In December, 1814, General Jackson impressed a large number of slaves at and near New Orleans, and kept them at work erecting defences, behind which his troops won such glory on the 8th of January, 1815. The masters remonstrated. Jackson disregarded their remonstrances, and kept the slaves at work until many of them were killed by the enemy’s shots; yet his action was approved by Mr. Madison and Cabinet, and by Congress, which has ever refused to pay the masters for their losses.
But in all these cases, the masters were professedly friends of the Government; and yet our Presidents and Cabinets and Generals have not hesitated to emancipate their slaves whenever in time of war it was supposed to be for the interest of the country to do so. This was done in the exercise of the “war power” to which Mr. Adams referred in Congress, and for which he had the most abundant authority. But I think no records of this nation, nor of any other nation, will show an instance in which a fugitive slave has been sent back to a master who was in rebellion against the very Government who held his slave as captive.
From these precedents I deduce the following doctrines:—
1. That slaves belonging to an enemy are now and have ever been regarded as belligerents; may be lawfully captured and set free, sent out of the State, or otherwise disposed of at the will of the Executive.
2. That as slaves enable an enemy to continue and carry on the war now waged against our Government, it becomes the duty of all officers and loyal citizens to use every proper means to induce the slaves to leave their masters, and cease lending aid and comfort to the rebels.
3. That in all cases it becomes the duty of the Executive, and of all Executive officers and loyal citizens, to aid, assist and encourage those slaves who have escaped from rebel masters to continue their flight and maintain their liberty.
4. That to send back a fugitive slave to a rebel master would be lending aid and assistance to the rebellion. That those who arrest and send back such fugitives identify themselves with the enemies of our Government, and should be indicted as traitors.
Montreal, June 6, 1861.
Accordingly, let old Virginia begin to put her house in order, and pack up for the removal of her half million of slaves, for fear of the impending storm. She has invited it, and only a speedy repentance will save her from being dashed to pieces among the rocks and surging billows of this dreadful revolution.—New York Herald, April 22.
The New York Courier and Enquirer, in an editorial, apparently from Gen. Webb’s own hand, discourses as follows:—
“Most assuredly these madmen are calling down upon themselves a fearful retribution. We are no Abolitionists, as the columns of the Courier and Enquirer, for the whole period of its existence, now thirty-four years, will abundantly demonstrate. And for the whole of that period, except the first six months of its infancy, it has been under our exclusive editorial charge.