President Lincoln Stands Firm on Emancipation

January 19, 1863

President Lincoln responds to an “address” from the “Workingmen of Manchester” supporting his position on emancipation.  They had written: “We joyfully honor you, as the President, and the Congress with you, for the many decisive steps towards practically exemplifying your belief in the words of your great founders, `All men are created free and equal.’   Lincoln acknowledges that the Civil War has been hard on English workers because of the blockade of southern cotton that had closed British textile mills.

When I came, on the fourth day of March, 1861, through a free and constitutional election, to preside in the government of the United States, the country was found at the verge of civil war.  Whatever might have been the cause, or whosoever the fault, one duty paramount to all others was before me, namely, to maintain and preserve at once the Constitution and the integrity of the federal republic.  A conscientious purpose to perform this duty is a key to all the measures of administration which have been, and to all which will hereafter be pursued.  Under our form of government, and my official oath, I could not depart from this purpose if I would.  It is not always in the power of governments to enlarge or restrict the scope of moral results which follow the policies that they may deem it necessary for the public safety, from time to time, to adopt.

I have understood well that duty of self-preservation rests solely with the American people.  But I have at the same time been aware that favor or disfavor of foreign nations might have a material influence in enlarging and prolonging the struggle with disloyal men in which the country is engaged.  A fair examination of history has seemed to authorize a belief that the past action and influences of the United States were generally regarded as having been beneficient towards mankind.  I have therefore reckoned upon the forbearance of nations.  Circumstances, to some of which you kindly allude, induced me especially to expect that if justice and good faith should be practiced by the United States, they would encounter no hostile influence on the part of Great Britain.  It is now a pleasant duty to acknowledge the demonstration you have given of your desire that a spirit of peace and amity towards this country may prevail in the councils of your Queen, who is respected and esteemed in your own country only more than she is by the kindred nation which has its home on this side of the Atlantic.

I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the workingmen at Manchester and in all Europe are called to endure in this crisis. It has been often and studiously represented that the attempt to overthrow this government, which was built upon the foundation of human rights, and to substitute for it one which should rest exclusively on the basis of human slavery, was likely to obtain the favor of Europe.  Through the actions of our disloyal citizens the workingmen of Europe have been subjected to a severe trial, for the purpose of forcing their sanction to that attempt.  Under these circumstances, I cannot but regard your decisive utterance upon the question as an instance of sublime Christina heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country.  It is, indeed, an energetic and reinspiring assurance of the inherent power of truth and of ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity, and freedom.  I do not doubt that the sentiments you have expressed will be sustained by your great nation, and, on the other hand, I have no hesitation in assuring you that they will excite admiration, esteem, and the most reciprocal feelings of friendship among the American people.  I hail this interchange of sentiment, therefore, as an augury that, whatever else may happen, whatever misfortune may befall your country or my own, the peace and friendship which now exist between the two nations will be, as it shall be my desire to make the, perpetual.

Judge David Davis relates to Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning the President’s firmness regarding emancipation: “In conversation with Judge Davis of the Supreme Court this morning he told me that he had a conversation with the President yesterday in which he represented to him the alarming condition of things, and urged upon him to reconstruct his cabinet, and change his [emancipation] policy, as the only means of saving the Country.  The President told him that this proclamation in regard to slavery was a fixed thing — that he intended to adhere to it, and whether he changed his cabinet must be determined by future events.”

Mrs Lincoln takes the Davis family for a carriage ride.  According to Davis biographer Willard King, she “took them to the White House to hear a poem read by a ‘famous elocutionist.’  Again they saw the President, who chatted with them pleasantly and appeared in Sarah Adam’s words, ‘much like other mortals, except that he is a little homelier than most men.’”


Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “Monday morning, bright and early, Congress was greeted with a message, informing that honorable body that he [Lincoln] had signed the joint resolution authorizing the issuance of $100,000,000 of legal tender notes for the payment of the army and navy, and at the same time giving his views on the financial question at some length.  It must be confessed that the message partook somewhat of the character of a lecture, but the turmoil, buzzing and fretting of Congress was unnecessary and undignified.  To the astonishment of these Congressmen, who have been wrangling and spouting for weeks over the Revenue bill, the President is actually found to have an opinion and a mind of his own.  Remarkable impudence and unparalleled boldness!  The President has dared to disturb the windy lucubrations of Congress, and tell them what he thinks is right and fit in such a deplorable fix as the present.  Instantly the House was up in arms, and a motion to refer to a Special Committee was lost, the House adjourning without making and disposition of it.  Representatives grumbled and swore, and Senators were indignant, and being so lectured would not even print the message.  Senator Wilson fumed and said that the President took occasion to ring in a speech every time he sent the most trivial message to the Senate, etc., etc.  But the people are pleased, for they are in the main (except the bank interest) in favor of the views of Secretary Chase, which the President indorses, and public confidence is accordingly reassured, and the popular pleased with the independence of the President, who has brought up Congress with a round turn to a sense of its duty.”

Published in: on January 19, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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