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[191] admission of a new State is sought or opposed, mainly with reference to its effect upon party or sectional ascendancy. Thus the institution, regardless of its morality or justice, after a while became the plaything of fanatics and the foot ball of politics.

It is significant, as showing the estimate of the institution in the North as a moral question, when disconnected from political ends, that for over a quarter of a century after the acquisition of Louisiana, the mere discussion of abolition caused outbreaks against those who agitated it, in New York, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Connecticut. A Northern historian says: ‘The riots, of which the foregoing were specimens, were too numerous and widespread to be even glanced at separately.’ The same writer, himself an early abolitionist, speaking of the responsibility for the existence of the institution, declares: ‘It were absurd to claim for any colony or section a moral superiority in this regard over any other.’

No purpose of emancipation was announced until the war had long been flagrant, and then the matter was handled as a mine in the heart of the Confederacy, to be exploded or not, as might prove most advantageous in the conflict of arms. General Hunter, early in the war, proclaimed emancipation in certain States, and Lincoln, in his own words, ‘repudiated the proclamation.’ In his special message in 1862, asking Congress to pass a resolution that the United States ought to give pecuniary aid to the States ‘which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery.’ Lincoln urged it ‘as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation,’ upon the ground, that if by means of such action, some of the border States should adopt it, it would deprive the Southern States of all hope of retaining them in the Confederacy. ‘To deprive them of this hope,’ he says, ‘substantially ends the rebellion.’

In another State paper, about the same time, he said: ‘If I could save the Union without freeing any of the slaves, I would do it. If I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery.’

The first proclamation was an announcement of emancipation to be enforced against persons who thereafter continued in arms against the United States. The avowal that a return to the Union would prevent the emancipation of the slave, sapped its motive of any just claim to benevolence. The purpose of the proclamation was to conquer, not to free. It was a trumpet blast warning of sterner strife, in whose shrill tones were not blown the sweeter notes of philanthropy.

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Robert M. T. Hunter (1)
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