The Great Conspiracy

“The President replied, he must not be expected to quarrel with the New
York Tribune before the right time; he hoped never to have to do it; he
would not anticipate events. In respect to Emancipation in Missouri, he
said that what had been observed by Mr. Noell was probably true, but the
operation of these natural causes had not prevented the irritating
conduct to which he had referred, or destroyed the hopes of the
Confederates that Missouri would at some time range herself alongside of
them, which, in his judgment, the passage of this Resolution by
Congress, and its acceptance by Missouri, would accomplish.

“Mr. Crisfield, of Maryland, asked what would be the effect of the
refusal of the State to accept this proposal, and desired to know if the
President looked to any policy beyond the acceptance or rejection of
this scheme.

“The President replied that he had no designs beyond the action of the
States on this particular subject. He should lament their refusal to
accept it, but he had no designs beyond their refusal of it.

“Mr. Menzies, of Kentucky, inquired if the President thought there was
any power, except in the States themselves, to carry out his scheme of
Emancipation?

“The President replied, he thought there could not be. He then went off
into a course of remark not qualifying the foregoing declaration, nor
material to be repeated to a just understanding of his meaning.

“Mr. Crisfield said he did not think the people of Maryland looked upon
Slavery as a permanent Institution; and he did not know that they would
be very reluctant to give it up if provision was made to meet the loss,
and they could be rid of the race; but they did not like to be coerced
into Emancipation, either by the direct action of the Government or by
indirection, as through the Emancipation of Slaves in this District, or
the Confiscation of Southern Property as now threatened; and he thought
before they would consent to consider this proposition they would
require to be informed on these points.

“The President replied that ‘unless he was expelled by the act of God or
the Confederate Armies, he should occupy that house for three years, and
as long as he remained there, Maryland had nothing to fear, either for
her Institutions or her interests, on the points referred to.’

“Mr. Crisfield immediately added: ‘Mr. President, what you now say could
be heard by the people of Maryland, they would consider your proposition
with a much better feeling than I fear without it they will be inclined
to do.’

“The President: ‘That (meaning a publication of what he said), will not
do; it would force me into a quarrel before the proper time;’ and again
intimating, as he had before done, that a quarrel with the ‘Greeley
faction’ was impending, he said, ‘he did not wish to encounter it before
the proper time, nor at all if it could be avoided.’

“Governor Wickliffe, of Kentucky, then asked him respecting the
Constitutionality of his scheme.

“The President replied: ‘As you may suppose, I have considered that; and
the proposition now submitted does not encounter any Constitutional
difficulty. It proposes simply to co-operate with any State by giving
such State pecuniary aid;’ and he thought that the Resolution, as
proposed by him, would be considered rather as the expression of a
sentiment than as involving any Constitutional question.

“Mr. Hall, of Missouri, thought that if this proposition was adopted at
all, it should be by the votes of the Free States, and come as a
proposition from them to the Slave States, affording them an inducement
to put aside this subject of discord; that it ought not to be expected
that members representing Slaveholding Constituencies should declare at
once, and in advance of any proposition to them, for the Emancipation of
Slaves.

“The President said he saw and felt the force of the objection; it was a
fearful responsibility, and every gentleman must do as he thought best;
that he did not know how this scheme was received by the Members from
the Free States; some of them had spoken to him and received it kindly;
but for the most part they were as reserved and chary as we had been,
and he could not tell how they would vote.

“And, in reply to some expression of Mr. Hall as to his own opinion
regarding Slavery, he said he did not pretend to disguise his Anti-
Slavery feeling; that he thought it was wrong and should continue to
think so; but that was not the question we had to deal with now.
Slavery existed, and that, too, as well by the act of the North, as of
the South; and in any scheme to get rid of it, the North, as well as the
South, was morally bound to do its full and equal share. He thought the
Institution, wrong, and ought never to have existed; but yet he
recognized the rights of Property which had grown out of it, and would
respect those rights as fully as similar rights in any other property;
that Property can exist, and does legally exist. He thought such a law,
wrong, but the rights of Property resulting must be respected; he would
get rid of the odious law, not by violating the right, but by
encouraging the proposition, and offering inducements to give it up.”

“Here the interview, so far as this subject is concerned, terminated by
Mr. Crittenden’s assuring the President that whatever might be our final
action, we all thought him solely moved by a high patriotism and sincere
devotion to the happiness and glory of his Country; and with that
conviction we should consider respectfully the important suggestions he
had made.

“After some conversation on the current war news we retired, and I
immediately proceeded to my room and wrote out this paper.
“J. W. CRISFIELD.”

“We were present at the interview described in the foregoing paper of
Mr. Crisfield, and we certify that the substance of what passed on the
occasion is in this paper, faithfully and fully given.

“J. W. MENZIES,
“J. J. CRITTENDEN,
“R. MALLORY.
“March 10, 1862.”
Upon the passage of the Joint-Resolution in the House only four
Democrats (Messrs. Cobb, Haight, Lehman, and Sheffield) voted in the
affirmative, and but two Republicans (Francis Thomas, and Leary) in the
negative. On the 2nd of April, it passed the Senate by a vote of 32
yeas–all Republicans save Messrs. Davis and Thomson–to 10 nays, all
Democrats.

Meantime the question of the treatment of the “Contraband” in our
Military camps, continued to grow in importance.

On March 26, 1862, General Hooker issued the following order touching
certain Fugitive Slaves and their alleged owners:

“HEADQUARTERS, HOOKER’S DIVISION, CAMP BAKER,
“LOWER POTOMAC, March 26, 1862.

“To BRIGADE AND REGIMENTAL COMMANDERS OF THIS DIVISION:

“Messrs. Nally, Gray, Dummington, Dent, Adams, Speake, Price, Posey,
and Cobey, citizens of Maryland, have Negroes supposed to be with some
of the regiments of this Division; the Brigadier General commanding
directs that they be permitted to visit all the camps of his command, in
search of their Property, and if found, that they be allowed to take
possession of the same, without any interference whatever. Should any
obstacle be thrown in their way by any officer or soldier in the
Division, they will be at once reported by the regimental commanders to
these headquarters.

“By command of Brigadier General Hooker;

“JOSEPH DICKINSON,
“Assistant Adjutant General.”
On the following day, by direction of General Sickles, the following
significant report was made touching the above order:

“HEADQUARTERS, SECOND REGIMENT, EXCELSIOR BRIGADE.
“CAMP HALL, March 27, 1862.

“LIEUTENANT:–In compliance with verbal directions from Brigadier
General D. E. Sickles, to report as to the occurrence at this camp on
the afternoon of the 26th instant, I beg leave to submit the following:

“At about 3:30 o’clock P. M., March 26, 1862, admission within our lines
was demanded by a party of horsemen (civilians), numbering, perhaps,
fifteen. They presented the lieutenant commanding the guard, with an
order of entrance from Brigadier General Joseph Hooker, Commanding
Division (copy appended), the order stating that nine men should be
admitted.

“I ordered that the balance of the party should remain without the
lines; which was done. Upon the appearance of the others, there was
visible dissatisfaction and considerable murmuring among the soldiers,
to so great an extent that I almost feared for the safety of the
Slaveholders. At this time General Sickles opportunely arrived, and
instructed me to order them outside the camp, which I did, amidst the
loud cheers of our soldiers.

“It is proper to add, that before entering our lines, and within about
seventy-five or one hundred yards of our camp, one of their number
discharged two pistol shots at a Negro, who was running past them, with
an evident intention of taking his life. This justly enraged our men.

“All of which is respectfully submitted.

“Your obedient servant,
“JOHN TOLEN.
“Major Commanding Second Regiment, E. B.

“To Lieutenant J. L. PALMER, Jr.,
“A. D. C. and A. A. A. General.”
On April 6, the following important dispatch, in the nature of an order,
was issued by General Doubleday to one of his subordinate officers:

“HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DEFENSES,
“NORTH OF THE POTOMAC,
“WASHINGTON, April 6, 1862.

“SIR:–I am directed by General Doubleday to say, in answer to your
letter of the 2d instant, that all Negroes coming into the lines of any
of the camps or forts under his command, are to be treated as persons,
and not as chattels.

“Under no circumstances has the Commander of a fort or camp the power of
surrendering persons claimed as Fugitive Slaves, as it cannot be done
without determining their character.

“The Additional Article of War recently passed by Congress positively
prohibits this.

“The question has been asked, whether it would not be better to exclude
Negroes altogether from the lines. The General is of the opinion that
they bring much valuable information, which cannot be obtained from any
other source. They are acquainted with all the roads, paths, fords, and
other natural features of the country, and they make excellent guides.
They also know and frequently have exposed the haunts of Secession spies
and Traitors and the existence of Rebel organizations. They will not,
therefore, be excluded.

“The General also directs me to say that civil process cannot be served
directly in the camps or forts of his command, without full authority be
obtained from the Commanding Officer for that purpose.

“I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,

“E. P. HALSTED,
“Assistant Adjutant General.

“Lieut. Col. JOHN D. SHANE,
“Commanding 76th Reg. N. Y. Vols.”
CHAPTER XVII.

BORDER-STATE OPPOSITION.

On April 3, 1862, the United States Senate passed a Bill to liberate all
Persons of African descent held to Service or Labor within the District
of Columbia, and prohibiting Slavery or involuntary servitude in the
District except as a punishment for crime–an appropriation being made
to pay to loyal owners an appraised value of the liberated Slaves not to
exceed $300 for each Slave. The vote on its passage in the Senate was
29 yeas to 14 nays–all the yeas being Republican, and all but two of
the nays Democratic.

April 11th, the Bill passed the House by 92 yeas to 39 nays–all the
yeas save 5 being Republican, and all the nays, save three, being
Democratic.

April 7, 1862, the House adopted a resolution, by 67 yeas to 52 nays–
all the yeas, save one, Republican, and all the nays, save 12,
Democratic–for the appointment of a Select Committee of nine, to
consider and report whether any plan could be proposed and recommended
for the gradual Emancipation of all the African Slaves, and the
extinction of Slavery in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Missouri, by the people or local authorities thereof, and
how far and in what way the Government of the United States could and
ought equitably to aid in facilitating either of those objects.

On the 16th President Lincoln sent the following Message to Congress:

“Fellow citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

“The Act entitled ‘An Act for the release of certain Persons held to
Service or Labor in the District of Columbia,’ has this day been
approved and signed.

“I have never doubted the Constitutional authority of Congress to
abolish Slavery in this District; and I have ever desired to see the
National Capital freed from the Institution in some satisfactory way.
Hence there has never been in my mind any question upon the subject
except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances.

“If there be matters within and about this Act which might have taken a
course or shape more satisfactory to my judgment, I do not attempt to
specify them. I am gratified that the two principles of compensation
and colonization are both recognized and practically applied in the Act.

“In the matter of compensation, it is provided that claims may be
presented within ninety days from the passage of the Act, ‘but not
thereafter;’ and there is no saving for minors, femmes covert, insane,
or absent persons. I presume this is an omission by mere oversight, and
I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or Supplemental Act.

“ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
“April 16, 1862.”
Subsequently, in order to meet the President’s views, such an amendatory
or Supplemental Act was passed and approved.

But now, Major General Hunter having taken upon himself to issue an
Emancipation proclamation, May 9, 1862, the President, May 19, 1862,
issued a proclamation rescinding it as follows:

“Whereas there appears in the public prints what purports to be a
proclamation of Major General Hunter, in the words and figures
following, to wit:

“‘HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
‘HILTON HEAD, S. C., May 9, 1862.
‘[General Orders No. 11.]

‘The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, comprising
the Military Department of the South, having deliberately declared
themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of
America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it
becomes a Military necessity to declare them under Martial Law. This
was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and
Martial Law, in a Free Country, are altogether incompatible; the Persons
in these three States–Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina-heretofore
held as Slaves, are therefore declared forever Free.

‘DAVID HUNTER,
‘Major-General Commanding.

‘Official:
ED. W. SMITH,
‘Acting Assistant Adjutant General.’
“And whereas the same is producing some excitement and misunderstanding,

“Therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, proclaim
and declare, that the Government of the United States had no knowledge,
information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to
issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet any authentic information that
the document is genuine. And further, that neither General Hunter, nor
any other Commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of
the United States to make proclamations declaring the Slaves of any
State Free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether
genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such
declaration.

“I further make known that whether it be competent for me, as Commander-
in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the Slaves of any State or
States free, and whether, at any time, in any case, it shall have become
a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the Government, to
exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my
responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I cannot feel justified
in leaving to the decision of Commanders in the field. These are
totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies
and camps.

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