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tenable position from which they could defend their cherished system or assail its enemies. Everything else was against it,
argument, sentiment, reason, conscience, the laws of nature and the law of God, the claims of justice and the pleadings of humanity, the teachings of philosophy and the sweet voices of poetry,- all, all, as it could not well be otherwise, were arrayed against the "sum of all villanies." But their position in the government, with the three-fifths representation of their slaves, gave them political power, and long practice gave them great astuteness and adroitness in its use, while Northern selfishness, venality, lack of convictions, and what has been justly termed "careless citizenship," afforded a wide and fruitful field for their peculiar strategy. In their citizenship were the hidings of the slaveholders' power, and by that sign alone they conquered. Had they been content therewith, nothing appears why this might not have continued for years, perhaps generations. For the fact, already stated, may be here repeated, that Mr. Lincoln, when elected to the Presidency, was in a minority of a million, and that on a platform that simply insisted on the non-extension of slavery, while it not only permitted but guaranteed its continuance where existing. And this, it is to be remembered, notwithstanding the light shed by the antislavery agitation of a generation and the faithful warnings thundered in the nation's ear from the Abolition pulpits and platforms of those days of earnest reasoning and appeal; aided, too, in their work of argument and alarm by the continued aggressions of the Slave Power, from the annexation of Texas to the Lecompton infamy, from the pas sage of the Fugitive Slave Act to the Dred Scott decision. Not ignoring the Divine agency and the possibilities within reach of the Divine arm, humanly speaking, it may be claimed there did not appear to man's finite vision during the summer and autumn of 1860 any reason for believing that the Slave Power could be dethroned, or dislodged from its seemingly impregnable position by any forces then at command or in view. The composition and doings of the Peace Congress; the Crittenden Compromise, with the narrow escape from its adoption, designed to eternize slavery and place it beyond the
reach of repeal, however earnestly and largely the people might desire it; the action and tone of Congress during the closing months of Mr. Buchanan's administration, all lead to the conclusion that had the Slave Power been content, it might have still remained in practical possession of the government.
But the peace the North so earnestly desired and eagerly sought was not to be the reward of such surrender and betrayal, nor were the slaveholders to be placated even by concessions so extreme. On a large scale and in view of the nations was to be exhibited another example of the haughty spirit that goes before a fall, of that judicial blindness that precedes destruction. By the Divine wisdom, made more resplendent by this dark background of human folly, God revealed anew how the wrath of man could be made to praise him, and how the remainder of wrath he could restrain. By a fatuity that hardly finds a parallel in human history, the slaveholders sacrificed slavery to save it, and in their frantic efforts to defend it against all possible danger, they increased those dangers immeasurably, abandoning, as they did, the only stronghold from which defence was possible. Placing in the hands of their antagonists the same weapons they themselves had hitherto used with so much effect, the rest became inevitable, and only a question of time. Slavery fallen, what was created for or enacted by it would very naturally follow. The tyrant dead, his satellites were allowed to die without regret; the system destroyed, its auxiliaries were allowed to pass away without protest. Laws like the Fugitive Slave Act and those forbidding the instruction of slaves fell naturally and necessarily into disuse and became practically repealed, because there were no longer slaves to be returned to bondage or slaves to be kept in enforced ignorance. There were enactments, too, in the interests of slavery which affected others than slaves, and bore heavily upon freemen themselves. Among them were the laws that confined the militia of the slaveholding States to white persons and authorized the barbarous custom of whipping. There, too, was the system of peonage in New Mexico, allowed to exist not so much as a relic of slavery as by sufferance, because a government committed
to the grosser and more barbarous form of chattelhood, and dominated by the Slave Power, could hardly be expected to interfere with this milder system of "modified servitude inherited from Mexico," at least from any regard for the primal rights of man. Beside these, there were military organizations in the slaveholding States, Rebel in spirit and purpose, and composed mainly of men who had belonged to the armies of the Confederacy. Such organizations were justly deemed antagonistic to the Union, and little likely to promote continued peace. Though not so much the creatures of slavery as of treason, and their menace was rather against the authority of the government than against the freedom of the individual, like peonage in New Mexico and the other laws above mentioned, they owed their origin to slavery, were per vaded by its spirit and purpose, and could not with safety be allowed to exist. Though a bill early introduced by Mr. Wilson for their disbandment failed, a similar measure, moved as an amendment to an appropriation bill, was subsequently carried with little opposition.
On the same day that the above-named amendment was introduced into the Senate, Mr. Trumbull moved to amend the same appropriation bill by a provision prohibiting “ whipping or maiming of the person," and it was carried without debate or division. With little more discussion or dissent an amendment to a bill for the temporary increase of the pay of the officers of the army, striking out the word "white" from the militia laws, was adopted.
When New Mexico became a Territory of the Union, there existed a system of peonage, by which when a Mexican owed a debt the creditor had a right to his labor until the debt was paid. The debtor became a domestic servant and practically a slave until its liquidation. There were about two thousand of this class, principally Indians, in the Territory. But a resolution abolishing the system was introduced by Mr. Wilson, and without much ado it was passed; thereby removing another of the relics of the slave system.
It was also proposed to give account of some attempted legislation, as a history of the times and an index of congres
sional thought and feeling, evinced by those who were striving to use aright the power for the moment in their hands, and thus secure the fruits of the war, guard against similar attempts in the future, but especially protect the freedmen and the loyal men of the South, hated and oppressed because they had proved themselves true to the Union. A chapter was proposed giving a somewhat detailed account of attempts, beginning as early as the third day of the first session of the XXXIXth Congress, in December, 1865, to secure amendments of the Constitution to prevent the assumption of "Rebel debts," to define "citizenship," and to fix the "basis of representation." They all failed of enactment, and are mainly valuable as matters of historic record, to show how earnest and prompt were the Republican leaders to meet squarely the issues presented, and to provide, if possible, for the exigencies of the hour. This failure of enactment, with the character of the debates, revealed the uncertain and hesitating steps with which members moved along the untravelled path they were called to tread, and grappled with problems for which no precedents could be found; though the arguments urged and the reasons for action were substantially those employed in subsequent discussions, which resulted in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which were finally adopted, and which are now parts of the Constitution.
Another subject, of which some account was to have been given, was the process by which the different border slave States, which, though believing in slavery, had not joined the Rebellion, were induced to accept emancipation and adapt their legislation to the new order of things. Of this it is to be said, however, that while those States had much in common, being affected by influences which were general and national, each had its own autonomy, its local history and struggle. While, therefore, the result attained was substantially the same in all, the processes by which it was reached varied materially, according to the different circumstances and leadership in these separate commonwealths. Much depended upon leadership. Always and everywhere true, at least, in greater or less degree, at this juncture of affairs the measures actually adopted
by the many were the result largely, if not entirely, of the views and feelings of the few. When all were in a maze, knowing not what to do or expect, the natural leader's voice was listened for, and, if heard, generally heeded. When all were dazed by the resplendent events in progress, not knowing what the next act in the imposing drama was to be, though prepared for almost anything, it is not strange that men, distrusting themselves, should have looked to others for counsel and guidance. Everything in confusion, the very foundations of society seemingly sliding from beneath their feet, the very stars in their courses appearing to fight against them, Southern men were willing to accept almost any solution that promised repose, and the salvation of anything from the general wreck around them. The voice of leaders at such a time had special potency, and the policy finally adopted unquestionably depended oftentimes far more on the influences to which these leaders chanced to be exposed than upon any well-considered opinions and purposes of the people themselves. This undoubtedly affords some solution of the fact, that while the three border slave States, Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky, rejected the Fourteenth Amendment by a vote of three to one, the State of Missouri accepted it by a vote of one hundred and eleven to forty.
The details, therefore, of State action, not by any means uninstructive and devoid of local and special value, cannot be of that general and historic interest which inheres in the great and providential fact that those States were induced to move at all; that, without any great change of sentiment and feeling on the subject of slavery, they should adopt legislation recognizing its destruction, and adapted thereto. That, and not the special methods pursued in the separate States, is the significant and memorable fact: This recognition, however, did not carry with it anything like a hearty adoption of the Republican policy of which it formed a part. Thus a Democratic convention, held in Kentucky in 1866, resolved, "That we recognize the abolition of slavery as an accomplished fact, but earnestly assert that Kentucky has the right to regulate the political status of the negroes within her territory."