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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
FRANKFORT 3d Sept 1861
DR. SIR, The proclamation of Genl Fremont reached here yesterday, & is most inopportune for the Union party. I reached here Sunday morning. We had for some days before been, with the leading members of the legislature & other prominent union men of the State, arranging our movements and measures of the session; and had about completed them, when the proclamation fell amongst us with pretty much the effect of a bombshell. The slavery feature of the proclamation is greatly objected to by our friends, and has greatly disconcerted, & I fear has scattered us. We should have passed all our measures but for it, now I have serious doubts if we pass any of them. There is a very general, almost a universal feeling in this State against this war being or becoming a war against slavery. The position of the secessionists in this State, has been all the time, that it is, and this proclamation gives them the means of further & greatly pushing that deception. I do
not care about it myself except as it may be used to pervert public opinion & disturb the councils of union. It has caused me despondency for the first time for Ky. I wish it had not been made until this Legislature had done its business and adjourned.
I know that the general principle of the martial law is, that rebels forfeit all their estate & property, and that slaves form no exception. But many able men believe that this principle is so far modified by the constitution as to have no effect for a longer time than the life of the rebel. The martial law forfeits as well the life of all rebels, but it is not possible to execute this principle in all & every case. To a large extent not only policy, but necessity requires the application of the rule to be omitted. Would not the same considerations of policy at least require a relaxation of the forfeiture as to slaves?
You will pardon me for a simple suggestion. Thousands
tens of thousands had no knowledge, not even suspicion that they would incur a forfeiture of their property by arraying themselves against the Government. Ought not the administration to issue a proclamation setting forth these principles & consequences & give all people opportunity to return to their duty & save themselves.
Yr obt Sert
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