Harper's Weekly 12/13/1862


THE MESSAGE.

THERE are just four points of interest in the
Message: the allusion to the war, the ref-
erence to emancipation, the sketch of a financial
policy, and the review of our foreign relations.
Outside of these, all is mere routine.


1.
The War.—Persons who take up the Mes-
sage in the hope of finding in it some retrospect
of the past operations of the war, and some in-
timation of what is to happen hereafter, will
meet with disappointment. Were it not for one
short paragraph at the commencement of the
Message, that document would contain no ref-
erence whatever to the one thing vital in the
times in which we live. And that one para-
graph is characteristic. The President says:
“While it has not pleased the Almighty to bless
us with the return of peace, we can but press on,
guided by the best light He gives us, trusting
that, in His own good time and wise way, all
will be well.” One can not help recalling the
old Middle-Age story of the mailed crusader
who, in a fit of the spleen, fell to beating his
“people” with a stout quarter-staff. His wife,
touched by the groans of the sufferers and the
astonishing length of the punishment, called
from her window to ask her lord how long he
intended to trounce those poor creatures?
Ma mie!” replied the devout Baron, “tant
qu'il plaira a Dieu!” (As long as God pleases,
my dear.)



2. Emancipation.—This subject is very fully
discussed in the Message. The President ad-
heres to the principle previously enunciated by
him, viz.: that slavery was the cause of the
war, and that the extirpation of slavery will end
it. But he departs from the policy which he
recommended to Congress last session, inas-
much as he now proposes an amendment to
the Constitution, tendering compensation to all
States which shall abolish slavery before the year
1900. The resolution which he laid before Con-
gress nearly a year ago, and which passed both
Houses by large majorities, tendered aid to States
abolishing slavery without specifying the time at
which abolition should take place. It was the
hope and expectation of the President and of
his friends in Congress that four States, Mary-
land, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri, would
accept this offer and proceed to the abolition of
slavery at once. That hope has not been real-
ized. It is doubtful whether the people of any
of these four States are any nearer voluntary
abolition than they were twelve months ago,
though their property in slaves has been so vast-
ly diminished by the war. The President, how-
ever, is not discouraged. He now proposes to
embody the offer of compensation in the Con-
stitution, in order to render it more solemn and
binding, and to make it a standing offer for the
next thirty-seven years. Whether this compro-
mise measure, wise as it may prove eventually,
will at present satisfy either the partisans of
slavery at the South or its opponents at the
North remains to be seen.The President distinctly states that this
scheme of compensated emancipation is not in-
tended to supersede the proclamation of Septem-
ber 22d freeing the slaves in rebel States. By
that proclamation, every slave dwelling in a
locality which has not elected members of Con-
gress by a majority of legally constituted voters
shall be free on 1st January next, and shall be
entitled to claim that the United States shall
protect him in the enjoyment of his freedom.
If this proclamation stands unrecalled, the slaves
now held in nine-tenths of Virginia, North Caro-
lina, and Louisiana, nearly all of South Caro-
lina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi,
Texas, and Arkansas, and three-fourths of Ten-
nessee, will be freemen in law if not in fact, in
the course of a month from this time. So far
as they are concerned no amendment to the
Constitution will be required to improve their
political status; and the operation of the pro-
posed amendment will consequently be confined
to the slaves in Maryland, Delaware, Missouri,
Kentucky, and such parts of Louisiana, Tennes-
see, Virginia, and the other rebel States as are
now held by the armed forces of the United
States.The President renews his favorite recom-
mendation to Congress that provision be made
for the expatriation of emancipated slaves. With
that candor which is his most amiable charac-
teristic, however, he admits that slight difficul-
ties have been discovered in the way of the ac-
complishment of this project. In the first place,
no State in America will receive our emanci-
pated slaves as citizens. Hayti, in San Do-
mingo, and Liberia, in Africa, alone tender to
them the right hand of fellowship. And the
misfortune about these places is that the negroes
won't go there. Indeed, the President admits
that, as a rule, the free negroes object to be
exiled at all. He has endeavored, by argument
and persuasion, to convince them that it is to
their best interest to go away; and he has hopes
that they may come to see the matter in this
light by-and-by. Thus far, however, these per-
sons with black skins are so unreasonable as to
entertain a fondness for their native country,
which bears a remarkable resemblance to a sen-
timent commonly entertained by persons with
white skins, and called by poets “patriotism.”


3.
The Finances.—On this very important
subject the President gives us little information.
He is anxious to see our finances restored to a
specie basis. He doubts whether it be wise to
issue as many legal tender notes as the country
can absorb. He alludes incidentally to loans,
as though they would necessarily be negotiated
by-and-by. And he concludes that, on the
whole, the best method of raising money for the
war is by the establishment of banks of issue,
whose issue shall be uniform in appearance and
based upon the deposit with the Treasury De-
partment of United States Bonds. He supplies
us with no information as to the number of
banks that will probably be established, or the
amount of bonds which they will take, or the
sum of money which they will yield to the
Treasury. We must wait for Mr. Chase's re-
port to obtain light on these important points.



4.
Our Foreign Relations.—The President
diplomatically observes that our relations with
the foreign world, though less gratifying than
usual, are more satisfactory than might have
been expected by a nation distracted as we are.
Foreign nations have taken advantage of our
embarrassments to seek causes of quarrel with
us, and our blockade has naturally given rise to
many reclamations and disputes. Claims against
us have been made by Great Britain, France,
Russia, and Spain: these the President has pro-
posed to refer to a mixed Convention. The offer
has not yet been accepted, but the President
seems to expect that it will be. This condition
of things is obviously incidental to a state of
war, and it would be unwise if it were just to
complain of it.The tone of the Message is manly and truth-
ful. Perhaps it might have been more hopeful;
but the people of the North need no encourage-
ment in the task they have undertaken. They
know the magnitude of the business; and, with-
out wasting time in words, are prepared to go
through with it to the bitter end.




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