The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview
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A Copperhead View of Northern Consolidation

Alexander Harris

When the Thirty -- seventh Congress met on December 1st, 1862, the Govermnent had thrown aside all disguise that its future policy should embrace emancipation as a means of weakening the rebellion. President Lincoln had seemingly permitted himself to be dragooned, by his active abolition patisans, into fulminating the proclamation of September 22d, which, by the beginning ot the new year, should set all the slaves in the rebellious States in absolute freedom; and yet a more unwise measure for the accomplishment of that object was scarcely conceivable, as the President himself expressed it, in his interview with the Chicago divines, a few days prior to its promulgation. It could scarcely be believed, even by the most enthusiastic champions of Negro liberation, that a paper proclamation, issued by the Executive of one of the contesting sections of the country, would be able to emancipate the slaves of the other more rapidly than the progress of arms warranted. But fanaticism reasons not, it sympathises, agitates, and runs counter to the rules of ratiocination! and in this instance, having engulfed philosophical forecast in clamor, it could do what at another time would have been utterly impossible.

The enactment of a tew measures were still demanded of the American Congress, in addition to the numerous unconstitutional encroachments already made, in order that the consolidating programme of the revolutionmy party might have a finished and symmetrical contour. The union of the purse and sword, a necessity of despotism, was the grand desideratum yet to be accomplished in the, subversion of the rights of the States and of the immunities of the people. The traditionally recognized power of the States must be overthrown by every possible means, and no conceivable method

ALEXADER HARRIS, A Review of the Political Conflict in America ( New York, 1876), Chs. xviii, xxiii.

Harris, a Jeffersonian Democrat of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had an especial aversion to his fellow-townsman, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.


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