The Great Conspiracy

“It is insisted that their presence would injure and displace White
labor and White laborers. If there ever could be a proper time for mere
catch arguments, that time surely is not now. In times like the present
men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be
responsible through Time and in Eternity.

“Is it true, then, that Colored people can displace any more White labor
by being Free, than by remaining Slaves? If they stay in their old
places, they jostle no White laborers; if they leave their old places,
they leave them open to White laborers. Logically, there is neither
more nor less of it.

“Emancipation, even without deportation, would probably enhance the
wages of White labor, and, very surely would not reduce them. Thus, the
customary amount of labor would still have to be performed; the freed
people would surely not do more than their old proportion of it and,
very probably, for a time would do less, leaving an increased part to
White laborers, bringing their labor into greater demand, and
consequently enhancing the wages of it.

“With deportation, even to a limited extent, enhanced wages to White
labor is mathematically certain. Labor is like any other commodity in
the market-increase the demand for it and you increase the price of it.
Reduce the supply of Black labor by colonizing the Black laborer out of
the Country, and by precisely so much you increase the demand for and
wages of White labor.

“But it is dreaded that the freed people will swarm forth and cover the
whole Land! Are they not already in the Land? Will liberation make
them any more numerous? Equally distributed among the Whites of the
whole Country, there would be but one Colored, in seven Whites. Could
the one, in any way, greatly disturb the seven?

“There are many communities now, having more than one free Colored
person to seven Whites; and this, without any apparent consciousness of
evil from it. The District of Columbia, and the States of Maryland and
Delaware, are all in this condition. The District has more than one
free Colored to six Whites; and yet, in its frequent petitions to
Congress I believe it has never presented the presence of free Colored
persons as one of its grievances.

“But why should Emancipation South, send the freed people North? people
of any color, seldom run, unless there be something to run from.
Heretofore, Colored people, to some extent, have fled North from
bondage, and now, perhaps, from both bondage and destitution. But if
gradual Emancipation and deportation be adopted, they will have neither
to flee from.

“Their old masters will give them wages at least until new laborers can
be procured; and the freed men, in turn, will gladly give their labor
for the wages, till new homes can be found for them, in congenial
climes, and with people of their own blood and race.

“This proposition can be trusted on the mutual interests involved. And,
in any event, cannot the North decide for itself, whether to receive

“Again, as practice proves more than theory, in any case, has there been
any irruption of Colored people Northward because of the abolishment of
Slavery in this District last Spring? What I have said of the
proportion of free Colored persons to the Whites in the District is from
the census of 1860, having no reference to persons called Contrabands,
nor to those made free by the Act of Congress abolishing Slavery here.

“The plan consisting of these Articles is recommended, not but that a
restoration of the National authority would be accepted without its

“Nor will the War, nor proceedings under the Proclamation of September
22, 1862, be stayed because of the recommendation of this plan. Its
timely adoption, I doubt not, would bring restoration, and thereby stay

“And, notwithstanding this plan, the recommendation that Congress
provides by law for compensating any State which may adopt Emancipation
before this plan shall have been acted upon, is hereby earnestly
renewed. Such would be only an advance part of the plan, and the same
arguments apply to both.

“This plan is recommended as a means, not in exclusion of, but
additional to, all others, for restoring and preserving the National
authority throughout the Union. The subject is presented exclusively in
its economical aspect.

“The plan would, I am confident, secure Peace more speedily, and
maintain it more permanently, than can be done by force alone; while all
it would cost, considering amounts, and manner of payment, and times of
payment, would be easier paid than will be the additional cost of the
War, if we rely solely upon force. It is much, very much, that it would
cost no blood at all.

“The plan is proposed as permanent Constitutional Law. It cannot become
such without the concurrence of, first, two-thirds of Congress, and
afterward, three-fourths of the Slave States. The requisite three-
fourths of the States will necessarily include seven of the Slave
States. Their concurrence, if obtained, will give assurance of their
severally adopting Emancipation at no very distant day upon the new
Constitutional terms. This assurance would end the struggle now and
save the Union forever.

“I do not forget the gravity which should characterize a paper addressed
to the Congress of the Nation by the Chief Magistrate of the Nation.
Nor do I forget that some of you are my seniors, nor that many of you
have more experience than I in the conduct of public affairs. Yet I
trust that in view of the great responsibility resting upon me, you will
perceive no want of respect to yourselves in any undue earnestness I may
seem to display.

“Is it doubted, then, that the plan I propose, if adopted, would shorten
the War, and thus lessen its expenditure of money and of blood? Is it
doubted that it would restore the National authority and National
prosperity, and perpetuate both indefinitely? Is it doubted that we
here–Congress and Executive–can secure its adoption; will not the good
people respond to a united and earnest appeal from us? Can we, can
they, by any other means so certainly or so speedily assure these vital
objects; we can succeed only by concert.

“It is not, ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but,’Can we all do better?’
Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs, ‘Can we do
better? The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy
present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise
with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act
anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We, of this Congress and
this Administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No
personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of
us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor
or dishonor, to the latest generation.

“We say we are for the Union. The World will not forget that we say
this. We know how to save the Union.

“The World knows we do know how to save it. We even we here–hold the
power, and bear the responsibility.

“In giving Freedom to the Slave, we assure Freedom to the Free-Honorable
alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or
meanly lose, the last, best hope of Earth. Other means may succeed;
this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just–a way
which, if followed, the World would forever applaud, and God must
forever bless.

The popular Branch of Congress responded with heartiness to what Mr.
Lincoln had done. On December 11, 1862, resolutions were offered by Mr.
Yeaman in the House of Representatives, as follows:

“Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate Concurring), That
the Proclamation of the President of the United States, of date the 22d
of September, 1862, is not warranted by the Constitution.

“Resolved, That the policy of Emancipation as indicated in that
Proclamation, is not calculated to hasten the restoration of Peace, was
not well chosen as a War measure, and is an assumption of power
dangerous to the rights of citizens and to the perpetuity of a Free

These resolutions were laid on the table by 95 yeas to 47 nays–the yeas
all Republicans, save three, and the nays all Democrats save five.

On December 15, 1862, Mr. S. C. Fessenden, of Maine, offered resolutions
to the House, in these words:

“Resolved, That the Proclamation of the President of the United States,
of the date of 22d September, 1862, is warranted by the Constitution.

“Resolved, That the policy of Emancipation, as indicated in that
Proclamation, is well adapted to hasten the restoration of Peace, was
well chosen as a War measure, and is an exercise of power with proper
regard for the rights of the States, and the perpetuity of Free

These resolutions were adopted by 78 yeas to 52 nays–the yeas all
Republicans, save two, and the nays all Democrats, save seven.

The Proclamation of September 22d, 1862, was very generally endorsed and
upheld by the People at large; and, in accordance with its promise, it
was followed at the appointed time, January 1st, 1863, by the
supplemental Proclamation specifically Emancipating the Slaves in the
rebellious parts of the United States–in the following terms:

“WHEREAS, On the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a Proclamation was issued by
the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the
following, to wit:

“‘That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and sixty-three, all Persons held as Slaves within any
State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be
in Rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward,
and forever Free; and the Executive Government of the United States,
including the Military and Naval Authority thereof, will recognize and
maintain the Freedom of such Persons, and will do no act or acts to
repress such Persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for
their actual Freedom.

“‘That the Executive will, on the First day of January aforesaid, by
Proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which
the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in Rebellion against the
United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall
on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United
States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the
qualified voters of such States shall have participated, shall, in the
absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive
evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in
Rebellion against the United States.’

“Now, therefore, I ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, by
virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and
Navy of the United States, in time of actual armed Rebellion against the
authority and Government of the United States, and as a fit and
necessary War measure for suppressing said Rebellion, do, on this First
day of January, in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and
sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly
proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the day first
above mentioned, Order and designate as the States and parts of States
wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in Rebellion
against the United States, the following, to wit:

“Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard,
Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension,
Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafouche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans,
including the City of New Orleans,) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida,
Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the
forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties
of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann,
and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which
excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this
Proclamation were not issued.

“And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do Order
and declare that all Persons held as Slaves within said designated
States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, Free; and
that the Executive Government of the United States, including the
Military and Naval authorities thereof; will recognize and maintain the
Freedom of said Persons.

“And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be Free, to abstain
from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to
them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for
reasonable wages.

“And I further declare and make known that such Persons, of suitable
condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States
to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man
vessels of all sorts in said service.

“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice,
warranted by the Constitution upon Military necessity, I invoke the
considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

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

“Done at the City of Washington, this First day of January, in the year
of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the
Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

“By the President:

“WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.”

Let us now refresh recollection by glancing backward over the history of
our Country, and we shall see, as recorded in these pages, that, from
the first, there existed in this Nation a class of individuals greedily
ambitious of power and determined to secure and maintain control of this
Government; that they left unturned no stone which would contribute to
the fostering and to the extension of African Slavery; that, hand in
hand with African Slavery–and as a natural corollary to it–they
advocated Free Trade as a means of degrading Free White labor to the
level of Black Slave labor, and thus increasing their own power; that
from the first, ever taking advantage of the general necessities of the
Union, they arrogantly demanded and received from a brow-beaten People,
concession after concession, and compromise after compromise; that every
possible pretext and occasion was seized by them to increase,
consolidate, and secure their power, and to extend the territorial
limits over which their peculiar Pro-Slavery and Pro-Free-Trade
doctrines prevailed; and that their nature was so exacting, and their
greed so rapacious, that it was impossible ever to satisfy them.

Nor were they burdened with over-much of that high sense of honor–a
quality of which they often vaunted themselves–which impelled others to
stand by their agreements. It seemed as though they considered the most
sacred promises and covenants of no account, and made only to be
trampled upon, when in the way of their Moloch.

We remember the bitter Slavery agitation in Congress over the admission
of the State of Missouri, and how it eventuated in the Missouri
Compromise. That compromise, we have seen, they afterward trod upon,
and broke, with as little compunction as they would have stepped upon
and crushed a toad.

They felt their own growing power, and gloried in their strength and
arrogance; and Northern timidity became a scoff and by-word in their

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