Foreign and Colonial NewsThe Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1237, p. 647.
December 26, 1863
Congress met on the 7th inst., and on the 9th President Lincoln delivered his annual message, which was accompanied by a proclamation suggesting terms for the reconstruction of the Union.
President Lincoln declares that he will never attempt to retract or modify his emancipation proclamation, or return to slavery any person freed by that proclamation, or by any act of Congress. Little can be done, however, towards reconstruction until the military ascendancy of the Federal Government shall be thoroughly established, and the chief care of the Federal authorities must be devoted to the army. The relations of the United States with foreign Powers are friendly; and the British Government has exercised its authority to prevent the departure of new hostile expeditions from British ports, while the Emperor of the French has likewise promptly vindicated the neutrality which he proclaimed at the beginning of the contest. Some questions arising out of the blockade of the Southern coasts have been discussed and accommodated in a spirit of frankness, justice, and national goodwill. It is proposed to refer to arbitration a question concerning the territorial jurisdiction of Spain in the waters of Cuba; and there have been some differences respecting the treatment of foreigners found residing in the Southern Confederacy.
The message states that the receipts during the year from all sources, including loans and the balance in the Treasury at the commencement of the year, were 900,000,000 dols. The disbursements during the year were 895,000,000 dols. The receipts from the Customs' were 69,000,000 dols., and from the internal revenue, 37,000,000 dols. The amount received from loans was 776,000,000 dols. The disbursements in the War Department amounted to 590,000,000 dols., and for the Navy Department to 63,000,000 dols.
The message further states that there are 100,000 freed slaves in the Federal service, half of whom are in arms.
The Treasury Secretary's report, which has been published along with the message, recommends that the taxes on spirits and tobacco be increased; states that 460,000,000 dols. must be raised by loan to defray the expenditure till July, 1864, and 545,000,000 dols. be provided for the expenditure of the year ending in July, 1865; estimates that in July, 1865, the debt of the United States will amount to 2,200,000,000 dols.; and declares that the Secretary will issue no more Treasury notes.
President Lincoln's proclamation, accompanying the message, grants not only an amnesty, but a full pardon and restoration of the rights of property, except slave property, to those taking the oaths prescribed in the proclamation. The amnesty is to be accorded to those in "the rebellious States" who take an oath of allegiance to the United States, and another oath to support the emancipation proclamation and all other proclamations issued by President Lincoln, as well as all acts passed by the Federal Congress, since the outbreak of the "rebellion." But all men who have held office under the Confederate Government, or who have served in the Confederate army or navy in a higher rank than that of colonel or lieutenant respectively, or who have resigned Federal commissions for the purpose of joining the "rebels," or who have treated coloured soldiers otherwise than as prisoners of war, are to be excluded from the benefit of the amnesty. If one tenth of the legal voters in any "rebellious State" will take the required oaths and establish a Republican State Government, that Government will be recognised and protected by the Federal authorities.
The New York Tribune and Times applaud President Lincoln's message. The New York World thinks the message to be good as an electioneering document, but considers his plan for a reconstruction to be absurd. The New York Herald believes the President's plan for a reconstruction will he a failure.
The Confederate Congress opened its Session at Richmond on Monday, Dec. 7, and at noon on Tuesday the annual message from President Davis was received.
Mr. Davis deplores the disasters which have befallen the Southern cause since he transmitted his last message, but declares that ultimate success is assured by the spirit and perseverance of the Southern People. "The determined and successful defence of Charleston against the land and naval operations of the enemy afforded (he says) an inspiring example of our ability to repel the attacks even of the iron-clad fleet on which they chiefly rely; while on the northern frontier our success was still more marked."
Taxation is recommended for the purpose of diminishing the existing depreciation of the Confederate currency.
The President complains bitterly of the partiality shown the Federals by European Governments, and especially by the English Cabinet; and observes that the Southern Confederacy might justly retaliate by declaring a paper blockade of the Northern coasts and making prizes of neutral vessels trading to Northern ports, or by refusing any longer to recognise the principle that an enemy's goods shall not be seized in a neutral ship; but he does not recommend such a resort to retaliation, and prefers to await a return of England to true neutrality.
Mr. Davis recommends the abolition of the substitute system and the modification of the exemption law, so that the army may be largely increased as rapidly as possible.
He regrets the suspension of the exchange of prisoners, and that communication with the trans-Mississippi districts is so greatly obstructed.
In conclusion, he says:--"The enemy refuse proposals for the only peace possible between us. The only hope for peace now is in the vigour of our resistance."
There has been no change in the situation of the belligerent armies in Virginia.
General Longstreet, whose losses during the siege of Knoxville are estimated by the Confederates at 600 men, has safely prosecuted his retreat as far as Morristown, East Tennessee. In the late battles near Chattanooga the Federals lost 4500 men. They took 6000 prisoners and 46 guns. The Federals are preparing for the winter defence of Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. General Joseph Johnston has been appointed to the chief command of the Confederate army lately under the orders of General Bragg, who had been temporarily replaced by General Hardee.
Several successes are reported of the Confederates in Georgia and Kentucky.
General Banks has returned to New Orleans from the Rio Grande; and there is no further intelligence respecting the Texan expedition.
The siege of Charleston is proceeding at its usual slow pace. The Federals have ceased to bombard Fort Sumter, and are turning their batteries on other Confederate defences of Charleston. The monitor Weehawken, while anchored at the entrance to Charleston Harbour, suddenly sunk during a gale, and thirty of her officers and crew were drowned.
President Lincoln's health is improving.
In the Senate, Mr. Sumner, of Massachusetts, has given notice of a bill to repeal all Acts for the rendition of fugitive slaves.
In the Congress, Mr. Colfax, a Republican, has been elected Speaker. A vote of thanks has been passed to General Grant, and a medal ordered for him.
The commercial intelligence from New York has the stereotype heading, "Money tight."
A letter from Port Hudson states that a grand review of the whole Corps d'Afrique has taken place, and it is described by those who witnessed it as a magnificent affair.
The Senate of Georgia has ordered the enrolment of all citizens over fifteen years of age for the defence of the State.
Over 1000 vessels have been captured since the blockade was instituted. The naval force consists of 588 vessels, 75 of which are ironclads.
The steamer Chesapeake, from New York to Portland, was captured by sixteen Confederates, who left New York in the steamer as passengers. They landed the captain and crew at St. John's, but they killed the second engineer. A large number of steamers has left New York in pursuit.
The Federal ship of war Vanderbilt has visited Penguin Island, and destroyed a large quantity of coal stored there. She has also seized the British vessel Saxon, laden with the cargo of the Federal vessel Conrad, captured by the Alabama. The Saxon was sent to New York in the care of a prize crew.