President Lincoln Seeks to Build Support for Compensated Emancipation

March 24, 1862

Indiana Congressman Schulyler Colfax, himself an Indiana newspaper editor, visited the White House to bring him a letter from influential New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley supporting Lincoln’s proposal earlier in the month for compensated emancipation in border States.  In response, Lincoln wrote Greeley: Your very kind letter of the 16th. to Mr. Colfax, has been shown me by him.  I am grateful for the generous sentiments and purposes expressed towards the administration.  Of course I am anxious to see the policy proposed in the late special message, go forward; but you have advocated it from the first, so that I need to say little to you on the subject.  If I were to suggest anything it would be that as the North are already for the measure, we should urge it persuasively, and not menacingly, upon the South.  I am little uneasy about the abolishment of slavery in this District, not but I would be glad to see it abolished, but as to the time and manner of doing it.  If some one or more of the border-states would move fast, should greatly prefer it; but if this can not be in a reasonable time, I would like the bill to have the three main features–gradual–compensation–and vote of the people–I do not talk to members of congress on the subject, except when they ask me.  I am not prepared to make any suggestion about confiscation.  I may drop you a line hereafter.”

Greeley was outspoken in support of emancipation but he was also erratic in his attitude toward the Lincoln administration.  Lincoln handled him gingerly – as he did Colfax, who would become speaker of the House of Representatives by the end of the year.

The Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War meets with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to complain about General George B. McClellan’s conservatism and Democratic links.  Historian Bruce Tap wrote:  “Stanton expressed dismay, conceding that McClellan was surrounded by disloyal sub ordinates but that Lincoln seemed to have newfound confidence in him.  The situation seemed to be at an impasse.”

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Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

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