Senator Charles Sumner Provides Insight into President Lincoln’s Policies

August 5, 1862

Senator Charles Sumner was one of the foremost advocates of emancipation in Congress and a frequent lobbyist for emancipation at the White House.  Sumner writes to an English friend: “After a few days in Washington, to see the Presdt & cabinet, I have come home –  glad of a little rest, but find new cares here.  Our session has been very busy; I doubt if any legislative body ever acted on so many important questions.  You who follow our [fortunes?] so kindly, doubtless know what has been done for freedom –  for reform generally, &, also in the way of organizing our forces & providing means.  There have been differences of opinion on questions of policy –  especially on Slavery.  This was to be expected.  But the Bill of Confiscation & Liberation, which was at last passed, under pressure from our reverses at Richmond, is a practical Act of Emancipation.  It was only in this respect that I [valued] it.  The Western men were earnest for reaching the property of the rebels.  To this I was indifferent except so far as it was necessary to break up the strongholds of slavery.

“I wish that the Cabinet was more harmonious, & that the Presdt. had less vis inertia.  He is hard to move.  He is honest but inexperienced.  Thus far he has been influenced by the Border States.  I urged him on the 4th July to put forth an edict of Emancipation, telling him he could make the day more sacred & historic than ever.  He replied –  “I would do it if I were not afraid that half the officers would fling down their arms & three more States would rise.”  He is plainly mistaken about the officers & I think also with regard to the States.  In the cabinet, Chase, who enjoys & deserve public confidence more than any other member, also the Secy of War & Secy of the Navy, are for this policy.– The last for call for 300,000 men is recd. by the people with enthusiasm, because it seems to shew a purpose to push the war vigorously.

There is no thought in the cabinet or the Presdt. of abandoning the contest.  Of this be sure It will be pushed to the full extent of all the resources of the Republic including, of course, the slaves.  Strange, it seems to me, that I, who so sincerely accept the principles of Peace, should be mixed up in this terrible war.  But I see no way except to go forward; nor do I see any way in which England can get cotton speedily except through our success.  England ought to help us with her benedictions; for she is interested next to ourselves.  But her adverse sympathies help us off the good day.  All here are grateful to you, for yr strong & noble words.  God bless you!  I say with all my heart.

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Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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