July 25, 1861: Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions Passed by Congress

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1861 in the Civil War was largely a fight for the Border States of Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland, and the future state of West Virginia.  Each side knew that the outcome of the War might well depend on the ultimate control of this vast area.  Border state unionists were often pro-slavery and their concerns had to be taken into account by the Lincoln Administration.   The most powerful politician in Kentucky was Congressman John J. Crittenden, a man as old as the Constitution, he was a passionate Unionist, but pro-slavery.  The War had bitterly divided his state and his family:  one son would serve as a Union general and another son would serve as a Confederate general.  He understood that Unionists in his state were more than willing to fight to preserve the Union, but they were unwilling to fight against slavery.  In tandem with future president Andrew Johnson, then a Senator from Tennessee, the only member of the Senate from a Confederate state to refuse to resign from Congress following the secession of his state, he crafted resolutions to be passed by the House and the Senate making clear that the purpose of the War was to preserve the Union and not to destroy slavery.  Congress duly passed the resolutions on July 25, 1861,  with only two votes against in the House, but it was only a brief victory for those Unionists who were pro-slavery.   Two weeks later, Abraham Lincoln signed the Confiscation Act allowing the seizure by the Federal government of slaves of rebels as contraband of war.   Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania engineered the repeal of the resolutions in 1861.  The war for the Union would also be a war against slavery.  Here are the texts of the resolutions:

The Crittenden Resolutions

[Passed by the House of Representatives]

Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feelings of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not waged on our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.

The Johnson Resolutions

[Passed by the Senate]

Resolved, That the present deplorable civil war has been forced upon the country by the disunionists of the Southern States now in revolt against the constitutional Government and in arms around the capital; that in this national emergency Congress, banishing all feeling of mere passion or resentment, will recollect only its duty to the whole country; that this war is not prosecuted upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with rights or established institutions of those States, but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance thereof, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; that as soon as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.

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