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[656] 25th, and there choose delegates to the Democratic National Convention which was to assemble at Chicago for the nomination of a Presidential ticket — a call which insured the vote of this State in November to the candidates of the Opposition.

Gov. Bramlette, accompanied by ex-Senator Dixon and Col. A. G. Hodges, soon visited Washington, expressly to protest against, and (if possible) to obviate, this enrollment of negroes, or at least to render its execution less offensive and annoying to their masters — finding the President disposed to do whatever he could to reconcile the Kentuckians to the bitter prescription. Mr. Lincoln was induced to put the substance of lis observations at their interview into the following letter:

Executive Mansion, Washington, April 4, 1864.
A. G. Hodges, Esq., Frankfort, Ky.:
my dear Sir: You ask me to put in writing the substance of what I verbally said the other day, in your presence, to Gov. Bramlette and Senator Dixon. It was about as follows:

I am naturally anti-Slavery. If Slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think and feel; and yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that, in ordinary and civil administration, this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary, abstract judgment on the moral question of Slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on Slavery. I did understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that Government — that nation, of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to save Slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of Government, country, and Constitution, altogether. When, early in the war, Gen. Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When, a little later, Gen. Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the Blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, Gen. Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When, in March, and May, and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the Border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the Blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition; and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and, with it, the Constitution, or of laying a strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss; but of this I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our White military force — no loss by it anyhow, or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite 130,000 soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no caviling. When have the men; and we could not have had them without the measure.

And now let any Union man, who complains of this measure, test himself by writing down in one line, that he is for subduing the Rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he is for taking 130,000 men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be but for the measure he condemns. If he can not face his case so stated, it is only because he can not face the truth.

I add a word which was not in the verbal conversation. In telling this tale, I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity.

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