it, but as to how we may best get rid of it already amongst us.  Were an individual asked whether he would wish to have a wen on his neck, he could not hesitate as to the reply; but were it asked whether a man who has such a wen should at once be relieved of it by the application of the surgeon’s knife, there might be diversity of opinion, perhaps the man might bleed to death, as the result of such an operation.

Feeling deeply my responsibility, to my country and to that God to whom we all owe allegiance, I assure you I will try to do my best, and so may God help me.

Published in: on July 17, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

A Rare Quiet Day in Washington as Congress Prepares to Adjourn

July 16, 1862

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At Presidents in the morning….A warm day with rain in the afternoon.”

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Is Worn Out Physically and Mentally

July 15, 1862

General George B. McClellan writes President Lincoln: “I was amused at a couple of telegrams yesterday urging me to the offensive as if I were unwilling to take it myself!!  It is so easy for people to give advice — it costs nothing!  But it is a little more difficult for poor me to create men & means, & to wipe out by mere wishes the forces of the enemy.  I confess that I sometimes become provoked.  I have 16,600 men sick in camp!!!  And but 85,000 for duty.  I could not bring 70,000, at most 75,000, into battle — & it is so easy to attack from 150,000 to 170,000 brave men entrenched with that number!!”  McClellan clearly perceived President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton as his enemies. McClellan writes New York lawyer Samuel L. M. Barlow: I do not believe that Stanton will go out of office – he will not willingly, & the Presdt has not the nerve to turn him out — at least so I think.  Stanton has written me a most abject letter — declaring that he has ever been my best friend etc etc!!!”

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At the Presidents this morning — He was in his Library writing, with directions to deny him to every body.  I went in a moment.  He looked weary, care-worn and troubled.  I shook hands with him, and asked how he was.  He said ‘tolerably well’   I remarked that I felt concerned about him — regretted that troubles crowded so heavily upon him, and feared his health was suffering.   He held me by the hand, pressed it, and said in a very tender and touching tone — ‘Browning I must die sometime’, I replied ‘your fortunes Mr President are bound up with those of the Country, and disaster to one would be disaster to the other, and I hope you will do all you can to preserve your health and life’.   He looked very sad, and there was a cadence of deep sadness in his voice.   We parted I believe both of us with tears in our eyes.”

Published in: on July 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln pushes for Compensated Emancipation of Slaves

July 14, 1862

President Lincoln proposes bill for compensated emancipation.   His draft legislation that he transmits to the Senate and House of Representatives:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That whenever the President of the United States shall be satisfied that any State shall have lawfully abolished slavery within and throughout such State, either immediately, or gradually, it shall be the duty of the President, assisted by the Secretary of the Treasury, to prepare and deliver to such State, an amount equal to the aggregate value, at –  dollars per head, of all the slaves within such State, as reported by the census of the year On thousand, eight hundred and sixty–the whole amount for any one State, to be delivered at once, if the abolishment be immediate, or, in equal annual instalments, if it be gradual–interest to begin running on equal annual instalments, if it be gradual–interest to begin running on each bond at the time of it’s delivery, and not before.

And be it further enacted, That if any State, having so received any such bonds, shall at any time afterwards, by law, reintroduce, or tolerate slavery within it’s limits, contrary to the act of abolishment, upon which such bonds shall have been received, said bonds, so received by said State, shall at once be null and void in whosoever hands they may be, and such State shall refund to the United States, all interest which may have been paid on such bonds.

The day after he had talked with Secretaries Welles and Seward about emancipation, President Lincoln meets with two Illinois congressman at the Soldiers Home where the Lincoln family stayed during the summer.  He complained to Congressman Owen Lovejoy and Isaac Arnold about the failure of his meeting with congressmen from the Border States: “Oh, how I wish the border states would accept my proposition.  Then, you, Lovejoy, and you, Arnold, and all of us, would not have lived in vain!  The labor of your life, Lovejoy, would be crowned with success.”

The new commander of the Army of Virginia, General John Pope, issued a highly controversial message to soldiers in his new command – suggesting that he will conduct the military command in a manner much different from that of General George B. McClellan:

By special assignment of the President of the United States I have assumed the command of this army.  I have spent two weeks in learning your whereabouts, your condition, and your wants, in preparing you for active operations, and in placing you in positions from which you can act promptly and to the purpose.  These labors are nearly completed, and I am about to join you in the field.
Let us understand each other.  I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found whose policy has been attack and not defense.  In but one instance has the enemy been able to place our Western armies in defensive attitude.
I presume that I have been called here to pursue the same system and to lead you against the enemy.  It is my purpose to do so, and that speedily.  I am sure you long for an opportunity to win the distinction you are capable of achieving.  That opportunity I shall endeavor to give you.
Meantime I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases, which I am sorry to find so much in vogue amongst you.  I hear constantly of ‘taking strong positions and holding them’ of ‘lines of retreat,’ and of ‘bases of supplies.’
Let us discard such ideas.  The strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is one from which he can most easily advance against the enemy.  Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves.  Let us look before us, and not behind.  Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear.  Let us act on this understanding, and it is safe to predict that your banners shall be inscribed with many a glorious deed and that your names will be dear to your countrymen forever.

General McClellan writes President Lincoln outlining the number of his forces: “Your telegram of yesterday has been received.  The difference between the effective force of troops and that expressed  in returns is considerable in every army.  All commanders find the actual strength less than strength represented on paper.  I have not my own returns for the trimonthly periods since arriving at Fortress Monroe, at hand at this moment, but even on paper I will not, I am confident, be found to have received 160,000 officers and men present — although present and absent my returns will be accountable for that number.

You can arrive at the number of absentees, however, better by my returns of July 10, which will be ready to send shortly.  I find from official reports that I have present for duty.
Officers 3215.  Enlisted men 85,450.  In all present for duty, 88,6565.  Absent by authority 34,472; without authority 3778.  Present and absent 144,407.
The number of officers and men present sick is 16,619.
The Medical Director will fully explain the cause of the amount of sickness, which I hope will begin to decrease shortly.
Thus the number of men really absent is 38,250.  Unquestionably of the number reported present, some are absent, say 40,000 will cover the absentees.
I quite agree with you that more than one half these men are probably fit for duty to day.
I have frequently called the attention lately of the War Department to the evil of absenteeism.
I think that the exciting of the public press to persistent attacks upon officers and soldiers absent from the Army; the employment of deputy marshals to arrest and send back deserters; summary dismissals of officers whose names are reported for being absent without leave and the publication of those names will exhaust the remedies applicable by the War Department.  It is to be remembered that many of those absent by authority and those who have got off either sick or wounded or under pretense of sickness or wounds, and having originally pretext of authority, are still so reported absent by authority.  If I could receive back the absentees, could get my sick me up I would need but small reinforcements to enable me to take Richmond.
After the battle of Williamsburg, Fair Oaks &c &c most of these men got off.  Well men got on board hospital boats taking care of sick et, etc.  There is always confusion and haste in shipping and taking care of wounded after a battle.  There is no time for nice examination of permits to pass here or there.
I can now control people getting away better, for the natural opportunities are better.  Leakages by desertion occur in every Army — and will occur here of course but I do not at all, however, anticipate anything like a recurrence of what has taken place.

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At the Presidents this morning.  I gave him a copy of the Confiscation bill as it passed, and expressed to him very freely my opinion that it was a violation of the Constitution and ought to be vetoed.  I said to him that he had reached the culminating point in his administration, and his course upon this bill was to determine whether he was to control the abolitionists and radicals, or whether they were to control him.  That the tide in his affairs had come and he ought to take it at its flood.  That if he vetoed it he would raise a storm of enthusiasm in support of the Administration in the border states which would be worth to us 100,000 muskets, whereas if he approved it I feared our friends could no longer sustain themselves there.  That we could not succeed without unity of sentiment and purpose which would be secured by a veto as that would at once bring to his support every loyal Democrat in the free states, and consolidate all truly loyal men into one party – whereas if approved it would form the basis upon which the democratic party would again rally, and reorganize an opposition to the administration &c.  He said he would give it his profound consideration.  We then had a conversation about Stanton & McClellan.  Said that all that Stanton had done in regard to the army had been authorized by him the President – That Stanton had had much to provoke him – that immediately after Fiz Jno: Porters fight McClellan telegraphed to Stanton in very harsh terms, charging him as the author of the disaster – that Stanton came to him with the telegram in his hand, and said to him with much feeling ‘You know – Mr President that all I have done was by your authority & That about the 4th inst Genl March was here and said in a conversation with Stanton that he would not be surprised if McClellan’s army should be obliged to capitulate.

“This excited Stanton very much, and he went directly to the President and reported what had been said.  It also excited the President, whereupon he sent for Marcy, and said to him sternly, ‘Genl. I understand you have used the word ‘Capitulate’ – that is a word not to be used in connection with our army &c’ That Marcy blundered out some kind of explanation, excuse or apology – That after this Marcy and Stanton had another interview which resulted in the restoration of kind and friendly feeling between the two – that after this Stanton wrote the letter, to Genl McClellan, a copy of which was shown me a few days ago by Senator Rice, and brought the letter and showed it to him before he sent it….

Published in: on July 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Outlines Plans for Emancipation

July 13, 1862

On a carriage ride to the funeral of the infant son of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln discusses his plans for an emancipation proclamation.   Navy Secretary Gideon Welles wrote that on this day: “President Lincoln invited me to accompany him in his carriage to the funeral of an infant child of Mr. Stanton.  Secretary Seward and Mrs. Frederick Seward were also in the carriage.  Mr. Stanton occupied at that time for a summer residence the house of a naval officer, I think Hazard, some two or three miles west, or northwest, of Georgetown.  It was on this occasion and on this ride that he first mentioned to Mr. Seward and myself the subject of emancipating the slaves by proclamation in case the Rebels did not cease to persist in their war on the Government and the Union, of which he saw no evidence.  He dwelt earnestly on the gravity, importance, and delicacy of the movement, said he had given it much thought and had about come to the conclusion that it was a military necessity absolutely essential for the salvation of the Union, that we must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued, etc., etc.

This was, he said, the first occasion when he had mentioned the subject to any one, and wished us to frankly state how the proposition struck us.  Mr. Seward said the subject involved consequences so vast and momentous that he should wish to bestow on it mature reflection before giving a decisive answer, but his present opinion inclined to the measure as justifiable, and perhaps he might say expedient and necessary.  These were also my views.  Two or three  times on that ride the subject, which was of course an absorbing one for each and all, was adverted to, and before separating the President desired us to give the question special and deliberate attention, for he was earnest in the conviction that something must be done.  It was a new departure for the President, for until this time, in all our previous interviews, whenever the question of emancipation or the mitigation of slavery had been in any way alluded to, he had been prompt and emphatic in denouncing any interference by the General Government with the subject.  This was, I think, the sentiment of every member of the Cabinet, all of whom including the President, considered it a local, domestic question appertaining to the States respectively, who had never parted with their authority over it.  But the reverses before Richmond, and the formidable power and dimensions of the insurrection, which extended through all the Slave States, and had combined most of them in a confederacy to destroy the Union, impelled the Administration to adopt extraordinary measures to preserve the national existence.  The slaves, if not armed and disciplined, were in the service of those who were, not only as field laborers and producers, but thousands of them were in attendance upon the armies in the field, employed as waiters and teamsters, and the fortifications and intrenchments were constructed by them.

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “After tea went to Mr Sewards – Found Thurlow Wed there.  After he left had a talk with Mr Seward about the Confiscation bill.  His general views coincide with my own.  Said he would see the president in the morning and have a conversation with him upon the propriety of vetoing it. I promised to furnish him a copy of the bill in the morning.”  President Lincoln considered vetoing the Confiscation legislation whose constitutionality Lincoln doubted.   Historian Frank A. Flower wrote: “Lincoln proposed to veto and actually wrote a message vetoing the Confiscation Act asked for by Stanton, holding it to be unconstitutional.  He said, as he had often said before that Congress had no right to legislate respecting slavery in the States, and that no the property of rebels in fee but simply the offender’s life estate therein could be forfeited to the United States.”

President Lincoln writes General George B. McClellan: “I am told that over 160-000 men have gone into your Army on the Peninsula.  When I was with you the other day we made out 86,500 remaining, leaving 73,500 to be accounted for.  I believe 23,500, will cover all the killed, wounded and missing in all your battles and skirmishes, leaving 50-000 who have left otherwise.  Not more than 5000 of these have died, leaving 45,000 of your Army still alive, and not with it.  I believe half, or two thirds of them are fit for duty to-day.  Have you any more perfect knowledge of this than I have?  If I am right, and you had these men with you,  you could go into Richmond in the next three days.  How can they be got to you?  and how can they be prevented from getting away in such numbers for the future?

General McClellan writes his wife: “I still hope to get to Richmond this summer — unless the Govt commits some extraordinarily idiotic act — but I have no faith in the administration & shall cut loose from public life the very moment my country can dispense with my services.  Don’t be alarmed about the climate — it is not at all bad yet & we are resting splendidly — the men look better every day.  So you want to know how I feel about Stanton, & what I think of him now?  I will tell you with the most perfect frankness.  I think that he is the most unmitigated scoundrel I ever knew, heard or read; I think that (& I do not wish to be irreverent) had he lived in the time of the Saviour, Judas Iscariot would have remained a respected member of the fraternity of Apostles, & that the magnificent treachery & rascality of E.M. Stanton would have caused Judas to have raised his arms in holy horror & unaffected wonder — he would certainly have claimed & exercised the right to have been the Betrayer of his Lord & Master, by virtue of the same merit that raised Satan to his ‘bad eminence.’  I may do the man injustice — God grant that I may be wrong — for I hate to think that humanity can sink so low — but my opinion is just as I have told you.  He has deceived me once — he never will again.  Are you satisfied now — lady mine?  I ever will, hereafter, trust your judgment about men — your woman’s tact & your pure heart make you a better judge than my dull apprehension.  I remember what you thought were wrong – I now know you were right.  Enough of the creature — it makes me sick to think of him!  Faugh!!”

Published in: on July 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slow Day for War News, but the President Contemplates Emancipation

July 12, 1862

General George B. McClellan telegraphs President Lincoln that Confederate Generals “Hill and Longstreet crossed into New Kent County via Long Bridge.  I am still ignorant what road they afterwards took but will know shortly.  Nothing else of interest since last dispatch.”

Rain ceased & everything quiet.  Men resting well, but beginning to be impatient for another fight.
I am more & more convinced that this Army ought not to be withdrawn from here — but promptly reinforced & thrown again upon Richmond.  If we have a little more than half a chance we can take it.  Id read the effects of any retreat upon the morale of the men.

President Lincoln writes Border State representatives in Congress to urge compensated emancipation: “Gentlemen.  After the adjournment of Congress, now very near, I shall have no opportunity of seeing you for several months.  Believing that you of the border-states hold more power for good than any other equal number of members.  I feel it a duty which I can not justifiably waive, to make I assure you that in my opinion, if you all had voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of last March, the war would now be substantially ended.  And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent, and swift means of ending it.  Let the states which are in rebellion see, definitely and certainly, that, in no event, will the states you represent ever join their proposed Confederacy, and they can not, much longer maintain the contest.  But you can not divest them of their hope to ultimately have you with them so long as you show a determination to perpetuate the institution within your own states.  Beat them at elections, as you have overwhelmingly done, and, nothing daunted, they still claim you as their own.  You and I know what the lever of their power is.  Break that lever before their faces, and they can shake you no more forever.”

Most of you have treated me with kindness and consideration; and I trust you will not now think I improperly touch what is exclusively your own, when, for the sake of the whole country I ask ‘Can you, for yours states, do better than to take the course I urge?[‘] Discarding punctillio, and maxims adapted to more manageable times, and looking only to the unprecedently stern facts of our case, can you do better in any possible event?  You prefer that the constitutional relation of the states to the nation shall be practically restored, without disturbance of the institution; and if this were done, my whole duty, in this respect, under the constitution, and my oath of office, would be performed.  But it is not done, and we are trying to accomplish it by war.  The incidents of the war can not be avoided.  If the war continue long, as it must, if the object be not sooner attained, the institution in your states will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion – by the mere incidents of the war.  It will be gone, and you will have nothing valuable in lieu of it.  Much of it’s value is gone already.  How much better for you, and for your people, to take the step which, at once, shortens the war, and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to be wholly lost in any other event.  How much better to do it while we can, lest the war ere long render us pecuniarily unable to do it.  How much better for you, as seller, and the nation as buyer, to sell out, and buy out that without which the war could not have been, than to sink both the thing to be sold, and the price of it, in cutting one another’s throats.
I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually.  Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be reluctant to go.
I am pressed with a difficulty not yet mentioned–one which threatens division among those who, united are none too strong.  An instance of it is known to you.  Gen. Hunter is an honest man.  He was, and I hope, still is, my friend.  I valued him none the less for his agreeing with me in the general wish that all men everywhere, could be free.  He proclaimed all men free within certain states, and I repudiated the proclamation.  He expected more good, and less harm from the measure, than I could believe would follow.  Yet in repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many whose support the country can not afford to lose.  And this is not the end of it.  The pressure, in this direction, is still upon me, and is increasing.  By conceding what I now ask, you can relieve me, and much more, can relieve the country, in this important point.  Upon these considerations I have again begged your attention to message of March last.  Before leaving the Capital, consider and discuss it among yourselves.  You are patriots and statesmen; and, as such, I pray you, consider this proposition; and, at the least, commend it to the consideration of your states and people.  As you would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you do in no wise omit this.  Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views, and boldest action to bring it speedy relief.  Once relieved, it’s form of government is saved to the world; it’s beloved history, and cherished memories, are vindicated; and it’s happy future fully assured, and rendered inconceivably grand.  To you, more than to any others, the previlege is given, to assure that happiness, and swell that grandeur, and to link your own names therewith forever.

Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment