Monthly Record of Current Events, February 11.
OUR Record closes on the 11th of February. The summary of Congressional proceedings gives a brief resume of the action of Congress, upon subjects of general interest, from January 11 to February 9.
In the Senate the resolution for the expulsion of Senator Davis, of Kentucky, offered on the 8th of January by Mr. Wilson, of Massachusetts, on the ground, of passages in a series of resolutions presented to the Senate, came up at intervals. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, who were subsequently discharged from the consideration of the subject. On the 26th of January a letter was read from Mr. Davis stating that in offering these resolutions, in which appeared the sentence, "The people of the North ought to revolt against the war leaders, and take the matter into their own hands," he had no purpose to incite the army to mutiny or the people to sedition or violence; but his object was to exhort the whole people, North and South, to terminate the war by a Constitutional settlement of their difficulties, and the resolutions would not fairly admit of any other construction. Mr. Howard then moved that "censured" should be substituted for "expelled" in the resolution; in the course of his speech paying a high compliment to Mr. Davis for his general loyal course. To the ensuing discussions several prominent Republican Senators spoke decidedly against the adoption of a resolution of expulsion or censure. At length, January 28, Mr. Wilson withdrew his resolution. Mr. Davis subsequently made a personal explanation upon some points which had arisen during the debates. He had at a previous session introduced a motion for the expulsion of Senator Bright of Illinois: this motion was based not upon words uttered or opinions held by him, but upon the fact that he had written to Jefferson Davis as President of the Southern Confederacy, recommending to him a person who had an improved weapon to be used against the lawful Government of the United States; and also that Mr. Bright had uniformly voted against all measures for carrying on the war. He had also introduced a confiscation bill, the purport of which was a forfeiture of the estates of traitors during their lifetime. He said that he believed that it was the right of the people of the States to organize their own governments, but that if they refused to do so, then the United States must, as Chief Justice Marshall had decided, establish a civil government for them.
Senator Bayard's case, involving the constitutionality of the rule requiring an additional oath from Senators, came up at intervals. In the debates Mr. Bayard asserted his own loyalty, but considered the rule to be unconstitutional. The rule was affirmed by a vote of 27 to 11; whereupon Mr. Bayard decided that it was his duty to take the oath demanded, to which he had no personal objection, and then to resign his seat in the Senate. He did this on the 26th of January. Mr. Riddle was elected to fill the place vacated by Mr. Bayard, taking his seat February 2.
The Enrollment Bill has occupied a considerable portion of the time of both branches. The bill as finally passed in the Senate provides for the enrollment of all able-bodied citizens below the age of 45; exempting clergymen; and fixes the rate of commutation at $400, the payment of which sum exempts for the present draft only, leaving the commuter lisble for succeeding drafts; all persons who have resided in the country one year and who have voted are liable to draft. Veteran troops re-enlisting are to be credited to the States from which they enlisted, and commutation money is to be applied to procure substitutes in the districts where paid. — The bill is now before the House, who have made several important alterations. The clause providing that "if any drafted man shall pay money for procuring a substitute, such payment shall operate only to relieve such person from the draft in filling that quota, and his name shall be retained on the roll in filling future quotas," was stricken out; the House also refused to change the sum to be paid for commutation from $300 to $400, and also to pass the clause exempting clergymen. The details of the bill are thus left open to be settled by the further action of the two Houses.
The Enlistment Bill has also been the subject of protracted debate in the Senate, with especial reference to the clauses which relate to the employment and pay of colored soldiers, and to a provision freeing the mother, wife, and children of all slaves who enlist, in the army. Mr. Powell, of Kentucky, wished to strike out the clause; Mr. Henderson, of
559Missouri, offered an amendment applying it only to fee recruited slaves belonging to disloyal owners. Senators Grimes and Wilkenson advocated the retention of the clause; they would free all those connected with men fighting our battles; Mr. Henderson said that he was in favor of Congress abolishing slavery wherever it had the power to do so; that if Congress had the power to pass this bill, it had the power to abolish slavery every where; to this Mr. Grimes assented; he had no doubt upon the question, and would cheerfully vote for such a bill; Mr. Henderson declined to debate the question of the powers of Government during the continuance of the war; the legislation proposed would be calculated to irritate the loyal people of the States which are now perfecting measures of emancipation; one of the blessings which would ultimately result from the war would be the abolition of slavery by the States themselves. Mr. Sherman opposed the amendment. The bill made no distinction between soldiers who were free and those who were held as slaves. It guaranteed to every man who entered the army freedom for himself, his mother, his wife, and his children. This guarantee was the inevitable consequence of the employment of the slave as a soldier; and Congress had the right to make this guarantee, if it had the right so to employ slaves; if we can give them pay, bounties, and honors, we can give them freedom. He was in favor of taking into the military service all the slaves we need. If our enemies lose their slaves, so much the better; but we should pay a reasonable compensation to loyal masters. He was prepared to vote for a comprehensive system of emancipation, with compensation to loyal owners. Mr. Carlile spoke at length. He did not believe there would be an early cessation of hostilities; the rebels were not, as had been said, on the verge of starvation. The Union could not be restored by the exercise of coercive power by the Federal Government. We should not inaugurate a measure which would render death preferable to reunion. We should distinguish between those who were in arms and those who were willing and anxious for connection with us. In his legislative capacity he would not interfere with slavery in the States; but as a military commander he would use slaves as he would a horse or a wagon abandoned by the enemy. We must conquer our own prejudices before we can conquer the South. A war of conquest was always an interminable one. The Union was as desirable for the seceded States as for us. For three years we have tried the coercive powers of the Government; why not now change our policy, and leave all these irritating subjects to the military department, where they properly belong?
The Confiscation Act, passed July 17, 1862, apparently provided for the confiscation of the entire rights of property of all persons in rebellion. It was understood that the President would veto this Act, on the ground that the Constitution declared that "no attainder of treason should work corruption of blood or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted." To obviste this objection of the President an "explanatory resolution" was adopted, declaring: "Nor shall any punishment or proceeding under said Act be so construed as to work a forfeiture of the real estate of the offender beyond his natural life." That is to say, In the case of real estate held by traitors, only the life-interest of the offender can be confiscated, leaving the absolute right of his heirs to the fee-simple untouched.
In the House a joint resolution was proposed by the Judiciary Committee, amending this explanatory resolution so as to make it read: "That no punishment or proceeding under it shall be so construed as to work a forfeiture of the estate of the offender contrary to the Constitution of the United States. Provided, that no other public warning or proclamation under the Act of July 17, 1862, chapter 95, section 6, is or shall be required than the Proclamation of the President made and published by him on the 25th of July, 1862, which Proclamation, so made, shall be received and held sufficient in all cases now pending or which may hereafter arise under said Act." The amendment, after long and protracted debates, was passed, February 5, by a vote of 82 to 74. The joint resolution, as thus amended, assumes that the absolute right of confiscation of real estate is not prohibited by the Constitution; and that, therefore, in the opinion of the House, the real as well as the personal estate of traitors may be confiscated in fee and not merely for life. The general line of argument in these debates was as follows: Mr. Wadsworth said that this is not a public war between nations, but a civil contest within the States; that the States in rebellion are still in the Union; and that the laws of war do not authorize the seizure of private property on land, except in certain specified cases. Mr. Woodbridge maintained that if we adopt the theory that the rebel States are not out of the Union, then confiscation becomes a municipal regulation to operate practically on the property of those who are in armed rebellion against the Government. The rebels have broken the contract, and it is the right and duty of Congress to restrain their persons and confiscate their property. Mr. Kernan asked gentlemen on the Republican side to consider whether confiscation was not destructive of the Government. He would prosecute the war for the purpose of putting down the rebellion, and restoring peace and harmony; but do not make it a war of conquest or extermination; let not the lands of the South go to speculators, to those who follow the army to fatten on the plunder. Mr. Wilson, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said that the policy of confiscation is embodied in the living law of the land, and was not therefore before the House. All that had been said by the opponents of the resolution was a waste of time. The rebellion was not to be crushed out by offering olive brandies, or by the utterance of honeyed words even from the lips of members of Congress. We expect to see the Southern States rescued from a remorseless aristocracy, and a semi-feudal system destroyed, labor elevated to its just dignity, and such institutions of republicanism established as will secure the future peace and prosperity of the country. Traitors had no right to expect to be shielded from the consequences of their crimes. Mr. Blair, of Missouri, said that the debate on the resolution evinced that it is the determination of leading men here to compel the President to yield his ground on the subject of confiscation or to divide the party. He then went on to combat the idea that our Government had recognized the South as a belligerent power. We had always striven against such recognition. The President considered the insurgent States to be still in the Union. The doctrine, that these States were out of the Union, would permit an entire conquest to be made, and would substitute a military power for the Constitutional authorities, while the President maintains an entirely different policy for the reconstruction of the
560Union. He called upon Congress to redeem its pledges, and compensate the loyal Border States for the emancipation of their slaves, and to provide for the colonization of the freedmen. Mr. Smith, of Kentucky, advocated the resolution. He said that he was here simply as a Union man. He declared that when a man becomes a traitor to his country, and resorts to arms to overthrow the Government, he forfeits every thing, even to his life. There was no propriety in making distinctions between different kinds of property. If we can take cannon and other effects, we can take negroes and lands. There was no necessity to explain the Confiscation act of 1862. It was not an ex post facto law or bill of attainder. It proposed to reach the living man, and said nothing about women and children.
In respect to the Conduct of the War a great number of resolutions have been offered, especially in the House. We note some of the most important of these, as showing the opinions of the leaders on both sides, and of the run of sentiment in that body; Mr. Broomall offered a resolution to the effect that the Government endeavor to induce the slaves in the rebel territory to enlist in the army by giving them full pay and bounties, and by guaranteeing them freedom at once upon enlistment. Mr. Cox moved to lay the resolution on the table, unless the mover would consent to an amendment conscripting all the blacks in the land: motion to lay on the table was refused, 73 to 61. — Mr. Dawson offered a series of resolutions to the effect that the President be requested to announce that when any State now in insurrection shall submit, all hostilities against it shall cease, and it shall be protected from all external interference with its local laws and institutions: laid on the table by 79 to 56. — Mr. Cox offered a resolution requesting the President to appoint Commissioners to negotiste with the Southern authorities for an exchange of prisoners; and that "the negotistion be withdrawn from the hands of Major-General Butler, who, as it is reported, is unable, from causes connected with his past military conduct, to hold intercourse with those charged with this business at Richmond;" laid on the table by 91 to 56. — Resolutions were offered by Mr. M'Dowell censuring the suspension of the habeas corpus act, and by Mr. Edgerton affirming the "Crittenden Resolutions" to be the basis on which the war should be conducted, condemning the assumption of power by the Executive, and deprecating all revolutionary measures: laid over. — Mr. Eldridge offered preamble and resolutions declaring that conscription or forced service is contrary to the principle of self-government; that the draft has proved inadequate; that the burdens of government should fall equally on rich and poor; and that therefore the Military Committee inquire into the expediency of repealing or suspending any further draft, and offering sufficient pay and bounties to secure the requisite number of volunteers: laid on the table, 84 to 42. — Mr. Grinnell offered a preamble and resolutions to the effect that colored persons claimed as slaves have rendered valuable services to the army; that the further employment of colored troops would relieve the people of the North; therefore "a more vigorous policy to secure a larger number of persons of African descent would meet the approbation of this House:" agreed to, 80 to 46. — Mr. Fernando Wood offered a resolution exempting from draft those who, from a disbelief in the humanity, necessity, or eventual success of the war, are opposed to its further prosecution, until an effort has been made and failed to end it by negotistion: rejected, 103 to 23.
In the Senate Mr. Sumner offered a bill repealing all laws for the rendition of fugitive slaves, and another securing perfect equality before the law in United States Courts, and providing against the exclusion of witnesses on account of color. He also introduced a series of seven resolutions, of which the following is an abstract:
(1.) That the rebellion is an attempt to found a power on the institution of slavery, and is simply slavery in arms. (2.) That the rebellion can not be crushed without crushing slavery, and slavery can not be crushed without crushing the rebellion; that forbearance and toleration to one is forbearance and toleration to the other; and that it is therefore our supreme duty to utterly destroy slavery in the belligerent region; if this is undone nothing is done, and all our blood and treasure will have been lavished in vain. (3.) That in dealing with this war the National Government is invested with two classes of rights — those of Sovereignty and those of War; in virtue of the rights of Sovereignty the belligerent region is subject to the National Government, which is bound to guarantee to each State a republican form of government, and to protect it from invasion; and in virtue of the rights of War the region is subject to all the conditions of warfare, among which is that of giving "indemnity for the past and security for the future." (4.) That in seeking a restoration of the belligerent States the rebellion must not be allowed the least germ of future life, and that any system of reconstruction must be rejected which does not fully provide against the existence or revival of slavery; and that to attain this the Government should maintain a civil and military ascendency over the rebel region of sufficient duration to stamp upon it the character of freedom. (5.) That it is the duty of Congress to see to it that no rebel State is restored to the Union until safeguards are established for all loyal persons, including the now-made freedmen, and especially that no man there may be made a slave; and that the best system of reconstruction is that which most effectually destroys slavery. (6.) That slavery being the enemy of the human race, it is further the duty of Congress to "secure the extinction of slavery even in States professing loyalty." (7.) That, in addition to the guarantees stipulated by Congress, the Constitution should be so amended as to prohibit slavery every when within the limits of the Republic.
Mr. Anthony introduced into the Senate a resolution repealing the following joint resolution passed March 2, 1861: "That no amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give Congress power to abolish or interfere within my State with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or servitude by the laws of the State." Mr. Anthony said, in moving the repeal of this resolution, that the repeal would open a certain way for the downfall of slavery. If he had been asked a few years ago whether he would have voted to batter down the walls of Sumter or to invade Virginis, he would have answered No. Yet this and more had been done, because it had been made necessary by those who had entered into this unholy rebellion.
Mr. Sumner offered petitions signed by more than 100,000 persons praying Congress to pass an act for the speedy emancipation of persons of African descent. These petitions, he said, were an expression of the voice of the country. Mr. Saulsbury objected to the course of Mr. Sumner in presenting these petitions. He said that when, three years ago, Senators Seward and Crittenden presented petitions asking for the adoption of measures to prevent civil war, a deaf ear was turned to them. If the Crittenden resolutions had been adopted the civil war would have been averted. Mr. Hale said they were not passed because the party with which Mr. Saulsbury acted refused to vote for them. Mr. Saulsbury said that every member of that party
561voted to take them up, although when an amendment was proposed by Mr. Clark, several Senators, wrongly, as he thought, refused to vote. Mr. Wilson said that the Crittenden proposition was the most wicked ever presented on earth. It recognized slavery south of 36deg; 30rsquo;, forbade the abolition of slavery without the consent of Virginian slavemogers, and took away the rights of colored citizens of the Free States. Messrs. Powell and Saulsbury defended the memory of Mr. Crittenden: Mr. Wilson said that he had no design to asperse the memory of the deceased Senator, for which he entertained a sincere respect; he had only criticised his proposition. Mr. Johnson deprecated the spirit in which the discussion was conducted; whatever was the cause of our troubles, we should devise proper measures to get out of them. The Father of his Country held slaves at the time of his death. Mr. Sumner replied that Washington would appear before the bar of Heaven as the emancipator of his slaves. Mr. Conness said if the Republican party prevented the passage of the Crittenden Compromise he honored them for it. It was introduced at a time when a traitor Cabinet and President were organizing rebellion. The time had come, and we were the ministers to relieve the country from the crime and treason conjoined in African slavery. The petitions were referred.
A bill restoring the grade of Lieutenant-General was reported in the House from the Military Committee. Mr. Garfield opposed its present pasage; a Lieutentant-General could do nothing during the war that could not be done by the General-in-Chief; the President could select any one for Commanding-General; for Lieutenant-General it was better to wait till the close of the war, and then see who had merited most; every one knew who would now be appointed under this bill; would it be advisable to recall him from the army, and make him a bureau officer at Washington? Mr. Farnsworth replied, that should General Grant be selected he would not take up his quarters in Washington; he would still command the army, and hasten to any point where his presence was required. Mr. Spaulding asked if the bill contemplated that the Lieutenant-General should actually take the command, replacing the present General-in-Chief; if so, he should vote for it. Other members followed in the same general strain on both sides. A motion to lay the bill on the table was negatived, 113 to 19, when Mr. Ross offered an amendment recommending General Grant for the position, which was agreed to, 111 to 17. This bill was then passed, 96 to 41. The bill provides that the President may, when he thinks it expedient, and with the consent of the Senate, appoint as commander of the army any officer not below the grade of Major-General, who, on being commissioned as Lieutenant-General, shall be authorized, under the direction of the President, to command the armies of the United States; his pay, allowances, and emoluments to be as provided for in the acts of May 28, 1798, and August 23, 1842; but nothing in this act shall affect the rank, pay, or emoluments of General Winfield Scott, Lieutenant-General by brevet, now on the retired list of the army; and recommends Major-General Grant for the position of Lieutenant-General under this bill. In the Senate this bill was reported back by the Military Committee, striking out the clause making the Lieutenant-General Commander-in-chief, and that recommending General Grant for the position.
The Revenue Bill is making slow progress, clause by clause, through both Houses; but only two important points have been acted upon: the tax upon cotton is fixed at two cents a pound, and that on distilled liquors at 60 cents a gallon, with 20 cents additional in the case of spirits into which any substance has been introduced so as to enable the spirits to be sold as rum, brandy, etc. Various bills have been introduced for preventing speculation in gold, silver, and foreign exchange. In the House the Committee on Ways and Means have been instructed to inquire into the expediency of increasing duties upon foreign imports, especially articles of luxury, so as to give a revenue of $120,000,000; of raising the internal revenue tax so as to produce $230,000,000; and to limit the entire bank circulation, State and National, to $300,000,000; and authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to issue, as he deems expedient, bonds to an amount not exceeding $200,000,000. It is understood that the bill for the support of the army for the year ending June 30, 1865, appropristes about $530,000,000. Another Draft was ordered by the President on the 1st of February. The order reads thus:
"Ordered, that a draft for five hundred thousand men to serve for three years or during the war be made on the 10th day of March next, for the military service of the United States, crediting and deducting therefrom so many as may have been enlisted or drafted into the service prior to the first day of March, and not heretofore credited.
By the draft ordered last October 800,000 men were called for; this number has been about half filled by volunteering and enlistments. The present order therefore calls in effect for about 350,000 additional men.
General Meade has been for some time in Philadelphis seriously ill. It is presumed that this will render necessary the appointment of a new commander for the Army of the Potomac. Beyond repeated raids made in no great force on either side, both armies of the Potomac have remained nearly quiet during the month until the 6th of February, when a considerable portion of our army, under General Sedgwick, was suddenly pushed across the Rapidan. One division crossed with little opposition, and the cavalry scoured the country as far as Fredericksburg, finding no enemy in that quarter. Other divisions appear to have found the enemy in force. His outposts were met, and a skirmish followed in which we lost one or two hundred men, killed, wounded, and missing, when the army having, as it is said, "accomplished its purpose," returned to camp. What that purpose was has not been officially announced. It is generally supposed to have been a mere reconnoissance for the purpose of ascertaining the exact position and force of the enemy. It may, however, have been connected with a movement made on the same day toward Richmond.
On the 6th of February a strong force from General Butler's command, under General Wistar, left Yorktown, and proceeded by the way of New Kent Court House toward Richmond. At Bottom's Bridge they met the enemy's pickets, drove them in, and advanced to within twelve miles of Richmond, causing great alarm in the Confederate capital. If we may trust the reports of the enemy, the object of this movement was to make a sudden dash upon Richmond, and liberate our prisoners confined there; but the enemy, having learned of this design through a deserter, were prepared, and the enterprise failed, our troops returning to Willismsburg.
The enemy have been making active demonstrations
562in North Carolina, at one time seriously threatening our forces at Newbern. On the 1st of February our outposts at Bachelor's Creek, eight miles from Newbern, were attacked by a force said to number 15,000 men, and were compelled to retreat, destroying their camp and stores, and suffering a loss of from 50 to 100. The enemy succeeded in destroying the steamer Underwriter, lying in the river, repulsed our cavalry at Fort Totten, one of the defenses of Newbern, and pressed within sight of the city, the communications with which had been cut off. A vigorous siege was anticipated, but the enemy suddenly fell back to Kingston.
The movements of the enemy under Longstreet and Johnston, in Tennessee and Northern Georgia, are involved in much obscurity. They are reported to have advanced in force toward Knoxville, with the apparent purpose of recapturing that place. Other reports indicate that this movement is really a feint designed to conceal movements quite different. They have also made a vigorous though unsuccessful effort to recover Cumberland Pass. There is certainly great activity in this quarter on both sides; but it is hardly safe to undertake to explain the real designs of the opposing commanders. Many things, however, indicate that a joint movement upon Mobile, by Banks and Grant, is in contemplation.
The enemy have for some weeks been extremely active and annoying in Western Virginia, at one time apparently seriously meditating a raid across the Potomac into Maryland. If such was his purpose it appears to have been unsuccessful, and General Early, who undertook it, having been thoroughly foiled by Kelley.
General Banks, on the 11th of January, issued a proclamation to the people of Louisiana, on the basis of the President's Amnesty Proclamation, inviting the loyal citizens to vote on the 22d of February for State officers to constitute the Civil Government of the State, under the Constitution of Louisiana, except in so far as that Constitution relates to slavery. The sworn oath of allegiance is to be the only qualification enabling the citizens thus to cast their votes. He also orders a convention to be held next April for the revision of the Constitution as relates to slavery, and announces that an election for Members of Congress will soon take place. At the same time he proclaims that, for the present, the fundamental law of the State is martial law.
From Charleston there is little of special importance. Firing has been kept up upon the city, which is reported to be greatly damaged and almost deserted. The ruins of Sumter are still held by a Confederate force. Instead of a fortress, Sumter seems now to present the aspect of an earth-work, against which artillery is of little service. A circular has been issued respecting the purchase and culture of land in the vicinity of Beaufort. Any loyal person who has for six months resided upon or cultivated any lands in that district owned by the United States may enter the same for pre-emption in certain quantities, paying therefor $1.25 per acre: preference to be given to heads of families and to women whose husbands are in the service of the United States, and to soldiers and sailors honorably discharged.
The case of the Chesapeake has been decided by the Admiralty Court at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Judge ordered that the vessel and cargo should be restored to the owners, subject to such conditions as to the payment of expenses as might be prescribed by the Attorney-General.
The great "Colt Armory" at New Haven, Connecticut, was partially destroyed by fire on the morning of February 8. The portion of the establishment destroyed was devoted to the manufacture of pistols and revolving rifles, giving employment to about 900 men. That part used for making rifle-muskets for the United States was saved. The apparent loss is estimated at $1,000,000; but as much machinery and many patterns were destroyed which can only be reproduced in time, the absolute loss from delay in business will amount to a much larger sum.
Peace has been declared between Colombis and Ecuador by a treaty signed December 30. A movement appears to be in contemplation for uniting Ecuador with the Colombian Republic, with the farther design of forcing Venezuela to join the Confederation.
A terrible accident occurred at Santiago, Chili, on the 8th of December. A grand celebration was held in the Church of the Companisa in honor of the Immaculate Conception. The church, which will contain some 3000 persons, was filled to its utmost capacity, mostly with women and children, when some of the decorations caught fire. The flames spread with great rapidity, soon filling the whole church. The doors were blocked up, and egres was impossible. Fully 2500 persons were burned; and trampled to death, or crushed under the falling roof.