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Speech of the Hon. William Allen, of Ohio, on the Enlistment of Negro Soldiers; Delivered in the House of Representatives, February 2, 1863

When, after the fall of Fort Sumter, the Presi-        duction of various measures for the confiscation
dent issued his proclamation for seventy-five thou-    of the property of rebels and the emancipation of 
sand of the militia for three months, and which was    their slaves.  The first act of this character which
responded to so gallantly, thousands more than         became a law was passed shortly before the close
were required tendering their services, he declared    of the extra session of Congress, and provided
the object of the call to be, in accordance with ex-   for the emancipation of such slaves as with the
isting statutes, for the execution of the laws and     consent of their owners were found rendering any
the protection of the public property.  A subse-       service to the military operations of the so-called
quent proclamation was issued calling for an ad-       confederate States.  At the next session, an act
ditional number of troops for three years for a        containing the following sections was passed:
similar purpose, which, although unauthorized            "That slaves of all persons who shall hereafter be engaged
by any existing law, was subsequently ratified         in rebellion against the Government of the United States, or
by this Congress at its first session, when an act     who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping
was passed authorizing the acceptance of half a        from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the
million soldiers for the period of three years, in     Army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted
which the protection of the public property and        by them and coming under the control of the Government of
the execution of the laws was still declared to be     the United States; and all slaves of such persons found or
the object.  To this call our gallant men responded    being within any place occupied by rebel forces, and after-
with alacrity, not only to the number authorized       wards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be
by this law, but to the number of some two hun-        deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their
dred thousand more, and which has been further         servitude and not again held as slaves.
increased to near a million in all.  Men of all ages,    "That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or 
capable of performing military duty, and some          the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be
who were not, men of means and men without             delivered up or in any way impeded or hindered of his
means, Democrats and Republicans, conserva-            liberty except for crime or some offense against the laws,
tives and radicals, men in every situation in life,    unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make
left their families, their friends, and their busi-    oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such
ness, and enlisted for the required period, incur-     fugitve is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has
ring all the hazards of battle and the privations of   not born arms against the United States in the present
the soldier, for the noble and patriotic purpose of    rebellion, nor in any way given aid thereto.  And no person
protecting the Government and vindicating the          engaged in the military or naval service of the United
Constitution and laws.                                 States shall, under any pretense whatever, assume to de-
  These men who thus rushed to arms in defense         cide the validity of the claim of any person to the service 
of the Union would never have incurred the haz-        or labor of any other person or surrender up such person to 
ards and sacrifices which they did if any such pol-    the claimant."
icy as that which has since been pursued, and is         Another law was passed for the acceptance of 
proposed by this bill, had been then proposed.  And    such negroes as the President might deem proper
the Republican leaders knew this, and therefore        for the purpose of working upon intrenchments,
concealed their purposes until a large army was        and aiding in the military service in such manner
in the field, composed of a majority of those who      as they might become useful.  This law was un-
had ever been opposed to the abolition policy, but     derstood at the time to authorize the employment
who, while they might have had their doubts as         of negroes as laborers simply.
to the honesty and sincerity of those in power,          At the same session a new article of war was 
felt bound to presume them sincere until the con-      added by act of Congress, in the following lan-
trary appeared.  The Union to which they had           guage:
ever been devoted was threatened, and they did           "All officers or persons in the military or naval service
not stop to inquire what party had control of the      of the United States are prohibited from employing any of
Government, supposing that partyism for the            the forces under their respective commands for the purpose
time would be buried in patriotism; and that none      of returning fugitives from servitude or labor, who may have
would be found so wicked as to take advantage of       escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is
the country's calamities to advance political or       claimed to be due; and any officer who shall be found guilty
personal interest.  With a President elected under     by a court-martial of violating this article shall be dismissed
the forms of the Constitution, whose duty it was       from the service."
to see that the laws were executed, they felt bound      These acts, passed by Congress and approved
to support him in the attempt to do so.  If this       by the President, are in direct violation of the
grand army, thus thrown into the field, had been       pledges contained in the President's inaugural and
permitted, under proper and skillful officers, to      the resolutions referred to, which received the 
fight for the protection of the Government and the     indorsement of the Republican party.  By these
execution of the laws, and had proved unsuccess-       acts, Congress has attempted by legislation to 
ful, there would never have been cause for com-        destroy the relation of master and slave in the 
plaint from the soldiers in the Army nor their         slaveholding States.  It was admitted before the
friends at home.                                       war began that Congress had no right to inter-  
  But the Army having been filled to the required      fere with this institution; and it has acquired no
standard, the policy of the party in power became      greater power since the existence of war.  The
gradually more apparent, and the President, under      Constitution is the same now as it was when this
the pressure of party friends demanding a change       party admitted that it had neither the constitu-
of policy, has yielded to their persistent appeals,    tional right nor the purpose to interfere with the
until he and they stand convicted of violating the     institution in the States.
solemn pledges which they made at and before             But these acts are in violation of the clause re-
the beginning of our national difficulties.            ferred to in the President's inaugural as to the
  The violations in Congress began by the intro-       return of fugitive slaves to their owners.  They
                                                       nullify that clause of the Constitution, by pro-
                                                       hibiting officers and soldiers from obeying it,
                                                       under penalty of dismissal from service.  Under
						       these acts, slaves are enticed within the lines of
						       the Army, and the officers of the Army being pro-
                                                       hibited from surrendering them to their owners,  

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Speech of the Hon. William Allen, of Ohio, on the Enlistment of Negro Soldiers; Delivered in the House of Representatives, February 2, 1863


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