Lincoln on Race and Slavery

By Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Donald Yacovone et al. | Go to book overview

45

AL to James A. Mcdougall:
CW, 5:160–161

The response to Lincoln's plan for compensated emancipation mentioned in his March 6, 1862, message to Congress proved disappointing. Although the president met with a congressional delegation from the border states in an effort to change their minds, and personally drafted two bills that would end slavery in Delaware, he could not win any substantial support. Congressman John W. Crisfield, representing Maryland slaveowning Unionists, publicly rejected the president's offer, and even protested Lincoln's attempt to “bully” him and the state into accepting his plans. California U.S. senator James A. McDougall, a War Democrat, came to Crisfield's defense on the floor of the U.S. Senate, asserting that emancipation of any kind was illegal and unconstitutional. Despite the fact that the House of Representatives had approved compensated emancipation in the District of Columbia on April 11 (the Senate had done so on April 3), Maryland slaveowners damned the move, supported by Democrats like McDougall who otherwise remained loyal to the Union. Lincoln believed that compensated emancipation was the best way to keep the border states in the Union and help shorten the war. He wrote to the California senator, using statistics provided by the superintendent of the census to show that it would be cheaper to pay for the emancipation of slaves than to continue fighting the war. McDougall was not convinced and, on March 26, delivered another speech rejecting the constitutionality of any plan that used federal funds to buy slaves. For the opposition of War Democrats to Lincoln's modest plans, see: Christopher Dell, Lincoln and the War Democrats: The Grand Erosion of Conservative Tradition (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1975), 143.

-225-

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