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THE PRESIDENT'S POLICY ON SLAVERY.
which attended his efforts is the best proof of their substantial wisdom.
His treatment of the slavery question has been marked by the same experimental policy. The various letters by which from time to time he has explained the principles on which he was acting, in any particular emergency, show very clearly that he has been far more anxious to take action which should be sanctioned and sustained by the country, and thus be permanently valuable, than to put forth any theory of his own or carry into effect the dogmas and opinions of any party, The whole case is stated with great clearness and force in a letter written by him on the 4th of April to Mr. Hodges, who, with Governor Bramlette and some other gentlemen of Kentucky, had called upon him on business relating to the draft, and with whom he had some conversation in regard to the misconceptions of his policy that seemed to be current in their State. That letter is as follows:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, April 4th, 1864. A. G. HODGES, Esq., Frankfort, Ky: My dear Slr:-You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day, in your presence, to Governor Bramlette and Senator Dixon. It was about as follows:
"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel, and yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government—that nation, of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution ? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country, and constitution, altogether. When, early in the war, General Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, General Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When in March and May, and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition, and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it, the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss, but of this I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force, no loss by it any how, or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavilling. We have the men; and we could not have had them without the
“ And now let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself by writing down in one line, that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he for taking three hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be best for the measure he condemns. If he cannot face his case so stated, it is only because he cannot face the truth.”
I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale, I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to
LETTER TO MR. HODGES.
bave controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now at the end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is not what either party, or any man devised, or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God vow wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new causes to attest and revere the ustice and goodness of God.
Yours, truly, (Signed.)
An impression is quite common that great men, who make their mark
of events and the world's history, do it by impressing their own opinions upon nations and communities, in disregard of their sentiments and prejudices. History does not sustain this view of the case. No man ever moulded the destiny of a nation except by making the sentiment of that nation bis ally-by working with it, by shaping his measures and his policy to its successive developments. But little more than a year before the Declaration of Independence was issued, Washington wrote to a friend in England that the idea of separation from Great Britain was not entertained by any considerable number of the inhabitants of the colonies. If independence had then been proclaimed, it would not have been supported by public sentiment; and its proclamation would have excited hostilities and promoted divisions which might have proved fatal to the cause. Time,-the development of events,—the ripening conviction of the necessity of such a measure, were indispensable as preliminary conditions of its success. And one of the greatest elements of Washington's strength was the patient sagacity with which he could watch and wait until these conditions were fulfilled. The position and duty of President Lincoln in regard to Slavery have been very similar. If he had taken counsel only of his own abstract opinions and sympathies, and had proclaimed emancipation at the outset of the war, or had sanctioned the action of those department commanders who assumed to do it
themselves, the first effect would have been to throw all the Border Slave States into the bosom of the slaveholding confederacy, and add their formidable force to the armies of the rebellion: the next result would have been to arouse the political opposition of the loyal States to fresh activity by giving them a rallying cry: and the third would have been to divide the great body of those who agreed in defending the Union, but who did not then agree in regard to the abolition of slavery. Candid men, who pay more regard to facts than to theory, and who can estimate with fairness the results of public action, will have no difficulty in seeing that the probable result of these combined influences would have been sucb a strengthening of the forces of the Confederacy, and such a weakening of our own, as might have overwhelmed the Ad ministration, and given the rebellion a final and a fatal triumph By awaiting the development of public sentiment, President Lincoln secured a support absolutely essential to success; and there are few persons now, whatever may be their private opinions on slavery, who will not concede that his measures in regard to that subject have been adopted with sagacity and crowned with substantial success.
It is too soon, we are aware, to pronounce definitively on the merits of President LINCOLN's administration. Its policy is still in process of development. If it is allowed to go on without interruption,-if the measures which President LINcoln has inaugurated for quelling the rebellion and restoring the Union, are permitted to work out their natural results, unchecked by popular impatience and sustained by public confidence, we believe they will end in re-establishing the authority of the Constitution, in restoring the integrity of the Union, in abolishing every vestige of slavery, and in perpetuating the principles of democratic government upon this continent and throughout the world.
LIEUT.-GEN. SCOTT AND MAJ.-GEN. MOCLELLAN. Allusion is made on a previous page to a letter of advice and suggestions addressed by General McClellan to General Scott, which he afterwards withdrew..
The following correspondence relates to that letter and grew ont of it:
GEN. SCOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 1861. SIR:—I received yesterday from Major-General McClellan a letter of that date, to which I design this as my only reply.
Had Major-General McClellan presented the same views in person, they would have been fully entertained and discussed. All my military views and opinions had been so presented to him, without eliciting much remark in our fow meetings which I have in vain sought to multiply. He has stood on his guard and now places himself on record. Let him make the most of his unenvied advantages.
Major-General McClellan has propagated in high quarters the idea expressed in the letter before me, that Washington was not only “insecure," but in “imminent danger.”
Relying on our numbers, our forts, and the Potomac river, I am confident in the opposite opinion; and considering the stream of new regiments that is pouring in upon us (before the alarm could have reached their homes), I have not the slightest apprehension for the safety of the Government here.
Having now been unable to mount a horse, or to walk more than a few paces at a time, and consequently being unable to review troopsmuch less to direct them in battle : in short, broken down by many