Thursday, July 26, 2012

Invasion or Lincoln's Revocation of Fremont's Order?

Kentucky House Bill 36, "An Act to prohibit and punish rebellion by citizens of Kentucky and others in this State," proposed on Sept. 12, 1861, was fierce in its language against those citizens that had already or intended to serve the new Confederate States of America. Among its harshest suggested laws was this one: "...any citizen of Kentucky who, as a soldier or officer in the army of the so-called Confederate states, and as part of an armed force, shall invade Kentucky, upon any pretext whatever, shall be guilty of felony, and, upon conviction, shall be punished by death."

The timing of the bill coincided with the days earlier Confederate invasion of western Kentucky, so this particular law warning against invasion has largely been the reason given for the legislature's decision to declare for the Union. 

But possibly, there may have been an additional factor involved.

General John C. Fremont had issued a proclamation in the last days of August 1861 that freed the slaves of Missouri secessionists. Lincoln, ever sensitive to the slaveholding border states, quickly countermanded the order effective on September 11. Were the proslavery Unionists in Kentucky waiting for Lincoln's decision that upheld slavery in a sister border state before deciding to drop neutrality and side with the Union? Hmmmmm.

It could easily be argued that with the state election on Aug. 5, 1861, that brought an overwhelming Unionist general assembly, that a declaration for the Union was certain, but apparently something had hindered the law making body to drop neutrality earlier.

The bill passed both the house and senate by September 27. And, obviously by the handwritten addition in the top image, "The Bloody Bill," and the penciled addition "Blood Blood," in the lower image, it was not well received by everyone in the state.

It is ironic that these potentially felonious Confederates in 1861 soon became major political players in the immediate post war years, since Kentucky had remained loyal and the Rebel citizens had not been disenfranchised; they actually became heroes when the federal government and presidential administration added emancipation to the initial major war aim of restoring the Union.

Images and document information courtesy Kentucky Historical Society

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