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“The subject is so vast that I must have time for reflection. The measure may be justifiable and necessary,” said Mr. Seward.
Mr. Welles was of the same opinion. Up to the time of the interview with the members of Congress from the border States on Saturday the President had been opposed to any interference by the general government with an institution which each State could itself deal with.
It seems probable every member of the Cabinet had regarded the matter in the same way. (16)
“I would like you to give the question your careful consideration, for something must be done,” said the President.
Congress had finished its business and adjourned. It had passed an act confiscating the property of the rebels. Slaves were property,
and under the act they might be seized and used for the benefit July 17. of the Government. They were being used as teamsters. They were building fortifications. Why not give them freedom?
The Cabinet is in session. The President takes a paper from his desk and reads it—the draft of a proclamation for emancipating the
slaves—a notice that “on and after the first day of January, 1863, July 22. all slaves within any State or States where the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be recognized, submitted to, and maintained, shall thenceforward and forever be free.”
The members of the Cabinet listen in amazement. Wipe slavery from the land! Can it be done? Give instant freedom to 4,000,000! Is it safe? They sit as if dazed.
“ I have not called you together to ask your advice, but to lay the subject before you. I shall be pleased to hear any suggestions from you." (")
"I would like the language made a little stronger,” Mr. Chase remarked.
“ It will cost you the fall election,” said Mr. Blair.
“Mr. President,” said Secretary Seward, “I approve of the proclamation, but I question the expediency of issuing it just now. The depression of the public mind consequent upon our reverses is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted Government-a cry for help: the Government stretching forth its hands to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the Government. It will be considered as our last shriek on retreat. While I approve the measure, I suggest that you postpone its issue until you can give it to the country supported by military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now, upon the greatest disaster of the war.”
Mr. Lincoln sees that it will be wise not to issue it at once, but wait for a better moment.
Two members only of the Cabinet have had any intimation that the President has thought of issuing a document unparalleled in the history of the human race.
These the words of Mr. Lincoln a few months later:
“ It had got to be. Things had gone from bad to worse until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing—that we had played our last card and must change our tactics, or lose the game. I determined on the Emancipation Proclamation, and, without consultation with or the knowledge of the Cabinet, I prepared the original draft, and after much anxious thought called a Cabinet meeting upon the subject.”
Thirty-one years had passed since a flat-boatman in New Orleans lifted his hand towards heaven and uttered the words, “If I ever get a chance to hit that institution, I'U hit it hard, by the Eternal God !”
Strange the utterance, stranger the happenings. Divine Providence had placed him in position, and he would strike the blow!
NOTES TO CHAPTER XVII.
(1) Warden's “Life of Chase.”
(6) James S. Wadsworth was born at Geneseo, N. Y., October 30, 1807. He was educated at Harvard and Yale colleges. He studied law in the office of Daniel Webster at Boston. He inherited great wealth. The Governor of New York appointed him member of the Peace Convention, 1861. When the war began and communication between Philadelphia and Washington was broken, he chartered a vessel at New York, loaded it with supplies, and sent it to Annapolis for the relief of the Union soldiers. He volunteered his services to the Government, was appointed aid on the staff of General McDowell, and displayed great bravery in the battle of Bull Run. The President appointed him Military Governor of Washington City and District of Columbia, March, 1862. Ho was the Republican candidate for Governor of New York the same year, but was defeated by Horatio Seymour. In the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness, where he lost his life, he commanded a division of troops. He was inspired by an intense patriotism, and made large contributions of money to carry on the war. He was much beloved by President Lincolu.--Author.
(*) Major McLain, Confederate Army, to Author, November, 1862.
(24) William Alfred Buckingham was born at Lebanon, Conn., May 8, 1804. He was a manufacturer of carpets. He was generous in his contributions to benevolent, charitable, and educational institutions, and was held in high esteem for bis integrity, energy, ability, and patriotism. He was elected to the United States Senate, 1869. He died February 4, 1875.-Author.
(15) Edwin D. Morgan was born at Washington, Berkshire County, Mass., February 8, 1811. He became clerk in a grocery at Hartford, Conn., at the age of seventeen. In 1836 he began business in New York, and amassed a large fortune. He was elected State Senator, 1849–53. He was active in the formation of the Republican Party.
In 1859 he was elected Governor of the State, and re-elected 1861. His administration was characterized by great energy and economy. Although the State expenditures were greatly increased by the war, there was a large decrease of the public debt from the wise management of the finances. The troops furnished by the State numbered 220,000. They were promptly armed and equipped. Governor Morgan used his wealth for the welfare of the State and nation with unstinted liberality. He was elected United States Senator, and served from 1863 to 1869.-Author.
(16) Andrew G. Curtin was born at Bellefonte, Pa., April 28, 1817. He studied law, and took an active part in political affairs. He was elected Secretary of State, 1855, continuing to 1858. He became Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1860, and Governor, 1861. He was re-elected, 1863, and was appointed Minister to Russia, 1869.-Author.
(**) William Dennison was born at Cincinnati, November 23, 1815. He graduated at Miami University, 1835, and entered upon the practice of law, 1841. He was a member of the State Legislature, 1848–50, and elected Governor, 1860. He administered the affairs of the executive office with rare ability. He was appointed Postmaster-general by President Lincolu, October, 1864. He retired from the Cabinet upon the accession of Andrew Johnson to the Presidency.
(18) “Century Magazine,” December, 1887. (19) President Lincoln to F. B. Carpenter, “Six Months iu the White House," p. 21.
ple of that city did not like General Butler, who was in command; neither what General Phelps was doing—forming a regiment of negro troops. He was at Carrollton, and a great many slaves came into his camp. He thought they would make good soldiers. “I have now," he wrote, “upwards of five hundred Africans organized into five companies, who are willing and ready to show their devotion to our cause in any way that they may be put to the test. They are willing to submit to anything rather than slavery.”
Mr. Reverdy Johnson had been sent to New Orleans on public business, and improved the occasion to write a letter to the President, informing him that the Union people were greatly disturbed by the enlistment of negroes. Mr. Lincoln had not discovered very much Union sentiment in Louisiana. Notwithstanding all the burdens pressing him, he found time to write to Mr. Johnson:
* It seems ” [according to what Johnson had written] “the Union feeling in Louisiana is being crushed out by the course of General Phelps. Please pardon me for believing it is a false pretence. The people of Louisiana--all intelligent people everywhere—know full well that I never had a wish to touch the foundation of their society or any right of theirs. With perfect knowledge of this, they forced a necessity upon me to send armies among them, and it is their own fault, not mine, that they are annoyed by the presence of General Phelps. They also know the remedy-how to be cured of General Phelps : remove the necessity of his presence. ... If they can conceive of anything worse than General Phelps within my power, would they not better be looking out for it? ... I distrust the wisdom if not the sincerity of friends who would hold my hands while my enemies stab me. This appeal of professed friends has paralyzed me more in this struggle than any other one thing. You remember telling me the day after the Baltimore mob in April, 1861, that it would crush all Union feeling in Maryland for me to attempt bringing troops over Maryland soil to Washington. I brought the troops, notwithstanding, and yet there was Union feeling enough left to elect a legislature the next autumn, which in turn elected a very excellent Union United States Senator! I am a patient man-always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance, and also to give ample time for repentance. Still, I must save this Government, if possible. What I cannot do, of course, I will not