Race, Law, and Politics in the Struggle for Equal Pay During the Civil War
THE ENROLLMENT OF EMANCIPATED SLAVES and free blacks in the Union army signified a major advance toward citizenship and equality before the law for American Negroes. Despite its long-range egalitarian tendency, however, at its inception, the policy was beset with internal contradiction in the form of lower pay and allowances for black soldiers in comparison with whites. After vigorous protest against this discrimination, which saw at least one black soldier court-martialed and sentenced to death for mutiny, Congress in June 1864 legislated equal pay for Negro troops. In the accomplishment of this goal, however, law, politics, and race--the essential elements in Union policy toward emancipated slaves during the Civil War--interacted in an unusual way. A decisive stand on behalf of equal pay for blacks was taken by conservative legalist Attorney General Edward Bates, who on this issue adopted an uncharacteristically radical political approach, while Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who usually took the radical side of issues concerning slavery and emancipation, adopted a conservative legalist position. He did so moreover in accordance with the advice of the Solicitor of the War Department, William Whiting, who was also radical in outlook. What follows is an analysis of the issues that led to this reversal of radical and conservative roles within the Lincoln administration, and the manner in which they were resolved in the equal pay act of 1864.
Employment of black manpower in the Union cause was the principal corollary of the policy of military emancipation toward which President Lincoln and Congress moved in 1862. In different ways the Confiscation and Militia Acts of July 17, 1862, were directed to____________________