Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.
was short; it opened on March 28, and the vote was taken April 8; it stood 38 ayes, 6 noes.  This was gratifying; but unfortunately the party of amendment had to face a very different condition of feeling in the House.  The President, says Mr. Arnold, “very often, with the friends of the measure, canvassed the House to see if the requisite number could be obtained, but we could never count a two-thirds vote.”  The debate began on March 19; not until June 15 was the vote taken, and then it showed 93 ayes, 65 noes, being a discouraging deficiency of 27 beneath the requisite two thirds.  Thereupon Ashley of Ohio changed his vote to the negative, and then moved a reconsideration, which left the question to come up again in the next session.  Practically, therefore, at the adjournment of Congress, the amendment was left as an issue before the people in the political campaign of the summer of 1864; and in that campaign it was second only to the controlling question of peace or war.

Mr. Lincoln, taking care to omit no effort in this business, sent for Senator Morgan, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, which was to make the Republican nomination for the presidency and to frame the Republican platform, and said to him:  “I want you to mention in your speech, when you call the convention to order, as its keynote, and to put into the platform, as the keystone, the amendment of the Constitution abolishing and prohibiting slavery forever.”  Accordingly the third plank in that platform declared that slavery was the cause and the strength of the rebellion, that it was “hostile to the principle of republican government,” and that the “national safety demanded its utter and complete extirpation from the soil of the Republic,” and that to this end the Constitution ought to be so amended as to “terminate and forever prohibit the existence of slavery within the limits or the jurisdiction of the United States.”  Thus at the special request of the President the issue was distinctly presented to the voters of the country.  The Copperheads, the conservatives, and reactionaries, and many of the war Democrats, promptly opened their batteries against both the man and the measure.

The Copperhead Democracy, as usual, went so far as to lose force; they insisted that the Emancipation Proclamation should be rescinded, and all ex-slaves restored to their former masters.  This, in their opinion, would touch, a conciliatory chord in Southern breasts, and might lead to pacification.  That even pro-slavery Northerners should urgently advocate a proposition at once so cruel and so disgraceful is hardly credible.  Yet it was reiterated strenuously, and again and again Mr. Lincoln had to repeat his decisive and indignant repudiation of it.  In the message to Congress, December, 1863, he said that to abandon the freedmen now would be “a cruel and astounding breach of faith....  I shall not attempt to retract or modify the Emancipation Proclamation,

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Abraham Lincoln, Volume II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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