The Confederate States of America, after a long debate, finally approves of arming slaves and having them serve as soldiers in the Confederate Army. It's only the overwhelming superiority and clear prospects of defeat that forces the Confederate government to take this drastic step — and it won't help because the few thousand slaves given rifles are far too little to stand up to the 200,000 black soldiers already fighting for the north.
The essential problem for the Confederacy is that their entire economy is based on slavery, their political system is based on white supremacism, and even reason for secession was the preservation of slavery. Arming slaves means freeing slaves and treating them as equals, at least in some ways, and that's anathema to the reason why the Confederacy exists.
Howell Cobb, a former general under Lee and prominent Georgia politician, writes:
"Use all the Negroes you can get, for the purposes for which you need them. The day you make soldiers of them is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong."
Virginia Senator R.M.T. Hunter, president pro-tempore of the Confederate Senate and one of the biggest slaveowners in the Confederacy, says: "What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?" Not states' rights, I guess.
In the end, Confederate lawmakers are moved to arm slaves by the counsel of General Robert E. Lee:
"We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves as the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions. My own opinion is that we should employ them without delay. I believe that with proper regulations they can be made efficient soldiers.
Such an interest we can give our Negroes by giving immediate freedom to all who enlist, and freedom at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully (whether they survive or not), together with the privilege of residing in the South. To this might be added a bounty for faithful service.
The reasons that induce me to recommend the employment of Negro troops at all render the effect of the measures I have suggested upon slavery immaterial, and in my opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation.
As that will be the result of the continuation of the war, and will certainly occur if the enemy succeed, it seems to me most advisable to adopt it at once, and thereby obtain all the benefits that will accrue to our cause."
The bill passed today does not, however, promise freedom for any slave who volunteers to take up arms against the North and in defense of the Confederate slave-owning system.