|"Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation"|
The Strobridge Lith. Co., Cincinnati, ca. 1888.
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
. . . And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. As a war measure during the Civil War, it proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion, applying to 3 million of the 4 million slaves in the United States at the time. The Proclamation was based on the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces.
Around 20,000 to 50,000 slaves in regions where rebellion had already been subdued were immediately emancipated. It could not be enforced in areas still under rebellion, but as the Union army took control of Confederate regions, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for slaves in those regions.
|"Contrabands" in Virginia, 1862|
According to David Brion Davis in Inhuman Bondage:
The Union confiscated without compensation a hitherto legally accepted form of property that was worth an estimated $3.5 billion in 1860 dollars (about $68.4 billion in 2003 dollars). . . Most of the other emancipations of slaves in the Western Hemisphere provided slaveholders with some compensation, often in the form of unpaid labor from the "free-born" children of slaves who were required to work until age eighteen or a good bit older . . .Slaves in the United States were valued as being worth more than all the manufacturing companies and railroads in the nation. Freeing slaves had become more and more difficult in the Southern states, as state laws required freed slaves, to leave the state boundaries. The institution of slavery had been not only secure, but thriving in the South. David Brion Davis wrote that:
If the Southerners had achieved independence by winning or avoiding the war, or by British and French intervention, it is clear that slavery would have continued well into the twentieth century. By 1860, two-thirds of the wealthiest Americans lived in the South, where the value of slaves continued to soar along with a major export economy. Moreover, many slaveholders dreamed of annexing an expanding tropical proslavery empire ranging from Cuba to Central America, and it is conceivable that an independent Confederacy might have moved in that direction. In 1857 a prominent Southerner even briefly became president of Nicaragua and restored both slavery and the African slave trade. The Southern goal of presenting a wholly "modernized" version of racial slavery wold have been reinforced by the shocking rise and spread of "scientific racism," in Britain as well as America.In The Economics of Slavery in the Antebellum South, Alfred Conrad and John Meyer wrote:
Slavery was profitable to the whole South, the continuing demand for labor in the Cotton Belt insuring returns to the breeding operation on the less productive land in the seaboard and border states. The breeding returns were necessary, however, to make the plantation operations on the poorer lands as profitable as alternative contemporary economic activities in the United States. . . . Continued expansion of slave territory was both possible and, to some extent, necessary. The maintenance of profits in the Old South depended upon the expansion, extensive or intensive, of slave agriculture into the Southwest.
No other profession gave a Southerner such dignity and importance as the cultivation of the soil with slave labor. The ownership of slaves . . .had become ‘a fashionable taste, a social passion'; it had become a symbol of success like ‘the possession of a horse among the Arabs: it brings the owner into connexion [sic] with the privileged class; it forms the presumption that he has attained a certain social position.’ Slaves, therefore, were ‘coveted with an eagerness far beyond what the intrinsic utility of their services would explain.’ John Elliott Cairnes concluded that it would be futile to propose compensated emancipation, for this would be asking slaveholders to renounce their power and prestige ‘for a sum of money which, if well invested, might perhaps enable them and their descendants to vegetate in peaceful obscurity.James Oliver Horton wrote that:
While slavery was not the only cause for which the South fought during the Civil War, the testimony of Confederate leaders and their supporters makes it clear that slavery was central to the motivation for secession and war. When southern whites in the 19th century spoke of the "southern way of life," they referred to a way of life founded on white supremacy and supported by the institution of slavery.
South Carolina led the way when its Charleston convention, held just before Christmas in 1860, declared that the "Union heretofore existing between the State of South Carolina and the other States of North America is dissolved ... " The reason for the drastic action, South Carolina delegates explained in their "Declaration of the Causes which Induced the Secession of South Carolina," was what they termed a broken compact between the federal government and "the slaveholding states." It was the actions of what delegates referred to as "the non-slaveholding states" who refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that was the specific example used as evidence for this argument. "In many of these States the fugitive [slave] is discharged from the service of labor claimed,.... [and] in the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied .... " The delegation made clear that the election of Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1860 as "President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to Slavery" was the final straw. In the South Carolinian mind the coming of Republican political power signaled, in the words of the convention, "that a war [would] be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States."
The editors at the Charleston Mercury agreed. They had anticipated the threat
that a Republican victory would pose when in early November they warned South Carolinians and the entire South that "[t]he issue before the country is the extinction of slavery."
They plainly stated, that "[t]he existence of slavery is at stake." They called for a convention to consider secession because they saw such action as the only way to protect slavery. When the South Carolina convention did meet little more than a month later, it dealt almost entirely with issues related directly to slavery. It did not complain about tariff rates, competing economic systems or mistreatment at the hands of northern industrialists. . . .The secession of South Carolina, approved by the convention 169 votes to none, was about the preservation of slavery.
Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia also understood what the South was fighting for. A decade before secession, in reaction to the debate over the Compromise of 1850, he wrote to his brother Linton citing "the great question of the permanence of slavery in the Southern States" as crucial for maintaining the union. "[T]he crisis of that question," he predicted, "is not far ahead." After the war he would become more equivocal, but in the heat of the secession debate in the spring of 1861 Stephens spoke as directly as he had in 1850. On March 21, 1861 in Savannah, Stephens, the then Vice President of the Confederacy, drew applause when he proclaimed
that "our new government" was founded on slavery, "its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the [N]egro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - submission to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
A special edition of the Louisville Daily Courier was detailed and direct in its message to non-slaveholders. The abolition of slavery would raise African Americans to "the level of the white race," and the poorest whites would be closest to the former slaves in both social and physical distance. . . .Then the article moved to the final and most emotionally-charged question of all. Would the non-slaveholders of the South be content to "AMALGAMATE TOGETHER THE TWO RACES IN VIOLATION OF GOD'S WILL." The conclusion was inevitable the article argued; non-slaveholders had much at stake in the maintenance of slavery and everything to lose by its abolition. African-American slavery was the only thing that stood between poor whites and the bottom of southern society where they would be forced to compete with and live among black people.
These arguments were extremely effective as even the poorest white southerners got the message. Their interest in slavery was far more important than simple economics. As one southern prisoner explained to his Wisconsin-born guard "you Yanks want us to marry our daughters to niggers." This fear of a loss of racial status was common. A poor white farmer from North Carolina explained that he would never stop fighting because what he considered to be an abolitionist federal government was "trying to force us to live as the colored race." Although he had grown tired of the war, a Confederate artilleryman from Louisiana agreed that he must continue to fight. An end to slavery would bring what he considered horrific consequences, for he would "never want to see the day when a [N]egro is put on an equality with a white person."
. . . Although the defense of slavery was central to the Confederacy, the abolitionIn early 1862, many abolitionists were impatient with Lincoln and an administration that did not appear to support the abolition of slavery. However, one African American abolitionist defended the president; John S. Rock said in his speech to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, delivered on January 23, 1862:
of slavery was not initially the official goal of the United States or the primary concern of most of the American people. As the most respected historians of our generation have shown, Lincoln and the vast majority of Republicans sought only to limit the expansion of slavery . . . Although most whites in the North wanted to restrict slavery's spread, they would not have gone to war in 1861 to end it. President Lincoln understood his constituency very well and his statements on slavery were calculated to reassure white northerners as well as southern slaveholders that the U.S. government had, in his words, "no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the States where it exists." Indeed, Lincoln even reluctantly agreed to accept an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have protected slavery in those states where it existed. Ohio, Maryland, and Illinois actually ratified this measure that, ironically, would have been the 13th Amendment.
|John S. Rock|
While Mr. Lincoln has been more conservative than I had hoped to find him, I recognize in him an honest man, striving to redeem the country from the degradation and shame into which Mr. Buchanan and his predecessors have plunged it.
... Now it seems to me that a blind man can see that the present war is an effort to nationalize, perpetuate, and extend slavery in this country. In short, slavery is the cause of the war: I might say, is the war itself. Had it not been for slavery, we should have no war!
... I do not regard this trying hour as a dark one. The war that has been waged on us for more than two centuries has opened our eyes and caused us to form alliances, so that instead of acting on the defensive, we are now prepared to attack the enemy ...
This rebellion for slavery means something! Out of it emancipation must spring. I do not agree with those men who see no hope in this war. There is nothing in it but hope. Our chance is onward. As it is with the sun, the clouds often obstruct his vision, but in the end we find there has been no standing still. It is true the government is but little more antislavery now than it was at the commencement of the war; but while fighting for its own existence, it has been obliged to take slavery by the throat and sooner or later, must choke her to death.
These objections are often urged with a show of sincere solicitude for the welfare of the slaves themselves. It is said, what will you do with them? they can’t take care of themselves; they would all come to the North; they would not work; they would become a burden upon the State, and a blot upon society; they’d cut their masters’ throats; they would cheapen labor, and crowd out the poor white laborers from employment; their former masters would not employ them, and they would necessarily become vagrants, paupers and criminals, over-running all our alms houses, jails and prisons.
. . . The question is asked, and pressed with a great show of earnestness at this momentous crisis of our nation’s history, What shall be done with the four million slaves if they are emancipated?
This question has been answered, and can be answered in many ways. Primarily, it is a question less for man than for God — less for human intellect than for the laws of nature to solve. It assumes that nature has erred; that the law of liberty is a mistake; that freedom, though a natural want of human soul, can only be enjoyed at the expense of human welfare, and that men are better off in slavery than they would or could be in freedom; that slavery is the natural order of human relations, and that liberty is an experiment.
. . . We would not for one moment check the outgrowth of any benevolent concern for the future welfare of the colored race in America or elsewhere; but in the name of reason and religion, we earnestly plead for justice before all else. . . . Benevolence without justice is mockery. Let the American people, who have thus far only kept the colored race staggering between partial philosophy and cruel force, be induced to try what virtue there is in justice.. . He is everywhere treated as an exception to all the general rules which should operated in the relations of other men. . . .
What shall be done with the Negro if emancipated? Deal justly with him. He is a human being, capable of judging between good and evil, right and wrong, liberty and slavery, and is as much a subject of law as any other man; therefore, deal justly with him. He is, like other men, sensible of the motives of reward and punishment. Give him wages for his work, and let hunger pinch him if he don’t work.
. . . But would you let them all stay here? — Why not? What better is here than there? Will they occupy more room as freemen than as slaves? Is the presence of a black freeman less agreeable than that of a black slave? Is an object of our injustice and cruelty a more ungrateful sight than one of your justice and benevolence? You have borne the one more than the two hundred years — can’t you bear the other long enough to try the experiment?
“But would it be safe?” No good reason can be given why it would not be. There is much more reason for apprehension from slavery than from freedom. Slavery provokes and justifies incediarism, murder, robbery, assassination, and all manner of violence.
. . . There is one cheering aspect of this revival of the old and threadbare objections to emancipation — it implies at least the presence of danger to the slave systems. When slavery was assailed twenty-five years ago, the whole land took the arm, and every species of argument and subterfuge was resorted to by the defenders of slavery. The mental activity was amazing; all sorts of excuses, political, economical, social, theological and ethnological, were coined into barricades against the advancing march of anti-slavery sentiment. The same activity now shows itself, but has added nothing new to the argument for slavery or against emancipation.
|George Washington Julian|
It will not be forgotten that the red-handed murderers and thieves who set this rebellion on foot went out of the Union yelping for the Constitution which they had conspired to overthrow by the blackest perjury and treason that ever confronted the Almighty.Serving on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, he investigated Confederate atrocities and the mistreatment of prisoners of war, hectored generals who showed insufficient zeal in pressing on the fight, and pushed hard for the removal of General George B. McClellan, whose slowness in advancing on the enemy Julian saw as nearly treasonable. Julian later reported a meeting that the committee had with the President in early January 1862:
The most striking fact revealed by the discussion which took place was thatIn addition to the politics in the United States, Lincoln had to deal with foreign opinion and interference. The United Kingdom was officially neutral throughout the war, but elite opinion in that country tended to favor the Confederacy, while public opinion tended to favor the Northern Union. Trade continued in both directions, with the Americans shipping grain to Britain while Britain sent manufactured items and munitions. British trade with the Confederacy was limited, with a little cotton going to Britain and some munitions slipped in by numerous small blockade runners. The Confederate administration hoped for military intervention by Britain and France. The U.S. diplomatic mission headed by Minister Charles Francis Adams, Sr., proved much more successful than the Confederate missions, which were never officially recognized. The United States Secretary of State, William Steward, threatened to treat as hostile any country which recognized the Confederacy.
neither the President nor his advisers seemed to have any definite information respecting the management of the war, or the failure of our forces to make any forward movement. Not a man of them pretended to know anything of General McClellan's plans. We were greatly surprised to learn that Mr. Lincoln himself did not think he had any right to know, but that, as he was not a military man, it was his duty to defer to General McClellan. Our grand Armies were ready and eager to march, and the whole country was anxiously waiting some decisive movement; but during the delightful months of October, November and December, they had been kept idle for some reason which no man could explain, but which the President thought could be perfectly accounted for by the General-in-Chief. . . . The spectacle seemed to us very disheartening. The testimony of all the commanding generals we had examined showed that our armies had been ready to march for months; that the weather and roads had been most favorable since October; and that the Army of the Potomac was in a fine state of discipline, and nearly two hundred thousand strong, while only about forty thousand men were needed to make Washington perfectly safe. Not a general examined could tell why this vast force had so long been kept idle, or what General McClellan intended to do. The fate of the nation seemed committed to one man called a 'General-in-Chief,' who communicated his secrets to no human being, and who had neither age no military experience to justify the extraordinary deference of the President to his wishes.
|John Stuart Mill|
Why does the English nation, which has made itself memorable to all time as the destroyer of negro slavery, which has shrunk from no sacrifices to free its own character from that odious stain, and to close all the countries of the world against the slave merchant; why is it that the nation which is at the head of abolitionism, not only feels do sympathy with those who are fighting against the slaveholding conspiracy, but actually desires its success Why is the general voice of our press, the general sentiment of our people, bitterly reproachful to the North, while for the South, the aggressors in the war, we have either mild apologies or direct and downright encouragement ?
. . . It must be remembered, too, that though the English public are averse to slavery, several of the political and literary organs which have most influence over the public are decidedly not so. For many years the Times has taken every opportunity of throwing cold water, as far as decency permitted, on the cause of the negro. Had its attempts succeeded, the African squadron would have been withdrawn, and the effort so long and honorably persisted in by England to close the negro coast against the manstealer would have been ignominiously abandoned. Another of the misleaders of opinion on this subject, more intellectual in its aims, and addressing itself to a more intellectual audience, has been from its first origin, however liberal on the surface, imbued with a deeply seated tory feeling, which makes it prefer even slavery to democratic equality; and it never loses an opportunity of saying a word for slavery and palliating its evils.
Davis left foreign policy to others in government and, rather than developing an aggressive diplomatic effort, tended to expect events to accomplish diplomatic objectives. The new president was committed to the notion that cotton would secure recognition and legitimacy from the powers of Europe. The men Davis selected as secretary of state and emissaries to Europe were chosen for political and personal reasons – not for their diplomatic potential. This was due, in part, to the belief that cotton could accomplish the Confederate objectives with little help from Confederate diplomats. . . . The stubborn reliance of the Confederates on a King Cotton strategy resulted in a natural resistance to coercion from the Europeans. Davis’s policy was to hold back cotton.Carl Schurz later wrote in his memoirs of a meeting with Lincoln in January 1862:
I went to call upon Mr. Lincoln at the White House. He received me with the old cordiality. . . He listened to me very attentively, even eagerly, as I thought, without interrupting me. . . . When I stopped, Mr. Lincoln sat for a minute silently musing.
At last he said: "You may be right. Probably you are. I have been thinking so myself. I cannot imagine that any European power would dare to recognize and aid the Southern Confederacy if it becomes clear that the Confederacy stands for slavery and the Union for freedom."
Then he explained to me that, while a distinct anti-slavery policy would remove the foreign danger, and would thus work for the preservation of the Union – while, indeed, it might, in this respect, be necessary for the preservation of the Union, and while he thought that it would soon appear and be recognized to be in every respect necessary, he was in doubt as to whether public opinion at home was yet sufficiently prepared for it.
He was anxious to unite, and keep united, all the forces of Northern society and of the Union element in the South, especially the Border States, in the war for the Union. Would not the cry of ‘abolition war,’ such as might be occasioned by a distinct anti-slavery policy, tend to disunite those forces and thus weaken the Union cause? This was the doubt that troubled him, and it troubled him very much.Lincoln, in reflecting on the timing of the Emancipation Proclamation, used a favorite story about fruit as a metaphor for his action:
A man watches his pear-tree day after day, impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently wait, and the ripe pear at length falls into his lap!
|Moncure Daniel Conway|
Pondering the state of the Union war effort in early 1862, Lincoln lamented that “the bottom is out of the tub.” He was not exaggerating: little seemed to be going right for the Union or the president in the early months of 1862. The Union war machine seemed to be jammed in neutral; military inaction in the Eastern Theater created widespread exasperation with both the Army of the Potomac and the Lincoln administration.
|Ralph Waldo Emerson|
The President impressed me more favorably than I had hoped. . . .A frank, sincere, well-meaning man, with a lawyer’s habit of mind, good clear statement of his fact, correct enough, not vulgar, as described, but with a sort of boyish cheerfulness, or that kind of sincerity and jolly good meaning that our class meetings on Commencement Days show, in telling our old stories over. When he has made his remark, he looks up at you with great satisfaction, and shows all his white teeth, and laughs.
Lincoln was actively pursuing a legislative course, propositions along with inducements, to abolish slavery. He sent a message to Congress on March 6, 1862, encouraging them
to co-operate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of Slavery,In a meeting with Border State congressmen on March 10, 1862, Lincoln was asked by Representative William A. Hall of Kentucky his opinion regarding slavery. The congressmen present reported that Lincoln said “he did not pretend to disguise his anti-slavery feeling; that he thought it was wrong, and should continue to think so.” Lincoln clearly stated his displeasure in having to protect the right to hold other persons as property and that such a law was to him an “odious law.” He told them “he would get rid of the odious law, not by violating the rights [to this type of property], but by encouraging the proposition and offering inducements to give it up.” Three days later, Lincoln wrote to Henry J. Raymond, the editor of The New York Times,
giving State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
|Henry J. Raymond|
I am grateful to the New-York Journals, and not less so to the Times than to others, for their kind notices of the late special Message to Congress.
Your paper, however, intimates that the proposition, though well-intentioned, must fail on the score of expense. I do hope you will reconsider this.
Have you noticed the facts that less than one half-day's cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware, at four hundred dollars per head? – that eighty-seven days cost of this war would pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Missouri at the same price?
Were those states to take the step, do you doubt that it would shorten the war more than eighty seven days, and thus be an actual saving of expense?
Please look at these things, and consider whether there should not be another article in the Times.The New York Times subsequently editorialized that the words of Lincoln’s message
will echo round the globe. They will recover us the respect once felt for us in the Old World. In dealing with this vexed subject we think he has hit the happy mean upon which all parties in the North and all loyalists in the South can unite.
|James R. Doolittle|
The negroes that are now liberated, and that remain in this city, will become a sore and a burden and a charge upon the white population.Doolittle responded with a showing that if 150, 000 slaves were emancipated and voluntarily colonized each year, the "last remnants of the slave population" would be gone by 1907.
Lincoln sent the following address to Congress:
Message to Congress on Signing An Act Abolishing Slavery in
Washington, D.C.,April 16, 1862
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
The act entitled "An act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia" has this day been approved and signed.
I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this District, and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way.
Hence there has never been in my mind any question upon the subject except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances. If there be matters within and about this act which might have taken a course or shape more satisfactory to my judgment, I do not attempt to specify them. I am gratified that the two principles of compensation and colonization are both recognized and practically applied in the act.
In the matter of compensation, it is provided that claims may be presented within ninety days from the passage of the act, "but not thereafter;" and there is no saving for minors, femes covert, insane or absent persons. I presume this is an omission by mere oversight, and I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or supplemental act.
Lincoln's political idol, Henry Clay, had helped establish the American Colonization Society
There is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children, whose ancestors have been torn from her by the ruthless hand of fraud and violence. Transplanted to a foreign land, they will carry back to their native soil the rich fruits of religion, civilization, law and liberty. May it not be one of the great designs of the Ruler of the universe (whose ways are often inscrutable by short-sighted mortals), thus to transform an original crime, into a signal blessing to that most unfortunate portion of the globe?
|George B. McClellan|
If the proslavery Union general George B. McClellan had achieved the Union's objectives and had captured Richmond in his Peninsular Campaign in the late spring and early summer of 1762, much of the Southern social system would probably have survived. President Lincoln would no doubt have rejoiced at an early Confederate defeat, while pinning his hopes on some long-term efforts at gradual emancipation and black colonization.
The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the military department of the south, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States — Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina— heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.
May 19, 1862
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas there appears in the public prints, what purports to be a proclamation, of Major General Hunter . . And whereas the same is producing some excitement, and misunderstanding: therefore
I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, proclaim and declare, that the government of the United States, had no knowledge, information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the document is genuine--
And further, that neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.
I further make known that whether it be competent for me, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the Slaves of any state or states, free, and whether at any time, in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the government, to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I can not feel justified in leaving to the decision of Commanders in the field. . . .
On the sixth day of March last, by a special message, I recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolution to be substantially as follows:
Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
. . . To the people of those states I now earnestly appeal-- I do not argue. I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves.
You can not if you would, be blind to the signs of the times-- I beg of you on a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partizan politics-- This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproach upon any . . The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything-- Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as, in the providence of God, it is now your high privilege to do-- May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
|Longwood Progressive Friends Meeting House|
The President responded very impressively, saying that he was deeply sensible of his need of Divine assistance. He had sometime thought that perhaps he might be an instrument in God’s hand of accomplishing a great work and he certainly was not unwilling to be. Perhaps, however, God’s way of accomplishing the end which the memorialists have in view may be different from theirs. It would be his earnest endeavor, with a firm reliance upon the Divine arm, and seeking light from above, to do his duty in the place to which he had been called.A few days later on June 24, Senator Willard Saulsbury, Sr., a Democrat from Delaware directing
|Willard Saulsbury, Sr.|
Your design is to make this a war for the abolition of slavery. . . .
1) You have abolished slavery in the District of Columbia without the consent of their owners and against their wishes.
2) You have made it an offense punishable by dismissal from service for any officer of the Army to return a fugitive slave to his loyal owner…
3) You have, upon recommendation of the President, attempted to build up an abolition party in the border slave States by the offer of pecuniary aid…
4) You have prohibited slavery, not only in existing territory but in any which may hereafter be acquired…
5) You have by your bills proposed the emancipation of almost the entire slave population in the States, and now the bill before the Senate is to be amended, if possible to accomplish that object.Saulsbury characterized Lincoln's proposals as a plot “to elevate the miserable Negro, not only to political rights, but to put him in [the] army.”
Head Quarters, Army of the Potomac Camp near Harrison's Landing, Va.
July 7th 1862
You have been fully informed, that the Rebel army is in our front, with the purpose of overwhelming us by attacking our positions or reducing us by blocking our river communications. I can not but regard our condition as critical and I earnestly desire, in view of possible contingencies, to lay before your Excellency, for your private consideration, my general views concerning the state of the rebellion; although they do not strictly relate to the situation of this Army or strictly come within the scope of my official duties. These views amount to convictions and are deeply impressed upon my mind and heart.
Our cause must never be abandoned; it is the cause of free institutions and self government. The Constitution and the Union must be preserved, whatever may be the cost in time, treasure and blood. If secession is successful, other dissolutions are clearly to be seen in the future. Let neither military disaster, political faction or foreign war shake your settled purpose to enforce the equal operation of the laws of the United States upon the people of every state.
. . . This rebellion has assumed the character of a War: as such it should be regarded; and it should be conducted upon the highest principles known to Christian Civilization. It should not be a War looking to the subjugation of the people of any state, in any event. It should not be, at all, a War upon population; but against armed forces and political organizations.
Neither confiscation of property, political executions of persons, territorial organization of states or forcible abolition of slavery should be contemplated for a moment. . . Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations of servitude, either by supporting or impairing the authority of the master; except for repressing disorder as in other cases. Slaves contraband under the Act of Congress, seeking military protection, should receive it. The right of the Government to appropriate permanently to its own service claims to slave labor should be asserted and the right of the owner to compensation therefore should be recognized. This principle might be extended upon grounds of military necessity and security to all the slaves within a particular state; thus working manumission in such [a] state -- and in Missouri, perhaps in Western Virginia also and possibly even in Maryland the expediency of such a military measure is only a question of time.
A system of policy thus constitutional and conservative, and pervaded by the influences of Christianity and freedom, would receive the support of almost all truly loyal men, would deeply impress the rebel masses and all foreign nations, and it might be humbly hoped that it would commend itself to the favor of the Almighty. Unless the principles governing the further conduct of our struggle shall be made known and approved, the effort to obtain requisite forces will be almost hopeless.
A declaration of radical views, especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present Armies.
. . . In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will require a Commander in Chief of the Army; one who possesses your confidence, understands your views and who is competent to execute your orders by directing the military forces of the Nation to the accomplishment of the objects by you proposed. I do not ask that place for myself. I am willing to serve you in such position as you may assign me and I will do so as faithfully as ever subordinate served superior.
I may be on the brink of eternity and as I hope forgiveness from my maker I have written this letter with sincerity towards you and from love of my country.Lincoln continued to meet with senators and representatives from the Border States; he bluntly said that had they voted for the resolution proposed in March, “the war would now be substantially ended.”
Very respectfully your obdt svt
Geo B McClellanMaj Genl Comdg
July 12, 1862
Gentlemen. After the adjournment of Congress, now very near, I shall have no opportunity of seeing you for several months. Believing that you of the border-states hold more power for good than any other equal number of members, I feel it a duty which I can not justifiably waive, to make this appeal to you.
I intend no reproach or complaint when I assure you that in my opinion, if you all had voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of last March, the war would now be substantially ended.
And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent, and swift means of ending it. Let the states which are in rebellion see, definitely and certainly, that, in no event, will the states you represent ever join their proposed Confederacy, and they can not, much longer maintain the contest. But you can not divest them of their hope to ultimately have you with them so long as you show a determination to perpetuate the institution within your own states.
. . . Most of you have treated me with kindness and consideration; and I trust you will not now think I improperly touch what is exclusively your own, when, for the sake of the whole country I ask “Can you, for your states, do better than to take the course I urge?”
. . . You prefer that the constitutional relation of the states to the nation shall be practically restored, without disturbance of the institution; and if this were done, my whole duty, in this respect, under the constitution, and my oath of office, would be performed. But it is not done, and we are trying to accomplish it by war.
The incidents of the war can not be avoided. If the war continue long, as it must, if the object be not sooner attained, the institution in your states will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion–by the mere incidents of the war. It will be gone, and you will have nothing valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already. How much better for you, and for your people, to take the step which, at once, shortens the war, and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to be wholly lost in any other event. How much better to thus save the money which else we sink forever in the war. How much better to do it while we can, lest the war ere long render us pecuniarily unable to do it. How much better for you, as seller, and the nation as buyer, to sell out, and buy out, that without which the war could never have been, than to sink both the thing to be sold, and the price of it, in cutting one another's throats.
I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a decision at once to emancipate gradually. Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.
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. Gen. Hunter is an honest man. . . . 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 can not 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 now ask, you can relieve me, and much more, can relieve the country, in this important point.
. . . Before leaving the Capital, 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. . . . Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views, and boldest action to bring it speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world; it's 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.The president’s plea was rebuffed. Lincoln had long believed that the abolition of slavery in the Border States would help end the rebellion and lead to emancipation in the Confederacy. He now realized that, if anything, it would have to be the other way around. He now was convinced his war power as commander in chief of the armed forces gave him constitutional warrant to do, and let emancipation filter up to the Border States. Lincoln had given the Union’s slave states every opportunity to take the lead on emancipation. They had refused to act.
On Sunday, the 13th of July, 1862, President Lincoln invited me to accompany him in his carriage to the funeral of an infant child of Mr. Stanton. Secretary Seward and Mrs. Frederick Seward were also in the carriage. . . It was on this occasion and on this ride that he first mentioned to Mr. Seward and myself the subject of emancipating the slaves by proclamation in case the Rebels did not cease to persist in their war on the Government and the Union, of which he saw no evidence. He dwelt earnestly on the gravity, importance, and delicacy of the movement, said he had given it much thought and had about come to the conclusion that it was a military necessity absolutely essential for the salvation of the Union, that we must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued, etc., etc. This was, he said, the first occasion when he had mentioned the subject to any one, and wished us to frankly state how the proposition struck us. Mr. Seward said the subject involved consequences so vast and momentous that he should wish to bestow on it mature reflection before giving a decisive answer, but his present opinion inclined to the measure as justifiable, and perhaps he might say expedient and necessary. These were also my views. Two or three times on that ride the subject, which was of course an absorbing one for each and all, was adverted to, and before separating the President desired us to give the question special and deliberate attention, for he was earnest in the conviction that something must be done. It was a new departure for the President, for until this time, in all our previous interviews, whenever the question of emancipation or the mitigation of slavery had been in any way alluded to, he had been prompt and emphatic in denouncing any interference by the General Government with the subject.
William H. Seward
Had Slavery no existence among us, and were the question asked shall we adopt such an institution? We should agree as to the reply which should be made. If there be any diversity in our views it is not as to whether we should receive Slavery when free from it, but as to how we may best get rid of it already amongst us. Were an individual asked whether he would wish to have a wen on his neck, he could not hesitate as to the reply; but were it asked whether a man who has such a wen should at once be relieved of it by the application of the surgeon's knife, there might be diversity of opinion, perhaps the man might bleed to death, as the result of such an operation. . . . Feeling deeply my responsibility, to my country and to that God to whom we all owe allegiance, I assure you I will try to do my best, and so may God help me.
American slavery is no small affair, and it cannot be done away with at once.
It is part of our national life. It is not of yesterday. It began in colonial times. In one way or another it has shaped nearly everything that enters into what we call government.
It is as much northern as it is southern. It is not merely a local or geographical institution. It belongs to our politics, to our industries, to our commerce, and to our religion. Every portion of our territory in some form or another has contributed to the growth and the increase of slavery.
It has been nearly two hundred years coming up to its present proportions.
It is wrong, a great evil indeed, but the South is nor more responsible for the wrong done to the African race than is the North.
|Salmon P. Chase|
Secretary of State William Seward advised the President not to issue his proclamation at that time. Congressional elections were coming up, and Seward was concerned about how the voters might interpret such a proclamation on the heels of the humiliation suffered by McClellan’s army during the Peninsula Campaign. Seward advised Lincoln to wait until he could “give it to the country supported by a military success, instead of issuing it, as it would be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the war.” Considering Seward’s advice wise political advice, Lincoln decided to wait for a military success.
July 31, 1862.
Dear Sir: You send to Mr. W[eed] an extract from a letter written at New Orleans the 9th instant, which is shown to me. You do not give the writer's name; but plainly he is a man of ability, and probably of some note. He says: "The time has arrived when Mr. Lincoln must take a decisive course. Trying to please everybody, he will satisfy nobody. A vacillating policy in matters of importance is the very worst. Now is the time, if ever, for honest men who love their country to rally to its support. Why will not the North say officially that it wishes for the restoration of the Union as it was?''
And so, it seems, this is the point on which the writer thinks I have no policy.
Why will he not read and understand what I have said? The substance of the very declaration he desires is in the inaugural, in each of the two regular messages to Congress, and in many, if not all, the minor documents issued by the Executive since the inauguration.
Broken eggs cannot be mended; but Louisiana has nothing to do now but to take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs. The sooner she does so, the smaller will be the amount of that which will be past mending.
This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing.
Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt.
If they expect in any contingency to ever have the Union as it was, I join with the writer in saying, "Now is the time.''
How much better it would have been for the writer to have gone at this, under the protection of the army at New Orleans, than to have sat down in a closet writing complaining letters northward! Yours truly, A. LINCOLN.
by the Reverend Joseph Mitchell, commissioner of emigration for the Interior Department. It was the first time African Americans had been invited to the White House on a policy matter. The five men were there to discuss a scheme that a contemporary described as a “simply absurd” piece of “charlatanism”: resettling emancipated slaves on a 10,000-acre parcel of land in present-day Panama. The meeting’s minutes recorded:
You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. You here are freemen I suppose.
A VOICE: Yes, sir.
The President---Perhaps you have long been free, or all your lives. Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people.
But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. You are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoy. The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.
I do not propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with which we have to deal. I cannot alter it if I would. It is a fact, about which we all think and feel alike, I and you. We look to our condition, owing to the existence of the two races on this continent. I need not recount to you the effects upon white men, growing out of the institution of Slavery. I believe in its general evil effects on the white race. See our present condition---the country engaged in war!---our white men cutting one another's throats, none knowing how far it will extend; and then consider what we know to be the truth.
But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of Slavery and the colored race as a basis, the war could not have an existence.
It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.
. . . I suppose one of the principal difficulties in the way of colonization is that the free colored man cannot see that his comfort would be advanced by it. You may believe you can live in Washington or elsewhere in the United States the remainder of your life [as easily], perhaps more so than you can in any foreign country, and hence you may come to the conclusion that you have nothing to do with the idea of going to a foreign country. This is (I speak in no unkind sense) an extremely selfish view of the case.
But you ought to do something to help those who are not so fortunate as yourselves. There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain with us. Now, if you could give a start to white people, you would open a wide door for many to be made free. If we deal with those who are not free at the beginning, and whose intellects are clouded by Slavery, we have very poor materials to start with. If intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would move in this matter, much might be accomplished.
It is exceedingly important that we have men at the beginning capable of thinking as white men, and not those who have been systematically oppressed.
. . . For the sake of your race you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people.
. . . The colony of Liberia has been in existence a long time. In a certain sense it
is a success. The old President of Liberia, Roberts, has just been with me---the first time I ever saw him. He says they have within the bounds of that colony between 300,000 and 400,000 people, or more than in some of our old States, such as Rhode Island or Delaware, or in some of our newer States, and less than in some of our larger ones. They are not all American colonists, or their descendants. Something less than 12,000 have been sent thither from this country. Many of the original settlers have died, yet, like people elsewhere, their offspring outnumber those deceased.
The question is if the colored people are persuaded to go anywhere, why not there? One reason for an unwillingness to do so is that some of you would rather remain within reach of the country of your nativity. I do not know how much attachment you may have toward our race. It does not strike me that you have the greatest reason to love them. But still you are attached to them at all events.
The place I am thinking about having for a colony is in Central America. It is
nearer to us than Liberia---not much more than one-fourth as far as Liberia, and within seven days' run by steamers. Unlike Liberia it is on a great line of travel---it is a highway. The country is a very excellent one for any people, and with great natural resources and advantages, and especially because of the similarity of climate with your native land---thus being suited to your physical condition. . . .
Chiriqui, Panama: proposed site for a colony
I shall, if I get a sufficient number of you engaged, have provisions made that you shall not be wronged. If you will engage in the enterprise I will spend some of the money intrusted to me. I am not sure you will succeed. The Government may lose the money, but we cannot succeed unless we try; but we think, with care, we can succeed. . . .The practical thing I want to ascertain is whether I can get a number of able-bodied men, with their wives and children, who are willing to go, when I present evidence of encouragement and protection. Could I get a hundred tolerably intelligent men, with their wives and children . . .? Can I have fifty? If I could find twenty-five able-bodied men, with a mixture of women and children, good things in the family relation, I think I could make a successful commencement.
. . . The above is merely given as the substance of the President's remarks.The president's remarks appeared in the newspapers, and received negative reactions from antislavery proponents. Frederick Douglass wrote in the September issue of his newspaper, Douglass' Monthly:
The Chairman of the delegation briefly replied that "they would hold a consultation and in a short time give an answer.'' The President said: "Take your full time---no hurry at all.''
The delegation then withdrew.
The President of the United States seems to possess an ever increasing passion for making himself appear silly and ridiculous, if nothing worse. Since the publication of our last number he has been unusually garrulous, characteristically foggy, remarkably illogical and untimely in his utterances, often saying that which nobody wanted to hear, and studiously leaving unsaid about the only things which the country and the times imperatively demand of him. . . .
In the White House before a committee of colored men assembled by his invitation . . . Mr. Lincoln assumes the language and arguments of an itinerant Colonization lecturer, showing all his inconsistencies, his pride of race and blood, his contempt for Negroes and his canting hypocrisy. . . . The argument of Mr. Lincoln is that the difference between the white and black races renders it impossible for them to live together in the same country without detriment to both. Colonization, therefore, he holds to be the duty and the interest of the colored people. . . .
Taking advantage of his position and of the prevailing prejudice against them he affirms that their presence in the country is the real first cause of the war, and logically enough, if the premises were sound, assumes the necessity of their removal.
It does not require any great amount of skill to point out the fallacy and expose the unfairness of the assumption, for by this time every man who has an ounce of brain in his head, no matter to which party he may belong, and even Mr. Lincoln himself, must know quite well that the mere presence of the colored race never could have provoked this horrid and desolating rebellion.
Mr. Lincoln knows that in Mexico, Central America and South America, many distinct races live peaceably together in the enjoyment of equal rights, and that the civil wars which occasionally disturb the peace of those regions never originated in the difference of the races inhabiting them.
A horse thief pleading that the existence of the horse is the apology for his theft or a highway man contending that the money in the traveler's pocket is the sole first cause of his robbery are about as much entitled to respect as is the President's reasoning at this point.
No, Mr. President, it is not the innocent horse that makes the horse thief, not the traveler's purse that makes the highway robber, and it is not the presence of the Negro that causes this foul and unnatural war, but the cruel and brutal cupidity of those who wish to possess horses, money and Negroes by means of theft, robbery, and rebellion.
. . . Illogical and unfair as Mr. Lincoln's statements are, they are nevertheless quite in keeping with his whole course from the beginning of his administration up to this day, and confirm the painful conviction that though elected as an anti-slavery man by Republican and Abolition voters, Mr. Lincoln is quite a genuine representative of American prejudice and Negro hatred and far more concerned for the preservation of slavery, and the favor of the Border Slave States, than for any sentiment of magnanimity or principle of justice and humanity.
. . . He is scrupulous to the very letter of the law in favor of slavery, and a perfect latitudinarian as to the discharge of his duties under a law favoring freedom. . . . The tone of frankness and benevolence which he assumes in his speech to the colored committee is too thin a mask not to be seen through. The genuine spark of humanity is missing in it, no sincere wish to improve the condition of the oppressed has dictated it. It expresses merely the desire to get rid of them, and reminds one of the politeness with which a man might try to bow out of his house some troublesome creditor or the witness of some old guilt.
The hour has now arrived in the history of your settlement upon this continent when it is within your own power to take one step that will secure, if successful, the elevation, freedom, and social position of your race upon the American continent . . .I want mechanics and labourers, earnest, honest, and sober men, for the interest of a generation, it may be of mankind, are involved in the success of this experiment, and with the approbation of the American people, and under the blessing of Almighty God, it cannot, it shall not fail.On August 19, 1862, Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, published an open letter calling on Lincoln to free the slaves as a way of weakening the Confederacy:
"The Prayer of the Twenty Millions"To ABRAHAM LINCOLN,President of the United States
DEAR SIR: I do not intrude to tell you--for you must know already--that a great proportion of those who triumphed in you election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression of the Rebellion now desolating our country, are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of the Rebels.
I write only to set succinctly and unmistakably before you what we require, what we think we have a right to expect, and of what we complain.
I. We require of you, as the first servant of the Republic, charged especially and preeminently with this duty, that you EXECUTE THE LAWS. . . .
II. We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your
official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipating provisions of the new Confiscation Act. Those provisions were designed to fight Slavery with Liberty. They prescribe that men loyal to the Union, and willing to shed their blood in her behalf, shall no longer be held, with the Nations consent, in bondage to persistent, malignant traitors, who for twenty years have been plotting and for sixteen months have been fighting to divide and destroy our country. Why these traitors should be treated with tenderness by you, to the prejudice of the dearest rights of loyal men, We cannot conceive.
III. We think you are unduly influenced by the counsels, the representations, the menaces, of certain fossil politicians hailing from the Border Slave States. . . . We ask you to consider that Slavery is everywhere the inciting cause and sustaining base of treason: the most slaveholding sections of Maryland and Delaware being this day, though under the Union flag, in full sympathy with the Rebellion, while the Free-Labor portions of Tennessee and of Texas, though writhing under the bloody heel of Treason, are unconquerably loyal to the Union. . . . It seems to us the most obvious truth, that whatever strengthens or fortifies Slavery in the Border States strengthens also Treason, and drives home the wedge intended to divide the Union. . .
IV. We think timid counsels in such a crisis calculated to prove perilous, and probably disastrous. It is the duty of a Government so wantonly, wickedly assailed by Rebellion as ours has been to oppose force to force in a defiant, dauntless spirit. It cannot afford to temporize with traitors nor with semi-
traitors. It must not bribe them to behave themselves, nor make cheat fair promises in the hope of disarming their causeless hostility. . . The rush to arms of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, is the true answer at once to the Rebel raids of John Morgan and the traitorous sophistries of Beriah Magoffin.
John Hunt Morgan
V. We complain that the Union cause has suffered, and is now suffering immensely, from mistaken deference to Rebel Slavery.
Had you, Sir, in your Inaugural Address, unmistakably given notice that, in case the Rebellion already commenced were persisted in, and your efforts to preserve the Union and enforce the laws should be resisted by armed force, you would recognize no loyal person as rightfully held in Slavery by a traitor, we believe the Rebellion would therein have received a staggering if not fatal blow. . . Had you then proclaimed that Rebellion would strike the shackles from the slaves of every traitor, the wealthy and the cautious would have been supplied with a powerful inducement to remain loyal. As it was, every coward in the South soon became a traitor from fear; for Loyalty was perilous, while Treason seemed comparatively safe. . .
VI. We complain that the Confiscation Act which you approved is habitually disregarded by your Generals, and that no word of rebuke for them from you has yet reached the public ear. Fremont's Proclamation and Hunter's Order
favoring Emancipation were promptly annulled by you; while Halleck's No. 3, forbidding fugitives from Slavery to Rebels to come within his lines-- an order as unmilitary as inhuman, and which received the hearty approbation of every traitor in America-- with scores of like tendency, have never provoked even your own remonstrance.
We complain that the officers of your Armies have habitually repelled rather than invited approach of slaves who would have gladly taken the risks of escaping from their Rebel masters to our camps, bringing intelligence often of inestimable value to the Union cause. We complain that those who have thus escaped to us, avowing a willingness to do for us whatever might be required, have been brutally and madly repulsed, and often surrendered to be scourged, maimed and tortured by the ruffian traitors, who pretend to own them. We complain that a large proportion of our regular Army Officers, with many of the Volunteers, evince far more solicitude to uphold Slavery than to put down the Rebellion. . . .
VII. Let me call your attention to the recent tragedy in New Orleans, whereof the facts are obtained entirely through Pro-Slavery channels. A considerable body of resolute, able-bodied men, held in Slavery by two Rebel sugar-planters in defiance of the Confiscation Act which you have approved, left plantations thirty miles distant and made their way to the great mart of the South-West, which they knew to be the indisputed possession of the Union forces. They made their way safely and quietly through thirty miles of Rebel territory, expecting to find freedom under the protection of our flag. . . . They came to us for liberty and protection, for which they were willing render their best service: they met with hostility, captivity, and murder. . .
VIII. On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion and at the same time uphold its inciting cause are preposterous and futile--that the Rebellion, if crushed out tomorrow, would be renewed within a year if Slavery were left in full vigor--that Army officers who remain to this day devoted to Slavery can at best be but half-way loyal to the Union--and that every hour of deference to Slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union . . .
IX. I close as I began with the statement that what an immense majority of the Loyal Millions of your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land, more especially of the Confiscation Act. . . .We cannot conquer Ten Millions of People united in solid phalanx against us, powerfully aided by the Northern sympathizers and European allies. We must have scouts, guides, spies, cooks, teamsters, diggers and choppers from the Blacks of the South, whether we allow them to fight for us or not, or we shall be baffled and repelled. As one of the millions who would gladly have avoided this struggle at any sacrifice but that Principle and Honor, but who now feel that the triumph of the Union is dispensable not only to the existence of our country to the well being of mankind, I entreat you to render a hearty and unequivocal obedience to the law of the land.
New York, August 19, 1862
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 in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and 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 also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.... I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer wrote about Lincoln's letter:
Unknown to Greeley, Lincoln composed this after he had already drafted a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which he had determined to issue after the next Union military victory. Therefore, this letter, was in truth, an attempt to position the impending announcement in terms of saving the Union, not freeing slaves as a humanitarian gesture. It was one of Lincoln's most skillful public relations efforts, even if it has cast longstanding doubt on his sincerity as a liberator.Charles Francis Adams, Sr., the United States minister to Great Britain, warned Washington that the British government might very soon offer to mediate the difficulty between North and South, which would be a polite but effective way of saying that the fight had gone on long enough and ought to be ended by giving the South what it wanted. British recognition of the Confederacy, as Adams warned, risked all-out war with the United States: war would involve an invasion of Canada, a full scale American attack on British shipping interests worldwide, an end to American grain shipments that were providing a large part of the British food supply, and an end to British sales of machinery and supplies to the U.S. The British leadership, however, thought that if the Union armies were decisively defeated, the United States might soften its position and accept mediation.
The first Union black regiment to be raised was the 1st South Carolina Infantry. The first black recruits were mostly made up of Sea Island blacks. According to his close personal friend, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Saxton "had been almost the only cadet in his time at West Point who was strong in anti-slavery feeling, and who thus began with antagonisms which lasted into actual service." Higginson later wrote in his memoirs:
When Major General Rufus Saxton, then military governor of South Carolina, was solving triumphantly the original problem of the emancipated slaves, he was frequently interrupted by long list of questions from Northern philanthropists as to the progress of his enterprise. They inquired especially as to the peculiar tastes, temptations, and perils of the newly emancipated race.
After receiving one unusually elaborate catechism of this kind, he said rather
impatiently to his secretary, "Draw a line across that whole list of questions about the freedmen, and write at the bottom, 'They are intensely human,'" which was done.
The Freedman's Reader
that he had made a vow, a covenant, that if God gave us the victory in the approaching battle, he would consider it an indication of Divine will, and that it was his duty to move forward in the cause of emancipation.Wayne Whipple compiled a book of stories told by people who knew Lincoln, including one called "Stanton's Story of the First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to the Cabinet"
I was more discouraged after Antietam than at any other period, and the future seemed more obscure to me then than at any previous time. But I kept on my daily work, and on the 22nd of September, 1862, I had a sudden and peremptory call to a Cabinet meeting at the White House. They did not usually require me to attend those meetings, as my duties were so exacting. I had to be constantly at my post, and it was only on rare and important occasions that I was called to such meetings.
I went immediately to the White House, entered the room and found the historic War Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln assembled, every member being present. The President hardly noticed me as I came in. He was reading a book of some kind, which seemed to amuse him. It was a little book. He finally turned to us and said: "Gentlemen, did you ever read anything from Artemus Ward? Let me read you a chapter that is very funny."
Not a member of the Cabinet smiled; as for myself I was angry, and looked to see what the President meant. It seemed to me like buffoonery. He, however, concluded to read us a chapter from Artemus Ward, which he did with great deliberation. Having finished, he laughed heartily without a member of the Cabinet joining in the laughter. "Well," he said, "let's have another chapter," and he read another chapter, to our great astonishment.
I was considering whether I should rise and leave the meeting abruptly, when
he threw his book down, heaved a long sigh, and said: "Gentlemen, why don't you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do."
He then put his hand in his tall hat that sat upon the table, and pulled out a little paper. Turning to the members of the Cabinet, he said: "Gentlemen, I have called you here upon very important business. I have prepared a little paper of much significance. I have made up my mind that this paper is to issue; that the time is come when it should issue; that the people are ready for it to issue. It is due to my Cabinet that you should be the first to hear and know of it, and if any of you have any suggestions to make as to the form of this paper or its composition, I shall be glad to hear them. But the paper is to issue."
And to my astonishment, he read the Emancipation Proclamation of that date, which was to take effect the first of January following, containing the vital provision that on January 1, 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then henceforward and forever free.
. . . I have always tried to be calm, but I think I lost my calmness for a moment, and with great enthusiasm I arose, approached the President, extended my hand and said: "Mr. President, if the reading of chapters of Artemus Ward is a prelude to such a deed as this, the book should be filed among the archives of the nation, and the author should be canonized. Henceforth I see the light and the country is saved." And all said "Amen."
And Lincoln said to me in a droll way, just as I was leaving, "Stanton, it would have been too early last spring."
And as I look back upon it I think the President was right.In his diary, Salmon Chase wrote about the cabinet meeting on September 22, 1862 where the draft Emancipation Proclamation was approved:
All the members of the Cabinet were in attendance. There was some general talk; and the President mentioned that Artemus Ward had sent him his book. Proposed to read a chapter which he thought very funny. Read it, and seemed to enjoy it very much—the Heads also (except Stanton) of course. The Chapter was 'Highhanded Outrage at Utica.'
The President then took a graver tone and said:—"Gentlemen: I have, as you are aware, thought a great deal about the relation of this war to Slavery; and you all remember that, several weeks ago, I read to you an Order I had prepared on this subject, which, on account of objections made by some of you, was not issued. Ever since then, my mind has been much occupied with this subject, and I have thought all along that the time for action on it might very probably come. I think the time has come now. I wish it were a better time. I wish that we were in a better condition. The action of the army against the rebels had not been quite what I should have best liked. But they have been driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion. When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation such as I thought most likely to be useful.
"I said nothing to any one; but I made the promise to myself, and (hesitating a little)—to my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise. I have got you together to hear what I have written down. I do not wish your advice about the main matter—for that I have determined for myself. This I say without intending any thing but respect for any one of you. But I already know the views of each on this question. They have been heretofore expressed, and I have considered them as thoroughly and carefully as I can. What I have written is that which my reflections have determined me to say. If there is anything in the expressions I use, or in any other minor matter, which anyone of you thinks had best be changed, I shall be glad to receive the suggestions. One other observation I will make. I know very well that many others might, in this matter, as in others, do better than I can; and if I were satisfied that the public confidence was more fully possessed by any one of them than by me, and knew of any Constitutional way in which he could be put in my place, he should have it. I would gladly yield it to him. But though I believe that I have not so much of the confidence of the people as I had some time since, I do not know that, all things considered, any other person has more; and, however this may be, there is no way in which I can have any other man put where I am.
"I am here. I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take."
The President then proceeded to read his Emancipation Proclamation . . After he had closed, Gov. Seward said: 'The general question having been decided, nothing can be said further about that. Would it not, however, make the Proclamation more clear and decided, to leave out all reference to the act being sustained during the incumbency of the present President; and not merely say that the Government 'recognizes,' but that it will maintain, the freedom it proclaims?"
I followed, saying: "What you have said, Mr. President, fully satisfies me that you have given to every proposition which has been made, a kind and candid consideration. And you have now expressed the conclusion to which you have arrived, clearly and distinctly. This it was your right, and under your oath of office your duty, to do. The Proclamation does not, indeed, mark out exactly the course I should myself prefer. But I am ready to take it just as it is written, and to stand by it with all my heart. I think, however, the suggestions of Gov. Seward very judicious, and shall be glad to have them adopted."
The President then asked us severally our opinions as to modification proposed, saying that he did not care much about the phrases he had used. Everyone favored the modification and it was adopted. Gov. Seward then proposed that in the passage relating to colonization, some language should be introduced to show that the colonization proposed was to be only with the consent of the colonists, and the consent of the States in which colonies might be attempted. This, too, was agreed to; and no other modification was proposed. Mr. Blair
then said that the question having been decided, he would make no objection to issuing the Proclamation; but he would ask to have his paper, presented some days since, against the policy, filed with the Proclamation. The President consented to this readily. And then Mr. Blair went on to say that he was afraid of the influence of the Proclamation on the Border States and the Army, and stated at some length the grounds of his apprehensions. He disclaimed most expressly, however, all objection to Emancipation per se, saying he had always been personally in favor it—always ready for immediate Emancipation in the midst of Slave States, rather than submit to the perpetuation of the system.
the emancipation of all slaves in any state (or part of a state) that did not end their rebellion against the Union by January 1, 1863.
Moncure Daniel Conway called it “the insertion of a wedge so neatly as to do credit to the president’s knowledge of railsplitting.” The militant abolitionist Wendell Phillips also called Lincoln’s plan “a wedge — a very small wedge, but it is a wedge for all that.”
Henry M. Turner, the pastor of an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, had been an outspoken critic of President Lincoln, yet, Turner disagreed with the people who did not believe that the President wrote his proclamation in good faith. Reverend Turner wrote,
I do not doubt but that he has been worked up to it by a series of events whichTurner believed that Lincoln’s offer of reparations to slaveholders “was a strategic move upon his part.” And Turner argued that Lincoln’s colonization plan was “a preparatory nucleus around which he intended to cluster the raid of objections” to his proclamation. Finally, Turner reasoned that it did not really matter whether Lincoln issued the proclamation in good faith or not. “Let us thank God for it,” he declared. “Mr. Lincoln loves freedom as well as any one on earth, and if he carries out the spirit of the proclamation he need never fear hell. GOD GRANT HIM A HIGH SEAT IN GLORY.”
has transpired, but these events have only worked him out of an unnecessary caution, and a useless prudence, and not a love for slavery, because I do not believe he ever had any.
|Copperhead Penny: |
"Copperheads" used "Lady Liberty"
to make pins to wear on their lapels
In the name of freedom of Negroes, [the proclamation] imperils the liberty of white men; to test a utopian theory of equality of races which Nature, History and Experience alike condemn as monstrous, it overturns the Constitution and Civil Laws and sets up Military Usurpation in their Stead.
I have told you that this war is carried on for the Negro. There is the proclamation of the President of the United States. Now fellow Democrats I ask you if you are going to be forced into a war against your Brithren of the Southern States for the Negro. I answer No!
|George Washington Albright|
We pointed out very clearly that any public utterance by him in his official character criticising the civil policy of the administration would be properly regarded as a usurpation.
|This political cartoon, "Abe Lincoln’s Last Card or Rouge-et-Noir," by John Tenniel, appeared in England's Punch magazine, October, 18, 1862, following Lincoln’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation.|
Second Annual Message - December 1, 1862:
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Since your last annual assembling another year of health and bountiful harvests has passed, and while it has not pleased the Almighty to bless us with a return of peace, we can but press on, guided by the best light He gives us, trusting that in His own good time and wise way all will yet be well.
. . . The civil war, which has so radically changed for the moment the occupations and habits of the American people, has necessarily disturbed the social condition and affected very deeply the prosperity of the nations with which we have carried on a commerce that has been steadily increasing throughout a period of half a century. . . . Our struggle has been, of course, contemplated by foreign nations with reference less to its own merits than to its supposed and often exaggerated effects and consequences resulting to those nations themselves. Nevertheless, complaint on the part of this Government, even if it were just, would certainly be unwise.
The treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade has been put into operation with a good prospect of complete success. It is an occasion of special pleasure to acknowledge that the execution of it on the part of Her Majesty's Government has been marked with a jealous respect for the authority of the United States and the rights of their moral and loyal citizens.
. . . Applications have been made to me by many free Americans of African descent to favor their emigration, with a view to such colonization as was contemplated in recent acts of Congress. Other parties, at home and abroad--some from interested motives, others upon patriotic considerations, and still others influenced by philanthropic sentiments--have suggested similar measures, while, on the other hand, several of the Spanish American Republics have protested against the sending of such colonies to their respective territories. Under these circumstances I have declined to move any such colony to any state without first obtaining the consent of its government, with an agreement on its part to receive and protect such emigrants in all the rights of freemen; and I have at the same time offered to the several States situated within the Tropics, or having colonies there, to negotiate with them, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, to favor the voluntary emigration of persons of that class to their respective territories, upon conditions which shall be equal, just, and humane. Liberia and Hayti are as yet the only countries to
which colonists of African descent from here could go with certainty of being received and adopted as citizens; and I regret to say such persons contemplating colonization do not seem so willing to migrate to those countries as to some others, nor so willing as I think their interest demands. I believe, however, opinion among them in this respect is improving, and that ere long there will be an augmented and considerable migration to both these countries from the United States.
. . . On the 22d day of September last a proclamation was issued by the Executive, a copy of which is herewith submitted. In accordance with the purpose expressed in the second paragraph of that paper, I now respectfully recall your attention to what may be called "compensated emancipation."
A nation may be said to consist of its territory, its people, and its laws. The territory is the only part which is of certain durability. "One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever." It is of the first importance to duly consider and estimate this ever-enduring part. That portion of the earth's surface which is owned and inhabited by the people of the United States is well adapted to be the home of one national family, and it is not well adapted for two or more. Its vast extent and its variety of climate and productions are of advantage in this age for one people, whatever they might have been in former ages. Steam, telegraphs, and intelligence have brought these to be an advantageous combination for one united people.
In the inaugural address I briefly pointed out the total inadequacy of disunion as a remedy for the differences between the people of the two sections. I did so in language which I can not improve, and which, therefore, I beg to repeat:
One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended.
This is the only substantial dispute.
. . . Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. . . . There is no line, straight or crooked, suitable for a national boundary upon which to divide. . .
Our national strife springs not from our permanent part; not from the land we inhabit: not from our national homestead. There is no possible severing of this but would multiply and not mitigate evils among us. In all its adaptations and aptitudes it demands union and abhors separation. In fact, it would ere long force reunion, however much of blood and treasure the separation might have cost.
Our strife pertains to ourselves--to the passing generations of men--and it can without convulsion be hushed forever with the passing of one generation.
In this view I recommend the adoption of the following resolution and articles amendatory to the Constitution of the United States . . .
That every State wherein slavery now exists which shall abolish the same therein at any time or times before the 1st day of January., A.D. 1900, shall receive compensation from the United States . . .
All slaves who shall have enjoyed actual freedom by the chances of the war at any time before the end of the rebellion shall be forever free; but all owners of such who shall not have been disloyal shall be compensated for them at the same rates as is provided for States adopting abolishment of slavery, but in such way that no slave shall be twice accounted for.
Congress may appropriate money and otherwise provide for colonizing free colored persons with their own consent at any place or places without the United States.
. . . Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery it could not continue.
Among the friends of the Union there is great diversity of sentiment and of policy in regard to slavery and the African race amongst us. Some would perpetuate slavery; some would abolish it suddenly and without compensation; some would abolish it gradually and with compensation: some would remove the freed people from us, and some would retain them with us; and there are yet other minor diversities. Because of these diversities we waste much strength in struggles among ourselves. By mutual concession we should harmonize and act together. This would be compromise, but it would be compromise among the friends and not with the enemies of the Union. These articles are intended to embody a plan of such mutual concessions. if the plan shall be adopted, it is assumed that emancipation will follow, at least in several of the States. . . .
The plan leaves to each State choosing to act under it to abolish slavery now or at the end of the century, or at any intermediate time, or by degrees extending over the whole or any part of the period, and it obliges no two States to proceed alike.
It also provides for compensation, and generally the mode of making it. This, it would seem, must further mitigate the dissatisfaction of those who favor perpetual slavery, and especially of those who are to receive the compensation. Doubtless some of those who are to pay and not to receive will object. Yet the measure is both just and economical. In a certain sense the liberation of slaves is the destruction of property--property acquired by descent or by purchase, the same as any other property.
It is no less true for having been often said that the people of the South are not more responsible for the original introduction of this property than are the people of the North; and when it is remembered how unhesitatingly we all use cotton and sugar and share the profits of dealing in them, it may not be quite safe to say that the South has been more responsible than the North for its continuance.
If, then, for a common object this property is to be sacrificed, is it not just that it be done at a common charge?
And if with less money, or money more easily paid, we can preserve the benefits of the Union by this means than we can by the war alone, is it not also economical to do it? Let us consider it, then. Let us ascertain the sum we have expended in the war since compensated emancipation was proposed last March, and consider whether if that measure had been promptly accepted by even some of the slave States the same sum would not have done more to close the war than has been otherwise done. If so, the measure would save money, and in that view would be a prudent and economical measure. . . .
The war requires large sums, and requires them at once. The aggregate sum necessary for compensated emancipation of course would be large. But it would require no ready cash, nor the bonds even any faster than the emancipation progresses. This might not, and probably would not, close before the end of the thirty-seven years. At that time we shall probably have a hundred millions of people to share the burden, instead of thirty-one millions as now. . . .Our country may be as populous as Europe now is at some point between 1920 and 1930--say about 1925--our territory, at 73 1/3 persons to the square mile, being of capacity to contain 217,186,000.
And we will reach this, too, if we do not ourselves relinquish the chance by the folly and evils of disunion or by long and exhausting war springing from the only great element of national discord among us.
. . . The proposed emancipation would shorten the war, perpetuate peace, insure this increase of population, and proportionately the wealth of the country. With these we should pay all the emancipation would cost, together with our other debt, easier than we should pay our other debt without it. . .
I can not make it better known than it already is that I strongly favor colonization; and yet I wish to say there is an objection urged against free colored persons remaining in the country which is largely imaginary, if not sometimes malicious. It is insisted that their presence would injure and displace white labor and white laborers. If there ever could be a proper time for mere catch arguments, that time surely is not now. In times like the present men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity. . . .
But it is dreaded that the freed people will swarm forth and cover the whole land. Are they not already in the land? Will liberation make them any more numerous? Equally distributed among the whites of the whole country, and there would be but one colored to seven whites. Could the one in any way greatly disturb the seven? There are many communities now having more than one free colored person to seven whites and this without any apparent consciousness of evil from it. The District of Columbia and the States of Maryland and Delaware are all in this condition. . . .
Why should emancipation South send the free people North? People of any color seldom run unless there be something to run from. Heretofore colored people to some extent have fled North from bondage, and now, perhaps, from both bondage and destitution. But if gradual emancipation and deportation be adopted, they will have neither to flee from. . . .
The plan consisting of these articles is recommended, not but that a restoration of the national authority would be accepted without its adoption. Nor will the war nor proceedings under the proclamation of September 22, 1862, be stayed because of the recommendation of this plan. . . This plan is recommended as a means, not in exclusion of, but additional to, all others for restoring and preserving the national authority throughout the Union. The subject is presented exclusively in its economical aspect. The plan would, I am confident, secure peace more speedily and maintain it more permanently than can be done by force alone, while all it would cost, considering amounts and manner of payment and times of payment, would be easier paid than will be the additional cost of the war if we rely solely upon force. It is much, very much, that it would cost no blood at all.
The plan is proposed as permanent constitutional law. It can not become such without the concurrence of, first, two-thirds of Congress, and afterwards three-fourths of the States. The requisite three-fourths of the States will necessarily include seven of the slave States. Their concurrence, if obtained, will give assurance of their severally adopting emancipation at no very distant day upon the new constitutional terms. This assurance would end the struggle now and save the Union forever.
. . . We can succeed only by concert. It is not "Can any of us imagine better?" but "Can we all do better?"
Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs, "Can we do better?"
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.
We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility.
In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just--a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.
|Harper's Weekly, December 20, 1862|
on a war footing, would help with the organization of African American regiments, and was tireless in promoting Lincoln’s policies, particularly after Emancipation. Forbes wrote, "In such a Proclamation words become things and powerful things too."
That month, the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg, in Virginia, was followed by a crisis in which Republican senators tried to force Lincoln to get rid of Seward as secretary of state and reorganize his Cabinet. Combined with Democratic gains in the fall elections, these events inspired rumors that Lincoln would let the January 1 deadline pass without signing the Emancipation Proclamation and Executive Order. His wife, Mary Lincoln, urged him not to sign. But Lincoln’s closest associates were confident that he would not back down: a New York Republican commented that “every conceivable influence has been brought to bear on him to influence him to withhold or modify—threats, entreaties, all sorts of humbugs, but he is as firm as a mule.”
will appeal to the black blood of the African; he will whisper of the pleasures of spoil and of the gratification of yet fiercer instincts; and when the blood begins to flow and shrieks come piercing through the darkness, Mr. LINCOLN will wait till the rising flames tell that all is consummated, and then he will rub his hands and think that revenge is sweet.At the end of December 1863, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued a Christmas Eve Proclamation:
Now therefore, I Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and in their name do pronounce and declare the said Benjamin F. Butler to be a felon deserving of capital punishment.
Cartoon comparing the two presidents' proclamations
I do order that he be no longer considered or treated simply as a public enemy of the Confederate States of America but as an outlaw and common enemy of mankind, and that in the event of his capture the officer in command of the capturing force do cause him to be immediately executed by hanging; and I do further order that no commissioned officer of the United States taken captive shall be released on parole before exchange until the said Butler shall have met with due punishment for his crimes.
And whereas the hostilities waged against this Confederacy by the forces of the United States under the command of said Benjamin F. Butler have borne no
resemblance to such warfare as is alone permissible by the rules of international law or the usages of civilization but have been characterized by repeated atrocities and outrages, among the large number of which the following may be cited as examples:
Peaceful and aged citizens, unresisting captives and non-combatants, have been confined at hard labor with balls and chains attached to their limbs, and are still so held in dungeons and fortresses. Others have been subjected to a like degrading punishment for selling medicines to the sick soldiers of the Confederacy.
The soldiers of the United States have been invited and encouraged by general orders to insult and outrage the wives, the mothers and the sisters of our citizens.
Helpless women have been torn from their homes and subjected to solitary
confinement, some in fortresses and prisons and one especially on an island of barren sand under a tropical sun; have been fed with loathsome rations that had been condemned as unfit for soldiers, and have been exposed to the vilest insults.
Prisoners of war who surrendered to the naval forces of the United States on agreement that they should be released on parole have been seized and kept in close confinement.
Repeated pretexts have been sought or invented for plundering the inhabitants of the captured city by fines levied and exacted under threat of imprisoning recusants at hard labor with ball and chain.
The entire population of the city of New Orleans have been forced to elect between starvation, by the confiscation of all their property, and taking an oath against conscience to bear allegiance to the invaders of their country.
Egress from the city has been refused to those whose fortitude withstood the test, even to lone and aged women and to helpless children; and after being ejected from their homes and robbed of their property they have been left to starve in the streets or subsist on charity
The slaves have been driven from the plantations in the neighborhood of New Orleans till their owners would consent to share the crops with the
commanding general, his brother Andrew J. Butler, and other officers; and when such consent had been extorted the slaves have been restored to the plantations and there compelled to work under the bayonets of guards of U.S. soldiers.
Southern chamberpot with Butler's image
. . . And whereas the President of the United States has by public and official declaration signified not only his approval of the effort to excite servile war within the Confederacy but his intention to give aid and encouragement thereto if these independent States shall continue to refuse submission to a foreign power after the 1st day of January next, and has thus made known that all appeals to the laws of nations, the dictates of reason and the instincts of humanity would be addressed in vain to our enemies, and that they can be deterred from the commission of these crimes only by the terms of just retribution:
Now therefore I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America and acting by their authority, appealing to the Divine Judge in attestation that their conduct is not guided by the passion of revenge but that they reluctantly yield to the solemn duty of repressing by necessary severity crimes of which their citizens are the victims, do issue this my proclamation, and by virtue of my authority as Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States do order–
1. That all commissioned officers in the command of said Benjamin F. Butler be declared not entitled to be considered as soldiers engaged in honorable warfare but as robbers and criminals deserving death, and that they and each of them be whenever captured reserved for execution.
2. That the private soldiers and non-commissioned officers in the army of said Butler be considered as only the instruments used for the commission of the crimes perpetrated by his orders and not as free agents; that they therefore be treated when capture as prisoners of war with kindness and humanity and be sent home on the usual parole that they will in no manner aid or serve the United States in any capacity during the continuance of this war unless duly exchanged.
3. That all negro slaves captured in arms be at once delivered over to the executive authorities of the respective States to which they belong to be dealt with according to the laws of said States.
4. That the like orders be executed in all cases with respect to all commissioned officers of the United States when found serving in company with armed slaves in insurrection against the authorities of the different States of this Confederacy.
In testimony whereof I have signed these presents and caused the seal of the Confederate States of America to be affixed thereto at the city of Richmond on this 23d day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two.
None of the Confederate states restored themselves to the Union. Thursday, January 1, 1863, was a bright, crisp and cold day in the nation's capital. Lincoln rose early. His son, Robert Lincoln, remembered,
My mother and I went in to his study, my mother inquiring in her quick, sharp way, "Well what do you intend doing?" Lincoln simply looked heavenwards and replied, "I am under orders, I cannot do otherwise."Lincoln completed work on the Emancipation Proclamation in his office and then sent it to
|Ambrose E. Burnside|
The traditional New Year's Day reception at the White House began that morning at 11 o'clock, and signing of the proclamation had to be postponed until after the usual open house. It was the first major White House social event since Willie Lincoln's death in February. Members of the Cabinet and the diplomatic corps were among the first to arrive. Officers of the Army and Navy arrived in a body at half past 11. The public was admitted at noon. Journalist Noah Brooks wrote a newspaper report about the reception:
Precisely at 12 o'clock the great gates of the Executive Mansion were thrown open, and the crowd rushed in; our delegation from California, being vehicularly equipped, were obliged to fall into a line of coaches, and march up the drive at a truly funeral pace.
The press was tremendous, and the jam most excessive; all persons, high or low, civil, uncivil, or otherwise, were obliged to fall into an immense line of surging, crowding sovereigns, who were all forcing their way along the stately portico of the White House to the main entrance.
There was a detachment of police and a small detail of a Pennsylvania regiment on hand to preserve order; but, bless your soul! There was but
precious little order in that crowd. Here was a Member of Congress [William Kellogg of Illinois] with a his coat tail half torn off, there a young lady in tears at the wreck of a 'love of a bonnet' with which she must enter the presence, as there is no retreat when one has once committed oneself to the resistless torrent of that might sea which surged against the doors of the White House and around the noble columns thereof.
Anon, a shoulder strapped Brigadier, too late for the military entre, would enter the crowd with a manifest intention of going in directly; but he found his match in the sovereign crowd, which revenged its civil subordination by very uncivil hustling of the unfortunate officer. 'If I could get my hand up, I would make you remember me,' was the angry remark of a burly Michigander to a small Bostonian who had punched him in the victual basket. Bostonian knew that such a thing was impossible in that jam, and smiled his contempt. But the doors, closed for a few moments, open for a fresh dose of the 'peops,' and all, combatants and non combatants, changed their base about five feet, with the same brilliant results which McClellan announced of his Peninsular fight.
The valves of the entrance close until the monster within has digested his new mouthful, and we fetch up this time against a fresh faced soldier, created in 'this hour of our country's peril,' to mount guard at the White House, with a piece of deer skin, meant to typify a buck tail, on his cap. Says this military Cerberus: 'My gosh!! Gentlemen, will you stan' back? You can't get in no faster by crowdin'. Oh, I say, will you stan' back?' To which adjuration the gay and festive crowd responded by flattening him against a pilaster, never letting him loose until his fresh country face was dark with an alarming symptom of suffocation, he the while holding his useless musket helplessly in air by his folded arms.
Inside, at last, we pour along the hall and enter a suite of rooms, straightening bonnets, coats and other gear, with a sigh of relief, for within the crowd are not. A single line, such as we see at the Post Office sometimes, reaches to the President, who is flanked on the left by Marshal [Ward Hill Lamon], whoThe rules of etiquette held the President to his duty for 3 hours. After the guests departed, the President went upstairs to his study for the signing in the presence of a few friends. No attempt was made to have a ceremony. Seward and his son Frederick, the Assistant Secretary of State, returned with the corrected draft. Frederick Seward later wrote his recollections of the event:
receives the name of each and gives it to the President as each advances to shake hands. Thus Lamon: 'Mr Snifkins of California.' To whom the President, his heavy eyes brightening, says 'I am glad to see you, Mr. Snifkins you come from a noble State God bless her.' Snifkins murmurs his thanks, is as warmly pressed by the hand as though the President had just begun his day's work on the pump handle, and he is replaced by Mr. Biffkins, of New York, who is reminded by the Father of the Faithful that the Empire State has some noble men in the Army of the Union; and so we go on, leaving behind us the poor besieged and weary President, with his blessed old pump handle working steadily as we disappear into the famous East Room . . .
Ward Hill Lamon
At noon, accompanying my father, I carried the broad parchment in a large
portfolio under my arm. We, threading our way through the throng in the vicinity of the White House, went upstairs to the President's room, where Mr. Lincoln speedily joined us. The broad sheet was spread open before him on the Cabinet table. Mr. Lincoln dipped his pen in the ink, and then, holding it a moment above the sheet, seemed to hesitate. Looking around, he said:
"I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper. But I have been receiving calls and shaking hands since nine o'clock this morning, till my arm is stiff and numb. Now this signature is one that will be closely examined, and if they find my hand trembled they will say 'he had some compunctions.' But anyway, it is going to be done."
So saying, he slowly and carefully wrote his name at the bottom of the
proclamation. The signature proved to be unusually clear, bold, and firm, even for him, and a laugh followed at his apprehension. My father, after appending his own name, and causing the great seal to be affixed, had the important document placed among the archives. Copies were at once given to the press.
|The Soldiers Home|
The President was engaged with Genl Burnside, and could not go. We drove to a house opposite the Post office for Mrs [Major] Wright of Chicago, and took her with us. On our way down there Mrs. Lincoln told her she had been, the night before, with old Isaac Newton, out to Georgetown, to see a Mrs Laury, a spiritualist and she had made wonderful revelations to her about her little son Willy who died last winter, and also about things on the earth. Among other things [the spiritualist] revealed that the cabinet were all enemies of the President, working for themselves, and that they would have to be dismissed, and others called to his aid before he had success.
Young Edward Rosewater, 22 years old, was a telegraph operator in the War Department, who had gone to the White House reception earlier that day and had greeted the president. When Lincoln made his regular call at the telegraph office that evening, Rosewater was on duty; Lincoln walked over to watch Rosewater sending out the Emancipation Proclamation.
Around 20,000 to 50,000 slaves in regions where rebellion had already been subdued were immediately emancipated. Slaves who were not freed were still excited. Booker T. Washington, as an 7 year-old enslaved boy in Virginia, remembered the day:
As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom.... Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.
And now, on this day of January 1, 1863, the formal and solemn announcement was made that thereafter the government would be found on the side of emancipation. This Proclamation changed everything. It gave a new direction to the councils of the Cabinet, and to the conduct of the national arms. I shall leave to the statesman, the philosopher, and historian, the more comprehensive discussion of this document, and only tell how it touched me, and those in like condition with me at the time.
I was in Boston, and its reception there may indicate the importance attached to it elsewhere. An immense assembly convened in Tremont Temple to await the first flash of the electric wires announcing the "new departure." Two years of war prosecuted in the interests of slavery had made free speech possible in Boston, and we were now met together to receive and celebrate the first utterance of the long-hoped-for Proclamation, if it came, and if it did not come, to speak our minds freely; for in view of the past, it was by no means certain that it would come. The occasion, therefore, was one of both hope and fear.
. . . Although the conditions on which Mr. Lincoln had promised to withhold it had not been complied with, yet, from many considerations, there was room to doubt and fear. Mr. Lincoln was known to be a man of tender heart, and boundless patience; no man could tell to what length he might go, or might refrain from going in the direction of peace and reconciliation. Hitherto, he had not shown himself a man of heroic measures, and, properly enough, this step belonged to that class. . .
But would it come?
. . . A line of messengers was established between the telegraph office and the platform of Tremont Temple, and the time was occupied with brief speeches from the Honorable Thomas Russell of Plymouth, Miss Anna E. Dickinson
(a lady of marvelous eloquence), the Reverend Mr. Grimes, J. Sella Martin, William Wells Brown, and myself. But speaking or listening to speeches was not the thing for which the people had come together. . .
Anna E. Dickinson
Eight, nine, ten o'clock came and went, and still no word. A visible shadow seemed falling on the expecting throng, which the confident utterances of the speaks sought in vain to dispel. . . .
About twelve o'clock, seeing there was no disposition to retire from the hall, which must be vacated, my friend Grimes (of blessed memory), rose and moved that the meeting adjourn to the Twelfth Baptist Church, of which he was pastor, and soon that church was packed form doors to pulpit, and this meeting did not break up till near the dawn of day. It was one of the most affecting and thrilling occasions I ever witnessed, and a worthy celebration of the first step on the part of the nation at its departure from the thraldom of ages.
There was evidently no disposition on the part of this meeting to criticize the Proclamation; nor was there with anyone at first. At the moment we saw only its antislavery side. But further and more critical examination showed it to be extremely defective. It was not a proclamation of "liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof," such as we had hoped it would be; but was one marked by discrimination and reservations. Its operation was confined within certain geographical and military lines. It only abolished slavery where it did not exist, and left it intact where it did exist. It was a measure apparently inspired by the law motive of military necessity, and by so far as it was so, it would become inoperative and useless when military necessity should cease. there was much said in this line, and much that was narrow and erroneous.
For my own part, I took the Proclamation, first and last, for a little more than it purported; and saw in its spirit a life and power far beyond its letter. Its meaning to me was the entire abolition of slavery, wherever the evil could be reached by the federal arm, and I saw that its moral power would extend much further. It was in my estimation an immense gain to have the war for the Union committed to the extinction of slavery, even from a military necessity. It is not a bad thing to have individuals or nations do right though they do so from selfish motives.
. . . The proclamation itself was like Mr. Lincoln throughout. It was framed with a view to the least harm and the most good possible in the circumstances, and with especial consideration of the latter. It was thoughtful, cautious and well guarded at all points. While he hated slavery, and really desired its destruction, he always proceeded against it in a manner the least likely to shock or drive from him any who were truly in sympathy with the preservation of the Union, but who were not friendly to emancipation. For this he kept up the distinction between loyal and disloyal slaveholders, and discriminated in favor of the one, as against the other.
In a word, in all that he did, or attempted, he made it manifest that the one great and all commanding object with him was the peace and preservation of the Union. His wisdom and moderation at this point were for a season useful to the loyal cause in the border states, but it may be fairly questioned whether it did not chill the Union ardor of the loyal people of the North in some degree, and diminish rather than increase the sum of our power against the rebellion: for moderate cautions and guarded as was this Proclamation, it created a howl of indignation and wrath amongst the rebels and their allies. the old cry was raised by the copperhead organs of "an abolition war," and a pretext was thus found for an excuse for refusing to enlist, and for marshalling all the Negro prejudice of the North on the rebel side. Men could say they were willing to fight for the Union, but that they were not willing to flight for the freedom of the Negroes; and thus it was made difficult to procure enlistments or to enforce the draft.
At Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, the celebrated Henry Ward Beecher preached a commemorative sermon to an overflow audience. "The Proclamation may not free a single slave," he declared, "but it gives liberty a moral recognition."
|Celebration in Beaufort|
Since November 1861, Federal troops had occupied the area and white Union army officers and a diverse collection of abolitionist missionaries had since been endeavoring to train and educate former slaves at the plantation site they now called Camp Saxton, after Union General Rufus Saxton who was in charge of the military district. Since August 1862, the army officers in the area had quietly been authorized by the War
| 1st South Carolina Colored Troops |
under "Emancipation Oak"
After the reading of Lincoln’s September 22, 1862 Emancipation Proclamation (they had not yet received the copy of the proclamation that Lincoln was signing that afternoon), former slaves in the audience began spontaneously to sing “America.”
Camp Diary, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, [Thursday] January 1, 1863 (evening):
About ten o’clock the people began to collect by land, and also by water,–in
steamers sent by General [Rufus] Saxton for the purpose; and from that time all the avenues of approach were thronged. The multitude were chiefly colored women, with gay handkerchiefs on their heads, and a sprinkling of men, with that peculiarly respectable look which these people always have on Sundays and holidays.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
There were many white visitors also,–ladies on horseback and in carriages, superintendents and teachers, officers and cavalry-men. Our companies were marched to the neighborhood of the platform, and allowed to sit or stand, as at the Sunday services; the platform was occupied by ladies and dignitaries, and by the band of the Eighth Maine, which kindly volunteered for the occasion; the colored people filled up all the vacant openings in the beautiful grove around, and there was a cordon of mounted visitors beyond.
Above, the great live-oak branches and their trailing moss; beyond the people, a glimpse of the blue river. The services began at half-past eleven o’clock, with prayer by our chaplain, Mr. [James H.] Fowler, who is always, on such occasions, simple, reverential, and impressive.
Then the President’s Proclamation [from September 22, 1862] was read by Dr. W. H. Brisbane, a thing infinitely appropriate, a South-Carolinian addressing South-Carolinians; for he was reared among these very islands, and here long since emancipated his own slaves. . . .
Then followed an incident so simple, so touching, so utterly unexpected and startling, that I can scarcely believe it on recalling, though it gave the key-note to the whole day. The very moment the speaker had ceased, and just as I took and waved the flag, which now for the first time meant anything to these poor people, there suddenly arose, close beside the platform, a strong male voice, (but rather cracked and elderly,) into which two women’s voices instantly blended, singing, as if by an impulse that could no more be repressed than the morning note of the song-sparrow,
“My Country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing!”
People looked at each other, and then at us on the platform, to see whence came, this interruption, not set down in the bills. Firmly and irrepressibly the quavering voices sang on, verse after verse; others of the colored people joined in; some whites on the platform began, but I motioned them to silence. I never saw anything so electric; it made all other words cheap; it seemed the choked voice of a race at last unloosed. Nothing could be more wonderfully unconscious; art could not have dreamed of a tribute to the day of jubilee that should be so affecting; history will not believe it; and when I came to speak of it, after it was ended, tears were everywhere.
. . . Just think of it!–the first day they had ever had a country, the first flag they had ever seen which promised anything to their people, and here, while mere spectators stood in silence, waiting for my stupid words, these simple souls burst out in their lay, as if they were by their own hearths at home! When they stopped, there was nothing to do for it but to speak, and I went on; but the life of the whole day was in those unknown people’s song. . .
General Saxton spoke, in his own simple, manly way, and Mrs. Frances D.Dr. Seth Rogers from Massachusetts was an old friend of Higginson who had arrived at Camp Saxton in December 1862 to serve as the regiment’s chief surgeon. Rogers, the proprietor and resident doctor of the Worcester Hydropathic Institution,had been a close friend of Higginson for years. Rogers, the son of a Quaker farmer from Vermont, had been an abolitionist since childhood. Rogers wrote numerous letters to his wife, Hannah, during service with the regiment, and wrote a letter that day:
Gage spoke very sensibly to the women, and Judge Stickney, from Florida, added something; then some gentlemen sang an ode, and the regiment the John Brown song, and then they went to their beef and molasses. Everything was very orderly, and they seemed to have a very gay time. Most of the visitors had far to go, and so dispersed before dress-parade, though the band stayed to enliven it. . . . And so ended one of the most enthusiastic and happy gatherings I ever knew. The day was perfect, and there was nothing but success.
Our barbeque was a most wonderful success. Two steamboats came loaded with people from Beaufort, St. Helena Island and Hilton Head. Among the visitors were some of my new acquaintances . . .But the dearest friend I found among them was Miss [Charlotte] Forten, whom you remember. She is a teacher of the freed children on St. Helena Island.
Gen [Rufus] Saxton and his father and others came from Beaufort, and several cavalry officers hovered around the outskirts of our multitude of black soldiers and civilians, and in the centre of all was the speakers’ stand where the General and our Colonel and some others, with the band, performed the ceremonies of the day.
Several good speeches were made, but the most impressive scene was that which occurred at the presentation of the Dr. Cheever flag to our regiment. After the presentation speech had been made, and just as Col. Higginson advanced to take the flag and respond, a negro woman standing near began to sing “America”, and soon many voices of freedmen and women joined in the beautiful hymn, and sang it so touchingly that every one was thrilled beyond measure. Nothing could have been more unexpected or more inspiring.
The President’s [September 22, 1862] proclamation and General Saxton’s New Year’s greeting had been read, and this spontaneous outburst of love and loyalty to a country that has heretofore so terribly wronged these blacks, was the birth of a new hope in the honesty of her intention. I most earnestly trust they not hope in vain. Col. H. was so much inspired by the remarkable thought of, and singing of, the hymn that he made one of his most effective speeches. Then came Gen. Saxton with a most earnest and brotherly speech to the blacks and then Mrs. Frances D. Gage, and finally all joined in the John Brown hymn, and then to dinner. A hundred things of interest occurred which I have not time to relate.
Everybody was happy in the bright sunshine, and in the great hope.”
Thursday, New Year’s Day, 1863.
The most glorious day this nation has yet seen, I think.
I rose early-an event here-and early we started, with an old borrowed carriage and a remarkably slow horse. . . . I cannot give a regular chronicle of the day. It is impossible. I was in such a state of excitement. It all seemed and seems still like a brilliant dream. Dr. R[ogers] and I talked all the time, I know, while he showed me the camp and all the arrangements. . . . Dr. R[ogers] had made quite a good hospital out of an old gin house. . . .Then we took seats on the platform.
The meeting was held in a beautiful grove, a live-oak grove, adjoining the camp. It is the largest one I have yet seen . . . As I sat on the stand and looked around on the various groups, I thought I had never seen a sight so beautiful. There were the black soldiers, in their blue coats and scarlet pants, the officers of this and other regiments in their handsome uniforms, and crowds of lookers-on, men, women and children, grouped in various attitudes, under the trees. The faces of all wore a happy, eager, expectant look.
. . . Dr. Brisbane read the President’s [Emancipation] Proclamation, which was warmly cheered. . . . Some of the colored people of their own accord sang “My Country Tis of Thee.” It was a touching and beautiful incident, and Col. Higginson, in accepting the flags made it the occasion of some happy remarks. He said that that tribute was far more effective than any speech he c’ld make. He spoke for some time, and all that he said was grand, glorious. He seemed inspired.
Nothing c ‘ld have been better, more perfect. And Dr. R[ogers] told me afterward that the Col. was much affected. That tears were in his eyes. . . . The men all admire and love him.
. . . Ah, what a grand, glorious day this has been. The dawn of freedom which it heralds may not break upon us at once; but it will surely come, and sooner, I believe, than we have ever dared hope before.
We may well leave it to the instincts of that common humanity which a beneficent creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellow men of all countries to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race, peaceful and contented laborers in their sphere, are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insiduous [sic] recommendation to abstain from violence unless in necessary defence. Our own destestation of those who have attempted the most execrable measures recorded in the history of guilty man is tempered by profound contempt for the impotent rage which it discloses. So far as regards the action of this government on such criminals as may attempt its execution, I confine myself to informing you that I shall, unless in your wisdom you deem some other course expedient, deliver to the several State authorities all commissioned officers of the United States that may hereafter be captured by our fores in any of the States embraced in the Proclamation, that they may be dealt with in accordance with the laws of those States providing for the punishment of criminals engaged in exciting servile insurrection.
Dear Friend Garrison, I see in the Liberator thee proposes to advance the price
of it 50 cents per annum in consequence of the advance in paper, &c. All right the Liberator must be sustained; it cannot be dispensed with while a slave clanks his chains in the land of boasted liberty.
The beginning of the end of the slave's deliverance has commenced by the
Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, of freedom of the slaves in the rebel States, with a few exception named; which exceptions, in my humble opinion, were wrong. . . I believe it would have been much better for the whole country if a general proclamation of emancipation had been declared by the President to take effect at once, paying reasonable compensation to all loyal slave holders in the border States (provided any such could have been found) . . . Had such a proclamation been made it would have done more toward stopping the effusion of blood . . . and in the end cost the Government less to pay for such slaves than to prolong the war - not that I believe it right to pay the master for the slaves, but as a matter of expediency.
Every sentiment of my nature is to oppose to war; but non-resistant as I profess to be I have not been able to see how the North could have avoided war. Slavery must die; till then, the country can have no peace.
. . . I have been suffering very much for two weeks with an attack of Bilious, and severe cold combined, but with the faith application of steam and the free use of water, without any medicine, I am now improving. . . . Today am at my desk at the store again; My wife is quite well this winter and has proved an excellent and faithful nurse to me. As ever, thy friend Thos. Garrett
You want to know about the proclamation . . .
This proclamation is a great thing, perhaps the greatest thing that has occurred in this century. It is too big for us to realize.
When we fully comprehend what it is we shall like it better than we do now. It is a tremendous thing, well calculated to arouse the deep and bitter feelings of those attached to the institution of slavery, and who have forgotten that treason meets with such rewards.
I am willing to be tolerant towards men who differ with me. There are some who think that the slaveholders have certain rights, and speak with very great bitterness against the proclamation. I have nothing against it. As an officer, if I am ever able to go back again, I shall execute it whenever it comes in my way to do so. [Cheers.] I know a great many Generals who will execute it. I know none who will not.
It is a great blow against the rebellion. [Cheers.]
. . . Certainly, if the rebel in arms against our country may slay the soldier, take and devastate his property, burn his supplies, destroy his means of daily subsistence, take and eat his rations — it will not be difficult to satisfy our soldiers that they, in turn, may assist in depriving the proud rebel of the services of his slave — by whose labor he is daily fed and supported in his work of death, devastation and treason. This is my opinion of the sentiment of the soldier. . . .
Had the slave States in rebellion remained in the Union, I never would have disturbed the relation of master and slave. I would not have done it for my right arm. This was the doctrine of the party to which I belonged in 1860. In my protestations of non-intervention with slavery in the States, I was honest and so was the party. I never would have touched their slaves, had they remained loyal to the Union and the Constitution.
But when they threw off their allegiance to the Government, and declared that separation was final — in the language of their rebel chief, "final and eternal" — and that they would not come back into the Union if we should offer them white paper on which to write their own terms — when they have conspired against us and tried to destroy our national existence and blast forever our hopes and the hopes of the civilized world in a Republican form of government — when they have tried to dishonor us before the world — when they have tried to array the despotisms of Europe against us — they have forfeited all claim to protection from this Government. [Cheers.]
. . . The proclamation is harmless to the loyal, to the friends of this Government, but terrible to its enemies. [Tremendous applause.]
It must also be remembered that this act of the PRESIDENT, if it purposed to
strike off the fetters of one race, is a flagrant attack on the liberties of another.
The attempt to free the blacks is a flagrant attack on the liberties of the whites.
Nothing can be more unconstitutional, more illegal, more entirely subversive of the compact on which the American Confederacy rests, that the claim set up by the PRESIDENT to interfere with the laws of individual States by his Proclamation, unless, indeed, it be the attempt of Congress to dismember the ancient State of Virginia, and create a new State upon its ruins.
It is preposterous to say that war gives these powers; they are the purest usurpation, and, though now used against the enemies of the Union, are full of evil presage for the liberties of the States that still adhere to it. It is true that the President advises the negroes to abstain from all violence except in self-confidence, and to labour for reasonable wages. But the President well knows that not a slaveholder in the South will obey his Proclamation, that it can only be enforced by violence, and that if the negroes obtain freedom it will be by the utter destruction of their masters.
. . . In the South the negro can only exist apart from his master by a return to the savage state, a state in which, amid blood and anarchy and desolation, he may frequently regret the fetters he has broken, and even the master whom he has destroyed. He cannot hope for a better situation than that of his race in the North, a situation of degradation, humiliation, and destitution which leaves the slave very little to envy.
Lord Palmerston declined Napoleon III's proposal for France and Great Britain to try to arbitrate the war. Palmerston rejected all further efforts to gain British recognition for the Confederacy. Much of the British public agreed with Goldwin Smith, a British journalist, who wrote that
Mr. LINCOLN bases his act on military necessity, and invokes the considerate judgment of mankind and the judgment of ALMIGHTY GOD. He has characterized his own act; mankind will be slow to believe that an act avowedly the result of military considerations has been dictated by a sincere desire for the benefit of those who, under the semblance of emancipation, are thus marked out for destruction, and HE who made man in His own image can scarcely, we may presume to think, look with approbation on a measure which, under the pretence of emancipation, intends to reduce the South to the frightful condition of Santo Domingo.
The union cause was not that of the negro alone, but of civilization, Christian morality, the rights of labour, and the rights of man.
"We regard the proclamation of President Lincoln to abolish slavery in the Southern States as unconstitutional, unwise, and calculated to do the cause of The Union incalculable injury, by dividing its friends and uniting its enemies."
"The interest of the white race, as well as the black, demands that the condition and locality of the latter in the Southern States should not be interfered with by the National Government."
"We are uncompromisingly opposed to all schemes the tendency of which is calculated to overrun the State of Indiana with a worthless and degraded negro population."
"No Union can be maintained in this country until fanaticism on the negro question, North and South, is eradicated, and the sovereignty of the States over their domestic institutions is again acknowledged… . The people of the North must banish the heresy of Abolitionism, or else yield up the blessings of the Union… . A war for Abolitionism is a war against the Union; a war for the Union is a war against Abolitionism."On January 29, 1863, Senator Willard Saulsbury of Delaware attacked the Emancipation Proclamation; although the proclamation did not free slaves in Delaware and the other border states, Saulsbury claimed that its effect would be to flood his state with the freed slaves of rebels, creating racial conflict and serious social problems. He declared that, though opposed to secession, he would keep Delaware “a slaveholding State now and forever.” Saulbury, who had been drinking heavily, verbally attacked the president on the Senate floor in what John Hay described as "language fit only for a drunken fishwife".
Speaking about the Emancipation Proclamation to a crowded audience at Cooper Union in New York on February 6, Frederick Douglass said:
I congratulate you, upon what may be called the greatest event of our nation’s history, if not the greatest event of the century.
. . . Slavery is now in law, as in fact, a system of lawless violence, against which the slave may lawfully defend himself. [Cheers.]
In the hurry and excitement of the moment, it is difficult to grasp the full and
complete significance of President Lincoln’s proclamation. The change in attitude of the Government is vast and startling. For more than sixty years the Federal Government has been little better than a stupendous engine of Slavery and oppression, through which Slavery has ruled us, as with a rod of iron. The boast that Cotton is King was no empty boast. Assuming that our Government and people will sustain the President and the Proclamation, we can scarcely conceive of a more complete revolution in the position of a nation. . . .
We are all liberated by this proclamation. Everybody is liberated. The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated, the brave men now fighting the battles of their country against rebels and traitors are now liberated, and may strike with all their might, even if they do hurt the Rebels, at their most sensitive point. [Applause.]
Born and reared as a slave, as I was, and wearing on my back the marks of the slave-driver’s lash, as I do, it is natural that I should value the Emancipation Proclamation for what is destined to do for the slaves. I do value it for that.
It is a mighty event for the bondman, but it is a still mightier event for the nation at large, and mighty as it is for the both, the slave and the nation, it is still mightier when viewed in its relation to the cause of truth and justice throughout the world.
. . . Men may see in it only a military necessity. To me it has a higher significance. It is a grand moral necessity. . . A stupendous error, long tolerated, and protected even from discussion, held too sacred to be called in question, has at last become belligerent and snatched the sword of treason for permanent dominion. . . .
Our trouble is a logical part of the conflict of ages, past, present, and future. It will go on. It cannot be stopped. Here, as elsewhere, the fire will go out only when the fuel is exhausted. The moral chemistry of the universe makes peace between Liberty and Slavery impossible. . . . Our present, horrible as it is, is the legitimate child of our previous; and to go back to what we were is simply to as us to come back again to what we are. The conflict has changed its form from words to blows, and it may change again for blows to words; but the conflict itself, in one form or the other, will go on till truth is slain or error is driven from the field. [Cheers.]
. . . The slaveholders are fighting for Slavery. The boldness with which they avow this object would astonish the world, but that the world knows that cunning, not courage is the cause of their making it. They know that all attempt at concealment would be absurd and fruitless. They are fighting for Slavery—and Slavery being against nature—they are fighting against the eternal laws of nature, and though they should for a time succeed—dissolve the Union, capture a part of our territory, compel the North to sue for peace, and obtain peace upon the usual terms of compromise by which the South gets all and the North nothing. [Laughter and cheers.]
. . . At one time to hate and despise a Jew, simply for being a Jew, was almost a Christian virtue. They were treated with every species of indignity, not allowed to learn trades, nor to live in the same part of the city with other people. Now kings cannot go to war without the contest of a Jew. The Jew has come up, and the negro will come up by and by. The world is not much older than it was when to torture and burn men for a difference of speculative religious belief was deemed simple fidelity to the Christian faith. All the wisdom of Boston could devise no better way to a hundred years ago to cure a woman of Quakerism than the cart-whip. Roger Williams found more toleration among the Indians of Rhode Island than among the Puritans of Massachusetts. It is only thirty years ago when a gentlemen of property and standing in the very Athens of America felt it a patriotic duty to mob Wm. L. Garrison and break up
a woman’s Anti-Slavery prayer meeting. Only two years ago there remained enough of this brutality and barbarism in Boston to block the streets of that city with a mob of 10,000 men clamoring for the blood of an eminent Boston citizen, for simply daring to speak against Slavery. . . Brooks could knock down the Senator, but the whole South in arms could not knock down the Senator’s argument.
William Lloyd Garrison
. . . No men better understand the moral weakness of Slavery than the slaveholders themselves. The simple ones among them may think the system strong in reason; but the leading minds at the South know and confess the contrary. The Columbia (S.C.) Telegraph only echoed the sentiment of the whole South when it said thirty years ago: “Let us declare through the public journals of the country that the question of Slavery is not and shall not be open to discussion, that the moment any private individual shall attempt to lecture upon its evils and immorality, and the necessity of putting means in operation to secure us from them, in that same moment, his tongue shall be cut out and cast upon a dung hill.”
The Augusta ( Ga.) Chronicle of the same period, speaking of one who had attempted thus to lecture, says: “He should have been hanged up as high as Haman to rot till the wind whistled through his bones. The cry of the whole South should be death to the Abolitionists, wherever found.”
The Lords of the Lash . . . tell us that discussion has made them thus wise. Discussion indeed! Discussion which only permits one side to be heard, and compels the other to remain silent, would be likely to lead to just such a result.
. . . From the very first the enemies of Abolitionism comprehended one feature in the nature of the contest between Freedom and Slavery. They saw at least the evils attendant on that conflict. Merchants saw their trade with the South embarrassed and ruined. Churches saw their denominations divided. The old political parties saw their organizations broken up. Statesmen saw the Union dissolved and terrible border wars inaugurated. Worshipping at mammon’s altar themselves they knew the mighty hold which mammon held upon its Southern worshipers. They said that the slaveholders would strike down the Government before they would give up Slavery. They predicted that the South would secede if we did not stop talking and voting against slavery. By their very predictions, they helped on the fulfillment. The South was flattered and encouraged by what was thus expected of her by leading men at the North. She doubtless expected that those who said she would dissolve her connection with Union without once denouncing her doing so as a crime, recognized her right to do so, and would rather think her wanting in spirit if she did not do so. Foreseeing the evils thus predicted, these men cried with one accord: “Give us the Union; give us Slavery and prosperity; give us Slavery and peace; give us error, if Slavery be an error; and as for what you call truth and human liberty, crucify them.”
. . . I hold that the Proclamation, good as it is, will be worthless—a miserable mockery—unless the nation shall so far conquer its prejudice as to welcome into the army full-grown black men to help fight the battles of the Republic. [Renewed applause.]
I know it is said that the negroes won’t fight. But I distrust the accuser. In one
The same men tell you that the negroes are lazy and good for nothing, and in the next breath they tell you that they will all come North and take the labor away from the laboring white men here. [Laughter and cheers.]
In one breath they tell you that the negro can never learn the military art, and in the next they tell you that there is danger that white men may be outranked by colored men. [Continued laughter.]
. . . What a glorious day when Slavery shall be no more in this country, when we have blotted out this system of wrong, and made this United States in fact and in truth what it is in theory—The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. [Loud applause.]
Beaufort, South Carolina
February 2d, 1863
Hon. Edwin M. Stanton,Secretary of War.
Sir, I have the honor to enclose for your information the report of Col. T. W. Higginson, 1st South Carolina Volunteers, of an expedition made by a portion of his regiment under his command up the St. Mary's river. It gives me pleasure to report that the expedition accomplished every object I had in view in sending it and was a complete success. Great credit is due to Col. Higginson for his bravery and skill in penetrating so far into the interior of a country filled with a wary and active foe, with so small a force.
It foreshadows clearly the very important advantages which might result to our cause by the extensive arming of the blacks. I have labored and am still laboring diligently toward this end in this Department but the limited extent of our lines renders it impossible for the blacks to get to me in any very great numbers. The establishment of posts on the main-land would enable them to do so. None know better than the traitors, now in arms against our government the great element of strength if we would but use it, which the cause of liberty and the Union has in the hearts and muscles of these loyal blacks.
Henry Williams, former slave, 1st SCV
In my humble opinion it would be no misapplication of the best energies of the government should they now be directed towards the arming and disciplining [of] every one that can be brought within our lines.In March 1863, the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission was charged by Stanton with investigating the status of the former slaves who were freed by the Emancipation
I am, Sir,With great respect,Your obt. servant, Brig. Gen. Vol. [Rufus B. Saxton]
|Robert Dale Owen|
|Edward Needles Hallowell|
|4th U.S. Colored Infantry|
I never thought I would, but I am getting strongly in favor of arming them [blacks], and am becoming so blind that I can’t see why they will not make soldiers. How queer. A year ago last January I didn’t like to hear anything of emancipation. Last fall accepted confiscation of rebel’s negroes quietly. In January took to emancipation readily, and now believe in arming the negroes.Private Gordon’s scarred back became a powerful symbol of the human cost of slavery during the Civil War. Gordon, an enslaved man in Louisiana, had received a severe whipping by an overseer in the fall of 1862. The beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back. In March 1863 he fled his home, heading east towards the Mississippi River. His master recruited several neighbors and they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds. Gordon, his clothes torn and his body covered with mud and dirt, reached the safety of Union soldiers stationed at Baton Rouge ten days later. He had traveled approximately eighty miles. While at the encampment, Gordon decided to enlist in the Union Army. During his medical examination prior to being mustered into the army, military doctors discovered the extensive scars on his back. Gordon was asked to pose for a picture that would reveal the harsh treatment he had recently received. This photograph, taken during Gordon’s U.S. Army medical examination, was mass-produced in the popular format of the time, known as the carte-de-visite, and was sold to support the Union effort and assist fugitives. A writer for the New York Independent wrote:
This Card Photograph should be multiplied by 100,000, and scattered over the States. It tells the story in a way that even Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe [author of Uncle Tom's Cabin]can not approach, because it tells the story to the eye.
|Harper's Weekly, July 4, 1863|
For the first time since this Society was organized, I stand before you a recognized citizen of the United States (applause). . . . Old things are passing away, all things are becoming new. Now a black man has rights, under this government, which every white man, here and elsewhere, is bound to respect (applause). The damnable doctrine of the detestable Taney no longer rules at Washington. The slaveholders and their miserable allies are biting the dust, and Copperhead Democracy has come to grief. . . . The black man is a citizen, soldiers, standing on an equality in the rank and file with the white soldiers . . . I see it in the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts . . . I see it, above all, in the glorious and immortal proclamation of Abraham Lincoln on the first of January 1863. (cheers)
|Susan B. Anthony|
There is great fear expressed on all sides lest this shall be made a war for the negro. I am willing that it shall be. It is a war which was begun to found an empire upon slavery, and shame on us if we do not make it one to establish the freedom of the negro... Instead of suppressing the real cause of the war, it should have been proclaimed not only by the people but by the President, Congress, Cabinet and every military commander.One of the resolutions she introduced read, "There can never be true peace in this republic until the civil and political rights of all citizens of African descent and all Women are practically established" Some attendees opposed the resolution because it introduced the issue of women's rights, which they thought was divisive and not relevant to the goals of the organization. It was adopted by a majority, however. Using contacts developed by Stanton
|James C. Conkling|
Union supporters in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois, asked him to speak at a rally in September; Lincoln could not attend, but in August he wrote a letter to be read at the gathering by his long-time friend, James C. Conkling.
Executive Mansion,Washington, August 26, 1863.
Hon. James C. Conkling
My Dear Sir.
Your letter inviting me to attend a mass-meeting of unconditional Union-men, to be held at the Capitol of Illinois, on the 3d day of September, has been received. It would be very agreeable to me, to thus meet my old friends, at my own home; but I can not, just now, be absent from here, so long as a visit there, would require.
The meeting is to be of all those who maintain unconditional devotion to the Union . . . There are those who are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say: You desire peace; and you blame me that we do not have it. But how can we attain it? There are but three conceivable ways.
First, to suppress the rebellion by force of arms. This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed.
If you are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against this. Are you for it? If you are, you should say so plainly. If you are not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable compromise.
I do not believe any compromise, embracing the maintenance of the Union, is now possible. All I learn, leads to a directly opposite belief. The strength of the rebellion, is its military--its army. That army dominates all the country, and all the people, within its range. Any offer of terms made by any man or men within that range, in opposition to that army, is simply nothing for the present; because such man or men, have no power whatever to enforce their side of a compromise, if one were made with them. . . . In an effort at such compromise we should waste time, which the enemy would improve to our disadvantage; and that would be all. A compromise, to be effective, must be made either with those who control the rebel army, or with the people first liberated from the domination of that army, by the success of our own army. Now allow me to assure you, that no word or intimation, from that rebel army, or from any of the men controlling it, in relation to any peace compromise, has ever come to my knowledge or belief. All charges and insinuations to the contrary, are deceptive and groundless. . . .
But to be plain, you are dissatisfied with me about the negro. Quite likely there is a difference of opinion between you and myself upon that subject. I certainly wish that all men could be free, while I suppose you do not. Yet I have neither adopted, nor proposed any measure, which is not consistent with even your view, provided you are for the Union.
I suggested compensated emancipation; to which you replied you wished not to be taxed to buy negroes. But I had not asked you to be taxed to buy negroes, except in such way, as to save you from greater taxation to save the Union exclusively by other means.
Lincoln in his office, 1863
You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional--I think differently. I think the constitution invests its Commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves are property. Is there--has there ever been--any question that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when needed? And is it not needed whenever taking it, helps us, or hurts the enemy? Armies, the world over, destroy enemies' property when they can not use it; and even destroy their own to keep it from the enemy. Civilized belligerents do all in their power to help themselves, or hurt the enemy, except a few things regarded as barbarous or cruel. Among the exceptions are the massacre of vanquished foes, and non-combatants, male and female.
But the proclamation, as law, either is valid, or is not valid. If it is not valid, it needs no retraction. If it is valid, it can not be retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life. Some of you profess to think its retraction would operate favorably for the Union. Why better after the retraction, than before the issue?
There was more than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion before the proclamation issued, the last one hundred days of which passed under an explicit notice that it was coming, unless averted by those in revolt, returning to their allegiance.
The war has certainly progressed as favorably for us, since the issue of proclamation as before. I know, as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes believe the emancipation policy and the use of the colored troops constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the Rebellion, and that at least one of these important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called abolitionism or with the Republican party policies but who held them purely as military opinions.
I submit these opinions as being entitled to some weight against the objections often urged that emancipation and arming the blacks are unwise as military measures and were not adopted as such in good faith.
You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time, then, for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes.
I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes
should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do any thing for us, if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive--even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.
. . . Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that, among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case, and pay the cost.
And then, there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they strove to hinder it.
Still, let us not be over-sanguine of a speedy final triumph. Let us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in his own good time, will give us the rightful result.
Yours very truly
|John Murray Forbes|
will live in history side by side with your proclamation. . . It meets the fears of the timid and the doubts of the reformer. It proves that the Proclamation and the policy resulting from it are the most conservative, both of liberty and of our form of government.New York industrialist Peter Cooper wrote a letter to the New York Times in September 1863 that
I learn direct from Mr. DEAN, the Provost-Marshal of St. Louis, that the proclamation of freedom has done more to weaken the rebellion and prevent foreign interference than any other measure that could have been adopted. On his late visit to my house, he informed me that he had brought on a large number of rebel officers and men to be exchanged at Fortress Monroe. During their passage he took the opportunity to ask the officers in a body what effect the President's proclamation of freedom had produced in the South. Their reply was (to use their own vulgar mode of expression) that '"t had played hell with them."
Mr. DEAN then asked them how that could be possible since the negroes cannot read. To which one of them replied that one of his negroes had told him of the proclamation five days before he heard of it in any other way. Others said their negroes gave them their first information of the proclamation. One of these officers then said with a defiant air that if we would only leave them their corn, their bacon and their homespun, which their negroes produced, they would fight us twenty years.Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in November made indirect reference to the Proclamation and the ending of slavery as a war goal with the phrase "new birth of freedom."
I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation; nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.
|James Mitchell Ashley|
|Francis Bicknell Carpenter|
Depicted in the painting are, from left to right: Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of war; Salmon P. Chase, secretary of the treasury; President Lincoln; Gideon Welles, secretary of the navy; Caleb B. Smith, secretary of the interior (standing); William H. Seward, secretary of state (seated); Montgomery Blair, postmaster general; and Edward Bates, attorney general. The setting was Lincoln's office, which also served as the Cabinet Room. (This is the site and approximate size of the Lincoln Bedroom today.) The president had indicated to Carpenter each person's position in the room on the day of the first reading. The artist later wrote:
There were two elements in the Cabinet—the radical and the conservative. Mr. Lincoln was placed at the head of the official table, between two groups, nearest that representing the radical; but the uniting point of both. The chief powers of a government are War and Finance: the ministers of these were at his right—the Secretary of War, symbolizing the great struggle, in the immediate foreground; the Secretary of the Treasury, actively supporting the new policy, standing by the President's side. . . . To the Secretary of State, as the great expounder of the principles of the Republican party . . . would the attention of all at such a time be given. . . . The chief officers of the government were thus brought in accordance with their relations to the administration, nearest the person of the President, who, with the manuscript proclamation in his hand, which he had just read, was represented leaning forward, listening to, and intently considering the views presented by the Secretary of State.It took Carpenter six months to create his 15-foot-wide canvas. In an 1866 letter to the artist, Secretary of Treasury Chase remarked on the composition of the work, noting that he and Stanton appear symbolically on Lincoln's right in the painting, having "thoroughly endorsed and heartily welcomed the measure," while those cabinet members who had at first "doubted, or advised delay, or even opposed" the proclamation appear on Lincoln's left. Presidential aide William O. Stoddard contested whether the formal image painted by Carpenter was an approximation of reality: “Perhaps it would have been in violation of the canons of high art to have painted the thing as it really was – not being an artist, I cannot say about that.” He suggested the painting should have been labeled: “Table, surrounded with gentlemen waiting to have their picture taken.”
The President’s wife had a less charitable opinion of Carpenter; Mary Todd Lincoln later
|Mary Todd Lincoln|
This man Carpenter, never had a dozen interviews with the late President and the latter complained more than to have the use of State dining room, whilst he was executing his painting. This was only done, in consequence of the rumor we had heard of his indigent circumstances. He is a second edition of Mr. L’s crazy drinking law partner Herndon endeavoring to write himself into notice, leaving truth, far far, in the distance. C. intruded frequently in Mr. L’s office when time was too precious to be idled.
Executive Mansion,Washington, April 4, 1864.
A.G. Hodges, Esq
My dear Sir: 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 can not 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 to 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 all together.
When, early in the war, Gen. Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, Gen. 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, Gen. 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 any where. 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 measure.
"The Escaped Slave in the Union Army"
. . . 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 have 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 now 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 cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
Ladies and Gentlemen—Calling to mind that we are in Baltimore, we can not
fail to note that the world moves. Looking upon these many people, assembled here, to serve, as they best may, the soldiers of the Union, it occurs at once that three years ago, the same soldiers could not so much as pass through Baltimore. The change from then till now, is both great, and gratifying. Blessings on the brave men who have wrought the change, and the fair women who strive to reward them for it.
But Baltimore suggests more than could happen within Baltimore. The change within Baltimore is part only of a far wider change. When the war began, three years ago, neither party, nor any man, expected it would last till now. Each looked for the end, in some way, long ere to—day. Neither did any anticipate that domestic slavery would be much affected by the war. . . . So true is it that man proposes, and God disposes. . . .
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one.
We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names—liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty.
Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated.
. . . There is another subject upon which I feel that I ought to say a word. A
painful rumor, true I fear, has reached us of the massacre, by the rebel forces, at Fort Pillow, in the West end of Tennessee, on the Mississippi river, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. There seems to be some anxiety in the public mind whether the government is doing its duty to the colored soldier, and to the service, at this point.
Massacre at Fort Pillow
At the beginning of the war, and for some time, the use of colored troops was not contemplated . . .Upon a clear conviction of duty I resolved to turn that element of strength to account; and I am responsible for it to the American people, to the christian world, to history, and on my final account to God. Having determined to use the negro as a soldier, there is no way but to give him all the protection given to any other soldier. The difficulty is not in stating the principle, but in practically applying it. It is a mistake to suppose the government is indiffe[re]nt to this matter, or is not doing the best it can in regard to it. We do not to-day know that a colored soldier, or white officer commanding colored soldiers, has been massacred by the rebels when made a prisoner. We fear it, believe it, I may say, but we do not know it. . . . We are having the Fort-Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is. . . . If there has been the massacre of three hundred there, or even the tenth part of three hundred, it will be conclusively proved; and being so proved, the retribution shall as surely come. It will be matter of grave consideration in what exact course to apply the retribution; but in the supposed case, it must come.
|James Miller McKim|
When the war broke out, Mr. McKim was one of the first to welcome it as the harbinger of the slave's deliverance, and the country's redemption. "A righteous war," he said, "is better than a corrupt peace. When war can only be averted by consenting to crime, then welcome war with all its calamities."
. . . After the proclamation of emancipation, he advocated an early dissolution of the anti-slavery organization, and at the May Meeting of the American Anti-slavery Society, in 1864, introduced a proposition looking to that result. It was favorably received by Mr. Garrison and others, but no action was taken upon it at that time. When the question came up the following year, the proposition to disband was earnestly supported by Mr. Garrison, Mr. Quincy, Mr. May, Mr. Johnson, and others, but was strongly opposed by Wendell Phillips and his friends, among whom from Philadelphia were Mrs. Mott, Miss Grew, and Robert Purvis, and was decided by a vote in the negative.
In June 1864, Congress repealed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The law was considered still to hold in the case of fugitives from masters in the border states who were loyal to the Union government, until it was fully repealed.
That same month, on June 15, 1864, a bill was passed providing for equal pay for Negro soldiers. Black soldiers were initially paid $10 per month, from which $3 was automatically deducted for clothing, resulting in a net pay of $7. In contrast, white soldiers received $13 per month from which no clothing allowance was drawn.
|Lincoln in his office, 1864|
I am a War Democrat, and the editor of a Democratic paper. I have sustained your Administration . . . because it is the legally constituted government. I have sustained its war policy, not because I endorsed it entire, but because it presented the only available method of putting down the rebellion. . . .
It was alleged that because I and my friends sustained the Emancipation measure, we had become abolitionized. We replied that we regarded the freeing of the negroes as sound war policy, in that the depriving the South of its laborers weakened the . . . Rebellion. That was a good argument. . . . It was solid ground on which we could stand, and still maintain our position as Democrats. We were greatly comforted and strengthened also by your assurance that if your could save the Union without freeing any slave, you would do it; if you could save it by freeing the slaves, you would do it; and if you could do it by freeing some, and leaving others alone, you would also do that.
The Niagara Falls `Peace' movement was of no importance whatever, except that it resulted in bringing out your declaration, as we understand it, that no steps can be taken towards peace . . . unless accompanied with an
abandonment of slavery.
Charles D. Robinson
This puts the whole war question on a new basis, and takes us War Democrats clear off our feet, leaving us no ground to stand upon. If we sustain the war and war policy, does it not demand the changing of our party politics?
I venture to write you this letter . . . not for the purpose of finding fault with your policy . . . but in the hope that you may suggest some interpretation of it, as will . . . make it tenable ground on which we War Democrats may stand---preserve our party consistently support the government---and continue to carry also to its support those large numbers of our old political friends who have stood by us up to this time. I beg to assure you that this is not written for the purpose of using it, or its possible reply, in a public way. And I . . . send it through my friend Gov. Randall in the belief that he will guarantee for me entire good faith.Lincoln drafted a reply to Robinson:
Executive Mansion, Washington, August 17, 1864.
My dear Sir:
Your letter of the 7th. was placed in my hand yesterday by Gov. Randall.
To me it seems plain that saying re-union and abandonment of slavery would be considered, if offered, is not saying that nothing else or less would be considered, if offered.
But I will not stand upon the mere construction of language. It is true, as you remind me, that in the Greeley letter of 1862, I said: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and 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 also do that.'' I continued in the same letter as follows: "What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the 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 shall believe doing more will help the cause.''
All this I said in the utmost sincerity; and I am as true to the whole of it now, as when I first said it. When I afterwards proclaimed emancipation, and employed colored soldiers, I only followed the declaration just quoted from the Greeley letter that "I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.''
The way these measures were to help the cause, was not to be by magic, or miracles, but by inducing the colored people to come bodily over from the rebel side to ours.
On this point, nearly a year ago, in a letter to Mr. Conkling, made public at once, I wrote as follows: "But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive---even the promise of freedom. And the promise, being made, must be kept.''
I am sure you will not, on due reflection, say that the promise being made, must be broken at the first opportunity.
I am sure you would not desire me to say, or to leave an inference, that I am ready, whenever convenient, to join in re-enslaving those who shall have served us in consideration of our promise. As matter of morals, could such treachery by any possibility, escape the curses of Heaven, or of any good man? As matter of policy, to announce such a purpose, would ruin the Union cause itself. All recruiting of colored men would instantly cease, and all colored men now in our service, would instantly desert us.
And rightfully too. Why should they give their lives for us, with full notice of our purpose to betray them?
Drive back to the support of the rebellion the physical force which the colored people now give, and promise us, and neither the present, nor any coming administration, can save the Union. Take from us, and give to the enemy, the hundred and thirty, forty, or fifty thousand colored persons now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers, and we can not longer maintain the contest.
The party who could elect a President on a War & Slavery Restoration platform, would, of necessity, lose the colored force; and that force being lost, would be as powerless to save the Union as to do any other impossible thing.
It is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force, which may be measured, and estimated as horsepower, and steam power, are measured and estimated. And by measurement, it is more than we can lose, and live. Nor can we, by discarding it, get a white force in place of it. There is a witness in every white mans bosom that he would rather go to the war having the negro to help him, than to help the enemy against him. It is not the giving of one class for another. It is simply giving a large force to the enemy, for nothing in return.
In addition to what I have said, allow me to remind you that no one, having control of the rebel armies, or, in fact, having any influence whatever in the rebellion, has offered, or intimated a willingness to, a restoration of the Union, in any event, or on any condition whatever.
Let it be constantly borne in mind that no such offer has been made or intimated. Shall we be weak enough to allow the enemy to distract us with an abstract question which he himself refuses to present as a practical one?
. . . If Jefferson Davis wishes, for himself, or for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would do if he were to offer peace and re-union, saying nothing about slavery, let him try me.Two drafts are preserved in the Lincoln Papers; the first is in pencil and bears the date as given above. The second is in ink, without date, and is probably the finished copy which Lincoln intended to send, but which he never dated, signed, or sent.
On August 29, 1864, the Democratic National Convention in began in Chicago,Illinois. The Democratic Party nominated General George McClellan. As his running mate, they chose Ohio Congressman George Pendleton, a Copperhead Democrat, for vice-president. Pendleton, a close associate of the Copperhead leader Clement Vallandigham, was known for strongly opposing the Union war effort. The Democrats called for a speedy conclusion to the war and an end to emancipation. Negotiations with the Confederacy were discussed in what came to be known as the "Chicago Platform."
|"The Chicago Platform and Candidate"|
The Democratic Party was bitterly split between War Democrats and Peace Democrats, who further divided among competing factions. Moderate Peace Democrats who supported the war against the Confederacy, such as Horatio Seymour, were calling for a negotiated peace. After the Battle of Gettysburg in early July, when it was clear the South could no longer win the war, moderate Peace Democrats proposed a negotiated peace that would secure Union victory. They believed an armistice could finish the war without devastating the South. Radical Peace Democrats known as "Copperheads," declared the entire war to be a failure, and favored an immediate end to hostilities without securing Union victory.
In the view of the paper's white supremacist editors, Lincoln's re-election would undermine the rights of the country’s white majority. They believed Republicans wanted to create an integrated society which would result in loss of jobs and status for its readers, many of them Irish American Catholics who had already made their fears violently manifest during the previous summer’s rioting. The World made its hatred for Lincoln clear enough in its editorial columns, charging the president with plotting to use a second term to establish a mixed-race society in which black men would be free to marry white women, and black masters would employ white servants. It collaborated with a New York printmaker to issue a series of venomous cartoons that played to the racial fears of white voters.
|"The Miscegenation Ball"|
This fact WE CERTIFY, that on the floor during the progress of the ball were many of the accredited leaders of the Black Republican party, thus testifying their faith by their work in the hall and headquarters of their political gathering. There were Republican OFFICE-HOLDERS and prominent men of various degrees, and at least one PRESIDENTIAL ELECTOR ON THE REPUBLICAN TICKET.
|The Political "Siamese" Twins|
The Offspring of Chicago Miscegenation
|George Hunt Pendleton|
August Belmont, the Democratic Party chairman, claimed that when McClellan was elected and Lincoln left office, "you will see State after State leave the Confederacy." In a speech at the Cooper Institute in New York City on November 2, 1864, he said:
Four years ago I stood on this very place pleading the cause of the Union and the Constitution against the combined efforts of Northern Abolitionists and Southern Secessionists, and advocating the election of the patriot and statesman, the lamented Douglas, against the then obscure candidate of a sectional party. The Democracy was defeated, and our country given up to civil war and desolation, because we had become divided by the selfish machinations of Southern Secessionists, aided by their misguided friends of the North, who broke up the Charleston convention. . . .
Thus we find these gentlemen in the ranks of the Republican party arrayed under the black banner of Abolitionism against the party of the Union and the Constitution. . . .They, and some lesser lights of the same stamp, are now joining with all the zeal of neophytes in the mad outcry raised by their new
allies against the Democratic party and its noble leader, George B. McClellan . . . the man to whom the country owes the Army of the Potomac,—the general who twice saved the capital from the invading rebel forces, and who offered to share the fate of his comrades as a common soldier . . .
McClellan Campaign Button
The great Democratic party cannot suffer from the attacks of this or any other set of men. It is the party which, by its unwavering adherence to the Constitution, and by its unflinching firmness and strict regard to treaty stipulations in all our domestic and foreign relations, had brought our country to a greatness and prosperity which had rendered it the admiration and envy of the nations of the earth, until, in an evil hour, the madness of sectional fanaticism placed Abraham Lincoln in the presidential chair.
It was a Democratic administration which carried us triumphantly through the Mexican war, giving us the golden empire of the Pacific, soon to become the highway of the commerce of the East.
. . .The fact is, the present administration did not know how to preserve peace, nor does it know how to conquer it, notwithstanding the many victories gained on land and sea by our gallant navy and army. We have been told over and over again that the rebellion was on its last legs, that the people of the South are tired of the war, that their armies are demoralized and on the point of dispersing.
Are we, for all this, any nearer to an honorable peace within the Union than we were three years ago?
. . . No attempt at negotiation, no proffer of an honorable settlement which (even if under the military terrorism of Jeff. Davis it should not have led to immediate peace) would, at least, have strengthened the Union party at the South, and given them power, with the aid of the strong arm of the Federal forces, to free themselves of their tyrannical leaders. And this, gentlemen, is the only way in which we can ever hope to restore the Union, and bring peace and prosperity to our common country.
Give to the South the choice of an honorable peace under the Union and the Constitution, or a fruitless struggle against the irresistible power of a united North, and you will see State after State leave the confederacy of Jefferson Davis, and return to their allegiance under the Union.
But who can doubt that the South will fight to the last extremity if the fatal policy of confiscation and forcible emancipation is to be persisted in, and that is the policy to which Mr. Lincoln and his party are pledged, should they be able to keep themselves in power. . . . Can any one, after all these heart-rending experiences, have any doubts as to the fearful calamities in store for us, if Mr. Lincoln should succeed in having himself re-elected—a war to the knife between the two sections, until the weaker is exterminated, and the other left in the agonies of exhaustion; a whole generation swept away; a national debt accumulated, such as few nations have ever been burdened with, and entailing the disgrace and miseries of national bankruptcy, or else, for generations to come, a load of taxation which must undermine our labor and industry, and reduce our laboring classes to poverty and pauperism.
. . . Let us first restore the Union and the Constitution, and then we will settle
our other accounts. General McClellan has pledged himself and the party “for the Union at all hazards.” Our candidate for the Vice-Presidency has declared for the restoration of the Union and the Constitution, “peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.” On that platform we intend to elect them, and redeem their pledges to the American people and the world, and when once again we shall, by the blessing of the Almighty, be a reunited and powerful people of freemen, then the Democracy of this mighty Union will say to the powers of the earth, that the North American continent was intended for Republican institutions, and that the temple of liberty raised by the fathers of the Republic must span its dome from ocean to ocean and from the lakes to the isthmus.
Republican Campaign Poster
. . . Let us roll up a majority of forty thousand for McClellan and Pendleton, that the sun of the 8th of November may, under a benignant Providence, set upon a free and redeemed people, and a new era of greatness and prosperity follow the dark days through which we are now passing.The South was well aware of Union disagreement and discontent. Many felt that if the
|"Jeff Davis and the Chicago Platform Last Ditch"|
You think I don’t know I am going to be beaten, but I do, and unless some great change takes place, beaten badly.”One change occurred on September 6, 1864, when General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia. Many believe that this event was the turning point in both the war and Lincoln's election, although Lincoln actually was more popular than he realized.
In its September 24, 1864, issue, Harper's Weekly magazine listed all the abusive terms that had been applied to Lincoln in the previous months: Filthy Story-Teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Usurper, Fiend, and Butcher. The Democrats believed that the nation had grown weary of the war and of the way Lincoln had conducted it. Americans disliked the draft, and the Democrats attacked Lincoln's use of presidential powers. Above all, Democrats believed that Lincoln had doomed his chances for reelection by turning the war from a conflict to preserve the union into a battle to abolish slavery. Additionally, his decision to arm blacks and to allow them to serve in the U.S. Army was also perceived as having changed the war into a crusade to end slavery.
The United States presidential election of was held on Tuesday, November 8, 1864. On
election day, General Grant insured that the soldiers could and would vote by absentee ballot; and for those who came from states where no absentee provisions existed, he furloughed them by the thousands so that they could go home and vote for Lincoln. This vote by the soldier-citizens of the war—who overwhelmingly supported Lincoln—when combined with the military victories won by Admiral Farragut in seizing Mobile Bay and General William Tecumseh Sherman at Atlanta in the late summer of 1864, united the Republican Party behind Lincoln and won him the election. In this landslide victory, the President won the electoral votes of twenty-two states, losing only Delaware, Kentucky, and New Jersey to McClellan. Lincoln won by more than 400,000 popular votes, and was the first president to be re-elected since Andrew Jackson had been re-elected more than 30 years before.
Two days after the election, Lincoln wrote to Henry W. Hoffman in the War Department:
H. HOFFMAN, Baltimore, Md.: The Maryland soldiers in the Army of the
Potomac cast a total vote of fourteen hundred and twenty-eight, out of which we get eleven hundred and sixty majority. This is directly from General Meade and General Grant.
|Henry Hoffman (on right)|
It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its existence in great emergencies. On this point the present rebellion brought our government to a severe test, and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion, added not a little to the strain.
If the loyal people united were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided and partially paralyzed by a political war among themselves?
But the election was a necessity. We cannot have free government without elections; and if the election could force us to forego or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.
The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases.
Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared
with the men of this, we will have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
But the election, along with its incidental and undesirable strife, has done good, too. It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election in the midst of a great civil war. Until now, it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.
It shows, also, how sound and strong we still are. It shows that even among the candidates of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union and most opposed to treason can receive most of the people's votes. It shows, also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now than we had when the war began.
Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, and patriotic men are better than gold.
But the rebellion continues, and, now that the election is over, may not all have a common interest to reunite in a common effort to save our common country? For my own part, I have striven and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here, I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom. While I am duly sensible to the high compliment of a re-election, and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God, for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed by the result. May I ask those who have not differed with me to join with me in this same spirit towards those who have?
And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen, and their gallant and skillful commanders.Winning re-election, Lincoln pressed the 38th Congress to pass the proposed amendment immediately rather than wait for the incoming 39th Congress to convene. Popular support for the amendment was mounting and Lincoln urged Congress on in his December 6 State of the Union speech: “There is only a question of time as to when the proposed amendment will go to the States for their action. And as it is to so go, at all events, may we not agree that the sooner the better?”
Secretary of State William H. Seward and others were instructed by Lincoln to procure votes by any means necessary, and promised government posts and campaign contributions to outgoing Democrats willing to switch sides. Congress passed it by the necessary two-thirds vote on January 31, 1865; by a vote of 119 to 56 in the House of Representatives. The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment would come down to one vote. Representative Alexander
If in casting this vote I am digging my own political grave, I will descend into it without a murmur.
who had only been allowed to attend Congressional sessions since the previous year, cheered from the galleries. The next day, The New York Times described the scene in the House:
When the presiding officer announced that the resolution was agreed to by yeas 119, nays 56, the enthusiasm of all present, save a few disappointed politicians, knew no bounds, and for several moments the scene was grand and impressive beyond description. No attempt was made to suppress the applause which came from all sides, every one feeling that the occasion justified the fullest expression of approbation and joy.
In February, William Henry Channing, the chaplain of the House of Representatives, invited the abolitionist minister, Henry Highland Garnet, to deliver a sermon to Congress; on February 12, 1865, Garnet was the first black person to address Congress:
What is slavery ? Too well do I know what it is. I will present to you a bird's-eye view of it ; and it shall be no fancy picture, but one that is sketched by painful experience. I was born among the cherished institutions of slavery. My earliest recollections of parents, friends, and the home of my childhood are clouded with its wrongs. . . . The first sounds that startled my ear, and sent a shudder through my soul, were the cracking of the whip, and the clanking of chains. Let us view this demon, which the people have worshiped as a God. . . . Slavery commenced its dreadful work in kidnapping unoffending men in a foreign and distant land, and in piracy on the seas. The plunderers were not the followers of Mahomet, nor the devotees of Hindooism, nor benighted pagans, nor idolaters, but people called Christians, and thus the ruthless traders in the souls and bodies of men fastened upon Christianity a crime and stain at the sight of which it shudders and shrieks.
Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper.
Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation.
Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.
All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war.
To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.
Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nationsThe next day, Lincoln gave insights about the speech in a letter to politician Thurlow Weed:
Every one likes a compliment. Thank you for yours on my little notification speech, and on the recent Inaugeral Address. I expect the latter to wear as well as--perhaps better than--any thing I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told.Charles Francis Adams, Jr., the colonel of a black regiment, wrote in a letter to his father,
|Charles Francis Adams, Jr. (on left)|
That rail-splitting lawyer is one of the wonders of the day. Once at Gettysburg and now on a greater occasion he has shown a capacity for rising to the demands of the hour . . . This inaugural strikes me in its grand simplicity and directness as being for all time the historical keynote of this war.
Adams and his father had initially considered Lincoln to be incompetent. The great-grandson of President John Adams and the grandson of President John Quincy Adams, Charles Adams, Jr. had been commissioned as a first lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry on December 28, 1861. He fought with distinction during the Battle of Gettysburg; on September 8, 1864 he was commissioned as the lieutenant colonel of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry (officially designated "5th Massachusetts Colored Volunteer Cavalry"). He led his regiment into Richmond shortly after it was captured in April 1865.
In March, the Confederate Congress authorized President Jefferson Davis to recruit slave men as soldiers, with the permission of their owners. The idea of enlisting blacks had been debated for some time. General Patrick Cleburne had suggested enlisting slaves a year before, but few in the Confederate leadership would even consider his proposal, since slavery was the foundation of Southern society. Howell Cobb protested, "If slaves will make
At the end of March, at the invitation of General Grant, Lincoln and his family left Washington to travel to the Union headquarters in Virginia. On April 3, Union forces led by the black 5th Massachusetts cavalry entered Richmond, Virginia. On April 4, Lincoln and his son Tad visited the still smoldering ruins of the South's former Capital. As they stepped ashore, Lincoln was recognized by former slaves, who greeted them ecstatically. Admiral David D. Porter, who landed with Lincoln, said,
No electric wire could have carried the news of the President's arrival soonerThe crowd around Lincoln grew as he attempted to make his way to the former Confederate White House, now the U. S. military headquarters. Military authorities guided him to the house occupied only two days earlier by Jefferson Davis. A carriage was brought out, and Lincoln and Tad rode through Richmond, touring the sites made famous during the previous four years of war, including Libby Prison. The next morning he departed Richmond. General Robert E. Lee surrendered four days later at Appomattox Court House.
than it was circulated through Richmond. As far as the eye could see the streets were alive with negroes and poor whites rushing in our direction, and the crowd increased so fast that I had to surround the President with the sailors with fixed bayonets to keep them off….They all wanted to shake hands with Mr. Lincoln or his coat tail or even to kneel down and kiss his boots!
Illustration of Lincoln in Richmond
|Lydia Maria Child|
W. Julian, "I think we have reason to thank God for Abraham Lincoln, with all his deficiencies, it must be admitted that he has grown continually."
Wayland, April 8th, 1865.
Dear Mr. Julian,
During the first years of the struggle, I felt most painfully the want of moral grandeur in the contest, and the consequent absence of public enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the strongest power that moves the human soul; but it is impossible for men to be impelled by it unless some great idea inspires them; unless they feel that some great principle is at stake.
How sad and cold were the hearts of our poor soldiers, perishing by hecatombs in the swamps, while serpentine Seward was coolly playing his diplomatic game with the King of Spades for his trump card! But even this unprincipled and cruel delay was over-ruled for good. If we had had thorough, conscientious, energetic rulers, in cabinet and field, the war would have been brought to a close so soon, that we, in the pride of quick success, should have shoved aside the black man, as of no account in the settlement of our difficulties.
Had it not been for reiterated calls upon our sons to fill the ranks of the army, popular opinion would never have sanctioned the arming of the negroes; and the present feeling in favor of emancipation is largely owing to the fact that their blood has been shed to spare ours. And even the question of negro suffrage, against which the strongest feelings of pride and prejudice have been arrayed, is continually gaining ground; and that too among men who have been conservative. They are not brought to it by a sense of justice, or by conversion to liberal principles. They are compelled by the fact that rebel voters, and their old allies the democratic party, must be held in check by the introduction of this new element.
But we must not forget that all great revolutions and reformations would look mean and meagre, if examined in details, as they occurred at the time. It is marvellous by how small a force the world is moved, in point of numbers, when God is on their side. Still more wonderful is it to observe what poor, mean cattle God yokes to the car of progress, and makes them draw in a direction they are striving to avoid. It has been most strikingly illustrated in the course of this war. The details are often ludicrous exhibitions of human inconsistency and selfishness; but the result is a sublime manifestation of an over-ruling Providence.
I think we have reason to thank God for Abraham Lincoln. With all his deficiencies, it must be admitted that he has grown continually; and, considering how Slavery had weakened and perverted the moral sense of the whole country, it was great good luck to have the people elect a man who was willing to grow.
It seems as if events have pushed the car of government so far on the radical track, that Satan himself could not now, by any exertion of force or cunning, restore things to their former condition. Yet I am far from feeling secure about a safe and judicious reconstruction. The old Satanic fire will long remain in the ashes of the rebellion. If those tyrannical oligarchs have their land-monopoly restored, they will trample on the blacks and the poor whites, as of old. Those mammoth plantations ought to be divided into small farms, and an allotted number of acres given to the soldiers, white and black. The remainder should be sold by government to the emancipated slaves, and the poor whites, at a moderate price, and with reasonable terms of credit. I do hope the President's good nature will not prevent his confiscating the lands of the leading and influential rebels. I do not desire this from any feeling of resentment, but simply because the safety of the country requires that those haughty, unscrupulous men should have no nucleus of future power left to them. Moreover, the monopoly of large tracts of land is wrong everywhere, and under all circumstances; and, like all wrong things, it is injurious in its consequences.
Another point on which I feel considerable anxiety is concerning the ratification of the amendment to the Constitution. Our ruling powers, in their zeal against State Sovereignty, have strenuously insisted, from the outset, that the Rebel States are not out of the Union, and cannot be out of the Union; though while maintaining this doctrine they have been compelled by circumstances to treat them practically as belligerent powers. Does not this position bring them into an awkward dilemma on the question of ratification? If all those States are in the Union, how can the Constitution be lawfully amended without the concurrence of their votes? Mr. Child said, from the beginning, that this position was not tenable, and would prove a breaker ahead when the time of reconstruction came. He has always maintained, in legal phraseology, that the Rebel States were out of the Union de facto, though not out of it de jure. He illustrates it by alleging that the War Power annuls all treaties between belligerent nations, de facto, though the treaties are obviously not annulled de jure, since war is often made for the express purpose of compelling the observance of those very treaties. If this view of the subject be correct, it seems to be necessary that government should abandon its theory, or the ratification of the amendment will be-come a vexed question.
George T. Garrison, 55th Massachusetts
. . . These are exciting times, are they not? When Garrison's son enters Charleston at the head of black troops; and Abraham Lincoln sends dispatches from Jeff Davis's house.
Now, when victory seems secure, I trust the U.S. will show itself magnanimous and merciful. I trust our record will not be blotted by anything like revenge. Certainly, the leaders out [sic] to be put out of the way of doing further mischief; but I wish there might be no clamoring for blood. I would deprive them of power, but not of life.
Yours most respectfully,
L. Maria Child.
Two days after the surrender of Lee's army, a jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House. Reporter Noah Brooks wrote,
Outside was a vast sea of faces, illuminated by the lights that burned in the festal array of the White House, and stretching far out into the misty darkness. It was a silent, intent, and perhaps surprised, multitude. Within stood the tall, gaunt figure of the President, deeply thoughtful, intent upon the elucidation of the generous policy which should be pursued toward the South. That this was not the sort of speech which the multitude had expected is tolerably certain.
We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart.
The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained.
In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good
news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.
By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority -- reconstruction -- which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction.
As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up, and seeking to sustain, the new State government of Louisiana. . . . In the Annual Message of Dec. 1863 and accompanying Proclamation, I presented a plan of re-construction (as the phrase goes) which, I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to, and sustained by, the Executive government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable; and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when, or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States.
This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed-people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power, in regard to the admission of members to Congress; but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana. The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the Proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed-people; and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan.
The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal; and not a single objection to it, from any professed emancipationist, came to my knowledge, until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July 1862, I had corresponded with different persons, supposed to be interested, seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New Orleans, Gen. Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his
military co-operation, would reconstruct, substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them to try it; they tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it, whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced.
. . . We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these States and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.
The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all, if it contained fifty, thirty, or even twenty thousand, instead of only about twelve thousand, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.
. . . Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave-state of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free-state constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetual freedom in the state--committed to the very things, and nearly all the things the nation wants--and they ask the nations recognition and it's assistance to make good their committal. Now, if we reject, and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We in effect say to the white men "You are worthless, or worse--we will neither help you, nor be helped by you." To the blacks we say "This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how." If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have, so far, been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize, and sustain the new government of Louisiana the converse of all this is made true.
We encourage the hearts, and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring, to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it, than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it?
. . . What has been said of Louisiana will apply generally to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each state, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same state; and withal, so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive, and inflexible plan can be safely prescribed as to details and colatterals [sic]. Such exclusive, and inflexible plan, would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.
In the present "situation" as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper.
At the time of his death and for years thereafter, Lincoln was remembered primarily as the Great Emancipator. Not until the turn of the century, when the process of (white) reconciliation was far advanced, would Americans forget or suppress the centrality of slavery and emancipation to the war experience. Lincoln would then be transformed into a symbol of national unity, and the Gettysburg Address, which did not explicitly mention slavery, would, in popular memory, supplant the Emancipation Proclamation as the greatest embodiment of his ideas.
|Andrew Jackson Smith|
David Brion Davis wrote in Inhuman Bondage:
Following the failure of Reconstruction, the political, psychological, and emotional reunion of North and South came to depend on the North's willingness to give Southern whites a free hand in defining and presiding over all racial policies - an understanding that prevailed from the late 1870s to at least the 1950s. The goal of reunion required the repression from memory of the revolutionary realities of the war . . . Thus the ceremonial "Decoration Days" and "Memorial Days," honoring the war's fallen soldiers on each May 30, soon ignored the crucial racial aspects of the war; "emancipation" became unmentionable, as did the war's lethal and unlimited character.According to the foreword in Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction:
One of the great triumphs for equal rights in American history was obliterated, overwhelmed by a fascination with the valor of combat. That undue fascination tended to reduce the war to a noble tragedy, pitting “brother against brother.” Whether in novels, popular histories, feature films, or television series such as The Civil War, the tragedy and glory of armed combat overrode the central fact that, by its end, the war was about the future of the institution of slavery and the people whom it enslaved. . . .
The great irony about the titanic struggles that took place during emancipation and Reconstruction is the nature of the role that the freedpeople played. Rather than passive recipients of freedom bestowed upon them by the Union army and the federal government, millions of African Americans actively sought their own freedom during the war by running away from slavery, by sabotaging Confederate efforts on the plantations, and by fighting valiantly as Union soldiers. The freedpeople also asserted their new-won freedoms in the war’s immediate aftermath. A rich array of documents from the period reveals that African Americans embraced the simple rights of citizenship and its responsibilities: they wanted to vote, sit on juries, marry, worship as they chose, ride public conveyances, and own land. They wanted, in short, the chance to participate in the American dream.
The violent suppression of that dream haunts us to this day. The “what-ifs” of the story are legion: What if the brief flowering of equality in the war’s immediate aftermath had been allowed to flourish rather than being brutally suppressed? What if the federal government had upheld the Constitution and guaranteed the rights of all its citizens? The story is at once poignant and urgent. The complex legacy of Reconstruction is lived every day in America. Until Americans understand that history, we are, as the saying goes, condemned to repeat it.Augustin Taveau, a South Carolina planter, said after Appomattox that "I believed that these people were content, happy, and attached to their masters." But "the conduct of the Negro in
the late crisis of our affairs convinced me that we have all been laboring under a delusion."
Jefferson Davis continued to labor under that delusion for the rest of his life; in his book, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, published in 1881, he wrote:
The servile instincts [of slaves] rendered them contented with their lot, and their patient toil blessed the land of their abode with unmeasured riches. Their strong local and personal attachment secured faithful service ... never was there happier dependence of labor and capital on each other. The tempter came, like the serpent of Eden, and decoyed them with the magic word of 'freedom' ... He put arms in their hands, and trained their humble but emotional natures to deeds of violence and bloodshed, and sent them out to devastate their benefactors.
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.In 1896, former Confederate General Bradley T. Johnson said:
The great crime of the century was the emancipation of the Negroes. . . . But believe me, the Anglo-Saxon race, has set itself, with all its power, to face it and to overcome it, to solve it in some way . . . We have already seen that the salvation of this section is in white rule.
We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten . . . now grasping hands and smiling into each others' eyes.
As the early twentieth century progressed, the Civil War came to resemble in many minds the nation's greatest athletic contest, a kind of mid-nineteenth century Super Bowl between all-American heroes. Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln could both become national saints.
|Martin Luther King Jr.|
For the next six months, King and his lawyers drafted a second Emancipation Proclamation in Kennedy’s name. Then in May of 1962, when King was in Washington for a meeting to launch his Gandhi Society for Human Rights, he delivered a copy to the White House
|Birmingham, Alabama 1963|
Heroic deeds were performed and eloquent words were spoken a century ago . . . We honor them now as we join on this Memorial Day of 1963 in a prayer for permanent peace of the world and fulfillment of our hopes for universal freedom and justice.
. . . We must remember that justice is a vigil, too--a vigil we must keep in our own streets and schools and among the lives of all our people--so that those who died here on their native soil shall not have died in vain.
One hundred years ago, the slave was freed.
The Negro today asks justice. We do not answer him--we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil--when we reply to the Negro by asking, "Patience."
. . . The solution is in our hands. Unless we are willing to yield up our destiny of greatness among the civilizations of history, Americans--white and Negro together--must be about the business of resolving the challenge which confronts us now.
Our nation found its soul in honor on these fields of Gettysburg one hundred years ago. We must not lose that soul in dishonor now on the fields of hate.
To ask for patience from the Negro is to ask him to give more of what he has already given enough. . . .
The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves.
. . . .It is not our respective races which are at stake--it is our nation.
Let those who care for their country come forward, North and South, white and Negro, to lead the way through this moment of challenge and decision.
The Negro says, "Now." Others say, "Never."
The voice of responsible Americans--the voice of those who died here and the great man who spoke here--their voices say, "Together."
There is no other way.
Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.On August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. stood before the Lincoln Memorial, and in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he declared,
|Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963|
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
|Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965|
It's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. . . . As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil, I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society.
But a century has passed—more than 100 years—since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight.
It was more than 100 years ago that Abraham Lincoln—a great President of
another party—signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact. A century has passed—more than 100 years—since equality was promised, and yet the Negro is not equal.
Lyndon Johnson, March 15, 1965
A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back.
It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American.
No one can argue, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, that America’s long
struggle with racial inequality has ended or that the contradictions created by the existence of slavery in a country that considers itself an embodiment of freedom have been fully resolved.
This book examines the era of emancipation and Reconstruction, a crucial moment when conflicts over racial justice, political democracy, and the meaning of American freedom reached their greatest intensity. . . . One hundred forty years later, it remains vitally important to understand that experiment, and what one historian has called its “splendid failure,” because the unresolved legacy of Reconstruction remains a part of our lives.
In movements for social justice that have built on the legal and political accomplishments of Reconstruction, and in the racial tensions that still plague American society, the momentous events of Reconstruction reverberate in modern-day America. . . The struggles of Reconstruction remain an important part of our present and future. As James Baldwin has written, “History does not merely refer to the past … history is literally present in all we do.”
. . . Reconstruction was a crucial chapter in the long struggle for racial justice. When the Civil War brought freedom to four million slaves, the United States underwent a profound social revolution. The vast economic and political power of the South’s white elite hung in the balance, as did the lives and dreams of the former slaves. Indeed, the nature of the new social order created in the South profoundly affected the entire nation. For a brief moment, the country experimented with genuine interracial democracy. Then Reconstruction was overturned by a violent racist reaction. . . .
For nearly a century, Reconstruction was tragically misunderstood by both historians and the broader popular culture. Today, it is shrouded as much in ignorance as in myth. For many decades, academic monographs, popular books, and films portrayed Reconstruction as the lowest point in the entire American saga. According to this view, the vindictive Radical wing of the Republican Party, motivated by hatred of the South, overturned the lenient plans for national reunion designed by Abraham Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson, and imposed black suffrage on the defeated Confederacy. There followed a sordid period of corruption and misrule, the argument went, presided over by unscrupulous political opportunists from the North (derisively termed “carpetbaggers”), southern whites who had abandoned their racial and regional loyalties to cooperate with the Radical Republicans (the “scalawags”), and the former slaves, who were allegedly unprepared for the freedom that had been thrust upon them and unfit to participate in government. Eventually, organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, deemed patriotic by proponents of this interpretation, overthrew this “misgovernment” and restored “home rule” (a euphemism for white supremacy) to the South.
All history, the saying goes, is contemporary history, in the sense that historical interpretation both reflects and shapes the world in which the historian lives. No period in America’s past better illustrates this idea than Reconstruction. . . . In popular literature and in memoirs by participants, at veterans’ reunions, and in public statuary, the Civil War came to be remembered as a tragic family quarrel among white Americans in which blacks had played no significant part, and Reconstruction as a regrettable time of “Negro rule.” This was, to say the least, a highly distorted view.
. . . Rather than passive recipients of freedom bestowed upon them by the Union army and the federal government, millions of African Americans actively sought their own freedom during the war by running away from slavery, by sabotaging Confederate efforts on the plantations, and by fighting valiantly as Union soldiers. The freedpeople also asserted their new-won freedoms in the war’s immediate aftermath. A rich array of documents from the period reveals that African Americans embraced the simple rights of citizenship and its responsibilities: they wanted to vote, sit on juries, marry, worship as they chose, ride public conveyances, and own land. They wanted, in short, the chance to participate in the American dream. . . .
Ignorance of Reconstruction is unfortunate because, whether we realize it or not, it remains very much a part of our lives, nearly a century and a half after the Civil War ended. . . Versions of the past continue to shape how people think about the present.In 2010, Foner published The Fiery Trial:
I admire Lincoln very much. But simply to anoint him as "a model of greatness for succeeding generations to follow" or to see the task of the scholar as mounting a defense of Lincoln against his critics, then and now, does both Lincoln and the influences on him a disservice. If Lincoln achieved greatness, he grew into it. . . . To rise to the occasion requires not only an inner compass but also a willingness to listen to criticism, to see out new ideas. Lincoln's career was a process of moral and political education and deepening antislavery conviction. . . . He came into contact with new people, new ideas, and a totally unprecedented situation, and was able to make the most of these encounters. He had to take into account the actions of groups with which he had previously had virtually no contact. Most notable among these groups were the slaves themselves, who seized the opportunity offered by the Civil War to strike for their freedom and who overwhelmingly rejected Lincoln's hope that many of them would agree to emigrate to some other country. . . .
My aim then is to take Lincoln whole, incorporating his strengths and shortcomings, his insights and misjudgments. I want to show Lincoln in motion, tracking the development of his ideas and beliefs, his political abilities and strategies, as they engaged the issues of slavery and emancipation, the most critical in our nation's history.
|"It is crucially important to remind ourselves that some struggles for greater fairness and justice have succeeded; they are part of our past and thus open possibilities for the future."|
~ David Brion Davis