Slow Sunday at the White House

March 20, 1864

William M. Stewart writes President  Abraham Lincoln from Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “The position you occupy as pres. of the U. S. being (perhaps) the most honorable on earth, would naturally make any loyal man approach you with some feelings of diffidence and respect. But still we think nothing the more of a man when his dignity comes from his office; yet we admire and even venerate the man when he occupies a high place and dignifies that place by his faithfullness, to truth, and to the high and holy principles of right. God ordained civil government for, 1st To pretect the weak, defend the innocent, and to secure the right; and 2nd To punish the evil doer, and to destroy the oppressor. See psalms. 72: 4 — 82: 4. Rom. 13: 4. These texts plainly show what governments were designed for; and what civil Rulers are required to do.

Enclosed are some lines addressed to you and written by me, please accept them as my political Creed; they express my feelings and views as to human rights, and the duty of rulers in the use of the Adm Legislative, Judicial and Executive powers.

For a government of our conformation, — of our pretentions — of our Christian light and professions — bassed on the “Declaration of Independence,” and on the great principles of natural right and equality, to tolerate slavery, or to make any legal or civil distinction between home born men on account of color, is one of the most complicated, pestiferious, and diabolical lies, that was ever invented.

And for a nation under the weight of such high and holy obligations, to have practiced slavery through its whole life, untill God was about to destroy it for its accursed oppressions; and then not as a thing that should have been done in ’76, or now as a thing greatly to be desired, but, as “a Military necessity”; to liberate the slaves of rebels as if they were better, or more useful to the Union than those of Union men; or as if slavery among union men would be less sinful or fatal to the Union than slavery among the rebels. And when the slaves of Union men are enlisted to pay the bounty to the Masters, or to pay a price for the emancipation of slaves to their masters, is a combination of the most horrible attributes of atrocity, which very fully prove that the heart is mean, “Deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.”

The slaves have always been robbed by this nation; and now that they are willing to fight for the good of their former oppressors, and for their unjust country, and run the risk and do the labor of a faithful soldier (I have a son who is a true Lincoln man and who commands a company of colored soldiers at Helena) but still keep up the distinction, mark them for degradation, and withhold from them what you bestow on others, and God will mark this nation and its Rulers for his judgments, not for a few Florida mishaps, but for a fearful overthrow and eternal infamy.

God’s hand is in all this matter, but he will have no compromise with slavery. And wo to any man who does not wipe his hands of slavery in 1864. I hope that God will bless you and make you the happy instrument of bloting out all slavery in this nation.

From New York City, a 72-year-old New Orleans man, William Newton Mercer, writes to complain about the seizure of his property: “A Native American, I appeal to you, the Chief Magistrate of our common Country.

In early life I entered the Army during the War of 1812, & served without reproach till 1821, when I resigned; and have been ever since a planter near Natchez in Missi, passing my winters in Neworleans and my summers in the the North for many years.

I have always affiliated with the Whigs, but have never engaged in the strife of parties; nor, while discharging all the publick duties imposed on me, however humble, have I been an applicant or a candidate for any office. Under all circumstances, I have been stedfast in my devotion to the Union and the Constitution which founded it; and have resisted by every honourable means all attempts at nullification or secession. Such is my humble personal history, which I venture to obtrude on you.

When the unnatural rupture was consummated, I submitted passively to the Government de facto, and gave my money whenever demanded, as long as I had any. But I did not compromise my principles; I refused to illumenate my home, I visited several times the prisoners of war, 500 of whom were confined in Neworleans, gave money to the officers and needful supplies to all; I kept aloof from the persons and counsels of the authorities, and finally refused to take an oath of allegeance to the Confederacy. For this course, I was denounced and threatened. Probably my age, possibly my character, saved me from violence.

When the forces of the U. S. took possession of Neworleans, I remained in Neworleans there, persisted in the same moderate course, to restrain violence and harshness of the existing authorities, as well as on the part of the population, believing as I still do, that moderation and justice, united with firmness were the only feasible means to abate our unholy dessentions, and to effect a permanent reconciliation, — the object above all others, of my hopes and prayers. Unfortunately, as I think, a different policy was adopted….

With such sentiments & corresponding actions, I find myself empoverished in my old age, and exiled from my home. My plantations in Mississippi, alternately ravaged and devastated by both sides, and my political status precisely similar to that of most of the authors & fomenters of the Insurrection. Permit me to ask you if this is just? If from my statement, you believe that I have been treated [badly?], am I unreasonable in requesting that you will order my property to be restored to my controul? This immunity has been granted to Dr. Duncan and several other friends from Natchez, whose opinions and conduct are the same as my own.

Finally, with apologies for this trespass, may I beg you to direct your Secretary to favour me with a single line to relieve my suspense?

Published in: on March 20, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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