The Great Conspiracy

“On the sixth day of March last, by a Special Message, I recommended to
Congress the adoption of a Joint Resolution to be substantially as

“‘ Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State
which may adopt a gradual abolishment of Slavery, giving to such State
pecuniary aid, to be used by such State, in its discretion, to
compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such
change of system.’

“The Resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large
majorities in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentic,
definite, and solemn proposal of the Nation to the States and people
most immediately interested in the subject-matter. To the people of
those States I now earnestly appeal–I do not argue–I beseech you to
make the argument for yourselves–you cannot, if you would, be blind to
the signs of the times–I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration
of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan
politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting
no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The changes it
contemplates would come gently as the dews of Heaven, not rending or
wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been
done, by one effort, in all past time, as, in the providence of God, it
is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to
lament that you have neglected it.

“In witness thereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed.

“Done at the city of Washington this nineteenth day of May, in the year
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the
Independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.

“By the President. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

“WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.”
On June 5th, 1862, General T. Williams issued the following Order:

“BATON ROUGE, June 5, 1862.
“[General Orders No. 46.]

“In consequence of the demoralizing and disorganizing tendencies to the
troops, of harboring runaway Negroes, it is hereby ordered that the
respective Commanders of the camps and garrisons of the several
regiments, Second Brigade, turn all such Fugitives in their camps or
garrisons out beyond the limits of their respective guards and

“By order of Brigadier-General T. Williams:

“Assistant-Adjutant General.”
Lieutenant-Colonel D. R. Anthony, of the Seventh Kansas Volunteers,
commanding a Brigade, issued the following order, at a date subsequent
to the Battle of Pittsburg Landing and the evacuation of Corinth:

“[General Orders No. 26.]

“1. The impudence–and impertinence of the open and armed Rebels,
Traitors, Secessionists, and Southern-Rightsmen of this section of the
State of Tennessee, in arrogantly demanding the right to search our camp
for Fugitive Slaves, has become a nuisance, and will no longer be
tolerated. “Officers will see that this class of men, who visit our
camp for this purpose, are excluded from our lines.

“2. Should any such persons be found within our lines, they will be
arrested and sent to headquarters.

“3. Any officer or soldier of this command who shall arrest and deliver
to his master a Fugitive Slave, shall be summarily and severely
punished, according to the laws relative to such crimes.

“4. The strong Union sentiment in this Section is most gratifying, and
all officers and soldiers, in their intercourse with the loyal, and
those favorably disposed, are requested to act in their usual kind and
courteous manner and protect them to the fullest extent.

“By order of D. R. Anthony, Lieutenant-Colonel Seventh Kansas
Volunteers, commanding:

“Captain and Assistant-Adjutant General.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony was subsequently placed under arrest for
issuing the above order.

It was about this time, also, that General McClellan addressed to
President Lincoln a letter on “forcible Abolition of Slavery,” and “a
Civil and Military policy”–in these terms:


“MR. PRESIDENT:–You have been fully informed that the Rebel Army is in
the front, with the purpose of overwhelming us by attacking our
positions or reducing us by blocking our river communications. I cannot
but regard our condition as critical, and I earnestly desire, in view of
possible contingencies, to lay before your Excellency, for your private
consideration, my general views concerning the existing state of the
Rebellion, although they do not strictly relate to the situation of this
Army, or strictly come within the scope of my official duties. These
views amount to convictions, and are deeply impressed upon my mind and

“Our cause must never be abandoned; it is the cause of Free institutions
and Self-government. The Constitution and the Union must be preserved,
whatever may be the cost in time, treasure, and blood.

“If Secession is successful, other dissolutions are clearly to be seen
in the future. Let neither Military disaster, political faction, nor
Foreign War shake your settled purpose to enforce the equal operation of
the Laws of the United States upon the people of every State.

“The time has come when the Government must determine upon a Civil and
Military policy, covering the whole ground of our National trouble.

“The responsibility of determining, declaring, and supporting such Civil
and Military policy, and of directing the whole course of National
affairs in regard to the Rebellion, must now be assumed and exercised by
you, or our Cause will be lost. The Constitution gives you power, even
for the present terrible exigency.

“This Rebellion has assumed the character of a War; as such it should be
regarded, and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known
to Christian civilization. It should not be a War looking to the
subjugation of the people of any State, in any event. It should not be
at all a war upon population, but against armed forces and political
organizations. Neither Confiscation of property, political executions
of persons, territorial organizations of States, or forcible Abolition
of Slavery, should be contemplated for a moment.

“In prosecuting the War, all private property and unarmed persons should
be strictly protected, subject only to the necessity of Military
operations; all private property taken for Military use should be paid
or receipted for; pillage and waste should be treated as high crimes;
all unnecessary trespass sternly prohibited and offensive demeanor by
the military towards citizens promptly rebuked.

“Military arrests should not be tolerated, except in places where active
hostilities exist; and oaths, not required by enactments,
Constitutionally made, should be neither demanded nor received.

“Military Government should be confined to the preservation of public
order and the protection of political right. Military power should not
be allowed to interfere with the relations of Servitude, either by
supporting or impairing the authority of the master, except for
repressing disorder, as in other cases. Slaves, contraband under the
Act of Congress, seeking Military protection, should receive it.

“The right of the Government to appropriate permanently to its own
service claims to Slave-labor should be asserted, and the right of the
owner to compensation therefor should be recognized.

“This principle might be extended, upon grounds of Military necessity
and security, to all the Slaves of a particular State, thus working
manumission in such State; and in Missouri, perhaps in Western Virginia
also, and possibly even in Maryland, the expediency of such a measure is
only a question of time.

“A system of policy thus Constitutional, and pervaded by the influences
of Christianity and Freedom, would receive the support of almost all
truly Loyal men, would deeply impress the Rebel masses and all foreign
nations, and it might be humbly hoped that it would commend itself to
the favor of the Almighty.

“Unless the principles governing the future conduct of our Struggle
shall be made known and approved, the effort to obtain requisite forces
will be almost hopeless. A declaration of radical views, especially
upon Slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present Armies.

“The policy of the Government must be supported by concentrations of
Military power. The National Forces should not be dispersed in
expeditions, posts of occupation, and numerous armies, but should be
mainly collected into masses, and brought to bear upon the Armies of the
Confederate States. Those Armies thoroughly defeated, the political
structure which they support would soon cease to exist,

“In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will
require a Commander-in-chief of the Army, one who possesses your
confidence, understands your views, and who is competent to execute your
orders, by directing the Military Forces of the Nation to the
accomplishment of the objects by you proposed. I do not ask that place
for myself, I am willing to serve you in such position as you may assign
me, and I will do so as faithfully as ever subordinate served superior.

“I may be on the brink of Eternity; and as I hope forgiveness from my
Maker, I have written this letter with sincerity towards you and from
love for my Country.

“Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

“Major-General Commanding.

“His Excellency A. LINCOLN, President.”
July 12, 1862, Senators and Representatives of the Border Slave-holding
States, having been specially invited to the White House for the
purpose, were addressed by President Lincoln, as follows:

“GENTLEMEN:–After the adjournment of Congress, now near, I shall have
no opportunity of seeing you for several months. Believing that you of
the Border States hold more power for good than any other equal number
of members, I feel it a duty which I cannot justifiably waive, to make
this appeal to you.

“I intend no reproach or complaint when I assure you that, in my
opinion, if you all had voted for the Resolution in the Gradual
Emancipation Message of last March, the War would now be substantially
ended. And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent and
swift means of ending it. Let the States which are in Rebellion see
definitely and certainly that in no event will the States you represent
ever join their proposed Confederacy, and they cannot much longer
maintain the contest.

“But you cannot divest them of their hope to ultimately have you with
them so long as you show a determination to perpetuate the Institution
within your own States. Beat them at elections, as you have
overwhelmingly done, and nothing daunted, they still claim you as their
own. You and I know what the lever of their power is. Break that lever
before their faces, and they can shake you no more forever.

“Most of you have treated me with kindness and consideration, and I
trust you will not now think I improperly touch what is exclusively your
own, when, for the sake of the whole Country, I ask, ‘Can you, for your
States, do better than to take the course I urge?’ Discarding punctilio
and maxims adapted to more manageable times, and looking only to the
unprecedentedly stern facts of our case, can you do better in any
possible event?

“You prefer that the Constitutional relations of the States to the
Nation shall be practically restored without disturbance of the
Institution; and, if this were done, my whole duty, in this respect,
under the Constitution and my oath of office, would be performed. But
it is not done, and we are trying to accomplish it by War.

“The incidents of the War cannot be avoided. If the War continues long,
as it must, if the object be not sooner attained, the Institution in
your States will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion–by the
mere incidents of the War. It will be gone, and you will have nothing
valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already.

“How much better for you and for your people to take the step which at
once shortens the War and secures substantial compensation for that
which is sure to be wholly lost in any other event! How much better to
thus save the money which else we sink forever in the War! How: much
better to do it while we can, lest the War ere long render us
pecuniarily unable to do it! How much better for you, as seller, and
the Nation, as buyer, to sell out and buy out that without which the War
could never have been, than to sink both the thing to be sold and the
price of it in cutting one another’s throats!

“I do not speak of Emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to
Emancipate gradually. Room in South America for colonization can be
obtained cheaply and in abundance, and when numbers shall be large
enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people
will not be so reluctant to go.

“I am pressed with a difficulty not yet mentioned; one which threatens
division among those who, united, are none too strong. An instance of
it is known to you. General Hunter is an honest man. He was, and I
hope still is, my friend. I value him none the less for his agreeing
with me in the general wish that all men everywhere could be freed. He
proclaimed all men Free within certain States, and I repudiated the
proclamation. He expected more good and less harm from the measure than
I could believe would follow.

“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.

“Upon these considerations I have again begged your attention to the
Message of March last. Before leaving the Capitol, consider and discuss
it among yourselves. You are Patriots and Statesmen, and as such I pray
you consider this proposition; and, at the least, commend it to the
consideration of your States and people. As you would perpetuate
popular Government for the best people in the World, I beseech you that
you do in nowise omit this.

“Our common Country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and
boldest action to bring a speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of
Government is saved to the World, its beloved history and cherished
memories are vindicated, and its happy future fully assured and rendered
inconceivable grand. To you, more than to any others, the privilege is
given to assure that happiness and swell that grandeur, and to link your
own names therewith forever.”

The gentlemen representing in Congress the Border-States, to whom this
address was made, subsequently met and discussed its subject matter, and
made written reply in the shape of majority and minority replies, as


“WASHINGTON, July 14, 1862.


“The undersigned, Representatives of Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, and
Maryland, in the two Houses of Congress, have listened to your address
with the profound sensibility naturally inspired by the high source from
which it emanates, the earnestness which marked its delivery, and the
overwhelming importance of the subject of which it treats. We have
given it a most respectful consideration, and now lay before you our
response. We regret that want of time has not permitted us to make it
more perfect.

“We have not been wanting, Mr. President, in respect to you, and in
devotion to the Constitution and the Union. We have not been
indifferent to the great difficulties surrounding you, compared with
which all former National troubles have been but as the summer cloud;
and we have freely given you our sympathy and support. Repudiating the
dangerous heresies of the Secessionists, we believed, with you, that the
War on their part is aggressive and wicked, and the objects for which it
was to be prosecuted on ours, defined by your Message at the opening of
the present Congress, to be such as all good men should approve.

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