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On the 17th of December Mr. Sumner introduced into the Senate a resolution instructing the Committee on Military Affairs to "consider the expediency of providing by additional legislation that our national armies shall not be employed in the surrender of fugitive slaves." In introducing it he said he had received many communications, official and private, setting forth the outrages he would guard against and prevent by specific and positive legislation. "I am glad to know," he said, "that my friend and colleague, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, promises us at once a bill to meet this grievance. It ought to be introduced promptly, and to be passed at once. Our troops ought to be saved from this
Mr. Cowan of Pennsylvania, who, though a Republican, often disagreed with the more pronounced members of his party, expressed the thought that "there need be no possible difficulty whatever upon this question in any of its aspects, and that they had nothing in the world to do with these questions. "We send a general," he said, "to suppress this insurrection. What is his duty? If he meets a negro upon his errand, and that negro is an enemy, he treats him as an enemy; if the negro is a friend, he treats him as a friend, and uses him as such. Nothing, to my mind, can be simpler. How is he to determine the title to that negro? Suppose, Mr. President, you were to go into his camp, and say, ' Sir, here is my negro: I want him. The obvious answer of the general is, ‘My dear sir, that may be all true; I have no desire to raise any issues of fact with you: it may be that this is your negro; but I cannot determine that question; I cannot try the title to him; I am not a court; I am not a jury,'-a great many of them, indeed, are not even lawyers. How are they to determine whether this negro is a slave or not? They cannot determine it; they have no right to determine it. If the master, being a loyal man, in that camp insists, and says, 'This is my negro,' I do not know what other men might do, but, if I were the general, I would say to him, 'If this is your negro, your "boy," as you call him, this man that you are educating to
civilization and Christianity,
if he will go with
if he is
willing to submit to your guardianship in this behalf, take him, in God's name, and be away with him.' Suppose the claimant says, 'He will not go, and I want to force him,' what then? I would say to him, 'No, you cannot do that; because that presumes that I decide the very question which I am incompetent to decide. I cannot allow you to use force here, because I am the constable of the nation, and I am the repositary of its force in this behalf, and you cannot use it.'' The resolution was agreed to.
On the 23d Mr. Wilson introduced a bill to remedy the evil complained of. After reciting facts setting forth that officers in the service, without authority of law and against the plainest dictates of justice and humanity, had delivered up such fugitives, it provided that any officer in the naval or military service who should be guilty of such offence should be "deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be dishonorably discharged and forever ineligible to any appointment in the military or naval service of the United States." The bill was referred to the Committee on Military Affairs. On the 6th of January, 1862, it was reported back with an amendment in the form of a substitute, "That it shall be unlawful for any officer in the military or naval service of the United States to cause any person claimed to be held to service or labor by reason of African descent to be seized, held, detained, or delivered up to or for any person claiming such service or labor; and any officer so offending shall be discharged from service, and be forever ineligible to any appointment in the military or naval service of the United States." A motion for its indefinite postponement, by Mr. Saulsbury of Delaware, was lost by a vote of thirteen to twenty-three. Coming up on the 23d, Mr. Collamer of Vermont said, "Without criticising at all the form of expression of the proposed amendment, I offer a substitute for it, which I send to the Chair: No officer of the army or navy of the United States, or of the volunteers or militia in the service of the United States, shall assume or exercise any military command or authority to arrest, detain, hold, or control any person, on account of such person being holden to service as of African descent; and any such officer
so offending shall be dismissed from the service." Mr. Wil son accepted the amendment.
Mr. Saulsbury then offered as an amendment the additional section: "Nor shall any soldier or officer, under like penalty, entice away or detain any person held to service or labor in the United States from his or her master or owner." Mr. Collamer, saying that he did not regard Mr. Saulsbury's amendment as germane to the subject, addressed the Senate in support of his own. "I believe," he said, "we are generally agreed that there is great impropriety in military men exercising military authority within the States, in relation to their internal and municipal affairs; it is very likely to produce collisions that ought to be avoided. . . . . The amendment reported by the committee made it unlawful for an officer to do anything in regard to the seizure or delivery of a person held to service by reason of African descent: it seemed to direct the individual action of the man as a man; which is, I think, hardly legitimate and proper on this occasion. I do not know but that we have officers in our army who are themselves the owners of slaves. According to the provision. reported by the committee, such an officer could not even arrest his own slave under the laws of the State in which he was holden. It seems to me, that, in dealing with officers of the army, our business is to deal with them in their official capacity. Therefore, to strip the subject of all sort of question about that, I have drawn and presented the amendment which the Senate have adopted, and which, I think, should pass into a law, that no officer shall use any military power over this subject. As to his own individual action, that is a matter which must be left to him."
"If you adopt," said Mr. Saulsbury, "the amendment of the Senator from Vermont, you make it penal for a soldier or officer to return, even to a loyal master or owner, his slave; but you provide no penalty against any soldier or any officer for depriving even a loyal master of the services of his slave. My amendment proposes to prohibit, under the same penalty, an officer or a soldier of the army from decoying or enticing away from the service of his master a slave, or from harbor
ing a slave." An amendment of Mr. Saulsbury's amendment, offered by Mr. Rice, a Democratic Senator from Minnesota, adding the words, "who may be a loyal citizen of the United States," was adopted. Mr. Collamer expressed the thought that, under Mr. Saulsbury's amendment, "if any soldier wanted to get dismissed from the service, he would have nothing to do but to entice a slave, and he would get himself and the slave both dismissed."
"I am opposed," said Mr. Wilson, "to this amendment in every shape and form, and to any legislation protecting, covering, or justifying slavery for loyal or disloyal masters. The laws on that subject are all that ought to be given at this time. What I want to do is to put upon the statute-book of this country a prohibition to the officers of the army of the United States from arresting, detaining, and delivering up persons claimed as fugitives by the use of military power. There is no law for it. They have acted in violation of law. Some of these officers have dishonored the profession, and disgraced the country; and I mean, if God is willing and I have the power, to reject their confirmation here for that reason; and I give them the notice now." Mr. Pearce thus presented the not unnatural perplexities of slaveholding Unionists: "The Senator from Massachusetts objects to a proposition which forbids officers and soldiers of the army from enticing, harboring, or preventing the recovery- that is the amount of it of a fugitive slave, known to be such, upon the application of his master, known to be his lawful owner, according to the laws of the State in which he lives. What is the effect of that? It is an invitation to all the slaves of the State of Maryland, who can do so, to resort to the camp, sure of protection there, first, because no officer of the army can order their delivery up to their master, however loyal or however indisputable his title may be to that slave. It is an invitation, therefore, to all such people to resort to the lines of the army as a harbor of refuge, a place of asylum, a spot where they can be safe from the operation of the undoubted legal rights of the owner. That is the effect of it; and that is an invitation to the whole body of such people, within the loyal
State of Maryland, to accomplish their freedom by indirection. It is not an act of emancipation in its terms; but so far as it can operate, and does operate, it leads directly to that result."
In the House the same general subject was receiving consideration on a proposition instructing the Committee on Military Affairs to report a bill for "the enactment of an additional article of war whereby all officers in the military service of the United States shall be prohibited from using any portion of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, and provide for the punishment of such officers as may violate said article, by dismissal from the service." On the 25th of February Mr. Blair of Missouri, from that committee, reported a bill proposing such an additional article. In the debate that sprung up on its introduction, said Mr. Mallory of Kentucky, "You are deciding by this article of war that the President of the United States shall not be permitted to send a military force into a State to aid the authorities of that State in enforcing a national law which stands on your statute-book. I ask the gentleman from Missouri whether it is the fixed determination to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law." "I do not propose," replied Mr. Blair, "to decide the question the gentleman has raised, as to whether this bill, if it becomes a law, will repeal the Fugitive Slave Law or not. I believe, in common with a great many others, that the army of the United States has a great deal better business than returning fugitive slaves." "I see," said Mr. Wickliffe of the same State," by the evidence which has been furnished, that General Grant captured -at Fort Donelson, I think it was-twelve negro slaves among prisoners there taken. They were returned by him to their loyal owners in Kentucky, from whom they had been forced by the Rebel power. Would this bill prevent a military commander from the exercise of such power?" This was a question not altogether free from embarrassment to the administration or its supporters, intent on retaining the border slave States, who made their loyalty so dependent on the consideration that slavery should receive nothing of detriment; as also another, asked by Mr. Grider of the same State. "I am