American Statesmen - Vol. 2

By John T. Morse Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
EMANCIPATION COMPLETED.

ON January 1, 1863, when the President issued the Proclamation of Emancipation, he stepped to the uttermost boundary of his authority in the direction of the abolition of slavery. Indeed a large proportion of the people believed that he had trespassed beyond that boundary; and among the defenders of the measure there were many who felt bound to maintain it as a legitimate exercise of the war power, while in their inmost souls they thought that its real basis of justification lay in its intrinsic righteousness. Perhaps the President himself was somewhat of this way of thinking. He once said: "I felt that measure, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution through the preservation of the Union. . . . I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element." Time, however, proved that the act had in fact the character which Mr. Lincoln attributed to it as properly a war measure. It attracted the enlistment of negroes, chiefly

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