Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.
to cure this especial outbreak of the great national malady, and still to leave existing in the body politic that which had induced this dissension and would inevitably afterward induce others like unto it.  The excision of the cause was the only intelligent action.  Yet when pushed to the point of declaring what he would do in the supposed case of an opportunity to restore the Union, with slavery, he said:  “My enemies pretend I am now carrying on the war for the sole purpose of abolition.  So long as I am President, it shall be carried on for the sole purpose of restoring the Union.”  The duty of his official oath compelled him to say this, but he often and plainly acknowledged that he had no fear of ever being brought face to face with the painful necessity of saving both the Union and slavery.

It is worth noticing that the persons who charged upon the President that he would never assent to a peace which was not founded upon the abolition of slavery as one of its conditions or stipulations, never distinctly stated by what right he could insist upon such a condition or stipulation, or by what process he could establish it or introduce it into a settlement.  Mr. Lincoln certainly never had any thought of negotiating with the seceded States as an independent country, and making with them a treaty which could embody an article establishing emancipation and permanent abolition.  He had not power to enter with them into an agreement of an international character, nor, if they should offer to return to the Union, retaining their slave institutions, could he lawfully reject them.  The endeavor would be an act of usurpation, if it was true that no State could go out.  The plain truth was that, from any save a revolutionary point of view, the constitutional amendment was the only method of effecting the consummation permanently.  When, in June, 1864, Mr. Lincoln said that abolition of slavery was “a fitting and necessary condition to the final success of the Union cause,” he was obviously speaking of what was logically “fitting and necessary,” and in the same sentence he clearly specified a constitutional amendment as the practical process.  There is no indication that he ever had any other scheme.

In effect, in electing members of Congress in the autumn of 1864, the people passed upon the amendment.  Votes for Republicans were votes for the amendment, and the great Republican gain was fairly construed as an expression of the popular favor towards the measure.  But though the elections thus made the permanent abolition of slavery a reasonably sure event in the future, yet delay always has dangers.  The new Congress would not meet for over a year.  In the interval the Confederacy might collapse, and abolition become ensnarled with considerations of reconciliation, of reconstruction, of politics generally.  All friends of the measure, therefore, agreed on the desirability of disposing of the matter while the present Congress was in the way with it, if this could

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