Nothing is ever simple and Lincoln one goal was to hold the union together and win the war and the emancipation proclamation was not a moral stand that took courage but a political move against the south.
If Lincoln had live the border states in fact might had been paid for their slaves.
Meanwhile, the President worked a compensated emancipation plan for all slave-owning states. In early 1862, President Lincoln told abolitionist Mocure D. Conway that southerners "had become at an early day, when there was at least a feeble conscience against slavery, deeply involved commercially and socially with the institution. He pitied them heartily, all the more that it had corrupted them; and he earnestly advised us to use what influence we might have to impress on the people the feeling that they should be ready and eager to share largely the pecuniary losses to which the South would be subjected if emancipation should occur. It was the disease of the entire nation, all must share the suffering of its removal."3
President Lincoln told New York businessman-journalist James R. Gilmore: "The feeling is against slavery, not against the South. The war has educated our people into abolition, and they now deny that slaves can be property. But there are two sides to that question. One is ours, the other, the southern side; and those people are just as honest and conscientious in their opinion as we are in ours. They think they have a moral and legal right to their slaves, and until very recently the North has been of the same opinion. For two hundred years the whole country has admitted it and regarded and treated the slaves as property. Now, does the mere fact that the North has come suddenly to a contrary opinion give us the right to take the slaves from their owners without compensation? The blacks must be freed. Slavery is the bone we are fighting over. It must be got out of the way to give us permanent peace, and if we have to fight this war till the South is subjugated, then I think we shall be justified in freeing the slaves without compensation. But in any settlement arrived at before they force things to that extremity, is it not right and fair that we should make payment for the slaves?"4
In December 1861, the President sent for Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Sumner biographer Moorfield Storey wrote: "Sumner did not believe the plan practicable, but he welcomed the evidence of the President's tendency towards the course which he so strongly urged. He made some suggestions as to language, which the President adopted, and the message was sent in."5 Sumner recalled of the period that led up the President message to Congress in March 1862: "Every time I saw him I spoke to him about it, and I saw him every two or three days. One day I said to him, I remember, I 'I want you to make Congress a New Year's present of your plan. But he had some reasons still for delay. He was in correspondence with Kentucky, there was a Mr. [Joshua] Speed in Kentucky to whom he was writing; he read me one of his letter once, and he thought he should hear from there how people would be affected by such a plan.' At one time I thought he would send in the message on New Year's Day; and I said something about what a glorious thing it would be. But he stopped me in a moment; 'Don't say a word about that,' he said; 'I know very well that the name which is connected with this act will never be forgotten.' Well there was one delay and another, but I always spoke to him till one day in January he said sadly that he had been up all night with his sick child. I was very much touched, and I resolved that I would say nothing to the President about this or any other business if I could help it till that child was well or dead. And I did not....I have never said a word to him again about it — one morning here, before I had breakfast, before I was up indeed, both his secretaries came over to say that he wanted to see me as soon as I could see him. I dressed at once, and went over. 'I want to read you my message,' he said; 'I want to know how you like it. I am going to send it in to-day.'"6
Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: "On March 6, 1862, after meeting with the cabinet and with Charles Sumner, Lincoln sent a special message to Congress, recommending a joint congressional resolution which would offer 'pecuniary aid' to any of the border states that would 'initiate' a gradual emancipation plan. He bent over backwards to assure the border states that 'such a proposition...sets up no claim of a right, by federal authority, to interfere with slavery within state limits, referring, as it does, the absolute control of the subject, in each case, to the state and its people, immediately interested.'"7
Lincoln biographer Tarbell wrote: "The first effect of the message was to unite the radical supporters of Mr. Lincoln with the more moderate. 'We are all brought by the common-sense message,' said 'Harper's Weekly,' 'upon the same platform. The cannon shot against Fort Sumter effected three-fourths of our political lines; the President's message has wiped out the remaining fourth.' But to Mr. Lincoln's keen disappointment, the Border States representatives in Congress let the proposition pass in silence. He saw one and another of them but not a word did they say of the message. The President stood this for four days, then he summoned them to the White House to explain his position."8
President Lincoln complained to Missouri Congressman Frank Blair on March 9: "I sent for you, Mr. Blair about this: Since I sent in my message, about the usual amount of calling by the border-state congressmen has taken place; and although they have all been very friendly, not one of them has yet said a word to me about it. Garrett Davis had been here three times since, but although he has been very cordial, he has never opened his mouth on the subject. Now I should like very much sometime soon to get them all together here and have a frank talk about it. I desired to ask you whether you were aware of any reason why I should not do so."9
When Blair, who split his time between roles as a congressman and a general, observed that the measure might have more effect if it was pursued after a military victory, President Lincoln responded: "That is just the reason why I do not wish to wait...If we should have successes, they may feel and say, the rebellion is crushed and it matters not whether we do anything about this matter. I want them to consider it and interest themselves in it as an auxiliary means for putting down the rebels. I want to tell them that if they will take hold and do this, the war will cease — there will be no further need of keeping standing armies among them, and that they will get rid of all the troubles incident thereto. If they do not the armies must stay in their midst — it is impossible to prevent negroes from coming into our lines; when they do, they press me on the one hand to have them returned, while another class of our friends will on the other press me not to do so."10
Blair promised to try to work on his fellow Border State Congressmen and have them visit the President the following day. The response was not positive. Historian James M. McPherson wrote: "At a meeting with Lincoln on March 10...border-state congressmen questioned the constitutionality of the proposal, bristled at Lincoln's warning, and deplored the anticipated race problem that would emerge with a large free black population."11 President Lincoln told Carl Schurz, a diplomat-turned general, that "He was not altogether without hope that the proposition he had presented to the southern states in his message of March 6th would find favorable consideration, at least in some of the border states. He had made the proposition in perfect good faith; it was, perhaps, the last of the kind; and if they repelled it, theirs was the responsibility."12
Pennsylvania editor Alexander K. McClure later observed: Strange as it may now seem, in view of the inevitable tendency of events at that time, these appeals of Lincoln were not only treated with contempt by those in rebellion, but the Border States Congressmen, who had everything at stake, and who in the end were compelled to accept forcible Emancipation without compensation, although themselves not directly involved in rebellion, made no substantial response to Lincoln's efforts to save their States and people."13
Reaction in other quarters was much more positive. New York Times editor Henry J. Raymond, who was also Speaker of the New York State Assembly, wrote President Lincoln from Albany:
You will have seen long before this reaches you, I presume, that the Times has published several articles in support of your special message. As soon as I saw the one to which you allude, I telegraphed to the office to sustain the message without qualification or cavil, and I believe the paper has done so since.
As soon as the message reached us here I drew a resolution & caused it to be introduced into the Assembly endorsing the your recommendations. We shall pass it as soon as it can be reached.
I regard the message as a master piece of practical wisdom and sound policy. It is marked by that plain, self vindicating common sense which, with the people, overbears, as it ought, all the abstract speculations of mere theorists and confounds, all the schemes of selfish intriguers, and which, you will permit me to say, has preeminently characterized every act of your Administration. It furnishes a solid, practical, constitutional basis for the treatment of this great question, and suggests the only feasible mode I have yet seen of dealing with a problem infinitely more difficult than the suppression of the rebellion. It shall have my most cordial & hearty support.
I take the liberty of enclosing here with some remarks I have made on two or three topics of common interest.14
Lincoln chronicler Herbert Mitgang wrote: "The idea of compensated emancipation received strong approval in the New York press; at least the emancipation part did."15 In response to complimentary editorials from New York newspapers, President Lincoln had written New York Times Editor Henry J. Raymond: " I am grateful to the New-York Journals, and not less so to the Times than to others, for their kind notices of the late special Message to Congress. Your paper, however, intimates that the proposition, though well-intentioned, must fail on the score of expense. I do hope you will reconsider this. Have you noticed the facts that less than one half-day's cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware, at four hundred dollars per head? — that eighty-seven days cost of this war would pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Missouri at the same price? Were those states to take the step, do you doubt that it would shorten the war more than eighty seven days, and thus be an actual saving of expense. Please look at these things, and consider whether there should not be another article in the Times?"16
In response to President Lincoln's March 6 message, the New York Tribune, edited by Horace Greeley, editorialized the next day:
We never printed a State paper with more satisfaction than we feel in giving to our readers the Special Message of President Lincoln to Congress yesterday, by which he recommends the passage of a joint resolve proffering National cooperation and pecuniary aid to each and every States which shall see fit to inaugurate the Abolition of Slavery within its borders. This message constitutes of itself an epoch in the history of country. It has no precedent; we trust it may have many consequents. It is the day-star of a new National dawn. Even if it were no more than a barren avowal by the Chief Magistrate of the Nation that IT IS HIGHLY DESIRABLE THAT THE UNION BE PURGED OF SLAVERY, it would be a great fact, of far weightier import than many battles. But it is not destined to remain unfruitful. Congress will be more than ready to welcome and act upon it. It will lead to practical results. And these the most important and beneficent. The 6th of March will yet be celebrated as a day which initiated the Nation's deliverance from the most stupendous wrong, curse and shame of the Nineteenth century. Years may elapse before the object boldly contemplated in this Message shall be fully attained; but let us never harbor a doubt that it will ultimate in a glorious fruition."17
President Lincoln wrote the Tribune's Greeley: "Your very kind letter of the 16th. to Mr. [Schuyler] Colfax, has been shown me by him. I am grateful for the generous sentiments and purposes expressed towards the administration. Of course I am anxious to see the policy proposed in the late special message, go forward; but you have advocated it from the first, so that I need to say little to you on the subject. If I were to suggest anything it would be that as the North are already for the measure, we should urge it persuasively, and not menacingly, upon the South. I am little uneasy about the abolishment of slavery in this District, not but I would be glad to see it abolished, but as to the time and manner of doing it. If some one or more of the border-states would move fast, I should greatly prefer it; but if this can not be in a reasonable time, I would like the bill to have the three main features — gradual — compensation — and vote of the people — I do not talk to members of congress on the subject, except when they ask me. I am not prepared to make any suggestion about confiscation."18
The Tribune, which under Editor Horace Greeley was frequently critical of the President on emancipation, returned to its defense of him the next day: "The Message ought, and we think will, unite all parties. The conservative who abhors rash measures, and dreads innovation, will approve a measure which proposes to get rid of the cause of rebellion, to give the country permanent peace and not periodical panic, and to do this gradually and with as little injustice as is possible in so great a social revolution. The radical will not withhold his approbation from a proposal that promises to the eye of faith so much. It may be that some of the Border Slave States will gladly avail themselves of the offer of Mr. Lincoln, and if they do the North will as gladly accept its share of so great an act. But if they do not, though there is, so far as that particular proposition is concerned, as Mr. Lincoln says, an end, yet the end, nevertheless, is not yet as to the subject. And nobody, it is manifest, sees this more clearly than the President. His is one of those minds that work, not quickly nor brilliantly, but exhaustively. Through this matter he has looked to the final conclusion. He sees that, however often rebellion may be suppressed at the South, it will never be ended so long as Slavery has an assured existence. The continuation of Slavery as a permanent institution on which no inroad has been made is the continuation of war, for resistance to the Federal Government must be permanently suppressed, and resistance brings war. Whatever is indispensable to this end must be done, and Slavery, therefore, must fall either in one way or the other. Let the slaveholders begin the reform, and we will give them our hearty aid; if they will not, then we must do it without them, as a necessary step toward the establishment of permanent peace and the supremacy of the Union; for Slavery is Rebellion."19
After the congressional message, the Anglo-African editorialized: "That the President of these united States sent a message to Congress proposing a means of securing the emancipation of the slaves, was an event which sent a thrill of joy throughout the North, and will meet with hearty response throughout christendom. The quiet manner in which this matter was laid before the national Legislature, and the utter unpreparedness of the public mind for this most important step, was a stroke of policy, grandly reticent on the part of its author, yet most timely and sagacious, which has secured for Abraham Lincoln a confidence and admiration on the part of the people, the whole loyal people, such as no man has enjoyed in the present era."20
Historian LaWanda Cox wrote: "Arguments available to Lincoln in trying to induce slave-state representatives to initiate gradual, compensated emancipation could not in the nature of things match his earnestness. They were unpersuasive to most border-state Unionists and when reread today appear singularly unconvincing. Lincoln could not argue the moral wrong of slavery, for that would not touch those he would move. He could not press the point that permanent peace would require an end to slavery, for no peace was in sight. His principal contention was that state action would 'substantially end' or effectively 'shorten the war.' The valid counter argument, used by those to whom he appealed, held that emancipation would consolidate the spirit of rebellion. Lincoln's effort to enlist, or at least neutralize, economic interest by portraying compensation for slaves as money saved from the cost of war depended upon his main contention that the war would be shortened and was similarly vulnerable. More cogent in retrospect was his argument that, for slaveholders, compensation in hand was far better than being left with 'nothing valuable' as the abrasive impact of war undermined slavery; yet in 1862 slavery's extinction did not appear foreordained, nor in fact was its fate settled."21 President Lincoln laid out his financial arguments in a detailed letter to California Senator James A. Mcdougall, a Democrat and long-time friend:
As to the expensiveness of the plan of gradual emancipation with compensation, proposed in the late Message, please allow me one or tow brief suggestions.
Less than one half-day's cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware at four hundred dollars per head:
Thus, all the slaves in Delaware,
by the Census of 1860, are 1798
Cost of the slaves,