The Great Conspiracy

“Thus appealed to by the Chief Magistrate of our beloved Country, in the
hour of its greatest peril, we cannot wholly decline. We are willing to
trust every question relating to their interest and happiness to the
consideration and ultimate judgment of our own people.

“While differing from you as to the necessity of Emancipating the Slaves
of our States as a means of putting down the Rebellion, and while
protesting against the propriety of any extra-territorial interference
to induce the people of our States to adopt any particular line of
policy on a subject which peculiarly and exclusively belongs to them,
yet, when you and our brethren of the Loyal States sincerely believe
that the retention of Slavery by us is an obstacle to Peace and National
harmony, and are willing to contribute pecuniary aid to compensate our
States and people for the inconveniences produced by such a change of
system, we are not unwilling that our people shall consider the
propriety of putting it aside.

“But we have already said that we regard this Resolution as the
utterance of a sentiment, and we had no confidence that it would assume
the shape of a tangible practical proposition, which would yield the
fruits of the sacrifice it required. Our people are influenced by the
same want of confidence, and will not consider the proposition in its
present impalpable form. The interest they are asked to give up is, to
them, of immense importance, and they ought not to be expected even to
entertain the proposal until they are assured that when they accept it
their just expectations will not be frustrated.

“We regard your plan as a proposition from the Nation to the States to
exercise an admitted Constitutional right in a particular manner, and
yield up a valuable interest. Before they ought to consider the
proposition, it should be presented in such a tangible, practical,
efficient shape, as to command their confidence that its fruits are
contingent only upon their acceptance. We cannot trust anything to the
contingencies of future legislation.

“If Congress, by proper and necessary legislation, shall provide
sufficient funds and place them at your disposal to be applied by you to
the payment of any of our States, or the citizens thereof, who shall
adopt the Abolishment of Slavery, either gradual or immediate, as they
may determine, and the expense of deportation and colonization of the
liberated Slaves, then will our States and people take this proposition
into careful consideration, for such decision as in their judgment is
demanded by their interest, their honor, and their duty to the whole
Country. We have the honor to be, with great respect,

“C. A. WICKLIFFE, Ch’man,

“WASHINGTON, July 15, 1863.

“MR. PRESIDENT:–The undersigned, members of Congress from the Border
States, in response to your address of Saturday last, beg leave to say
that they attended a meeting, on the same day the address was delivered,
for the purpose of considering the same. The meeting appointed a
Committee to report a response to your address. That report was made on
yesterday, and the action of the majority indicated clearly that the
response, or one in substance the same, would be adopted and presented
to you.

“Inasmuch as we cannot, consistently with our own sense of duty to the
Country, under the existing perils which surround us, concur in that
response, we feel it to be due to you and to ourselves to make to you a
brief and candid answer over our own signatures.

“We believe that the whole power of the Government, upheld and sustained
by all the influences and means of all loyal men in all Sections, and of
all Parties, is essentially necessary to put down the Rebellion and
preserve the Union and the Constitution. We understand your appeal to
us to have been made for the purpose of securing this result.

“A very large portion of the People in the Northern States believe that
Slavery is the ‘lever-power of the Rebellion.’ It matters not whether
this belief be well-founded or not. The belief does exist, and we have
to deal with things as they are, and not as we would have them be.

“In consequence of the existence of this belief, we understand that an
immense pressure is brought to bear for the purpose of striking down
this Institution through the exercise of Military authority. The
Government cannot maintain this great struggle if the support and
influence of the men who entertain these opinions be withdrawn. Neither
can the Government hope for early success if the support of that element
called “Conservative” be withdrawn.

“Such being the condition of things, the President appeals to the
Border-State men to step forward and prove their patriotism by making
the first sacrifice. No doubt, like appeals have been made to extreme
men in the North to meet us half-way, in order that the whole moral,
political, pecuniary, and physical force of the Nation may be firmly and
earnestly united in one grand effort to save the Union and the

“Believing that such were the motives that prompted your Address, and
such the results to which it looked, we cannot reconcile it to our sense
of duty, in this trying hour, to respond in a spirit of fault-finding or
querulousness over the things that are past.

“We are not disposed to seek for the cause of present misfortunes in the
errors and wrongs of others who now propose to unite with us in a common

“But, on the other hand, we meet your address in the spirit in which it
was made, and, as loyal Americans, declare to you and to the World that
there is no sacrifice that we are not ready to make to save the
Government and institutions of our fathers. That we, few of us though
there may be, will permit no man, from the North or from the South, to
go further than we in the accomplishment of the great work before us.
That, in order to carry out these views, we will, so far as may be in
our power, ask the people of the Border States calmly, deliberately, and
fairly to consider your recommendations.

“We are the more emboldened to assume this position from the fact, now
become history, that the leaders of the Southern Rebellion have offered
to abolish Slavery among them as a condition to foreign intervention in
favor of their Independence as a Nation.

“If they can give up Slavery to destroy the Union, we can surely ask our
people to consider the question of Emancipation to save the Union.

“With great respect, your obedient servants,

[The following separate replies, subsequently made, by
Representative Maynard of Tennessee, and Senator Henderson of
Missouri, are necessarily given to complete this part of the Border
State record.]



“SIR:–The magnitude and gravity of the proposition submitted by you to
Representatives from the Slave States would naturally occasion
diversity, if not contrariety, of opinion. You will not, therefore, be
surprised that I have not been able to concur in view with the majority
of them.

“This is attributable, possibly, to the fact that my State is not a
Border State, properly so called, and that my immediate constituents are
not yet disenthralled from the hostile arms of the Rebellion. This fact
is a physical obstacle in the way of my now submitting to their
consideration this, or any other proposition looking to political
action, especially such as, in this case, would require a change in the
Organic Law of the State.

“But do not infer that I am insensible to your appeal. I am not; you
are surrounded with difficulties far greater than have embarrassed any
of your predecessors. You need the support of every American citizen,
and you ought to have it–active, zealous and honest. The union of all
Union men to aid you in preserving the Union, is the duty of the time.
Differences as to policy and methods must be subordinated to the common

“In looking for the cause of this Rebellion, it is natural that each
Section and each Party should ascribe as little blame as possible to
itself, and as much as possible to its opponent Section and Party.
Possibly you and I might not agree on a comparison of our views. That
there should be differences of opinion as to the best mode of conducting
our Military operations, and the best men to lead our Armies, is equally
natural. Contests on such questions weaken ourselves and strengthen our
enemies. They are unprofitable, and possibly unpatriotic. Somebody
must yield, or we waste our strength in a contemptible struggle among

“You appeal to the loyal men of the Slave States to sacrifice something
of feeling and a great deal of interest. The sacrifices they have
already made and the sufferings they have endured give the best
assurance that the appeal will not have been made in vain. He who is
not ready to yield all his material interests, and to forego his most
cherished sentiments and opinions for the preservation of his Country,
although he may have periled his life on the battle-field in her
defense, is but half a Patriot. Among the loyal people that I
represent, there are no half-patriots.

“Already the Rebellion has cost us much, even to our undoing; we are
content, if need be, to give up the rest, to suppress it. We have stood
by you from the beginning of this struggle, and we mean to stand by you,
God willing, till the end of it.

“I did not vote for the Resolution to which you allude, solely for the
reason that I was absent at the Capital of my own State. It is right.

“Should any of the Slave States think proper to terminate that
Institution, as several of them, I understand, or at least some of their
citizens propose, justice and a generous comity require that the Country
should interpose to aid in lessening the burden, public and private,
occasioned by so radical a change in its social and industrial

“I will not now speculate upon the effect, at home or abroad, of the
adoption of your policy, nor inquire what action of the Rebel leaders
has rendered something of the kind important. Your whole administration
gives the highest assurancee that you are moved, not so much from a
desire to see all men everywhere made free, as from a higher desire to
preserve free institutions for the benefit of men already free; not to
make Slaves, Freemen, but to prevent Freemen from being made Slaves; not
to destroy an Institution, which a portion of us only consider bad, but
to save institutions which we all alike consider good. I am satisfied
you would not ask from any of your fellow-citizens a sacrifice not, in
your judgment, imperatively required by the safety of the Country.

“This is the spirit of your appeal, and I respond to it in the same

“I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,




“WASHINGTON CITY, July 21, 1862.

“MR. PRESIDENT:–The pressure of business in the Senate during the last
few days of the session prevented my attendance at the meeting of the
Border-State members, called to consider your proposition in reference
to gradual emancipation in our States.

“It is for this reason only, and not because I fail to appreciate their
importance or properly respect your suggestions, that my name does not
appear to any of the several papers submitted in response. I may also
add that it was my intention, when the subject came up practically for
consideration in the Senate, to express fully my views in regard to it.
This of course would have rendered any other response unnecessary. But
the want of time to consider the matter deprived me of that opportunity,
and, lest now my silence be misconstrued, I deem it proper to say to you
that I am by no means indifferent to the great questions so earnestly,
and as I believe so honestly, urged by you upon our consideration.

“The Border States, so far, are the chief sufferers by this War, and the
true Union men of those States have made the greatest sacrifices for the
preservation of the Government. This fact does not proceed from
mismanagement on the part of the Union authorities, or a want of regard
for our people, but it is the necessary result of the War that is upon

“Our States are the battle-fields. Our people, divided among
themselves, maddened by the struggle, and blinded by the smoke of
battle, invited upon our soil contending armies–the one to destroy the
Government, the other to maintain it. The consequence to us is plain.
The shock of the contest upturns Society and desolates the Land. We
have made sacrifices, but at last they were only the sacrifices demanded
by duty, and unless we are willing to make others, indeed any that the
good of the Country, involved in the overthrow of Treason, may expect at
our hands, our title to patriotism is not complete.

“When you submitted your proposition to Congress, in March last, ‘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,’
I gave it a most cheerful support, and I am satisfied it would have
received the approbation of a large majority of the Border States
delegations in both Branches of Congress, if, in the first place, they
had believed the War, with its continued evils–the most prominent of
which, in a material point of view, is its injurious effect on the
Institution of Slavery in our States–could possibly have been
protracted for another twelve months; and if, in the second place, they
had felt assured that the party having the majority in Congress would,
like yourself, be equally prompt in practical action as in the
expression of a sentiment.

“While scarcely any one doubted your own sincerity in the premises, and
your earnest wish speedily to terminate the War, you can readily
conceive the grounds for difference of opinion where conclusions could
only be based on conjecture.

“Believing, as I did, that the War was not so near its termination as
some supposed, and feeling disposed to accord to others the same
sincerity of purpose that I should claim for myself under similar
circumstances, I voted for the proposition. I will suppose that others
were actuated by no sinister motives.

“In doing so, Mr. President, I desire to be distinctly understood by you
and by my constituents. I did not suppose at the time that I was
personally making any sacrifice by supporting the Resolution, nor that
the people of my State were called upon to make any sacrifices, either
in considering or accepting the proposition, if they saw fit.

“I agreed with you in the remarks contained in the Message accompanying
the Resolution, that ‘the Union must be preserved, and hence all
indispensable means must be employed. * * * War has been and continues
to be an indispensable means to this end. A practical reacknowledgment
of the National authority would render the War unnecessary, and it would
at once cease. If, however, resistance continues, the War must also
continue; and it is impossible to foresee all the incidents which may
attend and all the ruin which may follow it.’

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