HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE G
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, December 24, 1862.
To the People of Louisiana :
In order to correct public misapprehension and misrepresentation, For the instruction of the troops of this department and the information of all parties in interest, official publication is herewith made of the proclamation by the President of the United States relating to the subject of emancipation. In the examination of the document it will be observed:
I. That it is the declaration of a purpose only--the full execution of which is contingent upon an official designation by the President to be made on the 1st day of January next of the States and parts of States, if any, which are to be affected by its provisions.
II. That the fact that any State is represented in good faith in the Congress of the United States is conclusive evidence, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, that such State and the people thereof are not in rebellion against the United States.
III. That the State of Louisiana has not yet been designated by the President as in rebellion nor any part thereof, and that it has complied with all the conditions of the proclamation respecting representation.
IV. That pecuniary aid to States not in rebellion which may hereafter provide for immediate or gradual emancipation, the colonization of persons of African descent elsewhere, and the compensation of all citizens who have remained loyal for all losses by acts of the United States, including slaves, are among the chief recommendations of this important paper.
It is manifest that the changes suggested therein and which may hereafter be established do not take effect within this State on the 1st of January proximo nor at any precise period which can now be designated, and I call upon all persons, of whatever estate, condition, or degree--soldiers, citizens, or slaves--to observe this material and important fact, and to govern themselves accordingly. All unusual public demonstration, of whatever character, will be for the present suspended. Provost-marshals, officers, and soldiers are enjoined to prevent any disturbance of the public peace. The slaves are advised to remain upon their plantations until their privileges shall have been definitely established. They may rest assured that whatever benefit the Government intends will be secured to them, but no man can be allowed in the present condition of affairs to take the law into his own hands. If they seek the protection of the Government they should wait its pleasure. Officers invested with command will be vigilant in the discharge of their duties. Leave of absence from camp will not be permitted except in cases of great emergency. Soldiers enrolled in the regiments of Native Guards will not be allowed for the present to visit the localities of their enlistment nor will visitors be received unnecessarily in their camps. These regulations, enforced with all troops of the United States in the localities where they are enlisted, are now imperatively necessary. These troops will be confined to the duty specified in general orders, and will not be charged with special authority in making searches, seizures, or arrests. It is my purpose to execute faithfully all the orders of the Government, and I assume the responsibility of these instructions as consistent therewith and require prompt and faithful execution thereof.
Public attention is called to the act of Congress cited in the proclamation which forbids the return of fugitives by officers of the Army. No encouragement will be given to laborers to desert their employers, but no authority exists to compel them to return. It is suggested to planters that some plan be adopted by which an equitable proportion of the proceeds of the crops of the coming year, to be hereafter determined upon the judgment of honorable men justly representing the different interests involved, be set apart and reserved for the support and compensation of labor.
The war is not waged by the Government for the overthrow of slavery. The President has declared, on the contrary, that it is to restore the "constitutional relations between the United States and each of the States" in which that relation is or may be suspended. The resolutions passed by Congress before the war, with almost unanimous consent, recognized the rights of States in this regard. Vermont has recently repealed the statutes supposed to be inconsistent therewith; Massachusetts had done so before. Slavery existed by consent and constitutional guaranty; violence and war will inevitably bring it to an end. It is impossible that any military man, in the event of continued war, should counsel the preservation of slave property in the rebel States. If it is to be preserved war must cease and the former constitutional relations be again established. The first gun at Sumter proclaimed emancipation. The continuance of the contest there commenced will consummate that end, and the history of the age will leave no other permanent trace of the rebellion. Its leaders will have accomplished what other men could not have done. The boldest Abolitionist is a cipher when compared with the leaders of the rebellion. What mystery pervades the works of Providence! We submit to its decrees, but stand confounded at the awful manifestation of its wisdom and power. The great problem of the age, apparently environed with labyrinthic complications, is likely to be suddenly lifted out of human hands. We may control the incidents of the contest, but we cannot circumvent or defeat the end. It will be left us only to assuage the horrors of internecine conflict and to procrastinate the processes of transition.
Local and national interests are therefore alike dependent upon the suppression of the rebellion. No pecuniary sacrifice can be too great an equivalent, for peace. But it should be permanent peace and embrace all subjects of discontent. It is written on the blue arch above us; the distant voices of the future, the waves that beat our coast, the skeletons that sit at our tables and fill the vacant places of desolate and mourning firesides, all cry out that this war must not be repeated hereafter.
Contest in public as in social life strengthens and consolidates brotherly affection. England, France, Austria, Italy--very land fertile enough to make a history has had its desolating civil wars. It is a baseless nationality that has not tested its strength against domestic enemies. The success of local interests narrows the destiny of a people, and is followed by secession, poverty, and degradation. A divided country and perpetual war make possession a delusion and life a calamity. The triumph of national interests widens the scope of human history, and is attended with peace, prosperity, and power. It is out of such contests that great nations are born.
What hallowed memories float around us! New Orleans is a shrine as sacred as Bunker Hill! On the Aroostook and Oregon the names of Washington, Jackson, and Taylor are breathed with as deep a reverence as on the James or the Mississippi. Let us fulfill the conditions of this last great trial, and become a nation, a grand nation, with sense enough to govern ourselves and strength enough to stand against the world united.
N. P. BANKS,
Researched and Compiled by
Bennie J. McRae