Charles B. Calvert and John W. Menzies, Border State Congressmen to Abraham Lincoln
July 14, 1862

Charles B. Calvert and John W. Menzies, along with other congressmen from Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, and Maryland, address President Lincoln's March 6, 1862 resolution involving a proposal to emancipate slaves in the border states.


         The following paper was yesterday sent to the President, signed by the majority of the Representatives from the Border Slaveholding States:


To The President:

         The undersigned, Representatives of Kentucky, Virginia, Missouri, and Maryland, in the two Houses of Congress, have listened to your address with the profound sensibility naturally inspired by the high source from which it emanates, the earnestness which marked its delivery, and the overwhelming importance of the subject of which it treats. We have given it a most respectful consideration, and now lay before you our response. We regret that want of time has not permitted us to make it more perfect.

         We have not been wanting, Mr. President, in respect to you, and in devotion to the Constitution and the Union. We have not been indifferent to the great difficulties surrounding you, compared with which all former national troubles have been but as the summer cloud; and we have freely given you our sympathy and support. Repudiating the dangerous heresies of the Secessionists, we believed, with you, that the war on their part is aggressive and wicked, and the objects for which it was to be prosecuted on ours, defined by your message at the opening of the present Congress, to be such as all good men should approve, we have not hesitated to vote all supplies necessary to carry it on vigorously. We have voted all the men and money you have asked for, and even more; we have imposed onerous taxes on our people, and they are paying them with cheerfulness and alacrity; we have encouraged enlistments and sent to the field many of our best men; and some of our number have offered their persons to the enemy as pledges of their sincerity and devotion to country. We have done all this under the most discouraging circumstances and in the face of measures most distasteful to us and injurious to the interests we represent, and in the hearing of doctrines avowed by those who claim to be your friends most abhorent to us, and our constituents. But, for all this, we have never faltered, nor shall we as long as we have a Constitution to defend and a Government which protects us. And we are ready for renewed efforts, and even greater sacrifices, yea, any sacrifice, when we are satisfied it is required to preserve our admirable form of government and the priceless blessings of constitutional liberty.

         A few of our number voted for the resolution recommended by your message of the 6th of March last, the greater portion of us did not, and we will briefly state the prominent reasons which influenced our action.

         In the first place, it proposed a radical change of our social system, and was hurried through both Houses with undue haste, without reasonable time for consideration and debate, and with no time at all for consultation with our constituents, whose interests it deeply involved. It seemed like an interference by this Government with a question which peculiarly and exclusively belonged to our respective States, on which they had not sought advice or solicited aid. Many of us doubted the constitutional power of this Government to make appropriations of money for the object designated, and all of us thought our finances were in no condition to bear the immense outlay which its adoption and faithful execution would impose upon the National Treasury. If we pause but a moment to think of the debt its acceptance would have entailed we are appalled by its magnitude. The proposition was addressed to all the States, and embraced the whole number of slaves. According to the census of 1860 there were then very nearly four million slaves in the country; from natural increase they exceed that number now. At even the low average of three hundred dollars, the price fixed by the emancipation act for the slaves of this District, and greatly below their real worth, their value runs up to the enormous sum of twelve hundred millions of dollars; and if to that we added the cost of deportation and colonization at one hundred dollars each, which is but a fraction more than is actually paid by the Maryland Colonization Society, we have four hundred millions more! We were not willing to impose a tax on our people sufficient to pay the interest on that sum, in addition to the vast and daily increasing debt already fixed upon them by the exigencies of the war; and, if we had been willing, the country could not bear it. Stated in this form the proposition is nothing less than the deportation from the country of sixteen hundred million dollars’ worth of producing labor and the substitution in its place of an interest-bearing debt of the same amount.

         But, if we are told that it was expected that only the States we represent would accept the proposition, we respectfully submit that even then it involves a sum too great for the financial ability of this Government at this time. 

According to the census of 1860—

Kentucky had.........


















Making in the whole.........




             At the same rate of valuation these would amount to........


             Add for deportation and colonization $100 each........ 


            And we have the enormous sum of........



         We did not feel that we should be justified in voting for a measure which, if carried out, would add this vast amount to our public debt at a moment when the Treasury was reeling under the enormous expenditures of the war.

         Again, it seemed to us that this resolution was but the annunciation of a sentiment which could not or was not likely to be reduced to an actual, tangible proposition. No movement was then made to provide and appropriate the funds required to carry it into effect; and we were not encouraged to believe that funds would be provided. And our belief has been fully justified by subsequent events. Not to mention other circumstances, it is quite sufficient for our purpose to bring to your notice the fact, that, while this resolution was under consideration in the Senate, our colleague, the Senator from Kentucky, moved an amendment appropriating $500,000 to the object therein designated, and it was voted down with great unanimity. What confidence, then, could we reasonably feel that if we committed ourselves to the policy it proposed, our constituents would reap the fruits of the promise held out; and on what ground could we, as fair men, approach them and challenge their support?

         The right to hold slaves is a right appertaining to all the States of this Union. They have the right to cherish or abolish the institution, as their tastes or their interests may prompt, and no one is authorized to question the right, or limit its enjoyment. And no one has more clearly affirmed that right than you have. Your inaugural address does you great honor in this respect, and inspired the country with confidence in your fairness and respect for the law. Our States are in the enjoyment of that right. We do not feel called on to defend the institution, or to affirm it is one which ought to be cherished; perhaps, if we were to make the attempt, we might find that we differ even among ourselves. It is enough for our purpose to know that it is a right; and, so knowing, we did not see why we should now be expected to yield it. We had contributed our full share to relieve the country at this terrible crisis; we had done as much as had been required of others, in like circumstances; and we did not see why sacrifices should be expected of us from which others, no more loyal, were exempt. Nor could we see what good the Nation would derive from it. Such a sacrifice submitted to by us would not have strengthened the arm of this Government or weakened that of the enemy. It was not necessary as a pledge of our loyalty, for that had been manifested beyond a reasonable doubt, in every form, and at every place possible. There was not the remotest probability that the States we represent would join in the rebellion, nor is there now; or of their electing to go with the Southern section in the event of a recognition of the independence of any part of the disaffected region. Our States are fixed unalterably in their resolution to adhere to and support the Union; they see no safety for themselves and no hope for constitutional liberty but by its preservation. They will under no circumstances consent to its dissolution, and we do them no more than justice when we assure you that while the war is conducted to prevent that deplorable catastrophe, they will sustain it as long as they can muster a man or command a dollar. Nor will they ever consent, in any event, to unite with the Southern Confederacy. The bitter fruits of the peculiar doctrines of that region will forever prevent them from placing their security and happiness in the custody of an association which has incorporated in its organic law the seeds of its own destruction.

         We cannot admit, Mr. President, that if we had voted for the resolution in the emancipation message of March last the war would now be substantially ended. We are unable to see how our action in this particular has given, or could give, encouragement to the rebellion. The resolution has passed; and if there be virtue in it, it will be quite as efficacious as if we had voted for it. We have no power to bind our States in this respect by our votes here; and whether we had voted the one way or the other, they are in the same condition of freedom to accept or reject its provisions. No, Sir; the war has not been prolonged or hindered by our action on this or any other measure. We must look for other causes for that lamented fact. We think there is not much difficulty, not much uncertainty, in pointing out others far more probable and potent in their agencies to that end.

         The rebellion derives its strength from the union of all classes in the insurgent States; and while that union lasts the war will never end until they are utterly exhausted. We know that at the inception of these troubles Southern society was divided, and that a large portion, perhaps a majority, were opposed to secession. Now the great mass of Southern people are united. To discover why they are so we must glance at Southern society, and notice the classes into which it has been divided, and which still distinguish it. They are in arms, but not for the same object; they are moved to a common end, but by different and even inconsistent reasons. The leaders, which comprehends what was previously known as the State Rights party, and is much the lesser class, seek to break down national independence and set up State domination. With them it is a war against nationality. The other class is fighting, as it supposes, to maintain and preserve its rights of property and domestic safety, which it has been made to believe are assailed by this Government. This latter class are not disunionists per se; they are so only because they have been made to believe that this Administration is inimical to their rights, and is making war on their domestic institutions. As long as these two classes act together they will never assent to a peace. The policy, then, to be pursued is obvious. The former class will never be reconciled, but the latter may be. Remove their apprehensions; satisfy them that no harm is intended to them and their institutions; that this Government is not making war on their rights of property, but is simply defending its legitimate authority, and they will gladly return to their allegiance as soon as the pressure of military dominion imposed by the Confederate authority is removed from them. 

         Twelve months ago both Houses of Congress, adopting the spirit of your message, then but recently sent in, declared with singular unanimity the objects of the war, and the country instantly bounded to your side to assist you in carrying it on. If the spirit of that resolution had been adhered to we are confident that we should before now have seen the end of this deplorable conflict. But what have we seen? In both Houses of Congress we have heard doctrines subversive of the principles of the Constitution, and seen measure after measure founded in substance on those doctrines proposed and carried through which can have no other effect than to distract and divide loyal men, and exasperate and drive still further from us and their duty the people of the rebellious States. Military officers, following these bad examples, have stepped beyond the just limits of their authority in the same direction, until in several instances you have felt the necessity of interfering to arrest them. And even the passage of the resolution to which you refer has been ostentatiously proclaimed as the triumph of a principle which the people of the Southern States regard as ruinous to them. The effect of these measures was foretold, and may now be seen in the indurated state of Southern feeling. 

         To these causes, Mr. President, and not to our omission to vote for the resolution recommended by you, we solemnly believe we are to attribute the terrible earnestness of those in arms against the Government and the continuance of the war. Nor do we (permit us to say, Mr. President, with all respect for you) agree that the institution of slavery is “the lever of their power,” but we are of the opinion that “the lever of their power” is the apprehension that the powers of a common Government created for common and equal protection to the interests of all, will be wielded against the institutions of the Southern States.

         There is one other idea in your address we feel called on to notice. After stating the fact of your repudiation of Gen. Hunter’s proclamation you add: 

         “Yet, in repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many whose support the country cannot afford to lose. And this is not the end of it. The pressure in this direction is still upon me and is increasing. By conceding what I now ask you can relieve me, and, much more, can relieve the country in this important point.” 

         We have anxiously looked into this passage to discover its true import, but we are yet in painful uncertainty. How can we, by conceding what you now ask, relieve you and the country from the increasing pressure to which you refer? We will not allow ourselves to think that the proposition is, that we consent to give up slavery, to the end that the Hunter proclamation may be let loose on the Southern people, for it is too well known that we would not be parties to any such measure, and we have too much respect for you to imagine you would propose it. Can it mean that by sacrificing our interest in slavery we appease the spirit that controls that pressure, cause it to be withdrawn, and rid the country of the pestilent agitation of the slavery question? We are forbidden so to think, for that spirit would not be satisfied with the liberation of seven hundred thousand slaves, and cease its agitation, while three millions remain in bondage. Can it mean that by abandoning slavery in our States we are removing the pressure from you and the country, by preparing for a separation on the line of the Cotton States? We are forbidden so to think, because it is known that we are, and we believe that you are, unalterably opposed to any division at all. We would prefer to think that you desire this concession as a pledge of our support, and thus enable you to withstand a pressure which weighs heavily on you and the country. Mr. President, no such sacrifice is necessary to secure our support. Confine yourself to your constitutional authority; confine your subordinates within the same limits; conduct this war solely for the purpose of restoring the Constitution to its legitimate authority; concede to each State and its loyal citizens their just rights, and we are wedded to you by indissoluble ties. Do this, Mr. President, and you touch the American heart and invigorate it with new hope. You will, as we solemnly believe, in due time restore peace to your country, lift it from despondency to a future of glory; and preserve to your countrymen, their posterity, and man, the inestimable treasure of constitutional government.

         Mr. President, we have stated with frankness and candor the reasons on which we forebore to vote for the resolution you have mentioned; but you have again presented this proposition, and appealed to us, with an earnestness and eloquence which have not failed to impress us, to “consider it, and at the least to commend it to the consideration of our States and people.” Thus appealed to by the Chief Magistrate of our beloved country, in the hour of its greatest peril, we cannot wholly decline. We are willing to trust every question relating to their interest and happiness to the consideration and ultimate judgement of our own people. While differing from you as to the necessity of emancipating the slaves of our States as a means of putting down the rebellion, and while protesting against the propriety of any extra territorial interference to induce the people of our States to adopt any particular line of policy on a subject which peculiarly and exclusively belongs to them, yet when you and our brethren of the loyal States sincerely believe that the retention of slavery by us is an obstacle to peace and national harmony, and are willing to contribute pecuniary aid to compensate our States and people for the inconveniences produced by such a change of system, we are not unwilling that our people shall consider the propriety of putting it aside.

         But we have already said that we regarded this resolution as the utterance of a sentiment, and we had no confidence that it would assume the shape of a tangible practical proposition, which would yield the fruits of the sacrifice it required. Our people are influenced by the same want of confidence, and will not consider the proposition in its present impalpable form. The interest they are asked to give up is to them of immense importance, and they ought not to be expected even to entertain the proposal until they are assured that when they accept it their just expectations will not be frustrated. We regard your plan as a proposition from the Nation to the States to exercise an admitted constitutional right in a particular manner and yield up a valuable interest. Before they ought to consider the proposition it should be presented in such a tangible, practical, efficient shape as to command their confidence that its fruits are contingent only upon their acceptance. We cannot trust any thing to the contingencies of future legislation. If Congress, by proper and necessary legislation, shall provide sufficient funds and place them at your disposal to be applied by you to the payment of any of our States or the citizens thereof who shall adopt the abolishment of slavery, either gradual or immediate, as they may determine, and the expense of the deportation and colonization of the liberated slaves, then will our States and people take this proposition into careful consideration, for such decision as in their judgment is demanded by their interests, their honor, and their duty to the whole country.

We have the honor to be, with great respect,

C. A. WICKLIFFE, Chairman. 





















Printed in the National Intelligencer, July 18, 1862. Original held by the Library of Congress (,0.637,0.836,0.686,0).