November 20, 1864
Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner writes President Lincoln: “There is a movement among certain democrats & slave-holders at the North to substitute prospective Emancipation for immediate. They say that this would give the rebels an opportunity of making terms. But I have replied, promptly, when approached on this point, that freedom once given could not be reclaimed, & that the country was solemnly bound to the immediate present freedom of every slave in the rebel states.
Something is said in the newspapers about negotiations, terms of peace, & commissioners. I do not know that any such thing is seriously entertained; but I venture to suggest that there is no power in the rebel states with whom we can deal — surely not with Jefferson Davis, & his associate traitors. It only remains that the rebel armies should be broken. Let this be done, & the Unionists of the South can then show themselves.
I venture to suggest, whether the whole subject of ‘term’ & of ‘reconstruction’ does not properly belong to Congress, according to the analogies of our govt, if not according to the terms of the Constitution. I make this remark with no other object than to secure that harmony & unity in our public counsels, which will render the Govt. irresistible.
Next to the Rebellion itself I most dread a premature State Govt. in a rebel state, placing at hazard, as it must, these two things which we so much desire, Peace & Liberty.
I notice that the Chief Justiceship is not yet filled. Meanwhile the patter in the newspapers goes on, & the country is anxious. I know that my excellent friend Govr Morgan thought it advisable to postpone the nomination till after the election. I differed from him. I thought it ought to have been made on the evening of Taney’s funeral. The promptitude of the nomination would have had an inspiring effect. But I can see no ground of delay now, even if the pendency of the election furnished one.
To me it is of inconceivable important that the Constitution hereafter should be interpreted always for Freedom, & I long to have that assurance which can be found only in the appointment of a Chief Justice, whose position on this great question, in all its bearings, is already fixed & who will not need argts of counsel to convert him.
Illinois Governor-elect Richard J. Oglesby writes President Lincoln: “Allow me in common with the masses of the country who always speak from the heart — without much circumlocution — to congratulate you upon your Second great success– I am truly glad of it because I religiously believe the wellfare of the country matereally depended upon it– For two years I have had no two opinions about this matter– It was of little concern to you about who would take interest in your personal success — but I have always thought that a fair trial of the whole case with all its complicated issues demanded of the country that you should again become the candidate– It was fair that the man should be tried with his issues– The only time I ever desponded — and when I believe the country also did was when it was asserted with some notoriety — you were deliberating upon how you might not run and this too after the Baltimore Convention– I am truly glad that again your wisdom exceeded all the wisdom of the scribes and Pharissees
I have been over this State this summer & fall as I believe no man was ever over it before in any canvass and I do assure you — That you are still the Idol and the hope of the people– They never would have consented to have omited your name on the ticket– Their unswerving confidence in your honesty seems to be the key to this will of theirs — though there is no dispute about where true greatness lies– And now that it is all over and they have had their way about it and you too have had yours — It may not be impoper since I am writing with some frankness to say to you — what these good people in Illinois all say about you — “that your only fault seems to have been a somewhat too much indulgence in clemency to Traitors and their confederates under your power To tell the truth there has not been so much talk about it but there has been some. I was perhaps asked a dozen times to explain the Fort Pillow matter1 and I did so– A few times about the return of Valandigham to this country — and when If ever you would send him back. I said I though you might arrest him perhaps but did not see how you could send him back to Canada”– Whilst I would be glad to see strong examples where the violations of Law have been marked and cruel — I do not forget the embarrassment of any general policy on the subject– I might go farter — than you have — and probably would have done so — but cannot say the result would have been any better for the country– There was a habit for awhile with some of our western union orators to say, “I do not endorse all Mr Lincolns acts” “I do not like everything He does” “I do not sanction his whole policy” after a while this grew Irksome — people began to say If you materially differ from the President — state distinctly how and why– If it is not a material difference it is not worth alluding to — and verry soon this habit died out– Since the election it is not said at at all– what I mean by all this is that while they cordially and overwhelmingly endorse your administration there is no disposition with the people to Quarrel with you– It seems to me you are left free to consult your own good sense and follow your own good ways — we all promise to stand by you — and stay your hands on the one side and on the other until the going down of the “sun” We have put a stone under you be seated thereon and Israel shall prevail– In the mean time I understand you are at liberty to say to the rebels about what you said to ” whome It may concern” I think it is not expected you will say anything less however or make the terms easier– On the stump I did not hesitate daily to say it nor the people to endorse it Just as it came from your Pen — prefering generally If any modification were made that the terms should be more limited to the rebels — not increased — there is manifestly a verry general disposition amongst the rebel people to compel the rebels to submit humbly to the Laws without a single indulgence– There is also a verry general and wide spread notion — that we are abundantly able to make them do so — and that for these purposes we shall not fail in appealing to ourselves– I have not done myself the pleasure to write to you often never I believe in this strain before and take the liberty to do so now — that you may have no occasion to be in doubt as to the views and purposes of the people of our state — so far as I may be called upon to express or carry them out — in any relations with the Government which you have in hands Illinois will give to your new administration a cordial support — and will be proud to participate in the glory of saving the union under your guidance direction and controll– The people of the state are at present more concerned about their rights in the rebel States than their State rights in Illinois, hoping you may be blessed with good health and permited to preside over our country for another four years.”
Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, an influential Radical Republican, writes President Lincoln: “This twaddle about new peace propositions, promulgated by [Benjamin F. Butler, and others is as unwise, and near as injurious as those made three or four months ago, which nearly ruined us — lest such feeble stuff enervates the public– I am happy in believing that you will give no countenance to such superficial suggestions.”