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Side by side with the struggle in Congress, went the still more momentous struggle in the politics of Virginia. Its issue was the question-anticipating Lee's later words-whether "the force of public opinion in the States would soon bring about such legislation as would render effective the arming of the slaves". Obviously emancipation was the condition of its effectiveness. Without the promise of emancipation the scheme justified McCabe's sneer, "that it commanded the negro to fight for his own captivity". Whatever may be said on constitutional grounds, in defense of the refusal of Congress to demand emancipation, such defense had no significance in connection with a state. For the state no constitutional difficulty existed. A state legislature, considering what to do in response to the invitations of the act, had nothing to consider but a question of policy. Thus the issue ceased to be constitutional, and became purely political. Did the line of policy advocated by Lee carry sufficient weight to direct the political action of the states? Specifically, of his own state of Virginia?
Here it is well to refresh one's memory as to just what that policy was. Setting aside, now, all advice he gave to Congress, let us concentrate attention upon the advice he gave Virginia. Let us go back to the letter he wrote to Andrew Hunter, the Virginia senator. There we find Lee's view of the situation in terms of pure policy with all its constitutional bearings omitted. The letter which called forth Lee's reply is also well worth preservation.*2
I refer [wrote Hunter] to the great question now stirring the public mind as to the expediency and propriety of bringing to bear against our relentless enemy the element of military strength supposed to be found in our negro population. . . .
But it is not to be disguised that public sentiment is greatly divided on the subject; and besides many real objections, a mountain of prejudices growing out of our ancient modes of regarding the institution of Southern slavery will have to be met and overcome before we can attain to anything like that degree of unanimity so extremely desirable in this and all else connected with our great struggle. . . .
Pardon me, therefore, for asking, to be used not only for my own guidance, but publicly as the occasion may require [various questions which fill the latter part of the letter].
To this Lee replied:
Considering the relation of master and slave, controlled by humane laws and influenced by Christianity and an enlightened public sentiment, as the best that can exist between the white and black races while intermingled as at present in this country, I would deprecate any sudden disturbance of that relation unless it be necessary to avert a greater calamity to both. . . .
42 Official Records, fourth series, III. 1008, 1012–1013.
Should the war continue under existing circumstances, the enemy may in course of time penetrate our country and get access to a large part of our negro population. It is his avowed policy to convert the able-bodied men among them into soldiers, and to emancipate all. . . . His progress will thus add to his numbers, and at the same time destroy slavery in a manner most pernicious to the welfare of our people. Their negroes will be used to hold them in subjection, leaving the remaining force of the enemy free to extend his conquests. Whatever may be the effect of our employing negro troops, it cannot be as mischievous as this. If it end in subverting slavery it will be accomplished by ourselves, and we can devise the means of alleviating the evil consequences to both races. I think, therefore, we must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions. . . .
The reasons that induce me to recommend the employment of negro troops at all render the effect of the measures . . . upon slavery immaterial, and in my opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation. As that will be the result of the continuance of the war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeed, it seems to me most advisable to adopt it at once, and thereby obtain all the benefits that will accrue to our cause.
I can only say in conclusion, that whatever measures are to be adopted should be adopted at once. Every day's delay increases the difficulty. Much time will be required to organize and discipline the men, and action may be deferred until it is too late."
These words were penned, January 11. It is to be borne in mind. that they urged immediate action by Virginia at a time when there was no certain evidence that Congress would act at all. It did not occur to Lee that Virginia should wait to receive the guidance of Congress. In urging the policy of emancipation through legislative action he spoke as a Virginian only. Too often this fact is forgotten.
During the next sixty days, Lee rejected two great opportunities -or, if you will, put aside two great temptations. Circumstantial evidence seems to affirm the tradition that a Congressional cabal definitely proposed to him some such rôle as that of Cromwell and the Long Parliament. If the proposition was really made, the remainder of the tradition-his somewhat haughty refusal-goes without saying. Thus Lee withdrew himself from active intervention in general Confederate politics. But there was going forward, at that same time, another political crisis which presented itself to Lee as a totally different matter. There was a crisis in Virginia politics, overlooked hitherto by historians, which was quite as far reaching as the other crisis in the general politics of the whole Confederacy. Surely Mr. Bradford errs in saying that Congress took action "in response" to this letter. He confuses it with the letter to Barksdale written a month later in a very different vein.
What if Virginia had accepted the views of Lee as outlined in the letter to Andrew Hunter? What if Virginia had thrown herself, with all her vast influence, vehemently on the side of instant execution of those views? A change in the balance of forces throughout the Confederacy must certainly have resulted. That the course of Southern history would have changed had Lee seen fit to seize either of his opportunities can hardly be doubted. "Wanted-a Cromwell", would not be inappropriate as a description of the Confederacy, and, incidentally, of Virginia, at the opening of 1865. Whether even a Cromwellian assumption could then have saved the day is a speculation the answer to which will test, probably, the degree of military audacity inherent in the speculator. To imagine, however, that Lee whether as militarist or as political manager, would ever have consented to play the rôle of Cromwell, is to miss. the central law of his being. The arch-idealist, he was as incapable of accepting the power offered to him by circumstances as Cromwell, such a different type of man, would have been incapable of refusing it. Whether this was a fault in him or a virtue, a limitation or a sublimity, is not to be discussed in parentheses. All that here concerns us is the fact that he withheld himself from Virginia politics no less than from Confederate politics. He contented himself with drawing up his remarkable state paper, the letter to Hunter, and left the execution of his programme or its defeat-to the unembarrassed action of his people. For himself, politically speaking, he maintained a splendid isolation at the head of the armies.
Virginia took position as to Lee's programme, March 6. While the Barksdale bill was still before the Senate, the Virginia legislature enacted a law providing for the enrollment of slaves as soldiers. It made no mention of emancipation. Of its three sections, only one was significant. It was phrased thus:**
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That it shall be lawful for all free negroes and slaves, who may be organized as soldiers, now or at any time hereafter by the State or the Confederate Government, for the public defense during the present war with the United States, to bear arms while in active military service, and carry ammunition as other soldiers in the Army.
It would be interesting to know whether Davis was informed of this law when he sent his sharp rebuke to Congress on March 13. At that date emancipation was perhaps the chief article in his policy. He and Benjamin had decided upon that desperate last stroke of theirs, the proposition to free the slaves as the price of European "Official Records, first series, vol. XLVI., pt. 3, p. 1315.
intervention. Davis was waiting daily, in tense anxiety, for news from Paris. The two laws-the Barksdale act and the Virginia act-between them demonstrated that his diplomatic bargain, if accepted by Napoleon and Palmerston, could not be carried into effect without a vigorous political campaign against great odds; it could not be put into instant effect without something amounting to a coup d'état.
As is well known Davis was still vainly watching for hopeful news from Europe when the Confederacy fell. There is also evidence that he was exerting himself to build up a party favorable to emancipation. In this it is plain that he had powerful allies, as is evinced by a letter from him to Governor Smith of Virginia: "I am happy to receive your assurance of success [in raising black troops], as well as your promise to seek legislation to secure unmistakable freedom to the slave who shall enter the Army, with a right to return to his old home, when he shall have been honorably discharged from military service."45
Had time permitted, the double political crisis of March, 1865, would not only have closed but opened a chapter in Confederate history. Paradoxical as it sounds, the Confederate government, at that moment, needed time even more than men-time to draw its people together in a new régime based on the programme of Lee, time to work out Lee's plan of gradually constraining the state legislatures through public opinion, time to bargain with Europe on the basis of emancipation. But time was just what the Washington government was determined the Confederacy should not have. The relentlessness with which it hurried events forward takes new meaning when, from within the Confederacy, in the light of Lee's programme, we reflect upon the value of a little more time to the Confederate cause. N. W. STEPHENSON.
45 Official Records, first series, vol. XLVI., pt. 3, p. 1366.
Correspondence of the Russian Ministers in Washington, 1818-1825, I.
Or the following documents the greater number, to wit, numbers III., V., VI., VII., VIII., IX., X., XIII., and XIV. of the present installment, and all but the second and last two of the ensuing installment, have been placed at the service of the REVIEW by Mr. Worthington C. Ford, editor to the Massachusetts Historical Society, who some years ago obtained them, in copies, from the Central Archives at St. Petersburg. It appeared plain to the managing editor, upon examination of the documents thus kindly presented by Mr. Ford, despatches sent to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs by two successive ministers of Russia at Washington, that they required to be supplemented by printing with them any important communications which came during the same period from the ministry to the envoys. By the kindness of His Excellency the Imperial Russian Ambassador, Mr. George Bakhmétieff, to whom as well as to Mr. Ford grateful acknowledgments are here made, he has been permitted to make full search in the archives of the embassy for the years in question, and has extracted from them the documents numbered I., II., IV., XI., XII., XV., and XVI., together with the second and the last two documents appearing in the second installment of these papers.
Of the documents thus added, the instructions from Capodistrias and Nesselrode to Polética, numbered I., II., and XI., and those to Tuyll, numbered XV. and XVI., will doubtless be found most important and interesting. They cast a clear light upon the policy of Russia with respect to the Spanish-American colonies and with respect to the affairs of the Russian-American Company and the limits of Russian power upon the Northwest Coast. They have thus a certain value as contributions to the history of the genesis of the Monroe Doctrine.
The despatches of the envoys, on the other hand, present an interesting narrative of the negotiations upon these subjects at Washington, as they appeared to the representatives of Russia, and in a good number of instances give their versions of the same conversations which are reported to us, from the other point of view, in the Memoirs of John Quincy Adams. Adams's former residence in St. Petersburg, 1809-1814, it may be observed, was of great advantage