The Ultimate Extinction of Slavery.
The message sent to Congress by the President in favor of gradual emancipation not only continues to attract general attention, but, it is already evident, has touched the popular chord. It is a state paper which forms an epoch in the history of the Government. Dating from it a new era begins to the United States. By its promulgation, the Federal Government definitely places itself upon the side of freedom. It lays down a distinctive policy and is the beginning of a series of events under the guidance of Providence which "when the crisis shall have been reached and passed" will culminate in the ultimate extinction of slavery. And yet at the same time the suggestion which the President makes is so strictly constitutional and so moderate, that no true conservative can raise an objection to its adoption. His plan, in brief, is that the United States shall aid any State that may resolve gradually to rid itself of an institution which is condemned alike by sound economy and by morality. He would have Congress adopt a resolution declaring its readiness to afford the aid suggested; but if Congress should decline to pass the resolution, there would be an end of the matter, for without Congressional action the plan is simply impracticable. The plan itself is a good one, and its adoption by Congress is next to an absolute certainty. Thus the Government is already on the eve of the removal of a great political evil by a calm and gradual process, which will not disturb the rights of States or of individuals.
The country was not expecting any such proposition from the President and hence, while according to it a general approval, it was entirely taken by surprise. And yet it is only the enuncipation of a doctrine, which Mr. Lincoln has for years advocated and urged upon the people. In his eulogy upon Mr. Clay, more than ten years ago, he referred to emancipation as the great measure of that distinguished statesman's life, and in the celebrated speech delivered in the State House in 1858, he uttered those memorable words which have since become classic and historical; "a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved, — I do not expect the house to fall — but I DO EXPECT IT WILL CEASE TO BE DIVIDED. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and PLACE IT WHERE THE PUBLIC MIND SHALL REST IN THE BELIEF THAT IT IS IN THE COURSE OF ULTIMATE EPTINCTION; or its advocates shall push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, north as well as south." Its advocates who are now striving in vain to "dissolve the Union," failed to make it thus everywhere "lawful;" and the recent message of Mr. Lincoln, as President of the United States, will have the effect to place slavery "where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction." We all know that declaration, when first made, startled the timid from their propriety and raised a howl of denunciation from pro-slavery Democrats which can even yet be heard in the echo; but so far from receiving the popular condemnation, it actually raised the man who uttered it to the highest office in the gift of the people, and to-day when in strict consistency with that avowed declaration, and in order to prove the honesty and sincerity with which it was then proclaimed, he embodies the proposition in a message to Congress, it receives almost the unanimous support of the people, and the approval Congress. The unprincipled political leaders who once seized it as a catch word of disloyalty, and as an unwarrantable interference with the constitutional rights of slavery, are now either dumfounded and silenced, or are compelled to indorse and applaud it. The platform laid down is one on which the people, without reference to past political differences, are willing to stand. A few radical abolitionists, and an equal number of pro-slavery apologists for disunion, of the Register school, who cannot exist, if the political power of slavery should be destroyed, of course object to it in order that they may continue to agitate; but their puny efforts cannot withstand the popular pressure in favor of the principle of the message.
The President does not ask to inaugurate a revolutionary system, but only to prepare the way and to "initiate the means for the constitutional removal of slavery." The plan has the merit of combining a most glorious end with conservative means — and that end will not fail. As Mr. Lincoln said, in 1858, "wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but sooner or later, the victory is sure to come." The house will cease to be divided.