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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

can we expect if this arbitrary power should have      contest successfully without calling to our aid the
at its command half a million of ignorant, vicious     "loyal hearts," "great courage," and "physical
negroes with arms in their hands? The result in        endurance" said to exist in the African race.
that event can be conjectured, if not foretold.        This is a wonderful commentary upon the capa-
  But while the measure embodied in this bill will     city of the American people for self-government,
in no way relieve the white soldiers in the Army,      for the ability to execute laws is as necessary to
it is an insult to and reproach upon them; it is a     the maintenance of any form of government as
proposition, in the language of a distinguished        the capacity to enact them.
statesman in my own State, "to trade each soldier        It was once claimed that the slow advance of
for a negro," or, which is as odious, to admit ne-     our Army, and delay in suppressing the rebellion
groes on an equality with them in the ranks of the     was caused by the fact that we had men at the
Army--to share their laurels in case of victories,     head of the Army who were too lenient to traitors
if any are won, to receive the praise while white      and too dilatory in attempting to advance,allowing
soldiers do the fighting, and to bring reproach        the enemy to deter them from making attacks by
upon the latter on account of the cowardice and        the exhibition of "quaker guns" and other artful
inefficiency of the former class of soldiers.          contrivances, until it had placed itself beyond the
  Sir, the soldiers now in the Army will never         immediate grasp of our Army.  The officers thus
submit to this.  If there be an attempt to carry       accused of dereliction have been superseded by
out this law, they will leave the Army as rats         those who were to prosecute the war in earnest,
desert a sinking ship.  It has been said there are     and who, by their proclamations and orders, ap-
officers desirous of obtaining situations to aid in    peared to be "terribly in earnest;" these have failed
raising these regiments. That may be. There are        and their places have been supplied by others who
some who would no doubt prefer trifling with           have enjoyed a "brief immortality," only to fol-
those regiments and receiving their pay, to incur-     low their predecessors to retirement; and yet we
ring the hazards of battle. Few high-minded men,       remain unsuccessful, the reverses of the Army
however, will seek such positions, but will resign     having been more disastrous since these changes
before they will in any way be connected with          of military commanders began than before.
such "military enterprises."                             Again, it was claimed as a pretext for inau-
  The proposition of raising these regiments of        gurating this emancipation scheme that our ill
negro soldiers to fight the battle of the country is   success was for the want of a true policy; that
so absurd and ridiculous as a military measure         the President, as Commander-in-Chief, must an-
that I cannot vote for its reference to the Military   nounce a policy: that of freedom to the slaves in
Committee.  It is not for a moment entitled to         the seceded States, which would at once bring to
that importance, in a military view, that justifies    our aid the slave population, and then a successful
its consideration among the military operations of     issue might be expected.  The  President has
the country.  To so refer it, in my view, would        issued his proclamation, emancipation acts have
give it some appearance of military importance,        been passed, and acts bearing upon the negro,
and might imply a willingness to receive the meas-     in nearly every shape, except it be to declare him
ure in a modified form, which we likely would          white, and yet nothing has transpired; the people
before the close of the session, as may well be        are all the while waiting for something to "turn
inferred from the views advanced and votes given       up," but all is "quiet along the lines," and our
on the subject by the majority of that committee.      prospects for a suppression of the rebellion far
As a means of delay its reference might be proper,     from brilliant.  The radical party have the power
if there was any prospect of its ultimate defeat       to adopt, and have adopted, all the measures by
thereby; but as a majority of the committee have       which they proposed to insure our military suc-
already signified by their remarks and their votes     cess; but these measures, as predicted by the
that they were in favor of the bill in some shape,     Democracy, have but contributed our defeat,
we would soon have a favorable report, and the         and have rendered our prospects more gloomy
bill ultimately become a law.                          than at any former period. Yet, instead of learn-
  Again, this bill is a sad confession on the part     ing from the experience of the past, and changing
of Congress of the weakness of our national            this suicidal policy, it is proposed to extend it.
strength, and of the inefficiency of the white peo-    While it may be possible the people of the States
ple of the loyal States to defend and protect the      which have seceded cannot be much further alien-
Government, and suppress the existing rebellion.       ated from the Government by any future policy
A million of men have been mustered into the           than they already are by the past, there is yet
military service of the Government from the loyal      within the pale of the Union the border slave States,
States, and more could be obtained if the war had      without which we can never hope for a restoration.
been carried on within the limits of the Constitu-       The people of those States have stood like a
tion.  We have twenty millions of white people         great breakwater between secessionism of the
in the loyal States, with hearts devoted to the        South and abolitionism of the North, and amid
Union, and the beneficent institutions fostered        storms of persecution from the one and the taunts
thereby. We have great commercial advantages;          and jeers of the other have fearlessly yielded their
we have immense wealth, and all the resources          support to the Union for the sake of the Union;
necessary to carry on a successful military cam-       they have sacrificed friends, property, home, ev-
paign; while our antagonists have less than half       erything for the Union--for to be a Union man in
the white population which we have, have less          those States requires something more than idle buf-
wealth, are without a navy, their commerce de-         foonery-it is a stern reality;it requires unflinching
stroyed by a blockade of their sea-coast, and are      valor and patriotism; yet amid all their adversity,
behind us in all the means necessary for success-      and the many inducements offered to enlist them
ful military operations, and yet we are forced to      under the banner of the confederate government,
the admission that we are unable to close this         they have stood by the flag of their country; and


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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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