1862 December 10: Lincoln’s Second State of the Union Message—Part II
The following “synopsis” of President Abraham Lincoln’s second State of the Union message to Congress appeared in the December 10, 1862, issue of The Prescott Journal and the December 13, 1862, issue of The Polk Country Press. The formatting and headlines are from the Journal.
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE !
Freedom the Fundamental Law ! !
Foreign Affairs–Negro Colonization.
Chase’s Financial Scheme Recommended.
Stands by the Proclamation !
Emancipation Amendments to the Constitution Proposed.
WASHINGTON, December 1.
The following is a synopsis of the President’s message:
FOREIGN AFFAIRS—DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENCE.
He says the correspondence touching foreign affairs which has taken place during the last year, is herewith submitted in compliance with the request to that effect.
If the condition of our relations with other nations is less gratifying than formerly, it is certainly more satisfactory than a nation so unhappily distracted might reasonable have apprehended.—A blockade of 3,000 miles of seacoast could not be established and vigorously enforced, in a season of great commercial activity like the present, without committing occasional mistakes and inflicting unintentional injustice upon foreign nations’ subjects. In clear cases of these kinds, I have so far as possible heard and redressed complaints by friendly powers. There is, however, a large and augmenting number of doubtful cases upon which the Government is unable to agree with the Governments whose protection is demanded by the claimants. There are moreover, many cases in which the United States, or their citizens, suffer wrongs from the naval or military authorities of foreign nations, which the Government of these States are not at once prepared to redress.
I have proposed to some of the foreign States interested, mutual conventions to examine and adjust such complaints. This has been made especially to Great Britain, France, Spain, and Russia. In each case it has been kindly received, but not formally adopted.
RECOMMENDS COLONIZATION OF FREE NEGROES.
Applications have been made to me by many free Americans of African descent in favor of their emigration, with a view to such colonization as was contemplated in the recent acts of Congress. Other parties at home and abroad, some interested and others from other motives, have suggested similar measures, while on the other hand, several of the Spanish American Republics have protested against the sending of such colonies to their respective territories. Under these circumstances, I have declined to move any colony to any State without first obtaining the consent of its government, with an agreement on their part to receive and protect such emigrants in all their rights as freemen ; and I have, at the same time, offered to the several States situated in the tropics, or having colonies there, to negotiate with them, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, to favor the voluntary emigration of a portion of that class to their respective territories upon conditions which shall be equal just and humane.
THE NEGROES UNWILLING TO BE COLONIZED—ARMING NEGROES.
Liberia and Hayti are yet the only countries to which colonists of African descent from here could go with a certainty of being received and adopted as citizens, and I regret to say that such persons, contemplating colonization, do not seem so willing to emigrate to these countries as to some others, nor so willing as I think their interest demands. I believe, however, that the opinion is improving, and that ere long there will be an augmented and considerable emigration to both these countries.
Our relations with European States remain undisturbed, and especially Mexico, Costa Rica, &c.
A TRANSCONTINENT, ATLANTIC AND PACIFIC TELEGRAPH.
The President favors the project of the Atlantic telegraph, and of extending the Pacific line to connect with that being extended across the Russian Empire.
URGES THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MINERAL REGIONS.
He thinks the mineral resources of the Territories ought to be developed as rapidly as possible. Every step in that direction would have a tendency to improve the revenues. It is worthy of the consideration of Congress, whether some extraordinary measures to promote that end cannot be adopted. The means which suggests itself as most likely to be effective is scientific explorations.
PROSPEROUS CONDITION OF THE NATIONAL FINANCES.
The vast expenditures incident to the military and naval operations required for the suppression of the rebellion, have hitherto been met with a promptitude and certainty unusual in similar circumstances and the public credit has been finally reinstated. The continuance of the war, however, and the increased disbursements made necessary, demand your best reflections as to the best modes of providing the necessary revenue.
GOVERNMENT BANKING UNSAFE AND INEXPEDIENT.
The suspension of specie payments by the banks made large issues of United States notes unavoidable. In no other way could the payment of the troops, and the satisfaction of other just demands be so economically or as well provided for. It is extremely doubtful whether a circulation of United States notes, payable in coin, and sufficiently large for the wants of the people, can be permanently, usefully and safely maintained.
URGES THE ADOPTION OF CHASE’S GREAT
FINANCIAL SCHEME—ARGUMENTS IN
FAVOR OF A NATIONAL CURRENCY.
Is there any other mode in which the necessary provisions for the public wants can be made, and the great advantages of a safe and uniform currency secured? I know of none which promises so certain results, and is at the same time so unobjectionable, as an organization of banking associations under a general act of Congress, well guarded in its provisions. To such associations the Government might furnish circulation notes on the security of United States bonds deposited in the Treasury. These notes prepared under the supervision of proper officers, being uniform in appearance and security, and convertible always, into coin, would at once protect labor against the evils of vicious currency, and facilitate commerce by cheapening exchange. A moderate reservation from interest on the bonds, would compensate the United States for the preparation and distribution of the notes of a general supervision of the system, and would lighten the burden of that part of the public debt employed as security. The public credit, moreover, would be greatly improved, and the negotiation of new bonds greatly facilitate the steady market demand for such bonds which the proposed adoption of the system would create. It is an additional recommendation of the measure of considerable weight in my judgement, that it would reconcile, as far as possible, all conflicting interests by the opportunity offered to existing institutions to reorganize under the act, substituting only the secured, uniform national circulation for the local and various circulations now issued.
The President then gives a summary from the Secretary of the Treasury’s report ; and refers to the reports of the Secretary of the Navy and War, and says though lengthy, they are only brief abstracts.
THE POST OFFICE.
He says there is a decided improvement in the financial condition of the Post Office Department as compared with previous years.
NO SALES FOR PUBLIC LANDS.
The Secretary of the Interior reports that the public lands have ceased to be a source of revenue.
Speaking of Indian affairs and recent troubles he says: I submit for your special consideration whether our Indian system shall not be remodeled.
THE PACIFIC RAIL ROAD, ETC.
He suggests the earliest completion possible of the Pacific Railroad. Also, the for favorable action of Congress on the project for enlarging the great canals of New York, Illinois and Michigan.
THE PHYSICAL AND NECESSARY UNITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.
The President refers to his Compensated Emancipation Proclamation of Sept. 22d, and says that portion of the earth occupied by the United States is well adapted to be the home of one national family, but not for two or more.
In the Inaugural Address, I briefly pointed out the total inadequacy of disunion as a remedy for differences between the people of the two sections. I did so in language which I cannot improve.—Physical by speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. He then remarks at length on the difficulty of making a boundary line.
PROPOSES—EMANCIPATION AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
The President then suggests amendments to the Constitution, Congress concurring, to be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, which, if ratified by the three quarters of said Legislatures, to be voted as parts of said Constitution. The first article proposes that all States abolishing slavery before January 1st, 1863, shall receive compensation from the United States. Second, all slaves free by chances of war anytime before the end of the rebellion, shall be forever free, but all owners who had not been disloyal, should be compensated. Third, Congress may appropriate and otherwise provide money for colonizing free colored persons with their consent, at any place within the United States.
The President discusses these articles at some length, and asks if, then, for a common object, slave property is to be sacrificed, is it not just that it be done at a common charge ; and if, with less money more easily paid, we can better preserve the benefits of the Union by this means than we can by the war alone, it is thought economy to do it. The proposed emancipation would shorten this war, insure perpetual peace, insure increase in population and proportionately in the wealth of the country.
THE PRESIDENT STANDS BY HIS PROCLAMATION.
The President then says that the plan consisting of these articles is recommended, not but that a restoration of the national authority would be accepted without its adoption ; nor will the war or the proceedings under the Proclamation of September 22d be stayed because of the recommendation of the plan. Its timely adoption, I doubt not, would bring restoration and stay both, and notwithstanding this plan, the recommendation that Congress provide by law for compensating any State which may adopt the emancipation measure before this plan shall have been acted upon, is hereby earnestly renewed. This plan is recommended as a means, not in conclusion of, but in addition to, all others for restoring and preserving the national authority throughout the Union. The subject is presented exclusively in its economical aspect. The plan is premised as a permanent constitutional law.
A NOBLE PERORATION—THE UNION AS IT OUGHT TO BE.
In conclusion, the President says that dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. The fiery trial thro’ which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say that we are for the Union. The world will not forget that while we say this, we do know how to save the Union. In giving freedom to the slave, we ensure freedom to the free ; and honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve, we shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of this earth. Other means may succeed. The way is plain, peaceful, generous and just—a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.