Emancipation Preoccupies President

August 22, 1862

President Lincoln announces to Cabinet that he has drafted Emancipation Proclamation P

Historian Allan Nevins wrote that “on August 22, in the most historic of Cabinet meetings, he made the momentous announcement that he had drafted an emancipation proclamation.  Seward and Welles were of course prepared, but the others were taken aback.  The apparent suddenness of the step bewildered one or two, and its boldness startled others.   Even Stanton had never proposed going as far as a general emancipation in rebellious territory.  He and Welles rallied to the defense of emancipation in rebellious territory.  He and Welles rallied to the defense of the proposal.  Chase promised to give the measure cordial support, but as he was fearful of slave insurrections, he thought that emancipation could be accomplished more safely by directing the commanders of departments to proclaim it as soon as feasible, and allowing generals in the field to arm and organize slaves.  Montgomery Blair, coming in late, gave a response characteristic of his political-minded family: he apprehended that the proclamation would have a bad effect on the fall elections.”

Lincoln also responds to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley’ “Prayer of Twenty Millions” editorial  in an open letter – which he sends first to the National Intelligencer in Washington  for publication.  The president appears to dismiss pressure for emancipation even as he himself is planning it:“I have just read yours of the 19th, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them. If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend whose heart I have always supposed to be right.”  Lincoln proceeds to emphasize “union” as the preeminent goal of the Civil War:

As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing,” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save th ise Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

Historian Robert S. Harper wrote:  “Lincoln’s motive in choosing the National Intelligencer to carry his answer to Greeley raises an interesting question.  Edited by the distinguished William W. Seaton, it was one of Lincoln’s favorite newspapers from early manhood, but with all its former nationalism it was only lukewarm to the Lincoln administration and made no secret of its sympathy for the slavery system.  Lincoln might have chosen it to tease Greeley.”

From Falmouth, Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside reports to President Lincoln that General Fitz John “Porter is here with nearly all of his corps The remainder will probably be here by twelve oclock today– [John] Reynolds with Penna Reserves is well on his way up to Pope and I am shoving Porters Corps as rapidly as possible to Pope. A large portion of the Reserve Artillery has arrived and a proper proportion will move with each body of troops. All quiet in our front A messenger from Reno this moment arrived states that the Enemy is massing large bodies of troops at Kellys ford and at 6.30 AM heavy firing was heard in direction of Pope You may rely on my pushing troops rapidly as possible.”

General George B. McClellan writes: “Franklin ought to have been off nearly by this time, but he & Smith have so little energy that I fear they will be very slow about it.  They have disappointed me terribly — I do not at all doubt Franklin’s loyalty now, but his efficiency is very little — I am very sorry that it has turned out so….There sending for me to go to Washn only indicates a temporary alarm — if they are at all reassured you will see that they will soon get rid of me.  I shall be only too happy to get back to quiet life again.”

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Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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