The President's Policy on Emancipation


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, September 13, 1862

Welcome to our collection of online Harper's Weekly newspapers. We feature all issues published during the Civil War. These newspapers offer a rich opportunity to gain more insight into the people and places of the Civil War.

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General Pope

General Pope

President's Emancipation Policy

Lincoln's Emancipation Policy

Second Battle of Bull Run

Second Battle of Bull Run


Warrenton, Virginia



War in Virginia

War in Virginia

New Iron Clad Navy

New Iron Clad Navy

Camp Curtin

Camp Curtin

Manassas Junction

Manassas Junction

Camp Morton

Camp Morton

Civil War Iron Clads

Civil War Iron Clads

Scenes in Tennessee

Scenes in Tennessee

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty




[SEPTEMBER 13, 1862.



MOURN for the young, the brave!

Let the fife wail, and touch the muffled drum!

Bid soldiers, comrades, friends, around him come,

And lay him gently in a soldier's grave.

Take for his fitting pall

The grand old flag in whose defense he fell,

The glorious banner which he loved so well,

And o'er his corse now let it sadly fall.

Upon the hero's breast

Lay the good sword, drawn to guard our land;

Clasp on its hilt each cold and stiff'ning hand;

Wrapped in his cloak, bear him unto his rest.

We lay the fallen brave

'Neath this old oak, which saw the deadly fight;

Here, too, the sun's last ling'ring gleam of light

Shall shed its radiance on the soldier's grave.

Through all the coming years

The laurels on his tomb shall never fade,

But flourish there, fresh, bright, and undecayed—

Kept fair and blooming by a nation's tears!

What though no mossy stone

May mark the spot where the young soldier sleeps,

Yet o'er his humble grave a nation weeps—

A grateful country mourns her patriot son!



THE rebels have transferred the bulk of their army to the vicinity of Manassas Junction, and the bulk of our Eastern army is there to oppose them. At the hour we write we know that four battles have been fought with no decided success on either side. Our troops, outnumbered as they are, have, however, held their own. Manassas Junction and the Heights of Centreville are ours still. We have taken a large number of prisoners, and killed a great many rebels. Our enemy can probably say the same. Such is the situation at present. Possibly before these lines are read it may have changed materially.

From the moment General Halleck assumed command of the armies of the United States the programme which had been previously determined was essentially modified. That acute general and statesman realized, as soon as the whole responsibility of the war was laid on his shoulders, that if we are to win in this tremendous contest it must be through a thorough development of our numerical strength, and a concentrated exertion of our forces. He accordingly directed new levies, by volunteering and by draft, for the purpose of swelling our effective army to the unparalleled number of a million of men. He next ordered the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula, in order that it should be in a position to co-operate with the other Union soldiers in service in Virginia. Both orders have been, or are being, carried out. We have at this moment nearly or quite 700,000 men under arms, and within a month the remaining 300,000 will be awaiting arms, equipment, and transportation to the seat of war. The Army of the Potomac has been withdrawn from the Peninsula without the loss of a man or a gun. Thus far General Halleck's programme has been carried out to the letter.

Meanwhile the caitiffs who pretend to carry on a government under the control of Jeff Davis have realized that if the Halleck plan be fairly carried out the cause of the Slaveholders' Confederacy is utterly gone. With an energy worthy of an honest cause, and well deserving of imitation by our leaders, they no sooner ascertained that McClellan was evacuating the Peninsula than they threw their whole force upon the line of the Rappahannock, and periled every thing for the sake of destroying Pope and capturing Washington. The seizure of Washington has been the day-dream of their most fiery leaders from the beginning, and there is reason to believe that nothing but the prudence of Jeff Davis has prevented the attempt being made before. Now, it seems, the hopelessness of conducting a contest against a million of armed soldiers of the Union has induced the rebel President to waive his scruples, and to adopt the programme urged upon him a year ago by Beauregard and others of his confederates.

To succeed in this new rebel enterprise the rebels must take and hold either Washington or Baltimore—it matters little which. If they take Washington, recognition by the European Powers follows as a matter of course, and a treaty offensive and defensive would probably be concluded in due order. If they take and hold Baltimore, Washington would fall in course of time, and the result would be the same. But nothing short of the accomplishment of one of these two objects could repay the rebels for the risk they are running. What is the prospect?

We have, on the south side of the Potomac, as large an army as can be manoeuvred on any battle-field, largely composed of veterans who have fought on the Peninsula, and in the Shenandoah Valley. Before a rebel regiment can be safely crossed into Maryland this army must be destroyed. If Jackson, or Lee, or Hill, or Longstreet, or any other rebel commander undertakes to cross

an army over the Upper Potomac into Maryland, and succeeds in storming the powerful batteries which have been erected to protect the line of that river, he will find himself, after crossing, without a base, and hopelessly isolated from support. There is no place in Maryland where he could feed his army for a week. Whatever the sympathies of the rich men of Baltimore may be, the people of that city would resist him to the death, for the simple reason that not to do so would be to insure the destruction of their beautiful city. The moment a rebel army crosses into Maryland it will find itself in an enemy's country, with its base of supplies and its return home hopelessly cut off. With regard to an attack on the forts erected for the protection of Washington on the south side of the Potomac, from Chain Bridge to Alexandria, and similarly on the north side from Georgetown to Fort Washington, all that can be said of them is that General McClellan, whose ability as an engineer no one has ever questioned, pronounces them impregnable. Yet if the rebels are to succeed in their design, they must either cross into Maryland and carry on war successfully without supplies, base of operations, or line of retreat; or they must attack and storm these forts after having attacked and destroyed an army fully as strong as theirs—now lying encamped eight to ten miles in front of the Washington fortifications.

If the rebels can not do one of these two things, the battles at or near Manassas are of no use to them whatever, though they win every one of them. Brilliant victories, duly emblazoned in the Richmond Enquirer and Dispatch, will not prevent the slow and sure accumulation of national troops at and around Washington, and when they move, the result must be certain. Our generals, obnoxious as they seem to be to newspaper criticism, are not such tyros in the art of war that they can not achieve substantial victories when they have twice as many men as their enemy with gun-boats and military resources in abundance. The biggest battalions must win in the end.

We stand in the crisis of the war. If the rebels can not accomplish that which they started from Richmond to do, self-preservation will compel their surrender.


A CORRESPONDENCE between Mr. Seward and Earl Russell has been published in the papers. Mr. Seward's letter, written in May, was a general plea for the Union cause in the Courts of Europe. Earl Russell's reply is a sneer at our country, our cause, our army, our civilization, and our prospects.

We are sorry the letters were written, and sorrier they were published. There is bad blood enough between this country and England without increasing it needlessly. It will be hard for the present generation of Americans to forget or forgive the unfair and ungenerous treatment they have endured at the hands of the English since this war broke out: the brutal bullying on the Trent affair; the persistent misrepresentation of our purposes and our prospects by British statesmen and British journals; the aid and comfort granted to the rebels by British merchants, manufacturers, and officials in every British colony. These just causes of anger have irritated us enough already; it was not worth while to choose the moment of our deepest agony to shoot more barbs into our flesh. It is difficult to perceive what good object could possibly be served by the inditing or the publication of this correspondence.

We are at a loss, for our part, to discover what Mr. Seward expected to gain by writing the dispatch to which Earl Russell's taunts are a reply. Experience should have taught him the peril of indulging in hopeful prophecy. His correspondence with our representatives abroad, which was laid before Congress in December last and published as an official document, teems with expressions of hopes that were never realized, confident predictions which never came true, and opinions which the event seldom verified. With this warning before him, to embark afresh in the work of prophesying, and painting our history rose - color, argues more rashness than we would have imputed to our experienced Secretary of State. And, again, what can we gain by letting Europe know how right we think we are, and how sure we feel of success? Does Mr. Seward suppose that the Government and people of England are to be swayed by reasoning, or by considerations of right and wrong in this matter? If he does, he is the only man in the country who does so. All the rest of us were long since satisfied that England has never had any other wish in regard to our war than to see the United States divided—a great nation weakened, and a manufacturing and commercial rival crippled. This has been the clew to her policy all along. There has never been any other. Right and wrong, slavery and freedom, justice and injustice, even free-trade and protection—have never had any weight in determining her course. British statesmen and the British people have never swerved an inch from the great object on which they had set their heart from the first, which was to secure

the division of the Union. Mr. Roebuck confesses the fact in his crude, blunt way. Under these circumstances could any thing be sillier than to hope to change the policy of England by arguments founded on abstract justice, or honesty, or good feeling? As reasonable would it be to preach morality to a burglar with his hand in your strong box.

We hope we have seen the last of these appeals to the honesty or the pity of Europe. They only get us laughed at, and afford a miserable demagogue like Earl Russell an opportunity of sneering at our misfortunes. The work we have got to do we must do ourselves, and we ought long since to have made up our mind that we may as well ask Jeff Davis for aid or sympathy as England.


THE letter of the President to Mr. Greeley was editorially discussed in these columns last week, but it bears further consideration. It is a perfectly distinct statement of his position. He says that he is the Chief Magistrate of the Union; that he is sworn to maintain it; and that he means to maintain it at any price. But what exact price must be paid he says that he must determine. He will take every step, including emancipation, just as fast as it shall seem to him necessary. But he implies that he shall not consider emancipation a measure necessary to suppress the rebellion merely because it is a good measure in itself, or because he would gladly see all men free. The object of the war is the preservation of the Government. Emancipation can be only an episode—it can not be the purpose of the war.

Will any sensible man quarrel with this position? Will any sensible man say that, under all the circumstances of the country, it would have been wise or humane for the President to have proclaimed emancipation on the day after the fall of Sumter? Or, again, will any sensible man say that if the Government can not be saved without emancipation it must be destroyed?

The critical point is to determine when the decree of emancipation is a necessary measure. It is clear that it can not be truly effective until it is supported by public opinion. It is equally clear that the mere declaration would not create that opinion. "The Golden Hour," of which Mr. Conway so earnestly and impetuously writes, is not the hour in which war gives the President command of all military measures, but that in which the love of the Union and the Government is stronger in the heart of the nation than party spirit, or the antipathies of race, or the prejudices of ignorance and passion. For it is precisely upon these that the result of the act depends. Therefore the time must be determined by a sagacious apprehension of the national feeling.

It does not follow that the people would respond to a great act of emancipation because they ought to respond. No man who has carefully and sensitively studied the public mind during the war but must be very sure that nothing required more delicate management than the very question which the war itself seemed to settle beyond dispute. Nor would any honest man consciously wish that any great measure should be premature. If indeed he declare that no measure like this can be premature, he is honest, but he is not reasonable.

Knowing perfectly well, then, that the President faithfully follows what he considers to be the national wish in the prosecution of this war—knowing equally well that he is a humane and honorable man, and that we are to be saved only through him, not over him, what is our duty?

Clearly, it is to create that public opinion. It is to show that, as the war sprang from slavery, so peace is impossible while slavery lasts; to show that slavery is to-day the strength of the conspiracy, and that to make war upon the rebellion, and leave that untouched, is to fight with blank cartridges and with the sword sheathed.

But how, you ask—how if that perception comes too late? Why, if it comes too late we are lost. But it will not be the fault of the President. It will be the fatal consequence of the long dominance of slavery, which will have confused the national common-sense as well as have corrupted the public conscience.

"How," the President might ask in turn—"how if I declare emancipation before the nation believes it to be necessary? Will it, of course, approve? If it should, all is well. If it should not, should I have secured freedom for the slaves if I had lost the support of the nation?"

"But the people would support you, Sir."

"Yes," he seems to answer, "you think so sincerely. When I think so, and I invite you to persuade me, I will say the word."

Emancipation, to be the effectual measure that we believe, must be actually decreed by the nation, not merely formally proclaimed by the President. And let us be patient, for this nation is not effete before it is old. It has learned he a year and a half what would have been a gain for half a century in ordinary times.

Meanwhile it is the duty of the President to go quite as fast as the people. When Congress passes a law especially bearing upon our condition to-day, he is to take peculiar care that every military and civil officer is apprised of it, and he is to be very sure that it is obeyed. He is to show under the magistrate who impartially does his duty the man who does it with glad alacrity when it favors human liberty. He is not to pretend an impartiality, which no honest man feels, between justice and injustice. While he waits to hear what the people wish, he is to show that his heart leaps with joy when they wish nobly, and to inform the world that the Chief Magistrate of the Union is never so happy as when enforcing laws that bend to the

lowest and most hapless of his fellow-men, and whisper to them, "Friends, come up higher!" If this be the President's position, the conviction of the people will not sweep him away as a spring freshet a dam; it will only waft him to port, as winds blow the well-trimmed ship laden with priceless treasure.


LORD RUSSELL, the British Foreign Secretary, has written a letter to the British Minister at Washington in reply to a dispatch of Mr. Seward's. The tone and the expressions of the letter are alike insulting. He leaves Mr. Seward's dispatch unnoticed for a month, and, when he affects to answer, entirely evades the point of it.

Lord Russell says that the British Government wishes heartily to see, in the words of the President, an end of this unnecessary and injurious civil war. The President of the United States, when he uses that expression, means evidently one thing, Lord Russell as evidently means another. He means to insinuate, as any candid reader of his note will see, that it is an unnecessary war upon the part of both "belligerents." The President means that it is an unnecessary rebellion, because every change in our policy can be peacefully and constitutionally secured, if the people wish it. Lord Russell says, in effect and spirit, that the British Government has at heart nothing more than to see the injurious and unnecessary attempt of the United States Government to maintain itself brought to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion.

Judged by the context of his note, what would that satisfactory conclusion be? Could it be any thing but the defeat or the compromise of that Government? When he, a foreigner, calls our war unnecessary, he includes both parties to it in his condemnation. What is the sense of such an expression in his mouth?

Lord Russell is an English Whig. Does he think the Revolution of '88 an unnecessary way? Does he think the Great Rebellion of 1645 equally so? Does he think the campaign of 1745 against the Pretender an unnecessary war of the British Government to defend itself against destruction? In April, 1848, if the Chartists had appeared in arms, and Mr. Feargus O'Connor had called upon the Queen to surrender Ireland and whatever else he wanted, would Lord John Russell have stigmatized her refusal and a consequent war as injurious and unnecessary?

Again, Lord Russell says that since the beginning of the war "Her Majesty's Government have pursued a friendly, open, and consistent course." Let us see. When a successful assault had been made upon an exposed and starving garrison of United States soldiers by an armed and infuriated populace—for it was then nothing more—and when an embassador of the United States, specially instructed, was known to be on his way to England, was it "friendly and open" in the British Government, refusing to wait and hear what he might explain, to declare the friendly Government of the United States and its domestic enemies equal belligerents?

When, in December last, news reached England of the Trent seizure, and the mind of the country was so inflamed against us, calling for war to chastise our reckless insult to the British flag, which was popularly believed to be authorized by the United States Government, was it "friendly and open" for the British Prime Minister to hide in his pocket an authoritative disclaimer from this Government of intent to insult, and to hold his tongue for a fortnight while the popular misapprehension which his silence confirmed was driving the nation into war? It was "consistent" with the traditional disregard of moral honor and political principle which distinguishes the British foreign policy, but was it "friendly?" was it "open?"

Is this very letter of the Foreign Secretary—calling the war which the Government could not refuse without suffering itself to be destroyed, "injurious and unnecessary;" scoffing at the "loose blockade," and, in its last sentence, sneering at the repression of treasonable speeches—is this letter an illustration of the openness and friendliness of the British Government?

These are not new things to say, but the bubble of British impartiality in this war is so constantly blown up by British breath that it must be as constantly pricked by American pens and tongues, or somebody may seriously suppose there is something in it.


OF course no honest man is deceived by such a "Union" meeting as that lately held in Philadelphia. Its object was to say to Jeff Davis and the conspirators, "If you will only hold out long enough, we will try hard to divide the North upon this cry of Abolitionism. If we succeed, you will have an easy victory over the Government, and you will remember your friends."

The meeting was intended to secure the surrender of the country to the rebellion; to make it appear that the true enemies of the national peace were not the rebels in arms, but those who demand that the Government shall be saved at all cost; to declare that Vallandigham and Wickliffe are the model patriots, and the Administration, the hardy and heroic army, and the great body of the loyal citizens of the country are incendiaries, fanatics, and traitors.

The meeting was a miserable failure. It failed in every way. It failed in numbers, in enthusiasm, in eloquence. The aim of Mr. Ingersoll—a rich citizen of Philadelphia—was to excite the hatred of one class of the poorer citizens against another. It was a lofty aim! It was a "conservative" strain! It was a manly conduct!

Every meeting, every where, which seeks to palliate the enormous crime of this rebellion by accusing those who oppose the rebels, is effectively as treasonable an assembly as Jeff Davis's Congress. There is not a man who enters into such meetings (Next Page)




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