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President Lincoln's Reply to Hon.
EXECUTIVE Mansion, WASHINGTON, Aug. 22d, 1862. Hon. Horace Greeley:
DEAR SIR-I have just read yours of the 19th instant, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune.
If there be in it any statements or assumptions of fact which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them.
If there be any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them.
If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I “ seem to be pursuing,” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt. I would save the Union. I would save it in the shortest way under the Constitution.
The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be—the Union as it was.
If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them.
If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.
My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery.
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it—if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it-and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.
I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I believe doing more will help the cause.
I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my views of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oftexpressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
Address at Gettysburg,
November 19, 1863.
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting-place of those who here gave their
and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain—that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
President Lincoln's Letter to
Executive MansioN, WASHINGTON, April 4th 1864. A. G. Hodges, Esq., Frankfort, Ky.:
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