Page images

power and jurisdiction as belongs to the Circuit and District Courts of the United States. His proceedings were to be conformed, so far as possible, to the course of proceedings and practice usual in the Courts of the United States of Louisiana, and his judgment was to be final and conclusive. Congress adjourned on the 17th of July, having adopted many measures of marked though minor importance, besides those to which we have referred, to aid in the prosecution of the war. Several Senators were expelled for adherence, direct or indirect, to the rebel cause; measures were taken to remove from the several departments of the Government employés more or less openly in sympathy with secession; Hayti and Liberia were recognized as independent republics; a treaty was negotiated and ratified with Great Britain which conceded the right, within certain limits, of searching suspected slavers carrying the American flag, and the most liberal grants in men and money were made to the Government for the prosecution of the war. The President had appointed military Governors for several of the Border States, where public sentiment was divided, enjoining them to protect the loyal citizens and to regard them as alone entitled to a voice in the direction of civil affairs.

Public sentiment throughout the loyal States sustained the action of Congress and the President as adapted to the emergency and well calculated to aid in the suppression of the rebellion. At the same time it was very evident that the conviction was rapidly gaining ground that Slavery was the cause. of the Rebellion; that the paramount object of the conspirators against the Union was to obtain new guaranties for the institution; and that it was this interest alone which gave unity and vigor to the rebel cause. A very active and influential party at the North had insisted from the outset that the most direct way of crushing the Rebellion was by crushing Slavery, and they had urged upon the President the adoption

of a policy of immediate and unconditional emancipation, as the only thing necessary to bring into the ranks of the Union armies hundreds of thousands of enfranchised slaves, as well as the great mass of the people of the Northern States who needed this stimulus of an appeal to their moral sentiment. After the adjournment of Congress these demands became still more clamorous and importunate. The President was summoned to avail himself of the opportunity offered by the passage of the Confiscation Bill, and to decree the instant liberation of every slave belonging to a rebel master. These demands soon assumed, with the more impatient and intemperate portion of the friends of the Administration, a tone of complaint and condemnation, and the President was charged with gross and culpable remissness in the discharge of duties imposed upon him by the Act of Congress. They were embodied with force and effect in a letter addressed to the President by Hon. Horace Greeley, and published in the N. Y. Tribune of the 19th of August, to which President LINCOLN made the following reply:



DEAR SIR-I have just read yours of the 19th instant, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune.

If there be in it any statements or assumptions of fact which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them.

If there be any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them.

If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing," as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt. I would save the Union. I would save it in the shortest way under the Constitution.

The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be-the Union as it was.

If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them.

If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

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 do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.

What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.

I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I believe doing more will help the


I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my views of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.



It was impossible to mistake the President's meaning after this letter, or to have any doubt as to the policy by which he expected to re-establish the authority of the Constitution over the whole territory of the United States. His "paramount object," in every thing he did and in every thing he abstained from doing, was to "save the Union." He regarded all the power conferred on him by Congress in regard to slavery, as having been conferred to aid him in the accomplishment of that object—and he was resolved to wield those powers so as best, according to his own judgment, to aid in its attainment. He forebore, therefore, for a long time, the issue of such a proclamation as he was authorized to make by the sixth section of the Confiscation act of Congress-awaiting the devel opments of public sentiment on the subject, and being espe

cially anxious that when it was issued it should receive the moral support of the great body of the people of the whole country, without regard to party distinctions. He sought, therefore, with assiduous care, every opportunity of informing himself as to the drift of public sentiment on this subject. He received and conversed freely with all who came to see him and to urge upon him the adoption of their peculiar views; and on the 13th of September gave formal audience to a deputation from all the religious denominations of the city of Chicago, which had been appointed on the 7th, to wait upon him. The Committee presented a memorial requesting him at once to issue a proclamation of universal emancipation, and the chairman followed it by some remarks in support of this request.

The President listened attentively to the memorial, and then made to those who had presented it the following reply:'

The subject presented in the memorial is one upon which I have thought much for weeks past, and I may even say for months. I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will. I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in that belief, and perhaps in some respect both. I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is I will do it! These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation. I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and right.

The subject is difficult, and good men do not agree. For instance, the other day, four gentlemen of standing and intelligence from New York called as a delegation on business connected with the war; but before leaving two of them earnestly besought me to proclaim general emancipation, upon which the other two at once attacked them. You know

also that the last session of Congress had a decided majority of antislavery men, yet they could not unite on this policy. And the same is true of the religious people. Why, the rebel soldiers are praying with a great deal more earnestness, I fear, than our own troops, and expecting God to favor their side: for one of our soldiers who had been taken prisoner told Senator Wilson a few days since that he met nothing so discouraging as the evident sincerity of those he was among in their prayers. But we will talk over the merits of the case.

What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, espccially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet! Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel States? Is there a single court, or magistrate, or individual that would be influenced by it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress, which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines? Yet I cannot learn that that law has caused a single slave to come over to us. And suppose they could be induced by a proclamation of freedom from me to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we feed and care for such a multitude? General Butler wrote me a few days since that he was issuing more rations to the slaves who have rushed to him than to all the white troops under his command. They eat, and that is all; though it is true General Butler is feeding the whites also by the thousand; for it nearly amounts to a famine there. If, now, the pressure of the war should call off our forces from New Orleans to defend some other point, what is to prevent the masters from reducing the blacks to slavery again; for I am told that whenever the rebels take any black prisoners, free or slave, they immediately auction them off! They did so with those they took from a boat that was aground in the Tennessee River a few days ago. And then I am very ungenerously attacked for it! For instance, when, after the late battles at and near Bull Run, an expedition went out from Washington under a flag of truce to bury the dead and bring in the wounded, and the rebels seized the blacks who went along to help, and sent them into slavery, Horace Greeley said in his paper that the Government would probably do nothing about it. What could I do?

Now, then, tell me, if you please, what possible result of good would follow the issuing of such a proclamation as you desire? Understand, I raise no objections against it on legal or constitutional grounds, for, as

« PreviousContinue »