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months, when on the 30th of August, 1861, General John C. Fremont, in command of the department of Missouri, startled the nation, and attracted the attention of the world by issuing a proclamation in which he declared martial law and emancipation in all the state of Missouri. To make effective this proclamation, General Fremont convened a military commission to hear evidence and proceeded to issue deeds of manumission to persons held in slavery under the laws of the state. This proclamation produced a profound impression in all the loyal states.

General Fremont was held in very high esteem by the rank and file of the republican party throughout the nation. His early achievements in exploring a route for a transcontinental railroad and his gallant bearing as the republican candidate for President in 1856, caused him to be greatly admired by those who were proud to march under his banner during that memorable Presidential campaign. His appointment as a Major-General at the beginning of the war and his assignment to an important military command were hailed with a delight which burst into a flame of enthusiasm when his emancipation proclamation was published. But his action in this matter met the prompt and emphatic disapproval of the conservative element among the supporters of the Government and awakened serious apprehensions respecting its influence in the border states where loyalty to the Union seemed to depend upon the National Government maintaining its attitude of non-interference with slavery.

Having been of the number of enthusiastic young republicans who marched in the Fremont processions in 1856, and being an ardent abolitionist and therefore not fully satisfied with President Lincoln's policy respecting slavery, I hailed the Fremont proclamation with delight as the beginning of the end of slavery. And I am now making this historical record of the events connected with that proclamation by General Fremont as one who at the time was ardently attached to him and fully in sympathy with that movement against slavery. General Fremont's great popularity and the intensity of antislavery sentiment in the loyal states combined to make it very difficult for President Lincoln to bring the General's action in this matter into conformity with law and with the policy he was pursuing toward slavery without causing serious division among Union people. Conditions at the time in General Fremont's department were far from harmonious and some who had been and were opposed to his course in other matters were not backward in claiming that the proclamation was intended for political rather than military results.

The controversy in General Fremont's department became very bitter and, although at first local, it grew to national dimensions and importance, by drawing into its contentions several prominent and distinguished men, including the Blairs, one of whom was a member of President Lincoln's Cabinet. This added to the difficulties and dangers encountered by the President in dealing with General Fremont's interference with slavery. But never did he seem to have been influenced in the least by the danger of incurring popular displeasure in . disapproving of General Fremont's course, which he promptly did with that rare wisdom and tact that always characterized his treatment of peculiarly delicate and complicated questions.

On the 2nd of September, 1862, he sent to General Fremont by special messenger a carefully written letter, fragrant with the spirit of considerate kindness and gentle firmness. Respecting the portion of the proclamation that ordered the shooting of disloyal people found with arms in their hands, President Lincoln said: “Should you shoot a man, according to the proclamation, the Confederates would very certainly shoot our best men in their hands in retaliation; and so man for man indefinitely. It is, therefore, my order that you allow no man to be shot under the proclamation without first having my approbation or consent."l

With admirable frankness and candor Mr. Lincoln in that letter to General Fremont expressed his conviction that the

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, A History, Vol. IV., p. 418.

portion of the proclamation that referred "to the confiscation of property and the liberating of slaves" would alarm Southern Union men and turn them against the government. This he feared would ruin the prospect of holding Kentucky loyal to the Union. "Allow me, therefore," he added, "to ask that you will as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections of the Act of Congress entitled 'An Act to Confiscate property used for insurrectory purposes.'

To this letter of wondrous tact and kindliness General Fremont, on the 8th of September, 1861, replied at length affirming his conviction that his proclamation was wise and would prove effective for the Union cause, and asking the President to assume responsibility for its modification if he still thought such action should be taken. This was a most remarkable attitude for an American General to assume toward the President, the Commander in Chief of the Armies of the nation; but Mr. Lincoln was too great to be disturbed by the affair and "cheerfully,” as he said, ordered the proclamation to be modified as suggested by him.

General Fremont's letter of September 8th to the President was by him sent to Mr. Lincoln by the hand of his wife, the brilliant daughter of the great Missouri senator, Thomas H. Benton, and the beloved “Jessie Benton Fremont"-whose name rang out upon the air as a republican battle-cry during the Presidential campaign of 1856, and was afterwards repeated as a synonym of exalted womanhood and courageous enterprise and adventure. Intent upon her mission to prevent the modification of her husband's proclamation, and to strengthen him with the President in the unfortunate controversy with his subordinates, she reached Washington at night and sought an immediate interview with the latter, calling him from his bed at midnight and pressing her accusations and demands so vigorously that in his account of the affair Mr. Lincoln said: “She taxed me so violently with many things that I had to exercise all the awkward tact that I have to avoid quarreling with her. ... She more than once intimated that if General Fremont should decide to try conclusions with me he could set up for himself.”

This incident illustrates the severity of the storm encountered by President Lincoln in his efforts to modify General Fremont's proclamation and to arrest proceedings under it so as to prevent the harmful results he believed it would cause. The President's apprehensions and his course in this matter are fully justified by conditions as we know them to have existed at that time.

The war had then been in progress more than four months and states permitting slavery had joined the rebellion one after another until only the border states were left undecided as to whether they would remain in the Union or unite with the Confederacy. President Lincoln was watching the proceedings with painful solicitude, fully convinced that the fate of the nation depended upon the decision of those border states and that the decision of Kentucky would determine whether the other border states would decide for or against the Union. He was very careful not to declare his convictions respecting these matters. He remained outwardly optimistic and studiously refrained from disclosing the appalling perils of the nation. But while thus concealing his apprehensions he was constant and untiring in his efforts to win the loyalty of the border states. He endured severe criticism for this rather than incur the risk of injuring the Union cause by an explanation of his course, even although it might be satisfactory to the watchful and anxious people. But the Fremont affair compelled him to speak, not to the public but to a close personal friend, and his disclosures to that friend leave nothing to be desired either in the course he pursued or the motives by which he was influenced.

The intimate friend to whom Mr. Lincoln made those disclosures was United States Senator O. H. Browning of Illinois, who, on the 17th of September, 1861, had in a letter

2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, A History, Vol. IV., p. 415.

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to President Lincoln severely criticised his disapproval of General Fremont's proclamation. On the 22nd of September, 1861—just one year previous to the issuing by President Lincoln of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation-Mr. Lincoln replied to Senator Browning's criticisms in a letter marked "Private and Confidential,” in which he said: “I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capital.”

To read this disclosure of the nation's peril, even at this distant day, is like witnessing a loved one's hairbreadth escape from seemingly unavoidable disaster. We are filled with dismay, and shrink back as we are made to realize how very near we then came to a catastrophe more dreadful than any the world has ever known. And only in strict confidence and because he deemed it necessary did President Lincoln make known to his trusted, though at the time misguided friend, the perilous conditions through which the nation was then passing. This letter to Senator Browning was not at the time made public, and not until long after the dangers it revealed had passed did the people learn that at that hour the nation's fate was trembling in the balance.

Suddenly the storm broke. While President Lincoln was exerting every influence in his power to cause the Kentucky legislature, then in session, to take action against secession and in favor of the Union, and when the nation's fate depended upon the Government maintaining its attitude of noninterference with slavery, the Fremont proclamation of emancipation was issued and made public. We are not left in uncertainty as to the influence of that proclamation in the border states, for President Lincoln in his letter to Senator Browning, from which I have already quoted, in referring to this matter, pathetically writes: “The Kentucky legislature

3 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, A History, Vol. IV., p. 422.

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