The Border State Representatives Respond to Lincoln’s Appeal

Posted on January 4, 2010 by


The following is a response to the appeal made by Lincoln (in this blog post from December) prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. It appeared on the same page, immediately following the President’s appeal, in the July 30, 1862 edition of the Hagerstown Herald of Freedom of Torch Light.

Reply of the Majority.

The following paper was on Thursday sent to the President, signed by the majority of the Representatives of from the Border Slaveholding States.

Washington, July 14, 1862.

To the President:
The undersigned, Representatives of Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri and Maryland, in the two Houses of Congress, have listened to your address with the profound sensibility naturally inspired by the high source from which it emanates, the earnestness which marked it delivery, and the overwhelming importance of the subject of which it treats. We have given it a most respectful consideration, and now lay before you our response. – We regret that want of time has not permitted us to make it more perfect.

We have not been wanting, Mr. President, in respect to you, and in devotion to the Constitution and the Union. We have not been indifferent to the great difficulties surrounding you, compared with which all former national troubles have been but as the summer cloud; and we have freely given you our sympathy and support. Repudiating the dangerous heresies of the Secessionists, we believe, with you, that the war on their part is aggressive and wicked, and the objects for which it was to be prosecuted on ours, defined by your message at the opening of the present Congress, to be such as all good men should approve, we have not hesitated to vote all supplies necessary to carry it on vigorously. We have voted all the men and money you have asked for, and even more; we have imposed onerous taxes on our people, and they are paying them with cheerfulness and alacrity; we have encouraged enlistments and sent to the field many of our best men; and some of our number have offered their persons to the enemy as pledges of their sincerity and devotion to country. We have done all this under the most discouraging circumstances and in the face of measures most distasteful to us and injurious to the interests we represent, and in the hearing of doctrines avowed by those who claim to be your friends most abhorrent to us and our constituents. But, for all this, we have never faltered, nor shall we so long as we have a Constitution to defend and a Government which protects us. And we are ready for renewed efforts, and even greater sacrifices, yes, any sacrifice, when we are satisfied it is required to preserve our admirable form of government and the priceless blessings of constitutional liberty.

A few of our number voted for the resolution recommended by your message of the 6th of March last; the greater portion of us did not, and we will briefly state the prominent reasons which influenced our actions.

In the first place, it proposed a radical change of our social system, and was hurried through both Houses with undue haste, without reasonable time for consideration and debate, and with not time at all for consultation with our constituents, whose interest it deeply involved. It seemed like an interference by this Government with a question which peculiarly and exclusively belonged to our respective States, on which they had not sought advice or solicited aid. Many of us donated the constitutional power of this Government to make appropriations of money for the object designated; and all of is thought our finances were in no condition to bear the immense outlay which its adoption and faithful execution would impose upon the national treasury. If we pause but a moment to think of the debt  its acceptance would have entailed, we are appalled by its magnitude. The proposition was addressed to all the States, and embraced the whole number of slaves. According to the census of 1860 there were then very nearly four million slaves in the country; from natural increase they exceed that number now. At even the low average of three hundred dollars, the price fixed by the emancipation act for the slaves of this District, and greatly below their real worth, their value runs up to the enormous sum of twelve hundred millions of dollars; and if to that we add the cost of deportation and colonization, at one hundred dollars each, which is but a fraction more than is actually paid by the Maryland Colonization Society, we have four hundred millions more! We were not willing to impose a tax on our people sufficient to pay the interest on that sum, in addition to the vast and daily increasing debt already fixed upon them. By the exigencies of the war; and if we had been willing, the country could not bear it. Stated is this form, the proposition is nothing less than the deportation from the country of sixteen hundred million dollars worth of producing labor, and the substitution in its place of an interest-bearing debt of the same amount!

But, if we are told that it was expected that only the States we represent would accept the proposition, we respectfully submit that even then it involves a sum too great for the financial ability of this Government at this time. According to the census of 1860:

Kentucky had……….225,490 slaves

Making it a whole……….1,196,112 [*]

At the same rate of valuation these would amount to ……….$358,833,600
Add for deportation and colonization $100 each……….119,244,588
And we have the enormous sum of $478,078,178

We did not feel that we should be justified in voting for a measure which, if carried,out, would add this vast amount to our public debt at a moment when the treasury was reeling under the enormous expenditure of the war.

Again, it seemed to us that this resolution was but the annunciation of a sentiment which could not or was not likely to be reduced to an actual, tangible proposition. No movement was then made to provide and appropriate the funds required to carry it into effect; and we were not encouraged to believe that funds would be provided. And our belief has been fully justified by subsequent events. Not to mention other circumstances, it is quite sufficient for our purpose to bring to your notice the fact that, while this resolution was under consideration in the senate, our colleague, the Senator from Kentucky, moved all amendment appropriating $500,000 to the object therein designated, and it was voted down with great unanimity. What confidence, then, would we reasonably feel that if we committed ourselves to the policy it proposed, our constituents would reap the fruits of the promise held but; and on what ground could we, as fair men, approach them and challenge their support?

The right to hold slaves is a right appertaining to all the States of this Union. They have the right to cherish or abolish the institution, as their tastes or their interests may prompt, and no one is authorized to question the right, or limit its enjoyment. And no one has more clearly affirmed that right than you have. Your inaugural address did you great honor in this respect, and inspired the country with confidence in your fairness and respect for the law. Our States are in the enjoyment of that right. We do not feel called on to defend the institution, or to affirm it as one that ought to be cherished; perhaps, if we were to make the attempt, we might find that we differ even among ourselves. It is enough for our purpose to know that it is a right; and so knowing, we did not see why we should now be expected to yield it. We had contributed our full share to relieve the country at this terrible crisis; we had done as much as had been required of others in like circumstances; and we did not see why sacrifices could be expected of us from which others, no more loyal, were exempt. Nor could we see what good the nation would derive from it. Such a sacrifice submitted to by us would not have strengthened the arm of this Government or weakened that of the enemy. It was not necessary, as a pledge of our loyalty, for that had been manifested beyond a reasonable doubt, in every form, and at every place possible. There was not the remotest probability that the States we represent would join in the rebellion, nor is there now, of their electing to go with the Southern section in the event of a recognition of the independence of any part of the disaffected region. Our States are fixed unalterably in their resolution to adhere to and support the Union; they see no safety for themselves and no hope for constitutional liberty but by its preservation. They will iunder no circumstances constn to its dissolution, and we do them no more than justice when we assure you that while the war is conducted to prevent that deplorable catastrophe, they will sustain it as long as they can muster a man or command a dollar. Nor will they ever consent, in any event, to unite with the Southern Confederacy. The bitter fruits of the peculiar doctrines of that region will forever prevent them from placing their security and happiness in the custody of an association which has incorporated in its organic law the seeds of its own destruction.

We cannot admit, Mr. President, that if we had voted for the resolution in the emancipation message of March last the war would now be substantially ended. we are unable to see how our action in this particular has given or could give, encouragment to the rebellion. The resolution has passed; and if there be virtue in it, it will be quite as efficacious as if we had noted for it. We have no power to bind our States in this respect by our votes here; and whether we had voted the one way or the other, they are in the same conviction of freedom to accept or reject its provisions. No, sir, the war has not been prolonged or hindered buy our action on this or any other measure. – We must look for other causes for that lamented fact. We think there is not much difficulty, not much uncertainty, in pointing out others far more probable and potent in their agencies to that end.

The rebellion derives its strength from the union of all classes in the insurgent States; and while that union lasts the war will never end until they are utterly exhausted. We know that at the inception of these troubles Southern society was divided, and that a large portion, perhaps a majority, were opposed to Secession. Now the great mass of Southern people are united. To discover why they are so we must glance at Southern society, and notice the classes into which it has been divided, and which still distinguish it. They are in arms, but not for the same objects; they are moved to a common end, but by different and even inconsistent reasons. The leaders, which comprehend what was previously known as the State Rights party, and is much the lesser class, seek to break down national independence and set up State domination. With them it is a war against nationality. The other class is fighting, as it supposes, to maintain and preserve the rights of property and domestic safety, which it has been made to believe are assailed by this Government. This latter class are not disunionists per se; they are so only because they have been made to believe that this Administration is inimical to their rights, and is making war on their domestic institutions. As long as these two classes act together they will never assent to peace. The policy, then, to be pursued is obvious. The former class will never be reconciled, but the latter may be. remove their apprehensions, satisfy them that no harm is intended to them and their institutions; that this Government is not making war on their rights of property, but is simply defending its legitimate authority, and they will gladly return to their allegiance as soon as the pressure of military domination imposed by the Confederate authority is removed from them.

Twelve months ago both Houses of Congress, adopting the spirit of your message, then but recently sent in declared with singular unanimity the objects of the war, and the country instantly bounded to your aside to assist you in carrying it on. If the spirit of that resolution had been adhered to we are confident that we should before now have seen the end of this deplorable conflict. But what have we seen? In both Houses of Congress we have heard doctrines subversive of the principles of the Constitution and scan measure after measure founded in substance on those doctrines proposed and hurried through which can…

Regretfully, that’s as far as my copy of the paper goes. I thought I captured the entire article on one page, but didn’t look closely enough to see that I needed to look to the following page for the rest of the response. I hope to get the rest soon and, when I do, I’ll just add it to the above.

Ultimately, I consider this find incredibly interesting regarding the issue of slavery and the struggle between Lincoln and the representatives from the border slaveholding states. Clearly, the representatives were quite aware of the financial impact of emancipation, but they were also quite conscious of the concerns of the people they represented. At the same time, however, they were adamant about remaining with the Union. I rank these people with those who should be considered unconditional Unionists; perhaps the highest order of this group considering the fact that, not unlike deeper points in the South, slavery ranked as a major factor in compromising that unconditional sentiment.

Additionally, the last part of this piece gives us a wonderful bonus. I think the representatives’ assessment of the people of the South was spot-on and brilliant. As time would reveal, the disaffection and disillusionment of a significant number of the common people toward the Confederacy would be instrumental in sounding the death knell of the Confederacy.

All-in-all, I consider this piece a great find in advancing my understanding of the people from the area in which Cole’s Cavalry was recruited.

* Note that the census data on slaves presented in this article doesn’t quite match with the actual figures (see an earlier post here). Not a huge difference, but still a difference.