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Missouri Should Be Included in the Proclamation!


October 1862

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, October 17, 1862.


We bespeak for the very able communication of Col. B. Gratz Brown, which appears in another column, a careful reading from every man who takes any interest in the great questions of the day. The question raised by Col. Brown is no abstract one. It is eminently and entirely practical. It is one upon which every public man in our midst, or who aspires to political position, will be expected to take a definite stand. Steps will undoubtedly be immediately taken to bring the subject home to the attention of the President, by petition from citizens of Missouri, favorable to the proposed method of solving the slavery question in this State. We shall in due time have something more to say upon the subject.



Letter of Col. B. Gratz Brown.

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 16, 1862.

Editors Missouri Democrat:

GENTLEMEN: At the present time the cause of freedom in Missouri is only obstructed by those who think more of conserving the interest which a few thousand slaveholders claim in a very precarious species of property, than they do of reviving the industries that support more than a million of non-slaveholders.

There are estimated to be about forty thousand slaves now held to service in this State. That number will in all probability be reduced to thirty thousand or less before any action can be had upon the subject of emancipation. To affirm that more than one-half of those are held by masters who have so far aided and abetted the rebellion as to have lost all right to their ownership under the “Confiscation Act,” is only to generalize facts of which we have daily illustration in the liberation of slaves by the Provost Marshals, not only at division headquarters but throughout the interior counties. The residue of fifteen thousand, assessed upon the present tax valuations, would not aggregate more than five millions of dollars, nor represent more than six thousand loyal slaveholders.

It will be at once apparent, therefore, to every serious thinker that violence will be done to much larger and graver interests if we permit the extinction of slavery to be longer hindered by misrepresentation as to its status, or postponed by any false delicacy in striking at it directly.

The march of events latterly has dissipated many illusions from the minds of the people of this State, and chief of all in beneficial result I take to be this: that the slaveholder is no longer the beau ideal of the non-slaveholder. Still, there are many who cannot shake off the habits of thought in which they have so long indulged, and although fully realizing the social not less than individual degradation which slavery entails, are yet willing to put a generation between us and the benefits to result from its abolition, out of simple tenderness for an idol long worshipped. To all such the reflection should commend itself, that, granting the overthrow of the slave system in Missouri as fixed, it then becomes self-evident the sooner the institution ceases to cumber the ground, the speedier will be the realization to all classes of the prosperity that will attend repopulation and industrial development. Loyal slaveholders, who are also landholders, will obtain from enhanced real estate values more than a full compensation for their sacrifices, and loyal slaveholders who are landless will have good prospect of being reimbursed individually for slaves released by an immediate act of liberation; but none at all if they have to retain their “chattels” for a term of years to secure compensation, as they will never retain them. And furthermore those so hesitant now should consider that it will be the preponderating interests of the million and more of non-slaveholders that will shape the legislation of this commonwealth for the future, and they are now looking too steadily at the grim round of toil, dishonor, prostration that threatens all their future, if slavery shall remain, ever to be deluded into commuting its sentence of extinction and overthrow for an hour longer than is absolutely necessary.

Apart from dictates of self interest however, it must be borne in mind that accomplished facts already control the matter. The proclamation of the President, put forth beyond recall, and which takes effect at an early day upon the States in open rebellion has settled the question of time as connected with slavery extinction in Missouri. No constitutional provision, act of emancipation, or any other parchment can give the slave system a lease of life for any term of years here after the day when the war power proclaims freedom to the slaves of the loyal as well as disloyal elsewhere. Conjoined to the fact that the lines of the army extend over the whole State, protecting with its ægis every claim to freedom that may be predicated upon rebel sympathy as disclosed against masters, is the other and converse fact that no reclaiming of fugitives can be had through the army at all, and only through intricate civil process when preceded by a showing of unswerving loyalty on the part of the claimants. This regimen intrinsically obliterates recapture, as may be sufficiently gathered from the experience of the past year. But without power to retain or retake slaves the institution becomes de facto dead. Salus populi suprema lex esto!

These considerations force the conclusion that it would far better accord with a true conception of our interest as a State, and a prompt disposal of slavery as an embarrassment, if we should unit in petitioning the President to embrace Missouri in the terms of his proclamation of freedom of January 1st, 1863.

Coming directly from the people or intermediately from their representatives, this will be the best assurance that we ourselves cordially indorse that proclamation, and wish to apply, as a cure for ills under which our State is fast becoming desolated—the same remedy which we recognize as necessary to the public welfare in other States. No other act will so much strengthen the hands of the President in this time of trial as such a movement here. It will be, moreover, the speediest solution we can obtain; for invoking thus a power competent to deal militarily with a question which has certainly assumed a military importance in Missouri if in any State, those obstructions which so many are ready to cast in the way of emancipation will no longer be of any force or pertinency. Certainly the double result of placing our community at home in a social attitude that will leave neither excuse nor object for that system of guerrilla warfare which has done so much harm already, and of destroying all inducement to Confederate armies to make our State the theater of conflict and occupancy, which only obtains now upon the assumption that slavery is an institution of our choice, is sufficient ground for urging such action upon the President as commander-in-chief of the national forces. There is no military man of experience and merit and zeal who would not heartily indorse it; for it would at once release fifty thousand soldiers for other and more active service, in the advance, and give not only repose to the people, but a solid base of operations to the Army of the Frontier.

It cannot be alleged in objection to such a petition from the people, that an effort at gradual or protracted emancipation would more surely secure compensation to loyal slaveholders than would the inclusion of Missouri in the clauses of the proclamation; because any postponement to a term of years will most certainly be attended by a total loss of all slaves in the interim; and besides, as the idea of compensation is based altogether upon the proffered aid of the Federal Government, and as the same intent is affirmed in the proclamation, the reliance becomes the same in the one case as the other. Such a cavil could only be raised by those who hope to dicker with the government, in the day of its peril, with design to obtain extortionate appropriation, under threat of continuing slavery here in case of refusal;–idle threats, disgraceful dickerings, as they will prove to whoever undertakes to play such part in the vase of such a future.

The President announces that in designating the “States” and “parts of States” in which the rebellious attitude of the population will constrain him to abolish slavery by military act on the 1st of January next, the fact of elections regularly held, and representatives in Congress duly chosen, will be ground for presuming that the necessity does not there exist for such action at his hands. But he also adds, wisely as it will no doubt prove, that such inference is open to be refuted by “strong countervailing testimony.” That elections will be held in most of the counties of this State is not doubtful. It is equally certain, however, that “countervailing testimony” can be adduced by loyal citizens ample to establish the rebellious character of whole districts in the interior, the sinister use that is being made of slavery there to foment strife, and the imperious military reasons that demand its extinction promptly if the campaigns of the coming year are to be other than those of the last, and our armies are not again to be recalled from Arkansas to reclaim Missouri.

Let it, then, be the present duty of those who are true friends to the cause of freedom in this State, and who believe that the Proclamation is something more than a sham, to forthwith make such facts manifest, and organize such expression by petition from the people, as will confirm the President in the propriety of including Missouri in the great Act of Emancipation that will inaugurate the new year—and confer new life and lustre upon the republic.

Respectfully yours,