Border States

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Union States (in White) and Confederate States (in Black)

Union States (in White) and Confederate States (in Black)

John B. Henderson

John B. Henderson

Negro Cabin, Hopkinson's Edisto Island, S. C.

Negro Cabin, Hopkinson’s Edisto Island, S. C.

Wagon fording the Rappahannock River

Wagon fording the Rappahannock River

The loyalty of the Border States was a pressing concern for both the Confederate and Union governments in 1861, noted David Herbert Donald: “If Maryland had seceded, Washington would have been surrounded by enemy territory cut off from the Union states of the North and the West. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the major rail connection between the East and the West, ran through Maryland and Wet Virginia. Confederate control of Kentucky would have imperilled river transportation along the Ohio, and the secession of Missouri would have endangered Mississippi River traffic and cut off communication with Kansas and the Pacific coast. While Lincoln grieved over the secession of the states that joined the Confederacy, he could take comfort in the fact that, by keeping four slave states in the Union, he was preventing the Southern armies from recruiting from a population that was three-fifths as large as that of the original Confederacy.”1

Historian Burton J. Hendrick wrote: “In these states the Constitution still ran, and that document, and the laws made under its provisions, guaranteed the citizens their ‘property’ in black men. Lincoln, in his inaugural, had solemnly assured these states that the Federal government would not disturb their favorite institution but would protect them in their most cherished rights. Moreover, even after Sumter, the Border states that still remained faithful to the Union continued to be one of Lincoln’s constant anxieties. To lose Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri would be, he still believed, to lose the war; and in all these states the secessionists were sleeplessly at work, attempting to force them into the Confederacy. To encroach on their slave property, even in moderation, would play into the hands of the anti-Federal forces, and very probably result in secession.”2

On March 6, 1862, President Lincoln proposed a plan of compensated emancipation. Historian Robert Morse wrote that President Lincoln continued to worry about both the progress of the war and post-war America. “In the inevitable hostility and competition he clearly saw that the black man was likely to fare badly. It was by such feelings that he was led straight to the plan of compensation of owners and colonization of freedmen, and to the hope that a system of gradual emancipation, embodying these principles, might be voluntarily undertaken by the Border States under the present stress. If the executive and the legislative departments should combine upon the policy of encouraging and aiding such steps as any Border State could be induced to take in this direction, the President believed that he could much more easily extend loyalty and allegiance among the people of those States, – a matter which he valued far more highly than other persons were inclined to do.”3

Ralph R. Fahrney, biographer of Tribune Editor Horace Greeley, wrote: “Although distinctly opposing any further concessions to the border states, the Tribune welcomed the proposition as an evidence that the government had at last headed in the right direction, and it predicted that the sixth of March would yet be celebrated ‘as a day which initiated the Nation’s deliverance from the most stupendous wrong, curse and shame of the Nineteenth Century.’ It interpreted the move as an indication that the President realized rebellion could not be permanently suppressed in the South as long as slavery existed, and thanked God that the country had ‘so wise a ruler.”4

Historian Fahrney wrote: “Representatives in Congress from the states affected by Lincoln’s proposal did not take so kindly to the measure, however. They professed to have gained the notion that the plan virtually threatened compulsory emancipation as the only alternative of its rejection. In order to clear up the misunderstanding and present the proposition in its true light, Lincoln held a conference with several border state men. He discovered that the erroneous impression, whether genuine or feigned, originated in the columns of the Tribune, which had held out but slight hope for acceptance of compensated emancipation by those immediately concerned and yet inferred strongly that the President had determined upon the complete abolition of slavery as a necessary adjunct of permanent peace.”5

Mr. Lincoln was determined to alienate neither emancipation’s opponents or proponents. Fahrney wrote: “Upon receiving the assurance of the President that no thought of compulsory emancipation was involved, the border state representatives requested that the fact be published, but Lincoln refused on the ground that such procedure would force him into a quarrel with the ‘Greeley faction’ and the Tribune – a quarrel which he did not care to encounter ‘before the proper time’ and would avoid altogether if possible. In the end, emancipation with compensation met with little favor either in Congress or among the people of the states concerned, and the matter was dropped.”6

Historian Burton J. Hendrick wrote: “Against the President himself the Jacobins waxed similarly ferocious and abusive. They railed at Lincoln’s tenderness towards the border states, though this policy had saved for the Union cause Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and nearly one third of Virginia. Even the philosophic Julian had no better word for Lincoln’s forbearance than ‘this sickly policy of an inoffensive war.’ Wade, commenting on this and other aspects of the administration, lost all sense of decency. ‘Only a man sprung from poor white trash,’ he declared, would have disavowed Fremont’s proclamation freeing slaves of Missouri. The rail splitter, he added, ‘lacked backbone’ and ‘not even a galvanic battery could inspire any action in the cabinet.'”7

Throughout the spring and summer, President Lincoln sought to rally the support of Border States for compensated emancipation – even while preparing his own draft Emancipation Proclamation. One of Mr. Lincoln’s few consistent supporters in the Border States was Missouri Senator John B. Henderson. On September 3, 1862, Senator Henderson wrote President Lincoln – less than three weeks before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued:

The condition of Missouri is not such as I would wish it to be by any means. In anticipation of another raid into the State by [Thomas] Hindman or [Sterling] Price or some other Confederate Chief, the Secessionists for some weeks have been very busy and active in their operations. Indeed for a short time past, the situation of affairs in this State has been more gloomy than I ever saw them. But I think it is the darkness that precedes the dawn. It will soon be over in our State unless some great advantage be gained in Virginia or in Kentucky. I fear the appearance of things in Kentucky.

I hope the Kentucky members will hereafter see the necessity of giving to your administration a more earnest and cordial support and complain less of those upon whom they have to rely for their safety. I often said to them it would be safer and better to adjourn their quarrels with the abolitionists until the Union could be restored and the position of Kentucky made secure in the Union.

I have made several speeches to our people in the largest of our slaveholding counties since my return, and I have in each case urged most successfully upon their consideration your very generous proposition for compensated emancipation. A very large meeting in this (Pike County) addressed by Mr [Orville] Browning of Quincy and myself endorsed the proposition with but one dissenting voice. I feel satisfied that a great change is going on in the public mind in regard to this question. I am gratified at your letter to Horace Greely. It gives great satisfaction to the Union men of this State. Your position is correct. It is the only one through which we can win for the Union. Emancipation proclamations can only serve to make things worse in the border states, without reaching the rebellious district. Your course is correct. Be just and fear not. I hope you will again urge your proposition and continue to urge it. Good men will soon acknowledge its justice and consent to its acceptance. I am very certain that I will be in a condition by the meeting of Congress, in December to propose acceptance by Missouri.8

Presidential aide John Hay wrote in his diary on September 11, 1863 that President Lincoln “has heard that [Andrew] Johnson has lately declared for emancipation in Tennessee and says God Bless him. Incorporate emancipation in the new state Govt. Constitution and there will be no such word as fail in the case. Arming negroes he thinks will be advantageous in every way.”9 But time was running out for compensated emancipation as a realistic policy alternative.

Historian James M. McPherson noted that even after proclamation of emancipation, that President “Lincoln kept up his pressure on the border states to adopt emancipation themselves. With his support, leaders committed to the abolition of slavery gained political power in Maryland and Missouri and pushed through constitutional amendments that abolished slavery in these states before the end of the war.”10 Historian McPherson wrote that emancipation had become “a crucial part of Northern military strategy, an important means of winning the war. But if it remained merely a means it would not be apart of national strategy – that is, of the purpose for which the war was being fought. Nor would it meet the criterion that military strategy itself should be consistent with national strategy, for it would be inconsistent to fight a war using the weapon of emancipation to restore a Union that still contained slaves. Lincoln recognized this.”

The situation could be confusing for blacks still held as slaves in border states while slaves in rebel states had been freed. A black Maryland woman wrote President Lincoln in August 1864: “It is my Desire to be free. to go to see my people on the eastern shore. my mistress wont let me[.] you will please let me know if we are free. And what I can do.”11

Blacks faced ambiguous situations in Border States after the Emancipation Proclamation was published. Legally, slaves in these Border States were still slaves. Lowell H. Harrison wrote in Lincoln of Kentucky: “Clashes were inevitable between Kentucky slaveholders who wanted to retain their slaves and Union officers and soldiers who wanted to see the slaves freed as soon as possible. Perhaps the most public of the encounters was between George Robertson, one of the state’s most distinguished judges and political figures, and Col. William L. Utley, commander of the Twenty-second Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, stationed at Nicholasville, Kentucky. Utley said that Judge Robertson came to his camp and demanded the return of a Negro boy who was found with the regiment. Utley disclaimed any knowledge of how the boy came to be there, and he did not forbid Judge Robertson from taking the boy with him. But Utley refused to deliver the youth beyond the regimental lines, and he would not order his soldiers not to interfere with the Judge’s effort to recover the boy. The boy asked for protection from the cruel treatment he said he had received as a slave, and the Union soldiers refused to let him be carried away.”12

The exchange of correspondence on the case began on September 8, 1862 when Judge Robertson telegraphed the President: “As county Judge, have I power by habeas Corpus to discharge a minor over eighteen years enlisted without consent?”13 Nine weeks later and one draft Emancipation Proclamation later, a flurry of correspondence brought President Lincoln into a controversy involving civil and military power, pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces – just the kind of controversy Mr. Lincoln sought to avoid.

On November 17, Colonel William Utley wrote Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall a long letter which began: “I am in a devil of a scrape, and appeal to you for assistence. I have to a verry limited extent carried out the laws of Congress and the Proclimation [sic] of the President. All K.y. is in a blaze. I am ahead yet, but they have taken a new dodge on me, they have got me indicted at Lexington under the Laws of Kentucky. the Warrent is in the hands of the Sherriff [sic] of this County (Jessamin Co) he finds the same dificulty [sic] that the rats did in getting the bell on the cat, it would be a good thing to have done, but a bad thing, to do. they find it so in arresting me.” The same day, Colonel Utley wrote President Lincoln a longer letter to lay out the facts of the case and the legal jeopardy in which he was being placed by Judge Robertson:

Permit me respectfully to appeal to you, and I do so fully confident of being heard, for your protection and that of Generals sustaining me in an effort to support the Constitution, laws of Congress and the proclamation of the President, against the fierce and malignant opposition of the slave power of Kentucky.

When at our quiet and peaceful homes in Wisconsin and pursuing the usual honorable callings of life, your appeal for 600,000 men to defend the country and the Constitution, both of which were threatened by rebels in arms against the government, sounded in our ears. We immediately laid down our implements of husbandry, took up the sword, bade adieu to our homes and hastened to the rescue.

For a long time, without tents, but scantily supplied with conveyances, and enduring the various hardships and privasions [sic] of military life and of army marches, fully realized only by those who have experienced them, and though passing through a country abounding with the necessaries and even with the luxuries of life, presenting their allurements to the soldier’s appetite, committing no depradations upon the rights of citizens, we penetrated the state of Kentucky, the devastating hords of rebels fleeing before us till they are driven beyond the boundaries of the State.

As a compensation for these sacrafices [sic], hardships and exposures, for which Kentucky more directly receives the benefits, I now find myself indited for man stealing, by a Kentucky court, and hunted by her officers as a fellon [sic] for her penitentiary.

The facts in the case are few, simple, and easily stated.

From the time the Regiment entered the state, a continued and constantly increasing pressure has been brought to bear upon it, to force it into the service of the slave power and to involve it in the reproach of returning fugatives [sic] from oppression to their fetters and chains. In some instances orders have been obtained from commanding generals to the regiment demanding the rendition of such fugatives. Such orders, I considered unorthorised recognizing you alone as authority in these matters, and, on that ground, I have refused to obey them.

On Friday last, Judge Robinson of Lexington, representing himself as a Union man of whose counsels in the affairs of the government you have seen fit to avail yourself, come into my lines, and claimed and demanded as his property, a Negro boy found in the regiment. How, when, where, or by what means the boy came into the lines, or by whom he was claimed as property, I had previously no knowledge. It then appeared that he crept in, cold, bare foot and hungry in the midst of a dreary snow storm. I refused to recognise his claims, to lead the boy, as he requested, beyond my lines, or to forbid the soldiers from interfereing should he attempt to do so. He was not, however, forbidden to take him, though, perhaps, he should have been. The boy refused to go with him and claimed protection from the power of one whose cruel treatment, as he asserted, had already made him a dwarf instead of a man.

For the course taken in this case, I am now indi[c]ted for man stealing and hunted as a fellon [sic]. To you, I now appeal for that protection which can come from no other humane hand, for simply standing by the Constitution, obeying the laws of Congress and honoring the Proclamation of the President of the United States issued on the 23d day of September last.

I also respectfully ask that Gen. [John P.] Beard, now in command of this Brigade, may not be suffered to lose his command or to suffer in any other way or manner, on account of the honorable, patriotic and, as I judge, Constitutional support given me in my position.

All these difficulties are occasioned by the self styled Union men of Kentucky. Judge Robinson declared the President’s Proclamation of the 23d of Sept, to be unconstitutional, to have no bearing on Kentucky and that the State would never submit to it. He also declared it the policy and purpose of commanders of the army in Kentucky to ignore and render it a dead letter.

The 22d Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers, which I have the honor to command, is not made up of a set of home sick boys. These men are possed of intelligence and did not enter the service of their country, anticipating no hardships. They do not complain of sacrifices. They are not easily intimmidated. They manifest a noble determination to stand or fall – to live or die with their country. But they are capable of weighing questions involved, and of feeling the force of principles at issue. They do claim the right of remaining men. They do most solemnly and earnestly protest against being degraded to the low, base and inhuman work of sending or returning guiltless fellow men to cruel bondage. By them, such an institution as slavery is unknown– They recognize only two classes of men – loyalists and rebels –

Your prompt action, in the case, will be anxiously, but hopefully anticipated. Involved in it, is a principal of vital interest to the country; and important consequences may follow your decision. Whether soldiers from free states, in the service of the General Government, are to be subject to the civil authorities and the slave codes of slave holding states, is a question in which loyalty itself cannot be uninterested.14

Two days later, Judge Robertson wrote President Lincoln: “The conduct of a few of the officers of the army in forcibly detaining the Slaves of Union Kentuckians may provoke a conflict between Citizens & Soldiers; to prevent such a Catastrophy we desire you to say as we believe you will that military force will not be permitted for the detention any more than for the restoration of such property & especially in resistance & contempt of the legal process of a Civil tribunal.”15

On November 20, an irritated President Lincoln wrote an irritated Robertson: “Your despatch of yesterday is just received. I believe you are acquainted with the American Classics, (if there be such) and probably remember a speech of Patrick Henry, in which he represented a certain character in the, revolutionary times, as totally disregarding all questions of country, and ‘hoarsely bawling, beef! beef!! beef!!!.’ Do you not know that I may as well surrender this contest, directly, as to make any order, the obvious purpose of which would be to return fugitive slaves?”16

Six days later, apparently forgetting the letter he had already sent, President Lincoln wrote a second letter to Robertson – in which he offered his own money to make the case go away: “A few days since I had a despatch from you which I did not answer. If I were to be wounded personally, I think I would not shun it. But it is the life of the nation. I now understand the trouble is with Col. Utley; that he has five slaves in his camp, four of whom belong to rebels, and one belonging to you. If this be true, convey yours to Col. Utley, so that he can make him free, and I will pay you any sum not exceeding five hundred dollars.”17

Earlier in 1862, Mr. Lincoln had revealed his attitude about fugitive slaves in a conversation with Kansas Senator James Lane: “Yes, General, I understand you. And the only difference between you and me is that you are willing to surrender fugitives to loyal owners in case they are willing to return; while I do not believe the United States government has any right to give them up in any case. And if it had, the people would not permit us to exercise it.”18

If anything, Missouri presented more problems than Kentucky. Speaking of Missouri to John Hay in late September 1863, President Lincoln showed Hay a letter “from Uncle Joe [Hay], saying that Drake had recently in a speech a[t] La Grange denounced him for a tyrannical interference with the convention through his agent [John] Schofield, referring of course to the letter he wrote Schofield in June in reply to S’s telegram earnestly soliciting from his some statement of his views, in favor of gradual emancipation and promising that the power of the general government would not be used against the slaveowners for the time being provided they adopted an ordinance of Emancipation – stating at the same time that he hoped the time of consummation would be short and a provision be made against sales into permanent slavery in the meantime. He said after rereading his own letter, ‘I believe that to be right & I will stand by it.'”19

President Lincoln complained to Missouri radicals: “My friends in Missouri last winter did me a great unkindness. I had relied upon my Radical friends as my mainstay in the management of affairs in that state, and they disappointed me. I had recommended gradual emancipation, and Congress had endorsed that course. The Radicals in Congress voted for it. The Missouri delegation in Congress went for it – went, as I thought, right. I had the highest hope that at last Missouri was on the right track. But I was disappointed by the immediate emancipation movement. It endangers the success of the whole advance towards freedom. But you say that the gradual emancipation men were insincere, that they intended soon to real their action, that their course and their professions are purely fraudulent. Now, I do not think that a majority of the gradual emancipationsts are insincere. Large bodies of men cannot play the hypocrite. I announced my own opinion freely at the time. I was in favor of gradual emancipation. I still am so. You must not call yourselves my friends if you are only so while I agree with you. According to that, if you differed with me you are not my friends. But the mode of emancipation in Missouri is not my business. That is a matter which belongs exclusively to the citizens of that state. I do not wish to interfere. I desire, if it pleases the people of Missouri, that they should adopt gradual emancipation. I think that your division upon this subject jeopardizes the grand result. I think that a union of all antislavery men upon this point would have made emancipation a fixed fact forever.”20

In February 1864, John M. Hay went to Florida as a representative of President Lincoln in order to determine whether conditions were in place to advance the reconstruction of the state. While there, Hay gave a speech in which he discussed the position of the Border States in a way which reflected the position of the nation’s Chief Executive:

The Border states have considered and decided [the] question. You can gather their decision in advance of their final action by looking at their representatives recently elected to Congress.

Maryland has recently elected by an overwhelming majority an unconditional Anti Slavery man, who caucuses with the Republican & voted for Mr Colfax for Speaker. They are only discussing the time and way of Emancipation in Delaware; the fact is settled.

Maryland has recently elected by an overwhelming majority an unconditional Emancipation ticket & has sent her whole delegation to Congress right on the great issues with one exception. The hours of slavery in Maryland are numbered.

West Virginia having sloughed off the corrupting influences of her neighbor to the East has openly declared for Emancipation.

Kentucky, though somewhat behind the front rank of her sisters is steadily advancing in the same path of deliverance. Four of her Congressmen Randall, Anderson, Brutus Clay and the young and gallant soldier general Green Clay Smith, representatives not only of large populous regions but of a powerful and controling social influence, are avowed emancipationists, favoring all the great radical measures of the Administration, and standing like pioneers in the dawn of their states enfranchisement marshalling her the way that she is going.

And Missouri whose true breast has been most savagely torn by the harrying tread of Arms – Missouri, the last to take up the heavy burden is the first to lay it down. Schooled by severe affliction, her people have profited by their experience and in solemn council have resolved to separate themselves forever from the body of death whose contact was destroying them. And hurried on by an excess of noble ardor carried forward by a rush of progress beyond the limits of discretion, her reformers have at last begun to claim that they are more radical than Abolition, more warlike than our armies, more patriotic than our martyred dead and more loyal than the President. While we may smile at these vagaries we must recognize the courage and the practical wisdom born of this tumult, which has seized the occasion to burn the only bridge which could ever convey them back to the land of peril and disaster from which they are forever delivered.

You cannot but see, that these movements towards the inevitable result of speedy emancipation in the border states, destroys the only substantial hope with which the leaders of the Southern revolt began it. By making the nation homogenous it vastly increases its strength and its prospect of perpetuity.21

With the encouragement of President Lincoln, Missouri and Maryland began to move toward emancipation in 1864. In early March, President Lincoln wrote Maryland Congressman John A. J. Creswell regarding legislation under consideration for a constitutional convention on emancipation in the state:

I am very anxious for emancipation in to be effected in Maryland in some substantial form. I think it probable that my expressions of a preference for gradual over immediate emancipation, are misunderstood– I had thought the gradual would produce less confusion, and destitution, and therefore would be more satisfactory; but if those who are better acquainted with the subject, and are more deeply interested in it, prefer the immediate, most certainly I have no objection to their judgment prevailing. My wish is that all who are for emancipation in any form , shall co operate, all treating all respectfully, and all adopting and acting upon the major opinion, when fairly ascertained. What I have dreaded is the danger that by jealousies, rivalries, and consequent ill blood – driving one another out of meetings and conventions – perchance from the polls – the friends of emancipation themselves may divide, and lose the measure altogether. I wish this letter to not be made public; but no man representing me as I herein represent myself, will be in any danger of contradiction by me– 22

Contemporary Lincoln biographer Noah Brooks wrote: “In October of this year Maryland, by a popular vote, amended its constitution, and abolished slavery. This was a gratifying event to all friends of freedom, and Lincoln was greatly elated thereby. To a friend he said: ‘It is worth many victories in the field. It cleans up a piece of ground.’ This homely figure, suggested by his backwoods experiences, is full of meaning to those who know the almost endless difficulties of clearing a piece of wilderness and making it fit for good seed.”23

Noah Brooks wrote that by the fall of 1864: “Henry Winter Davis,, notwithstanding his wrong-headed and self-willed course, was a consistent and ardent supporter of all measures that had for their purpose the abolition of slavery and a vigorous prosecution of the war. He supported Lincoln with a very bad grace in 1864, saying that he gave him his vote for the reason that the worst man whom the Union party could put up was far better than the best man the Democrats could nominate. As a stump speaker Henry Winter Davis was brilliant, effective, and widely popular; and his services in the emancipation movement were above all value. The emancipation party carried that State in 1863, electing a majority of the legislature; and in January, 1864, a resolution was adopted by the legislature declaring that the true interests of Maryland demanded that the policy of emancipation should be immediately inaugurated. That legislature called for a convention to amend the constitution of the State and provide for emancipation. Henry Winter Davis, and other friends of the good cause, took the field with such vigor that a popular majority of twelve thousand was thrown in favor of the convention; and of the ninety-six delegates chosen, sixty-one were in favor of emancipation. The new constitution was finally submitted to a vote of the people and adopted in October, 1864, and on the nineteenth day of that month a great crowd of Marylanders went on to Washington to congratulate the President upon the final entrance of Maryland into the column of free States. It was a beautiful, bright day, and with music, banners, and cheers the loyal Marylanders made the welkin ring with their jubilation. The President came out in answer to their calls and made a little speech, in which he congratulated his visitors, their State and the nation, upon the great event. He said that he regretted that emancipation had not come two years sooner, because he thought that, if it had, it would have saved the nation more money than would have met all the private losses incident to emancipation under the present order of things. Later on in the day he said in private conversation: ‘I would rather have Maryland upon that issue than have a State twice its size upon the Presidential issue. It cleans up a piece of the ground.’ Any one who has ever had anything to do with cleaning up a piece of ground, digging out the roots and stumps, as Lincoln had, can appreciate the homely simile applied to Maryland, where slavery had at last been rooted out.”24 In his newspaper column at the time, Brooks wrote:

Last night the colored people of this District held a jubilation in honor of the emancipation of Maryland, manifesting their intelligent appreciation of the advance into freedom of Maryland in their own style. One of the largest of their churches was thrown open, religious exercises were held, and enthusiastic addresses were made by their head men and preachers. Afer an hour spent in this way, they organized themselves into an impromptu torchlight procession, numbering some few hundreds, who bore aloft the borrowed torches and a few of the transparencies of the late Union torchlight procession, among which latter were some not specially adapted to the occasion, California figuring as ‘20,000 for the Union,’ and ‘Indiana gives us a gain of five Congressmen,’ while Massachusetts was represented by a picture of Bunker Hill monument, with an objurgatory [sic] remark as to Toombs’ prediction concerning his roll-call of slaves. With these emblems, and a hoarse band of music, the somewhat irregular procession got up to the White House, where loud and repeated cheers brought out the President, who began by saying: ‘I have to guess, my friends, the object of this call, which has taken me quite by surprise this evening.’ Whereupon a chief spokesman shouted, ‘The emancipation of Maryland, sah;’ at which the President proceeded as follows:

It is no secret that I have wished, and still do wish, mankind everywhere to be free. [Great cheering and cries of ‘God bless Abraham Lincoln.’] And in the State of Maryland how great an advance has been made in this direction. It is difficult to realize that in that State, where human slavery has existed for ages, ever since a period long before any here were born – by the action of her own citizens – the soil is made forever free. [Loud and long cheering.] I have no feeling of triumph over those who were opposed to this measure and who voted against it, but I do believe that it will result in good to the white race as well as to those who have been made free by this act of emancipation, and I hope that the time will soon come when all will see that the perpetuation of freedom for all in Maryland is best for the interests of all, though some may thereby be made to suffer temporary pecuniary loss. And I hope that you, colored people, who have been emancipated, will use this great boon which has been given you to improve yourselves, both morally and intellectually, and now, good night.”25

Missouri was a tougher case than Maryland. Its politicians were even more contentious. Historian Ralph Korngold wrote: “In Missouri the struggle between the ‘Immediatists’ and the ‘Gradualists’ – or as they were called in that state, the ‘Charcoals’ and the ‘Claybanks’ – was particularly bitter. The former, feeling they were entitled to the President’s support since they were preparing the ground for the adoption of a measure which alone could guarantee fulfillment of the promise given in the proclamation, sent a delegation to Washington headed by James Taussig of St. Louis to solicit his aid. To their disappointment and chagrin Taussig reported on May 10, 1863:

The President said that the Union men in Missouri who are in favor of gradual emancipation represented his views better than those who are in favor of immediate emancipation. In explanation of his views on the subject, the President said that in his speeches, he had frequently used as an illustration, the case of a man who had an excrescence on the back of his neck, the removal of which, in one operation, would result in the life….The President announced clearly that, as far as he was at present advised, the Radicals of Missouri had no right to consider themselves the exponents of his views on the subject of emancipation in that State.26

Mr. Lincoln’s concern with compensated emancipation never completed dissipated. In August 1864, President Lincoln had a long talk with Pennsylvania political leader Alexander McClure: “At this interview Lincoln seemed to have but one overmastering desire, and that was to attain peace on the basis of a restored Union. He took from a corner of his desk a paper written out in his own handwriting, proposed to pay to the South $400,000,000 as compensation for their slaves, on condition that the States should return to their allegiance to the government and accept Emancipation. I shall never forget the emotion exhibited by Lincoln when, after reading this paper to me, he said, ‘If I could only get this proposition before the southern people, I believe they would accept it, and I have faith that the northern people, however startled at first, would soon appreciate the wisdom of such a settlement of the war. One hundred days of war would cost us the $400 million I would propose to give for emancipation and a restored republic, not to speak of the priceless sacrifice of life and the additional sacrifice of property; but were I to make this offer now, it would defeat me inevitably and probably defeat emancipation.'”27

The proposal was revived in early February 1865 after President Lincoln with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens and other Confederate representatives at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: “A proposal from Lincoln to qualify the abolition of slavery, and, after the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, to pay off the slaveholders whose secession had triggered the war in the first place, seems so bizarre in February of 1865 that the natural reaction might be to question whether Lincoln could ever really have made it. But all the evidence, from [William H.] Seward as well as [Stephens] suggest that this is pretty much what Lincoln did. And it makes sense only if it is understood how eager Lincoln was to bring the war to an end (both to cut costs and to cut off the Radicals), how much residual faith he had in the importance of achieving Whig-style national compromises, and how little expectation he had of making black civil rights into a federal crusade.”28

On February 5, 1865, President Lincoln submitted to the Cabinet a draft resolution to be presented to the Congress. Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher reported what happened when President Lincoln came back to the White House from his conference with Confederate leaders at Hampton Roads:

Soon after his return from the James, the cabinet was convened, and he read to it for approval a message which he had prepared to be submitted to Congress, in which he recommended that congress appropriate $300,000,000 to be apportioned among the several slave States, in proportion to slave population to be distributed to the holders of slaves in those States upon condition that they would consent to the abolition of slavery, the disbanding of the insurgent army, and would acknowledge and submit to the laws of the United States.

The members of the Cabinet were all opposed. He seemed somewhat surprised at that, and asked: ‘How long with the war last?’ No one answered, but he soon said: ‘A hundred days. We are spending now in carrying on the war $3,000,000 a day, which will amount to all this money, besides all the lives.’
With a deep sigh he added: ‘But you are all opposed to me, and I will not send the message.”29

The draft resolution on compensated emancipation prepared by President Lincoln read:

I respectfully recommend that a Joint Resolution, substantially as follows, be adopted so soon as practicable, by your honorable bodies.

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, of the United States of America in congress assembled: That the President of the United States is hereby empowered, in his discretion, to pay four hundred millions of dollars to the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West-Virginia, in the manner, and on the conditions following, towit: The payment to be made in six per cent government bonds, and to be distributed among said States pro rata on their respective slave populations, as shown by the census of 1860; and no part of said sum to be paid unless all resistance to the national authority shall be abandoned and cease, on or before the first day of April next; and upon such abandonment and ceasing of resistance, one half of said sum to be paid in manner aforesaid, and the remaining half to be paid only upon the amendment of the national constitution recently proposed by congress, becoming valid law, on or before the first day of July next, by the action thereon of the requisite number of States”

The adoption of such resolution is sought with a view to embody it, with other propositions, in a proclamation looking to peace and re-union.

Whereas a Joint Resolution has been adopted by congress in the words following, towit

Now therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do proclaim, declare, and make known, that on the conditions therein stated, the power conferred on the Executive in and by said Joint Resolution, will be fully exercised; that war will cease, and armies be reduced to a basis of peace; that all political offences will be pardoned; that all property, except slaves, liable to confiscation or forfeiture, will be released therefrom, except in cases of intervening interests of third parties; and that liberality will be recommended to congress upon all points not lying within executive control.30

Historian Guelzo wrote that President Lincoln “could not have been entirely confident of the practicality of this settlement, if only because he uncharacteristically offered it to the cabinet for discussion. And no one in the cabinet, not even Seward, had the slightest enthusiasm for it.”31 John Palmer Usher said “When Lincoln brought forward that compensation message (a few days after the Conference) in Cabinet, I remember what [General Robert C.] Schenck had said. I then thought, that if he should send that message to Congress, extreme and radical men of the character of Schenck would make it the occasion of a violent assault on the President and perhaps thus weaken his influence to procure men and money to prosecute the war.”32

President Lincoln told the Cabinet: “You are all against me.” He complained that the war was not likely to end soon: “We cannot hope that it will end in less than a hundred days. We are now spending three millions a day, and that will equal the full amount I propose to pay, to say nothing of the lives lost and property destroyed. I look upon it as a measure of strict and simple economy.”33 After the Cabinet rejected this approach and President Lincoln wrote on the document: “To-day these papers, which explain themselves, were drawn up and submitted to the Cabinet & unanamously disapproved by them.”34


  1. David Herbert Donald, Liberty and Union: The Crisis of Popular Government, 1830-1890, p. 96.
  2. Burton J. Hendrick, Lincoln’s War Cabinet, p. 227.
  3. Robert Morse, Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, p. 19.
  4. Ralph R. Fahrney, Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War, p. 122.
  5. Ralph R. Fahrney, Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War, p. 123 (New York Tribune, March 8, 1862).
  6. Ralph R. Fahrney, Horace Greeley and the Tribune in the Civil War, p. 123.
  7. Burton J. Hendrick, Lincoln’s War Cabinet, p. 277-278.
  8. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from John B. Henderson to Abraham Lincoln, September 3, 1862).
  9. Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editor, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 84 (September 11, 1863).
  10. Gabor S. Boritt, editor, Lincoln the War President, p. 54-55 (James M. McPherson, “Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender”).
  11. Ira Berlin, Barbara J. Fields, Steven F. Miler, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland, editor, Free at Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War, p. 450-451 (Letter from Annie Davis to Abraham Lincoln, August 25, 1864).
  12. Lowell H. Harrison, Lincoln of Kentucky, p. 233-234.
  13. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (From George Robertson to Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1862).
  14. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from William L. Utley to Abraham Lincoln, November 17, 1862).
  15. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from George Robertson to Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1862).
  16. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to George Robertson, November 20, 1862).
  17. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to George Robertson, November 26, 1862).
  18. Don E. and Virginia E. Fehrenbacher, editor, Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, p. 123 (New York Tribune, January 21, 1862).
  19. Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editor, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 89 (September 29, 1863).
  20. Don E. and Virginia E. Fehrenbacher, editor, Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, p. 530.
  21. Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editor, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 262-263.
  22. Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to John A. J. Creswell, March 7, 1864).
  23. Noah Brooks, Abraham Lincoln: The Nation’s Leader in the Great Struggle through which was Maintained the Existence of the United States, p. 400.
  24. Herbert Mitgang, editor, Washington, D.C., in Lincoln’s Time: A Memoir of the Civil War Era by the Newspaperman Who Knew Lincoln Best: Noah Brooks, p. 183-184.
  25. Michael Burlingame, editor, Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, p. 141-142.
  26. Ralph Korngold, Thaddeus Stevens: A Being Darkly Wise and Rudely Great, p. 200-201.
  27. Alexander K. McClure, Lincoln and Men of War-Times, p. 126-127.
  28. Allen C. Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, p. 408-409.
  29. Allen Thorndike Rice, editor, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, p. 97-98.
  30. Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VIII, p. 260-261 (February 5, 1865).
  31. Allen C. Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, p. 408-409 (John Palmer Usher).
  32. Michael Burlingame, editor, An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln, John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays, p. 66 (Interview with John Palmer Usher, October 11, 1877).
  33. Michael Burlingame, editor, An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln, John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays, p. 66 (Interview with John Palmer Usher, October 11, 1877).
  34. Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VIII, p. 261 (February 5, 1865).


Frank Blair (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
Henry Winter Davis (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
Horace Greeley (Mr. Lincoln and Friends)
Horace Greeley (Mr. Lincoln and New York)
Horace Greeley (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
John Hay (Mr. Lincoln and Friends)
John Hay (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
John B. Henderson (Mr. Lincoln and Friends)
James Lane (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
Charles Sumner (Mr. Lincoln and Friends)
Charles Sumner (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)
John Palmer Usher (Mr. Lincoln’s White House)