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Mr. Lincoln was agitating the alternative of immediate and unconditional emancipation, by his own proclamation, or gradual and compensated emancipation as proposed in the foregoing message. He determined to submit the subject to Congress and the border slave States, with the sincere hope, that the latter would be accepted.
THE PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION.
EMANCIPATION DEMANDED BY THE LOYAL STATES-LETter of Mr. GREELEY-LINCOLN'S REPLY-INTERVIEW WITH CHICACO CLERGY - APPEAL OF THE FRIENDS OF FREEDOM-MR. LINCOLN READS THE PROCLAMATION TO HIS CABINET-ISSUED ON THE 22D SEPTEMBER-AFTER THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM-INCIDENTS CONNECTED WITH IT-HOW RECEIVED.
T is clear, from several paragraphs in the President's message, 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. 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. made this solemn and earnest appeal:
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"To the people of these States, now, I earnestly appeal. argue; I beseech you to make the argument for yourselves. not, 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.
LINCOLN'S APPEAL TO THE BORDER STATES.
"This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no 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 State 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.