1864 January 9: What the Rebel Congress Thought of President’s Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction
Lincoln’s Proclamation in the Rebel Congress.
In the proceedings of the Rebel Congress Mr. Foote¹ presented the following preamble and resolution :
WHEREAS, A copy of the truly characteristic proclamation of amnesty, recently issued by the imbecile and unprincipled usurper who now sits enthroned upon the ruins of constitutional liberty in Washington city, has been received and read by the members of the House ; now, in token of what is solemnly believed to be the almost undivided sentiment of the people of the Confederate States,
Be it resolved, That there has never been a day or an hour when the people of the Confederate States were more inflexibly resolved than they are at the present time never to relinquish the struggle of arms in which they are engaged, until that liberty and independence for which they have been so earnestly contending shall have been at last achieved, and made sure and steadfast, beyond even the probability of a future danger ; and that in spite of the reverses which have lately befallen our armies in several quarters, and cold selfish indifference to our sufferings thus far, for the most part, evinced in the actions of foreign powers, the eleven millions of enlightened freemen now battling heroically for all that can make existence desirable, are fully prepared, alike in spirits and resources, to encounter dangers far greater than those which they have heretofore bravely met, and to submit to far greater sacrifices than those which they have heretofore so cheerfully encountered, in preference to holding any further political connection with a government and people who have notoriously proven themselves contemptuously regardless of all the rights and privileges which belong to a state of civil freedom, as well as of all the most sacred usages of civilized war.
Mr. Miles² regretted that the gentleman from Tennessee had introduced such a resolution. The true and only treatment which that miserable and contemptible despot (Lincoln) should receive at the hands of this House was silent and unmitigated contempt. This resolution would appear to dignify a paper emanating from that wretched and detestable abortion, whose contemptible emptiness and folly would only receive the ridicule of the civilized world. He moved to lay the subject on the table.
Mr. Foote was willing that the preamble and resolution should be tabled, with the understanding that it would indicate the unqualified contempt of the House for Abraham Lincoln and his Message and Proclamation alluded to.
[Missing at this point is the following sentence, which is included in the official version³ of this exchange: “Mr. Miles said there would be no misunderstanding about that.”]
The motion was unanimously adopted.
Similar resolutions offered by Mr. Miller4 of Virginia, went the same way.
1. Henry Stuart Foote (1804-1880) was a United States Senator from Mississippi from 1847 to 1852 and elected on a Unionist ticket as Governor of Mississippi from 1852 to 1854. His strong leadership on the Senate floor helped secure passage of the Compromise of 1850, which for a time averted a civil war in the United States. Just before the Civil War started, he moved to Tennessee and settled at Nashville, where he was elected to the First and Second Confederate Congresses.
2. William Porcher Miles (1822-1899) was an ardent States’ Rights advocate, a supporter of slavery, and a Southern secessionist, commonly referred to as one of the “Fire-Eaters.” Miles was the mayor of Charleston (1855-1857) and served in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1857 until South Carolina seceded in December 1860. He represented South Carolina in both the provisional (1861-1862) and regular Confederate House of Representatives (1862-1865).
3. The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, edited by Frank Moore, vol. 8, p. 21 (the UWRF Library has a reprint edition published by Arno Press in 1977: E468.3 .R42 1977).
4. Samuel Augustine Miller (1819-1890) was a politician, a delegate to the First and Second Confederate Congresses from Virginia, and briefly served as a major in the Confederate States Army. After the war, Miller was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1875.