The conclusion of the whole matter is this: Reviewing from its inception on this continent down to the present hour the history of that offense against humanity by which one race, in order to escape labor, usurps by violence and appropriates to itself the labor of another, we find that the tendency of that usurpation it always to debase the usurpers, and usually to extinguish the laboring race; and that, in the only notable exception to this last rule, the effects of this sin against justice and mercy culminated in the bloodiest civil war that ever arose among men, of the horrors and suffering incident to which we cannot, even now, see the end.
If a calm review of this terrible episode in modern history brings no conviction that the crime which we are now expiating in blood must be atoned for, as crime can only be, by practical repentance-by thrusting out from among us the wrong of the age- argument will be unavailing. If, as all signs of the times appear to indicate, the Nation has already attained to this conviction, then it behooves us to consider how we shall carry it into effect; whether and in what manner we can effect emancipation by legal and constitutional means.
The consideration of these questions shall form the subject of the next chapter.
CHAPTER II. - Emancipation.
Aside from the abstract question of justice, there is nothing so intimately connected with the consideration of measures for the protection and improvement of American freedmen as the question, antecedent to all plans or details, whether the act or acts whereby these men were declared free are or are not absolutely legal and irrevocable. If their civil right to personal freedom is not well founded and forever secured, then all practical measures based upon that right are unavailing and nugatory. Upon their condition, before the law, must all plans for their welfare be predicated.
Their legal status is, therefore, the primary question. And if it should appear that there are any circumstances which endanger the validity or the permanency of the freedom thus proclaimed, a proper treatment of the subject requires that these circumstances should be examined with a view, if need be, to their removal.
Seldom, throughout all history, has there been presented to any nation, for its decision, a question of import more vast than this. Its solution involves not alone the social destiny of 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 of human beings, but also the permanent peace and the national honor of one of the great powers of the world. It allies itself also, in an especial manner, to the progress of civilization.
The events of the last three years have radically changed the legal aspect of this subject. Questions once purely constitutional have now become complicated with questions of international law.
A member of the commonwealth of christendom, our Republic is bound by the acknowledge rules of that unwritten code governing the society of civilized nations, of which the foundation and the suffecient authority is the common consent and usage of that society. a We are as much bound by its rules as we are by the provisions of
a We search in vain for any other authority for the law of nations than is to be found in Grotius" favorite phrase: Placuit gentiobiose, De Jure Belli et Pacis, lii, cxvii, 4, s. 5.