The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7


iSpeech

The increase of the number of seamen in the public service from 7,500
men in the spring of 1861 to about 34,000 at the present time has
been accomplished without special legislation or extraordinary
bounties to promote that increase. It has been found, however, that
the operation of the draft, with the high bounties paid for army
recruits, is beginning to affect injuriously the naval service, and
will, if not corrected, be likely to impair its efficiency by
detaching seamen from their proper vocation and inducing them to
enter the Army. I therefore respectfully suggest that Congress
might aid both the army and naval services by a definite provision on
this subject which would at the same time be equitable to the
communities more especially interested.

I commend to your consideration the suggestions of the Secretary of
the Navy in regard to the policy of fostering and training seamen and
also the education of officers and engineers for the naval service.
The Naval Academy is rendering signal service in preparing midshipmen
for the highly responsible duties which in after life they will be
required to perform. In order that the country should not be
deprived of the proper quota of educated officers, for which legal
provision has been made at the naval school, the vacancies caused by
the neglect or omission to make nominations from the States in
insurrection have been filled by the Secretary of the Navy. The
school is now more full and complete than at any former period, and
in every respect entitled to the favorable consideration of Congress.

During the past fiscal year the financial condition of the Post-
Office Department has been one of increasing prosperity, and I am
gratified in being able to state that the actual postal revenue has
nearly equaled the entire expenditures, the latter amounting to
$11,314,206.84 and the former to $11,163,789.59, leaving a deficiency
of but $150,417.25. In 1860, the year immediately preceding the
rebellion, the deficiency amounted to $5,656,705.49, the postal
receipts of that year being $2,645,722.19 less that those of 1863.
The decrease since 1860 in the annual amount of transportation has
been only about twenty-five per cent, but the annual expenditure on
account of the same has been reduced thirty-five per cent. It is
manifest, therefore, that the Post-Office Department may become self-
sustaining in a few years, even with the restoration of the whole
service.

The international conference of postal delegates from the principal
countries of Europe and America, which was called at the suggestion
of the Postmaster-General, met at Paris on the 11th of May last and
concluded its deliberations on the 8th of June. The principles
established by the conference as best adapted to facilitate postal
intercourse between nations and as the basis of future postal
conventions inaugurate a general system of uniform international
charges at reduced rates of postage, and can not fail to produce
beneficial results.

I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Interior, which is
herewith laid before you, for useful and varied information in
relation to the public lands, Indian affairs, patents, pensions, and
other matters of public concern pertaining to his Department.

The quantity of land disposed of during the last and the first
quarter of the present fiscal years was 3,841,549 acres, of which
161,911 acres were sold for cash, 1,456,514 acres were taken up under
the homestead law, and the residue disposed of under laws granting
lands for military bounties, for railroad and other purposes. It
also appears that the sale of the public lands is largely on the
increase.

It has long been a cherished opinion of some of our wisest statesmen
that the people of the United States had a higher and more enduring
interest in the early settlement and substantial cultivation of the
public lands than in the amount of direct revenue to be derived from
the sale of them. This opinion has had a controlling influence in
shaping legislation upon the subject of our national domain. I may
cite as evidence of this the liberal measures adopted in reference to
actual settlers; the grant to the States of the overflowed lands
within their limits, in order to their being reclaimed and rendered
fit for cultivation; the grants to railway companies of alternate
sections of land upon the contemplated lines of their roads, which
when completed will so largely multiply the facilities for reaching
our distant possessions. This policy has received its most signal
and beneficent illustration in the recent enactment granting
homesteads to actual settlers. Since the 1st day of January last the
before-mentioned quantity of 1,456,514 acres of land have been taken
up under its provisions. This fact and the amount of sales furnish
gratifying evidence of increasing settlement upon the public lands,
notwithstanding the great struggle in which the energies of the
nation have been engaged, and which has required so large a
withdrawal of our citizens from their accustomed pursuits. I
cordially concur in the recommendation of the Secretary of the
Interior suggesting a modification of the act in favor of those
engaged in the military and naval service of the United States. I
doubt not that Congress will cheerfully adopt such measures as will,
without essentially changing the general features of the system,
secure to the greatest practicable extent its benefits to those who
have left their homes in the defense of the country in this arduous
crisis.

I invite your attention to the views of the Secretary as to the
propriety of raising by appropriate legislation a revenue from the
mineral lands of the United States.

The measures provided at your last session for the removal of certain
Indian tribes have been carried into effect. Sundry treaties have
been negotiated, which will in due time be submitted for the
constitutional action of the Senate. They contain stipulations for
extinguishing the possessory rights of the Indians to large and
valuable tracts of lands. It is hoped that the effect of these
treaties will result in the establishment of permanent friendly
relations with such of these tribes as have been brought into
frequent and bloody collision with our outlying settlements and
emigrants. Sound policy and our imperative duty to these wards of
the Government demand our anxious and constant attention to their
material well-being, to their progress in the arts of civilization,
and, above all, to that moral training which under the blessing of
Divine Providence will confer upon them the elevated and sanctifying
influences, the hopes and consolations, of the Christian faith.

I suggested in my last annual message the propriety of remodeling our
Indian system. Subsequent events have satisfied me of its necessity.
The details set forth in the report of the Secretary evince the
urgent need for immediate legislative action.

I commend the benevolent institutions established or patronized by
the Government in this District to your generous and fostering care.

The attention of Congress during the last session was engaged to some
extent with a proposition for enlarging the water communication
between the Mississippi River and the northeastern seaboard, which
proposition, however, failed for the time. Since then, upon a call
of the greatest respectability, a convention has been held at Chicago
upon the same subject, a summary of whose views is contained in a
memorial addressed to the President and Congress, and which I now
have the honor to lay before you. That this interest is one which
ere long will force its own way I do not entertain a doubt, while it
is submitted entirely to your wisdom as to what can be done now.
Augmented interest is given to this subject by the actual
commencement of work upon the Pacific Railroad, under auspices so
favorable to rapid progress and completion. The enlarged navigation
becomes a palpable need to the great road.

I transmit the second annual report of the Commissioner of the
Department of Agriculture, asking your attention to the developments
in that vital interest of the nation.

When Congress assembled a year ago, the war had already lasted nearly
twenty months, and there had been many conflicts on both land and
sea, with varying results; the rebellion had been pressed back into
reduced limits; yet the tone of public feeling and opinion, at home
and abroad, was not satisfactory. With other signs, the popular
elections then just past indicated uneasiness among ourselves, while,
amid much that was cold and menacing, the kindest words coming from
Europe were uttered in accents of pity that we are too blind to
surrender a hopeless cause. Our commerce was suffering greatly by a
few armed vessels built upon and furnished from foreign shores, and
we were threatened with such additions from the same quarter as would
sweep our trade from the sea and raise our blockade. We had failed
to elicit from European governments anything hopeful upon this
subject. The preliminary emancipation proclamation, issued in
September, was running its assigned period to the beginning of the
new year. A month later the final proclamation came, including the
announcement that colored men of suitable condition would be received
into the war service. The policy of emancipation and of employing
black soldiers gave to the future a new aspect, about which hope and
fear and doubt contended in uncertain conflict. According to our
political system, as a matter of civil administration, the General
Government had no lawful power to effect emancipation in any State,
and for a long time it had been hoped that the rebellion could be
suppressed without resorting to it as a military measure. It was all
the while deemed possible that the necessity for it might come, and
that if it should the crisis of the contest would then be presented.
It came, and, as was anticipated, it was followed by dark and
doubtful days. Eleven months having now passed, we are permitted to
take another review. The rebel borders are pressed still farther
back, and by the complete opening of the Mississippi the country
dominated by the rebellion is divided into distinct parts, with no
practical communication between them. Tennessee and Arkansas have
been substantially cleared of insurgent control, and influential
citizens in each, owners of slaves and advocates of slavery at the
beginning of the rebellion, now declare openly for emancipation in
their respective States. Of those States not included in the
emancipation proclamation, Maryland and Missouri, neither of which
three years ago would tolerate any restraint upon the extension of
slavery into new Territories, dispute now only as to the best mode of
removing it within their own limits.

Of those who were slaves at the beginning of the rebellion full
100,000 are now in the United States military service, about one-half
of which number actually bear arms in the ranks, thus giving the
double advantage of taking so much labor from the insurgent cause and
supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many
white men. So far as tested, it is difficult to say they are not as
good soldiers as any. No servile insurrection or tendency to
violence or cruelty has marked the measures of emancipation and
arming the blacks. These measures have been much discussed in
foreign countries, and, contemporary with such discussion, the tone
of public sentiment there is much improved. At home the same
measures have been fully discussed, supported, criticized, and
denounced, and the annual elections following are highly encouraging
to those whose official duty it is to bear the country through this
great trial. Thus we have the new reckoning. The crisis which
threatened to divide the friends of the Union is past.

Looking now to the present and future, and with reference to a
resumption of the national authority within the States wherein that
authority has been suspended, I have thought fit to issue a
proclamation, a copy of which is herewith transmitted. On
examination of this proclamation it will appear, as is believed, that
nothing will be attempted beyond what is amply justified by the
Constitution. True, the form of an oath is given, but no man is
coerced to take it. The man is promised a pardon only in case he
voluntarily takes the oath. The Constitution authorizes the
Executive to grant or withhold the pardon at his own absolute
discretion, and this includes the power to grant on terms, as is
fully established by judicial and other authorities.

It is also proffered that if in any of the States named a State
government shall be in the mode prescribed set up, such government
shall be recognized and guaranteed by the United States, and that
under it the State shall, on the constitutional conditions, be
protected against invasion and domestic violence. The constitutional
obligation of the United States to guarantee to every State in the
Union a republican form of government and to protect the State in the
cases stated is explicit and full. But why tender the benefits of
this provision only to a State government set up in this particular
way? This section of the Constitution contemplates a case wherein the
element within a State favorable to republican government in the
Union may be too feeble for an opposite and hostile element external
to or even within the State, and such are precisely the cases with
which we are now dealing.

An attempt to guarantee and protect a revived State government,
constructed in whole or in preponderating part from the very element
against whose hostility and violence it is to be protected, is simply
absurd. There must be a test by which to separate the opposing
elements, so as to build only from the sound; and that test is a
sufficiently liberal one which accepts as sound whoever will make a
sworn recantation of his former unsoundness.

But if it be proper to require as a test of admission to the
political body an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the
United States and to the Union under it, why also to the laws and
proclamations in regard to slavery? Those laws and proclamations were
enacted and put forth for the purpose of aiding in the suppression of
the rebellion. To give them their fullest effect there had to be a
pledge for their maintenance. In my judgment, they have aided and
will further aid the cause for which they were intended. To now
abandon them would be not only to relinquish a lever of power, but
would also be a cruel and an astounding breach of faith. I may add
at this point that while I remain in my present position I shall not
attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation, nor shall
I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that
proclamation or by any of the acts of Congress. For these and other
reasons it is thought best that support of these measures shall be
included in the oath, and it is believed the Executive may lawfully
claim it in return for pardon and restoration of forfeited rights,
which he has clear constitutional power to withhold altogether or
grant upon the terms which he shall deem wisest for the public
interest. It should be observed also that this part of the oath is
subject to the modifying and abrogating power of legislation and
supreme judicial decision.

The proposed acquiescence of the National Executive in any reasonable
temporary State arrangement for the freed people is made with the
view of possibly modifying the confusion and destitution which must
at best attend all classes by a total revolution of labor throughout
whole States. It is hoped that the already deeply afflicted people
in those States may be somewhat more ready to give up the cause of
their affliction if to this extent this vital matter be left to
themselves, while no power of the National Executive to prevent an
abuse is abridged by the proposition.

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