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“The preliminary emancipation proclamation, issued in September, was running its assigned period to the beginning of the new year. A month later the final proclamation came, includ. ing the announcement that colored men of suitable condition would be received into the war service. The policy of emanci. pation and of employing black soldiers, gave to the future a new aspect, about which hope, and fear, and doubt, contended in uncertain conflict. According to our political system, as a matter of civil administration, the General Government had no lawful power to effect emancipation in any State; and for a long time it had been hoped that the rebellion could be suppressed without resorting to it as a military measure. It was all the while deemed possible that the necessity for it might come, and that if it should, the crisis of the contest would then be presented. It came, and, as was anticipated, it was followed by dark and doubtful days. Eleven months 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 proclamationMaryland and Missouri-neither of which, three years ago, would have tolerated 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.”
In the same message, speaking of the mode of reconstructing State governments where they had been overthrown, he advocated the policy of requiring a test oath to sustain the emancipation measures, in the following language :
“But it be proper to require, as a test of admission to the poritical body, an oath of allegiance to 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 power, but would also be a cruel and an astounding breach of faith. I
may add at this point that, while I remain in my present position, I shall not attempt to retract or modify 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. For these and other reasons, it is thought best that support of these measures shall be included in the oath. The movements by State action for emancipation in several of the States, not included in the emancipation proclamation, are matters of profound gratulation. And while I do not repeat in detail what I have so earnestly urged upon this subject, my gen. eral views and feelings remain unchanged, and I trust that Congress will omit no fair opportunity of aiding these important steps to a great consummation."
An act to repeal all fugitive slave laws passed both houses of Congress, and was approved by President Lincoln, June 28, 1861. During the summer and autumn of that year elections were held in nearly all the loval States for members of the 39th Congress, and in November for the election of a President and Vice President of the United States, which resulted, as previously stated, in the second election of Abraham Lincoln.
At the assembling of the second session of the Thirty-eighth Congress, December 6, 1864, President Lincoln referred to the fact that at the previous session a joint resolution passed the Senate to submit an amendment to the constitution of the United States abolishing slavery throughout the Union, to the Legislatures of the several States, but it failed in the House of Representatives for want of a two-thirds majority. He reminded them of the advanced position of the American people on the subject of abolishing slavery; and urged them to reconsider the question, and submit it to the action of the State Legislatures. He assured them that it must come to that, and the sooner it was done the better.
In closing that message he says:
“I retract nothing heretofore said as to slavery. I repeat the declaration made a year ago, that while I remain in my present position, I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation, nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by the acts of Con. gress. If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it.
“In stating a single condition of peace, I mean simply to say that the war will cease on the part of the Government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it.”
Aside from the three million slaves liberated by the emancipation proclamation, there yet remained in bondage more than one million of the African race. But a small number of these were held by men who were real friends to the Government in its efforts to crush out the great rebellion. Being in that part of the country bordering on the line between the original free and slave States, which territory was under the control of the civil authorities, and their owners nominally loval, the Government did not feel authorized to declare them free as a war measure. The conviction, however, steadily gained in the minds of the people, that peace could never be firmly established until slavery was totally and forever abolished. Various plans were proposed and discussed for compensated emancipation, and in the meantime slave property was becoming less secure.
On the 11th of January, 1864, Mr. Henderson, of Missouri, introduced a joint resolution into the Senate, proposing amendments to the constitution of the United States, which was read and referred to the Judiciary Committee. On the 10th of February, the committee made a report through its chairman, the Hon. Lyman Trumbull. The joint resolution was amended by the committee so as to provide for submitting to the Legislatures of the several States a proposition to amend the constitution of the United States so that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall exist in the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction; and also, that Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. The report of this committee was taken up and discussed as many as thirteen times -some of them occupying whole days—until the 8th of April, when it was adopted, 38 to 8. Its title was amended so as to read —
A joint resolution submitting to the Legislatures of the several
States a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States :
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 article be proposed to the Legis. latures of the several States as an amendment to the constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of said constitution, namely:
SECTION 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
SEC. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article with appropriate legislation.
After having passed the Senate, it was sent to the House, where it was defeated for want of a two-thirds majority. A motion to reconsider, entered by Mr. Ashley, of Ohio, was pending in the House when Congress adjourned. The elections of 1864 demonstrated, by largely increased Republican majorities, that the sentiments of the people were in favor of the entire abolition of slavery. Mr. Lincoln, in his last annual message, December, 1864, referred to the result of the elections as an indication of the popular will, and recommended that the subject be again taken up and passed.
On the 6th of January, 1865, Mr. Ashley called up his former motion to reconsider, and made an able speech in its favor.
The question was discussed at great length. Those speaking in the affirmative were Ashley, of Ohio; Orth, of Indiana; Kasson, of lowa; Farnsworth, of Illinois; Jenckes, of Rhode Island; Woodbridge, of Vermont; Thayer, of Pennsylvania; Rollins, of Missouri; Gartield, of Ohio; Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, and others. Those speaking in the opposition were Townsend, of New York; Holman, Cravens and Vorhees, of Indiana; Mallory, of Kentucky; Fer