Abraham Lincoln.

Opinions on 'slavery,' and 'reconstruction of the Union,' as expressed by President Lincoln online

. (page 3 of 3)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnOpinions on 'slavery,' and 'reconstruction of the Union,' as expressed by President Lincoln → online text (page 3 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

eign relatione, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military
force ; no loss by it, anyhow or anywhere. 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.

" 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 these 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 cause, 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 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 revere the justice and goodness of God.

Yours truly, A. Lincoln.

Executive Mansion, Washington, October 10, 1864.

Hon. Henry W. Hoffman :

Mt Dear Sir : A Convention of Maryland has formed a new Constitution for the
State. A public meeting is called for this evening at Baltimore, to aid in securing
its ratification by the people, and you ask a word from me for the occasion.

I presume the only feature of the instrument about which there is serious con-
troversy, is that which provides for the extinction of slavery. It needs not to be a
secret, and I presume it is no secret, that I wish success to this provision. I desire
it on every consideration. I wish all men to be free ; I wish the material prosperi-
ty of the already free, which I feel sure the extinction of slavery would bring.

I wish to see in process of disappearing that only thing which ever could bring
this nation to civil war. I attempt no argument. Argument upon the question is
already exhausted by the able, better informed, and more immediately interested
eons of Maryland herself. I only add that I shall be gratified exceedingly if the
good people of the State shall, by their votes, ratify the new Constitution.

A. Lincoln.

The purpose of the President has been, by saving the Union,
"to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution."

Life has been sacrificed, property has been destroyed, prisoners
of war have been taken, traitors have been arrested, ships have
been captured as lawful prize, citizens have been drafted into
military service against th^ir will, and slaves have been set free
against their masters' consent.

Measures, authorized by the Constitution in time of civil war,
have thus been used by the President for the purpose of prevent-
ing the overthrow of that Constitution, and in so using them he
has strictly and faithfully performed the obligations of his oath
of office.

K satisfied that he could have j^erformed his whole duty with no
eacrifice of life, destruction of propei-ty, or release of slaves, vmder


such circumstanceB, having no right to do so, he would have
taken no life, destroyed no property, and released no slave.

To use such measures without necessity would be to use them
without justification, and therefore to violate and not to maintain
the Constitution. He was compelled by the conduct of armed
traitors, who began the war for the avowed purpose of breaking
up the Union, to resist them by employing all available and justi-
fiable means of defence. In his solemn and deliberate judgment
the emancipation of slaves in the disloyal States became, in the
progress of the war, a military necessity, and therefore an official

To have disregarded that duty, to have allowed the Union to
be destroyed, or even to be endangered, by neglecting to employ
all authorized means of preserving and defending it, would have
been an unpardonable crime.

The question of the necessity of emancipating the enemy's
slaves having been decided by the Commander-in-Chief of our
army, and that measure having been publicly proclaimed, the
President does not feel at liberty to withdraw or to withhold the
rights guaranteed by that proclamation, because he deems that
the faith of the country is pledged by his j^roclamations and by
Acts of Congress, and because there is no power under the Con-
stitution to return to slavery those who have onc^ been made free.

From a review of the foregoing passages, and especially the
later writings of the President, it is obvious that his mind has
kept pace with the march of events, and that, at the present time,
he entertains the following views and opinions :

First. He condemns slavery as a moral, social, and political evil ;
as founded on injustice and bad policy ; as injurious to the race of
white and to the race of colored men. To use his own language,
" he hates slavery as sincerely as any abolitionist."

Second. He deems slavery to be irreconcilable with the rights
of man as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

Third. Though he admits that slavery is covertly recognized in
the Constitution, he looks upon it as exceptional, and as not con-
sistent with the general principles therein set forth.

Fourth. He believes that it there had been no slavery there
/would have been no war, and that the rebellion cannot be long
maintained after slavery shall have ceased.

Fifth. In his judgment, experience has now demonstrated that
the continuance of that institution in the rebellious States is in-
compatible with the restoration of the Union and the permanent


tranquillity of the country, both of which are essential to the de-
fence and maintenance of the Constitution and the enforcement
of the laws.

Sixth. Entertaining these views, and being desirous to detach
the Border States from aid or sympathy with the rebellion, he has
proposed and advised compensated emancipation therein.

Seventh, And war having occasioned the necessity, the Consti-
tution having conferred the power and imposed the duty on the
President of depriving the public enemy of the aid of their slaves,
he has proclaimed emancipation for the purpose of conquering re-
bellion and thereby of preserving the Union and of defending the

Eighth. As slavery has been the means of breaking up the
Union, and as the Union cannot be so speedily, safely, and securely
restored with slavery as without it, the President has determined,,
so far as the Executive Department of the Government has lawful
control over the subject, that in reorganizing or reconstructing
local governments in rebellious districts, with a view to their re-
admission to the Union, slavery shall be for ever excluded there-
from in the constitutions of their respective States, and that free-
dom and justice shall be the corner-stone of the Union.

Ninth. The President has pledged himself never to return to
slavery any one who has been made or declared free by the terms
of any proclamation or law of Congress.


ttition ^«tati&e Congrissional Committer.

Hon. E. n. MORGAl^, of Nbw-Tore, Hon. E. B. WASHBURNB, op Illinois,

" JAS. HARLAN, OP lowA, " R. B. VAN VALKENBURG, op New-York,

« L. M. MORRILI/, OP Maine. " J. A. GARFIELD, of Ohio,

Senate. " J. G. BLAINE, of Maine.

House of Representatives.

E. D. MOBGAN", Chairman.
JAS. HAKIiAM", Treasurer. D. N. COOIiET, Secretary.

1 3

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnOpinions on 'slavery,' and 'reconstruction of the Union,' as expressed by President Lincoln → online text (page 3 of 3)