Blair: He’s the one man with character enough for this business.
Hook: There are other opinions.
Seward: Yes, but not here, surely.
Hook: It’s not for me to say. But I ask you, what does he mean about emancipation? I’ve always understood that it was the Union we were fighting for, and that abolition was to be kept in our minds for legislation at the right moment. And now one day he talks as though emancipation were his only concern, and the next as though he would throw up the whole idea, if by doing it he could secure peace with the establishment of the Union. Where are we?
Seward: No, you’re wrong. It’s the Union first now with him, but there’s no question about his views on slavery. You know that perfectly well. But he has always kept his policy about slavery free in his mind, to be directed as he thought best for the sake of the Union. You remember his words: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union.” Nothing could be plainer than that, just as nothing could be plainer than his determination to free the slaves when he can.
Hook: Well, there are some who would have acted differently.
Blair: And you may depend upon it they would not have acted so wisely.
Stanton: I don’t altogether agree with the President. But he’s the only man I should agree with at all.
Hook: To issue the proclamation now, and that’s what he will propose, mark my words, will be to confuse the public mind just when we want to keep it clear.
Welles: Are you sure he will propose to issue it now?
Hook: You see if he doesn’t.
Welles: If he does I shall support him.
Seward: Is Lee’s army broken?
Stanton: Not yet—but it is in grave danger.
Hook: Why doesn’t the President come? One would think this news was nothing.
Chase: I must say I’m anxious to know what he has to say about it all.
A CLERK comes in.
Clerk: The President’s compliments, and he will be here in a moment.
Hook: I shall oppose it if it comes up.
Chase: He may say nothing about it.
Seward: I think he will.
Stanton: Anyhow, it’s the critical moment.
Blair: Here he comes.
LINCOLN comes in carrying a small book.
Lincoln: Good-morning, gentlemen.
He takes his place.
The Ministers: Good-morning, Mr. President.
Seward: Great news, we hear.