Congress reconvened the day after the Battle of Bull Run. Several members had witnessed the defeat, and at least one–Congressman Alfred Ely of New York–had been captured during the Confederate pursuit. Nevertheless, they resolved that “the reverses of the Army… have in no manner impaired the ultimate success of our arms.” Many northerners, including influential newspaper editor Horace Greeley, were now urging Congress and the president to make a peaceful settlement with the Confederacy. But neither the president nor the congressional Republicans wavered.
Debate took place on the loyalty of members of Congress. The House of Representatives approved the expulsion of Congressman John Clark of Missouri by a vote of 94-45. The Senate approved measures expelling U.S. senators from Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas, along with one of the two senators from Tennessee.
A dissenting senator argued that expelling his colleagues was too harsh a measure because he knew them to be honorable men. Joseph A. McDougall of California countered that honor had nothing to do with it; the men had committed treason by joining the Confederacy, and “treason was always a gentlemanly crime, and in ancient times a man who committed it was entitled to the axe instead of the halter.” These measures were just a formality because those congressmen had already left to join the Confederacy.
The Senate retained the second senator from Tennessee–Andrew Johnson, who hailed from the predominantly Unionist region of eastern Tennessee. The Senate also seated two senators from “Unionist” Virginia who had been elected by the puppet legislature of the state’s northwestern counties. This legislature, elected by delegates to the Wheeling convention, declared allegiance to the U.S. and was recognized as legitimate by the Lincoln administration, despite its lack of support from most Virginians. The House of Representatives also admitted three congressmen elected by the Unionist Virginians.
The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, began consideration of a new kind of bill that provided for two forms of taxation: direct real estate taxes apportioned among the states based on population, and excise taxes on certain items such as liquor or bank notes. However, the bill met strong opposition from Midwesterners, many of whom were farmers who would pay much more in real estate taxes than eastern merchants.
After rejecting several other proposals, committee members drew up a bill that would levy an income tax on individuals and corporations. This marked the first time that the Federal government drafted legislation to directly tax Americans, and many argued that it was unconstitutional. Proponents asserted that the revenue it would generate was badly needed during this wartime emergency.
Lincoln also endorsed confiscating “rebel” property without due process, improving the U.S. Marine Corps, creating the office of assistant secretary of the navy, and providing “for the temporary increase in the navy.” A law indemnified the states for war-related expenses. Another law defined what constituted conspiring to overthrow the Federal government and imposed penalties for such activity. The Republicans rejected bills proposing a peaceful settlement with the Confederacy.
- Guelzo, Allen C., Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2004.
- Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.
- Longacre, Edward G. (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
- McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press (Kindle Edition), 1988.
- Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (facsimile of the 1866 edition). New York: Fairfax Press, 1990.
- Rhodes, James Ford, History of the Civil War, 1861-1865. New York: The MacMillan Company (Kindle Edition, Reservoir House, 2016), 1917.
- Welles, Gideon, Diary of Gideon Welles Volumes I & II. Kindle Edition. Abridged, Annotated.