President Lincoln Responds to Wade-Davis Bill

July 8, 1864

Having pocket-vetoed the Wade-Davis Reconstruction legislation, President Lincoln issues a proclamation declaring his reasons: “Whereas, at the late Session, Congress passed a Bill, “To guarantee to certain States, whose governments have been usurped or overthrown, a republican form of Government,” a copy of which is hereunto annexed:

And whereas, the said Bill was presented to the President of the United States, for his approval, less than one hour before the sine die adjournment of said Session, and was not signed by him:

And whereas, the said Bill contains, among other things, a plan for restoring the States in rebellion to their proper practical relation in the Union, which plan expresses the sense of Congress upon that subject, and which plan it is now thought fit to lay before the people for their consideration:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that, while I am, (as I was in December last, when by proclamation I propounded a plan for restoration) unprepared, by a formal approval of this Bill, to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration; and, while I am also unprepared to declare, that the free-state constitutions and governments, already adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana, shall be set aside and held for nought, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal citizens who have set up the same, as to further effort; or to declare a constitutional competency in Congress to abolish slavery in States, but am at the same time sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitutional amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the nation, may be adopted, nevertheless, I am fully satisfied with the system for restoration contained in the Bill, as one very proper plan for the loyal people of any State choosing to adopt it; and that I am, and at all times shall be, prepared to give the Executive aid and assistance to any such people, so soon as the military resistance to the United States shall have been suppressed in any such State, and the people thereof shall have sufficiently returned to their obedience to the Constitution and the laws of the United States,—in which cases, military Governors will be appointed, with directions to proceed according to the Bill.

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The War Department keeps very close as to matters at Harper’s Ferry and vicinity. There is either little knowledge of what is doing, or a very great reluctance to communicate. Mr. Felton, President of Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore R.R. sends me a letter by private hands, stating that while he was not alarmed, he desired a gunboat at Gunpowder Creek, etc., to protect railroad property. Sent Fox to inquire of General Halleck as to the necessity. General H. thinks it unnecessary; but will advise us in season if wanted. Beyond this nothing is communicated.”

Stanton tells me that he has no idea the Rebels are in any force above, and should not give them a serious thought, however, giving his reasons or any facts. The President has been a good deal incredulous about a very large army on the upper Potomac, yet he begins to manifest anxiety. But he is under constraint, I perceive, such as I know is sometimes imposed by the dunderheads at the War Office, when they are in a fog, or scare, and know not what to say or do. It is not natural or the way of the President to withhold information, or speculation at such times, and I can always tell how things are with Halleck and Stanton when there are important movements going on. The President is now enjoined to silence, while Halleck is in a perfect maze, bewildered, without intelligent decision or self-reliance, and Stanton is wisely ignorant. I am inclined to believe, however, that at this time profound ignorance reigns at the War Department concerning the Rebel raid in the Shenandoah Valley; that they absolutely know nothing of it,–its numbers, where it is, or its destination. It has to me appeared more mischievous than to others. I could not well be resisted. IT is doubtful, however, whether the onset will be made, for it is the nature of man to lose his opportunities. The true course of the Rebels is to strike at once at this point.

President Lincoln spends much of his day reviewing 35 court martial cases.

Published in: on July 8, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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