One of the arguments — and a leading one — urged by the opponents of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation against that measure is, that it is calculated to excite servile insurrection in the South, and is therefore inaugurating a savage war upon defenseless women and children.
The answer to this is at once clear and conclusive.
The slaves of the South since the beginning of the rebellion, have evinced a patience and submissiveness which, under the circumstances, is totally inexplicable, except on the theory of a more or less clear and intelligent comprehension of the nature of the contest and its probable (or possible) results to themselves. At a time when a large proportion of the male population of the south is drawn off into the military service, when the police regulations throughout the South are either suspended or in great confusion, and when there would naturally seem a better opportunity for and stronger temptation to successful insurrection than at any other time, we have seen less tendency to insurrection than even during periods of peace. Yet experience has proved that this is not because the slaves of rebels are satisfied with their condition, or stand in dread of the Union forces, since, instead of fleeing with their fugitive masters on the approach of our armies, when permitted to do so, they invariably remain, and when the opportunity offers they seek our lines, and crowds follow our troops in their retreats. Under the proclamation, we believe, the same state of affairs will continue — the slaves of rebels will seek our lines when they have the opportunity to do so, as they have done heretofore, but with greater certainty of being permitted to remain, is required by the Confiscation Act and the proclamation while the rest will quietly bide their time. As our army advances the Proclamation and Confiscation Act will apply to them so, and the rebels will be deprived of the means of defense, so far as the institution of slavery goes.
But let us acknowledge, for the sake of the argument, that the effect of the Proclamation will be as charged — that the slaves of rebel masters now engaged in the slaughter of the defenders of the Union might be excited to insurrection against those masters. Let us see who is responsible for that result.
In times of peace the people of the South have invariably shown their ability to suppress servile insurrections in their midst. The whole South is now on a war footing. The slaves are unarmed, as they ever have been. Are not the five or seven hundred thousand well armed and disciplined soldiers in the South as competent to preserve peace and suppress insurrection at home as they ever were before they were organized into armies and disciplined as soldiers? True — a necessary condition to the employment of the military power of the South in police duty at home, will be that they shall withdraw a portion of their force now warring against the Government of the United States, or that they shall cease their rebellion altogether. But who objects to that? None but those who spend their time in attempts to get up "a fire in the rear" of the Government, and so embarrass its efforts to suppress the rebellion; while they are extremely solicitous that there shall be no "fire in the rear" of the rebels.
The ability of the people of the South to protect themselves against the unarmed negroes is undoubted. We desire to see no servile insurrection. We believe there will be none. Next to the success of rebellion and the severance of these States, we believe it the greatest evil that could befall the country. But if, in order to meet an overwhelming forces employed by the Government to crush rebellion, the rebels Government withdraws every male citizen from South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana for service in the army, leaving their women and children to the chances of insurrection, who is responsible but those who prefer the overthrow of the Government to safety for themselves and families at home? Must the National Government graduate the means it employs to suppress rebellion, by the powers of rebels to resist — always making the means just unsufficient to accomplish the purpose — lest the world shall charge that by drawing into the army so large a proportion of its fighting men it exposes the South to the consequences of servile insurrection? As well might it be claimed that the Government shall not employ improved arms by which one of our soldiers shall be equal to two rebels, as to claim that we have not the right to weaken our enemy and to avail ourselves of that weakness. Let the people of the South lay down their arms and they then not only have the power to protect themselves from insurrection, but the General Government stands ready to protect them also.