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FIRST SESSION OF 38TH CONGRESS,-1863-4.
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE-REPEAL OF FUGITIVE SLAVE LAWS-PAY OF COLORED SOLDIERS-FREEDOM GIVEN TO THEIR FAMILIES-CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ABOLISHING AND PROHIBITING SLAVERY THROUGHOUT THE REPUBLIC-DEBATES UPON IT IN THE SENATE AND IN THE HOUSE.
ON the meeting of the 38th Congress, December 7th, 1863,
Schuyler Colfax of Indiana, was elected speaker, Edward McPherson of Pennsylvania clerk, and Dr. Channing a radical abolitionist, a nephew of the great anti-slavery writer, Dr. William E. Channing, was elected Chaplain of the House.
There were elected to the Senate and returned to the House, constituting the 38th Congress, several new members of very distinguished ability. Among others were Governor E. D. Morgan of New York, elected to the Senate in place of Preston King; Reverdy Johnson, long at the head of the bar of his State, and a leading statesman of Maryland in place of Kennedy.
From Missouri, was elected to the Senate the brilliant leader of the anti-slavery party of that State, B. Gratz Brown. From California came the staunch Union man, and able debater John Conness, in place of Latham. From Minnesota, Governor Alexander Ramsey in place of Rice.
To the House of Representatives were elected, James W. Patterson a learned scholar and college professor from New Hampshire, and Frederick W. Woodbridge an able lawyer from Vermont.
From Massachusetts George S. Boutwell, late Governor of that State, and an able, earnest, and radical anti-slavery man, also John D. Baldwin, a very distinguished editor and journalist.
From Rhode Island, Thomas A. Jenkes, a very prominent lawyer. From Connecticut Messrs. Demming and Brandigee.
Among the new members from New York were Henry G. Stebbins, an able financier; John V. L. Pryn, John A. Griswold, C. F. Hulburd, Francis Kernan, Freeman Clark, and John Ganson. Among those from Pennsylvania were John M. Bromall, Glenni W. Schofield and Thomas Williams. From Maryland were the brilliant orator Henry Winter Davis, and A. J. Creswell. From Ohio, General Robert C.. Schenck, Rufus A. Spaulding, and General James A. Garfield. From Kentucky were Anderson, Yeaman, Green Clay Smith, and Brutus J. Clay. There were also among many other able new members, G. S. Orth from Indiana, John A. Kasson from Iowa, and General John F. Farnsworth from Illinois.
The President's message, commenced by expressing the profoundest gratitude to God, for health, abundant harvests, and the improved condition of National affairs. The efforts to involve the Republic in foreign wars in aid of the rebellion, had failed. He announced that the operations of the treasury had been successfully conducted. The National banking law had proved a valuable support to the National credit. All demands upon the Treasury, including the pay of the army and navy had been promptly met. The burdens of taxation, and others incident to a great war had been most cheerfully borne by the people. The receipts for the fiscal year had been $901,125,674.86. The expenditures $895,796,630.65. He stated that the naval force of the United States at that time consisted of five hundred and eighty-eight vessels, completed and in the course of construction, and of these, seventy-five were iron-clad or armored steamers.
The President then proceeded to contrast the present condition of the country with what it was at the opening of Congress, a year previous. Then, the war had lasted nearly twenty months, and there had been many conflicts on land. and sea, with varying results. The rebellion had been pressed back into narrower limits, but the tone of public feeling indicated uneasiness, and amid much that was cold and menacing from abroad, the kindest words were uttered in accents
of pity that we were too blind to surrender a hopeless cause. Our commerce was suffering greatly by armed vessels built upon and furnished from foreign shores, and we were threatened with such additions as would sweep our trade from the sea, and raise the blockade.
The proclamation of emancipation came in January—with the announcement that colored men would be received into the military service. The policy of emancipation and the employment of black soldiers gave to the future a new aspect, about which hope, and fear, and doubt contended in uncertain conflict. It had all the while been deemed possible that the necessity of emancipation as a military measure might come. It came, and was followed by dark and doubtful days. "Eleven months" said the President, "having now passed, we are permitted to take another review. The rebel borders are pressed still further back, and by the complete opening of the Mississippi, the country dominated by the rebellion is divided into distinct parts, with no practical communication between them. Tennessee and Arkansas have been substantially cleared of insurgent control, and influential citizens in each, owners of slaves and advocates of slavery at the beginning of the rebellion, now declare openly for emancipation in their respective States. Of those States not included in the Emancipation Proclamation, Maryland and Missouri, neither of which three years ago would tolerate any restraint upon the extension of slavery into new territories, only dispute now as to the best mode of removing it within their own limits.
Of those who were slaves at the beginning of the rebellion, full one hundred thousand are now in the United States military service about one-half of which number actually bear arms in the ranks, thus giving the double advantage of taking so much labor from the insurgent cause, and supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men. So far as tested, it is difficult to say they are not as good soldiers as any. No servile insurrection, or tendency to violence or cruelty, has marked the measure of emancipation and arming the blacks. These measures have been much discussed in foreign countries, and contemporary with
such discussion, the tone of public sentiment there is much improved. At home, the same measures have been fully discussed, supported, criticised, and denounced, and the annual elections following are highly encouraging to those whose official duty it is to bear the country through this great trial. Thus, we have the new reckoning. The crisis which threatened to divide the friends of the Union is past.'
The near approach, as Mr. Lincoln now hoped, of the period when the rebellion would be suppressed, led him to study the difficult problem of reconstruction. Upon this subject he said:
'Looking now to the present and future, and with reference to the resumption of the National authority within the states wherein that authority has been suspended, I have thought fit to issue a proclamation, a copy of which is herewith transmitted. On examination of this proclamation, it will appear, as is believed, that nothing will be attempted beyond what is amply justified by the Constitution. True, the form of an oath is given, but no man is coerced to take it. The man is only promised a pardon in case he voluntarily takes the oath. The Constitution authorizes the Executive to grant or withhold the pardon at his own absolute discretion; and this includes the power to grant it on such terms as is fully established by judicial and other authorities.
"It is also proffered that if, in any of the States named, a State Government shall in the mode prescribed set up a State government, it shall be recognized and guaranteed by the United States, and that under it the State shall on constitutional conditions, be protected against invasion and domestic violence. The constitutional obligation of the United States to guarantee to every state in the Union, a republican form of government and to protect the State in the cases stated, is explicit and full. But why tender the benefits of this provision only to a State government set up in this particular way? This section of the constitution contemplates a case wherein the element within a State favorable to republican government in the Union, may be too feeble for an opposite and hostile element external to, or even within the State; and such are precisely the cases with which we are now dealing.
"An attempt to guarantee and protect a revived State government, constructed in whole or in prepondering part, from the very element against whose hostility and violence it is to be protected, is simply absurd. There must be a test by which to separate the opposing element,
• McPherson, page 147
so as to build only from the sound; and that test is a sufficiently liberal one, which accepts as sound, whoever will make a sworn recantation of his former unsoundness.
"But if it be proper to require as a test of admission to the political body, an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, and to the Union under it, why not also to the laws and proclamations in regard to slavery? Those laws and proclamations were enacted and put forth for the purpose of aiding in the suppression of the rebellion. To give them their fullest effect, there had to be a pledge for their maintenance. In my judgment they have aided and will further aid the cause for which they were intended. To now abandon them would be not only to relinquish a lever of power, but would also be a cruel and an astounding breach of faith."
Mr. Lincoln never overlooked the pledge of the national faith to the colored men, made by the Executive and Congress, to maintain their freedom. To abandon the "freedmen to their late masters, would, in his judgment be an astounding breach of that faith." "I may add," said he, " that while I remain in my present position, I shall not attempt to modify or retract the Emancipation Proclamation, nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress." He closes this able state paper by saying:
"Our chief care must still be directed to the army and the navy,t who have thus far borne their harder part so nobly and well, and it may be esteemed fortunate that in giving the greatest efficiency to these indispensable arms, we do also honorably recognize the gallant men from commander to sentinel, who compose them, and to whom, more than to others the world must stand indebted for the home of freedom, disenthralled, regenerated, enlarged and perpetuated."
At the period of the opening of the 38th Congress, the conviction had become almost universal among the loyal people that slavery must die that the republic might live. To this end, Congress went to work vigorously and earnestly, to aid the President in the great work of emancipation, and extirpation of the cause of the rebellion; to remove from the Statute Book, every relic of this barbarous institution, and to
McPherion, page 146.