revolutionized, demanded that measure as the only sure guaranty in the future for national safety and national peace. They, the slave-holders, became the abolitionists of slavery. Let us not take credit to ourselves for generous philanthropy. The South, reckless and blind, was herself the unwitting agent. And thus, in the providence of God, the very effort by armed treason to perpetuate an abuse has given us at once the will and the right to effect its eradication.
The time has come when it is constitutional to redress that abuse. No law restrains us. Henceforth we are responsible, if in the race for human freedom we lag, with Spain behind the rest of the civilized world. Henceforth we are responsible, before God and man, if, having at last become free to carry out in practice the noble declaration of our forefathers that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are among the inalienable rights of man, we basely refuse or neglect to do so.
We have a greater responsibility still. We are as one having an oath upon his soul. The maxim is well known, that, he who legally acts by another is himself the actor. The legal acts of the President are the acts of the Nation. It was the people of the United States who on the 1st day of January, 1863, set free 3,000,000 men. The deed is done; lawfully, righteously done. Its validity is as well established as that of any other public act.
But to establish its validity is to establish the status, as freemen, of every person that was held as a slave inthe insurrectionary districts named on the first day of the year 1863, whether he shall physically escaped from bondage or not. "All persons held as slaves" within these districts, are the words. Is the deed valid? The words stand. Is it invalid? It cannot free a single slave.
The argument, therefore, is unavailing that many of these people are still worked as slaves by persons setting at defiance the constitutional jurisdiction and the national will. A law set at defiance for the time is not thereby abrogated. In disturbed times cases of illegal detention frequently occur. Such are these cases. But, in the eye of the law, the persly detained have the rights of freemen, and the radical bayonet must enforce these rights.
Equally unavailing is the allegation, that as the proclamation was but a war measure, and therefore of force and virtue commensurate only with the war, its operation will cease when the immediate necessity which caused and justified it ceases; that is, when peace is restored.
The exigency is a great in peace as in war. There are moral and national, as well as physical necessities. "America," said the great Earl of Chatham, during a memorable debate in the House of Lords in 1770, "was settled upon ideas of liberty." a In these ideas it was that our fathers founded the Republic. In these ideas alone can we, their descendants, maintain it.
The political necessity that never more, within these United States, shall life-long claims to service and labor be held by inhabitants thereof, will be as great when peace returns as it is now while war rages. Always unjust, this property has shown itself to be nationally dangerous. But a species of property that endangers the safety or a nation must not be left in the hands of its citizens, whether in peace or war.
a W. S. Johnson's report of Chatham's speech, in his letter to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut January 10, 1770, quoted by Bancroft in his History of the United States, Vol. VI, p. 323.