In the Border States a considerable proportion of the people was both pro-slavery and pro-Union. These men wished to retain their servile laborers under their feet and the shelter of the Union over their heads. At first they did not see that they might as well hope to serve both God and Mammon. Yet for the moment they seemed to hold the balance of power between the contestants; for had all the pro-slavery men in the Border States gone over in a mass to the South early in the war, they might have settled the matter against the North in short order. The task of holding and conciliating this important body, with all its Northern sympathizers, became a controlling purpose of the President, and caused the development of his famous “border-state policy,” for which he deserved the highest praise and received unlimited abuse.
The very fact that these men needed, for their comfort, reiterated assurances of a policy not hostile to slavery indicated the jeopardy of their situation. The distinct language of the President alleviated their anxiety so far as the Executive was concerned, but they desired to commit the legislative branch to the same doctrine. Among all those who might have been Secessionists, but were not, no other could vie in respect and affection with the venerable and patriotic John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. This distinguished statesman now became the spokesman for the large body of loyal citizens who felt deeply that the war ought not to impinge in the least upon the great institution of the South. In the extra session of Congress, convened in July, 1861, he offered a resolution pledging Congress to hold in mind: “That this war is not waged upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor with any purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those [the revolted] States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired.” After the example of the Constitution, this resolution was carefully saved from the contamination of a certain offensive word; but every one knew its meaning and its purpose; and with this knowledge all the votes save two in the House of Representatives, and all save five in the Senate, were given for it. “It was,” says Mr. Blaine, “a fair reflection of the popular sentiment throughout the North.” So Mr. Lincoln’s inaugural was ratified.