Doc. 43. President Lincoln's letter.
Correspondence between Mr. Lincoln and Joseph Holt.
Washington, Sept. 12, 1861.my dear sir: I hasten to place in your hands the enclosed correspondence with the President of the United States. The action which he has taken was firm and decided, and must prove satisfactory to the friends of the Union in Kentucky. The act of Congress alluded to was a necessity under the circumstances, and was fully justified by the usages of civilized warfare. Tile Government has the same right to confiscate slaves engaged in digging trenches or mounting guns for the rebels that it has to confiscate their arms when captured during the progress of the war; but, having confiscated them, Congress goes no further. Upon this law the President stands firmly, and in doing so, and in disavowing Gen. Fremont's proclamation, he gives another of the ever-multiplying proofs that the war, which is one for national existence, does not seek to extinguish or interfere with slavery as established in the States. If this institution suffers detriment from the events or issues of the rebellion, the blow will come from those who, under the pretence of defending it, are striking at the life of a Government under whose Constitution it has enjoyed complete shelter and protection for three-quarters of a century. The occupation of Columbus by armed Tennesseeans, under the leadership of Bishop Polk and Pillow, has excited no surprise here where the unscrupulous character and ultimate aims of the rebel chieftains are well understood. So long as Kentucky maintained that most illusory of all attitudes — neutrality — and carefully guarded an extended and exposed position of the frontier of the Rebel Government — in a word, so long as she subserved the purposes of the conspirators seeking the overthrow of the Republic, and gave reason to hope that she would finally unite her fortunes with them, she was graciously let alone; so soon, however, as she declared her loyalty to a Government to which she is indebted for all her prosperity, and to which she is united by the most solemn ties of duty, of affection, and of interest, her soil is ruthlessly invaded, and, under the promptings and guidance of traitors in her own bosom, her vote at the polls is now to be reversed by the bayonets of Tennesseeans, and the proud old Commonwealth reduced to the condition of a conquered province of that political Pandemonium called the Southern Confederacy. Those who have read the history and know the spirit of her people can have no fears as to the result of this audacious assault upon her honor and independence. The Government here will give all possible support to the State at the earliest moment practicable. Very sincerely yours,
Washington, Sept. 12.dear sir: The late act of Congress providing for the confiscation of the estates of persons in open rebellion against the Government was, as a necessary war measure, accepted and fully approved by the loyal men of the country. It limited the penalty of confiscation to property actually employed in the service of the rebellion with the knowledge and consent of its owners, and, instead of emancipating slaves thus employed, left their status to be determined either by the Courts of the United States or by subsequent legislation. The proclamation, however, of General Fremont, under date of the 30th of August, transcends, and, of course, violates the law in both these particulars, and declares that the property of rebels, whether used in support of the rebellion or not, shall be confiscated, and if consisting in slaves, that they shall be at once manumitted. The act of Congress referred to was believed to embody the conservative policy of your Administration upon this delicate and perplexing question, and hence the loyal men of the Border Slave States have felt relieved of all fears of any attempt on the part of the Government of the United States to liberate suddenly in their midst a population unprepared for freedom, and whose presence could not fail to prove a painful apprehension if not a terror to the homes and families of all. You may, therefore, well  judge of the alarm and condemnation with which the Union-loving citizens of Kentucky--the State with whose popular sentiment I am best acquainted — have read this proclamation. The hope is earnestly indulged by them as it is by myself that this paper was issued under the pressure of military necessity which Gen. Fremont believed justified the step, but that in the particulars specified it has not your approbation and will not be enforced in derogation of law. The magnitude of the interest at stake, and my extreme desire that by no misapprehension of your sentiments or purposes shall the power and fervor of the loyalty of Kentucky be at this moment abated or chilled, must be my apology for the frankness with which I have addressed you, and for the request I venture to make of an expression of your views upon the points of General Fremont's proclamation on which I have commented. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Executive mansion, Sept. 12, 1861.Hon. Joseph Holt:--Dear Sir: Yours of this day in relation to the late proclamation of General Fremont, is received. Yesterday I addressed a letter to him, by mail, on the same subject, and which is to be made public when he receives it. I herewith send you a copy of that letter, which perhaps shows my position as distinctly as any new one I could write. I will thank you not to make it public until General Fremont shall have had time to receive the original. Your obedient servant,