Cabinet Meeting Discusses Cotton and Trade Regulations

September 30, 1862

The usual Tuesday Cabinet meeting is held.  There are no pressing issues but regulations concerning cotton trade are discussed.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “At Department received a note from Seward, with memorandum by Stuart, Acting British Minister, of conversations with Seward about cotton. From this memorandum, it appears that Butler’s order of August, authorizing free purchases even from Slidell, and Grant’s order annulling Sherman’s prohibition of payments in Gold, were, if not motivated by Seward, fully approved by him and made the basis of assurances that no hindrance to purchase and payment on cotton for rebels would be interposed by this government. Afterwards, or about the time of these orders, Seward proposed the same policy of substantially unrestricted purchase for money, to me; and I was at first, in view of the importance of a supply of cotton, inclined to adopt it; but reflection and information from Special Agents in the Mississippi Valley changed my views. The subject was also brought up in Cabinet, and Seward proposed liberty to purchase 500,000 bales. Stanton and I opposed this, and the President sided with us and the subject was dropped. I then proposed to frame Regulations for trade to and from Insurrectionary Districts, in which was included prohibitions of payments in gold.”

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President Exchanges Correspondence with North Carolina Military Governor

September 29, 1862

President Lincoln wrote North Carolina Military Governor Edward Stanly: Your note informing me that you will leave for North Carolina soon, is received. Your conduct as Military Governor of that State, as reported to me by Gen. Burnside, and as I have heard it personally from yourself, has my entire approbation; and it is with great satisfaction that I learn you are now to return in the same capacity, with the approbation of the War Department.”  Looking forward to Reconstruction, President Lincoln writes: “I shall be much gratified if you can find it practicable to have congressional elections held in that State before January. It is my sincere wish that North Carolina may again govern herself conformably to the constitution of the United States.”  Stanly had written President Lincoln: “I have completed my business with the War Department, and shall very soon be ready to start for North Carolina. . . . Allow me to express my deep gratification, on learning from your own lips, after a full and free conference, that my conduct as Military Governor . . . , which had been misrepresented and misunderstood, had met your approbation, as well as that of the Secretary of War.”  Appointed in May 1862, the former North Carolina governor would differ with President Lincoln on the Emancipation Proclamation and resign in March 1863.

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President Exchanges Letters about Emancipation with Vice President

September 28, 1862

On September 25, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin had written from Maine to congratulate the President on the Emancipation Proclamation but Lincoln was less certain of what Hamlin predicted would be an “enthusiastic” reception: ” The former Maine senator wrote: “I desire to express my undissembled and sincere thanks for your Emancipation Proclamation.  It will stand as the great act of the age.  It will prove to be wise in Statesmanship as it is Patriotic.  It will be enthusiastically approved and stained and future generations will, as I do, say God bless you for this great and noble act.”

From the Soldiers’ Home, President Lincoln responds today in a much less hopeful way: “Your kind letter of the 25th is just received.  It is known to some that while I hope something from the proclamation, my expectations are not as sanguine as are those of some friends.  The time for its effect southward has not come; but northward the effect should be instantaneous.”

It is six days old, and while commendation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals is all that a vain man could wish, the stocks have declined, and troops come forward more slowly than ever.  This, looked soberly in the fact, is not very satisfactory.  We have fewer troops in the field at the end of six days than we had at the beginning–the attrition among the old outnumbering the addition by the new.  The North responds to the proclamations sufficiently in breath; but breath alone kills no rebels.

I wish I could write more cheerfully; not do I thank you the less for the kindness of your letter.

Published in: on September 28, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Acts Decisively to End Defeatist Talk in the Army

September 27, 1862

Lincoln aide John Hay wrote in his diary that on Thursday night, “The President and I were riding to Soldiers Home; he said he had heard of an officer who had said they did not mean to gain any decisive victory but to keep things running on so that they the army might manage things to suit themselves.  He said he should have the matter examined and if any such language had been used, his head should go off.”  Historian Bruce Tap wrote:“One of the most disturbing and revealing incidents in the army that fall concerned the dismissal of Maj. John J. Key, a staff officer working in the office of General-in-chief Halleck and the brother of Thomas, a colonel on McClellan’s staff. Shortly after Antietam, John Key was overheard expressing his opinion about why the rebel army was not destroyed after the battle; ‘That is not the game,….the object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.’  When interviewed by Lincoln, Key apparently made no attempt to deny the statement, and Lincoln promptly dismissed him from service.” After meeting with Key in late morning, the President proceeds to end Key’s military career.  The previous day, President Lincoln had ordered:

I am informed that in answer to the question “Why was not the rebel army bagged immediately after the battle near Sharpsburg?” propounded to you by Major Levi C. Turner, Judge Advocate &c. you answered “That is not the game’” `”The object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.” I shall be very happy if you will, within twentyfour hours from the receipt of this, prove to me by Major Turner, that you did not, either litterally, or in substance, make the answer stated.

General George B. McClellan writes to General Henry W. Halleck: “In the last battles the enemy was undoubtedly greatly superior to us in number, and it was only by very hard fighting that we gained the advantage we did; as it was, the result was at one period very doubtful and we had all we could do to win the day.  If the enemy receives considerable reinforcements and we none, it is possible that I may have too much on my hands in the next battle.”

My own view of the proper policy to be pursued is to retain in Washington merely the force necessary to garrison it and to send everything else available to reinforce this Army.  The railways give us the means of promptly reinforcing Washington should it become necessary.  If I am reinforced as I ask, and am allowed to take my own course, I will hold myself responsible for the safety of Washington.

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Governors Meet with President Lincoln

September 26, 1862

Twelve Northern governors who attended the Altoona conference in Pennsylvania visit the White House.   As usual, President Lincoln defuses the situation.  Historian James G. Randall writes: “By that time [of the Altoona conference] he had clipped the gubernatorial wings by publicly associating himself with their effort, giving it his own emphasis, and the governors found themselves with nothing to do but to endorse the President’s policy, which they did in a laudatory public statement.  Lincoln smilingly thanked the visiting magistrates for their support and indicated that no fact had so thoroughly confirmed to him the justice of the emancipation proclamation as the approval of the executives of the loyal states.  On some aspects he would not answer them specifically at the time, he said, but he would give these mattes his most favorable consideration, carrying them out ‘so far as possible.’”  The Washington Star reported:

The President’s reply was brief, and consisted of thanks to the Governors for all they had done and for all they had promised to do to help the General Government in this great crisis. As to the proclamation, he said no fact had assured him so thoroughly of the justice of the conclusion at which he had arrived as that the Executives of the loyal States gave it their hearty approbation. As to the suggestions which they had made in the address just read, he was grateful for them all, but at that moment he would not answer them specifically, although he could say that he would give them his most favorable consideration, and believed he should carry most if not all of them out, so far as possible.

Philadelphia editor John W. Forney writes President Lincoln: “Your Emancipation proclamation followed by that suspending the writ of habeus corpus against the sympathizers with secession has created profound satisfaction among your true friends; but it has also multiplied your duties. We shall now be assailed front, flank and rear by our enemies and if we would save the next national House of Representatives the power of the Administration must be strongly felt in every Congressional district in the free states. It is in order to invoke you, in the midst of your many troubles, to look at this subject that I will do myself the honor of paying you a visit on Monday next about 12 O’clock.”  One person who does not approve is General George B. McClellan, who writes New York merchant William H. Aspinwall: “I am very anxious to know how you and men like you regard the recent Proclamations of the Presdt inaugurating servile war, emancipating the slaves, & at one stroke of the pen changing our free institutions into a despotism — for such I regard as the natural effect of the last Proclamation suspending the habeas Corpus throughout the land.”

White House Cabinet meeting addresses issues surrounding future colonization of freed black slaves outside the continental United States.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “At several meetings of late the subject of deporting the colored race has been discussed.  Indeed for months, almost from the commencement of this administration, it has been at time s considered.  More than a year ago it was thrust on me by Thompson and other sin connections with the Chiriqui Grant, a claim to title form the Government of Central America of a large part of Costa Rica.  Speculators used it as a means of disposing of that grant to our Government.  It was a rotten remnant of a an intrigue of the last administration.  The President, encouraged by Blair and Smith, was disposed to favor it.  Blair is honest and disinterested; perhaps Smith is so, yet I have not been favorably impressed with his zeal in behalf of the Chiriqui Association.  As early as May, 1861, a great pressure was made upon me to enter into a coal contract with this contract with this company.  The President was earnest in this matter; wished to send the negroes out of the country.  Smith, with the Thompsons, urged and stimulated him, and they were as importunate with me as the President.  I spent two or three hours on different days looking over the papers,–titles, maps, reports, and evidence,–and came to the conclusions that there was fraud and cheat in the affair.  It appeared to be a swindling speculation.  Told the President I have no confident it, and asked to be released from its further consideration. ….At this stage of the case Senator Pomeroy appeared and took upon himself a negro emigrating colonization scheme.  Would himself go out and take with a cargo of negroes, and hunt up a place for them–all, professedly, in the cause of humanity.”

On Tuesday last the President brought forward the subject and desired the members of the Cabinet to each take it into serious consideration.  He thought a treaty could be made to advantage, and territory secured to which the negroes could be sent.  Thought it essential to provide an asylum for a race which we had emancipated, but which could never be recognized or admitted to be our equals.  Several governments had signified their willingness to receive them.  Mr. Seward said some were willing to take them without expense to us.

Mr. Blair made a long argumentative statement in favor of deportation.  It would be necessary to rid the country of its black population, and some place must be found for them.  He is strongly for deportation, has given the subject much thought, but yet seems to have no matured system which he can recommend.  Mr. Bates was for compulsory deportation.  The President objected unequivocally to compulsion.  Their emigration must be voluntary and without expense to themselves.  Great Britain, Denmark, and perhaps other powers would take them.  I remarked there was no necessity for a treaty, which had been suggested.  Any person who desired to leave the country could do so now, whether white or black, and it was best to leave it so,–a voluntary system; the emigrant who chose to leave our shores could and would go where there were the best inducements.

These remarks seemed to strike Seward, who, I perceive, has been in consultation with the president and some of the foreign ministers, and on his motion the subject was then postponed, with an understanding it would be taken up to-day.  Mr. Bats had a very well prepared paper which he read, expressing his views.  Little was said by any one else except Seward, who followed up my suggestions.  But the President is not satisfied; says he wants a treaty.  Smith says the Senate would never ratify a treaty conferring any power, and advised that Seward should make a contract.

Published in: on September 26, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Meets and Greets and Has His Hand Examined

September 25, 1862

A busy day at the White House as President Lincoln continues to receive expressions of support for the Emancipation Proclamation.  A delegation from New York Association of Congregational Churches, including famed preacher Henry Ward Beecher, presents a resolution of support.  Another visitor is former Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett, who will be the headline speaker at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetary on November 19, 1863. Dr. Isachar Zacharie visited the White House to treat the President for sprain he had suffered while horseback riding earlier in the month.  A few months later, Lincoln would declare: “My chiropodist is a Jew, and he has so many times ‘put me on my feet’ that I would have no objection to giving his countrymen ‘a leg up.”‘

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “”Saw the President, and asked him his opinion of [General John] McClernand  Said he thought him brave and capable, but too desirous to be independent of every body else.” Attorney General Edwin Bates writes President Lincoln a memo regarding plans for colonization: “The President having submitted to all the Heads of Departments, the question of the propriety of seeking to make treaties with American Governments within the tropics, and the European Powers which have Colonies within the tropics, with the view to obtain safe and convenient places of refuge for the free colored population of this Country – as well those who are already free, as those who may become free, by the operations of the war – I have thought it best present, in writing, a brief synopsis of my views.

First.  I am clearly of opinion that it is wise and humane to form such treaties with all of those Powers, or as many of them as will agree to our terms.  The more the better, both for the Government and the individual emigrants, because it enlarges the range of choice, and the inducements and opportunities for both.

Second.  I think that such treaties ought to be single, confined to that one object, so as to avoid, if possible, all other debateable questions, and all disturbing elements.  And I think it would be desirable, to have inserted a clause (if that may be) to preserve the treaty from abrogation, in case of a future war.

Third.  Such treaties ought, of course, to be mutually beneficial to the contracting parties – i.e. to the foreign Governments, by offering a supply of population and labor, such as they desire; and to us, by mitigating our embar[r]assment on account of that same population – drawing off at once, a portion of that population, and enlarging and multiplying the channels of trade and friendly intercourse, so as greatly to accelerate that drainage in the future.

But besides that, and to secure than end, such treaties ought carefully, to provide for the just and humane treatment of emigrants – e.g. ensuring an honest livelihood by their own industry, either in the voluntary service of others, or upon their own land, or both; and guaranteeing to them ‘their liberty, property and the religion which they profess.’”

Fourth.  We ought,, I think, to open as many channels, and offer as many inducements for the egress of that population, as possible, to the end of satisfying the judgment, and gratifying the wishes and even the whims, of the various classes of emigrants, and of all the diversities of our own people , who are disposed, in any manner, to advance the great enterprise.

Fifth.  Simple emigration is free; for I do no know of any foreigh States whose laws prohibit men, only because they are negro[e]s from coming in, acquiring a domicil[e] among the people, owning property, and establishing a civil and social status.  Among our colored people who have been long free, there are many who are intelligent and well advanced in arts and knowledge, and a few, who are ebucated [sic] and able men.  These are free to go where they please, in foreign countries (though it has been guessed by some of our politicians, who are wiser than the constitution, that this government has no power to grant them passports for their protection, in foreign parts.

This class is excellently qualified and might be efficiently used, for guides, instructors, and protectors of those of their race who are fresh from the plantations of the South, where they have been long degraded by the total abolition of the family relation, shrouded in artificial darkness, and studiously kept in ignorance, by state policy and statute law.

Sixth.  I think that those of our blacks who go forth under our present efforts, should go as emigrants, not as colonists.  A colony, in modern political law, means a dependency of the mother country, entitled to its protection and subject to its sovereign power.  Emigrants, on the contrary, are incorporated, as individuals into the body politic which they enter, and are no longer subjects of their former sovereigns.  They may still have the sympathies of their former country, but have no right to appeal to its power for protection, except upon grounds of international comity, and of treaty stipulations, made in their favor.

General George B. McClellan writes his wife: “We are so near the mountains that it is quite cold at night…I think the health of our men is improving much — they look a great deal better than they did on the Peninsula — eyes look brighter — & faces better…

My plans are easily given — for I really do not know whether I am to do as I choose or not. I shall keep on doing what seems best until brought up with a round turn — then I’ll kick up my heels.  My own judgment is to watch the line of the Potomac until the water rises, then to concentrate everything near Harper’s Ferry — reorganize the army as promptly as possible & then if secesh remains near Winchester to attack him — if he retires to follow him up & attack him near Richmond…

It is very doubtful whether I shall remain in the service after the rebels have left this vicinity.  The Presdt’s late Proclamation, the continuation of Stanton & Halleck in office render it almost impossible for me to retain my commission & self respect at the same time.  I cannot make up my mind to fight for such an accursed doctrine as that of a servile insurrection — it is too infamous.  Stanton is as great a villain as ever& Halleck as great a fool — he has no brains whatever!….

Published in: on September 25, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Response to Emancipation Proclamation Continues to Grow

September 24, 1862

“The President wrote the Proclamation on Sunday morning carefully,” wrote aide John Hay.  “He called the Cabinet together on Monday made a little talk to them…and read the momentous document.  Mr. Blair and Mr. Bates made objections, otherwise the Cabinet was unanimous.  The next day Mr. Blair who had promised to file his objections, sent a note stating that as his objections were only to the time of the act he would not file them, lest they should be subject to misconstruction.”  Hay added: “I told the President of the Serenade that was coming and asked if he would make any remarks.  He said, no, but he did say half a dozen words & said them with great grace and dignity.  I spoke to him about the editorials in the leading papers.  He said he had studied the matter so long that he knew more about it than they did.

In response to a large evening serenade by Washington residents – accompanied by a band — at the White House, President Lincoln said: “I appear before you to do little more than acknowledge the courtesy you pay me, and to thank you for it.  I have not been distinctly informed why it is in this occasion you appear to do me this honor, though I suppose [interruptions] it is because of the proclamation.  [Cries of ‘Good,’ and applause.]  I was about to say, I suppose I understand it.  [Laughter–Voices: ‘That you do,’ ‘You thoroughly understand it.’]  What I did, I did after very full deliberation, and under a very heavy and solemn sense of responsibility [Cries of ‘Good,’ ‘Good,’ ‘Bless you,’  and applause.]”

I can only trust in God I have made no mistake.  [Cries ‘No mistake–al right; you ‘ve made no mistakes yet.  Go ahead, you’re right.’]  I shall make no attempt on this occasion to sustain what I have done or said by any comment.  [Voices–‘That’s unnecessary; we understand it.’]  It is now for the country and the world to pass judgement on it, and, may be, take action upon it.  I will say no more upon this subject.  In my position I am environed with difficulties. [A voice–‘That’s so.’]

Yet they are scarcely so great as the difficulties of those who, upon the battle field, are endeavoring to purchase with their blood and their lives the future happiness and prosperity of this country. [Applause, long and continued.]  Let us never forget them.  On the 14th and 17th days of the present month there have been battles bravely, skillfully and successfully fought. [Applause.]  We do not yet know the particulars, we do no injustice to others.  I only ask you, at the conclusion of these few remarks, to give three hearty cheers to all good and brave officers and men who fought those successful battles.

A morning cabinet meeting focused a program to colonize freed blacks outside the United States.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “The President called a special meeting of the Cabinet to-day, and asked our judgments on two questions:

First, as to the expediency of Treaties with Governments desiring their immigration, for voluntary colonization of blacks.”

Second, As to the proper answer to be returned to the letter from John Ross, excusing the Treaty of the Chero kees with the Rebels, and asking the protection of the United States and the fulfilment of old Treaties.

On the first question, there was the usual diversity of opinion. I not thinking Colonization in its self desirable, except as a means of getting a foothold in Central America,” thought no Treaties expedient; but simple arrangements, under the legislation of Congress by which any person who might choose to emigrate, would be secured in such advantages as might be offered them by other States or Governments. Seward rather favored Treaties, but evidently did not think much of the wisdom of any measures for sending out of the country laborers needed here. The President asked us to think of the subject, and be ready to express our opinions when we next come together.

As to the Cherokee question there seemed to be a general concurrence that no new pledges should be given them but that, at the end of the war, their condition and relation to the United States should have just consideration.

Published in: on September 24, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Commentary about Emancipation Proclamation Begins

September 23, 1862

The reaction to the release on Monday of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation begins to reach the White House.  From New York, Senator Preston King wrote: “You have made me very glad to day in reading your Proclamation which reached here this morning.”  One North Carolina native, B.S. Hedrick, writes President Lincoln: “Permit me to thank you on behalf of myself, and such Southern men as have been for the Union first, last and all the time, for your Proclamation of yesterday.1 The measures there indicated will end the rebellion. All that is further necessary is that the people shall heartily cooperate for carrying into effect those measures. I am a southerner, but I trust one not unduly prejudiced. I have carefully studied the events which preceded as well as those which have followed the out-break of the insurrection. I have always desired that as much as possible the war should not be against the Southern States or people, but against the offending portion of them, that is against Slavery. The power of the Gov’t can be restored only by the humbling, or the extinction of Slavery as an organized institution.”   Even Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, who had argued against the timing of the proclamation, wrote President Lincoln: “Upon consideration I think it best not to file the paper spoken of yesterday.1 For though it shows that I only questioned the expediency of the proclamation at this moment it may if filed & the fact escapes be supposed to be of a different character.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Edward Bates, himself a Missouri resident, write President Lincoln about conditions in that state: “The State of Missouri is, at this moment, in a trying crisis. It is notorious that the Enemy is preparing an army, in Arkansas & farther South & west, for the invasion of Missouri, with the avowed purpose of penetrating the Country to the Missouri River, and occupying the State the coming winter.

This state of facts has, as the crafty enemy designed, stimulated the malcontents of Missouri, and they are ready to rise, at the first advance of the invading army.

To meet this emergency, the Governor of the State has promptly enrolled and reorganized the whole body of the loyal militia, all of whom are held subject to instant duty, “to suppress the insurrection and repel the invasion.” The danger is extreme, and the cry for help brooks no delay.

Under these circumstances, I come once more Sir, earnestly to entreat you to grant such aid, not to Missouri only, but to the whole South West, as lies clearly within your own power — to grant an order for the continuation of the of the S. W. Branch of the Pacific Railroad, from Rolla to Lebanon, through the Ozark Mountains. [A draft of an order for that purpose, is herewith presented.]1 This is a military necessity, not only for the defence of Missouri, but also obviously important as an efficient means of supporting the power of the Government, in Western Arkansas and Louisiana, Eastern Texas and the Indian tribes. And, to prove that it is a military necessity, I can produce to you the autograph letters of Major Generals Halleck, Sigel, Sherman and Pope.

Although, in the month of July last, when Genl Halleck was new in the chief command, I knew that he did decline to take the responsibility of asking you to issue such an order, still I entertained the hope that, under the altered circumstances of the Country and the increased necessity of the case, he would freely do it now. Consequently, I waited upon Genl Halleck, and again requested his concurrence in the measure. But he refused, and astonished me by saying (in substance) that he was not the judge of the propriety or impropriety of building a Railroad — that it was none of his business — that it belonged to the President!

Last July, I urged this matter upon you, with all the earnestness of a conscientious conviction; and you then, in delicate respect for the “General in Chief”, referred the question to Genl Halleck– He now, throws it back to you.

President Lincoln remains the court of last resort for those having problems with the government.   He orders that  Mr. Garton, who “is represented to me by good authority to have done valuable service for the Government, and to have made many sacrifices. I think his account is a very reasonable one and ought to be paid. Let no merely technical objection stand in the way of the payment.”

Published in: on September 23, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Issued

September 22, 1862

President Lincoln releases the text of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, on which he had been laboring for more than two months: “I, Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prossecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States, and each of the states, and the people thereof, in which states that relation is, or may be suspended, or disturbed.”

That is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave-states, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States, and which states, may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate, or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

That the executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.

Before introducing the proclamation to the Cabinet, the president reads the satirical “High Handed Outrage at Utica,” from book by “Artemus Ward.”  Not all the Cabinet members appreciates Lincoln’s amusement.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “To Department about nine.  State Department messenger came, with notice to Heads of Departments to meet at 12.–Received sundry callers.–Went to White House.

All the member of the Cabinet were in attendance.  There was some general talk; and the President mentioned that Artemus War had sent him his book.  Proposed to read a chapter which he thought very funny.  Read it, and seemed to enjoy it very much–the Heads also (except Stanton) of course.  The Chapter was ‘Highhanded Outrage at Utica.’

The President then took a graver tone and said:–

‘Gentlemen: I have, as you are aware, thought a great deal about the relation of this war to Slavery; and you all remember that, several weeks ago, I read to you an Order I had prepared on this subject, which, on account of objections made by some of you, was not issued.  Ever since then, my mind has been much occupied with this subject, and I have thought all along that the time for action on it might very probably come.  I think the time has come now.  I wish it were a better time.  I wish that we were in a better condition.  The action of the army against the rebels had not been quite what I should have best liked.  But they have been driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion.  When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion.  When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation such as I thought most likely to be useful.  I said nothing to any one; but I made the promise to myself, and (hesitating a little)–to my Maker.  The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfil that promise.  I have got you together to hear what I have written down.  I do not wish your advice about the main matter–for that I have determined for myself.  This I say without intending any thing but respect for any one of you.  But I already know the views of each on this question.  They have been heretofore expressed, and I have considered them as thoroughly and carefully as I can.  What I have written is that which my reflections have determined me to say.  If there is anything in the expressions I use, or in any other minor matter, which anyone of you thinks had best be changed, I shall be glad to receive the suggestions.  One other observation I will make.  I know very well that many others might, in this matter, as in others, do better than I can; and if I were satisfied that the public confidence was more fully possessed by any one of them than by me, and knew of any Constitutional way in which he could be put in my place, he should have it.  I would gladly yield it to him.  But though I believe that I have not so much of the confidence of the people as I had some time since, I do not know that, all things considered, any other person has more; and, however this may be, there is no way in which I can have any other man put where I am.  I am here.  I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take.

The President then proceeded to read his Emancipation Proclamation, making remarks on the several parts as he went on, and showing that he had fully considered the whole subject, in all lights under which it had been presented to him.

After he had closed, Gov. Seward said: ‘The general question having been decided, nothing can be said further about that.  Would it not, however, make the Proclamation more clear and decided, to leave out all reference to the act being sustained during the incumbency of the present President; and not merely say that the Government ‘recognizes,’ but that it will maintain, the freedom it proclaims?’

I followed, saying: ‘What you have said: ‘What you have said, Mr. President, fully satisfies me that you have given to every proposition which has been made, a kind and candid consideration.  And you have now expressed the conclusion to which you have arrived, clearly and distinctly.  This it was your right, and under your oath of office your duty, to do.  The Proclamation does not, indeed, mark out exactly the course I should myself prefer.  But I am ready to take it just as it is written, and to stand by it with all my heart.  I think, however, the suggestions of Gov. Seward very judicious, and shall be glad to have them adopted.’

The President then asked us severally our opinions as to modification proposed, saying that he did not care much about the phrases he had used.  Everyone favored the modification and it was adopted.  Gov. Seward then proposed that in the passage relating to colonization, some language should be introduced to show that the colonization proposed was to be only with the consent of the colonists, and the consent of the States in which colonies might be attempted.  This, too, was agreed to; and no other modification was proposed.  Mr. Blair then said that the question having been decided, he would make no objection to issuing the Proclamation; but he would ask to have his paper, presented some days since, against the policy, filed with the Proclamation.  The President consented to his readily.  And then Mr. Blair went on to say that he was afraid of the influence of the Proclamation on the Border States and the Army, and stated at some length the grounds of his apprehensions.  He disclaimed most expressly, however, all objection to Emancipation per se, saying he had always been personally in favor it–always ready for immediate Emancipation in the  midst of Slave States, rather than submit to the perpetuation of the system.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “A special Cabinet-meeting.  The subject was the Proclamation for emancipating the slaves after a certain date, in States that shall then be in rebellion.  For several weeks the subject has been suspended, but the President says never lost sight of.  When it was submitted, and now in taking up the Proclamation, the President stated the question was finally decided, the act and the consequences were his, but that he felt it due to us to make us acquainted with the fact and to invite criticism on the paper which he had prepared.  There were, he had found, not unexpectedly, some difference in the Cabinet, but he h, after ascertaining in his own way the views of each and all, individually and collectively, formed his own conclusions and made his own decisions.  In the course of the discussion on this paper, which was long, earnest, on the discussion on this paper, which was long, earnest, and on the general principle involved, harmonious, he remarked that he had made a vow, a covenant, that if God gave up the victory in the approaching battle, he would consider it an indication of Divine will, and that it was his duty to move forward in the cause of emancipation.  It might be thought strange, he said, that he had in this way submitted the disposal of matters when the way was not clear to his mind what he should do.  God had decided this question in favor of the slaves.  He was satisfied it was right, was confirmed and strengthened in his action by the vow and the results.  His mind was fixed, his decision made, but he wished his paper announcing his course as correct in terms as it could be made without any change in his determination.  He read the comment.  One or two unimportant amendments suggested by Seward were approved.  It was then handed to the Secretary of State to publish to-morrow.  After this, Blair remarked that he considered it proper to say he did not concur in the expediency of the measure at this time, though he approved of the principle, and should therefore wish to file his objections.  He stated at some length his views, which substantially that we ought not to put in greater jeopardy the patriotic element in the Border States, that the results of the Proclamation would be to carry over those States en masse to the Secessionists as soon as it was read, and that there was also a class of partisans in the Free States endeavoring to revive old parties, who would have a club put into their hands of which they would avail themselves to beat the Administration.

The President said he had considered the danger to be apprehended from the first objection, which was undoubtedly serious, but the objection was certainly as great not to act; as regarded the last, it had not much weight with him.

The question of power, authority, in the Government to set free the slaves was not much discussed at this meeting, but had been canvassed by the President in a private conversation with the members individually.  Some thought legislation advisable before the step was taken, but Congress was clothed with no authority on this subject, nor is the Executive, except under the war power,–military necessity, martial law, when there can be no legislation.  This was the view which I took when the President first presented the subject to Seward and myself last summer as we were returning from the funeral of Stanton’s child,–a ride of two or three miles from beyond Georgetown.  Seward was at that time not at all communicative, and, I think, not willing to advise, thought he did not dissent from, the movement. It is momentous both in its immediate and remote resolute, and an exercise of extraordinary power which cannot be justified on mere humanitarian principles, and would never have been attempted but to preserve the national existence.  The slaves must be with us or against us in the War.  Let us have them.  These were my convictions and this the drift of the discussion.

The effect which the Proclamation will have on the public mind is a matter of some uncertainty.  In some respects it would, I think, have been better to have issued it when formerly first considered.

There is an impression that Seward has opposed, and is opposed to, the measure.  I have not been without that impression myself, chiefly from his hesitation to commit himself, and perhaps because action was suspended on his suggestion.  But in the final discussion he has as cordially supported the measure as Chase.

Historian Allan Nevins observed: “Lincoln’s sagacity did not fail him in the form of the document.  It was an exercise of war powers; its main intent was not the liberation of a race (though he was fully conscious of this aspect) but the furtherance of the war effort and the preservation of the Union; and he did well to couch it in cold legal phraseology, direct and deadly as a bullet.”  Treasury Official Maunsell Field recalled: “Mr. Seward told me the story of the Emancipation Proclamation, and, as he related it, it was strikingly illustrative of this characteristic of Mr. Lincoln.  Months before it was issued, it was the subject of constant discussion at the meetings of the Cabinet.  Day after day the most earnest and acrimonious debates took place in relation to the propriety or impropriety of the President issuing such a proclamation.  Although an attentive listener to these discussions of his Secretaries, Mr. Lincoln did not take an active part in them.  So much was this the case that several, at least, of his advisers were very uncertain as to what his ultimate determination upon the subject would be.  So bitter did the controversy grow, that it resulted, after a time, not only in a breach of personal, and to some extent even official relations between certain of the Cabinet officers, but eventually even in a prolonged discontinuance of Cabinet meetings.  During the interregnum matters which had been usually discussed and disposed of at such meetings had to be settled by inter-departmental correspondence.  One of the other Secretaries, with the obvious purpose of annoying — I use a mild word — Mr. Chase, addressed several very important official communications directly to me, ignoring the head of Department.  This condition of things lasted until one day Mr. Seward received an autographic letter from the President requesting him to attend, without fail, a meeting of the Cabinet which he proposed to hold on the morrow.  All the other Secretaries received similar letters, and not one of them knew or entertained any confident conjecture about the particular purpose for which they were called together.  At the appointed time Mr. Lincoln waited until they were all assembled, having been unusually reticent to the first comers.  He then addressed them somewhat as follows: ‘Gentlemen, I have asked you to come here that I have the opportunity of reading to you a proclamation which I am about to issue.  Before proceeding to read it, however, I desire to say that not only do I not invite any discussion about the propriety or impropriety of its issue, but that I am unwilling to listen to any.  My mind is made up.  On the contrary, as to matters of form, I wish you all to make any suggestions that may occur to you.’  He then drew from his pocket a manuscript, and to the amazement of some, if not of all, there assembled, proceeded to read the Emancipation Proclamation.  When he had finished, for a while nobody spoke.  Mr. Seward was the first to break the silence, and to recommend a verbal alteration.  Mr. Lincoln adopted it without a word of objection. Other gentlemen suggested further changes.  Mr. Lincoln accepted them all without discussion.  When nobody had any more suggestions to make, the meeting broke up, and the Ministers soon dispersed.  The next day the emancipation from slavery of four millions of human beings in the United States was published to the world.  Mr. Lincoln had waited until the people were ripe for it; and what he had at first looked upon as inopportune, he had at least regarded as expedient and necessary.”

General George B. McClellan writes his wife: “I rode out on the battle field yesterday — the burial of the dead is by this time completed & a terrible work it has been — for the slain counted by thousands on each side…

I look upon the campaign as substantially ended & my present intention is to seize Harper’s Ferry & hold it was with a strong force.  Then go to work to reorganize the army ready for another campaign.

I shall not go to Washn if I can help it, but will try to reorganize the army somewhere near Harper’s Ferry or Frederic…

It may be that now that the Govt is pretty well over their scare they will begin again with their persecutions & throw me overboard again.  I don’t care if they do.  I have the satisfaction of knowing that God has in her mercy a second time made me the instrument for saving the nation & am content with the honor that has fallen to my lot.  I feel that the short campaign just terminated will vindicate my professional honor & I have seen enough of public life.  No motive of ambition can now retain me in the service — the only thing that can keep me there will be the conviction that my country needs my services & that circumstances make it necessary for me to render them.  I am confident that the poison still rankles in the veins of my enemies at Washg & that so long as they live it will remain there..

I have received no papers containing the news of the last battle & do not know the effect it has produced on the Northern mind.  I trust it has been a good one & that I am reestablished int he confidence of the best people of the nation…

Everything quiet today — not a short fired as yet — I am moving troops down to Harper’s Ferry & hope to occupy it tomorrow — then I will have the Potomac clear…

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

Emancipation Proclamation is Prepared

September 21, 1862

President Lincoln disdains to receive visitors at the White House as he prepares to issue the Emancipation Proclamation tomorrow.

General George B. McClellan disdains his superiors.  He writes his wife: “Do you know that I have not one word from Halleck, the Presdt nor the Secy of War about the last great battle!  All, except fault find, that I have had since leaving Wash was one from Abe about the Sunday battle [South Mountain] in which he says ‘God bless you & all with you” — that is all I have — but plenty from Halleck couched in almost insulting language & prophesying disaster!  I telegraphed him last night that I regretted the uniformly fault finding tone of his dispatches & that he had not as yet found leisure to notice the recent achievements of my army.”

Published in: on September 21, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment