President Lincoln Sends Second Annual Message to Congress

December 1, 1862

In his annual message to Congress, President Lincoln recommends an amendment to the Constitution regarding slavery:  “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two thirds of both houses concurring,) That the following articles be proposed to the legislatures (or conventions) of the several States as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which articles when ratified by three-fourths of the said legislatures (or conventions) to be valid as part or parts of the said Constitution, viz:

“Article —.

“Every State, wherein slavery now exists, which shall abolish the same therein, at any time, or times, before the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand and nine hundred, shall receive compensation from the United States as follows, to wit:

“The President of the United States shall deliver to every such State, bonds of the United States, bearing interest at the rate of — per cent, per annum, to an amount equal to the aggregate sum of for each slave shown to have been therein, by the eig[h]th census of the United States, said bonds to be delivered to such State by instalments, or in one parcel, at the completion of the abolishment, accordingly as the same shall have been gradual, or at one time, within such State; and interest shall begin to run upon any such bond, only from the proper time of its delivery as aforesaid. Any State having received bonds as aforesaid, and afterwards reintroducing or tolerating slavery therein, shall refund to the United States the bonds so received, or the value thereof, and all interest paid thereon.

President Lincoln concludes the message with some of his most memorable words: “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we here—hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.”

President Lincoln writes Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt regarding the pending death sentences of Indians awaiting execution in Minnesota for taking part in a uprising the previous August:  “Three hundred Indians have been sentenced to death in Minnesota by a Military Commission, and execution only awaits my action.  I wish your legal opinion whether if I should conclude to execute only a part of them, I must myself designate which, or could I leave the designation to some officer on the ground?”  President Lincoln is looking for  a way to reduce the number of pending executions without having to do the work himself.

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Published in: on December 1, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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