Page images
PDF
EPUB

LINCOLN'S APPEAL TO THE BORDER STATES.

287

would per

"I am pressed with a difficulty not yet mentioned, one which threatens division among those, who, united, are none too strong. An instance of it is known to you. General Hunter is an honest man. He was, and I hope is still my friend. I valued him none the less for his agreeing with me in the general wish that all men everywhere could be freed. He proclaimed all men free within certain States, and I repudiated the proclamation. He expected more good and less harm from the measure than I could believe would follow. Yet, in repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many, whose support the country cannot afford to lose. And this is not the end of it. The pressure in this direction is still upon me and is increasing. By conceding what I dow ask, you can relieve me, and much more, can relieve the country in this important point.

“Upon these considerations, I have again begged your attention to the Message of March last. Before leaving the Capitol, consider and discuss it among yourselves. You are patriots and statesmen, and as such I pray you consider this proposition; and at the least, commend it to the consideration of your States and people. As you petuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you do in nowise omit this. Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and boldest action, to bring a speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world, its beloved history and cherished memories are vindicated, and its happy future fully assured, and rendered inconceivably grand. To you more than to any others, the privilege is given to assure that happiness and swell that grandeur, and to link your own names therewith forever.”

This appeal was received by some with apathy, caviling and opposition ; by a few with sympathy. But no action

a no efficient action; nothing practical was done, on the part of the border slave States. No! slavery had so entwined itself in the social fabric that nothing but the violence, force, and fire of war could tear it away. The communities would not yet voluntarily relinquish it.

The intense feeling of Mr. Lincoln on this subject was expressed by him to two members of Congress, old friends, from Illinois, (Owen Lovejoy and the Author,) who called upon him Sunday evening, July 13th, at his Summer residence at the “Soldiers' IIome.” IIe conversed freely with them of his late interview with the border State members. "Oh,” said he in conclusion, “if the border States would

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

accept my proposition! Then,” said he, "you Lovejoy and Arnoid, and all of us, would not have lived in vain! The labor of your life, Lovejoy, would be crowned with success - you would live to see the end of slavery.” Such was his passionate desire that slavery might end. The President, in his message, again pressed the subject upon the consideration of Congress; but his closing remarks indicate the advance of his mind towards the necessity of universal and immediate emancipation. He says, “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free, honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.

* Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peace. ful, generous, just; a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

Meanwhile, the public sentiment in the North was growing stronger and more intense, demanding of the President, immediate, and unconditional emancipation. A large party in the loyal States had all along insisted that the most direct way of crushing the rebellion, was to crush slavery. They insisted that the commander-in-chief, by proclaiming liberty, would bring hundreds and thousands of colored men to the ranks of the Union armies. It was insisted that to accept the distinct issue tendered by the slaveholders between liberty and slavery, would bring a moral power to the support of the Government, which would be felt both at home and abroad. The Republican press of the loyal States, with some exceptions, earnestly and importunately demanded that the President, availing himself of the occasion and provisions of the confiscation act, should proclaim instant liberation to every slave belonging to a rebel master. The more violent of the press and of the Republican partisans denounced the President for his remissness. The distinguished editor of the New York Tribune, whose writings had contributed as much, if not more than those of any other man towards the formation of the Republican party, and the election of Mr. Lincoln, addressed the President under his own name in the Tribune, urging emancipation, and remonstrating severely for the failure of Mr. Lincoln to adopt a more vigorous and determined policy.

LINCOLN'S REPLY TO GREELEY.

289

[ocr errors]

This letter was published on the 19th of August, and on the 22d, Mr. Lincoln issued from the Executive Mansion a reply. This answer, frank, open, generous and conscientious, unfolded to the people the motives which controlled his conduct. Mr. Lincoln was criticised for replying to the latter, as an act wanting in dignity. But this being a government of the people, he as their President, wished them fully to understand his motives. He said:

“My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone, I would do it."

He was

He was not yet quite prepared to issue a proclamation fraught with such momentous consequences; yet his mind was anxiously revolving the subject; he discussed it with all from whom he supposed he could obtain new suggestions or arguments, or from whom he could learn the drift of public opinion. He would often make suggestions, and argue the case against emancipation to obtain the views of others.

To personal friends of the Illinois delegation in Congress, who conferred with him on the subject, he said that, in his letter to Mr. Greeley, he meant that he would proclaim freedom to the slave just as soon as he felt assured he could do it effectively; that the people would stand by him, and that, by doing so, he could strengthen the Union cause. assured by them in reply, that the people would stand by him, and that they were impatient for it.

On the 13th of September, 1862, he received a delegation of the clergy of nearly all the religious denominations of Chicago, who waited upon him with a memorial, urging immediate emancipation.

For the purpose of fully eliciting their views, he started objections to the policy they urged, and in accordance with his old practice at the bar, he made an argument against his own views, and against the policy he had nearly or quite concluded to pursue. After a full conference and free discussion, the President said, “I have not decided against a

proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement; and I can assure you the matter is on my mind by day and by night, more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will, I will do.”

While this momentous question was thus agitating the mind of the President, involving the existence of slavery in North America, while the civilized world was watching with interest the result, the intense feeling and anxiety on the subject, found expression in daily prayers, sent up from church, cottage, and cabin, all through the loyal North, beseeching the great God to guide the President to the right conclusion. Thousands believed that the fate not only of African slavery, but also of the Republic hung upon the issue. The friends of freedom from Europe, from France, Italy, Germany and Great Britain, sent messages to their friends on this side of the water, saying that recognition and intervention were iminent, and that the best and most effi. cient means of prevention, was to make the distinct issue with slavery. Some of our representatives at foreign Courts, advised the Secretary of State, that there was danger of intervention by foreign Governments, and that such danger could be best averted by emancipation.

The friends of the Union abroad had become somewhat indifferent. The organs of the rebellion in Europe, represented everywhere, that it was a mere struggle for empire, involving, no great principle. The policy of several of the military commanders towards the slaves, the concessions constantly made to the border slave States, disgusted many ardent friends of liberty at home and abroad; as a remedy for this, the friends of the Union and liberty urged that the President should proclaim“ freedom throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof."

What, meanwhile, was the action and feelings of the negroes? They had long prayed for, hoped for freedom. The North star had often guided the panting fugitive to liberty. Armies had come to the slave from the free States, fighting their masters. The starry flag they now believed was to be the emblem of their liberty, as well as that of the white man. The Union soldiers had been always welcomed by the

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

negro. Food, guidance, information, succor and aid, to the extent of his limited and humble means were never sought from him in vain.

The millions of slaves from the Shenandoah to the rice swamps of Carolina, and the cane-brakes of Louisiana, believed that their day of Jubilee approached. In the fastnesses of swamps and forests, the long enslaved and downtrodden negro prayed for Massa Linkum," and liberty. Their hopes and prayers for freedom have been happily expressed by the poet Whittier from whom I quote:

We pray de Lord; he gib us signs

Dat some day we be free;
De Norf wind tell it to de pines,

De wild duck to de sea;

We tink it when de church bell ring,

We dream it in de dream;
De rice bird mean it when he sing,

De Eagle when he scream.
De yam will grow, de cotton blow,

We'll hab de rice an' corn:
Oh nebber you fear is nebber you hear

De driver blow his horn!

Sing on, poor hearts! your chant shall be

Our sign of blight or bloom -
The vala-song of liberty,

Or death-rune of our doom!

Mr. Lincoln still seemed to hesitate; and the friends of emancipation renewed their efforts. They reminded the President of his own enunciation of the great truth, that freedom and slavery could not permanently exist together, and that our country would become “all free or all slave;' a truth that had been verified by the war which slavery was now waging. “Immortalize your Presidency,” said they,“ by yourself speaking the word which shall make it all free; slavery having brought on the war, it is fit it should die by the laws of war.” It was urged that slavery before God and the world, stood responsible for all the calamities which the Republic was now suffering; every dollar expended, every suffering endured, every drop of blood spilled, every wound, and every death on the battle-field, and in hospital, is the penalty, the American people are paying for the existence and toleration of slavery. As slavery now stood before the

« PreviousContinue »