President Lincoln Continues Focus on Arkansas Reconstruction

January 23, 1864

President Lincoln has been meeting with Arkansas planters about reconstruction in the state.  He writes Alpheus Lewis: “You have enquired how the government would regard and treat cases wherein the owners of plantations, in Arkansas, for instance, might fully recognize the freedom of those formerly slaves, and by fair contracts of hire with them, re-commence the cultivation of their plantations. I answer I should regard such cases with great favor, and should, as the principle, treat them precisely as I would treat the same number of free white people in the same relation and condition. Whether white or black, reasonable effort should be made to give government protection. In neither case should the giving of aid and comfort to the rebellion, or other practices injurious to the government, be allowed on such plantations; and in either, the government would claim the right to take if necessary those of proper ages and conditions into the military service. Such plan must not be used to break up existing leases or arrangements of abandoned plantations which the government may have made to give employment and sustenance to the idle and destitute people. With the foregoing qualifications and explanations, and in view of it’s tendency to advance freedom, and restore peace and prosperity, such hireing and employment of the freed people, would be regarded by me with rather especial favor.

President Lincoln writes a postscript: “To be more specific I add that all the Military, and others acting by authority of the United States, are to favor and facilitate the introduction and carrying forward, in good faith, the free-labor system as above indicated, by allowing the necessary supplies therefor to be procured and taken to the proper points, and by doing and forbearing whatever will advance it; provided that existing military and trade regulations be not transcended thereby. I shall be glad to learn that planters adopting this system shall have employed one so zealous and active as yourself to act as an agent in relation thereto.”

President Lincoln also authorizes two planters to resume operations: “Confiding in the representations and assurances made and given by Hon. Brutus J. Clay of Kentucky, that if permitted, and afforded reasonable protection and facilities by the government, his brother-in-law, Christopher F. Field, and his son, Christopher F. Clay, having, prior to the rebellion, had ownership and lawful control, of several plantations in Mississippi and Arkansas would put said plantations into cultivation, upon the system of free hired labor, recognizing and acknowledging the freedom of the laborers, and totally excluding from said plantations, the slave system of labor and all actual slavery, and would neither do or permit anything on said plantations which would aid the rebellion, it is hereby ordered that said Christopher F. Field, and Christopher F. Clay, or either of them, be permitted to so put said plantations, or any of them, into cultivation; and that the Military, and all others acting by the authority of the United States, are to favor and facilitate said Field and Clay in the carrying forward said business in good faith, by giving them protection, and allowing them to procure, and take to the proper points, the necessary supplies of all kinds, and by doing and forbearing in whatever way will advance the object aforesaid; provided that existing Military or Trade regulations, nor any military necessity, be transcended or over-ridden thereby.”

Mary Todd Lincoln holds her regular Saturday afternoon reception.   The renomination of her husband is urged by the Union Central Committee of New York.

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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