Even this did not drive all hope out of Mr. Lincoln’s heart. His proclamation, rescinding that order of General Hunter which purported to free slaves in certain States, was issued on May 19. In it he said that the resolution, which had been passed at his request, “now stands an authentic, definite, and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most interested in the subject-matter. To the people of these States I now earnestly appeal. I do not argue; I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews from Heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time as in the providence of God it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it!”
This eloquent and beautiful appeal sounds deeply moving in the ears of those who read it in these days, so remote from the passions and prejudices of a generation ago; but it stirred little responsive feeling and no responsive action in 1862. In fact, the scheme was not practicable.
It may be—it probably must be—believed that compensated emancipation and colonization could never have been carried out even if Northern Republicans had been willing to pay the price and Southern slave-owners had been willing to accept it, and if both had then cordially united in the task of deporting the troublesome negro from the country. The vast project was undoubtedly visionary; it was to be criticised, weighed, and considered largely as a business enterprise, and as such it must be condemned. But Mr. Lincoln, who had no capacity for business, was never able to get at this point of view, and regarded his favorite plan strictly in political and humanitarian lights. Yet even thus the general opinion has been that the unfortunate negroes, finding themselves amid the hard facts which must inevitably have attended colonization, would have heartily regretted the lost condition of servitude. Historically the merits of the experiment, which the Southern Unionists declined to have put to the test of trial, are of no consequence; it is only as the scheme throws light upon the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln’s temperament and upon certain limitations of his intellect, that the subject is interesting. That he should rid himself of personal vindictiveness and should cherish an honest and intense desire to see the question, which had severed the country, disposed of by a process which would make possible a sincere and cordial reunion, may be only moderately surprising; but it is most surprising to note the depth and earnestness of his faith that this