The Great Conspiracy

After demonstrating that “any and all these laws and Proclamations,
giving to each the largest effect claimed by its friends, are
ineffectual to the destruction of Slavery,” and protesting that some
more effectual method of getting rid of that Institution must be
adopted, he declared, as his judgment, that “the only effectual way of
ridding the Country of Slavery, so that it cannot be resuscitated, is by
an Amendment of the Constitution forever prohibiting it within the
jurisdiction of the United States.”

He then canvassed the chances of adoption of such an Amendment by an
affirmative vote of two thirds in each House of Congress, and of its
subsequent ratification by three-fourths of the States of the Union, and
declared that “it is reasonable to suppose that if this proposed
Amendment passes Congress, it will, within a year, receive the
ratification of the requisite number of States to make it a part of the
Constitution.” His prediction proved correct–but only after a
protracted struggle.

Henry Wilson also made a strong speech, but on different grounds. He
held that the Emancipation Proclamations formed, together, a “complete,
absolute, and final decree of Emancipation in Rebel States,” and, being
“born of Military necessity” and “proclaimed by the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army and Navy, is the settled and irrepealable Law of the
Republic, to be observed, obeyed, and enforced, by Army and Navy, and is
the irreversible voice of the Nation.”

He also reviewed what had been done since the outbreak of the Rebellion,
by Congress and the President, by Laws and Proclamations; and, while
standing by the Emancipation Proclamations, declared that “the crowning
Act, in this series of Acts, for the restriction and extinction of
Slavery in America, is this proposed Amendment to the Constitution
prohibiting the existence of Slavery in the Republic of the United

The Emancipation Proclamation, according to his view, only needed
enforcement, to give “Peace and Order, Freedom and Unity, to a now
distracted Country;” but the “crowning act” of incorporating this
Amendment into the Constitution would do even more than all this, in
that it would “obliterate the last lingering vestiges of the Slave
System; its chattelizing, degrading, and bloody codes; its malignant,
barbarizing spirit; all it was, and is; everything connected with it or
pertaining to it, from the face of the Nation it has scarred with moral
desolation, from the bosom of the Country it has reddened with the blood
and strewn with the graves of patriotism.”

While the debate proceeded, President Lincoln watched it with careful
interest. Other matters, however, had, since the Battle of Chattanooga,
largely engrossed his attention.

The right man had at last been found–it was believed–to control as
well as to lead our Armies. That man was Ulysses S. Grant. The grade
of Lieutenant General of the Army of the United States–in desuetude
since the days of Washington, except by brevet, in the case of Winfield
Scott,–having been especially revived by Congress for and filled by the
appointment and confirmation of Grant, March 2, 1864, that great soldier
immediately came on to Washington, received his commission at the hands
of President Lincoln, in the cabinet chamber of the White House, on the
9th, paid a flying visit to the Army of the Potomac, on the 10th, and at
once returned to Nashville to plan future movements.

On the 12th, a General Order of the War Department (No. 98) was issued,
relieving Major-General Halleck, “at his own request,” from duty as
“General-in-Chief” of the Army, and assigning Lieutenant-General U. S.
Grant to “the command of the Armies of the United States,” “the
Headquarters of the Army” to be in Washington, and also with Lieutenant-
General Grant in the Field, Halleck being assigned to “duty, in
Washington, as Chief-of-staff of the Army, under the direction of the
Secretary of War and the Lieutenant-General commanding.”

By the same order, Sherman was assigned to the command of the “Military
Division of the Mississippi,” composed of the Departments of the Ohio,
the Cumberland, the Tennessee, and the Arkansas; and McPherson to that
of the Department and Army of the Tennessee.

On the 23rd of March, Grant was back again at Washington, and at once
proceeded to Culpepper Court-house, Virginia, where his Headquarters in
the field were, for a time, to be.

Here he completed his plans, and reorganized his Forces, for the coming
conflicts, in the South-west and South-east, which were to result in a
full triumph to the Union Arms, and Peace to a preserved Union.

It is evident, from the utterances of Mr. Lincoln when Vicksburg fell,
that he had then become pretty well satisfied that Grant was “the coming
man,” to whom it would be safe to confide the management and chief
leadership of our Armies. Chattanooga merely confirmed that belief–as
indeed it did that of Union men generally. But the concurrent judgment
of Congress and the President had now, as we have seen, placed Grant in
that chief command; and the consequent relief to Mr. Lincoln, in thus
having the heavy responsibility of Army-control, long unwillingly
exercised by him, taken from his own shoulders and placed upon those of
the one great soldier in whom he had learned to have implicit faith,–a
faith earned by steady and unvaryingly successful achievements in the
Field–must have been most grateful.

Other responsibilities would still press heavily enough upon the
President’s time and attention. Questions touching the Military and
Civil government of regions of the Enemy’s country, conquered by the
Union arms; of the rehabilitation or reconstruction of the Rebel States;
of a thousand and one other matters, of greater or lesser perplexity,
growing out of these and other questions; besides the ever pressing and
gigantic problems involved in the raising of enormous levies of troops,
and prodigious sums of money, needed in securing, moving, and supplying
them, and defraying the extraordinary expenses growing out of the
necessary blockade of thousands of miles of Southern Coast, and other
Naval movements; not to speak of those expenditures belonging to the
more ordinary business transactions of the Government.

But chief of all things claiming his especial solicitude, as we have
seen, was this question of Emancipation by Constitutional enactment, the
debate upon which was now proceeding in the Senate. That solicitude was
necessarily increased by the bitter opposition to it of Northern
Copperheads, and by the attitude of the Border-State men, upon whose
final action, the triumph or defeat of this great measure must
ultimately depend.

Many of the latter, were, as has already been shown in these pages,
loyal men; but the loyalty of some of these to their Country, was still
so questionably and so thoroughly tainted with their worshipful devotion
to Slavery–although they must have been blind indeed not to have
discovered, long ere this, that it was a “slowly-dying cause”–that they
were ever on the alert to delay, hamper, and defeat, any action, whether
Executive or Legislative, and however necessary for the preservation of
the Union and the overthrow of its mortal enemies, which, never so
lightly, impinged upon their “sacred Institution.”

This fact was well set forth, in this very debate, by a Senator from New
England–[Wilson of Massachusetts]–when, after adjuring the anti-
Slavery men of the age, not to forget the long list of Slavery’s crimes,
he eloquently proceeded:

“Let them remember, too, that hundreds of thousands of our countrymen in
Loyal States–since Slavery raised the banners of Insurrection, and sent
death, wounds, sickness, and sorrow, into the homes of the People–have
resisted, and still continue to resist, any measure for the defense of
the Nation, if that measure tended to impair the vital and animating
powers of Slavery. They resisted the Act making Free the Slaves used by
Rebels for Military purposes; the Confiscation of Rebel property and the
Freedom of the Slaves of Rebel masters; the Abolition of Slavery in the
Capital of the Nation, and the consecration of the Territories to Free
Labor and Free laboring men; the Proclamation of Emancipation; the
enlistment of Colored men to fight the battles of the Country; the
Freedom of the Black soldier, who is fighting, bleeding, dying for the
Country; and the Freedom of his wife and children. And now, when War
has for nearly three years menaced the life of the Nation, bathed the
Land in blood, and filled two hundred thousand graves with our slain
sons, these men of the Loyal States still cling to the falling fortunes
of the relentless and unappeasable Enemy of their Country and its
democratic institutions; they mourn, and will not be comforted, over the
expiring System, in the Border Slave-States; and, in tones of
indignation or of anguish, they utter lamentations over the Proclamation
of Emancipation, and the policy that is bringing Rebel States back again
radiant with Freedom.”

Among these “loyal” Democratic opponents of Emancipation, in any shape,
or any where, were not wanting men–whether from Loyal Northern or
Border States–who still openly avowed that Slavery was right; that
Rebellion, to preserve its continuance, was justifiable; and that there
was no Constitutional method of uprooting it.

Saulsbury of Delaware, was representative and spokesman of this class,
and he took occasion during this very debate–[In the Senate, March 31,
1864.]–to defend Slavery as a Divine Institution, which had the
sanction both of the Mosaic and Christian Dispensations!

[Said he: “Slavery had existed under some form or other from the
first period of recorded history. It dates back even beyond the
period of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, in whose seed all
the Nations of the Earth were to be blessed. We find that,
immediately after the Flood, the Almighty, for purposes inscrutable
to us, condemned a whole race to Servitude: ‘Vayomer Orur Knoan
Efet Afoatim Yeahio Le-echot:’ ‘And he said, Cursed be Canaan;
Slave of Slaves he shall be to his brethren.’ It continued among
all people until the advent of the Christian era. It was
recognized in that New Dispensation, which was to supersede the
Old. It has the sanction of God’s own Apostle; for when Paul sent
back Onesimus to Philemon, whom did he send? A Freeman? No, Sir.
He sent his (doulos,) a Slave, born as such, not even his
andrapodon, who was such by captivity in War. Among all people,
and in all ages, has this Institution, if such it is to be called,
existed, and had the countenance of wise and good men, and even of
the Christian Church itself, until these modern times, up at least
to the Nineteenth Century. It exists in this Country, and has
existed from the beginning.”

Mr. Harlan’s reply to the position of Mr. Saulsbury that Slavery is
right, is a Divine Institution, etc., was very able and
interesting. He piled up authority after authority, English as
well as American, to show that there is no support of Slavery–and
especially of the title to services of the adult offspring of a
Slave–at Common Law; and, after also proving, by the mouth of a
favorite son of Virginia, that it has no legal existence by virtue
of any Municipal or Statutory Law, he declared that the only
remaining Law that can be cited for its support is the Levitical
Code”–as follows:

“‘Both thy Bondmen, and thy Bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall
be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy
Bondmen and Bondmaids.

“‘Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among
you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you,
which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession.

“‘And ye shall take them as an Inheritance for your children after
you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your Bondmen

“I remark,” said he, “in this connection, that the Levitical Code,
or the Hebrew Law, contains a provision for the Naturalization of
Foreigners, whether captives of War, or voluntary emigrants. By
compliance with the requirements of this law they became citizens,
entitled to all the rights and privileges and immunities of native
Hebrews. The Hebrew Slave Code, applicable to Enslaved Hebrews, is
in these words:

“‘And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold
unto thee, and serve thee six years, then in the seventh year thou
shalt let him go Free from thee.’

“Here I request the attention of those who claim compensation for
Emancipated Slaves to the text:

“‘And when thou sendest him out Free from thee, thou shalt not let
him go away empty:

“‘Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy floor’–

“Which means granaries–

“‘and out of thy wine-press: of that wherewith the Lord thy God
hath blessed thee, thou shalt give unto him.’

“‘It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away Free
from thee, for he hath been worth a double-hired servant to thee,
in serving thee six years.’

“These Hebrew Statutes provide that the heathen might be purchased
and held as Slaves, and their posterity after them; that under
their Naturalization Laws all strangers and sojourners, Bond and
Free, have the privilege of acquiring the rights of citizenship;
that all Hebrews, natives or naturalized, might assert and maintain
their right to Freedom.

“At the end of six years a Hebrew Slave thus demanding his Liberty,
was not to be sent away empty; the owner, so far from claiming
compensation from his neighbors or from the Public Treasury for
setting him Free, was bound to divide with the Freedman, of his own
possessions: to give him of his flocks, of his herds, of his
granary, and of his winepress, of everything with which the Lord
Almighty had blessed the master during the years of his Servitude;
and then the owner was admonished that he was not to regard it as a
hardship to be required to Liberate the Slave, and to divide with
him of his substance.

“The Almighty places the Liberated Slave’s claim to a division of
his former master’s property on the eternal principles of Justice,
the duty to render an equivalent for an equivalent. The Slave
having served six years must be paid for his Service, must be paid
liberally because he had been worth even more than a hired servant
during the period of his enslavement.

“If, then,” continued Mr. Harlan, “the justice of this claim cannot
be found either in Reason, Natural Justice, or the principles of
the Common Law, or in any positive Municipal or Statute regulation
of any State, or in the Hebrew Code written by the Finger of God
protruded from the flame of fire on the summit of Sinai, I ask
whence the origin of the title to the services of the adult
offspring of the Slave mother? or is it not manifest that there is
no just title? Is it not a mere usurpation without any known mode
of justification, under any existing Code of Laws, human or

He also undertook to justify Secession on the singular ground that “we
are sprung from a Race of Secessionists,” the proof of which he held to
be in the fact that, while the preamble to, as well as the body of the
Convention of Ratification of, the old Articles of Confederation between
the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and
Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennslyvania,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and
Georgia, declared that Confederation to be a “Perpetual Union,” yet,
within nine years thereafter, all the other States Seceded from New
York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island by ratifying the new
Constitution for “a more perfect Union.”

«- 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.