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President had declared his established purpose to take this step at the Cabinet meeting which I have described. He said to this commit tee: "I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet!" After drawing out their views upon the subject, he concluded the interview with these memorable words:
"Do not misunderstand me, because I have mentioned these objections. They indicate the difficulties which have thus far prevented my action in some such way as you desire. I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement. And I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will, I will do! I trust that, in the freedom with which I have canvassed your views, I have not in any respect injured your feelings."
In further illustration of this peculiarity of his mind, I will say here, to silence forever the cavils of those who have asserted that he was forced by the pressure of public opinion to nominate Mr. Chase as Judge Taney's successor, that, notwithstanding his apparent hesitation upon this subject, and all that was reported at the time in the newspapers as to the chances of the various candidates, it is a fact well known to several of his most intimate friends that "there had never been a time during his Presidency, that, in the event of the death of Judge Taney, he had not fully intended and expected to nominate Salmon P. Chase for Chief Justice." These were his very words, uttered in this connection.
Mr. Chase told me that at the Cabinet meeting, immediately after the battle of Antietam, and just prior to the issue of the September Proclamation, the President entered upon the business before them, saying that the time for the annunciation of the Emancipation policy could no longer be delayed. Public sentiment," he thought, "would sustain it, many of his warmest friends and supporters demanded itand he had promised his God that he would do it!" The last part of this was uttered in a low tone, and appeared to be heard by no one but Secretary Chase, who was sitting near him. He asked the President if he correctly understood him. Mr. Lincoln replied: "I made a solemn vow before God that, if General Lee were driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves !"
In concluding this article, it will perhaps be expected that I should take some notice of an assertion, made originally in an editorial article in The Independent, upon the withdrawal of Mr. Chase from the polit
ical canvass of 1864, and widely copied, in which it was stated that the concluding paragraph of the Proclamation was from the pen of Secretary Chase. One of Mr. Lincoln's intimate friends (this incident was related to me by the gentleman himself), who felt that there was an impropriety in this publication, at that time, for which Mr. Chase was in some degree responsible, went to see the President about it. "Oh," said Mr. Lincoln, with his characteristic simplicity and freedom from all suspicion, "Mr. Chase had nothing to do with it; I think I mentioned the circumstance to Mr. Tilton myself."
The facts in the case are these: while the measure was pending, Mr. Chase submitted to the President a draft of a proclamation, embodying his views upon the subject, which closed with the appropriate and solemn words referred to: "And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice warranted by the Constitution, I invokė the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God !”
Mr. Lincoln adopted this sentence intact, excepting that he inserted after the word "Constitution" the words "upon military necessity."
Thus is ended what I have long felt to be a duty I owed to the world—the record of circumstances attending the preparation and issue of the third great state paper which has marked the progress of our Anglo-Saxon civilization.
First, is the "MAGNA CHARTA," wrested by the barons of England from King John; second, the "DECLARATION OF IndependencE;" and third, worthy to be placed upon the tablets of history, side by side with the two first, is "ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION."
LETTERS ON SUNDRY OCCASIONS.
TO MR. HODGES, OF KENTUCKY.
Executive Mansion, WASHINGTON, April 4, 1864.
A. G. HODGES, Esq., Frankfort, Kentucky:
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 cannot remember when I did not so think and feel, and yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference 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, altogether. When, early in the war, General Fremont attempted military emancipation, Í forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When, a little later, General Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the
indispensable necessity had come. When, in March, and May, and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the Border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition, and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss, but of this I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force, no loss by it any how, or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite one hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavil ling. We have the men; and we could not have had them without the
And now let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself by writing down in one line, that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he is for taking one hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be but for the measure he condemns. If he cannot face his case so stated, it is only because he cannot face the truth.
I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale, I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to 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 causes to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God. Yours truly,
TO GENERAL HOOKER.
The following letters were written by the President to General Hooker soon after the latter had succeeded General Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac. The first was written just after the battle of Chancellorsville, as follows:
WASHINGTON, 2 г. M.-May 8, 1863.
GENERAL HOOKER:-The news is here of the capture by our forces of Grand Gulf, a large and very important thing. General Willich, an exchanged prisoner just from Richmond, has talked with me this morning. He was there when our cavalry cut the roads in that vicinity. He says there was not a sound pair of legs in Richmond, and that our men, had they known it, could have safely gone in and burnt every thing and brought Jeff. Davis, captured and paroled three or four hundred men. He says as he came to City Point there was an army three miles longLongstreet, he thought, moving towards Richmond. Milroy has captured a dispatch of General Lee, in which he says his loss was fearful in his late battle with you. A. LINCOLN.
After the battle of Chancellorsville General Hooker withdrew his forces to the north side of the Rappahannock, and received the following from the President:
EXECUTIVE Mansion, Washingten, May 14, 1808. MY DEAR SIR:-When I wrote on the 7th I had an impression that possibly, by an early movement, you could get some advantage, from the supposed facts that the enemy's communications were disturbed, and that he was somewhat deranged in position. That idea has now passed away, the enemy having re-established his communications, regained his positions, and actually received re-enforcements. It does not now appear to me probable that you can gain any thing by an early renewal of the attempt to cross the Rappahannock. I therefore shall not complain if you do no more for a time than to keep the enemy at bay, and out of other mischief, by menaces and occasional cavalry raids, if practicable, and to put your own army in good condition again. Still, if, in your own clear judgment, you can renew the attack successfully, I do not mean to restrain you. Bearing upon this last point I must tell you I have some painful intimations that some of your corps and division commanders are not giving you their entire confidence. This would be ruinous if true, and you should, therefore, first of all, ascertain the real facts beyond all possibility of doubt. Yours truly,
Both armies remained inactive till the 5 f June, when General Hooker wrote to the President that appearances indicated an advance by General Lee. The President answered him as follows:
June 5, 1863
MAJOR-GENERAL HOOKER - Yours of to-day was received an hour ago. So much of professional military skill is requisite to answer it, that I have turned the task over to General Halleck. He promises to perform it with his utinost care. I have but one idea which I think worth suggesting to you, and that is, in case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock, I would by no means cross to the south of it. If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it, it would fight in intrenchments and have you at advantage, and so, man for man, worst you at that point, while his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In one word, I would not take any risk of being entangled up on the river like an or jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear without a fair chance to gore one way or to kick the other.
If Lee would come to my side of the river I would keep on the same side and fight him, or act on the defensive, according as might be my estimate of his strength relatively to my own. But these are mere suggestions, which I desire to be controlled by the judgment of yourself and General Halleck. A. LINCOLN.
By the 10th of June Lee's forward movement was well developed. The President's views as to the proper course to be pursued by our army remained as before, and he sent the following letter expressing them
WASHINGTON, D. C., June 10, 1963.
MAJOR-GENERAL HOOKER:-Your long dispatch of to-day is just received. If left to me, I would not go south of the Rappahannock upor Lee's moving north of it. If you had Richmond invested to-day you would not be able to take it in twenty days; meanwhile your communications, and with them your army, would be ruined. I think Lee's army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point. If he comes towards the Upper Potomac, follow on his flank, and on the inside track, shortening