Congressional Legislation on Slavery During the Civil War
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Essert, Victor A.
Slavery and the Negro! That subject is by no means dead today. The people in this country are still battling with this problem. Though the times have changed, the facts of the issue are basically the same as a century ago. Witness the present agitation over the Civil Rights Bill! |Today the Negro is free. The fact of this freedom is the subject of this work. The extent of this freedom or the exercise of his civil rights is not. The most important single factor in securing to the Negro his freedom was the Civil War. Whether slavery in itself was an important cause of the Civil War is a moot question, but that freedom from slavery was an important result of the war there is no doubt. |The war worked as a catalyst in changing public and congressional opinion on the subject of slavery, compressing into the period of four years such emancipatory legislation which might otherwise have taken as many decades. During the first session of the Thirty- seventh Congress, i. e. , the special summer session of l£6l, slaves were confiscated on no other basis than the fact that they were rebel property. Congress in the summer of 1861 was as yet hesitant in proclaiming such slaves free. During the second session of Congress, December, 1861, to July, 1862, much progress was made toward the emancipation of slaves0 The slaves were freed in the District of Columbia and in the territories. The slaves of rebels were definitely pronounced free, and the slave trade was stopped,, Though no definite legislation came out of the third session of the Thirty- eighth Congress, December, 1862, to March, 1863, the prolongation of the war tended to harden a congressional opinion against slavery. During the first session of the Thirty-eighth Congress, December, 1863, to July, 1864, the Negro soldiers of loyal citizens were freed, the fugitive slave acts repealed. During this same session bills were introduced for the complete abolition of slavery and for freeing the families of Negro soldiers belonging to loyal citizens« In fact, the Thirteenth Amendment even passed the Senate in this session, though it was not until the next session that it was legislated through both Houses. So when the war finally came, to an end, the only step yet necessary for the emancipation of all the slaves was the states’ approval of the Thirteenth Amendment. |Since slavery was the cause of the war in the eyes of a majority of the Northerners by 1864, it had to be done away with forever. The Northerners were taking no chances that the cause of such a horrible holocaust could ever be the source of trouble again.
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