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THE PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION.
EMANCIPATION DEMANDED BY THE LOYAL STATES—LETTER OF MR.
GREELEY-LINCOLN'S REPLY-INTERVIEW WITH CHICACO CLERGY
T is clear, from several paragraphs in the President's mes
sage, and it is known from other sources, that the slavery question occupied Mr. Lincoln's most anxious thoughts, and that he was considering the subject of emancipation under military authority, and as a military necessity. He alludes to a paragraph in his annual message which declared "that the Union must be preserved, and hence all indispensable means must be employed. I said this not hastily but deliberately. If resistance continues, the war must continue; and it is impossible to foresee all the incidents which may attend it. Such as may seem indispensable or may obviously promise great efficiency toward ending the struggle must and will come.”
In these somewhat ambiguous paragraphs we now know that he alluded to the great proclamation of emancipation. 1 It is clear that he considered this great question primarily,
as it affected the success of the struggle in which the Nation was engaged to suppress the
rebellion. If it was a proper and apt measure to effect that end, he might rightfully adopt it, not otherwise, however much he might desire universal freedom. He himself says, “when, in March, 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, or issuing the emancipation proclamation.”
He honestly believed "gradual and not immediate emancipation would be better for all.”
The message proposing compensated emancipation was promptly followed by a resolution of Congress, declaring “That the United States ought to coöperate with any State which may adopt gradual emancipation of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid.” On the 9th of May, 1862, General David Hunter, whose zealous efforts to organize negro soldiers has already been noticed, issued an order declaring all the slaves within the States of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, which composed his district, “forever free.”
This order came while Mr. Lincoln was himself considering the subject of emancipation by his own proclamation, and in the midst of his efforts to bring about gradual and compensated emancipation in the border States, and without any knowledge on his part of the General's intention to issue . it. He, therefore, immediately issued a proclamation declaring that such order was unauthorized. He recites the resolution of Congress, proposing coöperation and pecuniary aid to any State which might adopt gradual emancipation, and declared that he reserved to himself, under his responsibility, the exercise of the power of emancipating slaves as a war measure, and which he could not feel justified in leaving to any subordinate in the field. He goes on to say, the resolution here referred to was adopted by a large majority in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentic, definite and solemn proposal of the Nation to the States and people most interested in the subject matter. He then made this solemn and earnest appeal :
“To the people of these States, now, I earnestly appeal. I do not argue; I beseech you to make the argument for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a solemn and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above partisan and personal politics.
“This proposal makes common cause for a conimon object, casting do reproaches upon any one. It acts not the Pharisee. 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 any 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 addition to the message sent to Congress, Mr. Lincoln invited an interview with the Congressional delegations of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. In this interview, the President urged the adoption of the plan of compensated emancipation, but received little encouragement from the representatives of the border slave States.
It is well known to the President's immediate friends that he had nearly reached the conclusion, that if the proposition for gradual or compensated emancipation should be rejected by the border States, that military necessity would require him to proclaim emancipation. “I believed,” said he afterwards, “the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by gradual and compensated emancipation.” How urgently he pressed the subject, appears from his proclamation in regard to General Hunter's order, and in his interview with the border State members.
In July, 1862, the President called the delegates from the border slave States again together, and again made to them his earnest and solemn appeal to accept gradual compensated emancipation. This appeal, submitted to them in writing, is full of earnest expostulation, argument and entreaty. Viewed in the light of subsequent events, it is full of sagacity, and the most wise statesmanship. Compare this great Statę paper with the reply and conduct of the distinguished men whom he addressed, and learn to appreciate the statesman. After advising them that, in his best judgment, the representatives of the border States held more power for good than any other equal number of members, he said that he intended no reproach, but he assured them, that in his opinion, if they had all voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of March, the war would have been substantially ended. He went on to say that
“The plan proposed is one of the most potent and swift measures of ending the war. 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 cannot much longer maintain the contest. But you cannot 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 State. Beat them at elections as you have overwhelmingly done, and, nothing daunted, they still claim you as their own. You and I know what the lever of their power is. Break that lever before their faces, and they can shake you no more forever.
“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 ? Discarding punctilio and maxims adapted to more manageable times, and looking only to the unprecedentedly stern facts of our case, can you do better in any possible event? You prefer that the constitutional relations 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 cannot be avoided. If the war continues 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 where 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. General Hunter is an honest man. He was, and I hope is still my friend. I valued him none the less for his agreeing with me in the general wish that all men everywhere could be freed. 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 I gave dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many, whose support the country cannot 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.
“Upon these considerations, I have again begged your attention to the Message of March last. Before leaving the Capitol, 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. As you would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you
do in nowise omit this. Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and boldest action to bring a speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world, its 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.”
This appeal was received by some with apathy, caviling and opposition; by a few with sympathy. But no actionno efficient action; nothing practical was done, on the part of the border slave States. No! slavery had so entwined itself in the social fabric that nothing but the violence, force, and fire of war could tear it away. The communities would not yet voluntarily relinquish it.
The intense feeling of Mr. Lincoln on this subject was expressed by him to two members of Congress, old friends, from Illinois, (Owen Lovejoy and the Author,) who called upon him Sunday evening, July 13th, at his Summer residerce at the “Soldiers' Home.” He conversed freely with them of his late interview with the border State members. “Oh,” said he in conclusion, “if the border States would