The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

I am informed by some whose opinions I respect that all the acts of
Congress now in force and of a permanent and general nature might be
revised and rewritten so as to be embraced in one volume (or at most
two volumes) of ordinary and convenient size; and I respectfully
recommend to Congress to consider of the subject, and if my
suggestion be approved to devise such plan as to their wisdom shall
seem most proper for the attainment of the end proposed.

One of the unavoidable consequences of the present insurrection is
the entire suppression in many places of all the ordinary means of
administering civil justice by the officers and in the forms of
existing law. This is the case, in whole or in part, in all the
insurgent States; and as our armies advance upon and take possession
of parts of those States the practical evil becomes more apparent.
There are no courts or officers to whom the citizens of other States
may apply for the enforcement of their lawful claims against citizens
of the insurgent States, and there is a vast amount of debt
constituting such claims. Some have estimated it as high as
$200,000,000, due in large part from insurgents in open rebellion to
loyal citizens who are even now making great sacrifices in the
discharge of their patriotic duty to support the government.

Under these circumstances I have been urgently solicited to
establish, by military power, courts to administer summary justice in
such cases. I have thus far declined to do it, not because I had any
doubt that the end proposed--the collection of the debts--was just
and right in itself, but because I have been unwilling to go beyond
the pressure of necessity in the unusual exercise of power. But the
powers of Congress, I suppose, are equal to the anomalous occasion,
and therefore I refer the whole matter to Congress, with the hope
that a plan maybe devised for the administration of justice in all
such parts of the insurgent States and Territories as may be under
the control of this government, whether by a voluntary return to
allegiance and order or by the power of our arms; this, however, not
to be a permanent institution, but a temporary substitute, and to
cease as soon as the ordinary courts can be reestablished in peace.

It is important that some more convenient means should be provided,
if possible, for the adjustment of claims against the government,
especially in view of their increased number by reason of the war.
It is as much the duty of government to render prompt justice against
itself in favor of citizens as it is to administer the same between
private individuals. The investigation and adjudication of claims in
their nature belong to the judicial department. Besides, it is
apparent that the attention of Congress will be more than usually
engaged for some time to come with great national questions. It was
intended by the organization of the Court of Claims mainly to remove
this branch of business from the halls of Congress; but, while the
court has proved to be an effective and valuable means of
investigation, it in great degree fails to effect the object of its
creation for want of power to make its judgments final.

Fully aware of the delicacy, not to say the danger of the subject, I
commend to your careful consideration whether this power of making
judgments final may not properly be given to the court, reserving the
right of appeal on questions of law to the Supreme Court, with such
other provisions as experience may have shown to be necessary.

I ask attention to the report of the Postmaster general, the
following being a summary statement of the condition of the
department:

The revenue from all sources during the fiscal year ending June 30,
1861, including the annual permanent appropriation of $700,000 for
the transportation of "free mail matter," was $9,049,296.40, being
about 2 per cent. less than the revenue for 1860.

The expenditures were $13,606,759.11, showing a decrease of more than
8 per cent. as compared with those of the previous year and leaving
an excess of expenditure over the revenue for the last fiscal year
of $4,557,462.71.

The gross revenue for the year ending June 30, 1863, is estimated at
an increase of 4 per cent. on that of 1861, making $8,683,000, to
which should be added the earnings of the department in carrying free
matter, viz., $700,000, making $9,383,000.

The total expenditures for 1863 are estimated at $12,528,000, leaving
an estimated deficiency of $3,145,000 to be supplied from the
treasury in addition to the permanent appropriation.

The present insurrection shows, I think, that the extension of this
District across the Potomac River at the time of establishing the
capital here was eminently wise, and consequently that the
relinquishment of that portion of it which lies within the State of
Virginia was unwise and dangerous. I submit for your consideration
the expediency of regaining that part of the District and the
restoration of the original boundaries thereof through negotiations
with the State of Virginia.

The report of the Secretary of the Interior, with the accompanying
documents, exhibits the condition of the several branches of the
public business pertaining to that department. The depressing
influences of the insurrection have been specially felt in the
operations of the Patent and General Land Offices. The cash receipts
from the sales of public lands during the past year have exceeded the
expenses of our land system only about $200,000. The sales have been
entirely suspended in the Southern States, while the interruptions to
the business of the country and the diversion of large numbers of men
from labor to military service have obstructed settlements in the new
States and Territories of the Northwest.

The receipts of the Patent Office have declined in nine months about
$100,000.00 rendering a large reduction of the force employed
necessary to make it self-sustaining.

The demands upon the Pension Office will be largely increased by the
insurrection. Numerous applications for pensions, based upon the
casualties of the existing war, have already been made. There is
reason to believe that many who are now upon the pension rolls and in
receipt of the bounty of the government are in the ranks of the
insurgent army or giving them aid and comfort. The Secretary of the
Interior has directed a suspension of the payment of the pensions of
such persons upon proof of their disloyalty. I recommend that
Congress authorize that officer to cause the names of such persons to
be stricken from the pension rolls.

The relations of the government with the Indian tribes have been
greatly disturbed by the insurrection, especially in the southern
superintendency and in that of New Mexico. The Indian country south
of Kansas is in the possession of insurgents from Texas and Arkansas.
The agents of the United States appointed since the 4th of March for
this superintendency have been unable to reach their posts, while the
most of those who were in office before that time have espoused the
insurrectionary cause, and assume to exercise the powers of agents by
virtue of commissions from the insurrectionists. It has been stated
in the public press that a portion of those Indians have been
organized as a military force and are attached to the army of the
insurgents. Although the government has no official information upon
this subject, letters have been written to the Commissioner of Indian
Affairs by several prominent chiefs giving assurance of their loyalty
to the United States and expressing a wish for the presence of
Federal troops to protect them. It is believed that upon the
repossession of the country by the Federal forces the Indians will
readily cease all hostile demonstrations and resume their former
relations to the government.

Agriculture, confessedly the largest interest of the nation, has not
a department nor a bureau, but a clerkship only, assigned to it in
the government. While it is fortunate that this great interest is so
independent in its nature as not to have demanded and extorted more
from the government, I respectfully ask Congress to consider whether
something more cannot be given voluntarily with general advantage.

Annual reports exhibiting the condition of our agriculture, commerce,
and manufactures would present a fund of information of great
practical value to the country. While I make no suggestion as to
details, I venture the opinion that an agricultural and statistical
bureau might profitably be organized.

The execution of the laws for the suppression of the African slave
trade has been confided to the Department of the Interior. It is a
subject of gratulation that the efforts which have been made for the
suppression of this inhuman traffic have been recently attended with
unusual success. Five vessels being fitted out for the slave trade
have been seized and condemned. Two mates of vessels engaged in the
trade and one person in equipping a vessel as a slaver have been
convicted and subjected to the penalty of fine and imprisonment, and
one captain, taken with a cargo of Africans on board his vessel, has
been convicted of the highest grade of offense under our laws, the
punishment of which is death.

The Territories of Colorado, Dakota, and Nevada, created by the last
Congress, have been organized, and civil administration has been
inaugurated therein under auspices especially gratifying when it is
considered that the leaven of treason was found existing in some of
these new countries when the Federal officers arrived there.

The abundant natural resources of these Territories, with the
security and protection afforded by organized government, will
doubtless invite to them a large immigration when peace shall restore
the business of the country to its accustomed channels. I submit the
resolutions of the Legislature of Colorado, which evidence the
patriotic spirit of the people of the Territory. So far the
authority of the United States has been upheld in all the
Territories, as it is hoped it will be in the future. I commend
their interests and defense to the enlightened and generous care of
Congress.

I recommend to the favorable consideration of Congress the interests
of the District of Columbia. The insurrection has been the cause of
much suffering and sacrifice to its inhabitants, and as they have no
representative in Congress that body should not overlook their just
claims upon the government.

At your late session a joint resolution was adopted authorizing the
President to take measures for facilitating a proper representation
of the industrial interests of the United States at the exhibition of
the industry of all nations to be holden at London in the year 1862.
I regret to say I have been unable to give personal attention to this
subject--a subject at once so interesting in itself and so
extensively and intimately connected with the material prosperity of
the world. Through the Secretaries of State and of the Interior a
plan or system has been devised and partly matured, and which will be
laid before you.

Under and by virtue of the act of Congress entitled "An act to
confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes," approved
August 6, 1861, the legal claims of certain persons to the labor and
service of certain other persons have become forfeited, and numbers
of the latter thus liberated are already dependent on the United
States, and must be provided for in some way. Besides this, it is
not impossible that some of the States will pass similar enactments
for their own benefit respectively, and by operation of which persons
of the same class will be thrown upon them for disposal. In such
case I recommend that Congress provide for accepting such persons
from such States, according to some mode of valuation, in lieu, pro
tanto, of direct taxes, or upon some other plan to be agreed on with
such States respectively; that such persons, on such acceptance by
the General Government, be at once deemed free, and that in any event
steps be taken for colonizing both classes (or the one first
mentioned if the other shall not be brought into existence) at some
place or places in a climate congenial to them. It might be well to
consider, too, whether the free colored people already in the United
States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included in
such colonization.

To carry out the plan of colonization may involve the acquiring of
territory, and also the appropriation of money beyond that to be
expended in the territorial acquisition. Having practised the
acquisition of territory for nearly sixty years, the question of
constitutional power to do so is no longer an open one with us. The
power was questioned at first by Mr. Jefferson, who, however, in the
purchase of Louisiana, yielded his scruples on the plea of great
expediency. If it be said that the only legitimate object of
acquiring territory is to furnish homes for white men, this measure
effects that object, for emigration of colored men leaves additional
room for white men remaining or coming here. Mr. Jefferson, however,
placed the importance of procuring Louisiana more on political and
commercial grounds than on providing room for population.

On this whole proposition, including the appropriation of money with
the acquisition of territory, does not the expediency amount to
absolute necessity--that without which the government itself cannot
be perpetuated?

The war continues. In considering the policy to be adopted for
suppressing the insurrection I have been anxious and careful that the
inevitable conflict for this purpose shall not degenerate into a
violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle. I have therefore in
every case thought it proper to keep the integrity of the Union
prominent as the primary object of the contest on our part, leaving
all questions which are not of vital military importance to the more
deliberate action of the Legislature.

In the exercise of my best discretion I have adhered to the blockade
of the ports held by the insurgents, instead of putting in force by
proclamation the law of Congress enacted at the late session for
closing those ports.

So also, obeying the dictates of prudence, as well as the obligations
of law, instead of transcending I have adhered to the act of Congress
to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes. If a new
law upon the same subject shall be proposed, its propriety will be
duly considered. The Union must be preserved, and hence all
indispensable means must be employed. We should not be in haste to
determine that radical and extreme measures, which may reach the
loyal as well as the disloyal, are indispensable.

The inaugural address at the beginning of the Administration and the
message to Congress at the late special session were both mainly
devoted to topics domestic controversy out of which the insurrection
and consequent war have sprung. Nothing now occurs to add or
subtract to or from the principles or general purposes stated and
expressed in those documents.

The last ray of hope for preserving the Union peaceably expired at
the assault upon Fort Sumter, and a general review of what has
occurred since may not be unprofitable. What was painfully uncertain
then is much better defined and more distinct now, and the progress
of events is plainly in the right direction. The insurgents
confidently claimed a strong support from north of Mason and Dixon's
line, and the friends of the Union were not free from apprehension on
the point. This, however, was soon settled definitely, and on the
right side. South of the line noble little Delaware led off right
from the first. Maryland was made to seem against the Union. Our
soldiers were assaulted, bridges were burned, and railroads torn up
within her limits, and we were many days at one time without the
ability to bring a single regiment over her soil to the capital. Now
her bridges and railroads are repaired and open to the government;
she already gives seven regiments to the cause of the Union, and none
to the enemy; and her people, at a regular election, have sustained
the Union by a larger majority and a larger aggregate vote than they
ever before gave to any candidate or any question. Kentucky, too,
for some time in doubt, is now decidedly and, I think, unchangeably
ranged on the side of the Union. Missouri is comparatively quiet,
and, I believe, can, not again be overrun by the insurrectionists.
These three States of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, neither of
which would promise a single soldier at first, have now an aggregate
of not less than forty thousand in the field for the Union, while of
their citizens certainly not more than a third of that number, and
they of doubtful whereabouts and doubtful existence, are in arms
against us. After a somewhat bloody struggle of months, winter
closes on the Union people of western Virginia, leaving them masters
of their own country.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 | View All | Next -»