History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

=Efforts at Compromise.=—­Republican leaders, on reviewing the same facts, were themselves uncertain as to the outcome of a civil war and made many efforts to avoid a crisis.  Thurlow Weed, an Albany journalist and politician who had done much to carry New York for Lincoln, proposed a plan for extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific.  Jefferson Davis, warning his followers that a war if it came would be terrible, was prepared to accept the offer; but Lincoln, remembering his campaign pledges, stood firm as a rock against it.  His followers in Congress took the same position with regard to a similar settlement suggested by Senator Crittenden of Kentucky.

Though unwilling to surrender his solemn promises respecting slavery in the territories, Lincoln was prepared to give to Southern leaders a strong guarantee that his administration would not interfere directly or indirectly with slavery in the states.  Anxious to reassure the South on this point, the Republicans in Congress proposed to write into the Constitution a declaration that no amendment should ever be made authorizing the abolition of or interference with slavery in any state.  The resolution, duly passed, was sent forth on March 4, 1861, with the approval of Lincoln; it was actually ratified by three states before the storm of war destroyed it.  By the irony of fate the thirteenth amendment was to abolish, not guarantee, slavery.

THE WAR MEASURES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

=Raising the Armies.=—­The crisis at Fort Sumter, on April 12-14, 1861, forced the President and Congress to turn from negotiations to problems of warfare.  Little did they realize the magnitude of the task before them.  Lincoln’s first call for volunteers, issued on April 15, 1861, limited the number to 75,000, put their term of service at three months, and prescribed their duty as the enforcement of the law against combinations too powerful to be overcome by ordinary judicial process.  Disillusionment swiftly followed.  The terrible defeat of the Federals at Bull Run on July 21 revealed the serious character of the task before them; and by a series of measures Congress put the entire man power of the country at the President’s command.  Under these acts, he issued new calls for volunteers.  Early in August, 1862, he ordered a draft of militiamen numbering 300,000 for nine months’ service.  The results were disappointing—­ominous—­for only about 87,000 soldiers were added to the army.  Something more drastic was clearly necessary.

In March, 1863, Lincoln signed the inevitable draft law; it enrolled in the national forces liable to military duty all able-bodied male citizens and persons of foreign birth who had declared their intention to become citizens, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years—­with exemptions on grounds of physical weakness and dependency.  From the men enrolled were drawn by lot those destined to active service.  Unhappily the measure struck a mortal blow at the principle of universal liability by excusing any person who found a substitute for himself or paid into the war office a sum, not exceeding three hundred dollars, to be fixed by general order.  This provision, so crass and so obviously favoring the well-to-do, sowed seeds of bitterness which sprang up a hundredfold in the North.

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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