February 5, 1865: Lincoln Proposes Compensated Emancipation

Lincoln, February 5, 1865

 

Throughout the War Lincoln had made several attempts to propose compensated emancipation to end the War.  All such initiatives were still-born, killed by the twin facts that Congress was uninterested in providing the funding and that the slaveholders were uninterested in ending slavery, even with compensation.  On February 5, 1865, Lincoln proposed this plan to his cabinet:

Fellow citizens of the Senate, and [February 5, 1865]

House of Representatives.

I respectfully recommend that a Joint Resolution, substantially as follows, be adopted so soon as practicable, by your honorable bodies.

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, of the United States of America in congress assembled: That the President of the United States is hereby empowered, in his discretion, to pay four hundred millions of dollars to the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West-Virginia, in the manner, and on the conditions following, towit: The payment to be made in six per cent government bonds, and to be distributed among said States pro rata on their respective slave populations, as shown by the census of 1860; and no part of said sum to be paid unless all resistance to the national authority shall be abandoned and cease, on or before the first day of April next; and upon such abandonment and ceasing of resistance, one half of said sum to be paid in manner aforesaid, and the remaining half to be paid only upon the amendment of the national constitution recently proposed byPage  261congress, becoming valid law, on or before the first day of July next, by the action thereon of the requisite number of States”

The adoption of such resolution is sought with a view to embody it, with other propositions, in a proclamation looking to peace and re-union.

Whereas a Joint Resolution has been adopted by congress in the words following, towit

Now therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that on the conditions therein stated, the power conferred on the Executive in and by said Joint Resolution, will be fully exercised; that war will cease, and armies be reduced to a basis of peace; that all political offences will be pardoned; that all property, except slaves, liable to confiscation or forfeiture, will be released therefrom, except in cases of intervening interests of third parties; and that liberality will be recommended to congress upon all points not lying within executive control. (more…)

Advertisement
Published in: on February 5, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

Lincoln and Pigs

ILTAYlincolnpig_sherring1

The state of Illinois has quite a few statues of Abraham Lincoln.  One of the more unusual is one erected in 2005 outside the Taylorville, Illinois courthouse showing Lincoln with a pig.  The statue is the work of noted sculptor John McClary.  According to local Lincoln lore, Lincoln was arguing a case in Taylorville when pigs were heard squealing under the floor.  Lincoln suggested to the presiding Judge that a Writ of Quietus be issued by the Court ordering the pigs to be silent!

A pig figures in another Lincoln story.  As the story goes Lincoln and other attorneys were riding on the old Eighth Judicial Circuit when they passed by a pig caught firmly in a mud mire.  The poor pig was squealing piteously, slowly sinking to its doom.  Lincoln and his fellow attorneys rode by.  After about a mile Lincoln stopped.  He couldn’t get that pig out of his mind.  Turning back he rescued the pig using two boards, the pig getting him muddy in the process and ruining the new suit he was wearing.  Lincoln noted that by freeing the pig from the mire, he had also freed him from his conscience, and that was worth a suit.

Lincoln seems to have been fond of pigs from his earliest days, at least according to this story written by Ferdinand C. Iglehart in 1902: (more…)

Published in: on February 1, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Lincoln on Mercy

quote-i-have-always-found-that-mercy-bears-richer-fruits-than-strict-justice-abraham-lincoln-112653

I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.

Abraham Lincoln

Running down the origin of this quote was a lot of fun.  It sounded like something that Abraham Lincoln would have said, but I had difficulty finding a source for it.  It is cited all over the internet, but no reference is given other than a speech in 1865, and such a lack of citation is often the sign of a spurious quote.  After some searching I found it.  It is sourced in a conversation that Joseph Gillespie had with Abraham Lincoln.  Gillespie was a fellow member with Lincoln of the Illinois General Assembly.  With Lincoln he helped found the Republican party in Illinois.  Elected a circuit court judge in 1861, he helped set up the Illinois Appellate Court.

During a visit to Washington in Spring of 1864, Gillespie met with Lincoln and,  among other subjects they discussed, Lincoln mentioned the problem of captured paroled Confederate troops who were found in arms before they had properly been exchanged:

These men are liable to be put to death when recaptured for breach of parole.  If we do not do something of that sort, this outrage will be repeated on every occasion…It is indeed a serious question, and I have been more sorely tried by it than any other that has occurred during the war.  It will be an act of great injustice to our soldiers to allow the paroled rebels to be put into the field without exchange.  Such a practice would demoralize almost any army in the world if played off upon them.  It would be nearly impossible to induce them to spare the lives of prisoners they might capture.  On the other hand, these men were no doubt told by their superiors that they had been exchanged and it would be hard to put them to death under any circumstances.  On the whole, my impression is that mercy bears richer fruits than any other attribute. (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

What Might Have Been

 

 

One of the great tragedies of American history is that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he could implement his post war reconstruction policy.  In a letter in January 1864 to Major General James Wadsworth, a wealthy New York politician and philanthropist who helped found the Free Soil Party, Lincoln set forth his basic policy:

 

You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by a loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South, if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage.

Now, since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be granted to the South in the contingency mentioned, I will here add, that if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or, at least, suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service.

How to better the condition of the colored race has long been a study which has attracted my serious and careful attention; hence I think I am clear and decided as to what course I shall pursue in the premises, regarding it a religious duty, as the nation’s guardian of these people, who have so heroically vindicated their manhood on the battle-field, where, in assisting to save the life of the Republic, they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot, which is but the humane protection of the flag they have so fearlessly defended.The restoration of the Rebel States to the Union must rest upon the principle of civil and political equality of the both races; and it must be sealed by general amnesty. (more…)

Published in: on January 25, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Two Minutes to Change the World

Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address has achieved immortality.

 

 

 

 

Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the most accomplished men in American public life, who gave a two hour oration.  It is a fine example of nineteenth century oratory, full of learning, argument and passion.  It may seem very odd to contemplate in our sound bite age, but audiences in America in Lincoln’s time expected these type of lengthy excursions into eloquence and felt cheated when a speaker skimped on either length or ornateness in his efforts.

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

We are not really sure what Lincoln said.  There are two drafts of the speech in Lincoln’s hand, and they differ from each other.  It is quite likely that neither reflects precisely the words that Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address.  For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the version people usually think of when reference is made to the Gettysburg address, the text used here is the version carved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle- field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Here was the masterpiece of Lincoln’s passion for concise, almost terse, argument.  No doubt many in the audience were amazed when Lincoln sat down, probably assuming that this was a preamble to his main speech.

“Fourscore and seven years ago”

Lincoln starts out with an attention grabber.  Rather than the prosaic eighty-seven years, he treats his listeners to a poetic line that causes them to think and follow Lincoln back in time to the founding. (more…)

Published in: on January 2, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Two Minutes to Change the World  
Tags: , , ,

Royal Dano and Abraham Lincoln

Royal Dano as Lincoln

On Monday night I was watching an old Rifleman episode and it was an odd one.  One of Lucas McCain’s neighbors turns out to be Abraham Lincoln!  Well, not the real Abraham Lincoln, but rather a man who incurred psychic trauma during his Civil War service and now he believes he is Abraham Lincoln.  However, the man, portrayed by the late actor Royal Dano, looks and acts just like Abraham Lincoln.  This show was broadcast in 1961 when the Civil War centennial was big news, and this was a clever way of getting Lincoln on the Rifleman show, a series set in the 1880’s, without having to invoke time travel!  The episode was moving and as I listened I thought the actor portraying Lincoln sounded familiar.  Then it struck me: the Disney Animatronics Lincoln!

 

Dano provided the voice of Lincoln.in the Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show which Disney premiered at the World’s Fair in 1964. Disney chose Dano because he believed his voice was most like what Disney imagined Lincoln sounded like.  In this Disney was probably incorrect.  Most contemporaries described Lincoln as having a high pitched voice.  However, Disney was a showman and not an historian, and I think Disney hit upon a voice that did fit the popular imagination of what Lincoln sounded like, said imagination having been formed by deep voiced portrayals of Lincoln on film by actors such as Walter Huston, Henry Fonda and Raymond Massey.  The Animatronics Lincoln now has a new voice actor as Lincoln, but to generations that came of age in the final decades of the last century and visited Disney World, Dano’s voice will be that of Lincoln’s.

 

Published in: on December 29, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Royal Dano and Abraham Lincoln  
Tags: , , ,

December 1, 1861: Memo to McClellan

 

One hundred and sixty-onme years ago Abraham Lincoln sent a memo to General McClellan.  McClellan had been in command of the Army of the Potomac since shortly after Bull Run.  Although he had demonstrated great talent in organizing, equipping and training his army, it was becoming increasingly clear to Lincoln that McClellan was reluctant to risk his force in battle.  This memorandum, which McClellan ignored, was Lincoln’s first attempt to prod the “young Napoleon” into action.  McClellan ignored the memo, an attitude which would lead Lincoln to dismiss McClellan twice from his command in the next year.  Here is the text of the memo: (more…)

Published in: on December 1, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 1, 1861: Memo to McClellan  
Tags: , ,

Tad and the Turkey

Turkey Pardon

Stories cluster about Lincoln like barnacles on a great ship.  Many of them cannot be sourced at all and have to be consigned to legend.  One such story that is probably just a legend is that of Tad and the Turkey.  The White House in 1863 received the gift of a live turkey that was to be fattened up for an eventual White House dinner.  Tad grew fond of the bird, named him Jack and eventually begged his father for the Turkey’s life.   Lincoln was reluctant at first, noting that the Turkey had been given as a gift for the table and not as a pet.  Tad’s pleas however eventually caused Lincoln to give the Turkey a presidential pardon.

Like all good legends this story has the participants behaving in character:  Tad always did have a menagerie of pets in the White House, and Lincoln was soft-hearted about animals and was a fairly indulgent father.    A sequel to the story had Jack the Turkey stepping to the front of a line of soldiers waiting to vote at a polling place set up at a White House.  Then Lincoln is supposed to have inquired of his son if Jack was going to vote.  Tad solemnly responded that Jack could not vote due to his being too young. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

Lincoln’s Final Annual Message

 

Lincoln’s Final Annual Message to Congress, what we would call the State of the Union speech, dated December 6, 1864, is a good corrective to the idea that nothing occurred during the Lincoln administration except the Civil War.  Most of the Message deals with non War related matters, and reminds us that History did not sit still until the War was concluded.  The War itself is briefly touched upon, Lincoln assuming correctly that there were few citizens unaware of the fact that the War was going very well indeed and that the Union was on the verge of winning it.  Lincoln does pick out for mention Sherman’s March to the Sea, no doubt a common topic of conversation at that time in the North, and a demonstration, as Lincoln observes, of the increasing weakness of the Confederacy to impede Union military operations.  Lincoln devotes the end section of his Message to comments about reconstruction:

On careful consideration of all the evidence accessible it seems to me that no attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept nothing short of severance of the Union, precisely what we will not and can not give. His declarations to this effect are explicit and oft repeated. He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He can not voluntarily reaccept the Union; we can not voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war and decided by victory. If we yield, we are beaten; if the Southern people fail him, he is beaten. Either way it would be the victory and defeat following war. What is true, however, of him who heads the insurgent cause is not necessarily true of those who follow. Although he can not reaccept the Union, they can. Some of them, we know, already desire peace and reunion. The number of such may increase. They can at any moment have peace simply by laying down their arms and submitting to the national authority under the Constitution. Alter so much the Government could not, if it would, maintain war against them. The loyal people would not sustain or allow it. If questions should remain, we would adjust them by the peaceful means of legislation, conference, courts, and votes, operating only in constitutional and lawful channels. Some certain, and other possible, questions are and would be beyond the Executive power to adjust; as, for instance, the admission of members into Congress and whatever might require the appropriation of money. The Executive power itself would be greatly diminished by the cessation of actual war. Pardons and remissions of forfeitures, however, would still be within Executive control. In what spirit and temper this control would be exercised can be fairly judged of by the past.

Lincoln’s attention was beginning to shift from winning the War to winning the peace.  It is one of the great tragedies of American history that he would win the former and not be present for the latter.  Here is the text of the message: (more…)

Published in: on November 17, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln’s Final Annual Message  
Tags: , ,

November 11, 1864: Lincoln Recalls His Memorandum of Defeat

 

 

Blind Memorandum

 

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards. A. LINCOLN

John Hay, one of Lincoln’s two private secretaries, made the falling diary entry in regard to the cabinet meeting on November 11, 1864, following the re-election of the President:

“At the meeting of the Cabinet today, the President took out a paper from his desk and said, `Gentlemen, do you remember last summer when I asked you all to sign your names to the back of a paper of which I did not show you the inside? This is it. Now, Mr Hay, see if you can get this open without tearing it?’ He had pasted it up in so singular style that it required some cutting to get it open. He then read as follows: [memorandum]

“The President said, `You will remember that this was written at a time (6 days before the Chicago nominating Convention) when as yet we had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends. I then solemnly resolved on the course of action indicated above. I resolved, in case of the election of General McClellan, being certain that he would be the candidate, that I would see him and talk matters over with him. I would say, “General, the election has demonstrated that you are stronger, have more influence with the American people than I. Now let us together, you with your influence and I with all the executive power of the Government, try to save the country. You raise as many troops as you possibly can for this final trial, and I will devote all my energies to assisting and finishing the war.” ‘

“Seward said, `And the General would answer you “Yes, Yes;” and the next day when you saw him again and pressed these views upon him, he would say, “Yes, Yes;” & so on forever, and would have done nothing at all.’

“ `At least,’ added Lincoln, `I should have done my duty and have stood clear before my own conscience.’ . . . .”

The scenario Lincoln said he would have followed would likely have been what actually happened but for military success by the Union armies in the fall of 1864.  On such slender reeds are the fates of nations balanced.

Published in: on November 11, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 11, 1864: Lincoln Recalls His Memorandum of Defeat  
Tags: , ,