The Great Conspiracy

“We have not hesitated to vote all supplies necessary to carry it on
vigorously. We have voted all the men and money you have asked for, and
even more; we have imposed onerous taxes on our people, and they are
paying them with cheerfulness and alacrity; we have encouraged
enlistments, and sent to the field many of our best men; and some of our
number have offered their persons to the enemy as pledges of their
sincerity and devotion to the Country.

“We have done all this under the most discouraging circumstances, and in
the face of measures most distasteful to us and injurious to the
interests we represent, and in the hearing of doctrines avowed by those
who claim to be your friends, must be abhorrent to us and our
constituents.

“But, for all this, we have never faltered, nor shall we as long as we
have a Constitution to defend and a Government which protects us. And
we are ready for renewed efforts, and even greater sacrifices, yea, any
sacrifice, when we are satisfied it is required to preserve our
admirable form of Government and the priceless blessings of
Constitutional Liberty.

“A few of our number voted for the Resolution recommended by your
Message of the 6th of March last, the greater portion of us did not, and
we will briefly state the prominent reasons which influenced our action.

“In the first place, it proposed a radical change of our social system,
and was hurried through both Houses with undue haste, without reasonable
time for consideration and debate, and with no time at all for
consultation with our constituents, whose interests it deeply involved.
It seemed like an interference by this Government with a question which
peculiarly and exclusively belonged to our respective States, on which
they had not sought advice or solicited aid.

“Many of us doubted the Constitutional power of this Government to make
appropriations of money for the object designated, and all of us thought
our finances were in no condition to bear the immense outlay which its
adoption and faithful execution would impose upon the National Treasury.
If we pause but a moment to think of the debt its acceptance would have
entailed, we are appalled by its magnitude. The proposition was
addressed to all the States, and embraced the whole number of Slaves.

“According to the census of 1860 there were then nearly four million
Slaves in the Country; from natural increase they exceed that number
now. At even the low average of $300, the price fixed by the
Emancipation Act for the Slaves of this District, and greatly below
their real worth, their value runs up to the enormous sum of
$1,200,000,000; and if to that we add the cost of deportation and
colonization, at $100 each, which is but a fraction more than is
actually paid–by the Maryland Colonization Society, we have
$400,000,000 more.

“We were not willing to impose a tax on our people sufficient to pay the
interest on that sum, in addition to the vast and daily increasing debt
already fixed upon them by exigencies of the War, and if we had been
willing, the Country could not bear it. Stated in this form the
proposition is nothing less than the deportation from the Country of
$1,600,000,000 worth of producing labor, and the substitution, in its
place, of an interest-bearing debt of the same amount.

“But, if we are told that it was expected that only the States we
represent would accept the proposition, we respectfully submit that even
then it involves a sum too great for the financial ability of this
Government at this time. According to the census of 1860:

Slaves
Kentucky had ……….. 225,490
Maryland …………… 87,188
Virginia …………… 490,887
Delaware …………… 1,798
Missouri …………… 114,965
Tennessee ………….. 275,784

Making in the whole .. 1,196,112

At the same rate of valuation these would
amount to ……… $358,933,500

Add for deportation and colonization $100
each …………… 118,244,533

And we have the
enormous sum of … $478,038,133
“We did not feel that we should be justified in voting for a measure
which, if carried out, would add this vast amount to our public debt at
a moment when the Treasury was reeling under the enormous expenditure of
the War.

“Again, it seemed to us that this Resolution was but the annunciation of
a sentiment which could not or was not likely to be reduced to an actual
tangible proposition. No movement was then made to provide and
appropriate the funds required to carry it into effect; and we were not
encouraged to believe that funds would be provided. And our belief has
been fully justified by subsequent events.

“Not to mention other circumstances, it is quite sufficient for our
purpose to bring to your notice the fact that, while this resolution was
under consideration in the Senate, our colleague, the Senator from
Kentucky, moved an amendment appropriating $500,000 to the object
therein designated, and it was voted down with great unanimity.

“What confidence, then, could we reasonably feel that if we committed
ourselves to the policy it proposed, our constituents would reap the
fruits of the promise held out; and on what ground could we, as fair
men, approach them and challenge their support?

“The right to hold Slaves, is a right appertaining to all the States of
this Union. They have the right to cherish or abolish the Institution,
as their tastes or their interests may prompt, and no one is authorized
to question the right or limit the enjoyment. And no one has more
clearly affirmed that right than you have. Your Inaugural Address does
you great honor in this respect, and inspired the Country with
confidence in your fairness and respect for the Law. Our States are in
the enjoyment of that right.

“We do not feel called on to defend the Institution or to affirm it is
one which ought to be cherished; perhaps, if we were to make the
attempt, we might find that we differ even among ourselves. It is
enough for our purpose to know that it is a right; and, so knowing, we
did not see why we should now be expected to yield it.

“We had contributed our full share to relieve the Country at this
terrible crisis; we had done as much as had been required of others in
like circumstances; and we did not see why sacrifices should be expected
of us from which others, no more loyal, were exempt. Nor could we see
what good the Nation would derive from it.

“Such a sacrifice submitted to by us would not have strengthened the arm
of this Government or weakened that of the Enemy. It was not necessary
as a pledge of our Loyalty, for that had been manifested beyond a
reasonable doubt, in every form, and at every place possible. There was
not the remotest probability that the States we represent would join in
the Rebellion, nor is there now, or of their electing to go with the
Southern Section in the event of a recognition of the Independence of
any part of the disaffected region.

“Our States are fixed unalterably in their resolution to adhere to and
support the Union. They see no safety for themselves, and no hope for
Constitutional Liberty, but by its preservation. They will, under no
circumstances, consent to its dissolution; and we do them no more than
justice when we assure you that, while the War is conducted to prevent
that deplorable catastrophe, they will sustain it as long as they can
muster a man, or command a dollar.

“Nor will they ever consent, in any event, to unite with the Southern
Confederacy. The bitter fruits of the peculiar doctrines of that region
will forever prevent them from placing their security and happiness in
the custody of an association which has incorporated in its Organic Law
the seeds of its own destruction.

“We cannot admit, Mr. President, that if we had voted for the Resolution
in the Emancipation Message of March last, the War would now be
substantially ended. We are unable to see how our action in this
particular has given, or could give, encouragement to the Rebellion.
The Resolution has passed; and if there be virtue in it, it will be
quite as efficacious as if we had voted for it.

“We have no power to bind our States in this respect by our votes here;
and, whether we had voted the one way or the other, they are in the same
condition of freedom to accept or reject its provisions.

“No, Sir, the War has not been prolonged or hindered by our action on
this or any other measure. We must look for other causes for that
lamented fact. We think there is not much difficulty, not much
uncertainty, in pointing out others far more probable and potent in
their agencies to that end.

“The Rebellion derives its strength from the Union of all classes in the
Insurgent States; and while that Union lasts the War will never end
until they are utterly exhausted. We know that, at the inception of
these troubles, Southern society was divided, and that a large portion,
perhaps a majority, were opposed to Secession. Now the great mass of
Southern people are united.

“To discover why they are so, we must glance at Southern society, and
notice the classes into which it has been divided, and which still
distinguish it. They are in arms, but not for the same objects; they
are moved to a common end, but by different and even inconsistent
reasons.

“The leaders, which comprehend what was previously known as the State
Rights Party, and is much the lesser class, seek to break down National
Independence and set up State domination. With them it is a War against
Nationality.

“The other class is fighting, as it supposes, to maintain and preserve
its rights of Property and domestic safety, which it has been made to
believe are assailed by this Government. This latter class are not
Disunionists per se; they are so only because they have been made to
believe that this Administration is inimical to their rights, and is
making War on their domestic Institutions. As long as these two classes
act together they will never assent to a Peace.

“The policy, then, to be pursued, is obvious. The former class will
never be reconciled, but the latter may be. Remove their apprehensions;
satisfy them that no harm is intended to them and their Institutions;
that this Government is not making War on their rights of Property, but
is simply defending its legitimate authority, and they will gladly
return to their allegiance as soon as the pressure of Military dominion
imposed by the Confederate authority is removed from them.

“Twelve months ago, both Houses of Congress, adopting the spirit of your
Message, then but recently sent in, declared with singular unanimity the
objects of the War, and the Country instantly bounded to your side to
assist you in carrying it on. If the spirit of that Resolution had been
adhered to, we are confident that we should before now have seen the end
of this deplorable conflict. But what have we seen?

“In both Houses of Congress we have heard doctrines subversive of the
principles of the Constitution, and seen measure after measure, founded
in substance on those doctrines, proposed and carried through, which can
have no other effect than to distract and divide loyal men, and
exasperate and drive still further from us and their duty the people of
the rebellious States.

“Military officers, following these bad examples, have stepped beyond
the just limits of their authority in the same direction, until in
several instances you have felt the necessity of interfering to arrest
them. And even the passage of the Resolution to which you refer has
been ostentatiously proclaimed as the triumph of a principle which the
people of the Southern States regard as ruinous to them. The effect of
these measures was foretold, and may now be seen in the indurated state
of Southern feeling.

“To these causes, Mr. President, and not to our omission to vote for the
Resolution recommended by you, we solemnly believe we are to attribute
the terrible earnestness of those in arms against the Government, and
the continuance of the War. Nor do we (permit us to say, Mr. President,
with all respect to you) agree that the Institution of Slavery is ‘the
lever of their power,’ but we are of the opinion that ‘the lever of
their power’ is the apprehension that the powers of a common Government,
created for common and equal protection to the interests of all, will be
wielded against the Institutions of the Southern States.

“There is one other idea in your address we feel called on to notice.
After stating the fact of your repudiation of General Hunter’s
Proclamation, you add:

“‘Yet, in repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offense, to
many whose support the Country cannot afford to lose. And this is not
the end of it. The pressure in this direction is still upon me and is
increasing. By conceding what I now ask, you can relieve me, and, much
more, can relieve the Country, in this important point,’

“We have anxiously looked into this passage to discover its true import,
but we are yet in painful uncertainty. How can we, by conceding what
you now ask, relieve you and the Country from the increasing pressure to
which you refer? We will not allow ourselves to think that the
proposition is, that we consent to give up Slavery, to the end that the
Hunter proclamation may be let loose on the Southern people, for it is
too well known that we would not be parties to any such measure, and we
have too much respect for you to imagine you would propose it.

“Can it mean that by sacrificing our interest in Slavery we appease the
spirit that controls that pressure, cause it to be withdrawn, and rid
the Country of the pestilent agitation of the Slavery question? We are
forbidden so to think, for that spirit would not be satisfied with the
liberation of 100,000 Slaves, and cease its agitation while 3,000,000
remain in bondage. Can it mean that by abandoning Slavery in our States
we are removing the pressure from you and the Country, by preparing for
a separation on the line of the Cotton States?

“We are forbidden so to think, because it is known that we are, and we
believe that you are, unalterably opposed to any division at all. We
would prefer to think that you desire this concession as a pledge of our
support, and thus enable you to withstand a pressure which weighs
heavily on you and the Country.

“Mr. President, no such sacrifice is necessary to secure our support.
Confine yourself to your Constitutional authority; confine your
subordinates within the same limits; conduct this War solely for the
purpose of restoring the Constitution to its legitimate authority;
concede to each State and its loyal citizens their just rights, and we
are wedded to you by indissoluble ties. Do this, Mr. President, and you
touch the American heart, and invigorate it with new hope. You will, as
we solemnly believe, in due time restore Peace to your Country, lift it
from despondency to a future of glory, and preserve to your countrymen,
their posterity, and man, the inestimable treasure of a Constitutional
Government.

“Mr. President, we have stated with frankness and candor the reasons on
which we forbore to vote for the Resolution you have mentioned; but you
have again presented this proposition, and appealed to us with an
earnestness and eloquence which have not failed to impress us, to
‘consider it, and at the least to commend it to the consideration of our
States and people.’

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