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CONGRESSIONAL LETHARGY
Harper's Weekly, April 16, 1864, page 242 (Editorial)
There are two bills before Congress of the utmost importance, the passage of which should not be delayed, but which have been put aside for matters of much less moment. They are the bill regulating the payment of colored troops and the bill establishing a Freedmen’s Bureau. Both of them relate to the negro question, but considering that shirking the negro question has brought us into the war, it is tolerably clear that continued shirking will not get us out. The three most vital points to which public and legislative attention should be constantly directed are the financial question, the military question, and the negro question. They may be very disagreeable subjects, all of them, but they are unavoidable. And if the Union men in Congress would let the Copperhead twaddle about the eternal negro dribble itself away at its own sweet will, the great and necessary legislative steps would be taken.
There is no more pressing practical issue than the payment of the colored troops. There can be no doubt that if it is right to enlist such soldiers it is wrong not to pay them exactly as all other soldiers are paid. And if the wages of an apprentice enrolled under a draft or otherwise are not paid to his employer, there is still less reason to pay the wages of a slave so taken to his master. Again, if the children of a poor non-slaveholder are liable to a draft without compensation to the parent, there is surely no reason why the slaves of a rich slaveholder should not be regarded and treated exactly in the same way. It is intolerable that in a republic any class whatever should be privileged, but it is inhuman that a class based upon the meanest injustice should be preferred. Nobody insists, not even those friends of man, the New York city Copperhead delegation in Congress, that the poor laborer at the North should be paid for his children who are taken into the army; but these gentry insist that it is very tyrannical and unconstitutional if a rich man on the border is not well paid for the slaves whose wages and work he has always appropriated to himself. The truth is that the Government should summon every man it wishes, black or white, and pay them all equally for an equal service. Until it is ready to do that the policy of colored enlistments is premature. But Congress may be perfectly well assured that the people of this country are fully prepared for that policy, and heartily approve it. Let Messrs. Garrett Davis, Powell, Saulsbury, & Co., in the Senate, and Messrs. Cox, Pendleton, Wood, & Co., in the House, therefore, talk about the eternal negro until they are tired, and then let the bill be promptly passed which shall wipe out the class distinction among citizens in the army of the United States, which, by not being wiped out hitherto wherever it appeared, has produced its inevitable consequence, civil war.
Nor is the other point of the Freedmen’s Bureau less pressing or less practical. Statesmen and sensible men are to deal with facts, and the fact is that the overthrow of slavery, a natural and inevitable result of the war, has cast almost a race upon our hands. Under the circumstances we can not abandon them. We are bound to give them the same chance that all other people have, and to leave them alone is to deprive them of that chance. Our policy, therefore, should be universal and uniform. The freedmen are to be protected in their equal rights with other men and nothing more. They are not to be made serfs attached to the land; they are to be defended against the consequences of slavery as shown in their servile fear of the white race and against the contempt bred by slavery in the whites themselves, which holds that they have no rights to be respected. The effects of slavery and the condition of the emancipated slaves are every where effectively the same, and there is consequently not to be one policy in Louisiana, and another in South Carolina, and another in Alabama. The late slaveholders in all those regions are to be made to understand clearly that the colored people are free, and have exactly the same rights of respect and protection under this Government that they have. They are to make fair bargains with them and keep them fairly, or suffer the consequences, as we are all suffering the direful consequences of departure from this simple and equitable rule hitherto.
Mr. Eliot’s bill, already passed by the House, is good; but Mr. Sumner’s, which will be introduced in the Senate, is simpler and more comprehensive. There should be no delay in its ample consideration and prompt passage. The grave questions imperatively thrust upon the country by so wide and radical a social convulsion as the present war are not to be settled by scoffing and sneering and jeering on the one hand, or by shirking and drifting on the other. The Union men in Congress have the work to do, and they must do it without the least sympathy or help from the Copperheads. We have no reason to suppose that the Union men seriously differ in their convictions upon the necessities and duties of the times. But all legislative bodies have a dangerous habit of delay. Let us urge our friends to be active, firm, and careful.
Harper's Weekly, April 16, 1864, page 242 (Editorial)

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