President Lincoln Repudiates General Hunter’s Emancipation Proclamation

May 19, 1862

President Lincoln is zealous to protect his own authority over any emancipation measures not authorized by Congress.  On May 9,  General David Hunter had ordered emancipation of Blacks in Southern Department.  President Lincoln now revokes that order which he says has caused “some excitement, and misunderstanding:”

I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, proclaim and declare, that the government of the United States, had no knowledge, information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the document is genuine.  And further, that neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.

I further make known that whether it be competent for me, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to declare the Slaves of any state or states, free and whether at any time, in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintainance of the government, to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I can not feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders in the field.  These are totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies and camps.

On the sixth day of March last, by a special message, I recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolution to be substantially as follows:

Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such charge of system.

The resolution in the language above quoted, was adopted by large majorities in both branches of Congress, and now stands an authentic, definite, and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most immediately interested in the subject matter.  To the people most immediately interested in the subject matter.  To the people of those states I now earnestly appeal.  I do not argue.  I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves.  You can not if you would, be blind to the signs of the times.  I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partizan politics.  This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any.  It acts nor the pharisee.  The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything.  Will you not embrace it?  So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as, in the providence of God, it is now your high previlege to do.  May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.

Diplomat-general Carl Schurz writes President Lincoln: “Your proclamation repudiating Gen. Hunters emancipation-manifesto, appeared in the papers of this city this morning and was of course quite generally discussed.  Although nobody had a right to be disappointed, yet many seemed to be so, and among the more advanced members of our party there was again much talk about hesitation, pusillanimity etc. etc. Many others who would have been glad to see Hunter sustained were well pleased with the rest of the proclamation opening a prospect of future action in the same direction.”

Published in: on May 19, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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