Reducing the (States) to A Proper Sense of Their Duty


Simon Cameron’s logic below was deeply flawed as the Constitution gives no warrant to the creature of the States to make war upon them (which is treason), or seize the property of citizens; and also claim that the government somehow has "rights." It is also revealing that Cameron mentions "defense of the Government," but not "defense of the Constitution"—sounding more like Lord Cornwallis justifying war upon his fellow Englishmen in 1775, as Cameron waged war upon his fellow Americans in 1861. Treason according to the Constitution is "levying war against them (think "united States"), or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Certainly Cameron was guilty of this, as well as his employer.

On November 7, 1775 Virginia’s Royal Governor, John Murray (Lord Dunmore), from aboard the William in Norfolk harbor announced that “all indented servants, Negroes, or others (appertaining to rebels) (are) free, that all able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesties Troops, as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing the colony to a proper sense of their duty to His Majesty’s Crown and dignity.” How similar Cameron’s words are: "whatever mode may be most efficient for the defense of the government…that will tend most speedily to suppress the insurrection." Same strategy, different despot.

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402

Reducing the (States) To A Proper Sense of Their Duty:

"The Government has no power to hold slaves, none to restrain a slave of his liberty, or to exact his service. It has a right, however, to use the voluntary service of slaves liberated by war from their Rebel masters, like any other property of the Rebels, in whatever mode may be most efficient for the defense of the Government, the prosecution of the war, and the suppression of the rebellion. It is clearly a right of the government to arm slaves when it may become necessary, as it is to take gunpowder from the enemy; whether it is expedient to do so, is purely a military question.

It is vain and idle for the Government to carry on this war, or hope to maintain its existence against rebellious force, without employing all the rights and powers of War. As has been said, the right to deprive the Rebels of their property in slaves and slave labor is as clear and absolute as the right to take forage from the field, or cotton from the warehouse, or powder and arms from the magazine. To leave the enemy in the possession of such property as forage and cotton and military stores, and the means of reproducing them would be madness. It is therefore, equal madness to leave them in peaceful and secure possession of slave property, more valuable and efficient to them for war than forage, cotton, military stores. Such policy would be national suicide.

What to do with that species of property is a question that time and circumstances will solve….It would be useless to keep them as prisoners of war; and self-preservation, the highest duty of a government, or of individuals, demands that they should be disposed of or employed in the most effective manner that will tend most speedily to suppress the insurrection and restore the authority of the government.

But in whatever manner they may be used by the Government, it is plain that, once liberated by the rebellious act of their masters they should never again be restored to bondage. By the master’s treason and rebellion he forfeits all right to the labor and service of his slave; and the slave, by his service to the Government, becomes justly entitled to freedom and protection."

(Report of the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, December 1, 1861, The Great Conspiracy, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886)