Monday, August 8, 2011

Confiscation of Slaves

Amos Kendall, an old politician of the Andrew Jackson school, having been postmaster General under that distinguished man and caught something of the character for firmness which individualized the old hero, and who has ever since been as strongly rooted and grounded in the Democratic faith as though he based his hope of salvation on the tenacity with which he held to the creed of that party; is engaged in writing a series of letters to the President, on the condition of national affairs.  Had we the space we should be happy to publish the series, but as our neighbor of the Democrat has commenced to do so, we trust he may continue, and we congratulate the readers of that sheet in getting for once some good sound doctrine.  We cannot endorse all Mr. Kendall says, or has said, in these letters, but he is now approaching a subject upon which we hope to find him sound.

We give a few extracts to show the drift of his reasoning on the subject of confiscating the slaves of rebels.  After speaking of the rebel States, he says, “The position of the rebels as individuals is very different, and nothing but punishment or pardon can restore them to the rights of American citizens.  They have forfeited their property and their lives, and therefore to confiscate their slaves and thus set them free is not a violation of the Constitution.”  Here we have very good Democratic authority for the confiscation of the slaves of rebels, and that is all that the Republican party as such has insisted upon.  How would this affect the south?

Let us hear Mr. Kendall further.  “Probably,” he says, “four-fifths of all the slaves in the United States are now lawfully subject to confiscation on account of the treason of their master.  Four-fifths of all the slaves may be thus lawfully set free, and the emancipation of the other fifth would soon follow.”

This is the right doctrine.  But let us hear the sage further on the effect already visible in the wise policy of our government in regard to the slaves captured in the vicinity of Port Royal:

“There are said to be now about eight thousand slaves thus abandoned, (by their masters,) in the vicinity of Port Royal, in South Carolina, every one of whom may be constitutionally set free by confiscation as a punishment of their master’s treason.”

Mr. Kendall then speaks of the effect upon other thousands of slaves as the Union army advances, and adds, “In short, if the masters persist in their mad and causeless rebellion against the Constitution, the end will be a negro community along a portion of the Southern coast under the protection of the United States.”

Where are those weak-kneed ones that tremble in view of the emancipation of the slaves for fear they would become paupers upon the more favored whites, or it may be, die of actual starvation?  Here is a constitutional plan for the emancipation of slaves, and a very feasible one, not only for supporting them, but of making them contributory to our national prosperity.  “Even now,” says Mr. Kendall, “there is a negro colony around Port Royal, under the protection of the national forces, and its future expansion into an organized community depends upon the obstinacy of the planters and the events of the war.”

But we cannot pursue the subject further.  We rejoice at the position assumed by Amos Kendall, and hope the remnant of the Democratic party without a dissenting voice may endorse it, and thus assist the loyal people of the Union in ridding it of a curse that has robbed the nation of prosperity and set brother against brother in unholy warfare.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Wednesday Morning, March 12, 1862, p. 2

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