Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.

The proclamation contained a statement that ex-slaves would be “received into the armed service of the United States.”  Up to this time not much had been done in the way of enlisting colored troops.  The negroes themselves had somewhat disappointed their friends by failing to take the initiative, and it became evident that they must be stirred by influences outside their own race.  The President now took the matter in hand, and endeavored to stimulate commanders of Southern departments to show energy concerning it.  By degrees successful results were obtained.  The Southerners formally declared that they would not regard either negro troops or their officers as prisoners of war; but that they would execute the officers as ordinary felons, and would hand over the negroes to be dealt with by the state authorities as slaves in insurrection.  Painful and embarrassing questions of duty were presented by these menaces.  To Mr. Lincoln the obvious policy of retaliation seemed abhorrent, and he held back from declaring that he would adopt it, in the hope that events might never compel him to do so.  But on July 30 he felt compelled, in justice to the blacks and those who led them, to issue an order that for every Union soldier killed in violation of the laws of war a rebel soldier should be executed; and for every one enslaved a rebel soldier should be placed at hard labor on the public works.  Happily, however, little or no action ever became necessary in pursuance of this order.  The Southerners either did not in fact wreak their vengeance in fulfillment of their furious vows, or else covered their doings so that they could not be proved.  Only the shocking incident of the massacre at Fort Pillow seemed to demand stern retaliatory measures, and even this was, too mercifully, allowed gradually to sink away into neglect.[42]

[Illustration:  Lincoln Submitting the Emancipation Proclamation to His Cabinet.]

FOOTNOTES: 

[33] To A.G.  Hodges, April 4, 1864, N. and H. vi. 430; and see Lincoln to Chase, September 2, 1863; ibid. 434.

[34] “It was,” says Mr. Arnold, “full of errors and mistaken inferences, and written in ignorance of many facts which it was the duty of the President to consider.” Life of Lincoln, 254.  But, per contra, Hon. George W. Julian says:  “It was one of the most powerful appeals ever made in behalf of justice and the rights of man.” Polit.  Recoil. 220.  Arnold and Julian were both members of the House, and both thorough-going Abolitionists.  Their difference of opinion upon this letter of Mr. Greeley illustrates well the discussions which, like the internecine feuds of Christian sects, existed between men who ought to have stood side by side against the heretics and unbelievers.

[35] For views contrary to mine, see Julian, Polit.  Recoil. 221.

[36] The story that some members of the cabinet were opposed to the measure was distinctly denied by the President.  Carpenter, Six Months in the White House, 88.

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