previous next
[380]

Freedom for the slaves. [from the Baltimore sun, November 2, 1897.]

How President Lincoln was brought to the Point of issuing his proclamation.


It was in the closing days of September, 1862, says the New York Mail and Express. that Abraham Lincoln formally announced that on the January 1, following, he would declare all slaves free in the States then at war with the government. To Frank B. Carpenter, the artist, Lincoln gave a very interesting account of the manner in which he prepared and submitted to the cabinet the proclamation.

“It had got to be,” he said,

midsummer, 1862. Things had gone on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of the rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the game. I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy, and, without consultation with, or the knowledge of the cabinet, I prepared the original draft of a proclamation, and, after much anxious thought, called a cabinet meeting upon the subject. This was the last of July, or the first part of the month of August, 1862. This cabinet meeting took place, I think, upon a Saturday. All were present excepting Mr. Blair, the Postmaster-General, who was absent at the opening of the discussion, but came in subsequently. I said to the cabinet that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject matter of a proclamation before them, suggestions as to which whould be in order after they had heard it read.

Various suggestions were offered. Secretary Chase wished the language stronger in reference to the arming of the blacks. Mr. Blair, after he came in, deprecated the policy on the ground that it would cost the administration the fall elections. Nothing, however, was offered that I had not already anticipated and settled in my own mind, until Secretary Seward spoke. Said he: “Mr. President, I approve of the proclamation, but I question the expediency of its issue at this juncture. The depression of the public mind, consequent upon our repeated reverses, is so great that I fear the effect of so important a step. It may be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted government—a cry for help; the government stretching [381] forth its hands to Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the government.” His idea was that it would be considered our “last shriek” on the retreat. “Now,” continued Mr. Seward, “while I approve the measure, I suggest, sir, that you postpone its issue until you can give it to the country supported by military success, instead of issuing it, as would be the case now, upon the greatest disasters of the war.”

The wisdom of the Secretary of State struck me with very great force. It was an aspect of the case that in all my thought upon the subject I had entirely overlooked. The result was that I put the draft of the proclamation aside, as you do your sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory. From time to time I added or changed a line, touching it up here and there, waiting the progress of events. Well, the next news we had was of Pope's disaster at Bull Run. Things looked darker than ever. Finally came the week of Antietam. I determined to wait no longer. The news came, I think, on Wednesday, that the advantage was on our side. I was then staying at the Soldiers' Home. Here I finished writing the second draft of the preliminary proclamation; came up on Saturday, called the cabinet together to hear it, and it was published the following Monday.

An incident of the last-mentioned cabinet meeting not mentioned by Lincoln was related to Mr. Carpenter by Secretary Chase. The President, he said, began by remarking that the time for the annunciation of the emancipation policy could no longer be delayed. Public sentiment, he thought, would sustain it, many of his warmest friends and supporters demanded it, and he had promised his God that he would do it. The last part of this was uttered in a low tone, and appeared to be heard by no one but Mr. Chase, who was sitting near him. He asked the President if he correctly understood him.

Mr. Lincoln replied: ‘I made a solemn vow before God that if General Lee were driven back from Pennsylvania I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.’

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Bull Run, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Abraham Lincoln (5)
Salmon P. Chase (3)
William H. Seward (2)
Frank B. Carpenter (2)
Francis P. Blair (2)
John Pope (1)
Robert E. Lee (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
November 2nd, 1897 AD (1)
September, 1862 AD (1)
August, 1862 AD (1)
1862 AD (1)
July (1)
January 1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: