Maryland Politics Roiled by issues of Slave Recruitment and Reconstruction

October 3, 1863

At noon, President Lincoln meets with Maryland Governor Augustus Bradford regarding slaves who had been recruited into the army by agents of General Robert C. Schenck, a radical Republican who commanded in Maryland.   Maryland slaveowners were exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation and objected to the recruitment of their legal slaves.

Adding to the already disturbed political situation in Maryland, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair delivers a campaign speech in Rockville, Maryland in which he declares that the Union war effort is “menaced by the ambition of the ultra-Abolitionists, which is equally despotic in its tendencies, and which, if successful, could not fail to be alike fatal to republican institutions.  The Slavocrats of the South would found an oligarchy – a sort of feudal power imposing its yoke over all who tilled the earth over which they reigned as masters.  The Abolition party whilst pronouncing philippics against slavery, seek to make a caste of another color by amalgamating the black element with the free white labor of our land, and so to expand far beyond the present confines of slavery the evil which makes it obnoxious to republican statesmen.  And now, when the strength of the traitors who attempted to embody a power out of the interests of slavery to overthrow the Government is seen to fail, they would make the manumission of the slaves the means of in using their blood into our whole system by blending with it amalgamation, equality, and fraternity.’

Blair’s speech would lead to a strong counterattack from Radical Republicans   Blair named names – particularly that of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner – in his denunciation of Republicans whose advocated a rigid reconstruction policy in which the rights of citizens of the Confederate states were circumscribed.   President Lincoln does not comment publicly but about four weeks later, he tells John Hay: “The controversy between the two sets of men represented by Blair and by Sumner is one of mere form and little else.  I do not thnk Mr. Blair would agree that the States in rebellion are to be permitted to come at once into the politicial family and renew their performances, which have already so bedeviled us, and I do not think Mr. Sumner would insist that when the loyal people of a State obtain supremacy in their councils and are ready to assume the direction of their own affairs they should be excluded I do not understand Mr. Blair to admit that Jefferson Davis may take his seat in Congress again as a representative of his people.  I do not understand Mr. Sumner to assert that John Minor Botts may notl.  So far as I understand Mr. Sumner, he seems in favor of Congress taking from the Executive the power it at present exercises over insurrectionary districts and ssuming it to itself; but when the vital question arises as to the right and privileges of the people of these States to govern themselves.  I apprehend there will be little difference among loyal men.  The question at once is presented, In whom is this power vested?  And the practical matter for discussion is how to keep the rebellious population from overwhelming and outvoting the loyal minority.”  Blair biographer William Ernest Smith wrote: “The theory that Lincoln repudiated Blair because of the Rockville speech is not tenable.  It is more logical to accept the opposite theory.  Although he could not announce himself in favor of the Democrats in the border states, whom he distrusted, he realized that the Radical faction, which he distrusted as much as the Democrats, accepted only two phases of his policy: Freedom of the slaves, and the preservation of the Union.  He was forced to choose some one whose views he accepted and in whom he could confide.  Blair, who took his problems of consequence directly to the President, was the natural recipient of that confidence.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I called on the President this afternoon relative to certain proposed instructions which he, at the suggestion of Mr. Seward, wished should be issued to naval officers.  He had been bored with troublesome company and was weary and exhausted.  As I opened my portfolio the quantity of papers disturbed him.  I stated briefly the case, which, being one of Seward’s, he did not distinctly remember, and remarked the subject was, I thought, more important than he apprehended, that I had given it much time and thought, and it had increased in magnitude the more I had considered it…”

Following up on the September 30 meeting between President Lincoln and Missouri radical leaders, Charles Drake sends President Lincoln more information about Missouri militias.  He begins a lengthy letter: “In the course of the conference which you were so kind as to hold, on the 30th ult., with the Delegations from Missouri and Kansas, it appeared that you were not fully advised in regard to the organization of the Enrolled Missouri Militia; and it was then signified, on the part of the Missouri Delegation, that further information would be laid before you. In pursuance of that intimation, the Executive Committee of the Delegation have the honor now to present you this communication.

There are in Missouri two bodies of soldiery known as Missouri Militia — the “Missouri State Militia”, and the “Enrolled Missouri Militia.”

The former are volunteer troops, enlisted into the service of the United States, and supported by the National Government. They are the “peculiar military force” referred to in Special Order No 416 of the War Department, issued December 28. 1862. Its peculiarity consists in the fact that it is intended exclusively for the protection of Missouri, and in the further fact that, under said Order No 416, “Governor Gamble2 may, in his discretion, remove from office all officers” thereof, & “may accept resignations tendered by such officers.” Ten regiments of this force are kept afoot, and are wholly under the control of the Commanding General of the Department of the Missouri, without being placed under his control by order of the Governor of Missouri.

Shakespearean actor James Hackett sends President Lincoln a schedule of his upcoming performances in Washington: “Referring to yr. complimentary letter dated 17 Aug. ult.1 & which I recd. & hastily acknowledged at New York when starting hitherward about a month since, allowed me to intimate that it is my purpose to withdraw entirely from the stage after the coming winter, & that my next will be my last professional visit to Washington; & also, that I think I can make suitable arrangements at one or other of the new theatres, for my performances in your presence, on Monday 21st., Tuesday 22d. & Wednesday 23d December next; when, according to its former custom, Congress may be expected to “have adjourned for the Hollidays.”

I would propose to represent upon those evenings, — first, the Falstaff of King Henry IV; next, Sir Pertinax MacSycophant, in the comedy called — The Man of the World; & immediately after it, Monsieur Mallet, an exiled general of Napoleon 1st., in my popular interlude of ” The Post Office Mistake”; & upon my last night, the Falstaff of the comedy of The Merry Wives of Windsor; if it may happen to be convenient & Your Excellency to attend upon each or either one of those three evenings named–

President Lincoln issues a Proclamation of Thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November: War Department Telegraph operator Homer Bates wrote “This is memorable, because it was the second occasion within three months when a national thanksgiving was appointed by presidential proclamation, to be observed, as the historic document is worded: “by my fellow citizens in every part of the United States and also those who are at sea and those sojourning in foreign lands.”  President Lincoln writes:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.  To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.  In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.  Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.  No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.  It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.  And I recommend to them that while offering up the CHECK acriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

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Published in: on October 3, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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