They asserted that the reluctance of the people to enter the army was caused by the policy of the government in not adopting bold emancipation measures. If such were adopted, the streets and by-ways would be crowded with volunteers to fight for the freedom of the ‘loyal blacks,’ and thrice three hundred thousand could be easily obtained. They said that slavery in the seceded states should be treated as a military question; it contributed nearly all the subsistence which supported the Southern men in arms, dug their trenches, and built their fortifications. The watchword which they now adopted was ‘the abolition of slavery by the force of arms for the sake of the Union.’ Meantime, on September 13th, a delegation from the so-called ‘Christians’ in Chicago, Illinois, presented to President Lincoln a memorial, requesting him to issue a proclamation of emancipation, and urged in its favor such reasons as occurred to their minds. President Lincoln replied:
What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world would see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I can not even enforce the Constitution in the rebel States? Is there a single court, or magistrate, or individual that would be influenced by it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines? Yet I can not learn that that law has caused a single slave to come over to us. And suppose they could be induced by a proclamation of freedom from me to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we feed and care for such a multitude? . . . If, now, the pressure of the war should call off our forces from New Orleans to defend some other point, what is to prevent the masters from reducing the blacks to slavery again? . . . Now, then, tell me, if you please, what possible result of good would follow the issuing of such a proclamation as you desire? I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement.Nine days after these remarks were made—on September 22, 1862— the preliminary proclamation of emancipation was issued by the President of the United States. It declared that at the next session of Congress the proposition for emancipation in the border slaveholding states would be again recommended, and that on January 1, 1863—
All persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and for ever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.