State of the Union Address
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
In the midst of unprecedented political troubles we have cause of great
gratitude to God for unusual good health and most abundant harvests.
You will not be surprised to learn that in the peculiar exigencies of
the times our intercourse with foreign nations has been attended with profound
solicitude, chiefly turning upon our own domestic affairs.
A disloyal portion of the American people have during the whole year
been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union. A nation which
endures factious domestic division is exposed to disrespect abroad, and
one party, if not both, is sure sooner or later to invoke foreign intervention.
Nations thus tempted to interfere are not always able to resist the
counsels of seeming expediency and ungenerous ambition, although measures
adopted under such influences seldom fail to be unfortunate and injurious
to those adopting them.
The disloyal citizens of the United States who have offered the ruin
of our country in return for the aid and comfort which they have invoked
abroad have received less patronage and encouragement than they probably
expected. If it were just to suppose, as the insurgents have seemed to
assume, that foreign nations in this case, discarding all moral, social,
and treaty obligations, would act solely and selfishly for the most speedy
restoration of commerce, including especially the acquisition of cotton,
those nations appear as yet not to have seen their way to their object
more directly or clearly through the destruction than through the preservation
of the Union. If we could dare to believe that foreign nations are actuated
by no higher principle than this, I am quite sure a sound argument could
be made to show them that they can reach their aim more readily and easily
by aiding to crush this rebellion than by giving encouragement to it.
The principal lever relied on by the insurgents for exciting foreign
nations to hostility against us, as already intimated, is the embarrassment
of commerce. Those nations, however, not improbably saw from the first
that it was the Union which made as well our foreign as our domestic commerce.
They can scarcely have failed to perceive that the effort for disunion
produces the existing difficulty, and that one strong nation promises more
durable peace and a more extensive, valuable, and reliable commerce than
can the same nation broken into hostile fragments.
It is not my purpose to review our discussions with foreign states,
because, whatever might be their wishes or dispositions, the integrity
of our country and the stability of our Government mainly depend not upon
them, but on the loyalty, virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of the American
people. The correspondence itself, with the usual reservations, is herewith
I venture to hope it will appear that we have practiced prudence and
liberality toward foreign powers, averting causes of irritation and with
firmness maintaining our own rights and honor.
Since, however, it is apparent that here, as in every other state, foreign
dangers necessarily attend domestic difficulties, I recommend that adequate
and ample measures be adopted for maintaining the public defenses on every
side. While under this general recommendation provision for defending our
seacoast line readily occurs to the mind, I also in the same connection
ask the attention of Congress to our great lakes and rivers. It is believed
that some fortifications and depots of arms and munitions, with harbor
and navigation improvements, all at well-selected points upon these, would
be of great importance to the national defense and preservation. I ask
attention to the views of the Secretary of War, expressed in his report,
upon the same general subject.
I deem it of importance that the loyal regions of east Tennessee and
western North Carolina should be connected with Kentucky and other faithful
parts of the Union by railroad. I therefore recommend, as a military measure,
that Congress provide for the construction of such road as speedily as
possible. Kentucky no doubt will cooperate, and through her legislature
make the most judicious selection of a line. The northern terminus must
connect with some existing railroad, and whether the route shall be from
Lexington or Nicholasville to the Cumberland Gap, or from Lebanon to the
Tennessee line, in the direction of Knoxville, or on some still different
line, can easily be determined. Kentucky and the General Government cooperating,
the work can be completed in a very short time, and when done it will be
not only of vast present usefulness, but also a valuable permanent improvement,
worth its cost in all the future.
Some treaties, designed chiefly for the interests of commerce, and having
no grave political importance, have been negotiated, and will be submitted
to the Senate for their consideration.
Although we have failed to induce some of the commercial powers to adopt
a desirable melioration of the rigor of maritime war, we have removed all
obstructions from the way of this humane reform except such as are merely
of temporary and accidental occurrence.
I invite your attention to the correspondence between Her Britannic
Majesty's minister accredited to this Government and the Secretary of State
relative to the detention of the British ship Perthshire in June last by
the United States steamer Massachusetts for a supposed breach of the blockade.
As this detention was occasioned by an obvious misapprehension of the facts,
and as justice requires that we should commit no belligerent act not rounded
in strict right as sanctioned by public law, I recommend that an appropriation
be made to satisfy the reasonable demand of the owners of the vessel for
I repeat the recommendation of my predecessor in his annual message
to Congress in December last in regard to the disposition of the surplus
which will probably remain after satisfying the claims of American citizens
against China, pursuant to the awards of the commissioners under the act
of the 3d of March, 1859. If, however, it should not be deemed advisable
to carry that recommendation into effect, I would suggest that authority
be given for investing the principal, over the proceeds of the surplus
referred to, in good securities, with a view to the satisfaction of such
other just claims of our citizens against China as are not unlikely to
arise hereafter in the course of our extensive trade with that Empire.
By the act of the 5th of August last Congress authorized the President
to instruct the commanders of suitable vessels to defend themselves against
and to capture pirates. This authority has been exercised in a single instance
only. For the more effectual protection of our extensive and valuable commerce
in the Eastern seas especially, it seems to me that it would also be advisable
to authorize the commanders of sailing vessels to recapture any prizes
which pirates may make of United States vessels and their cargoes, and
the consular courts now established by law in Eastern countries to adjudicate
the cases in the event that this should not be objected to by the local
If any good reason exists why we should persevere longer in withholding
our recognition of the independence and sovereignty of Hayti and Liberia,
I am unable to discern it. Unwilling, however, to inaugurate a novel policy
in regard to them without the approbation of Congress, I submit for your
consideration the expediency of an appropriation for maintaining a charge'
d'affaires near each of those new States. It does not admit of doubt that
important commercial advantages might be secured by favorable treaties
The operations of the Treasury during the period which has elapsed since
your adjournment have been conducted with signal success. The patriotism
of the people has placed at the disposal of the Government the large means
demanded by the public exigencies. Much of the national loan has been taken
by citizens of the industrial classes, whose confidence in their country's
faith and zeal for their country's deliverance from present peril have
induced them to contribute to the support of the Government the whole of
their limited acquisitions. This fact imposes peculiar obligations to economy
in disbursement and energy in action.
The revenue from all sources, including loans, for the financial year
ending on the 30th of June, 1861, was $86,835,900.27, and the expenditures
for the same period, including payments on account of the public debt,
were $84,578,834.47, leaving a balance in the Treasury on the 1st of July
of 52,257,065.80. For the first quarter of the financial year ending on
the 30th of September, 1861, the receipts from all sources, including the
balance of the 1st of July, were $102,532,509.27, and the expenses $98,239,733.09,
leaving a balance on the 1st of October, 1861, of $4,292,776.18.
Estimates for the remaining three quarters of the year and for the financial
year 1863, together with his views of ways and means for meeting the demands
contemplated by them, will be submitted to Congress by the Secretary of
the Treasury. It is gratifying to know that the expenditures made necessary
by the rebellion are not beyond the resources of the loyal people, and
to believe that the same patriotism which has thus far sustained the Government
will continue to sustain it till peace and union shall again bless the
I respectfully refer to the report of the Secretary of War for information
respecting the numerical strength of the Army and for recommendations having
in view an increase of its efficiency and the well-being of the various
branches of the service intrusted to his care. It is gratifying to know
that the patriotism of the people has proved equal to the occasion, and
that the number of troops tendered greatly exceeds the force which Congress
authorized me to call into the field.
I refer with pleasure to those portions of his report which make allusion
to the creditable degree of discipline already attained by our troops and
to the excellent sanitary condition of the entire Army.
The recommendation of the Secretary for an organization of the militia
upon a uniform basis is a subject of vital importance to the future safety
of the country, and is commended to the serious attention of Congress.
The large addition to the Regular Army, in connection with the defection
that has so considerably diminished the number of its officers, gives peculiar
importance to his recommendation for increasing the corps of cadets to
the greatest capacity of the Military Academy.
By mere omission, I presume, Congress has failed to provide chaplains
for hospitals occupied by volunteers. This subject was brought to my notice,
and I was induced to draw up the form of a letter, one copy of which, properly
addressed, has been delivered to each of the persons, and at the dates
respectively named and stated in a schedule, containing also the form of
the letter marked A, and herewith transmitted.
These gentlemen, I understand, entered upon the duties designated at
the times respectively stated in the schedule, and have labored faithfully
therein ever since. I therefore recommend that they be compensated at the
same rate as chaplains in the Army. I further suggest that general provision
be made for chaplains to serve at hospitals, as well as with regiments.
The report of the Secretary of the Navy presents in detail the operations
of that branch of the service, the activity and energy which have characterized
its administration, and the results of measures to increase its efficiency
and power. Such have been the additions, by construction and purchase,
that it may almost be said a navy has been created and brought into service
since our difficulties commenced.
Besides blockading our extensive coast, squadrons larger than ever before
assembled under our flag have been put afloat and performed deeds which
have increased our naval renown.
I would invite special attention to the recommendation of the Secretary
for a more perfect organization of the Navy by introducing additional grades
in the service.
The present organization is defective and unsatisfactory, and the suggestions
submitted by the Department will, it is believed, if adopted, obviate the
difficulties alluded to, promote harmony, and increase the efficiency of
There are three vacancies on the bench of the Supreme Court--two by
the decease of Justices Daniel and McLean and one by the resignation of
Justice Campbell. I have so far forborne making nominations to fill these
vacancies for reasons which I will now state. Two of the outgoing judges
resided within the States now overrun by revolt, so that if successors
were appointed in the same localities they could not now serve upon their
circuits; and many of the most competent men there probably would not take
the personal hazard of accepting to serve, even here, upon the Supreme
bench. I have been unwilling to throw all the appointments northward, thus
disabling myself from doing justice to the South on the return of peace;
although I may remark that to transfer to the North one which has heretofore
been in the South would not, with reference to territory and population,
During the long and brilliant judicial career of Judge McLean his circuit
grew into an empire altogether too large for any one judge to give the
courts therein more than a nominal attendance--rising in population from
1,470,018 in 1830 to 6,151,405 in 1860.
Besides this, the country generally has outgrown our present judicial
system. If uniformity was at all intended, the system requires that all
the States shall be accommodated with circuit courts, attended by Supreme
judges, while, in fact, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Florida, Texas,
California, and Oregon have never had any such courts. Nor can this well
be remedied without a change in the system, because the adding of judges
to the Supreme Court, enough for the accommodation of all parts of the
country with circuit courts, would create a court altogether too numerous
for a judicial body of any sort. And the evil, if it be one, will increase
as new States come into the Union. Circuit courts are useful or they are
not useful. If useful, no State should be denied them; if not useful, no
State should have them. Let them be provided for all or abolished as to
Three modifications occur to me, either of which, I think, would be
an improvement upon our present system. Let the Supreme Court be of convenient
number in every event; then, first, let the whole country be divided into
circuits of convenient size, the Supreme judges to serve in a number of
them corresponding to their own number, and independent circuit judges
be provided for all the rest; or, secondly, let the Supreme judges be relieved
from circuit duties and circuit judges provided for all the circuits; or,
thirdly, dispense with circuit courts altogether, leaving the judicial
functions wholly to the district courts and an independent Supreme Court.
I respectfully recommend to the consideration of Congress the present
condition of the statute laws, with the hope that Congress will be able
to find an easy remedy for many of the inconveniences and evils which constantly
embarrass those engaged in the practical administration of them. Since
the organization of the Government Congress has enacted some 5,000 acts
and joint resolutions, which fill more than 6,000 closely printed pages
and are scattered through many volumes. Many of these acts have been drawn
in haste and without sufficient caution, so that their provisions are often
obscure in themselves or in conflict with each other, or at least so doubtful
as to render it very difficult for even the best-informed persons to ascertain
precisely what the statute law really is.
It seems to me very important that the statute laws should be made as
plain and intelligible as possible, and be reduced to as small a compass
as may consist with the fullness and precision of the will of the Legislature
and the perspicuity of its language. This well done would, I think, greatly
facilitate the labors of those whose duty it is to assist in the administration
of the laws, and would be a lasting benefit to the people, by placing before
them in a more accessible and intelligible form the laws which so deeply
concern their interests and their duties.
I am informed by some whose opinions I respect that all the acts of
Congress now in force and of a permanent and general nature might be revised
and rewritten so as to be embraced in one volume (or at most two volumes)
of ordinary and convenient size; and I respectfully recommend to Congress
to consider of the subject, and if my suggestion be approved to devise
such plan as to their wisdom shall seem most proper for the attainment
of the end proposed.
One of the unavoidable consequences of the present insurrection is the
entire suppression in many places of all the ordinary means of administering
civil justice by the officers and in the forms of existing law. This is
the case, in whole or in part, in all the insurgent States; and as our
armies advance upon and take possession of parts of those States the practical
evil becomes more apparent. There are no courts nor officers to whom the
citizens of other States may apply for the enforcement of their lawful
claims against citizens of the insurgent States, and there is a vast amount
of debt constituting such claims. Some have estimated it as high as $200,000,000,
due in large part from insurgents in open rebellion to loyal citizens who
are even now making great sacrifices in the discharge of their patriotic
duty to support the Government.
Under these circumstances I have been urgently solicited to establish
by military power courts to administer summary justice in such cases I
have thus far declined to do it, not because I had any doubt that the end
proposed--the collection of the debts--was just and right in itself, but
because I have been unwilling to go beyond the pressure of necessity in
the unusual exercise of power. But the powers of Congress, I suppose, are
equal to the anomalous occasion, and therefore I refer the whole matter
to Congress, with the hope that a plan may be devised for the administration
of justice in all such parts of the insurgent States and Territories as
may be under the control of this Government, whether by a voluntary return
to allegiance and order or by the power of our arms; this, however, not
to be a permanent institution, but a temporary substitute, and to cease
as soon as the ordinay courts can be reestablished in peace.
It is important that some more convenient means should be provided,
if possible, for the adjustment of claims against the Government, especially
in view of their increased number by reason of the war. It is as much the
duty of Government to render prompt justice against itself in favor of
citizens as it is to administer the same between private individuals. The
investigation and adjudication of claims in their nature belong to the
judicial department. Besides, it is apparent that the attention of Congress
will be more than usually engaged for some time to come with great national
questions. It was intended by the organization of the Court of Claims mainly
to remove this branch of business from the halls of Congress: but while
the court has proved to be an effective and valuable means of investigation,
it in great degree fails to effect the object of its creation for want
of power to make its judgments final.
Fully aware of the delicacy, not to say the danger, of the subject,
I commend to your careful consideration whether this power of making judgments
final may not properly be given to the court, reserving the right of appeal
on questions of law to the Supreme Court, with such other provisions as
experience may have shown to be necessary.
I ask attention to the report of the Postmaster-General, the following
being a summary statement of the condition of the Department:
The revenue from all sources during the fiscal year ending June 30,
1861, including the annual permanent appropriation of $700,000 for the
transportation of "free mail matter," was $9,049,296.40, being about 2
per cent less than the revenue for 1860.
The expenditures were $13,606,759.11, showing a decrease of more than
8 per cent as compared with those of the previous year and leaving an excess
of expenditure over the revenue for the last fiscal year of $4,557,462.71.
The gross revenue for the year ending June 30, 1863, is estimated at
an increase of 4 per cent on that of 1861, making $8,683,000, to which
should be added the earnings of the Department in carrying free matter,
viz, $700,000, making $9,383,000.
The total expenditures for 1863 are estimated at $12,528,000, leaving
an estimated deficiency of $3,145,000 to be supplied from the Treasury
in addition to the permanent appropriation.
The present insurrection shows, I think, that the extension of this
District across the Potomac River at the time of establishing the capital
here was eminently wise, and consequently that the relinquishment of that
portion of it which lies within the State of Virginia was unwise and dangerous.
I submit for your consideration the expediency of regaining that part of
the District and the restoration of the original boundaries thereof through
negotiations with the State of Virginia.
The report of the Secretary of the Interior, with the accompanying documents,
exhibits the condition of the several branches of the public business pertaining
to that Department. The depressing influences of the insurrection have
been specially felt in the operations of the Patent and General Land Offices.
The cash receipts from the sales of public lands during the past year have
exceeded the expenses of our land system only about $200,000. The sales
have been entirely suspended in the Southern States, while the interruptions
to the business of the country and the diversion of large numbers of men
from labor to military service have obstructed settlements in the new States
and Territories of the Northwest.
The receipts of the Patent Office have declined in nine months about
$100,000, rendering a large reduction of the force employed necessary to
make it self-sustaining.
The demands upon the Pension Office will be largely increased by the
insurrection. Numerous applications for pensions, based upon the casualties
of the existing war, have already been made. There is reason to believe
that many who are now upon the pension rolls and in receipt of the bounty
of the Government are in the ranks of the insurgent army or giving them
aid and comfort. The Secretary of the Interior has directed a suspension
of the payment of the pensions of such persons upon proof of their disloyalty.
I recommend that Congress authorize that officer to cause the names of
such persons to be stricken from the pension rolls.
The relations of the Government with the Indian tribes have been greatly
disturbed by the insurrection, especially in the southern superintendency
and in that of New Mexico. The Indian country south of Kansas is in the
possession of insurgents from Texas and Arkansas. The agents of the United
States appointed since the 4th of March for this superintendency have been
unable to reach their posts, while the most of those who were in office
before that time have espoused the insurrectionary cause, and assume to
exercise the powers of agents by virtue of commissions from the insurrectionists.
It has been stated in the public press that a portion of those Indians
have been organized as a military force and are attached to the army of
the insurgents. Although the Government has no official information upon
this subject, letters have been written to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
by several prominent chiefs giving assurance of their loyalty to the United
States and expressing a wish for the presence of Federal troops to protect
them. It is believed that upon the repossession of the country by the Federal
forces the Indians will readily cease all hostile demonstrations and resume
their former relations to the Government.
Agriculture, confessedly the largest interest of the nation, has not
a department nor a bureau, but a clerkship only, assigned to it in the
Government. While it is fortunate that this great interest is so independent
in its nature as to not have demanded and extorted more from the Government,
I respectfully ask Congress to consider whether something more can not
be given voluntarily with general advantage.
Annual reports exhibiting the condition of our agriculture, commerce,
and manufactures would present a fund of information of great practical
value to the country. While I make no suggestion as to details, I venture
the opinion that an agricultural and statistical bureau might profitably
The execution of the laws for the suppression of the African slave trade
has been confided to the Department of the Interior. It is a subject of
gratulation that the efforts which have been made for the suppression of
this inhuman traffic have been recently attended with unusual success.
Five vessels being fitted out for the slave trade have been seized and
condemned. Two mates of vessels engaged in the trade and one person in
equipping a vessel as a slaver have been convicted and subjected to the
penalty of fine and imprisonment, and one captain, taken with a cargo of
Africans on board his vessel, has been convicted of the highest grade of
offense under our laws, the punishment of which is death.
The Territories of Colorado, Dakota, and Nevada, created by the last
Congress, have been organized, and civil administration has been inaugurated
therein under auspices especially gratifying when it is considered that
the leaven of treason was found existing in some of these new countries
when the Federal officers arrived there.
The abundant natural resources of these Territories, with the security
and protection afforded by organized government, will doubtless invite
to them a large immigration when peace shall restore the business of the
country to its accustomed channels. I submit the resolutions of the legislature
of Colorado, which evidence the patriotic spirit of the people of the Territory.
So far the authority of the United States has been upheld in all the Territories,
as it is hoped it will be in the future. I commend their interests and
defense to the enlightened and generous care of Congress.
I recommend to the favorable consideration of Congress the interests
of the District of Columbia. The insurrection has been the cause of much
suffering and sacrifice to its inhabitants, and as they have no representative
in Congress that body should not overlook their just claims upon the Government.
At your late session a joint resolution was adopted authorizing the
President to take measures for facilitating a proper representation of
the industrial interests of the United States at the exhibition of the
industry of all nations to be holden at London in the year 1862. I regret
to say I have been unable to give personal attention to this subject--a
subject at once so interesting in itself and so extensively and intimately
connected with the material prosperity of the world. Through the Secretaries
of State and of the Interior a plan or system has been devised and partly
matured, and which will be laid before you.
Under and by virtue of the act of Congress entitled "An act to confiscate
property used for insurrectionary purposes," approved August 6, 1861, the
legal claims of certain persons to the labor and service of certain other
persons have become forfeited, and numbers of the latter thus liberated
are already dependent on the United States and must be provided for in
some way. Besides this, it is not impossible that some of the States will
pass similar enactments for their own benefit respectively, and by operation
of which persons of the same class will be thrown upon them for disposal.
In such case I recommend that Congress provide for accepting such persons
from such States, according to some mode of valuation, in lieu, pro tanto,
of direct taxes, or upon some other plan to be agreed on with such States
respectively; that such persons, on such acceptance by the General Government,
be at once deemed free, and that in any event steps be taken for colonizing
both classes (or the one first mentioned if the other shall not be brought
into existence) at some place or places in a climate congenial to them.
It might be well to consider, too, whether the free colored people already
in the United States could not, so far as individuals may desire, be included
in such colonization.
To carry out the plan of colonization may involve the acquiring of territory,
and also the appropriation of money beyond that to be expended in the territorial
acquisition. Having practiced the acquisition of territory for nearly sixty
years, the question of constitutional power to do so is no longer an open
one with us. The power was questioned at first by Mr. Jefferson, who, however,
in the purchase of Louisiana, yielded his scruples on the plea of great
expediency. If it be said that the only legitimate object of acquiring
territory is to furnish homes for white men, this measure effects that
object, for the emigration of colored men leaves additional room for white
men remaining or coming here. Mr. Jefferson, however, placed the importance
of procuring Louisiana more on political and commercial grounds than on
providing room for population.
On this whole proposition, including the appropriation of money with
the acquisition of territory, does not the expediency amount to absolute
necessity--that without which the Government itself can not be perpetuated
The war continues. In considering the policy to be adopted for suppressing
the insurrection I have been anxious and careful that the inevitable conflict
for this purpose shall not degenerate into a violent and remorseless revolutionary
struggle. I have therefore in every case thought it proper to keep the
integrity of the Union prominent as the primary object of the contest on
our pan, leaving all questions which are not of vital military importance
to the more deliberate action of the Legislature.
In the exercise of my best discretion I have adhered to the blockade
of the ports held by the insurgents, instead of putting in force by proclamation
the law of Congress enacted .at the late session for closing those ports.
So also, obeying the dictates of prudence, as well as the obligations
of law, instead of transcending I have adhered to the act of Congress to
confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes. If a new law upon
the same subject shall be proposed, its propriety will be duly considered.
The Union must be preserved, and hence all indispensable means must be
employed. We should not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme
measures, which may reach the loyal as well as the disloyal, are indispensable.
The inaugural address at the beginning of the Administration and the
message to Congress at the late special session were both mainly devoted
to the domestic controversy out of which the insurrection and consequent
war have sprung. Nothing now occurs to add or subtract to or from the principles
or general purposes stated and expressed in those documents.
The last ray of hope for preserving the Union peaceably expired at the
assault upon Fort Sumter, and a general review of what has occurred since
may not be unprofitable. What was painfully uncertain then is much better
defined and more distinct now, and the progress of events is plainly in
the right direction. The insurgents confidently claimed a strong support
from north of Mason and Dixon's line, and the friends of the Union were
not free from apprehension on the point. This, however, was soon settled
definitely, and on the right side. South of the line noble little Delaware
led off right from the first. Maryland was made to seem against the Union.
Our soldiers were assaulted, bridges were burned, and railroads torn up
within her limits, and we were many days at one time without the ability
to bring a single regiment over her soil to the capital. Now her bridges
and railroads are repaired and open to the Government; she already gives
seven regiments to the cause of the Union, and none to the enemy; and her
people, at a regular election, have sustained the Union by a larger majority
and a larger aggregate vote than they ever before gave to any candidate
or any question. Kentucky, too, for some time in doubt, is now decidedly
and, I think, unchangeably ranged on the side of the Union. Missouri is
comparatively quiet, and, I believe, can not again be overrun by the insurrectionists.
These three States of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, neither of which
would promise a single soldier at first, have now an aggregate of not less
than 40,000 in the field for the Union, while of their citizens certainly
not more than a third of that number, and they of doubtful whereabouts
and doubtful existence, are in arms against us. After a somewhat bloody
struggle of months, winter closes on the Union people of western Virginia,
leaving them masters of their own country.
An insurgent force of about 1,500, for months dominating the narrow
peninsular region constituting the counties of Accomac and Northampton,
and known as Eastern Shore of Virginia, together with some contiguous parts
of Maryland, have laid down their arms, and the people there have renewed
their allegiance to and accepted the protection of the old flag. This leaves
no armed insurrectionist north of the Potomac or east of the Chesapeake.
Also we have obtained a footing at each of the isolated points on the
southern coast of Hatteras, Port Royal, Tybee Island (near Savannah), and
Ship Island; and we likewise have some general accounts of popular movements
in behalf of the Union in North Carolina and Tennessee.
These things demonstrate that the cause of the Union is advancing steadily
and certainly southward.
Since your last adjournment Lieutenant-General Scott has retired from
the head of the Army. During his long life the nation has not been unmindful
of his merit; yet on calling to mind how faithfully, ably, and brilliantly
he has served the country, from a time far back in our history, when few
of the now living had been born, and thenceforward continually, I can not
but think we are still his debtors. I submit, therefore, for your consideration
what further mark of recognition is due to him, and to ourselves as a grateful
With the retirement of General Scott came the Executive duty of appointing
in his stead a General in Chief of the Army. It is a fortunate circumstance
that neither in council nor country was there, so far as I know, any difference
of opinion as to the proper person to be selected. The retiring chief repeatedly
expressed his judgment in favor of General McClellan for the position,
and in this the nation seemed to give a unanimous concurrence. The designation
of General McClellan is therefore in considerable degree the selection
of the country as well as of the Executive, and hence there is better reason
to hope there will be given him the confidence and cordial support thus
by fair implication promised, and without which he can not with so full
efficiency serve the country.
It has been said that one bad general is better than two good ones,
and the saying is true if taken to mean no more than that an army is better
directed by a single mind, though inferior, than by two superior ones at
variance and cross-purposes with each other.
And the same is true in all joint operations wherein those engaged can
have none but a common end in view and can differ only as to the choice
of means. In a storm at sea no one on board can wish the ship to sink,
and yet not unfrequently all go down together because too many will direct
and no single mind can be allowed to control.
It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not exclusively,
a war upon the first principle of popular government--the rights of the
people. Conclusive evidence of this is found in the most grave and maturely
considered public documents, as well as in the general tone of the insurgents.
In those documents we find the abridgment of the existing right of suffrage
and the denial to the people of all right to participate in the selection
of public officers except the legislative boldly advocated, with labored
arguments to prove that large control of the people in government is the
source of all political evil. Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as
a possible refuge from the power of the people.
In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit
raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.
It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be
made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its
connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention.
It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above,
labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available
only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else,
owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed,
it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers,
and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive
them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally
concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves.
And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed
in that condition for life.
Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed,
nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition
of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences
from them are groundless.
Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit
of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other
rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a
relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error
is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.
A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their
capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong
to neither class--neither work for others nor have others working for them.
In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people of all colors
are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a large majority
are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families--wives, sons, and
daughters--work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in
their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors
of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other.
It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their
own labor with capital; that is, they labor with their own hands and also
buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not
a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of
this mixed class.
Again, as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such
thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life.
Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their
lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world
labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land
for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length
hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and
prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent
energy and progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living
are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none
less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned.
Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess,
and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement
against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them
till all of liberty shall be lost.
From the first taking of our national census to the last are seventy
years, and we find our population at the end of the period eight times
as great as it was at the beginning. The increase of those other things
which men deem desirable has been even greater. We thus have at one view
what the popular principle, applied to Government through the machiney,
of the States and the Union, has produced in a given time, and also what
if firmly maintained it promises for the future. There are already among
us those who if the Union be preserved will live to see it contain 250,000,000.
The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future
also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let
us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.