The Morality and Legality of Slavery
Opposing the Extension of Slavery
The Dred Scott Case
1858 Senate Campaign & Debates
Pressure for Emancipation
The Border States and Frémont
Contrabands and Emancipation in the District of Columbia
Draft Emancipation Proclamation
Final Emancipation Proclamation
Impact of Emancipation
Building the Case for Abolishing Slavery
The Thirteenth Amendment
"In politics Mr Lincoln told the truth when he said he had 'always hated slavery as much as any Abolitionist' but I do not know that he deserved a great deal of credit for that for his hatred of oppression & wrong in all its forms was constitutional - he could not help it," wrote Attorney Samuel C. Parks, a longtime friend of Abraham Lincoln.1 Contemporary Robert H. Browne recalled Abraham Lincoln telling him in 1854: "The slavery question often bothered me as far back as 1836-40. I was troubled and grieved over it; but the after the annexation of Texas I gave it up, believing as I now do, that God will settle it, and settle it right, and that he will, in some inscrutable way, restrict the spread of so great an evil; but for the present it is our duty to wait."2
Browne came to know Mr. Lincoln as a teenage assistant in the Bloomington law office of David Davis and Asahel Gridley. "One evening as I sat and talked with him in the office, in order to answer his question as to what was the groundwork on my belief on slavery, I told him what I knew and has seen of it in the mild slaveholding city of St. Louis, and what my father knew about it for several years." Browne recalled that he "talked an hour, with frequent questions interspersed by Mr. Lincoln, who was deeply interested in every fact and feature of this slavery business in the city of St. Louis, as we saw and understood it for so many years. When I had finished, he was in deep and profound study, and I thought perhaps he had fallen asleep. I said, in the usual way, not louder than ordinary conversation, 'Mr. Lincoln, do you wonder that my father and myself were Abolitionists, or do you doubt our sincerity?' This disclosed that he had not been asleep, but in deep thought. He sat firm, with not so much as a muscle of his face relaxed, as he had done through much of my recital. His face and its firm, drawn expression was like one in pain. He made a motion of some kind with his arm or head, and broke the strain, which, I remember, relieved me very much. He drew out a sighing 'No. I saw it all myself when I was only a little older than you are now, and the horrid pictures are in my mind yet. I feel drawn toward you because you have seen and know the truth of such sorrow. No wonder that your father told Judge [Stephen A.] Douglas he had nothing but contempt for party platforms or technicalities that held and bound a free man in a free State, directly or remotely, to sustain a system of such unqualified cruelties and horrors....'"3
Lincoln often said that he had believed slavery was wrong for as long as he could remember. In a speech in Chicago on July 10, 1858 Lincoln said he of slavery: "I have always hated it, but I have always been quiet about it until this new era of the introduction of the Nebraska Bill began."4 Lincoln scholar Harry V. Jaffa wrote: "For Lincoln...the entire antebellum debate came down to the question of whether the Negro was or was not a human being. If he was a human being, then he was included in the proposition that all men are created equal. If he was included in that proposition then it was a law of nature antecedent to the Constitution that he ought to be free and that civil society has as its originating purpose the security of his freedom and of the fruits of his labor under law."5 Lincoln's views on slavery, however, were at odds with the predominant racist feelings of Illinois residents. Early Lincoln chronicler Francis Fisher Browne noted: "During the years of Lincoln's service in the Legislature of Illinois, the Democratic party was strongly dominant throughout the State. The feeling on the subject of slavery was decidedly in sympathy with the South. A large percentage of the settlers in the southern and middle portions of Illinois were from the States in which slave labor was sustained, and although the determination not to permit the institution to obtain a foothold in the new commonwealth was general, the people were opposed to any action which should affect its condition where it was already established. During the session of 1836-'37, resolutions of an extreme pro-slavery character were carried through the Legislature by the Democratic party. The aim of the measure was to prevent the Abolitionists from obtaining a foothold in the State."6 Mr. Lincoln and a Whig colleague from Sangamon County introduced a petition in the legislature condemning slavery. Lincoln legal scholar Paul Finkelman wrote: "This early foray into the constitutional issues of slavery suggests that Lincoln, even as a young man, understood the constitutional limitations as well as the constitutional possibilities of fighting slavery."7 He also understood the reality of his isolation on the slavery issue. Lincoln scholar Saul Sigelschiffer observed: "There were few sections of Illinois where prejudice against the Negro was stronger than in Sangamon County, which had been settled chiefly by Kentuckians."8
As a young man, Mr. Lincoln had witnessed the slave system when he twice traveled down the Mississippi River on a raft to New Orleans. Later, Lincoln witnessed slavery in Kentucky when he visited friends and family in the state of his birth. Lincoln also understood firsthand the impact of racism on local life and politics in Springfield. Historian Kenneth J. Winkle noted: "In 1850...more than twenty African Americans lived within three blocks of the Lincoln family."9 One of Lincoln's closest black contemporaries was barber William de Fleurville, a sometime neighbor and legal client. Lincoln scholar Richard E. Hart wrote: "African Americans were a significant part of Lincoln's Springfield community. At the time of Lincoln's arrival in 1837, Springfield had an African American population of approximately twenty-six - 1.78 percent of the total population of 1,5000. Six of those twenty-six were slaves. By the time of Lincoln's departure in 1861, the African American population had grown to 234 - approximately 2.5 percent of the total population of approximately 9,320. These Springfield African Americans had an impact on Lincoln that was far greater than their numbers imply." Hart noted that "as an adjunct to slavery, a system of voluntary or indentured servitude flourished in Springfield both prior to and after Lincoln's arrival. The system was legally permitted by the 'Black Laws' that were adopted by Illinois' first legislature in 1819 and existed until February 7, 1865."10 According to historian Gossie Harold Hudson, "although the majority of people in Sangamon County expressed opposition to the evils of slavery, Blacks in Springfield were systematically treated as inferiors, and in many cases were held in virtual slavery. Also...the Sangamon Journal published advertisements of alleged runaway slaves, including detailed descriptions, rewards, warnings against employing the Negroes so identified, and threats of penalties for aiding them. In that environment, it is quite apparent that the Lincoln connection [for Fleurville] must have been as valuable to the black barber as it was unique."11
Slavery issues were part of Lincoln's legal practice. Historian Mark M. Krug wrote: "In the early [sic] 1830's Lincoln, a young and poor lawyer, undertook at his own expense, together with Lyman Trumbull and Gustave Koerner, to destroy the legal basis of the Negro indenture system which amounted to de facto slavery in Illinois. In 1839, in the case of Cromwell vs Baily, he won a decision in the Illinois Supreme Court on behalf of an indentured Negro slave girl, Nancy. The court ruled, in an historic decision, that in Illinois the presumption was that a Negro was free and not subject to sale. In those early days of Illinois, it took great courage for a young lawyer and budding politician to fight for Negro freedom."12 Lincoln contemporary John Bunn alleged the "reason Lincoln appeared in so few suits in behalf of negroes was because he didn't want to be a party to a violation of the Fugitive Slave law." Mr. Lincoln argued "the way was to repeal the law. In more than one case he suggested and advised that a few dollars be paid to buy off those who were holding the Negro."13 Not all of Lincoln's legal work, however, favored free slaves. The Matson case was a conspicuous example of Lincoln's work for an Illinois slaveholder.
In the fall of 1847, Lincoln went to Washington to serve a single term in Congress. He embraced few issues, but one was ending slavery in the nation's capital. Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote: "The elements of Lincoln's antislavery posture were essentially in place before he left for Washington in 1847: moral repugnance at the institution, sympathy for the slave, respect for the protection the federal constitution afford slavery, commitment to preserving social order, belief in the essential goodwill of the southern slaveholder, and the need for common, gradual action by North and South on a problem for which they shared responsibility."14 In Washington Lincoln found that the slavery issue was heating up. Historian Olivier Frayssé wrote that during Lincoln's congressional service, "The opponents of slavery took the offensive (at least with words) in two directions: first, the abolition of the slave trade and if possible of slavery itself in the District of Columbia, and, second, the rejection of the extension of the peculiar institution into the territories, whether 'ceded' from Mexico (expressed in the Wilmot Proviso) or located in Oregon. The creation of the Free Soil party in August 1848 and its participation in the presidential campaign reflected the importance of the anti-extension sentiment in the country."15 The party's emphasis was as much to protect economic opportunity for free whites as it was to prevent slavery's spread.
In the summer of 1848 Congressman Lincoln rose in the House to defend the ill-defined stance on the Wilmot Proviso by Whig presidential candidate Zachary Taylor. Six weeks later while campaigning in New England, Mr. Lincoln gave a more extensive defense of General Taylor and why a vote for the Free Soil Party would be a wasted vote for those who wanted to prevent the expansion of slavery to western territory. Lincoln was not so radical as some of his colleagues - nor could he be, considering his Illinois constituency. Fellow Whig Congressman Josiah R. Giddings of Ohio saw Taylor's election as an opportunity to strike a blow against slavery. Giddings biographer James Brewer Stewart wrote: "As soon as enough members arrived in Washington, [in December 1848], Giddings brought the antislavery congressmen together at Mrs. Sprigg's. Among the planners were Palfrey, Amos Tuck, Wilmot, Joseph M. Root of Ohio, and two New York ex-Barnburners, Daniel Gott and A. R. McIlwaine. The gatherings annoyed some of Gidding's conservative fellow boarders, including Abraham Lincoln... [who] never quite adjusted to sharing quarters with so radical a man as Giddings. Early in the session a dinner table discussion of slavery questions degenerated into name-calling and 'ill-humor.' Giddings and Lincoln tried to soothe hurt feelings, but Giddings concluded that the future 'Great Emancipator' had rather timid ideas about how to deal with the South."16
Giddings had an impact, however, on Lincoln. Lincoln's Democratic colleague Orlando B. Ficklin recalled his service in Congress with Lincoln: "I was elected, too, the same year, but had been before.... In those days we did not board at hotels while at Congress, but 'messed' together in groups of ten or twelve. Up to that time I had not known him to favor abolition. His views were common nebulous whiggery of his party; but he was thrown in a 'mess' with a set of Abolitionists, headed by Joshua R. Giddings. In this company his views chrystallized, and when he came out from them he was fixed in his ideas of the emancipation of the slaves. Thus unconsciously he was prepared for his part in the great drama of the civil war, and made ready for his eternal fame as the great American Liberator. He was an entire man. I have seen his rocky-featured face light up like a sea-fronting cliff bathed in dawn, while his dark eyes literally glowed as he asked for justice for his fellow-man."17
During his one congressional term Lincoln repeatedly voted for the Wilmot Proviso that would have prohibited slavery in new U.S. territory - if it had passed both houses of Congress. Lincoln said in 1854: "But, going back a little, in point of time, our war with Mexico broke out in 1846. When Congress was about adjourning that session, President Polk asked them to place two millions of dollars under his control, to be used by him in the recess, if found practicable and expedient, in negotiating a treaty of peace with Mexico, and acquiring some part of her territory. A bill was duly got up, for the purpose, and was progressing swimmingly, in the House of Representatives, when a member by the name of David Wilmot, a democrat of Pennsylvania, moved as an amendment "Provided that in any territory thus acquired, there shall never be slavery." Said Mr. Lincoln: "This is the origin of the far-famed "Wilmot Proviso."18
"It is difficult to make a correct estimate of Lincoln's Congressional career with reference to the slavery question....he was consistent in the matter of antislavery petitions, and he was almost consistent in voting against tabling resolutions or motions whose purpose was the shutting off of debate on slavery," wrote historian Donald W. Riddle. "Lincoln maintained the principle that there should be no extension of slavery into the areas where it did not then exist. But his votes show that he had no clear conception how this was to be accomplished." Riddle wrote: "His experience in Congress gave him the opportunity to see, as though in an arena, the ominous development which the slavery question was taking. Slavery was first of all a moral problem, and, as many a slaveholder...testified, it was morally indefensible."19
To his moral repulsion of slavery, Lincoln fused another principle. He was a firm believer in opportunity grounded in hard work; he found slavery to be contrary to his basic principles of economics and human rights. Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: "Slavery, in fact grated personally on Lincoln's self-made passion for work and social mobility, since it condemned one category of men to a lifetime of labor without the hope of improvement while turning another into a shiftless aristocracy that scored honest labor as 'slave work.'"20 In an undated note on slavery, Mr. Lincoln wrote: "The ant, who has toiled and dragged a crumb to his nest, will furiously defend the fruit of his labor, against whatever robber assails him. So plain, that the most dumb and stupid slave that ever toiled for a master, does constantly know that he is wronged. So plain that no one, high or low, ever does mistake it, except in a plainly selfish way; for although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself."21
Another core Lincoln principle was liberty, as defined by the Declaration of Independence of 1776.. Historian John T. Hubbell wrote that "as much as any public man of his day, he advocated the widest sharing in the American dream. His reentry into national politics in the wake of the exacerbated sectional conflict of the 1850s was predicated upon the ideas that slavery was an evil and that, in certain instance, racial bigotry was unworthy of a great nation. That his political fortunes, and those of his party, were tied to the geographical restriction of slavery, set him, and his party, apart from his political opponents. In the context of 1858 or 1860 (and 1948 or 1960), he could have been seen as something of a radical."22 In 1859 Mr. Lincoln wrote to German editor Theodore Canisius that "understanding the spirit of institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them. I have some little notoriety for commiserating the oppressed condition of the negro; and I should be strangely inconsistent if I should favor any project for curtailing the existing rights of white men, even though born in different lands and speaking different languages from myself."23 Freedom for all men was a core principle for Mr. Lincoln. Historian John W. Cooke explored how Lincoln advanced Americans the notion of freedom in thought and deed:
In his writings and speeches Lincoln developed at some length two ideas of freedom, one compatible with that of most Americans living in the free states (and many others as well), and the other a source of considerable discomfort and dismay to many. Seemingly, when Lincoln affirmed the right of Americans to exploit for their own benefit the enormous riches of the republic, and denied the right of the state to, in any significant way, restrain private use and abuse, he was voicing the views of large numbers of citizens. Circumstantial freedom was a glorious reality, and Americans continually celebrated it. America was great, Lincoln once commented, because 'every man can make himself.' For Lincoln, as for millions of his fellow Americans, the idea of justice seems to have meant little more than a man's being able to do as he pleased with all that was his own. 'The principle of "Liberty for all' - the principle that clears the path for all - gives hope to all - and by consequence, enterprise and industry, to all' was the source of American prosperity. And, so Lincoln reasoned, since this principle is best expressed in the Declaration of Independence, without that document there could have been neither free government nor prosperity.24
There are two primary kinds of evidence for Mr. Lincoln's convictions on freedom and slavery: (1) His state papers, including proclamations, speeches, messages to Congress and letters; and (2) Anecdotal recollections of conversations with Mr. Lincoln's friends and colleagues. For example, after listening to New York Senator William H. Seward speak in Boston during the 1848 presidential election, Congressman Lincoln reportedly told him: "I reckon you are right. We have got to deal with the slavery question, and got to give much more attention to it hereafter."25 Eleven years later, Mr. Lincoln wrote in notes for political speeches that the Americans "must have a national policy in regard [slavery] which deals with it as being a wrong."26 As president, Mr. Lincoln wrote in his Second Annual Message to Congress in December 1862: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free..."27
After his single term in Congress from 1847 to 1849, Lincoln returned to Springfield to practice law. He was effectively retired from politics for the next five years - except for occasional campaign speeches. But national concern about the future of slavery was growing. Historian William E. Gienapp wrote: "The passing of the second generation of the Republic weakened the forces of sectional adjustment in the country. The generation of [Henry] Clay, [Daniel] Webster, and [John] Calhoun had fashioned the great legislative compromises that defused various sectional crises, but after 1850 they were replaced by a new generation of political leaders less fearful of sectional agitation and less willing to compromise. As the strident debates of the late 1840s and the 1850s revealed, Congress was no longer a center of sectional moderation and good will."28
Passage of Kansas-Nebraska Act in May 1854 triggered sectional discord - and Lincoln's renewed interest in politics and slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 shook up American politics - and it shook Lincoln out of his political hibernation. George McGovern wrote: 'It was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Compromise of 1850, fueled by the Dred Scott decision in 1857, that pulled Lincoln back into politics. These events quickened his concern with slavery. He reemerged on the political scene, injecting, for the first time, a moral argument into the debate. In typical fashion he studied the history of slavery in the Americas, growing so confident in the subject that he believed he knew more about it than those who criticized his positions."29
Beginning in August 1854, Lincoln delivered a series of speeches against the legislation which permitted slavery to be introduced in the remaining Louisiana Territory of Kansas and Nebraska. The most memorable speeches came at Springfield on October 4 and Peoria on October 16. Lincoln friend J. M. Sturtevant noted Lincoln's Springfield audience was predominantly of "Southern origin and had those views of slavery which prevailed in the States from which they came." Yet, by establishing his arguments against slavery on "the deepest roots of natural justice," he persuaded his audience."30 Chicago journalist Horace White, who was 20 at the time, recalled the address in the Illinois State Capitol: "I heard the whole of that speech. It was a warmish day in early October, and Mr. Lincoln was in his shirt sleeves when he stepped on the platform. I observed that, although awkward, he was not in the least embarrassed. He began in a slow and hesitating manner, but without any mistakes of language, dates, or facts. It was evident that he had mastered his subject, that he knew what he was going to say, and that he knew he was right. He had a thin, high-pitched falsetto voice of much carrying power, that could be heard a long distance in spite of the bustle and tumult of a crowd. He had the accent and pronunciation peculiar to his native State, Kentucky. Gradually he warmed up with his subject. His angularity disappeared, and he passed into that attitude of unconscious majesty that is so conspicuous in Saint-Gaudens's statue at the entrance of Lincoln Park in Chicago."31 Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle wrote that Mr. Lincoln's Springfield "speech had a depth and seriousness about it which marked it off from those which had preceded it as clearly and sharply as the line between black and white. In three hours Lincoln had placed himself at the head of the Anti-Nebraska forces in Illinois."32 Lincoln's speeches that fall put him on the course to prominence as a politician and election as president in 1860. Historian John S. Wright wrote:
The most remarkable feature of the Peoria Speech was the way it foreshadowed almost every later Lincoln position. The need for moral alertness so much emphasized in 1858, the persistent flirtation with colonization, the suggestion of gradualism, these were constants. In an age of violent shifts and reversals by politicians, Lincoln's consistency was remarkable....But the stability of Lincoln's views argues, as does Herndon, that Lincoln's fundamental concepts about the moral question in politics had been thought out before the campaign opened in 1854. One necessary ingredient of the full reorientation in party organization required to fit the moral issue into the political process.33
In these speeches against the extension of slavery, Lincoln's impact on his audience was based on reason and analysis rather that rhetorical flourishes. White wrote: "Progressing with his theme, his words began to come faster and his face to light up with the rays of genius and his body to move in unison with his thoughts. His gestures were made with his body and head rather than with his arms. They were the natural expression of the man, and so perfectly adapted to what he was saying that anything different from it would have been quite inconceivable. Sometimes his manner was very impassioned, and he seemed transfigured with his subject. Perspiration would stream from his face, and each particular hair would stand on end. Then the inspiration that possessed him took possession of his hearers also. His speaking went to the heart because it came from the heart. I have heard celebrated orators who could start thunders of applause without changing any man's opinion. Mr. Lincoln's eloquence was of the higher type, which produced conviction in others because of the conviction of the speaker himself. His listeners felt that he believed every word he said, and that, like Martin Luther, he would go to the stake rather than abate one jot or tittle of it. In such transfigured moments as these he was the type of the ancient Hebrew prophet as I learned that character at Sunday-school in my childhood."34
Lincoln's 1854 appearances at Bloomington, Springfield, and Peoria came after lengthy speeches delivered in these communities by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the primary sponsor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Lincoln took a strong stand against the extension of slavery but confessed not to know what the solution was to extinguish slavery. He was uncompromising in his assertion of the humanity and rights of black Americans - a fact frequently denied by his opponents. At Peoria, Lincoln said: "Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature - opposition to it in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise - repeal all compromises - repeal the declaration of independence - repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak."35
Mr. Lincoln said repeatedly that America's Founders intended to end slavery. Historian Graham Alexander Peck argued: "By contending that the founders had opposed slavery, Lincoln took the same ground as Illinois' leading anti-Nebraska Democrat, Lyman Trumbull, and Illinois' leading political abolitionist, Ichabod Codding, thus illustrating an area of ideological accord that would later help to unify the disparate anti-Nebraska factions in the Republican Party. But Lincoln drew on the Declaration of Independence to condemn the Kansas-Nebraska Act far more than most anti-Nebraskites." Scholar David Zarefsky noted that the Kansas-Nebraska Act "changed the terms of political discourse, making the slavery issue not an isolated local matter but an issue charged with emotion and symbolism."36 Peck contended "that Lincoln and the Republicans inverted northern ideas about antislavery politics by attaching a powerful nationalist ideology to the antislavery movement. Their core proposition - that the nation was dedicated to freedom - resonated deeply in the free states. Adopting that doctrine, Republicans insisted that Congress possessed the power and the duty to exclude slavery from the territories."37
Mr. Lincoln knew that slavery should not be extended but he did not know how to end it. Historian LaWanda Cox wrote: "In 1854 Lincoln stated that had he the power, he would free the slaves but would be at a loss to know what next step to take. He would not make them 'politically and socially, our equals.' His feelings would 'not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment' was not the question. 'A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded can not be safely disregarded.' But he could not embrace the idea of freeing the blacks and then 'keep[ing] them among us as underlings,' for there was no certainty 'that this betters their condition.' Three years later, in supporting black colonization abroad, he argued that 'the negro is a man' and with bitterness and irony charged that 'Democrats deny his manhood; deny, or dwarf to insignificance, the wrong of his bondage;...excite hatred and disgust against him; compliment themselves as Union-savers for doing so.'"38
Mr. Lincoln recognized rather than embraced the racial attitudes of Illinois. He could not ignore the pernicious hold of racism in Illinois. To be anti-slavery in Illinois was certainly not to be pro-black rights. The free-soil movement that opposed the expansion of slavery was popular because it advanced the interests of northern whites who did not own slaves. Historian Leonard L. Richards wrote: "Some men and women clamored for free soil because they opposed slavery, or because they opposed its expansion. But others joined the free-soil ranks largely because they hated and feared blacks."39 Historian James D. Bilotta wrote that "Republican writers and journalists generally exhibited the same conservatism toward the future of the black man and the resolution of the slavery question as did Republican political figures. The welfare of the Caucasian and not the black remained the primary concern; if a policy was seen to protect and benefit white interests it was considered good."40 Historian Bruce Tap wrote: "There was little charitable sentiment towards African Americans in Illinois and, for that matter, throughout the Midwest. Although Illinois had significant antislavery and Free-Soil opinions, it would be a mistake to identify these feelings with a positive attitude toward blacks. In fact, Free-Soil determination to keep the western territories closed to slavery was often prompted by the desire to avoid contact with blacks altogether. The treatment of the free black community throughout the North demonstrated that racial prejudice was not a Southern monopoly."41
Abolitionists were particularly unpopular in Illinois, and Lincoln believed abolitionists to be impractical visionaries when it came to ending slavery. His law partner William H. Herndon had more activist notions than Mr. Lincoln. Historian Philip Van Doren Stern wrote that Mr. Lincoln "listened politically to his partner's abolitionist arguments but he would have none of them. He was willing enough to agree with Billy Herndon that slavery was an evil that must somehow, some day, be shaken off. But he could not tolerate the violence of expression and action that was associated with extreme abolitionism. He was essentially conservative, and the methods used by the abolitionists shocked and alienated him. Men like William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Theodore Parker (who was a good friend of [Lincoln law partner William H.] Herndon's and corresponded with him regularly) stood for principles of action that were repugnant to this cautious mind that had been devoted to legislation and that was trained in the horse-swapping policies of legal practice. He wanted to see slavery done away with just as much as they did, but he wanted to see it legislated out of existence, quietly, and over a long period of time, with some kind of compensation given to the slaveholders in exchange for their property."42 Still, contended Lincoln scholar Carl F. Wieck, "Unitarian minister and prominent abolitionist Theodore Parker...exerted pivotal but almost unperceived influence on Lincoln's thought and moral development, culminating with the Gettysburg Address and revealing that Lincoln had considerably stronger ties to abolitionism than has previously been suggested." Wieck wrote: "Although Lincoln cautiously preserved discreet public distance from avowed abolitionists like Parker, his private links to such men prove to have been closer than has generally been presumed, owing primarily to the vigilance he exercised in keeping the extent of his connections concealed."43
A politician hoping to be elected statewide had to hold his tongue and pen regarding some evident truths. Historian Kenneth M. Stamp noted: "Leon F. Litwack, in his study of the antebellum northern free Negro, and George M. Frederickson, in his analysis of nineteenth-century racism, have amply documented the prevalence of prejudice in the free states. William H. and Jane H. Pease have shown that even the abolitionists did not succeed entirely in transcending the racism of their time."44 Historian Gerald Sorin observed: "Republicans followed a prudent course between abolitionist demands and Northern racism. Their bow to anti-black sentiment was in large measure defensive. They felt that in order to have the power to abolish slavery, they must be politically successful. And this meant dissociating the party from the idea of equality. Thus, as the party moved toward emancipation, Lincoln and other Republicans insisted that they were not trying to 'Africanize' the North. Congressman George Julian and Senator Salmon P. Chase advanced the theory that emancipation would actually decrease the North's black population. Northern blacks, these Republican leaders predicted, would be attracted by the more congenial, 'natural' environment of the post-emancipation South, and would emigrate there."45
The Kansas-Nebraska Act had thrown American politics into disorder. "The opponents of the Nebraska bill in Illinois were ranged in three camps, as Whigs, Anti-Nebraska Democrats, and Free-Soilers or Republicans. Of the first Mr. Lincoln soon became the recognized leader," journalist Horace White recalled. "The second was without a distinctive head, but Lyman Trumbull, by the promptness and energy he had shown in combating the Nebraska bill in the St. Clair district, seemed to be the coming man. The Free-Soilers, were led by Owen Lovejoy and Ichabod Codding, two Congregational clergymen, whose lips had been touched by a live coal from off the altar of eternal justice."46 In 1855, Trumbull would defeat Lincoln in the legislative election for U.S. senator. While Trumbull went to Washington to combat Douglas, Lincoln would remain in Illinois and eventually become the titular leader of its emerging Republican Party. Douglas biographer Robert W. Johannsen noted: "Republicans were politically astute to demand the limitation of slavery and, at the same time, to refuse political equality to free Negroes. Beginning in the 1840's and definitely after 1854, the terms 'abolitionism' and 'antislavery' had different connotations for most westerners. Abolitionism as defined by a Negro writer in 1854 had a 'deeper significance and a wider scope' than freedom for slaves; it also included the 'collateral issues connected with human enfranchisement, independent of race [or] complexion.' On the other hand, antislavery meant opposition to the extension of the 'peculiar institution.' Furthermore, this was a concept which most westerners could accept because it coincided with what they considered their best interests. Since they believed the Negro inferior to the white man, westerners refused to accept them as equals on a political or social level. Understanding this attitude, Republican leaders, especially from the Middle West, made it sufficiently clear that they had no intention of uplifting the Negro or equalizing his place in society. For some Republicans such statements were merely political propaganda, for others they were true expressions of their own attitudes. Whichever they were, they helped the Republican party to acquire the electoral votes of the Middle West and to place their candidate in the White House."47
The Kansas-Nebraska Act had highlighted the rivalry and differences between Lincoln and Senator Douglas, with whom Lincoln had first engaged in extended political debates in 1839-1840. Douglas biographer George Milton Fort argued: "On many points Douglas and Lincoln agreed. Each wanted to preserve the Union, and to protect the States in their Constitutional rights. Each felt that chattel slavery would eventually be extinguished, each wished this to occur. But Douglas believed in the operation of economic laws and felt that the climate, soil and other natural characteristics of the Western Territories would make them free. He thought the Missouri Compromise repeal would not extend slavery, but would reduce Southern opposition to the formation of new Territories. A series of new free Territories would be established, finally the South would find competition too unprofitable and severe, and slavery would die a natural death. But the South would have no legitimate complaint, for its honor would have been respected and its constitutional rights scrupulously offered and maintained. This, to Douglas, was national ground."48
Slavery was a national problem. Mr. Lincoln believed that slavery should not be expanded, but he also understood that slavery's existence in the South was constitutionally protected. He was very careful not to demonize southerners nor to downplay northern responsibility for slavery. Historian Norman A. Graebner wrote: "If Lincoln believed slavery wrong in practice and principle, he did not share the fanaticism of the abolitionists. He was critical of slavery as an institution, but never of the South as a section."49 Mr. Lincoln did not blame southerners for slavery. Abolitionist minister Moncure Daniel Conway recalled President Lincoln telling him in 1862 that southerners "had become at an early day, when there was at least a feeble conscience against slavery, deeply involved commercially and socially with the institution. He pitied them heartily, all the more that it had corrupted them; and he earnestly advised us to use what influence we might have to impress on the people the feeling that they should be ready and eager to share largely the pecuniary losses to which the South would be subjected if emancipation should occur. It was the disease of the entire nation, and all must share the suffering of its removal."50 Historian T. Harry Williams observed: "Lincoln's opposition to the abolitionists, his entire position on the slavery issue, was in the best American pragmatic tradition. He was opposed to abolition because it would disrupt the Union, because it was not sound in the light of national experience or the realities of the moment. He was convinced that if slavery was penned up in the South and not permitted to expand it would eventually die a natural death. He wanted to make a needed change, right a right, but at the right time, while he was waiting he wanted to keep the machine of the Union running. He was against destroying the machine or getting a new one or adding a new part at the wrong time. The coming of the Civil War, the result of many men in the North and the South insisting that they were going to impose their inner opinions on other people, ended Lincoln's hopes for a kind of patient emancipation."51 The crux of Lincoln's position was opposition to the spread of slavery. He knew that under the Constitution, there was no tool to eradicate it in the South. Lincoln scholar Lucas Morel wrote: "Throughout his public career, Lincoln...viewed the emancipation of American slaves not as a near-term possibility but as the eventual product of an ever-progressing, ever-liberating American union devoted to restricting the spread of slavery."52
What Lincoln clearly believed was that the existing problem, slavery, should not be allowed to grow. During the 1850s Abraham Lincoln professed to see no clear resolution to America's slavery problems. Historian Norman Graebner wrote: "For Lincoln human responsibility stopped at the extremity of human power just as human responsibility began at the point where human power commenced. He recognized the essential fact that it was the racial aspect of the slavery question that tormented the nation. For this problem no one had a solution, least of all the abolitionists."53 Lincoln also recognized that the continued domination of the national government by slaveowners would lead to slavery's extension in the country. Historian Don E. Fehrenbacher wrote that "much of the motivation for antislavery agitation was only indirectly connected with the Negro. For example, the prime target often seemed to be not so much slavery as the 'slave power,' arrogant, belligerent, and overrepresented in all branches of the federal government."54
The truth was that southern slaveowners had a near stranglehold on the country. Historian Leonard L. Richards noted that in the early 19th Century, "a slaveholding oligarchy ran the country - and ran it for their own advantage."55 Richards wrote "that slavemasters had far more power than their numbers warranted, In the sixty-two years between Washington's election and the Compromise of 1850, for example, slaveholders controlled the presidency for fifty years, the [House] Speaker's chair for forty-one years, and the chairmanship of House Ways and Means for forty-two years."56 Slaves also represented economic power. Historian James M. McPherson wrote: "Slaves were the principal form of wealth in the South - indeed in the nation as a whole. The market value of the four million slaves in 1860 was close to $3 billion - more than the value of land, of cotton, or of anything else in the slave states, and more than the amount of capital invested in manufacturing and railroads combined for the whole United States." McPherson wrote: "The centrality of slavery to 'the Southern way of life' had long focused the region's politics on defense of the institution....But with the rise of the cotton kingdom, slavery became in the eyes of Southern whites by the 1830s a 'positive good' for black and white alike."57 Eventually, Republicans would seize on opposition to "slave power" as a key political concept. Historian Historian William E. Gienapp wrote that the "ambiguity" of "slave power" "offered certain advantages, for it allowed Republican orators to shift its meaning somewhat to support most effectively their argument."58 The impact of slavery on the American economy was pervasive. William Lee Miller wrote: "In 1861, as Lincoln took office, American slavery was a huge, entrenched, enormously powerful, fiercely defended and increasingly profitable institution. The half-million slaves present at the nation's beginning had grown now to four million, or one-eighth of the nation's population. Slavery was not only an enormous economic force in itself but had fundamental ties to other industries - cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, indigo - and the whole economy, indirectly."59 Gienapp wrote: "Apprehension that slavery would become national was not an infrequent theme voiced by a few excited politicians; it permeated Republican thought after 1856, and its advocates included the party's most thoughtful spokesmen."60
As Mr. Lincoln feared, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 lit the fires of slavery agitation that led to violence in Kansas between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions, and ultimately led to the Civil War. Scholar David Zarefsky wrote: "The Lecompton struggle [of 1857] made plain the counterproductive effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Not only had it not promoted local self-government, but it had also, in [James] Rawley's words, 'elicited the worst traits from the American people: fraud in voting, guerrilla fighting, sophistical logic, trickery, terrorism, passion, insult, extreme partisanship, murder, and underpinning all else - a vicious racialism.' It also marked the practical end of the dispute over slavery in the territories."61
Mr. Lincoln's fears about slavery's expansion were also legitimate. Contrary to Douglas, slavery was not effectively barred by climate or geography from any portion of the United States. In Time on the Cross, economists Robert W. Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman demonstrated that slavery was an invasive plant that could take root anywhere.62 Furthermore, southern politicians and their northern allies had plans for slavery's expansion. Historian William E. Gienapp noted:"Too little attention has been given to the compromise plan [Jefferson] Davis introduced following Lincoln's election. The Mississippi senator proposed a constitutional amendment to put slave property on the same footing as any other property and to exempt such property from impairment by Congress or any state or territory. His amendment would have essentially legalized slavery in every state in the Union. Here, and not some crack-brained class theory of slavery, was the logical outcome of the slaveholders' philosophy."63
Lincoln worried about northern racism and about the limitations that the U.S. Constitution placed on any efforts to eradicate slavery in the South. Prejudice was prevalent in the North as well as the South. Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote: "The [Republican] party was both more and less than 'the Christian party in politics', but in the eyes of northern antislavery moralists it deserved that name more than any other political force they had known. In Lincoln, with his mix of lawyerly, constitutional conservatism and unyielding, earnest moralist, they had a standard bearer admirably suited to their combined needs as pragmatic coalition builders and high-minded crusaders."64 Historian Kenneth J. Winkle wrote: "Throughout Lincoln's rhetoric and later his policy on both slavery and antislavery ran a profound commitment to do everything possible to enforce the law. As a lawyer, he felt a sacred obligation to defend the interests of his clients, whatever they might be."65 As president, he felt a sacred obligation to enforce the Constitution, not his own moral beliefs.
The Dred Scott case was designed in the 1850s to be a test of the Supreme Court - where it was argued in February 1856. Scott's ownership had been manipulated to test the legality of his slavery; after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of his owners, they immediately emancipated him despite the adverse ruling of the court against Scott. The Dred Scott decision issued by the Supreme Court in March 1857 deepened Lincoln's concerns about the expansion of slavery after a temporary sojourn in free states. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that not only could Congress not restrict slavery, but that blacks could not be American citizens. Historian David M. Potter wrote: "There were two substantive questions in the case, but for technical reasons it seemed uncertain whether either had to be answered. First was the question of whether Dred Scott was a citizen of the state of Missouri in the sense that would make him eligible to bring a suit against a citizen of another state....Second was the question of whether residence in Illinois or in Wisconsin Territory had made Scott free and whether the antislavery law of the latter was constitutional."66 Historian George Milton Fort wrote that "critical analysis established that the main essential agreement of five or more Justices was that Dred Scott was still a slave and therefore not a citizen, from which fact the Federal Court had no jurisdiction. Particularly significant is that fact that the Chief Justice's elaborate statement that a Negro could not be a citizen within the purview of the Constitution was not the opinion of the Court, for only four Justices held that the plea in abatement that Scott was a Negro was before the Court....A majority were agreed that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Not only did this mean that Scott remained a slave, but also that slavery had national constitutional establishment and Congress could not prohibit it in a Territory."67 The Dred Scott decision confirmed Lincoln's worst fears about the spread of slavery. Lincoln scholar Harry V. Jaffa wrote: "Lincoln's 1857 response to Dred Scott is among his most remarkable dialectical tours de force."68 In a speech in Springfield in late June, Lincoln said:
"Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, admits that the language of the Declaration is broad enough to include the whole human family, but he and Judge Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument did not intend to include negroes, by the fact that they did not at once, actually place them on an equality with the whites. Now this grave argument comes to just nothing at all, by the other fact, that they did not at once, or ever afterwards, actually place all white people on an equality with one or another. And this is the staple argument of both the Chief Justice and the Senator, for doing this obvious violence to the plain unmistakable language of the Declaration. I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal - equal in 'certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This they said, and this meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere. The assertion that 'all men are created equal' was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be, thank God, it is now proving itself, a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should re-appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack."69
Lincoln's position for equality was gained strength and depth. Historian LaWanda Cox wrote: "In 1854 Lincoln stated that had he the power, he would free the slaves but would be at a loss to know what next step to take. He would not make them 'politically and socially, our equals.' His feelings would 'not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. Whether this feeling accords with justice and sound judgment' was not the question. 'A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded can not be safely disregarded.' But he could not embrace the idea of freeing the blacks and then 'keep[ing] them among us as underlings,' for there was no certainty 'that this betters their condition.' Three years later, in supporting black colonization abroad, he argued that 'the negro is a man' and with bitterness and irony charged that 'Democrats deny his manhood; deny, or dwarf to insignificance, the wrong of his bondage;...excite hatred and disgust against him; compliment themselves as Union-savers for doing so.'"70
Like the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott ignited a firestorm of controversy in the North. Historian David M. Potter wrote that the decision "made freedom local - an attribute of those states which abolished slavery, but not of the United States; it made slavery national, in the sense that slavery would be legal in any part of the United States where a state government had not abolished it. Apart from the morality of it, this was a ruinous decision because, in the process of splitting logical hairs, it arrived at a result which converted the charter of freedom into a safeguard of slavery."71 As he did in 1854, Lincoln spoke out strongly against the potential spread of slavery. Mr. Lincoln "had made slavery a moral and not a legal issue, and he had propounded the disruptive idea of overriding the Supreme Court decision and of outlawing slavery in the new territories," according to Winston Churchill. "He felt instinctively the weakness and impermanence of this new concession to the susceptibilities of the South. He realised that as the agitation for abolition grew, so the Southerners would demand further guarantees to protect their own peculiar slave society."72
Lincoln's response to the Dred Scott decision, like his response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, demonstrated the political principles he would take into the presidency. As Mr. Lincoln said at his debate with Senator Douglas in Alton on October 15, 1858: "What has ever threatened our liberty and property save and except this institution of Slavery?"73
There was a great deal at stake, according to Mr. Lincoln's reasoning - especially in the 1858 Senate campaign against two-term incumbent Stephen A. Douglas. Historian Stephen B. Oates wrote that in Mr. Lincoln's "view, the Southern-controlled Democratic party - the party that dominated the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the presidency - had instituted a revolt against the Founding Fathers and the entire course of the Republic so far as slavery was concerned. Now human bondage was not going to die out. Now it was going to expand and grow and continue indefinitely, as Southerners dragged manacled Negroes across the West, adapting slave labor to whatever conditions they found there, putting the blacks to work in mines and on farms."74 Historian Theodore Clarke Smith wrote: "The debates showed from the start that although Douglas had voted with the Republican against the Lecompton constitution [in Kansas], there was no real ground of common principle between them. He attacked Lincoln, precisely as he would have done in 1854, with the charge that he was an abolitionist, a member of a sectional party whose success would imperil the Union."75 As he had in 1854, Lincoln in 1858 continued to attack Douglas's doctrine of popular sovereignty - that the future of slavery should be decided by residents of territory as it was organized. Historian Harry V. Jaffa wrote: "Lincoln's ever-repeated theme throughout the debates was that in a popular government statues and decisions are rendered possible or impossible of execution by public sentiment."76 Lincoln understood that was established in a territory, slavery would be nearly impossible to extinguish. And that would be wrong because slavery was wrong. For Lincoln, slavery involved "the eternal struggle between these two principles - right and wrong - throughout the world." In his 1858 debate at Alton, Lincoln contended: "They are the two principles that have stood face to face from beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle."77
The slavery debate in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act fueled the formation of the Republican Party as an alternative to the dying Whig Party, the short-lived American Party, and the splintering Democratic Party. In 1856, Lincoln abandoned the Whigs and helped form the Illinois Republican Party though he worried that it would not find any support in southern Illinois. Attorney Henry Clay Whitney joined Mr. Lincoln on the train to the first Republican state convention in Bloomington. He recalled: "Lincoln was extremely anxious to know if there were any delegates on board the train, en route to the convention. He requested me to make inquiry in that direction of the few passengers; which I found some excuse for declining to do; so Lincoln himself went to the forward and end of the car, and gazed through the list as he paced slowly back to where I sat deeply engaged with 'The Howadji in Syria.' 'I really would like to know if any of these men are from down south, going to the convention,' said he. 'I don't see any harm in asking them,' I replied. 'I believe I will,' he said, at last; and he left me to perform his errand. In fifteen or twenty minutes he came back, his face radiant with happiness; he had found two delegates from Marion County. The point was this: Southern Illinois was thoroughly hostile to 'black republican' ideas; and Lincoln's hope was to discern any sentiment down there in that line."78 Whitney recalled: "Throughout all the various steps preceding and during the entire work of the convention, Lincoln was active, alert, energetic and enthusiastic. I never saw him more busily engaged, more energetically at work, or with his mind and heart so thoroughly enlisted," wrote Whitney. At the end of the convention, Lincoln was called on to give the convention's last speech - a energetic update of his arguments in 1854. Whitney wrote: "I never in my whole life up to this day heard a speech so thrilling as this one from Lincoln. No one was present will forget its climax. I have since talked with many who were present and all substantially concur in enthusiastic remembrances of it."79 Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote: "Observing the success of the Bloomington convention, the usually self-contained Lincoln must have felt a sense of euphoria and release. The meeting was, if not the culmination, at least a major landmark on the way to establishing the effective political force for which Lincoln had implicitly called in his response to the Nebaska Act."80 Lincoln's own dramatic speech closing the convention reaffirmed his own leadership role.
Over the next four years, Lincoln became one of the party's leading orators against slavery and Stephen A. Douglas, whom he opposed for the Senate in 1858 and for President in 1860. He kicked off the 1858 campaign with his "House Divided" speech at the Republican convention in Springfield that nominated him to run against Douglas. In that speech he laid out the case that there was a slaveholder conspiracy among former President Franklin Pierce, President James Buchanan, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, and Douglas. Lincoln's fear about the growth of slavery and slave power continued in 1850s.81 Lincoln later claimed to "clearly see..a powerful plot to make slavery universal and perpetual."82 Historian Harry V. Jaffa wrote that "Not only Buchanan, but others - including Alexander Stephens, who was a cousin of Supreme Court Justice Daniel - were in correspondence with members of Court. How many were privy to the effort to have the Court decide as it did is impossible to say. What is indubitable is that the proslavery political combination that placed Buchanan in the White House knew that majority of the Supreme Court shared its political passion and would use its authority to place the interests of slavery beyond the control of electoral majorities. Lincoln's charge in the House Divided speech of a conspiracy to make slavery national was certainly well founded."83 Historian William C. Harris wrote that "in 1858 the House Divided Speech damaged his prospects for defeating Douglas."84 Jaffa wrote: "For Lincoln...the entire antebellum debate came down to the question of whether the Negro was or was not a human being. If he was a human being, then he was included in the proposition that all men are created equal. If he was included in that proposition then it was a law of nature antecedent to the Constitution that he ought to be free and that civil society has as its originating purpose the security of his freedom and of the fruits of his labor under law."85
The 1858 campaign involved competing accusations of conspiracies. Douglas charged that Lincoln supporters and Buchanan Democrats were working together in "an unholy, unnatural alliance."86 Lincoln wasn't making things up. Historian Richard H. Sewell wrote that "when Lincoln warned that the Slave Power's next step might be to obtain a court ruling protecting slave property in all states he may have had in mind a case already before New York courts, one which many feared would, on appeal, give Taney and his associates a pretext to do just that."87 Scholar David Zarefsky wrote that "the conspiracy argument was capable of creative embellishment. Since it emphasized the threat to the self-interest of Northern whites rather than to the slaves, the threat could be rendered more urgent and the need for action more immediate."88 Speaking in Carlinville in August, 1858, Lincoln said slavery "is now advancing to become lawful everywhere. The Nebraska bill introduced this era - and it was gotten up by a man who twice voted for the Wilmot Proviso and the extention of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. This change in our national policy is decided to be constitutional - although the court would not decide the only question before them - whether Dred Scott was a slave or not - and did decide, too, that a territorial legislature cannot exclude slavery in behalf of the people, and if their premises be correct a state cannot exclude it - for they tell us that the negro is property anywhere in the light that horses are property in negroes above the jurisdiction of the territorial laws, enacted in the sovereignty of the people - it only requires another case and another favorable decision from the same court to make the rights of property alike in states as well as territories, and that by virtue of the constitution and disregard of local laws to the contrary - Buchanan takes this position now."89
Lincoln tried to present his arguments against slavery in a logical but persuasive way. Reviewing Lincoln's euclidean arguments at Ottawa in 1858, historian Gerald Prokopowicz wrote: "What Lincoln was doing here is clear. He believed that slavery was incompatible with republican self-government, and he wanted to prevent it from spreading. To do this, he had to persuade an audience that shared his opponent's unquestionng belief in white supremacy. Lincoln recognized the existence of political and social white domination (how could he not?) And had no objection to benefiting from it, but unlike Douglas he did not believe that it was rooted in an inherent natural order, one in which only people of European descent possessed natural rights. Douglas tried to conflate the issues of natural rights and civil rights at every opportunity. Lincoln wanted to keep them as separate as possible, because only then could his antislavery argument (based on natural rights) hope to prevail. One way of demonstrating this separation was by proclaiming his view in favor of one but not the other. He offered voters a model that would allow them to join him in opposing the spread of slavery without giving up their belief in white supremacy and especially without endorsing social and political equality (including black voting and racial intermarriage)."90 Frank Coburn wrote: "Lincoln's axiom that Blacks were human and his doctrine that every human had the right to rise, based on his ability, was his main contribution to debates on slavery. These two commonsensical, but enlightened notions combined to form a congruous stance that he repeatedly stated during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. While not conceding the white man's domination over the black man, Lincoln was able to innocuously denounce slavery and, thus, maintain a chance for political victory."91
Mr. Lincoln's speech-making had a great effect during the period - inside and outside of Illinois. Hugh McCullough, who would become the third secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln, later recalled: "The first time I saw and heard him was at Indianapolis, shortly after the conclusion of his debate with Mr. Douglas. Careless of his attire, ungraceful in his movements, I thought as he came forward to address the audience that was the most ungainly figure I had ever seen upon a platform. Could this be Abraham Lincoln whose speeches I had read with so much interest and admiration - this plain, dull-looking man the one who had successfully encountered in debate one of the most gifted speakers of his time? The question was speedily answered by the speech. The subject was slavery - its character, its incompatibility with Republican institutions, its demoralizing influences upon society, its aggressiveness, its rights as limited by the Constitution; all of which were discussed with such clearness, simplicity, earnestness, and force as to carry me with him to the conclusion that the country could not long continue part slave and part free - that freedom must prevail throughout the length and breadth of the land, or that the great Republic, instead of being the home of the free and the hope of the oppressed, would become a by-word and a reproach among the nations."92 Historian William C. Harris wrote:
In taking the stump again, Lincoln was motivated by a deep desire to defeat Douglas and his Democratic supporters. Personal ambition still played a role in Lincoln's motivation, but arguably not to the extent that it did during his early years in politics. Douglas and the Democrats, Lincoln was convinced, had undermined the virtuous republic of the Founding Fathers, by permitting, if not encouraging, the extension of slavery and refusing to take a moral stand against the institution....Though Lincoln's approach to resisting slavery was fundamentally conservative, he expected that, given the passage of time, and the repudiation of Douglas's invidious 'don't care' policy toward the institution, the republic would again be placed on the progressive road of freedom and equality that the Founders had envisioned for it.93
Others have been less charitable about the motivation of Lincoln and his fellow Republicans. Historian Kenneth M. Stamp wrote that "historians such as Berwanger and Woodward [viewed] the Republican crusade against slavery expansion with considerable skepticism. In stressing anti-black rather than anti-slavery attitudes among Republicans, Berwanger admitted that the extent to which race prejudice motivated opposition to slavery expansion could not be measured precisely. Yet, he argued, 'if 79.5 per cent of the people of Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Kansas voted to exclude the free Negro [from their states] simply because of their prejudice, surely this antipathy influenced their decisions to support the nonextension of slavery.' Given the prevailing racial attitudes, 'Republicans were politically astute to demand the limitation of slavery and, at the same time, to refuse political equality to free Negroes.' Woodward concluded that in the context of Republican racism it was possible for 'some of the bitterest antiabolitionists...[to become] prominent antislavery politicians in the 1850s.'"94
Lincoln himself tried to differentiate his arguments against the extension of slavery from questions of racial prejudice. Historian Stephen B. Oates wrote that Lincoln "complained bitterly that race was not the issue between him and Douglas. The issue was whether slavery would ultimately triumph or ultimately perish in the United States. But Douglas understood the depth of anti-Negro feeling in Illinois, and he hoped to whip Lincoln by playing on white racial fear."95 Illinois was a fundamentally racist state - perhaps the most racist state in the North. Richard Lawrence Miller wrote that according to Illinois statues: "Every black or mulatto person who shall be found in this state, and not having such a certificate as is required by this act, shall be deemed a runaway slave or servant."96 Historian George M. Fredrickson wrote: "In 1853, Illinois enacted what the historian Eugene Berwanger has called 'undoubtedly the most severe anti-Negro measure passed by a free state. It stipulated heavy fines and even prison sentences for anyone (other than slaveowners just passing through with their slaves) who brought blacks into the state - possibly to act as servants or low-paid workers. Blacks who independently crossed the border into Illinois and remained for more than ten days were subject to a fine of 40 dollars (a substantial sum at the time), which had to be paid immediately. If, as would normally be the case, the accused could not pay the fine, his labor would be auctioned off to the highest bidder for a term negotiated at the time of the sale."97
Historian Bruce Tap noted: "There was little charitable sentiment towards African Americans in Illinois and, for that matter, throughout the Midwest. Although Illinois had significant antislavery and Free-Soil opinions, it would be a mistake to identify these feelings with a positive attitude toward blacks. In fact, Free-Soil determination to keep the western territories closed to slavery was often prompted by the desire to avoid contact with blacks altogether. The treatment of the free black community throughout the North demonstrated that racial prejudice was not a Southern monopoly."98 Lincoln scholar Douglas L. Wilson wrote that "no politician of that day could be elected to statewide office in Illinois if he was even suspected of advocating social or political equality for blacks..."99 Lincoln had the challenge of framing his support for human equality against the background of a racist electorate. His arguments were carefully constructed. Lincoln scholar Fred Kaplan wrote: "Southern and Northern race prejudice was too powerful a force to disregard. But 'it does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted.' The national will and treasury could be directed toward programs that would lead to slavery's eventual elimination. Persuasion was the only sensible and viable weapon of choice. Since neither history nor human nature could readily be changed, the best strategy was an appeal to an ideal moral standard and to gradual emancipation."100 Historian George M. Fredrickson concluded that "there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Lincoln's numerous statements, public and private, to the effect that he detested slavery and opposed it in principle. Nevertheless, as he also pointed out on many occasions, his reverence for the Constitution and the rule of law precluded any action beyond limiting slavery's expansion. Lincoln was an ambitious politician, but it would be the height of cynicism not to take him at his word on these matters. His very success as a politician can be attributed in large part to his power in articulating these antislavery ideas and values, which he could not have done nearly so effectively had he not believed in them himself."101
Political success on the issue of slavery required political moderation disdained by the abolitionists. Lincoln was not a protester; he was a politician interested in having his views become legislation. Historian William E. Gienapp wrote that "reasonable and thoughtful party spokesmen, most notably Seward and Lincoln, who were by the end of the decade the party's two most prominent leaders, presented a much more restrained point of view. While both men cautiously suggest the existence of a conspiracy to extend slavery, they generally avoided the word; instead, they spoke loosely of a plan, design, or preconcert, or used the metaphor of coordinated efforts (Lincoln's reference to the building of a platform in which various Democratic leaders each contribute a precut piece, all of which fit perfectly together, is well known). As leaders of the moderates, always the largest group in the party, what Seward and Lincoln emphasized, and what historians have unduly slighted, was the tendency of events. What direction, they asked in great earnestness was the nation headed? What would a reasonable man conclude was the probably outcome of the crisis." 102
When Mr. Lincoln was invited to New York City to give a speech in February 1860, he saw an opportunity for the first time to expand his influence beyond the Midwest and to make his arguments on slavery to an eastern audience. He gave a speech at Cooper Union on February 27 in which he reviewed the history of slavery in America and decimated southern rationales for pro-slavery positions and actions. That address generated many invitations for additional speeches in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire over the next two weeks. In Hartford, Lincoln illustrated the difficulty of dealing with slavery by comparing the institution to a rattlesnake. Mr. Lincoln returned to the rattlesnake analogy speaking in New Haven the next day as he attacked the positions taken by Senator Stephen A. Douglas:
If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road, any man would say I might seize the nearest stick and kill it; but if I found that snake in bed with my children, that would be another question. [Laughter.] I might hurt the children more than the snake, and it might bite them. [Applause.] Much more, if I found it in bed with my neighbor's children, and I had bound myself by a solemn compact not to meddle with his children under any circumstances, it would become me to let that particular mode of getting rid of the gentleman alone. [Great laughter.] But if there was a bed newly made up, to which the children were to be taken, and it was proposed to take a batch of young snakes and put them there with them, I take it no man would say there was any question how I ought to decide! [Prolonged applause and cheers.]
That is just the case! The new Territories are the newly made bed to which our children are to go, and it lies with the nation to say whether they shall have snakes mixed up with them or not. It does not seem as if there could be much hesitation what our policy should be! [Applause.]
Now I have spoken of a policy based on the idea that Slavery is wrong, and a policy based upon the idea that it is right. But an effort has been made for a policy that shall treat it as neither right or wrong. It is based upon utter indifference. Its leading advocate has said "I don't care whether it be voted up or down.'' [Laughter.] "It is merely a matter of dollars and cents." "The Almighty has drawn a line across this continent, on one side of which all soil must forever be cultivated by slave labor, and on the other by free;" "when the struggle is between the white man and the negro, I am for the white man; when it is between the negro and the crocodile, I am for the negro." Its central idea is indifference. It holds that it makes no more difference to us whether the Territories become free or slave States, than whether my neighbor stocks his farm with horned cattle or puts it into tobacco. All recognize this policy, the plausible sugar-coated name of which is "popular sovereignty."103
Publicity from the Cooper Union speech helped to deliver the Republican presidential nomination. A year later, after he took office as president, Lincoln as chief executive progressively expanded the focus of his administration from preservation of the Union to emancipation of all American slaves. Nevertheless, observed scholars James O. Horton and Lois E. Horton: "Lincoln's prospective rise to the White House did not convince African Americans that Republicans were necessarily their allies. Even beyond Lincoln's words, there was overwhelming evidence that the party did not support black rights. Many Republican leaders courting white northern votes had made it clear that a stand against the spread of slavery was not a stand for racial equality."104 Republicans like Lincoln understood, however, that slavery was wrong and must eventually be abolished. Historian Herman Belz wrote of Civil War Republicans: "What was impressive about the Republican party was its rapid and on the whole unified advance to the conclusion that military emancipation was an indispensable means of preserving the Union."105
Although the South was horrified by his November 1860 election as president and considered him a radical, Mr. Lincoln viewed himself as conservative slavery. Lincoln scholar Harry V. Jaffa wrote: "It is true that Lincoln's election, by ensuring that slavery would not be extended to any territory, and thus that no more slave states would be added to the Union, destined the slave states to become an ever smaller fraction of the expanding Union."106 Historian William C. Harris wrote: "Lincoln identified himself as a 'conservative' because, as he explained, he favored a strong American commitment to the principles of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the laws, which included opposition to the expansion of slavery. He did not think that the Democrats, including Douglas, were true conservatives."107 In his Cooper Union address in February 1860, Mr. Lincoln had said: "Again, you say we have made the slavery question more prominent than it formerly was. We deny it. We admit that it is more prominent, but we deny that we made it so. It was not we, but you, who discarded the old policy of the fathers. We resisted, and still resist, your innovation; and thence comes the greater prominence of the question. Would you have that question reduced to its former proportions? Go back to that old policy. What has been will be again, under the same conditions. If you would have the peace of the old times, readopt the precepts and policy of the old times."108
In the winter of 1860-61 as he readied himself to confront the secession of southern states, President-elect Lincoln saw clear limits to what the federal government could and could not do about slavery. Historian Kenneth M. Stampp contended: "The President-elect's past attitude toward slavery made it evident that he was no 'doctrinaire.' To be sure, he was no apologist for Negro servitude; and he had wholeheartedly endorsed the Republican demand that it be confined to its present limits. Once, in his 'House Divided' speech [in June 1858], he had even subscribed to the essence of the 'irrepressible conflict' theory. But that was not typical; his debates with Douglas and later public statements were characterized by their conservatism. Not only did he confess the right of Southerners to hold their human property, but he admitted an obligation to respect the fugitive-slave law and denied any belief in racial equality. His position was, in fact the lowest common denominator of the Republican antislavery creed. It was that of the majority moderate, respectable, and 'sound' Yankees."109
Although President Lincoln made clear that the purpose of the Civil War was to preserve the Union, the issue of slavery could not be dismissed. One of the first tests of the Lincoln Administration in the Civil War was how to deal with escaped southern slaves. "On May ...a reconnaissance party from the First Vermont Volunteers slipped over the causeway that linked Fortress Monroe to the mainland and drove off rebel pickets around the village of Hampton," wrote historian Allen C. Guelzo. "The Hamptonites promptly fled inland, leaving behind their slaves, who now milled around happily with Northern soldiers. That evening, three of these slaves talked their way through the Vermonters' picket lines, and the next morning, they were brought before Fortress Monroe's commandant, Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler."110 Guelzo noted that "it was no easy matter to distinguish between runaways who really were contraband - in other words, slaves who had been conscripted by the Confederates as military laborers - and runaways who were simply runaways."111 At the end of July 1861, General Butler, an accomplished Massachusetts lawyer, asked Secretary of War Cameron was to do with the escaped slaves who had come through Union lines in Virginia: "I have, therefore, now within the peninsula, this side of Hampton Creek, nine hundred negroes, three hundred of whom are able-bodied men, thirty of whom are men substantially past hard labor, one hundred and seventy-five women, two hundred and twenty-five children under the age of ten years, and one hundred and seventy between ten and eight years, and many more coming in. The questions which this state of facts present are very embarrassing."
First. What shall be done with them? And, Second. What is their state and condition? Upon these questions I desire the instruction of the department.
The first question, however, may perhaps be answered by considering the last. Are these men, women, and children slaves? Are they free? Is their condition that of men, women and children, or of property, or is it a mixed relation? What their status was under the constitution and laws, we all know. What has been the effect of a rebellion and a state of war upon that status? When I adopted the theory of treating the able-bodied negro fit to work in the trenches as property liable to be used in aid of rebellion, and so contraband of war, that condition of things was so far met, as I then and still believe, on a legal and constitutional basis.
After discussing the issue further, Butler wrote "that my own mind is compelled by this reasoning to look upon them as men and women. If not free born, yet free, manumitted, sent forth from the hand that held them, never to be reclaimed."112 Historian Thomas J. Goss wrote: "Secretary Cameron, when presented with a new policy that so eloquently left the legal status of 'contrabands' ambiguous, had little choice but to heartily approve. Butler, merging his power as a general officer with his political savvy, had consequently originated a new policy on one of the most divisive issues of the war."113 The resulting "contraband" policy would eventually lead to the emancipation proclamation for slaves in seceding states. But the rights of slave owners continued in areas loyal to the Union. Cameron replied to Butler on August 8: "It is the desire of the President that all existing rights, in all the States, be fully respected and maintained. The war now prosecuted on the part of the Federal Government is a war for the Union, and for the preservation of all constitutional rights of States, and the citizens of the States, in the Union. Hence, no question can arise as to fugitives from service within States and Territories in which the authority of the Union is fully acknowledged. The ordinary forms of judicial proceeding, which must be respected by military and civil authorities alike, will suffice for the enforcement of all legal claims."
But in States wholly or partially under insurrectionary control, where the laws of the United States are so far opposed and resisted that they cannot be effectually enforced, it is obvious that rights dependent on the execution of those laws must, temporarily, fail; and it is equally obvious that rights dependent on the laws of the States, within which military operations are conducted, must be necessarily subordinated to the military exigencies created by the insurrection, if not wholly forfeited by the treasonable conduct of parties claiming them. To this general rule, rights to services can form no exception.114
Secretary of War Cameron then went on to cite the First Confiscation Act passed by Congress two days earlier which "declares that if persons held to service shall be employed in hostility to the United States, the right to their services shall be forfeited, and such persons shall be discharged therefrom. It follows, of necessity, that no claim can be recognized by the military authorities of the Union to the services of such persons when fugitives."115 The Lincoln Administration did not actively push the application of the Confiscation Acts - a second one was passed a year later - but those acts did point the direction of Union policy concerning slaves. Lincoln scholar Frank Williams wrote: "Very little property was ever confiscated as a result of the Act. It was widely regarded as an anti-slavery measure because of its emancipation provision for freeing the slaves of those 'engaged in rebellion.' But the act did little to free slaves. Lincoln did much more a few months later with his more famous Emancipation Proclamation."116 Williams noted: "Although the military seized enemy property needed for their own use, the two Confiscation Acts placed its administration in the hands of civil officers and civil courts. So lacking in uniformity were the proceedings in the several judicial districts, and so vigorous the competition of the military for jurisdiction, that the President found it expedient to lodge supervision in the hands of the Attorney General. Some have suggested that Edward Bates' conservatism helped make the Confiscation Act an unimportant part of the Union war effort. His instructions to Marshals and district attorneys stipulated that only the property of persons arrested, prosecuted, and found guilty could be seized."117
But civil and military authorities had to confront another reality of military operations and the movement of slaves to liberate themselves. Historian Philip Shaw Paludan wrote: "While the war continued, the army needed to control the thousands of blacks who rushed away from slavery and asked for military protection. Moreover, white constituencies in both North and South still needed courting. Southern Unionists would be more attracted by conservative than by radical changes in race relations; one within the Union fold they might be willing to take longer steps. Northern moderates and conservatives watched attentively for signs that Lincoln and his administration were not the 'amalgamationists' and 'revolutionaries' that the Democrats invoked at election time. The race card had been potent in past elections; Lincoln knew the power it retained."118 Black slaves were used to support the military effort - either directly at the war front or back on plantations. Historian Edna Greene Medford wrote that "Confederate forces made ample (if noncombatant) use of enslaved laborers on the plantations. After having first impressed free black men into service for the Confederacy, the rebels secured (initially through voluntary effort of the owners and later through impressment) the labor of enslaved men to facilitate their prosecution of the war."119 Historian David Brion Davis wrote: "Slaves played a critical role in their own liberation. Southern slaves deserted plantations and fled to Union lines. Slaves also staged a few small insurrections during the war as the slave system itself began to unravel. Planters were stunned to see trusted house slaves and field drivers lead field hands in deserting to the Union army."120
Another test for the Lincoln Administration came when General John C. Frémont issued a sweeping proclamation in Missouri that included the emancipation of slaves. The proclamation excited Unionists in Border States like Kentucky and forced President Lincoln to order its repeal. Kentucky Unionists Green Adams and James Speed protested Frémont's proclamation of emancipation in Missouri. They wrote the president that the general's actions "will be condemned by a large majority of the Legislature and people of Kentucky." Lincoln responded: "Your dispatch received. Be easy. I will take care of the matter."121 After seeking unsuccessfully to persuade Frémont to repeal his proclamation voluntarily, Lincoln ordered the general to do so. That placated the Border States but alienated many in the North. Historian James M. McPherson wrote: "Lincoln's revocation of Frémont's proclamation ended the five-months armistice between abolitionists and the administration. Gone were the fond hopes that the president would quickly perceive the need to strike at slavery in order to win the war. Sharp criticism of Lincoln began to appear more frequently in abolitionist writings; it was not a time for pulling punches or speaking softly. There was a moral and political conflict in the North between conservatives and radicals over the question of human freedom."122
Lincoln told one of those who defended Frémont's proclamation: "We didn't go into the war to put down Slavery, but to put the flag back; and to act differently at this moment, would, I have no doubt, not only weaken our cause, but smack of bad faith; for I never should have had votes enough to send me here, if the people had supposed I should try to use my power to upset Slavery. Why, the first thing you'd see, would be a mutiny in the army No! We must wait until every other means has been exhausted. This thunderbolt will keep."123 Patience was key to the success of any emancipation. Premature action might doom it to failure.
Because of Kentucky's strategic position on the southern bank of the Ohio River, President Lincoln believed it was vital to keep the state from joining the Confederacy. It was a difficult and delicate task. At a White House conference with Kentucky leaders in the spring of 1861, President Lincoln had said: "Kentucky must not be precipitated into secession. She is the key to the situation. With her faithful to the Union, the discord in the other states will come to and end. She is now in the hands of those who do not represent the people. The sentiment of her State officials must be counteracted. We must arouse the young men of the State to action for the Union. We must know what men in Kentucky have the confidence of the people and who can be relied on for good judgment, that may be brought to the support of the Government at once."124 Historian Allen C. Guelzo noted: "One sharp jolt, one careless word, one idiot in newly made shoulder straps practicing 'a little of the abolition system,' and the whole Border might fall over into Confederate hands, and that would be the end of it all, for Lincoln, the North, and the slaves. The Border states held the wheat, corn, meat and manufacturing that the cotton-bloated South lacked; they accounted for more than a third of the white population of the South; and they controlled the great inland rivers - the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Potomac - that were the highways of the American economy."125 The President tread carefully. Historian Hans L. Trefousse wrote: "Lincoln's popularity was evident again in the New Year . Conservative as he was, and not willing to cast doubt on his Unionism, Senator Garett Davis of Kentucky assured the president that, 'I am your true and unwavering supporter in waging this war, and in the reconstruction of the Union...upon the principles which you have proclaimed to the people of the United States and will vote to strengthen your hands with every constitutional power to bring the war to a speedy and successful close.'"126
Lincoln did not have the luxury of dealing exclusively with the immorality of slavery. He had to deal with slavery in the context of the war to preserve the Union. And he had to deal with Border State slaveholders like Senator Davis. Only by winning that war could he create the context in which slavery could be destroyed. Lincoln legal scholar Paul Finkelman wrote: "For Lincoln there were two paramount issues to consider. The First was timing. He could only attack slavery if he could win the war; if he attacked slavery and did not win the war, then he accomplished nothing." Also noted Finkelman, "he could only move against slavery after he had secured the border states and made certain that victory was possible."127 Historian Stephen B. Oates wrote that "Lincoln had little choice but to speak of slavery strictly in terms of preserving the Union; they were the only terms the white public was likely to accept."128 There was a sharp division between Mr. Lincoln's moral position on slavery and his constitutional one. In his First Inaugural Address, President Lincoln stated: "One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended."129 He also quoted from a previous speech: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."130 Historian Nicholas Parrillo wrote: "In the first months of war, Lincoln's views on slavery in relation to providence shifted moderately, while remaining basically within their original framework. Previously, he had believed that providence would cause slavery to disappear gradually. Now, he believed that the war itself had provided the impetus to begin that gradual process: in his message to Congress that December, he anticipated that many slaves would be freed by the chances of war and by gradual emancipation plans that the states might adopt as a result of the crisis."131
President Lincoln had to balance the different viewpoints in the Union coalition that was opposing secession with pressure from Radical Republicans for him to act forcefully against southern slavery. Historian James Oakes wrote: "Far from inhibiting emancipation, Lincoln actually paved the way for it by carefully securing the loyalty of the border states. By late 1861, as it became clear that Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland would remain loyal, Lincoln began pressuring them to emancipate their slaves on the own. Abolition by state legislature was still the only legally certain route to emancipation. Everyone knew that as soon as the first slaveholder sued his way to the Supreme Court, the chief justice - Roger Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision - would instantly declare that contraband and confiscated slaves could not be freed by an power of the federal government, congressional or executive."132 Mr. Lincoln's first attempt to free slaves came in Delaware in November 1861. He called in the state's lone congressman to the White House and asked him to try to get a law for compensated emancipation through the Delaware legislature. The congressman tried, but the state legislature did not act on a proposal that the president had developed.
President Lincoln continued to try to work with the Border States because he believed that was the only constitutionally available way to end slavery short of passage of the 13th Amendment in January 1865. Historian James A. Rawley wrote: "Almost everyone agreed that the Federal government had no authority to abolish slavery in the states. Endorsing that construction, Lincoln had said in his first inaugural address that had no objection to its being 'made express, and irrevocable' by a proposed thirteenth amendment."133 In the absence of constitutional authority at the national level, Mr. Lincoln wanted the Border States to take individual legal action. President Lincoln told Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning in early December 1861 that he was considering an emancipation plan which would pay "Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri $500 apiece for all the Negroes they had according to the census of 1860, provided they would adopt a system of gradual emancipation which should work the extinction of slavery in twenty years...It would require only about one third of what was necessary to support the war for one year." In the same White House interview Lincoln told Browning that "there should be connected...a scheme of colonizing the blacks."134
The president was a pragmatist - especially concerning race relations and slavery - seeking to harmonize widely disparate views of America's racial future once the Union was restored. "No matter to what political party any man had been attached, if he was in good faith for the maintenance of the Union he had the confidence of Mr. Lincoln," wrote Interior Secretary John Palmer Usher after the Civil War. "During his administration he recognized but two parties, one for the Union and the other against it. He repelled no one; he strove to make friends, not for himself so much as for the preservation of the government, and seeing clearly from the beginning that property in slaves was in the way of many, he urged them to accept compensation. His wisdom and foresight is now apparent to all. If the Border States would have accepted compensation for slaves, or if Virginia had adhered to the Union, there would have been no war, and slavery would have been abolished by agreement and compensation."135
In early 1862, two abolitionist clergymen, Moncure Daniel Conway and William H. Channing, met with President Lincoln. Conway recalled: "The President received us graciously. Mr. Channing have begun by expressing his belief that the opportunity of the nation to rid itself of slavery had arrived, Mr. Lincoln asked how he thought they might avail themselves of it. Channing suggested emancipation with compensation for the slaves. The President said he had for years been in favour of that plan. When the President turned to me, I asked whether we might not look to him as the coming Deliverer of the Nation from its one great evil. What would not that man achieve for mankind who should free America from slavery? He said, 'Perhaps we may be better able to do something in that direction after a while than we are now.' I said, 'Mr. President, do you believe the masses of the American people would hail you as their deliverer if, at the end of this war, the Union should be surviving and slavery still in it?' 'Yes, if they were to see that slavery was on the downhill.' I ventured to say, 'Our fathers compromised with slavery because they thought it on the downhill; hence war to-day.' The President said, 'I think the country grows in this direction daily, and I am not without hope that something of the desire of you and your friends may be accomplished. Perhaps it may be in the way suggested by a thirsty soul in Maine who found he could only get liquor from a druggist; as his robust appearance forbade the plea of sickness, he called for soda, and whispered, 'Couldn't you put a drop o' the creeter intu it unbeknownst to yourself.'136 As Channing and Conway prepared to leave, President Lincoln said: "We shall need all the antislavery feeling in the country, and more; you can go home and try to bring the people to your views; and you may say anything you like about me, if that will help. Don't spare me!" After laughing, he added: "When the hour comes for dealing with slavery I trust I will be willing to do my duty though it cost my life. And, gentlemen, lives will be lost."137
Lincoln understood the need for northern abolitionist sentiment to counterbalance Border State conservatives. On March 6, 1862, President Lincoln sent to Capitol Hill a special message urging compensated emancipation of slaves - it was designed to appeal to his diverse constituencies in Congress. Historian William C. Harris wrote: "On the morning that he submitted the compensation message to Congress, Lincoln summoned Senator Charles Sumner to the Executive Mansion to review the draft. He correctly believed that Sumner, a leader in the emerging Radical faction in the Senate, would be pleased with the emancipation proposal, despite the fact that the Massachusetts senator desired direct federal action to end slavery. Sumner, however, was not so easily persuaded that slavery should be explicitly guaranteed by the federal government in any reconstruction plan, as Lincoln's draft provided. When Sumner read the sentence regarding reconstruction, he vehemently protested to the president. Rather than arguing with Sumner, Lincoln, who was in a hurry to send the message to Congress, bracketed the offending sentence for deletion from the proposal."138
A few days later, President Lincoln met with congressional representatives of the Border States to discuss his plan for emancipation. One Maryland congressman reported his recollections of the meeting: "This morning these delegations, or such of them as were in town, assembled at the White House at the appointed time, and after some little delay were admitted to an audience." The transcript of what was said showed the efforts that Lincoln was trying to alienate neither the Border States or northern abolitionists:
After the usual salutations and we were seated, the President said, in substance, that he invited us to meet him to have some conversation with us in explanation of his Message of the 6th; that since he had sent it in, several of the gentlemen then present had visited him, but had avoided any allusion to the Message, and he therefore inferred that the import of the Message had been misunderstood, and was regarded as inimical to the interests we represented; and he had resolved he would talk with us, and disabuse our minds of that erroneous opinion.
The President then disclaimed any intent to injure the interests or wound the sensibilities of the Slave States. On the contrary, his purpose was to protect the one and respect the other; that we were engaged in a terrible, wasting, and tedious War; immense Armies were in the field, and must continue in the field as long as the War lasts; that these Armies must, of necessity, be brought into contact with Slaves in the States we represented and in other States as they advanced; that Slaves would come to the camps, and continual irritation was kept up; that he was constantly annoyed by conflicting and antagonistic complaints; on the one side, a certain class complained if the Slave was not protected by the Army; persons were frequently found who, participating in these views, acted in a way unfriendly to the Slaveholder; on the other hand, Slaveholders complained that their rights were interfered with, their Slaves induced to abscond, and protected within the lines; these complaints were numerous, loud, and deep; were a serious annoyance to him and embarrassing to the progress of the War; that it kept alive a spirt hostile to the Government of the States we represented; strengthened the hopes of the Confederates that at some day the Border States would united with them, and thus tend to prolong the War; and he was of opinion, if this Resolution should be adopted by Congress and accepted by our States, these causes of irritation and these hopes would be removed, and more would be accomplished towards shortening the War than could be hoped from the greatest victory achieved by Union Armies; that he made this proposition in good faith, and desired it to be accepted, if at all, voluntarily, and in the same patriotic spirit in which it was made; that Emancipation was a subject exclusively under the control of the States, and must be adopted or rejected by each for itself; that he did not claim nor had this Government any right to coerce them for that purpose; that such was no part of his purpose in making this proposition, and he wished it to be clearly understood; that he did not expect us there to be prepared to give him an answer, but he hoped we would take the subject into serious consideration; confer with one another, and then take such course as we felt our duty and the interests of our constituents required of us.
Mr. [John W.] Noell, of Missouri, said that in his State, Slavery was not considered a permanent Institution; that natural causes were there in operation which would, at no distant day, extinguish it, and he did not think that this proposition was necessary for that; and, besides that, he and his friends felt solicitous as to the Message on account of the different constructions which the Resolution and Message had received. The New York Tribune was for it, and understood it to mean that we must accept gradual Emancipation according to the plan suggested, or get something worse.
The President replied, he must not be expected to quarrel with the New York Tribune before the right time; he hoped never to have to do it; he would not anticipate events. In respect to Emancipation in Missouri, he said that what had been observed by Mr. Noell was probably true, but the operation of these natural causes had not presented the irritating conduct to which he had referred, or destroyed the hopes of the Confederates that Missouri would at some time range herself alongside of them, which, in his judgment, the passage of this Resolution by Congress, and its acceptance by Missouri, would accomplish.
Mr. [John W.] Crisfield, of Maryland, asked what would be the effect of the refusal of the State to accept this proposal, and desired to know if the President looked to any policy beyond the acceptance or rejection of this scheme.
The President replied that he had no designs beyond the action of the States on this particular subject. He should lament their refusal to accept it, but had no designs beyond their refusal of it.
Mr. [John W.] Menzies, of Kentucky, inquired if the President thought there was any power, except in the States themselves, to carry out his scheme of Emancipation?
The President replied, he thought there could not be. He then went off into a course of remark not qualifying the foregoing declaration, nor material to be repeated to a just understanding of his meaning.
Mr. Crisfield said he did not think the people of Maryland looked upon Slavery as a permanent Institution; and he did not know that they would be very reluctant to give it up if provision was made to meet the loss, and they could be rid of the race; but they did not like to be coerced into Emancipation, either by the direct action of the Government or by indirection, as through the Emancipation of Slaves in this District, or the Confiscation of Southern Property as now threatened; and he thought before they would consent to consider this proposition they would require to be informed on these points.
The President replied that 'unless he was expelled by the act of God or the Confederate Armies, he should occupy that house for three years, and as long as he remained there, Maryland had nothing to fear, either for her Institutions or her interests on the points referred to.'
Mr. Crisfield immediately added: 'Mr. President, if what you now say could be heard by the people of Maryland, they would consider your proposition with a much better feeling that I fear without it they will be inclined to do.'
The President: 'That (meaning a publication of what he said), will not do; it would force me into a quarrel before the proper time;' and again intimating, as he had before done, that a quarrel with the 'Greeley faction' was impending, he said, 'he did not wish to encounter it before the proper time, nor at all if it could be avoided.'
Governor [Charles A.] Wickliffe, of Kentucky, then asked him respecting the Constitutionality of his scheme.
The President replied: 'As you may suppose, I have considered that; and the proposition now submitted does not encounter any Constitutional difficulty. It proposes simply to co-operate with any State by giving such State pecuniary aid;' and he thought that the Resolution, as proposed by him, would be considered rather as the expression of a sentiment than as involving any Constitutional question.
Mr. [William A.] Hall, of Missouri, thought that if this proposition was adopted at all, it should be by the votes of the Free States, and come as a proposition from them to the Slave States, affording them an inducement to put aside this subject of discord; that it ought not to be expected that members representing Slaveholding Constituencies should declare at once, and in advance of any proposition to them, for the Emancipation of Slaves.
The President said he saw and felt the force of the objection; it was a fearful responsibility, and every gentleman must do as he thought best; that he did not known how this scheme was received by the Members from the Free States; some of them had spoken to him and received it kindly; but for the most part they were as reserved and chary as we had been, and he could not tell how they would vote.
And, in reply to some expression of Mr. [William A.] Hall as to his own opinion regarding Slavery, he said he did not pretend to disguise his Anti-Slavery feeling, that he thought it was wrong and should continue to think so; but that was not the question we had to deal with now. Slavery existed, and that, too, as well by the act of the North, as of the South; and in any scheme to get rid [of] it, the North, as well as the South, was morally bound to do its full and equal share. He thought the Institution, wrong, and ought never to have existed; but yet he recognized the rights of Property which had grown out of it, and would respect these rights as fully as similar rights in any other property; that Property can exist, and does legally exist. He thought such a law, wrong, but the rights of Property resulting must be respected; he would get rid of the odious law, not by violating the right, but by encouraging the proposition, and offering inducements to give it up.
Here the interview, so far as this subject is concerned, terminated by Mr. [John J.] Crittenden's assuring the President that whatever might be our final action, we all thought him solely moved by a high patriotism and sincere devotion to the happiness and glory of his Country; and with that conviction we should consider respectfully the important suggestions he made.139
From March to July 1862, Mr. Lincoln tried to accommodate Border States by pushing compensated emancipation. President Lincoln made a final plea for compensated emancipation in that meeting with Border State congressmen on July 12. In a written response to his July plea, the majority of these congressmen rejected his plea. Historian Armstead L. Robinson wrote: "Although the border slave states' delegations were unaware of it, Lincoln's July 12 offer was to be their last chance to gain compensation for their endangered human property. The tenor of this meeting had already told Lincoln what he needed to know; the border states could not summon the will to accept his offer."140 The New York Times reported:
"If proof were wanting of the patriotic ardor of the President for the peace and well-being of the country, it would be found abundantly in the message sent yesterday to Congress. Mr. LINCOLN appreciates the infinite difficulty of the Slavery question. He evidently despairs of prostrating the institution by force of the war-power; he looks to its existence in full vigor, throughout the Gulf States at least, when the war shall have ended. The utmost reach of his practical dealing with the subject is to strip it of political influence in National affairs. To effect this capital object, there is certainly no way so sure as to destroy the identity of interest between Border Slave States and those at the southward; and this object the President's suggestion proposes to attain. It takes the form of a joint resolution submitted to the consideration of Congress. The possibility of one or more States discovering the impolicy of retaining slave labor is assumed. To such the joint resolution offers pecuniary aid in the task of emancipation, by engaging to pay a sum prefixed for each enslaved negro set at liberty. This bounty the President evidently believes will turn the scale in favor of freedom. Satisfied of the good faith of the National Government in its professions of non-intervention in the legislation of the States, the States will be ready to look favorably upon a plan which, while it makes the merit of the act of emancipation their own, throws the cost elsewhere. And as the plan is adopted, one after another of the northerly Slave States will array themselves on the side of the free communities of the North."141
Even as he advocated for compensated emancipation and colonization in the spring of 1862, Mr. Lincoln was thinking through the Emancipation Proclamation he would issue in September. According to Missouri Senator John B. Henderson. "as early as May, in 1862, Mr. Lincoln told him of his intention to issue the emancipation proclamation. The action was not taken until six months later, and then the proclamation was made to take effect January, 1863. The President held out as long as he could in the hope that he might be able to carry out his border States policy." Journalist Walter Stevens wrote: "The introduction of the bill to pay for the slaves of loyal owners in Missouri was the result of Mr. Lincoln's earnest support of his plan. This was the first of the bills. It was followed by others for Kentucky, Maryland and other border states which had slaveholders."
"I do not remember," the General [Henderson] says, "whether Mr. Lincoln drafted the bill or whether I got it up, but the inspiration came from him. I did all in my power to press it. The proposition went through both House and Senate. But it was passed in somewhat different forms. The Senate increased the amount, and this difference had to be adjusted in conference. There was a good majority for the Missouri bill in both branches of Congress, and there was not "much trouble about compromising the difference of opinion on the amount to be appropriated, but the session was at an end, and a small minority in the House was able by filibustering and obstructing to prevent the final action there. If the bill could have been got before the House in its finished form it would have passed as easily as it did in the Senate."
President Lincoln watched the progress of the legislation with a great deal of interest and did all he could to further it. He could not understand why the border State members should not be for it.
"And I could not either," says the General; "it was perfectly plain to me that slavery had got to go. Here was a voluntary offer on the part of the government to compensate the loyal men in the border States for the loss of their property. I talked with the members from Missouri and from Kentucky and with the others who were most interested, but I couldn't make them see it as I did. They had exaggerated ideas of the results which would issue from a free negro population. They took the position that slavery must not be touched, and it was their determined opposition to the end that defeated the bill to give the Missouri slaveholders $20,000,000 for their slaves. If the Missouri bill had gone through the others would have followed undoubtedly and the loyal slaveholders in all of the border States would have received pay for their slaves."142
Historian William C. Harris wrote: "Lincoln's state-controlled emancipation scheme...foundered. Although a number of conservative newspapers like the National Intelligencer, with influence among Southern Unionists, called for the adoption of the president's proposal, the overwhelming majority of border-state representatives in Congress opposed it. They argued that its implementation would be an entering wedge for direct federal intervention against slavery in the South. The opposition of the influential John J Crittenden of Kentucky, now in the House of Representatives, virtually insured that the border states would reject Lincoln's proposal. Although Congress approved it in principle on April 10, no border-state legislature accepted the plan."143 Kentucky abolitionist Cassius Clay said Mr. Lincoln responded to his pressure for emancipation by asking him to the White House: "I have been thinking of what you said to me, but I fear is such proclamation of emancipation was made, Kentucky would go against us; and we have now as much as we can carry....The Kentucky legislature is now in session. Go down and see how they stand and report to me." A few weeks after Clay reported back, the draft Emancipation Proclamation was released.144
While he tried to move Border State citizens toward emancipation, President Lincoln sought to restrain abolitionists and Radical Republicans who pushed him to move more quickly. Preserving the Union was vital if the goal of emancipation were to be achieved. Emancipation without preserving the Union would be meaningless. Theologian Reinhold Niehbuhr wrote: "The chief source of tension between Lincoln and the abolitionists was his hesitancy to free the slaves. That hesitancy was not personal; it was the political calculation of a responsible statesman concerned to retain the loyalty of the border states (Lincoln reprimanded the commanders who freed the slaves in those states)."145 Historian Philip Shaw Paludan wrote: "Lincoln needed to place the emancipation of blacks in a package that whites would accept. The Union was the almost universal ideal of northerners; everything that anyone did in the course of fighting the war was going to be to save the Union, Lincoln was preaching to the choir here, but it was a big choir, and he had to rally and reassure them that the very dramatic act of freeing other people's slaves would be in service of the very conservative goal of saving their union."146 The two issues were inextricably connected but President Lincoln had to be careful how he presented their relationship. Historian David H. Donald wrote: "In Lincoln's mind there was no necessary disjunction between a war for the Union and a war to end slavery. Like most Republicans, he had long held the belief that if slavery could be contained it would inevitably die; a war that kept the slave states within the Union would, therefore, bring about the ultimate extinction of slavery."147
Pro-emancipation advocates like Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner often grew impatient with the President's policies on slavery though they sometimes came to appreciate his strategy. Pro-emancipation Republican leader Carl Schurz wrote in his memoirs: "I felt with Sumner, but at the same time I learned to understand Mr. Lincoln. He was perfectly sincere in saying that, as the head of the government, he regarded the saving of the Union, with or without the destruction of slavery, as the paramount object to be accomplished. He was equally sincere in believing that the destruction of slavery would turn out to be a necessary means for the salvation of the Union, aside from the desirability of that destruction on its own merits. Seeing the necessity of emancipation by the act of the government rapidly approaching, he wished, in the interest of the blacks as well as of the whites, that emancipation to be gradual, if it possibly could be made gradual under existing circumstances. Nor would he shrink from sudden emancipation if the circumstances so shaped themselves as to leave no choice. But he would delay the decisive step until he could be reasonably sure that it could be taken without danger of producing a fatal disintegration of the forces co-operating in the struggle for the Union. He reasoned that, if we failed in that struggle, a decree of emancipation would be like the Pope's bull against the comet. This reasoning was doubtless correct, but it caused hesitations and delays which were sorely trying to the composure of the more ardent among the anti-slavery men. I have to confess that I belonged to that class myself, and that I did not fully appreciate the wisdom of his cautious policy until it had borne its fruit."148 President Lincoln clearly understood there was no sense in an emancipation policy if it might be reversed by legal or military means.
President Lincoln had to manage military opinion as well as civil attitudes on emancipation. Historian Bell Irvin Wiley wrote: "Of Lincoln's many problems, none seems to have brought more criticism in the army than his handling of the vexatious Negro question. Soldiers of the abolitionist persuasion criticized him severely for not striking a blow at slavery sooner than he did, and even accused him of trying to perpetuate the hated institution. But abolitionists, particularly avowed ones, were only a small minority of the fighting forces. His emancipation policy when first proclaimed had more foes than friends among the rank and file. Opposition to emancipation was especially strong among soldiers from the loyal slave states and adjoining areas, and among the Irish."149 Historian Mark Grimsley wrote that "when one examines the evidence for the military pressures in favor of emancipation, one is struck by how seldom these arguments were deployed. A number of generals, including [George B.] McClellan, [Don Carlos] Buell, and [John A.] Dix, strongly opposed emancipation on political grounds. Those few who championed it - John C. Frémont, David Hunter, and John Phelps - also had clearly political agendas. Most senior commanders, however, simply thought the political complexities of emancipation would outstrip any military benefits. Soldiers, ran a common refrain, should be neither 'negro stealers or negro catchers.'"150 Such contradictory attitudes had to be accommodated or at least managed by the nation's chief executive and commander-in-chief.
Emancipation did have one early success. Historian Don E. Fehrenbacher wrote: "Lincoln took the oath of office in a capital city that remained what it had long since become through both accident and design - a symbolic stronghold of the slave power in America."151 About fourteen months later, the stronghold was destroyed. Emancipation came to the District of Columbia when on April 16,1862. President Lincoln signed legislation for compensated emancipation in the nation's capital.
Unlike southern states, Congress had jurisdiction over slavery in the nation's capital. Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: "With the outbreak of the war, a climate of Dickensian farce settled over slavery in Washington. Slavery remained legal, but Washington was the capital of a nation at war with a slave confederacy, and from the first shots at Sumter, it arose in the minds of every slave within walking or riding distance as the Promised Land."152 Ohio Senator John Sherman wrote that slavery 'had a foothold in the District of Columbia, but it existed there in its mildest form. By the census of 1860 there were, in the District of Columbia, 11,107 free negroes, 3,181 slaves, and 60,785 white people. It was considered the paradise of free negroes, where they were almost exclusively employed as laborers in household service." Sherman continued:
When the war broke out a considerable number of slaves ran away from disloyal masters in Virginia and Maryland, seeking safety within our lines and finding employment in the District of Columbia. As the war approached, most of the slaves in the District were carried away by their owners into Virginia, and other southern states, so that in 1862 it was estimated there were not more than 1,500, and probably not 1,000, slaves in the District, while the number of free negroes increased to 15,000. As a matter of course, when Virginia seceded no attempt was made to recapture runaway slaves from that state, and they became practically free."153
President Lincoln said: "Little did I dream, in 1849, when I proposed to abolish slavery at this capital, and could scarcely get a hearing for the proposition, that it would be so soon accomplished."154 Lincoln legal scholar Paul Finkelman wrote that the provision in the DC emancipation bill for voluntary colonization "was clear a sop thrown to conservatives and racists, who feared a free black population...The appropriation would have provided money for the colonization of only 1,000 blacks - less than a third of the newly freed slaves and less than 7 percent of the entire free black population of the city in 1860." By 1862, there were many more free blacks in the capital.155 With emancipation, noted Michael Burlingame, "Washington blacks were jubilant, especially those who had been hiding out for days, fearing that their owners might remove them from the District in anticipation of Lincoln's action. At Cooper Union, the preacher-colonizationist Henry Highland Garnet proposed to a group of fellow blacks who were celebrating the statute that they give 'three cheers for the Union, the President, and old John Brown.'"156
After President Lincoln signed the emancipation bill for the District of Columbia, Brooklyn preacher Henry Ward Beecher said: "It is worth living for a lifetime to see the capital of our government redeemed from the stigma and shame of being a slave mart. We have found by experience that though Abraham Lincoln is sure, he is slow; and that though he is slow, he is sure!"157 African-Americans in the nation's capital were ecstatic about the new law. Ernest B. Furgurson wrote: "The city's black leaders, aware of their new responsibility, tried to restrain the celebration, but that was impossible. In black neighborhoods, spirited minstrel songs viewed with reverent spirituals. One African-American wrote, 'Should I not feel glad to see so much rejoicing around me? Were I a drinker I would get on a jolly spree today, but as a Christian, I can but kneel in prayer and bless God.' On the following Sunday, born-free and newly liberated blacks lifted prayers of thanksgiving at the capital's seventeen colored churches. As preachers sermonized, some worshippers could not hold back, cutting loose with shouts of jubilation."158
Still, it was not easy to implement the new law. The nation's capital, an island of emancipation south of slaveholding Maryland, caused its own stresses for the Lincoln Administration, which had to adjudicate issues regarding slaves who escaped from Maryland into Washington. Emancipation was easier proclaimed than instituted - even in a small city like the nation's capital. Lincoln scholar Ernest B. Furgurson wrote: "For more than 90 days in 1862, a three-man commission sat there, appointed by the President to determine the loyalty of slave owners asking compensation for their freed property and setting the price to be paid....In all 966 cases were heard and 909 claims accepted. The average paid per slave was about $300, thus keeping the total within the $1 million allotted by Congress. Hundreds of Maryland and Virginia slaves had come into the District, hoping to become free, but the courts ordered that they be sent back to their owners."159
President Lincoln took a personal interest in the fate of newly-freed slaves and contrabands. Former Maryland slave Mary Dines was employed as a cook at the Soldier's Home where the Lincoln family stayed in the summer. She was also a leader in one of the nearby contraband camps. Historian Matthew Pinsker wrote: "After the war, Mary Dines told an interviewer that 'President Lincoln stopped many times' at her contraband camp 'to visit and talk with the former slaves. She remembered one occasion when the president and Mary Lincoln, along with a small entourage of guests, arrived to hear a musical performance arranged especially for them. Dines led the singing of various Negro spirituals such as 'Nobody Knows What Trouble I See, but Jesus' and 'Every Time I Feel the Spirit." As she finished, the cook was startled to see the president 'wiping the tears off his face with his bare hands.' Despite the fact that the ex-slaves had been warned beforehand to limit their performance for the busy president, Lincoln refused to leave quickly. Even when 'the real old folks forgot about the President being present and began to shout and yell,' Dines recalled, 'he didn't laugh at them, but stood like a stone and bowed his head.' During the last performance, 'John Brown's Body,' she said that the president even sang along in 'a sweet voice.'"160
The assimilation of free blacks into the national economy and society was an issue that extended far beyond the nation's capital and clearly concerned Lincoln, who worried about the aftermath of emancipation. He fully understood that racism extended across both the North and the South. Historian Norman A. Graebner contended that Lincoln understood that emancipation "could not dispose of the great social problems of the South."161 Historian Allan Nevins wrote: "The main root of the conflict...was the problem of slavery with its complementary problem of race-adjustment; the main source of the tragedy was the refusal of either section to face these conjoined problems squarely and pay the heavy costs of a peaceful settlement." According to Nevins, "It was a war over slavery and the future position of the Negro race in North America. Was the Negro to be allowed as a result of the shift of power signalized by Lincoln's election, to take the first step toward an ultimate position of general economic, political and social equality with the white man? Or was he to be held immobile in a degraded, servile position, unchanging for the next hundred years as it had remained essentially unchanged for the hundred years past? These questions were implicit in Lincoln's demand that slavery be placed in a position where the public mind could rest assured of its ultimate extinction."162
In the late spring and early summer of 1862, agitation for emancipation increased. Historian James M. McPherson noted: "The events of May  plunged abolitionists from the pinnacle of confidence to the depths of despair. For more than two months following his interview with Lincoln in March, Wendell Phillips had praised the president's virtues and predicted an early end to slavery. By June, however, Phillips' patience was wearing dangerously thin. He began to doubt his policy of supporting the administration. 'This cabinet fears opposition more than it values support,' he told Charles Sumner. 'Let them feel that we can criticize & demand as well as the Border States & Conservative Side.' Phillips urged congressional Republicans to get tough and threaten to withhold supplies unless the administration adopted a more radical policy. 'Lincoln is doing twice as much to-day to break this Union as Davis is,' he charged. 'We are paying thousands of lives & millions of dollars as penalty for having a timid & ignorant President, all the more injurious because honest.'"163 Historian Elbert B. Smith wrote: "Lincoln's delaying tactics probably strengthened the total war effort, but the angry impatience of the radicals and their later resentment of his deification as the 'Great Emancipator' were natural enough. If their fears that peace might come before emancipation were groundless, the President had done nothing to allay them. In fact a Southern surrender in 1861 or even 1862 might have left the cause of abolition in a precarious state."164
Lincoln's slow pace was partly motivated by his efforts to persuade Border State representatives to back compensated emancipation. Lincoln himself wrote in 1864: "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."165 Historian Matthew Pinsker argued that the composition of the Emancipation Proclamation was a response to passage by Congress on July 17, 1862 of the controversial Second Confiscation Act, which pushed the emancipation issue by authorizing the confiscation of slaves from secession supporters. Historian William D. Mallam wrote: "When finally enacted the Confiscation Law of 1862 was satisfactory to neither the radicals, who voted for it because it was the best they could get, nor to the conservatives who voted consistently against it because of their unswerving objections to any emancipation or confiscation whatever. The moderate Republicans were ultimately responsible for its passage."166
Lincoln delayed signing the Second Confiscation Act in July 1862, according to historian Allen Guelzo. "It is not difficult to understand why he hesitated. For one thing, the timing could not have been worse. Lincoln could not see the wisdom in threatening to confiscate property from people who had just demonstrated that they would fight to hold on to it."167 The legislation was controversial. Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, was its leading proponent. Another Illinois friend, Senator Orville H. Browning, was a leading opponent and urged its veto. Historian Matthew Pinsker concluded that Lincoln probably wrote the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation at the White House on Sunday, July 20, shortly after the Confiscation Act's passage. Pinsker wrote "that political necessity mattered almost as much as military necessity in the actual drafting of emancipation."168 Lincoln needed to control the emancipation process and deal with ambiguities in the act. Pinsker wrote that "The legislation was actually more complicated than it appeared. The bill provided access to the federal courts and a series of vaguely outlined legal procedures to help resolve contested cases. Yet there were no 'personal liberty' safeguards written into the statute - necessary to help freed blacks avoid kidnapping or reenslavement - despite lengthy debates about the need for such measures. Legislators did encourage the president to employ suitable ex-slaves in the Union army, but they also set aside funds for colonization experiments abroad. In this manner, they failed to settle the question of whether slaves were legally defined as people or property, content to leave that fundamental ambiguity unresolved. They also created confusion by establishing a sixty-day window from the date of some unspecified 'public warning' by the president before the next law would take full effect."169
Clearly, Lincoln had been moving progressively towards emancipation during the first half of 1862. In July, only days before Lincoln introduced a draft Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet, aide John Hay wrote: "The President himself has been, out of pure devotion to what he considers the best interest of humanity, the bulwark of the institution he abhors, for a year. But he will not conserve slavery much longer. When he speaks in relation to this defiant and ungrateful villainy it will be with no uncertain sound. Even now he speaks more boldly and sternly to slaveholders than to the world."170 Historian James A. Rawley wrote: "The Emancipation Proclamation was not an impulse but the fruition of a quarter century of detestation of slavery 'founded on both injustice and bad policy,' as he said in 1837." Rawley wrote: "Emancipation fitted perfectly his longstanding condemnation of slavery immorality and his belief that slavery was the one thing that threatened the Union."171 Historian Herman Belz wrote "that Lincoln's mind was entirely made up by July 1862 and that timing was his only consideration thereafter. The first emancipation paper he drafted in July, for example, differed noticeably from the proclamations he issued later. Warning all persons to return to allegiance of suffer forfeiture of property under the confiscation act, the draft proclamation of July reiterated Lincoln's proposal for compensated state emancipation and declared slaves in rebel states free."172
Lincoln's approach was not designed to please all of slavery's opponents. Historian Allen C. Guelzo noted that: "Lincoln came to emancipation by a road very different from that taken by the abolitionists. Where they built their argument on the demand of evangelicalism for immediate repentance, Lincoln instead preferred gradualism and compensation to the owners of emancipated slaves. Where the abolitionists preached from passion and choice, Lincoln worked from reason and patience. And where they brushed aside the Constitution's implicit sanctions for slavery -- and with them the Constitution -- Lincoln proceeded against slavery no further than the Constitution allowed. The abolitionists were racial egalitarians in an age of unthinking racism. Lincoln was a natural-rights egalitarian in the tradition of John Locke."173
The president was handling considerable public pressure in the summer of 1862. Lincoln Historian Hans L. Trefousse wrote: "Generally uninformed about Lincoln's plans, radicals of all types kept up their pressure upon the administration. Even within the cabinet, agitation continued. Two days after the cabinet meeting on July 22, the New York Chamber of Commerce passed resolutions calling upon the president to use emancipation as a weapon against the insurgents. On August 3, at another cabinet meeting, the Secretary of the Treasury, 'for the tenth or twentieth time, to quote his own words, urged his favorite scheme of emancipation by local military action, and on August 20, Horace Greeley published his famous 'Prayer of Twenty Millions' in the New York Tribune. Asking the president to consider the fact that slavery everywhere was the exciting cause and sustaining base of treason, the editor called upon Lincoln to execute the Confiscation Act and declare the slaves of rebels forfeit. On September 7,... a public meeting in Chicago of Christians of all denominations adopted a memorial in favor of freedom for the slaves, a document presented to the president one week later. Moreover, Union governors were preparing to meet at Altoona, Pennsylvania, later in the month. It was an open secret that emancipation was one of their demands."174 But President Lincoln acted on Emancipation before the governors met and later denied they had any impact on his plans. Mr. Lincoln later told Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin: "You see, Curtin, I was brought to the conclusion that there was no dodging this Negro question any longer. We had reached the point where it seemed that we must avail ourselves of this element or in all probability go under."175
During the summer of 1862, Mr. Lincoln actively stage-managed the Emancipation Proclamation - preparing northern opinion by conciliating conservatives who thought preserving the Union should be the only objective or that colonization abroad was the only solution to the race problem. A key element was his reply to an open letter from New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley in which he described saving as his overriding priority. Historian Don E. Fehrenbacher wrote that Lincoln's reply to "the [Greeley] letter will be misunderstood if it is read as a straightforward statement of Lincoln's political and ethical priorities, with the Union counting for everything and slavery, nothing. Lincoln's ostensible neutralism about slavery was misleading and intentionally so. He had, in fact, already committed himself to emancipation, had drafted a proclamation, and was using the exchange with Greeley 'to prepare the people for what was coming.' Preservation of the Union and abolition of slavery were already bound together as twin purposes of the Civil War. Saving the Union had become more than an end in itself. It was also the indispensable means of achieving emancipation. But Lincoln, for reasons of political strategy, had to put it the other way around, viewing emancipation as a means, and very likely a necessary means, of saving the Union." Lincoln understood that the Emancipation Proclamation would be interpreted differently at home and abroad. Fehrenbacher wrote: "Along with the intended meaning of Lincoln's words, one must consider their effective meaning - that is, what they were understood to mean by his primary and his secondary audiences, and also what consequences they may have produced."176
Historian Michael Burlingame wrote that Lincoln's response to Greeley's "letter has been misunderstood by those who view it as a definitive statement of his innermost feelings about the aims of the war. Some deplored its insensitivity to the moral significance of emancipation. In fact, the document was a political utterance designed to smooth the way for the proclamation which he intended to issue as soon as the Union army won a victory. He knew full well that millions of Northerners as well as border State residents would object to transforming the war into an abolitionist crusade. They were willing to fight to preserve the Union but not to free the slaves. As president, Lincoln had to make the mighty act of emancipation palatable to them. By assuring Conservatives that emancipation was simply a means to preserve the Union, Lincoln hoped to minimize the white backlash that he knew was bound to come."177
In the confusion after the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 28-30, 1862, Internal Revenue Commissioner George S. Boutwell sought an appointment with President Lincoln to appoint collectors and assessors under the new tax law. "Finally he gave me Sunday at 11 o'clock. He canvassed the papers and considered the merits of the candidates with as much coolness and care apparently, as he would have exhibited in a condition of profound peace. When the business was ended, he asked me what I thought about the command of the army. I said unhesitatingly that the restoration of McClellan seemed the only safe policy. I had seen and heard so much, that I was apprehensive of serious trouble in the army if he should again be superseded. I then said that emancipation seemed the only way out of our troubles. He said in reply: 'Must we not wait for something that looks like a victory? Would not a proclamation now appear as brutum fulmen?' - the only Latin I ever heard from the President."178 Boutwell recalled President Lincoln later telling him after the Battle of Antietam in September: 'When Lee came over the [Potomac] river, I made a resolution that if McClellan drove him back I would send the proclamation after him. The battle of Antietam was fought Wednesday, and until Saturday I could not find out whether we had gained a victory or lost a battle. It was then too late to issue the proclamation that day, and the fact is I fixed it up a little Sunday, and Monday I let them have it."179
While he moved privately toward emancipation, Lincoln had remained publicly skeptical about its utility or advisability. Pennsylvania editor Alexander K. McClure wrote: "The best expression of his own views and aims in the matter is given in a single brief sentence, uttered by himself on the 13th of September, 1862, only nine days before he issued the preliminary proclamation. It was in response to an appeal from a large delegation of Chicago clergymen, representing nearly or quite all the religious denominations of that city, urging immediate Emancipation. He heard them patiently, as he always did those who were entitled to be heard at all, and his answer was given in these words: 'I have not decided against the proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement, and I can assure you the matter is on my mind by day and by night more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will I will do.'"180
On September 22, shortly after the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The draft Emancipation Proclamation covered "four pages and includes three different styles of handwriting: a formal opening and closing in the hand of a clerk, the bulk of the text written in pen by Lincoln, and a few minor corrections added by William Seward," wrote historian Matthew Pinsker. The president's penmanship appears steady, almost laborious, suggesting that this version of the document was written in one sitting without too many stops and starts. Toward the third and fourth pages, there are some subtle signs of weariness in his script - ink smudges, scattered unevenness - further indicating that he wrote continuously, tiring only as he neared completion. In addition, there are gaps in the handwritten text where clippings from previously printed statutes have been pasted neatly inside, clearly suggesting that the writing and pasting were done simultaneously without much improvisions."181
Several times over the previous two months, President Lincoln had discussed his ideas with the Cabinet. In 1864, Artist Francis B. Carpenter asked President Lincoln about opposition to emancipation among his cabinet members. Mr. Lincoln said: "Mr. Blair thought we should lose the fall elections,, and opposed it on that ground only." Carpenter asked him specifically about Caleb Smith: "Mr. Blair told me that, when the meeting closed, he and the Secretary of the Interior went away together, and that the latter said to him, if the President carried out that policy, he might count on losing Indiana, sure!" The President responded: "He never said anything of the kind to me." Carpenter then asked: "And what is Mr. Blair's opinion now?" Mr. Lincoln said: "Oh, he proved right in regard to the fall elections, but he is satisfied that we have since gained more than we lost." Carpenter said that he had heard "that Judge Bates doubted the constitutionality of the proclamation." Mr. Lincoln responded: "He never expressed such an opinion in my hearing. No member of the Cabinet ever dissented from the policy, in any conversation with me."182 Interior Secretary Smith opposed the proclamation - although he remained quiet in the Cabinet meeting.
The Emancipation Proclamation changed the underlying political dynamics of the Civil War. Historian James M. McPherson wrote that "the symbolic power of the Proclamation changed the war from one to restore the Union into one to destroy the old Union and build a new one purged of human bondage. 'GOD BLESS ABRAHAM LINCOLN!' blazoned Horace Greeley's New York Tribune on September 23. 'It is the beginning of the end of the rebellion; the beginning of the new life of the nation.' The Emancipation Proclamation 'is one of those stupendous facts in human history which marks not only an era in the progress of the nation, but an epoch in the history of the world.' Speaking for African Americans, Frederick Douglass declared, 'We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree.'"183 Lincoln scholar Frank J. Williams wrote: "Black Americans, knowing that freedom was at last on the horizon, hailed Lincoln as a hero. Word quickly spread that there was an administration in Washington that finally supported and welcomed emancipation. Something as hopeful and dramatic as freedom cannot be contained. Thousands of slaves, even in territory still controlled by the Confederacy, fled to the protection of the Union lines."184
Not all Union soldiers were as happy with emancipation. Lieutenant George Breack of New York wrote that the proclamation was "an ill-timed, mischief making instrument...uncalled for, except by a crazy lot of abolitionists, who are bent on destroying slavery."185 The Emancipation Proclamation was controversial among Union officers and Democrats, especially General George B. McClellan, but historian Mark M. Krug noted: "The Proclamation was received with warmth and enthusiasm by the Republicans newspapers in the country." Krug added: "There is overwhelming evidence that the Emancipation Proclamation met with the approval of all the factions in the Republican Party. The applause was not limited to the Radical wing. There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that most Republican leaders were convinced that the Proclamation, cautious and limited in scope as it was, represented a turning point in the war because it made the issue of slavery a central issue in the conflict."186
Historian James A. Rawley wrote: "Reduced to its political dimensions, the Emancipation Proclamation - controversial though it was - within a short time enlisted the support of a majority of the Northern public and disarmed European critics of the Union cause. The House of Representatives in December, over the impassioned outcries of a minority by a vote of 78 to 51 had endorsed a resolution saying that the Proclamation was 'warranted by the Constitution; that the policy of emancipation, as indicated in the proclamation, is well adapted to hasten the restoration of peace, was well chosen as a war measure, and is an exercise of power, with proper regard for the rights of states, and the prosperity of free Government.'"187 A reporter for the Christian Recorder, an Afro-American paper in Philadelphia, wrote: "That proclamation, over which the triumphant notes of heaven rolled along the confines of bliss, with evidences of higher ecstasies, than customarily, reverberated in overpowering rapture, across the boundaries of light and felicity, will tell upon the annals of eternity in character, of such splendor, as shall gild the name of Abraham Lincoln forever."188
President Lincoln understood the political risks he was taking, and he sought to avoid a racial and political backlash among his intended audiences. Historian Stephen B. Oates wrote: "As it turned out, the preliminary Proclamation ignited racial discontent in much of the lower North, especially the Midwest, and led to a Republican disaster in the fall by-elections of 1862. Already Northern Democrats were upset with Lincoln's harsh war measures, especially his use of martial law and military arrests. But Negro emancipation was more than they could stand, and they stumped the Northern states that fall, beating the drums of Negrophobia, warning of massive influxes of Southern blacks in to the North once emancipation came. Sullen, war weary, and racially aroused, Northern voters dealt the Republicans a smashing blow, as the North's most populous states - all of which had gone for Lincoln in 1860 - now returned Democratic majorities to Congress."189
Racism continued to be a concern in the North - especially for President Lincoln as he proposed and implemented emancipation. Wood Gray, author of The Hidden Civil War, wrote: "The aspect of the question most disturbing to the Midwesterners was the constantly reiterated fear that the bars would be lowered for a horde of Negroes to sweep into the section. It was among the foreign-born proletariat of the cities and small farmers of Southern origin that the specter was most disturbing. The Negroes were expected to compete with the whites for unskilled urban employment and thus force wages down to disastrous levels." He wrote: "The apprehension had been sharpened during the preceding months by actions of the War Department which were given wide publicity by the Democratic press. In spite of the fact that the laws of Illinois forbade the entrance of free Negroes into the state, and in the face of the overwhelming vote of the people in July in favor of a constitutional enactment to this effect, Secretary Stanton had ordered the general commanding at Cairo to colonize and to find employment for confiscated Negroes sent north by Federal armies. Industrial employers in search of cheap labor also attempted on their own initiative to introduce Negro laborers into the section, and in July this led to a serious riot among the employees of grain and produce firms in Toledo."190
In the old Northwest, the potential impact of emancipation mixed with the real impact of contrabands crossing the Ohio River from Kentucky. Historian Darrel E. Bigham wrote: "The increased number of African Americans living on the north shore of the river and the coming of emancipation fanned Illinois whites' fear of an onslaught of African Americans. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton hurt Illinois Republican politically in the summer of 1862 by ordering the dispersion of contrabands at Cairo throughout the state. His decision was prompted by poor camp conditions, the economic depression caused by the temporary closing of the Mississippi, and high freight rates. The Copperhead element in the Democratic Party had a field day and did well in the fall elections, gaining control of the state legislature. Similar results occurred in the fall election in Indiana and Ohio, Illinois."191 Even Lincoln's close friend, Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning, was defeated as northern voters protest against military stalemate, unwanted emancipation, and suppression of civil liberties.
President Lincoln took a measured approach to emancipation and set a period of 100 days until he would issue the final Emancipation Proclamation - giving the South a grace period until January 1, 1863 in which to return to the Union. Historian Edna Greene Medford wrote: "Throughout the closing months of 1862, blacks remained fearful that Lincoln would bow to the slaveholding interests and withhold the final proclamation scheduled to become effective the first day of the new year. When the South failed to accede to his terms and Lincoln honored the promise of the preliminary document, African-Americans throughout the North reacted to the news with unbridled joy. Black organizations held parades and assembled in mammoth gatherings to listen to prominent abolitionists extol the virtues of the president."192
Loyalty and constitutionality were uppermost in the president's mind. Historian Michael Burlingame wrote: "The most telling criticism of the Proclamation came from eminent lawyers who questioned its constitutionality. In an influential pamphlet, Benjamin R. Curtis, a former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, denied that the military necessity justified emancipation and argued that since the seceded states were still technically in the Union, the president could not abrogate their laws. Moreover, Congress had provided for emancipation in the Second Confiscation Act."193 One of the difficulties that Lincoln faced on slavery issues was that he not only had to manage a wide range of opinion in Congress, but he had to manage a hostile Supreme Court as well. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney had signalled his hostility by ruling against the government in the Merryman habeas corpus case in 1861. For much of the Civil War, the Supreme Court continued to be dominated by justices unfriendly to the Lincoln Administration. Historian Brian R. Dirck wrote: "The best position of all...would be to keep an antiemancipation lawsuit from ever reaching the Court's docket in the first place. Lincoln knew that border state slaveholders were the most likely source of any such litigation."194 Historian Allen C. Guelzo noted that Lincoln worried about Supreme Court interference in an emancipation efforts. Guelzo noted that "'soft' emancipation, as a state enactment, avoided review by the Supreme Court."195 Guelzo wrote: "If the language of the Proclamation sounded flat and legalistic, there was good reason. The use of presidential 'war powers' has long been a sore point in constitutional theory. And once a wartime emergency ended, anything a president did on the strength of the 'war powers' would inevitably be challenged in federal court, and possibly overturned. Strange as it may seem, bitter-end slaveowners had every prospect, even after military defeat, of appealing any emancipation edict of Lincoln's all the way up to the Supreme Court....If the Proclamation hadn't been written in the strictest, flattest, most precise legalese, Taney and the court would have picked it to pieces, and the cause of black freedom would have been set back again."196
For the Final Emancipation Proclamation, constitutional soundness took precedence over literary felicity - even for such an accomplished wordsmith as President Lincoln. Historian Brian R. Dirck wrote: "In the fall of 1862, all Lincoln knew was that, first, the Emancipation Proclamation was fundamentally a legal document, second, that the nation's highest legal tribunal stood a good chance of knocking it down, and third, that such a ruling would be a severe setback for his presidency, his party, and the hopes of millions of Africa-Americans." Dirck observed "A viable compensation program would have solved a variety of problems for Lincoln, but one of its chief uses was legal. Compensating slaveholders for their losses would have defused Taney's potential Fifth Amendment argument. Had Congress and the border states responded to Lincoln's request for compensated emancipation, Taney would have found it much more difficult to construct a case for emancipation constituting an unlawful seizure of property without the 'just compensation' required by the Framers."197
Having made the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln would not be deterred by electoral losses or political pressures. Historian William E. Gienapp wrote: "Lincoln's endorsement of compensated state emancipation alarmed antislavery advocates, who feared that it meant he did not intend to issue the Emancipation Proclamation as promised, but radical senator Charles Sumner reassured one concerned correspondent that on the issue the president 'will stand firm.' In November, Lincoln told a group of Kentucky Unionists that he would rather die than retract his proclamation."198 In Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862, he laid out an extensive program of gradual, compensated emancipation. After laying out a series of proposed constitutional amendments, Lincoln wrote: "Among the friends of the Union there is great diversity, of sentiment, and of policy, in regard to slavery, and the African race amongst us. Some would perpetuate slavery; some would abolish it suddenly, and without compensation; some would remove the freed people from us, and some would retain them with us; and there are yet other minor diversities. Because of these diversities, we waste much strength in struggles among ourselves. By mutual concession we should harmonize, and act together. This would be compromise; but it would be compromise among the friends, and not with the enemies of the Union. These articles are intended to embody a plan of such mutual concessions."199 Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote of Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress that President Lincoln's "proposals sought to energize emancipationists in the loyal border states and destroy slavery in places well beyond the proclamation's remit. And - in a lengthy passage which confronted economic racism even more powerfully than it advocated voluntary deportation, and made a start in educating whites to tolerate a free black population in their midst - Lincoln challenged, as he had never before, the 'largely imaginary, if not sometimes malicious' argument that emancipation would depress the wages of white labor, and that freedmen would 'swarm forth, and cover the whole land.'"200
Speculation about whether the President would issue the Final Emancipation Proclamation increased as January 1, 1863 neared. On December 25, Senator Charles Sumner wrote Boston railroad executive John M. Forbes after "I returned from an interview with the President, where much had been said about the Proclamation. He is now considering how to proclaim on 1st January. It will be done. He says of himself that he is hard to be moved from any position which he has taken. He let me know last evening of his plan to employ African troops to hold the Mississippi River, and also other posts in the warm climates, so that our white soldiers may be employed elsewhere. He seemed much in earnest."201 Senator Sumner called on President Lincoln again on December 27 and presented him with several communications, newspaper clippings advocating the proclamation, and the letter from the electors. Sumner reported to Forbes: "The President says that he could not stop the Proclamation if he would, and he would not if he could....I find Stanton unusually sanguine and confident. He says that he shall have 200,000 negroes under arms before June, holding the Mississippi River and garrisoning the ports, so that our white soldiers can go elsewhere. The President accepts this idea."202 Other visitors also pushed the President. Allen Guelzo wrote: "In the last week of December, Z.C. Robbins, a patent lawyer and old Washington hand, paid a call on John Nicolay and took the chance to say to Lincoln, 'I hope there will be no backing out on your part' from the Proclamation. 'Well, I don't know,' Lincoln replied. 'Peter denied his Master. He thought he wouldn't, but he did.' A committee of New York abolitionists headed by the old-line abolitionists parsons George Cheever and William Goodell waited on Lincoln on December 31 to press him for some confirmation about the Proclamation. Lincoln would only say, 'To-morrow at noon, you shall know - and the country shall know - my decision.'"203
The Final Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863 included language which stressed the "military necessary" of the President's action. Historian James A. Rawley wrote: "That great proclamation clearly was a weapon of war and not a torch of freedom."204 Military necessity was a constitutional and legal necessity for presidential action in the absence of other constitutional authority. President Lincoln told Navy Secretary Gideon Welles that it was "absolutely essential for the salvation of the Union, that we must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued..."205 Historian Herman Belz wrote that "Lincoln emphasized military necessity because in constitutional and political terms the logic of emancipation required it."206 According to Belz, "Anti-Negro prejudice in the North...made it politically inexpedient to justify emancipation in these positive moral and ideological terms. For the sake of border state and southern Unionist sensibilities, moreover, which continued to weigh heavily in Lincoln's thinking, it was desirable to avoid the appearance of relying on the elevated principles of antislavery reform."207 Historian Allen C. Guelzo noted that Lincoln's "one hope for making emancipation pass judicial muster was a sober invocation of military necessity: that what he was doing was legally justified by the military contribution a slave emancipation would make toward winning the war and preserving the Constitution."208 James M. McPherson wrote: "Lincoln's apparently radical change of mind about his war power to emancipate slaves was caused by the escalating scope fo the war, which convinced him that any measure to weaken the Confederacy and strengthen the Union war effort was justifiable as a military necessity. Lincoln may also have been influenced by a long pamphlet titled The War Powers of the President, and the Legislative Powers of Congress in Relation to Rebellion, Treason and Slavery, first published in the spring of 1862. Its author was William Whiting, a Boston abolitionist and one of the ablest lawyers in New England."209 Historian Edna Greene Medford wrote: "The military necessity character of the proclamation disappointed those abolitionists who had pressed Lincoln to oppose slavery on moral grounds. Some African-Americans found irony in the president's focus on military necessity because it suggested that Lincoln needed black men to save the Union."210
President Lincoln told Methodist leader John McClintock: "When I issued that proclamation, I was in great doubt about it myself. I did not think that the people had been quite educated up to it, and I feared its effects upon border states."211 Lincoln had to worry about the impact of his actions on a variety of constituencies - including northern radicals, Border State conservatives and the U.S. Supreme Court. Fortunately, President Lincoln had unified the Republican Party behinds his deliberate actions. Historian Louis S. Gerteis wrote: "Emancipation...became rather fashionable as the Civil War progressed, and the issue no longer served to distinguish Radicals from moderates, or even conservatives. As emancipation became politically popular, Attorney General Edward Bates observed that 'men who don't care a fig about it have become all of a sudden very zealous in that cause....' The fact that conservative Republicans, otherwise unconcerned with the status of southern blacks, supported emancipation as a military necessary did not indicate a Radical victory.... The effectiveness of the argument of military necessity as a justification for emancipation owed less to the moral principles of Radicalism than to Confederate successes."212
The potential impact of emancipation behind Confederate lines was evident even to secessionists. Historian Armstead L. Robinson wrote: "With Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation scheduled to apply to states remaining in rebellion on January 1, 1863, Confederate officials pressed their superiors in Richmond to enact some measure to cope with the growing threat to the institution of slavery. Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles, in the District of Mississippi, brought the matter to the attention of the secretary of war:
Voluntary enlistment and the conscription have taken into the military service of the country such a large proportion of the active freemen of this district, including the owners of slaves and other persons engaged in their management, that many plantations with numerous slaves are being left without the ordinary and necessary control of the white man, and daily applications are made to me to detail or to authorize the retention of proper persons to superintend them. Pernicious influences have already been manifested upon many of these plantations, and it is perhaps not without reason that fears are entertained of some serious disturbance in the sections most densely populated by the servile race, which are in most cases approachable by navigable streams.213
Signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was delayed until after the President's customary New Year's Day reception. Mr. Lincoln did not betray the momentous action he was about to take. The Washington Chronicle reported that Mr. Lincoln availed "himself of every opportunity to drop a pleasant word or remark."214 Even after its issuance, Mr. Lincoln understood the limits of Emancipation Proclamation. He told General Henry W. Halleck that "he knew his proclamation would not make a single Negro free beyond our military reach."215 Nevertheless, emancipation changed the nature of the war.
Some of the largest observances in anticipation of the expected Emancipation Proclamation were held in Boston. Historian George M. Frederickson wrote: "For a large number of northerners, the sufferings of war took on new meaning after the announcement of the government's emancipation policy. This was evident on New Year's Day, 1863, when most of the New England men of letters gathered in the Boston Music Hall to celebrate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation....The formal part of the program featured [Ralph Waldo] Emerson's reading of his 'Boston Hymn,' written for the occasion, and a stirring choral rendition of Holmes' 'Army Hymn.' The great moment of the afternoon came, however, when official word was received that the proclamation had been signed as scheduled. The audience burst into tremendous applause, sending up three cheers for President Lincoln, followed by three cheers for William Lloyd Garrison, who was present in the house."216 Historian David W. Blight wrote: "On emancipation day, January 1, 1863, [Frederick] Douglass was in Boston to participate in what was expected to be a massive celebration at Tremont Temple. Speech followed speech throughout the day and into the evening, with Douglass providing his usual share of the oratory. Tension mounted as the large gathering waited impatiently for the news of Lincoln's proclamation. When the news finally arrived, great jubilation engulfed the crowd. Not surprisingly, this celebration was a deeply spiritual response to the most important moment in the history of black Americans. When a semblance of order was restored following the initial tears and shouting, Douglass led the throng in a chorus of his favorite hymn: 'Blow ye the Trumpet Blow.' Next, an old black preacher named Rue led the group in 'Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea, Jehovah has triumphed, his people are free!'"217
There was also rejoicing back in Washington. Historian Stephen B. Oates wrote: "Later in the day an interracial crowd gathered on the White House lawn, and Lincoln greeted the people from an open window. The blacks cheered and sang, 'Glory, Jubilee has come,' and told Lincoln that if he would 'come out of that palace, they would hug him to death.' A black preacher named Henry M. Turner exclaimed that 'it is indeed a time of times,' that 'nothing like it will ever be seen again in this life."218 Throughout the North, African-Americans celebrated. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, African-Americans met and passed a series of resolutions that included: "That we, the colored citizens of the city of Harrisburg, hail the 1st day of January, 1863, as a new era in our country's history - a day in which injustice and oppression were forced to flee and cower before the benign principles of justice and righteousness - a day in which the Goddess of Liberty, decked with the jewels of justice, presented to the sable sons and daughters of the south the inestimable boon of liberty - a day from which the enfranchised will be able to look forward into the future with the full assurance that they will be able to sit down under their own 'vine and fig tree, with none to molest them or make them afraid."219 Historian Edna Green Medford wrote: "For free blacks in the North, the issuing of the final proclamation provided an opportunity for reflection and recommitment. In every major city throughout the Union - from New York to Chicago and from Boston to the District of Columbia - they remembered the sacrifices sustained in the struggle for freedom and pledged to continue to press for universal emancipation."220
Celebration also took the form of the printed word. Historian Hans L. Trefousse wrote: "Republican newspapers were equally enthusiastic. 'The President's proclamation...marks an era in the history, not only of this war, but of this country and the world,' wrote the New York Times, while the Chicago Tribune called it 'A New Year's Gift to Humanity,' The Cincinnati Gazette called it 'the foremost document of the century.' The Springfield Republican fully approved of the proclamation 'as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing the rebellion' and praised the president for having issued it in his capacity as commander in chief of the army, in spite of his personal antislavery feelings, an assessment with which the New York Commercial Advertiser fully agreed."221
A northern printer, Rufus Blanchard, wrote this commentary on his reproduction of the final Emancipation Proclamation: "The Proclamation is an incalculable element of strength to the Union cause....It perfects the purposes of the Declaration of Independence and impairs no constitutional rights, those whom it would affect having forfeited those rights by proving false to their country, to humanity and religion. No real support to the Union cause will be lost by this Proclamation, while time-serving traitors, who always covertly opposed the war, will be exposed. It will be a powerful incentive to the slave to fight for the Union instead of his rebel master, and when it becomes executed and Freedom reigns throughout the land, the colored man will leave the Northern regions, whither he has fled from slavery, and join his kindred beneath those sunny skies where nature invites him. Labor will be rewarded, justice fulfilled, and the Old Ship of State will again sail majestic o'er the unrippled waters of Liberty and Peace. Confusion and shame rest upon those who fight against a free government, and songs of thankfulness and love glorify its defenders."222
Critics pointed out that the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves only in areas of the South that the Union army did not control. Pro-abolition Congressman George W. Julian later testified "how wisely [Lincoln] employed a grant popular delusion in the salvation of his country. His proclamation had no present legal effect within territory not under the control of our arms; but as an expression of the spirit of the people and the policy of the Administration, it had become both a moral and a military necessity."223
"In the vast literature on the Emancipation Proclamation, a single tart criticism stands out," wrote historian James A. Dueholm. "The unrelieved legalese of the Emancipation Proclamation, historian Richard Hofstadter said, endowed it with 'all the grandeur of a bill of lading.' Most if not all accounts of the Emancipation Proclamation include this quip. It is too good to pass up, and it is a fair, if ungenerous and incomplete, comment on style. Hofstadter's words capture the essence of the Emancipation in ways that he neither envisioned nor intended. A bill of lading is a document issued by a carrier to a shipper acknowledging receipt of goods for transit. This greatest of all bills of lading was constitutionally issued by the Union's helmsman. And it delivered the goods."224 Lincoln legal scholar Paul Finkelman wrote: "But Hofstadter failed to understand the significance of a bill of lading to a skilled railroad lawyer, which is what Lincoln had been before the war. A bill of lading was the key legal instrument that was used to guarantee the delivery of goods between parties that were far apart and may never have known each other. A bill of lading allowed a seller in New York to safely ship goods to a buyer in Illinois, both confident the transaction would work. One contemporary living in Britain, Karl Marx, fully understood the highly legalistic nature of the proclamation. Writing for a London newspaper during the war, Marx had a clear fix on what Lincoln had done, and why he did it the way he did: the 'most formidable decrees which he hurls at the enemy and which will never lose their historic significance, resemble - as the author intends them to - ordinary summons, sent by one lawyer to another.'"225
Lincoln approach to emancipation wisely allowed it to be implemented in different ways. Historian William C. Harris wrote: "Once he adopted emancipation as a means to win the war, Lincoln had departed from his original intention to preserve the Union and the Constitution as they were. This pragmatic president, however, apparently did not view his action on emancipation as a serious violation of the principle of local self-government or of Southern self-reconstruction. Lincoln left the process of emancipation and the status of blacks in freedom in the hands of local white Unionists, whom he expected to restore loyal, republican governments in their states and deal justly with blacks."226 The Emancipation Proclamation had a clear impact on the South and the Confederate war effort. Historian Armstead L. Robinson wrote: "An increasing number of slaveholders felt justified in separating themselves from the general [Confederate] war effort. Why should they support a government that seemed unable to defend the interests that formed the cornerstone of the Southern republic? Was it not the planters' business to ensure that slavery survived the struggle? With the advance of the disastrous 1862 growing season, the Southern revolution began to reap the whirlwind of its commitment to local autonomy as many slaveholders took the preservation of slavery into their own hands. But slaves themselves were increasingly emboldened by the promise of emancipation. A Texas slave, Ida Henry told of an overseer known for his 'meaness [sic] over the slaves.' 'One day,' she recalled later, 'de slaves caught him and one held him whilst another knocked him in de head and killed him."227
Although necessarily limited in scope by the Constitution, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation set in motion forces that would lead directly to slavery's abolition. Historian Allen C. Guelzo noted that "the Thirteenth Amendment is really only a coda to the Emancipation Proclamation. Nor is it likely that Lincoln would have ever backed down from the proclamation, even in the face of the courts."228 Guelzo wrote that "we underestimate the political courage it took for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and then stand behind it. Six weeks after he gave his hundred-days' warning, the midterm congressional elections dumped 45 Republicans from their seats in the House of Representatives....The Union army smoldered with rumors of mutiny and coup. Two state legislatures - Illinois and Indiana - were so violent in their condemnation of the Proclamation that they had to be closed down by their governors. And in July 1863, New York City erupted in a riot over the draft that quickly turned into a bloody anti-emancipation carnival."229 The Proclamation had many critics - especially among Democrats who felt it changed the nature of northern war aims from preservation of the union to emancipation of slaves. Historian James M. McPherson wrote: "Democrats bitterly opposed the Proclamation, and the war became thereafter primarily a Republican war instead of a bipartisan war."230
With Union soldiers nearby, slaves initiated their own liberation. Historian Eric Foner wrote: "Slaves understood that the presence of Union forces fundamentally altered the balance of power between white and black, master and slave, in the South. In 1861 and 1862, as the federal army occupied territory on the periphery of the Confederacy, first in Virginia, then Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, and elsewhere, slaves by the thousands headed for Union lines. Unlike fugitives before the war, these runaways included large numbers of women, children, and elderly men, as entire families abandoned the plantations, willing, as General Daniel E. Sickles commented, to 'incur any danger' in their quest for freedom."231 News of the Emancipation Proclamation spread through the slave grapevine and had a more widespread impact than President Lincoln been willing to predict. Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote that the proclamation "clearly contributed to the increased disintegration of slavery around its shrinking edges, as the presidential mandate for freedom triggered a fresh cascade of running away that began sweeping off the underpinnings of slavery."232 Historians Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen wrote that "Word filtered South through a slave grapevine like wildfire, although slaves attempted to hide the fact that they had heard about the proclamation. Southern whites had suspicions that blacks had kept up with news of the war. A Louisiana planter complained that his slaves 'know more about politics than most of the white men. They know everything that happens.'"233
James M. McPherson understood that Lincoln's policy was the trigger for self-emancipation by slaves. McPherson wrote "that once the war was carried into slave territory, no matter how it came out, the ensuing 'friction and abrasion' (as Lincoln once put it) would enable thousands of slaves to escape to freedom. In that respect, a degree of self-emancipation did occur. But even on a large scale, such emancipation was very different from the abolition of institution of slavery. That required Union victory; it required Lincoln's reelection in 1864; it required the Thirteenth Amendment. Lincoln played a vital role, indeed the central role, in all of these achievements. It was also his policies and his skillful political leadership that set in motion the processes by which the reconstructed or Unionist states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Maryland, and Missouri abolished the institution in those states during the war itself."234
The literal application of the Emancipation Proclamation to areas not under Union control does not do justice to what the Proclamation meant for slaves in those regions. Historian Don E. Fehrenbacher wrote: "In recent decades, historians have argued that less adulation should be given to Lincoln's leadership abilities and more to the thousands of anonymous slaves, who by escaping southern captivity during the war, eventually forced Lincoln to support a formal emancipation policy."235 Historian Ira Berlin, for example, argued: "Where others led on emancipation, Lincoln followed. Lincoln responded slowly to demands for emancipation as they worked their way up the military chain of command and as they echoed in northern public opinion."236 Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel noted that Confederate President "Jefferson Davis lost a string of domestic servants, three escaping in the first month of 1864 alone. They usually absconded with some of the President's clothes or silver, although a couple of the more bold tried to burn down the Executive Mansion. By early 1865, at a time when Confederate armies were starved for manpower, the Georgia legislature felt compelled to establish a special cavalry battalion for stopping slaves from escaping to the enemy The numbers reaching the sanctuary of Federal jurisdiction eventually swelled to over half a million."237 It is important to remember that although these slaves liberated themselves, they did so with the expectation that the Union government would protect them from re-enslavement.
Though the immediate impact of the Emancipation Proclamation may have been limited, its eventual impact was enormous. Legal scholar George Anastaplo wrote: "The emancipation of so massive a body of slaves made slavery itself quite vulnerable in the Country at large. Such slavery as then existed in North America could find intelligent defenders in this Country only if virtually all members of the slaves' race were subjected to slavery. If a significant number were free, and could develop themselves as free and responsible residents here, an argument based upon the supposed natural basis for African slavery would no longer be tenable. Slavery could not survive, in a regime such as ours, if it clearly rested as much as it would have had to rest (after the Emancipation Proclamation) upon obvious accidents of geography and history."238
Even when Union generals did not take the initiative, southern blacks streamed into their camps and followed their maneuvers and marches. Military and civilian officials struggled with how to handle the influx and establish arrangements to sustain the former slaves who needed work, food and shelter. Historian Herman Belz wrote: "Wartime policies based on free contractual labor had the purpose of steering emancipated slaves along the path of laissez faire legal equality. Although army officials exercised much control over freedmen's affairs, causing critics like Wendell Phillips to complain that government policy lacked any genuine element of consideration, the contract labor system was intended to help freedmen become self-supporting. To a considerable extent it succeeded."239 President Lincoln appointed Union army chaplain John Eaton to head a program to help these escaped slaves.
The impact of the Emancipation Proclamation was also felt among slaves who did not escape. Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel noted that "there was very little black violence against former owners. Nevertheless, as fugitives increased enforcement costs for slaveowners, the peculiar institution crumbled in those areas unreached by Federal troops exactly as Southerners had feared would happen without vigorous recapture of runaways. The drain of white males into the Confederate military also contributed to a decline in supervision. Labor discipline on plantations and farms relaxed. Slaves worked less than before, as they escalated their traditional resort to passive resistance, with insolence and intransigence becoming widespread."240
Emancipation in fact was the product of Lincoln's inauguration, self-emancipation by blacks near Union lines, and growing Union control over slaveholding territory. Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote: "To argue, as some have done, that the slaves freed themselves and that Lincoln's role was hesitantly to catch up with events is, however, to oversimplify a complex historical process. Final, irreversible freedom required the defeat of the Confederates and a new constitutional settlement. Slaves certainly played a role in weakening the Confederacy from within, while from without the 200,000 African Americans who served as federal soldiers, sailors, servants, teamsters and laborers may well have tipped the advantage toward the Union. But there was more to northern victory than that. Of paramount importance was the leadership of a president and commander-in-chief who understood that there could be no certain freedom without a restored Union and that prematurely making emancipation the formal goal of war would shatter the broad-based coalition on which that very restoration depended."241 The authors of The Civil War and Reconstruction observed: "When the Union army appeared in the interior of the South, as it increasingly did in 1864 and 1865, more slaves left plantations and farms. As Bell Wiley writes, blacks 'generally engaged in the seizure and distribution of property and a general celebration of the advent of freedom.' Freed women sometimes adopted symbolic badges of their liberation, carrying parasols and wearing the veils previously denied them. Yet many blacks in the interior of the Confederacy remained in bondage - some hurriedly removed to Texas, where as many as 150,000 were sent during the war."242
There was an appreciation in both the North and South that President Lincoln had advanced the cause of emancipation. Historian Larry E. Nelson wrote that by 1864, "Black leaders uniformly denounced the Democratic party, but their assessment of Lincoln and the Republicans was more complex. The President's image as the 'Great Emancipator' held a profound attraction, and Negroes openly celebrated the first anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the cities of the North, federal controlled areas of the South, and the gold fields of the West. Speakers often noted the limitations of the proclamation, but they heaped praise upon it and upon Lincoln."243
Emancipation soon undermined projects to colonize freed blacks outside of the United States. Colonization of freed slaves outside the United States was a response, however ill-advised, to racism in both the North and South. Lincoln scholar William Lee Miller wrote: "Lincoln had acquired his colonization convictions from his first political hero, Henry Clay; had spoken at colonization society meetings in Springfield; had defended colonization in his debates with Stephen Douglas; and as president would recommend it in his first two annual messages, endorse it in the preliminary (although not the final) emancipation proclamation, and go to some lengths actually to launch colonization projects - utterly futile as they would prove to be - near Haiti and in Panama"244 Historian Michael Vorenberg wrote: "Lincoln's belief in colonization...worked to his advantage in many debates with Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas....Lincoln stood firmly against popular sovereignty and the extension of slavery that it would allow, but his stance left him politically vulnerable to Douglas's charge that he favored racial equality. Racism was prevalent in the Midwest in the 1850s. When Douglas tried to portray Lincoln as the friend of blacks, Lincoln countered, as he did in a speech at Peoria, Illinois, by denying that he saw blacks as equals and by advocating the colonization of freed slaves in Liberia."245 Historian Richard Striner wrote: "Lincoln's motive for colonization - at least until he changed his mind about the subject in 1864 was his fear that racial prejudice would undermine the cause of liberation unless, somehow, the racial issue could be gradually defused."246 Politically, Lincoln needed a potentially feasible alternative to slavery.
The colonization movement was spurred in part by the perceived threat of violence between the races. Lincoln's own hometown in Springfield, Illinois was not immune from harassment of its black residents. Some white Americans like Lincoln saw colonization as a way to solve a problem for which they saw no other solution. Mr. Lincoln understood that he had a responsibility not only to free the slaves, but to deal with the social and economic consequences of 4 million slaves who would have freedom but no obvious economic sustenance. Lincoln recognized the racism that prevailed in both the North and South. Historian David Lightner wrote: "Lincoln's struggle to win popular acceptance of the Emancipation Proclamation explains his public preoccupation in 1862 with colonization experiments."247
"Lincoln seems...to have made a political calculation that he could not propose emancipation without at the same time proposing colonization," noted historian Michael Vorenberg. "It was a calculation well understood by Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, who recognized the 'thriftless folly which gravely propose[s] the exportation of laborers by the millions,' but who understood that colonization proposals might have to be entertained to make emancipation acceptable to conservatives: 'Gradualism, Compensation, Exportation - if these tubs amuse the whale, let him have them. Born from the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and Henry Clay and thrust into the hands of Lincoln the pragmatist, colonization became an effective tool in dealing with the politically charged issue of what would be done with slaves freed during the war. In using colonization as an expedient for emancipation during late 1862, Lincoln may have fused the two ideas even more tightly together in his mind, making it nearly impossible for him to believe that one could exist without the other."248
Historian Phillip Shaw Paludan wrote that Lincoln's "friends confirm Lincoln's zeal for gradualism and colonization. In late November 1862 David Davis, his 'intimate friend,' as Lincoln called him, visited the president in the White House and wrote to a colleague: 'Mr. Lincoln whole soul is absorbed in his plan of remunerative emancipation.'"249 During the summer and fall of 1862, President Lincoln was actively seeking to start a model colonization program. Historian David W. Blight wrote: "Lincoln very early set in motion a multilayered effort to colonize free blacks. His newly appointed minister-resident to Guatemala, Elisha Oscar Crosby, received instructions in March, 1861, to seek a place for black colonists in Central America."250
"Many conservatives, however, remained unconvinced that large numbers of freed slaves could remain in the United States without causing social upheaval," wrote historian James. M. McPherson. "In 1861-1862 there was widespread support among conservative Republicans and Democrats for the colonization abroad of Negroes emancipated by the war. Abolitionists and northern Negroes, of course, were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of colonization as a solution of the negro question. James Redpath promoted the emigration of northern Negroes to Haiti in an effort to help build that island republic into a strong nation and make it a showcase of Negro abilities. But Redpath as well as other abolitionists denounced all wartime colonization plans having the general purpose of getting Negroes out of the United States."251
Compensated emancipation and colonization were the two sops that President Lincoln held out to opponents of emancipation during 1862. Historian Elbert B. Smith wrote about Lincoln's preoccupation with colonization: "He was painfully aware of the deep-seated racism throughout the North as well as the South, and dreaded the period of readjustment which emancipation would bring."252 President Lincoln also sought to make the case to black America. Historian Hans L. Trefousse wrote: "After the commissioner of colonization, James Mitchell, who had long been active in the cause, had arranged for an interview, in the afternoon of August 14, the President received at the White House a Negro delegation headed by Edward M." Thomas.253 Historian Michael Burlingame wrote that "James Mitchell, a Methodist minister and a former agent of the American Colonization Society, set up the meeting. Lincoln had worked with Mitchell in Illinois, and in 1862 appointed him commissioner of emigration in the Interior Department."254 Historian Michael Burlingame observed: "Congressional pressure to do something about colonization may well have prompted Lincoln to summon the black Washingtonians."255
President Lincoln then presented his plan for colonization. "Although the proposal did not impress the black community, and although Lincoln probably foresaw its drawbacks from the start, he had nevertheless given a token of his goodwill towards the conservatives."256 Lincoln told the black leaders: "In the American Revolutionary war sacrifices were made by men engaged in it; but they were cheered by the future. Gen. Washington himself endured greater physical hardships than if he had remained a British subject. Yet he was a happy man, because he was engaged in benefiting his race - something for the children of his neighbors, having none of his own."257 Historian Edna Green Medford wrote that "Thomas...later wrote to Lincoln promising to confer with black leaders throughout the North and encouraged the president in Thomas's belief that African Americans would 'join heartily in sustaining such a movement.' But Lincoln's ill-conceived colonization plan found scant support in the African-American community."258
Historian Michael Burlingame wrote: "Some other blacks supported colonization, including a group of newly freed slaves in Washington who memorialized Congress to provide for their settlement in Central America. Earlier, they had resisted colonization because it was privately managed, but they trusted the government to administer the program in their best interest."259 Historian Edna Greene Medford argued: "Although his was a cynicism born of astute observation and a clear understanding of the racist attitudes and limitations of his countrymen, Lincoln failed to fully comprehend or appreciate the resolve of African Americans to remain in the country of their birth, despite its shortcomings."260
Historian Elbert B. Smith wrote about Lincoln's preoccupation with colonization: "He was painfully aware of the deep-seated racism throughout the North as well as the South, and dreaded the period of readjustment which emancipation would bring."261 Lincoln favored voluntary, not mandatory colonization. "In 1852, for example, in eulogizing his political hero Henry Clay, Lincoln took pains to quote the late statesman's belief that 'there is a moral fitness in the idea of returning to Africa her children, whose ancestors have been torn from her by the ruthless hand of fraud and violence.' To Lincoln, this made perfect sense, and he added: 'May it indeed by realized!' Six years later, during the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln was still quoting Clay as a means of advocating colonization without quite making it his own major political priority," wrote Lincoln scholar Frank J. Williams.262
Nevertheless, plans for a pilot program of colonization continued during the fall of 1862 after President Lincoln issued the draft Emancipation Proclamation. Historian David W. Blight wrote: "By October, 1862, Kansas Senator Samuel Pomeroy, the administration's chief promoter of colonization schemes, claimed he had received 13,700 applications from potential black emigrants. Two months earlier, Pomeroy had issued a widely published appeal, 'To the Free Colored People of the United States,' describing the advantages and noble purpose of the Chiriqui scheme. The administration's sincere efforts notwithstanding, its Central American colonization project crumbled in the fall of 1862. Clearly, some free blacks were anxious to emigrate, but it is not likely that black interest was as substantial as Pomeroy's statistics may indicate."263 President Lincoln "sought far and wide for a home for colonizing African Americans, attempting to enter into treaties for colonization with Central and South American states and lending his support to several unhappily dubious projects," wrote historian Russell F. Weigley.264 In his Annual Message to Congress in December 1862, President Lincoln wrote:
Applications have been made to me by many free Americans of African descent to favor their emigration, with a view to such colonization as was contemplated in recent acts of congress. Other parties, at home and abroad - some from interested motives, others upon patriotic considerations, and still others influenced by philanthropic sentiments - have suggested similar measures; while on the other hand, several of the Spanish-American republics have protested against the sending of such colonies to their respective territories. Under these circumstances, I have declined to move any such colony to any state, without first obtaining the consent of its government, with an agreement on its part to receive and protect such emigrants in all the rights of freemen; and I have, at the same time, offered to the several states situated within the tropics, on having colonies there, to negotiate with them, subject to the advise and consent of the Senate, to favor the voluntary emigration of persons of that class to their respective territories, upon conditions which shall be equal, just, and humane. Liberia and Hayti are, as yet, the only countries to which colonists of African descent from here, could go with certainty of being received and adopted as citizens; and I regret to say such persons, contemplating colonization, do not seem so willing to migrate to those countries, as to some others, nor so willing as I think their interest demands. I believe, however, opinion among them, in this respect, is improving; and that, ere long, there will be an augmented, and considerable migration to both these countries from the United States.265
The Lincoln Administration had cultivated relations with Haiti and acknowledged its ambassador, the first black ambassador to be credentialed in Washington. Writing of President Lincoln's 1862 Annual Message to Congress, Lincoln biographer Josiah G. Holland wrote: "This dream of colonization, in which Mr. Lincoln so benevolently indulged, was destined to fail of even partial realization. He loved the negro too well to wish him to remain where the prejudices of race would shut him out from the full recognition of his manhood. He not only wanted him free, but he wanted him located where he might receive all the rights of citizenship, and where he could live - self-respectful and independent - in the society of his equals and his race. It was a matter of pitying wonder with him that the negro should love to live with a race that abused him, and held him at so low a value in the scale of humanity."266 Other historians have emphasized the impracticality of Mr. Lincoln's colonization plans. Historian David M. Potter wrote: "Entirely apart from the harshness of telling native Americans that they must seek equality in some place other than the land of their birth, Lincoln's plan was completely unrealistic because the United States had neither the facilities to colonize four million people nor a place to which it could send them. At the existing birth rate, no less than five hundred Negroes were being born in the United States every day, and there was no prospect whatever of colonizing the Negro population as rapidly as it was increasing."267 But maybe that was Mr. Lincoln's intention - to deflect opposition to other elements of his emancipation policy. Rejecting the testimony of General Benjamin Butler that Lincoln was still considering colonization at the end of his presidency, historian Michael Vorenberg wrote that "there is no reason to believe that Lincoln ever espoused colonization after he issued the Final Emancipation Proclamation."268 During early 1863, most major proponents of colonization dropped their support. Noted historian Phillip S. Paludan: "As soon as the ink was dry on the proclamation, Lincoln began to diminish greatly his support for a controversial plan: the colonization of freed African Americans to Africa."269 Having put emancipation into operation, Mr. Lincoln's focus turned to other issues. Historian Brian R. Dirck wrote that "all evidence suggests" that Lincoln had abandoned colonization by 1864.270
Controversy has surrounded the extent to which President Lincoln was committed to colonization or simply used it as a political strategem. Historian Phillip S. Paludan wrote that one school of historians exemplified by James G. Randall saw "Lincoln's advocacy of colonization as direct and honest; he wanted blacks to leave the country and tried to talk them into doing so." Another school believed that Mr. Lincoln's advocacy was a strategem to mollify anti-black opponents of his administration and give time for his emancipation proclamation to work. Paludan wrote: "Language of the time about colonization does provide some excuse for suspicion or confusion about Lincoln's goal. Deportation was often used as a synonym for colonization. When people spoke of colonization, they were usually vague about how many blacks they had in mind: all, most or some could be substituted by listeners. But while Lincoln was vague on how many would go, he rarely equated deportation with colonization."271 Lincoln meant colonization to be voluntary, not coerced.
For Lincoln, colonization was a political tactic. Historian Gabor S. Boritt wrote: "His espousal of the policy, however sincere, was superficial. It had little deep, long-term significance for him. For Lincoln approached colonization at two levels of consciousness. At one he favored colonization; at another he understood that it could not be implemented but he avoided the realization of this truth until circumstances made it acceptable."272 Historian Michael Vorenberg suggested "that Lincoln was as much motivated by political concerns as by his personal views toward blacks. His strategy was to propose colonization to sweeten the pill of emancipation for conservatives from the North and the border states, the slave states that did not secede during the Civil War; at the same time, he used political manipulation to prevent radicals from thwarting the colonization program and thus jeopardizing his ultimate goal of making emancipation an acceptable war aim to the Union cause...a clear picture emerges of Lincoln using the prospect of black colonization to make emancipation more acceptable to conservatives and then abandoning all efforts at colonization once he made the determined step toward emancipation in the Final Emancipation Proclamation."273
As the Civil War continued, President Lincoln kept tightening the vise on slavery At the beginning of the war, Mr. Lincoln was steadfast in opposing compromise on the critical question of slavery's extension. Before the war, noted historian Richard Striner wrote: "Lincoln really seemed to believe that the evil of slavery would die if the nation contained it. He appeared to believe that it was only a matter of time before Southerners would listen to the logic of a voluntary phaseout."274 As the war progressed, Mr. Lincoln became steadfast in opposing slavery's existence. Historian Ron J. Keller wrote: "President Lincoln and Congress began administering a death sentence to the institution of slavery by 1863, but something more substantive was needed. In his annual message to Congress on December 8, 1863, Lincoln called for emancipation to be extended to include the border states. A ready and deliberate move, it stopped short of embracing the suggestion of Representative Isaac N. Arnold of Illinois - asking Congress to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. That would come soon enough."275
"Abraham Lincoln was not a sentimental Abolitionist. Indeed, he was not a sentimentalist on any subject," wrote Pennsylvania Republican Alexander K. McClure. "He was a man of earnest conviction and of sublime devotion to his faith."276 President Lincoln wanted emancipation done legally and permanently, so he was careful to consider the constitutional implications of his own actions and those by Congress. Historian Brooks D. Simpson wrote: "The president...sincerely believed that emancipation could not be achieved merely through legislation....The Supreme Court had knocked down earlier efforts by Congress to restrict slavery's expansion; it could just as well declare the Wade-Davis Bill unconstitutional. Lincoln held fast to his belief that there were only three ways to place emancipation upon a lasting foundation: by justifying it as a war measure, by inducing southern whites to abandon slavery voluntarily through individual or state action, and through constitutional amendment."277
"Lincoln understood the importance of his role, both politically and morally - just as the slaves had understood theirs," wrote historian Isaiah Berlin. "Having determined to free the slaves, Lincoln declared he would not take back the Emancipation Proclamation even when military failure and political reverses threatened that policy. Lincoln praised the role of black soldiers in preserving the Union and liquidating chattel bondage and vowed not to betray them. The growing presence of black men in Union ranks deepened Lincoln's commitment to emancipation."278 Historian Hans L. Trefousse wrote: "Even in the face of serious opposition, Lincoln refused to change his mind about emancipation."279 He strongly backed measures to change constitutions in Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee to end slavery in those states. When Missouri radical Republican James Taussig visited the President in 1863, Mr. Lincoln told him that "the Union men in Missouri who are in favor of gradual emancipation represented his views better than those who are in favor of immediate emancipation. In his speeches, he had frequently used as an illustration the case of a man who had an excrescence on the back of his neck, the removal of which, in one operation, would result in the death of the patient, while tinkering it off by degrees would preserve life.....the Radicals in Missouri had no right to consider themselves the exponents of his views on the subject of emancipation in that state."280
Writing of an August 1864 meeting with President Lincoln, army chaplain John Eaton recalled: "He referred to the really astonishing extent to which the colored people were informed in regard to the progress of the war, and remarked that he wished the 'grapevine telegraph' could be utilized to call upon the Negroes of the interior peacefully to leave the plantations and seek the protection of our armies. This as a war-time measure he considered legitimate. Apart from the numbers it would add to our military forces, he explained the effect such an exodus would have upon the industry of the South. The Confederate soldiers were sustained by provisions raised by Negro labor; withdraw that labor, and the young men in the Southern army would soon be obliged to go home to 'raise hog and hominy,' and thus promote the collapse of the Confederacy "281 President Lincoln had similar conversations with black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
At the same time, President Lincoln helped shift public opinion on emancipation - sufficiently that slave-holding Maryland approved in the fall of 1864 a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. John Hay wrote: "The most striking instance of this new disposition in the discussion of this vexed question is found, not in Congress, though Frank Blair in the House of Representatives and Senator Henderson in the Senate have talked with eminent appositness and gravity upon this matter, but as the people are invariably before their leaders in this country, and Congress reflects (not illustrates) public opinion the most significant indications of this new and dispassionate consideration of this vastly important concern, is found among the leading Conservative citizens and presses of the Border States. Especially in Maryland is this becoming evident. In this, the most conservative and dignified of the old Colonial Commonwealths; in this home of the only true aristocracy of the English emigration in this State; which more than any other preserved unbroken the mould of social and religious caste, the exercise of the soundest and most progressive common sense is being brought to the consideration of this weighty matter."282
On one subject there was absolutely no compromise for President Lincoln - trading in slaves. Historian James Oakes wrote: "Ever since the importation of slaves had been banned in 1808 the U.S. government had, in Frederick Douglass's words, 'winked at the accursed slave trade.' Shortly after Lincoln took office, the government stopped winking. Within weeks of his inauguration the new President ordered his secretary of the interior, Caleb Smith, to assume a centralized responsibility for the prosecution of those who smuggled African slaves into the country. Smith understood how deeply Lincoln detested slave traders, and he quickly assembled a crackerjack team of lawyers and investigators."283 The issue came to a head in 1861 when the case of Captain Nathaniel Gordon came to trial in New York. President Lincoln refused to grant clemency to Gordon, who was convicted of picking up a shipment of slaves in the Congo.
Gordon was sentenced to hang. Lincoln scholar Ron Soodalter wrote: "Equal pressure was put upon Lincoln by those who supported Smith's opinion and advocated hanging Gordon. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts visited the White House on February 1, and later wrote his friend, the famed Catholic scholar and essayist Orestes A. Brownson, 'Yesterday I told the Prest. that though I am against capital punishment, I am yet for hanging that slave-trader condemned in New York. It must be done (a) to deter slave-traders, (2) to give notice to the world of a change of policy & (3) to shew that the Govt. can hang a man.'" Soodalter observed: "Lincoln had viewed the evidence, considered the prospect of allowing Gordon his lie, and rejected it. As he would tell Illinois congressman Henry Bromwell in late March 1865, 'There was that man [Gordon] who was sentenced for piracy and slave-trading on the high seas. That was a case where there must be an example and you don't know how they followed and pressed to get him pardoned, or his sentence commuted; but there was no use of talking. It had to be done; I couldn't help him.'"284
President Lincoln wrote: "I think I would personally prefer to let this man live in confinement and let him meditate on his deeds, yet in the name of justice and the majesty of law, there ought to be one case, at least one specific instance, of a professional slavetrader, a Northern white man, given the exact penalty of death because of the incalculable number of deaths he and his kind inflicted upon black men amid the horror of the sea-voyage from Africa."285 Ron Soodalter wrote that " it would be highly inappropriate to grant clemency to a man whose crimes had contributed, in a small but undeniable way, to the war that was claiming so many lives."286 Lincoln refused to see Gordon's wife and turned aside all petitions for clemency. He believed that an example needed to be made of Gordon - for both domestic and foreign policy reasons. Despite his well-known sense of compassion, President Lincoln needed to send a signal that he was serious about the slave trade. He did so in the first months of 1862 by concluding with Britain a treaty to cooperate in stamping out the slave trade.
Grinnell and Simeon Draper oversaw the execution of Nathaniel Gordon
Massachusetts Congressman John B. Alley recalled: "No man was ever more thoroughly imbued with the conviction of the wickedness and cruelty of slavery than Mr. Lincoln. He who had 'Charity for all and malice toward none,' could not overlook and forgive the slave-trader. While I was in Congress, a petition was sent me from the city of Newburyport, in my district, numerously signed, praying the President to pardon a man in jail in that city. He had been convicted of commanding a vessel engaged in the slave-trade, and was sentenced to several years' imprisonment and a fine of one thousand dollars. He had served out his term of imprisonment, but could not pay his fine. The petition was accompanied by a letter, from the prisoner, to the President, and by a request that I would present the petition and letter to Mr. Lincoln in person. The letter contained an urgent and pathetic appeal for pardon, acknowledging the crime and the justice of the sentence, and declaring that he must spend his life in prison if the condition of freedom was the payment of that fine, for he had not a cent in the world. The President read the letter and petition, and remarked: 'I believe I am kindly enough in nature and can be moved to pity and to pardon the perpetrator of almost the worst crime that the mind of man can conceive or the arm of man can execute; but any man, who, for paltry gain and stimulated only by avarice, can rob Africa of her children to sell into interminable bondage, I never will pardon, and he may stay and rot in jail before he will ever get relief from me."287
Mr. Lincoln moved public opinion and his policies on slavery moved along with it. Historians James O. Horton and Lois E. Horton wrote: "As the Proclamation changed the war, the war itself was changing Lincoln. Part of his change was attributable to the role African American troops played in the war and to his association with Frederick Douglass."288 Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass could be both a critic and a supporter of the Lincoln Administration. Historian David Blight wrote: "Douglass often pointed to Lincoln's example in speaking of the educative nature of the war. Although frequently one of the president's fiercest critics, he acknowledged Lincoln's ability to change on racial issues. 'If he did not control events,' Douglas said of Lincoln, 'he had the wisdom to be instructed by them. When he no longer could withstand the current, he swam with it.'"289 Historian Edna Greene Medford noted: "Northern blacks' responses to the president's policies exhibited a poignancy born of the African American's unique and personal stake in the outcome of the conflict. For them, advocacy of freedom for enslaved people was more than an intellectual exercise or defense of lofty principles long abandoned by the rest of the nation. Many Northern blacks (especially the leaders) had themselves suffered under slavery's grip, left relatives behind as they made their escape to the North, and had managed through sheer determination to elevate themselves."290
As the presidential election approached in 1864, the gulf regarding slavery between Democrats and Republicans widened. At their national convention in June, Republicans endorsed a constitutional amendment to end slavery. Lincoln aide Noah Brooks wrote that when a Republican delegation came to the White House to inform Lincoln of his nomination: "The President appeared to be deeply affected by the address, and with considerable emotion and solemnity accepted the nomination in a short speech, in which he referred to pending propositions of amnesty, and to such an amendment to the Constitution as became a fitting and natural conclusion to the final success of the Union cause. His last words, referring to the amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery, were: 'Now, the unconditional Union men, North and South, perceive its importance and embrace it. In the joint names of Liberty and Union, let us labor to give it legal form and practical effect."291 After the Republican National Convention, two abolitionist editors, Theodore Tilton and Wendell Garrison, visited Lincoln and talked with him for more than an hour," wrote historian James M. McPherson. "The president thanked Garrison for his support, and confided that the antislavery plank in the Republican platform had been inserted at Presidential request. Garrison found his interview with Lincoln 'very satisfactory.' 'There is no mistake about it in regard to Mr. Lincoln's desire to do all that he can...to uproot slavery, and give fair-play to the emancipated. I was much pleased with his spirit.'"292
The amendment had been considered by Congress that spring but had failed to pass by the requisite two-thirds majority in the House. The 13th amendment declared: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Lincoln's reelection was very much in doubt in August of 1864, but splits in the Democratic Party and Union victories in the field strengthened Republicans in the fall. Once elected in November, President Lincoln was in a position to push again for passage. Historian Richard N. Current wrote: "When Lincoln was reelected on this platform and the Republican majority in Congress was increased, he was justified in feeling, as he apparently did, that he had a popular mandate for the Thirteenth Amendment. The newly chosen Congress, with its overwhelming Republican majority, would not meet until after the lame duck session of the old Congress during the winter of 1864-65. But Lincoln did not wait."293 Historian James A. Rawley wrote: "In Congress...the conviction was deepening among Republicans that slavery was the cause of the war; that the nation was fighting for its life and any measure of self-defense was justified; that in the words of the Thomas Eliot of Massachusetts, in time of war 'the safety of the state is the highest law, subordinates rights of property, and dominates over civil relations'; and that if slavery were not abolished, another war might result."294 Two abolitionist editors, Theodore Tilton and Wendell Garrison, visited Lincoln and talked with him for more than an hour," wrote historian James M. McPherson. "The president thanked Garrison for his support, and confided that the antislavery plank in the Republican platform had been inserted at Presidential request. Garrison found his interview with Lincoln 'very satisfactory.' 'There is no mistake about it in regard to Mr. Lincoln's desire to do all that he can...to uproot slavery, and give fair-play to the emancipated. I was much pleased with his spirit.'"295
The reelected President found new strength to deal with emancipation issues. Historian Michael Vorenberg wrote: "In the first few weeks after his election, Lincoln made two bold strokes to secure black freedom. First he replaced Chief Justice Roger Taney, who had died in October, with Salmon P. Chase, a renowned champion of African American freedom and equality. Second, he urged Congress to adopt the abolition amendment immediately."296 Historian Brooks D. Simpson wrote that by early 1865, "the president had accomplished much since he had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Having highlighted several paths to emancipation, he was now seeing the fruition of his labors. Maryland, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee had all abolished slavery through state action; the advancing Union armies had freed still more slaves; and now the nation had before it a constitutional amendment that would terminate the peculiar institution once and for all.."297
President Lincoln managed controversies over slavery in ways that sometimes mystified observers. He was particularly concerned to retain the loyalty of residents of Border States at the early part of the war and concerned that they take the lead in ending slavery as the war continued. With a constitutional amendment, President Lincoln wanted to assure that the Emancipation Proclamation would be permanent and universal in its application - that those slaves who had been freed would stay freed. Historian Philip S. Paludan said: "Interestingly, it was a slave-state senator, John Henderson of Missouri, who introduced the first emancipation amendment in January 1864. Although clear evidence is lacking, it would not be surprising if Lincoln had put him up to it, for the president continued to believe that border-state challenges to slavery would deal a heavy blow to the rebellion."298 Indeed, Henderson and Lincoln had developed a close working relationship. After his reelection Lincoln worked to switch enough votes in the House of Representatives to assure passage. One Lincoln target was Missouri Congressman John Rollins. Rollins recalled how he was lobbied by a very engaged President Lincoln on behalf of the 13th Amendment:
Mr. Lincoln often spoke to me about the Emancipation Proclamation. He had no great faith in its efficacy. I heard him say a number of times it only affected those who were free, i.e., those behind the Federal lines, and of course it would not reach the vast number of slaves who remained within the lines of the Southern army. This made him exceedingly anxious in reference to the passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of 1863-65, but it was again introduced into the Senate by its author, the Hon John B. Henderson, of Missouri, and having passed that body, was sent to the House of Representatives to be acted upon there. The President had several times in my presence expressed his deep anxiety in favor of the passage of this great measure. He and others had repeatedly counted votes in order to ascertain as far as they could the strength of the measure upon a second trial in the House. He was doubtful about its passage, and some ten days or two weeks before it came up for consideration in the House, I received a note from him, written in pencil on a card, while sitting at my desk in the House, stating he wished to see me, and asking that I call on him at the White House. I responded that I would be there the next morning at nine o'clock. I was prompt in calling upon him, and found him alone in his office. He received me in the most cordial manner: and said in his usual familiar way: "Rollins, I have been wanting to talk to you for some time about the 13th amendment proposed to the Constitution of the United States, which will have to be voted on now before a great while." I said: "Well, I am here, and ready to talk upon that subject." He said: "You and I were old Whigs, both of us followers of that great statesman, Henry Clay, and I tell you I never had an opinion upon the subject of slavery in my life that I did not get from him. I am very anxious that the war should be brought to a close, at the earliest possible date, and I don't believe this can be accomplished as long as those fellows down South can rely upon the Border States to help them; but if the members from the Border States would unite, at least enough of them to pass the 13th amendment to the Constitution, they would soon see they could not expect much help from that quarter, and be willing to give up their opposition, and quit their war upon the Government; this is my chief hope and main reliance, to bring the war to a speedy close, and I have sent for you, as an old Whig friend, to come and see me, that I might make an appeal to you to vote for this amendment. It is going to be very close; a few votes one way or the other will decide it." To this I responded, "Mr. President, so far as I am concerned you need not have sent for me to ascertain my views on this subject, for although I represent the strongest slave district in Missouri, and have the misfortune to be one of the largest slave-owners in the county where I reside, I had already determined to vote for the 13th amendment." When he arose from his chair, and grasping me by the hand, gave it a hearty shake, and said, "I am most delighted to hear that." He asked me how many more of the Missouri Delegates in the House would vote for it." I said I could not tell; the Republicans of course would, General Loan, Mr. Blow, Mr. Boyd, and Col McClurg. He said: "Won't General Price vote for it? He is a good Union man." I said I could not answer. "Well, what about Governor King?" I told him I did not know. President Lincoln then asked Congressman Rollins to lobby Price and King on behalf of the amendment. He added: "I would like you to talk to all the Border State men whom you can approach properly, and tell them of my anxiety to have the measure pass; and let me know the prospect of the Border State vote....The passage of this amendment will clinch the whole subject; it will bring the war, I have no doubt, rapidly to a close." Rollins commented that he "never seen any one evince deeper interest and anxiety upon any subject than did Mr. Lincoln upon the passage of this amendment."299
Lincoln's efforts bore fruit. Speaking to the House of Representatives on behalf of passage of the 13th Amendment, Congressman Rollins said: "And, sir, if ever a set of people made a mistake on earth, it was the men of Kentucky, by whom I was somewhat governed myself when three years ago they rejected the offer of the President of the United States, who, wiser than we were, seeing the difficulties before us, but seeing the bow of promise set in the sky, and knowing what was to come, proposed to us to sweep the institution of slavery from the border States, offering the assistance of the United States to aid in compensating the loyal men of those States for their losses in labor and property. I say that the unwisest of all acts, so far as the border States were concerned, was the rejection of this liberal offer on the part of the Executive of the United States. I voted for the proposition at first; and then most unwisely changed my ground, showing the versatility of the man, and would perhaps, if it had come to a final passage of such a law. They are now convinced, when their slaves are gone and their pockets are empty, that I was right in the first place, and they were wrong. I have read in the papers of this morning that the Legislature of Kentucky, after electing that distinguished and able man, James Guthrie, to the Senate of the United States, have passed a resolution in favor of the emancipation, 'with the consent of the owners, and with compensation.'"300
President Lincoln worked on multiple fronts to secure the needed votes. Historian Michael Burlingame wrote: "Lincoln recruited another Democratic congressman, the lame-duck Samuel S. Cox of Ohio, to lobby his colleagues. Cox, who enjoyed greater respect among his party confreres in the House, had voted against the amendment that spring but after the election changed his mind. In December, eager to eliminate the slavery question form politics, he met with New York Democratic leaders S L M. Barlow, Samuel J. Tilden and Manton Marble to discuss the amendment. He argued that the party should cast of the 'proslavery odium' and 'get rid of the element [of slavery] which ever keeps us in a minority and on the defensive.'" Cox did not vote for the amendment - apparently because he has been scared by New York Democrats. "A colleague believed that he would have voted for the measure if his vote had been required to pass it. He evidently did appeal to some Democrats effectively, however, for Seward - who organized a high-pressure lobbying operation on behalf of the amendment - later declared that it was the Ohio congressman 'to whom, personally, more than any other member, is due the passage of the constitutional amendment in Congress abolishing African slavery.'" Burlingame wrote: "No evidence survives that Lincoln offered a specific quid pro quo for votes, but it seems that he authorized his lieutenants to do so (particularly Seward and [James] Ashley, the floor manager of the amendment.) Ashley cut a deal with Democratic Representative Anson Herrick of New York, who was lobbied by New Yorkers Abram Wakeman and Charles A. Dana as well as Congressmen Ashley, Augustus Frank, and Homer A. Nelson." Herrick was promised a federal patronage job for his brother; Lincoln did indeed nominate the brother but he was never confirmed by the Senate."301
Backers of the 13th amendment used a wide spectrum of arguments to advance their cause. Historian Michael Vorenberg wrote: "During the summer, Lincoln had helped to give the amendment an anti-radical flavor when he invoked the measure as the preferred alternative to the Wade-Davis bill, which many perceived as an attempt to reorder southern society. Now, in the final amendment debate, the Pennsylvania Democrat Alexander Coffroth, who had spoken against the measure six months before, added more conservative gloss. With the amendment's adoption, he announced, "fanaticism 'Writhes with pain, and dies among its worshipers.'"302 Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote that "even if the proclamation could have given freedom to the slaves according to its scope, their permanent enfranchisement would not have been secured, because the status of slavery, as it existed under the local laws of the States prior to the war, would have remained after the re-establishment of peace. All emancipated slaves found in those States, or returning to them, would have been subject to slavery as before, for the simple reason that no military proclamation could operate to abolish their municipal laws. Nothing short of a Constitutional amendment could at once give freedom to our black millions and make their re-enslavement impossible..."303 In his memoirs, Maine Congressman James G. Blaine that the president acted so forcefully because: "He believed the rebellion to be near its end, and no man could tell how soon a proposition might come for surrender of the Confederate Armies and the return of the Rebel States to their National allegiance. If such a proposition should be made, Mr. Lincoln knew that there would be a wild desire among the loyal people to accept it, and that in the forgiving joy of reunion they would not insist upon the conditions which he believed essential to the future safety and strength of the National Government. Slavery had been abolished in the District of Columbia by a law of Congress, and in Maryland by her own action. It still existed in the other Border States and in Tennessee, and its abolition in the remaining States of the Confederacy depended upon the validity of the President's Proclamation of Emancipation."304
The Thirteenth Amendment exposed President Lincoln at his most activist in congressional affairs. Historian Michael Vorenberg wrote: "Of all Lincoln's reasons for wanting a speedy adoption of the amendment, by far the most influential was the public's demand for the measure. Although the amendment was generally neglected during the campaign of 1864, people proclaimed the election results an endorsement of abolition."305 Historian Gerald Sorin wrote: "After the initial euphoria had dissipated, abolitionists realized that the Proclamation did not apply to loyal slave states and, moreover, while legitimate in wartime, might be challenged once the war was over. Thus they campaigned for a constitutional amendment to end slavery. By July 1864, two thousand petitions for an abolition amendment. This was an impressive achievement and the antislavery Senators Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson assured the abolitionists that the petition campaign lent great assistance in the battle for Congressional approval of an abolition amendment."306
Indeed, there was pressure from the public as well as from the President on Congress during January 1865, noted Michael Vorenberg. "Appeals for the emancipation amendment poured into Congress from constituents, state legislatures, and popular conventions throughout the North and the border states."307 President Lincoln personally and actively lobbied for passage of the amendment. "In one phrase it may be said that every power of his office was exerted to secure the passage, in the Thirty-eighth Congress, of the resolution, by which the proposed amendment was submitted to the States," wrote Massachusetts Congressman George S. Boutwell.308 President Lincoln declined to get involved in one controversy that might have secured New Jersey votes because it would have meant dealing with prickly Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Ashley biographer Robert F. Horowitz wrote: "No direct evidence indicates that Sumner became involved in the behind-the-scenes manipulations, but on the day of the vote on the joint resolution, Democratic Congressman Andrew Rogers of New Jersey was absent; he was too ill to attend. Apparently, Samuel S. ('Sunset') Cox, the Ohio Democrat, helped keep Rogers at home. Secretary of State Seward and the highly organized lobby that worked at his direction should be credited with six votes for the resolution."309 Williams wrote: "It is unlikely that any deals involving the Camden and Amboy Railroad had much effect on the amendment resolution, although it may be fair to surmise that Andrew J. Rogers, Democratic congressman from New Jersey, abstained from voting on the amendment because of pressure from the railroad lobby. Had he voted, he most certainly would have been against it. According to [Michael] Vorenberg, it was clear that the railroad was going to fold at the time of the vote, and, in fact, it was bought out in 1866."310 In the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, Lincoln was able to fuse his moral beliefs with political and legal reality. Historian Herman Belz wrote that "there was in Republican war policy a continuous concern for both expediency and moral idealism in the defense of the Union and in the adopting of an emancipation policy. The result was that at the end of the war the prohibition of slavery in the Thirteenth Amendment represented an extension and fulfillment of the essentially moral idea of republican self-government that informed the Unionism of 1861."311 It was a dramatic development in American history. Writing nearly four decades after the start of the Civil War, Lincoln friend Henry C. Whitney wrote: "Slavery is now but an ugly reminiscence; but it was the most powerful institution in the nation from 1830 to 1860, or for thirty years. It elected every President of the United States, except four, until the new era. It completely dominated the United Senate and the Supreme Court, and nearly every Congress, prior to 1861. West Point was ancillary to it; both the army and the navy were its auxiliaries. The social life at Washington obeyed its behests; and it even tinctured the social life at Newport, Saratoga, and Niagara Falls. Statesmanship was its servitor; and diplomacy its handmaid. Exponents of the effete Southern aristocracy swarmed in the departments at the capitol; and the court language, in essence, had a smack both of the both the racetrack and bar-room - in articulation, of the emigrant from Congo, and the denizen of the Ockmulgee river combined."312
Historian Allen C. Guelzo noted that President "Lincoln...embodied the complexity of American opposition to slavery. The end of slavery owed something to a sense of awakened moral responsibility, but it also owed far more than we have been willing to admit to the long swing of ideas about political economy, and to the public's revulsion toward specific events, such as the efforts of slaveholders to gag debate over slavery in Congress. The president had no illusions about his own sanctity or his enemies' depravity, and he was constantly aware of the price being paid in human lives and treasure for even the noblest of results."313 On January 31, 1865, the House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment. Although legally he did not need to do so, President Lincoln signed the act. It would be ratified after his death but by the end of 1865.
In the final year of the war, Lincoln had begun to focus on reconstruction and the issue of black suffrage - particularly in Louisiana. Historian LaWanda Cox wrote that "in assessing Lincoln's role, it is essential to keep clearly in mind two facts obscured by the intervening century: the destruction of slavery as an institution was the first essential for equal citizenship and, at least until the fall elections of 1864, there was no assurance that slavery would be totally destroyed."314 While confronting reconstruction, slavery, and secession, President Lincoln also had to confront the reality of racism in both the North and the South. Writing of Maryland, historian Jean H. Baker wrote: "Slavery could not simply go out, like a candle, in a border state where hatred of a large free Negro population still raged."315 President Lincoln told Texas Judge Thomas H. Duval "that while the destruction of slavery was a necessary incident of war, he was well aware that its sudden extinction would be attended with great ruin; that for his own part, he saw nothing inconsistent with the gradual emancipation of slavery and his proclamation; that while he would be glad to see a majority of the people of Texas act as I hoped they would in reference to this proposition, yet if we could only succeed in inaugurating a...state government in Texas, inside of the Union, he would recognize and protect [it] with all the power of the government of the United States."316
A true statesman was needed to reconstruct the nation and build a bridge between whites and blacks in the aftermath of the Civil War. Historian Stephen B. Oates wrote that Mr. Lincoln "had none of the racial prejudice that infected so many whites of that time, even advanced Republicans like Benjamin Wade." Oates wrote that African-Americans "testified that the President treated them as then wanted to be treated - as human beings with feelings. He did not tell dialect jokes in their presence, did not condescend to them, did not spell out his thoughts in imbecilic one-syllable language, as did many other whites when speaking to Negroes. He opened the White House doors to black visitors as no other President had ever done before and as few would do after."317
Abraham Lincoln was in deadly earnest where slavery was concerned. Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle wrote: "When he discussed the slavery question, it was with a seriousness which precluded humor. He continued to develop his thoughts with close-knit logic."318 Historian David Lightner wrote that "Abraham Lincoln "was genuinely devoted to the ideal of human equality -- not only in the closing days of his life but throughout his years of prominence in American politics."319 Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote: "One thing is certain: on the issue of race, the Lincoln of 1865 had advanced well beyond his ideas of 1858. In Washington, he became the first leader to welcome blacks into the White House, to invite them to formal receptions and to incorporate them in an inaugural procession."320
For Abraham Lincoln, the equality clause of the Declaration of Independence was fundamental to the country's past and to its future. Historian Roger G. Kennedy wrote that "commencing in 1861, Abraham Lincoln redeemed his country and Jefferson's Lost Cause. His first task was to reanimate Jefferson's language of the Declaration celebrating the New Order in the Universe. Slavery and wars fought to extend its sway had made mock of that glorious prospect. The South had settled back into an ancient and squalid order. But Lincoln restored to the concept of Union that moral content initially provided to it by Jefferson and largely lost in the intervening confusions, integrating the Preamble to the Constitution and Jefferson's Declaration of Independence into a single charter of freedom."321
By the time he was murdered in April 1865, even President Lincoln's critics had begun to understand his policies. In a eulogy of President Lincoln delivered seven weeks after his death, Senator Charles Sumner said: "From the first cannon shot, it was plain that the rebellion was nothing but Slavery in arms; but such was the power of Slavery, even in the Free States, that months elapsed before this giant criminal was directly attacked. Generals in the field were tender with regard to it, as if it were a church, or a work of the fine arts. It was only under the teacher of disaster that the country was aroused."322 Sumner said: "In the statement of moral truth and the exposure of wrong, he was at times singularly cogent. There was fire as well as light in his words. Nobody exhibited Slavery in its enormity more clearly. On one occasion he blasted it as 'a monstrous injustice'; on another he pictured the slave-master as 'wringing his bread from the sweat of other men's face'; and then, on still another he said, with exquisite simplicity of diction, 'If Slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.'"323
In 1864, Secretary of State William H. Seward told artist Francis B. Carpenter: "Slavery was killed years ago. Its death knell was tolled when Abraham Lincoln was elected President. The work of this Administration is the suppression of the Rebellion and the preservation of the Union."324 In 1865, Lincoln said that emancipation "was the central act of my administration and the great event of the nineteenth century." Historian Michael Burlingame wrote: "Lincoln...speculated to Charles Sumner 'that the name which is connected with this mater will never be forgotten.'"325 Regarding the Emancipation Proclamation, Mr. Lincoln told Simon Wolf, "It was not only the Negro that I freed, but the white man no less."326
More about the author: Richard Striner received his M.A. and PhD in history from the University of Maryland. He is Professor of History at Washington College and is a senior writer with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. Michael Burlingame is author of the massive two-volume biography, Abraham Lincoln: A Life and The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln.. He has edited many books with the writings of Lincoln's Civil War contemporaries and subordinates. He is Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield
Review: Michael Burlingame, Weekly Standard, April 3, 2006: "Striner makes his case well, skillfully utilizing the work of such fine historians as James M. McPherson, LaWanda Cox, Harry V. Jaffa, and William Lee Miller. He could have strengthened his argument by citing defenses of Lincoln by thoroughgoing abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and Owen Lovejoy. But he does quote Frederick Douglass's too-little-known 1865 speech in which the black orator called Lincoln "emphatically the black man's president, the first to show any respect for their rights as men."
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