Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama

By Gideon Welles; Albert Mordell | Go to book overview
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8
The History of Emancipation

The problem of slavery was one of the most difficult issues facing the Lincoln administration. How the President, in spite of his conservatism, came to the conclusion that emancipation in the insurgent states was essential constitutes the main theme of Welles's account. The article's most interesting portions reveal the Cabinet's reactions to Lincoln's announced decision to issue an emancipation proclamation.

THE treatment and disposition of slaves who were captured, or who came within the lines of the Union armies, were in the early days of the war perplexing questions, and contributed to embarrass the Government and confuse individuals. By the Constitution, from which the Administration derived its authority, the institution of slavery was recognized, and the right of property in slaves, secured by the local law, was protected. Neither the President nor any member of the Cabinet was disposed to interfere with the institution of slavery, or believed the Government could legally interfere. Mr. Lincoln had declared previous to his election, and reiterated at his inauguration--" I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." Notwithstanding all this, he was denounced as an abolitionist, and it was persistently maintained that it was his purpose and the purpose of his Administration to set free the slaves. The members of the Administration, though selected from the old opposing traditional parties,

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The Galaxy, XIV ( December, 1872).

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