The Great Conspiracy

Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come
soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in
all future time. It will then have been proved that among Freemen
there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet,
and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and
pay the cost. And there will be some Black men who can remember
that, with silent tongue, and clinched teeth, and steady eye, and
well poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great
consummation, while I fear there will be some White ones unable to
forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have
striven to hinder it.

Still, let us not be over sanguine of a speedy, final triumph. Let
us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never
doubting that a just God, in his own good time, will give us the
rightful result.

Yours very truly,
A. LINCOLN.] But Chattanooga, and the grand majorities in all the Fall State-
elections, save that of New Jersey,–and especially the manner in which
loyal Ohio sat down upon the chief Copperhead-Democrat and Treason-
breeder of the North, Vallandigham–came most auspiciously to strengthen
the President’s hands.

[The head of the Knights of the Golden Circle, and the Democratic
candidate for Governor of Ohio]

And now he saw, more clearly still, the approach of that time when the
solemn promise and declaration of Emancipation might be recorded upon
the sacred roll of the Constitution, and thus be made safe for all time.

In his Annual Message of December, 1863, therefore, President Lincoln,
after adverting to the fact that “a year ago the War had already lasted
nearly twenty months,” without much ground for hopefulness, proceeded to

“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

“Eleven months having now passed, we are permitted to take another view
* * * Of those who were Slaves at the beginning of the Rebellion, full
one hundred thousand 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,
criticised, 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.”

After alluding to his Proclamation of Amnesty, issued simultaneously
with this Message, to all repentant Rebels who would take an oath
therein prescribed, and contending that such an oath should be (as he
had drawn it) to uphold not alone the Constitution and the Union, but
the Laws and Proclamations touching Slavery as well, President Lincoln

“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.” And, toward the close of the Message, he added:

“The movements by State action, for Emancipation, in several of the
States not included in the Emancipation Proclamation, are matters of
profound gratulation. And while I do not repeat in detail what I have
heretofore so earnestly urged upon the subject, my general views remain
unchanged; and I trust that Congress will omit no fair opportunity of

Mr. Lincoln’s patient but persistent solicitude, his earnest and
unintermitted efforts–exercised publicly through his Messages and
speeches, and privately upon Members of Congress who called upon, or
whose presence was requested by him at the White House–in behalf of
incorporating Emancipation in the Constitution, were now to give
promise, at least, of bearing good fruit.

Measures looking to this end were submitted in both Houses of Congress
soon after its meeting, and were referred to the respective Judiciary
Committees of the same, and on the 10th of February, 1864, Mr. Trumbull
reported to the Senate, from the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he
was Chairman, a substitute Joint Resolution providing for the submission
to the States of an Amendment to the United States Constitution in the
following words:

“ART. XIII., SEC. I. Neither Slavery nor Involuntary Servitude, except
as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly
convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to
their jurisdiction.

“SEC. II. Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by
appropriate legislation.”

This proposed Amendment came up for consideration in the Senate, on the
28th of March, and a notable debate ensued.

On the same day, in the House of Representatives, Thaddeus Stevens–with
the object perhaps of ascertaining the strength, in that Body, of the
friends of out-and-out Emancipation–offered a Resolution proposing to
the States the following Amendments to the United States Constitution:

“ART. I. Slavery and Involuntary Servitude, except for the punishment
of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, is forever
prohibited in the United States and all its Territories.

“ART. II. So much of Article four, Section two, as refers to the
delivery up of Persons held to Service or Labor, escaping into another
State, is annulled.”

The test was made upon a motion to table the Resolution, which motion
was defeated by 38 yeas to 69 nays, and showed the necessity for
converting three members from the Opposition. Subsequently, at the
instance of Mr. Stevens himself, the second Article of the Resolution
was struck out by 72 yeas to 26 nays.

The proceedings in both Houses of Congress upon these propositions to
engraft upon the National Constitution a provision guaranteeing Freedom
to all men upon our soil, were now interrupted by the death of one who
would almost have been willing to die twice over, if, by doing so, he
could have hastened their adoption.

Owen Lovejoy, the life-long apostle of Abolitionism, the fervid
gospeller of Emancipation, was dead; and it seemed almost the irony of
Fate that, at such a time, when Emancipation most needed all its friends
to make it secure, its doughtiest champion should fall.

But perhaps the eloquent tributes paid to his memory, in the Halls of
Congress, helped the Cause no less. They at least brought back to the
public mind the old and abhorrent tyrannies of the Southern Slave power;
how it had sought not not only to destroy freedom of Action, but freedom
of Speech, and hesitated not to destroy human Life with these; reminded
the Loyal People of the Union of much that was hateful, from which they
had escaped; and strengthened the purpose of Patriots to fix in the
chief corner-stone of the Constitution, imperishable muniments of human

Lovejoy’s brother had been murdered at Alton, Illinois, while
vindicating freedom of Speech and of the Press; and the blood of that
martyr truly became “the seed of the Church.” Arnold–recalling a
speech of Owen Lovejoy’s at Chicago, and a passage in it, descriptive of
the martyrdom,–said to the House, on this sad occasion: “I remember
that, after describing the scene of that death, in words–which stirred
every heart, he said he went a pilgrim to his brother’s grave, and,
kneeling upon the sod beneath which sleeps that brother, he swore, by
the everlasting God, eternal hostility to African Slavery.” And,
continued Arnold, “Well and nobly has he kept that oath.”

Washburne, too, reminded the House of the memorable episode in that very
Hall when, (April 5, 1860), the adherents of Slavery crowding around
Lovejoy with fierce imprecations and threats, seeking then and there to
prevent Free Speech, “he displayed that undaunted courage and matchless
bearing which extorted the admiration of even his most deadly foes.”
“His”–continued the same speaker–“was the eloquence of Mirabeau, which
in the Tiers Etat and in the National Assembly made to totter the throne
of France; it was the eloquence of Danton, who made all France to
tremble from his tempestuous utterances in the National Convention.
Like those apostles of the French Revolution, his eloquence could stir
from the lowest depths all the passions of Man; but unlike them, he was
as good and as pure as he was eloquent and brave, a noble minded
Christian man, a lover of the whole human Race, and of universal Liberty
regulated by Law.”

Grinnell, in his turn, told also with real pathos, of his having
recently seen Lovejoy in the chamber of sickness. “When,” said
Grinnell, “I expressed fears for his recovery, I saw the tears course
down his manly cheek, as he said ‘Ah! God’s will be done, but I have
been laboring, voting, and praying for twenty years that I might see the
great day of Freedom which is so near and which I hope God will let me
live to rejoice in. I want a vote on my Bill for the destruction of
Slavery, root and branch.'”
[Sumner, afterward speaking of Lovejoy and this Measure, said: “On
the 14th of December, 1863, he introduced a Bill, whose title
discloses its character: ‘A Bill to give effect to the Declaration
of Independence, and also to certain Provisions of the Constitution
of the United States.’ It proceeds to recite that All Men were
Created Equal, and were Endowed by the Creator with the Inalienable
Right to Life, Liberty and the Fruits of honest Toil; that the
Government of the United States was Instituted to Secure those
Rights; that the Constitution declares that No Person shall be
Deprived of Liberty without due Process of Law, and also provides–
article five, clause two–that this Constitution, and the Laws of
the United States made in pursuance thereof, shall be the Supreme
Law of the Land, and the Judges in each State shall be bound
thereby, anything in the Constitution and Laws of any State to the
contrary notwithstanding; that it is now demonstrated by the
Rebellion that Slavery is absolutely incompatible with the Union,
Peace, and General Welfare for which Congress is to Provide; and it
therefore Enacts that All Persons heretofore held in Slavery in any
of the States or Territories of the United States are declared
Freedmen, and are Forever Released from Slavery or Involuntary
Servitude except as Punishment for Crime on due conviction. On the
same day he introduced another Bill to Protect Freedmen and to
Punish any one for Enslaving them. These were among his last
Public acts,”–Cong. Globe, 1st S., 38th C., Pt. 2, p. 1334]

And staunch old Thaddeus Stevens said: “The change to him, is great
gain. The only regret we can feel is that he did not live to see the
salvation of his Country; to see Peace and Union restored, and universal
Emancipation given to his native land. But such are the ways of
Providence. Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land with
those he had led out of Bondage; he beheld it from afar off, and slept
with his fathers.” “The deceased,” he impressively added, “needs no
perishable monuments of brass or marble to perpetuate his name. So long
as the English language shall be spoken or deciphered, so long as
Liberty shall have a worshipper, his name will be known!”

What influence the death of Owen Lovejoy may have had on the subsequent
proceedings touching Emancipation interrupted as we have seen by his
demise–cannot be known; but among all the eloquent tributes to his
memory called forth by the mournful incident, perhaps none, could he
have heard it, would have better pleased him than those two opening
sentences of Charles Summer’s oration in the Senate–where he said of
Owen Lovejoy: “Could his wishes prevail, he would prefer much that
Senators should continue in their seats and help to enact into Law some
one of the several Measures now pending to secure the obliteration of
Slavery. Such an Act would be more acceptable to him than any personal
tribute,–” unless it might be these other words, which followed from
the same lips: “How his enfranchised Soul would be elevated even in
those Abodes to which he has been removed, to know that his voice was
still heard on Earth encouraging, exhorting, insisting that there should
be no hesitation anywhere in striking at Slavery; that this unpardonable
wrong, from which alone the Rebellion draws its wicked life, must be
blasted by Presidential proclamation, blasted by Act of Congress,
blasted by Constitutional prohibition, blasted in every possible way, by
every available agency, and at every occurring opportunity, so that no
trace of the outrage may continue in the institutions of the Land, and
especially that its accursed foot-prints may no longer defile the
National Statute-book. Sir, it will be in vain that you pass
Resolutions in tribute to him, if you neglect that Cause for which he
lived, and do not hearken to his voice!”


During the great debate, which now opened in the Senate, upon the
Judiciary Committee’s substitute resolution for the Amendment of the
Constitution, so as forever to prohibit Slavery within the United
States, and to empower Congress to pass such laws as would make that
prohibition effective–participated in by Messrs. Trumbull, Wilson,
Saulsbury, Davis, Harlan, Powell, Sherman, Clark, Hale, Hendricks,
Henderson, Sumner, McDougall and others–the whole history of Slavery
was enquired into and laid bare.

Trumbull insisted that Slavery was at the bottom of all the internal
troubles with which the Nation had from its birth been afflicted, down
to this wicked Rebellion, with all the resulting “distress, desolation,
and death;” and that by 1860, it had grown to such power and arrogance
that “its advocates demanded the control of the Nation in
its interests, failing in which, they attempted its overthrow.” He
reviewed, at some length, what had been done by our Government with
regard to Slavery, since the breaking out of hostilities against us in
that mad attempt against the National life; how, “in the earlier stages
of the War, there was an indisposition on the part of the Executive
Authority to interfere with Slavery at all;” how, for a long time,
Slaves, escaping to our lines, were driven back to their Rebel masters;
how the Act of Congress of July, 1861, which gave Freedom to all Slaves
allowed by their Rebel masters to assist in the erection of Rebel works
and fortifications, had “not been executed,” and, said Mr. Trumbull, “so
far as I am advised, not a single Slave has been set at liberty under
it;” how, “it was more than a year after its enactment before any
considerable number of Persons of African descent were organized and
armed” under the subsequent law of December, 1861, which not only gave
Freedom to all Slaves entering our Military lines, or who, belonging to
Rebel masters, were deserted by them, or were found in regions once
occupied by Rebel forces and later by those of the Union, but also
empowered the President to organize and arm them to aid in the
suppression of the Rebellion; how, it was not until this law had been
enacted that Union officers ceased to expel Slaves coming within our
lines–and then only when dismissal from the public service was made the
penalty for such expulsion; how, by his Proclamations of Emancipation,
of September, 1862, and January, 1863, the President undertook to
supplement Congressional action–which had, theretofore, been confined
to freeing the Slaves of Rebels, and of such of these only as had come
within the lines of our Military power-by also declaring, Free, the
Slaves “who were in regions of country from which the authority of the
United States was expelled;” and how, the “force and effect” of these
Proclamations were variously understood by the enemies and friends of
those measures–it being insisted on the one side that Emancipation as a
War-stroke was within the Constitutional War-power of the President as
Commander-in-Chief, and that, by virtue of those Proclamations, “all
Slaves within the localities designated become ipso facto Free,” and on
the other, that the Proclamations were “issued without competent
authority,” and had not effected and could not effect, “the Emancipation
of a single Slave,” nor indeed could at any time, without additional
legislation, go farther than to liberate Slaves coming within the Union
Army lines.

«- 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 | View All | Next -»

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.