Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1861

The Crisis Over the Slavery Issue

Written: December, 1861;
Source: Marx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 19;
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964;
First Published: Die Presse No. 343, December 14, 1861;
Online Version: 1999;
Transcribed: S. Ryan;
HTML Markup: Tim Delaney.

London, December 10, 1861

The United States has evidently entered a critical stage with regard to the slavery question, the question underlying the whole Civil War. General Fremont has been dismissed for declaring the slaves of rebels free. A directive to General Sherman, the commander of the expedition to South Carolina, was a little later published by the Washington Government, which goes further than Fremont, for it decrees that fugitive slaves even of loyal slave-owners should be welcomed and employed as workers and paid a wage, and under certain circumstances armed, and consoles the "loyal" owners with the prospect of receiving compensation later. Colonel Cochrane has gone even further than Fremont, he demands the arming of all slaves as a military measure. The Secretary of War Cameron publicly approves of Cochrane's "views". The Secretary of the Interior, on behalf of the government, then repudiates the Secretary of War. The Secretary of War expresses his "views" even more emphatically at a public meeting stating that he will vindicate these views in his report to Congress. General Halleck, Fremont's successor in Missouri, and General Dix in east Virginia have driven fugitive Negroes from their military camps and forbidden them to appear in future in the vicinity of the positions held by their armies. General Wool at the same time has received the black "contraband" with open arms at Fort Monroe. The old leaders of the Democratic Party, Senator Dickinson and Croswell (a former member of the so- called Democratic regency), have published an open letter in which they express their agreement with Cochrane and Cameron, and Colonel Jennison in Kansas has surpassed all his military predecessors by an address to his troops which contains the following passage:

No temporising with rebels and those sympathising with them. I have told General Fremont that I would not have drawn my sword had I thought that slavery would outlast this struggle. The slaves of rebels will always find protection in this camp and we will defend them to the last man and the last bullet. I want no men who are not Abolitionists, I have no use for them and I hope that there are no such people among us, for everyone knows that slavery is the basis, the centre and the vertex of this infernal war. Should the government disapprove of my action it can take back my patent, but in that case I shall act on my own hook even if in the beginning I can only count on six men.

The slavery question is being solved in practice in the border slave states even now, especially in Missouri and to a lesser extent in Kentucky, etc. A large-scale dispersal of slaves is taking place. For instance 50,000 slaves have disappeared from Missouri, some of them have run away, others have been transported by the slave-owners to the more distant southern states.

It is rather strange that a most important and significant event is not mentioned in any English newspaper. On November 18, delegates from 45 North Carolina counties met on Hatteras Island, appointed a provisional government, revoked the Ordinance of Secession and proclaimed that North Carolina was returning to the Union. The counties of North Carolina represented at this convention have been called together to elect their Representatives to Congress at Washington.