Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Assembling of Congress. Grow elected Speaker.
President's Message. - Acceptable.

[ocr errors]

Speech. — Etheridge. —

- Bills and Resolution by Mr. Wilson. Employment of volunteers. F. P. Blair. - Debate.

[ocr errors]


Harding, Hick

man, Campbell. -- Vallandigham's amendment. Senate bill passed. — Increase of regular army. - Holman's Speech. - Amendment. Bill passed. Reorganization of army. - Powell's amendment. - Breckenridge. - Supplementary bill for increase of the army. - Resolution making valid acts of the President. - Debate thereon. — Kennedy, Baker, Wilson, Breckenridge, Law, Johnson, Sherman, Trumbull. -- Other bills. Bill for arming loyal citizens in disloyal States. Governor Morton. - Bill increasing pay of private soldiers. Important amendment. - Resolution of sympathy.



IN pursuance of the proclamation of the President, the XXXVIIth Congress assembled on the 4th of July, 1861. The time that had elapsed and the stirring events that had taken place since the fall of Sumter had habituated the minds of the people to the unwelcome fact that the life of the nation was seriously menaced, and that they had a war of uncertain dimensions and continuance on their hands, for which prompt and adequate provision must be made. Twenty-three States were represented in the Senate, and twenty-two in the House. By the secession of the Confederate States, the political complexion of the national legislature had been materially changed. In the Senate there were thirty-one Republicans, eleven Democrats, five Unionists, with one vacancy. In the House there were one hundred and six Republicans, forty-two Democrats, twenty-eight Unionists, and two vacancies.

Galusha A. Grow, a Republican member from Pennsylvania, was elected Speaker. The successor of David Wilmot, he adhered with inflexible fidelity to the principle embodied in the celebrated proviso of his predecessor. As chairman of the


Committee on Territories in the XXXVth Congress, he had supported with marked ability the cause of freedom in struggling Kansas. In his remarks, on taking the chair, he denounced the Rebellion as the most causeless in the history of the race, a conspiracy nurtured in secret counsels for the destruction of the Constitution and the Union. Referring to the grand uprising of the people, he declared, amid vociferous shouts of applause on the floor and in the galleries, that " flag alien to the sources of the Mississippi River will ever float permanently over its mouth, until its waters are crimsoned in human gore, and not one foot of American soil can ever be wrenched from the jurisdiction of the Constitution until it is baptized in fire and blood." He reminded the House that they were the guardians of the rights and liberties of the people, and that a government which could not command the loyalty of its own citizens, and would not protect its loyal citizens, "deserves the contempt of the world." He summoned the House to act for the greatness and glory of the Republic. Emerson Etheridge, a Tennessee Unionist, who had supported John Bell for President, was chosen clerk; though in his subsequent conduct he did not prove himself worthy of the sympathy extended to him and the confidence reposed in him. John W. Forney, who had on several occasions, as clerk of the House, exhibited great fairness and liberality, and had gracefully yielded to the general desire to recognize the devotion of Etheridge to the Union cause, was chosen secretary of the Senate.

On the 5th the President sent in a message, reciting the action of the Rebels, explaining the course of the government, and calling upon Congress to vindicate and maintain the authority of the nation. He declared that he had looked to the exhaustion of all peaceful measures before resorting to those more stringent. He had given, he said, "repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people or any of their rights. Of all that which a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, everything was forborne without which it was believed possible to keep the government on foot." The secessionists, he said, have "forced

upon the country the distinct issue, 'immediate dissolution or blood."" This issue, he said, embraced more than "the fate of these United States; it presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic, or democracy, a government of the people by the same people, — can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretences made in this case or on any other pretences, or arbitrarily without any pretence, break up their government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: 'Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal weakness?"" Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people or too weak to maintain its own existence? "So viewing the issue," he said, 66 no choice was left but to call out the war power of the government, and so to resist force employed for its destruction by force employed for its preservation."


Referring to the doctrine of State sovereignty, he declared that "the States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status; if they break from this, they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union each of them whatever of independence or liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally, some dependent colonies made the Union; and in turn the Union threw off their old depend ence for them, and made them States such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union."

Exposing the deception and violence by which the secessionists had triumphed in Virginia, he pronounced the policy of armed neutrality in Kentucky and other border States to be a policy "that recognized no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union, and that would give the disunionists disunion without a struggle of their own." The

[ocr errors]

contest, he said, "is a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men, . . to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to offer all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures from necessity, this is the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend." Reminding Congress that "the plain people" understood and appreciated the contest, he said, "It is worthy of note, that, while in this, the government's hour of trial, large numbers of those in the army and navy who had been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand that pampered them, not one common soldier or sailor is known to have deserted his flag." He said: The people are now to "demonstrate to the world that those who fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided, there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots at succeeding elections, which will be a great lesson of peace, teaching men that what they cannot take by an election neither can they take by war." He expressed the deepest regret that the duty had been forced upon him to employ the war power in defence of the government. As a private citizen, he could not betray a sacred trust confided to him by a free people. "I have no moral right," he said, "to shrink, not even to count the chances of my own life in what might follow. In full view


my great responsibility, I have so far done what I deemed my duty." He expressed the hope that Congress would act in accord, and having adopted the course to be pursued, would, "without guile and with pure purpose," renew its "trust in God and go forward without fear and with manly hearts." Recommending that Congress should give the legal means for making the contest a short and decisive one, he asked it to place at the control of the government at least four hundred thousand men and four hundred millions of dollars.

The message was admirable in all its parts. It detected the fallacies and exposed the sophistries of the secessionists, and presented to the country their fraudulent, violent, and revolutionary action. It presented in firm but temperate language the purposes, policy, and plans of the government. Loyal men, in and out of Congress, were prompt in their approval, indorsement, and adoption of its recommendations, and of the measures necessary to sustain them. Mr. Wilson, chairman. of the Committee on Military Affairs, agreeably to notice given on the first day of the session, introduced into the Senate four bills and a joint resolution. The first of these bills authorized the President to call out five hundred thousand men and appropriate five hundred million dollars. The second proposed to increase the regular army. The third was for the better organization of the military forces. The fourth proposed an organization of a volunteer national guard; and the joint resolution proposed to ratify and confirm the acts of the President for the suppression of the Rebellion. referred to the Committee on Military Affairs.

They were

On the 8th Mr. Wilson reported the bill to authorize the employment of volunteers. Coming up for consideration, Mr. Saulsbury of Delaware, expressing his fears that the Union would not be preserved by the mode provided in the bill and suggested in the message of the President, moved to strike out five hundred thousand men and insert two hundred thousand men, deeming that number sufficient, he said, to protect the capital and defend the States from invasion. Mr. Foster of Connecticut thought two hundred thousand men "too many to make peace and too few to make war." The amendment was rejected, and the bill was passed on the 11th, Breckinridge and Powell of Kentucky, Johnson and Polk of Missouri, voting against it.

On the same day Mr. Blair of Missouri reported from the House Military Committee a bill authorizing the employment of volunteers. Coming up on the 13th for consideration in the Committee of the Whole, Mr. Harding of Kentucky avowed his readiness to give men and money to defend the Constitution, but he would "not vote one dollar for subjugating sover

« PreviousContinue »