The Great Conspiracy

“It is truly ‘impossible’ to foresee all the evils resulting from a War
so stupendous as the present. I shall be much rejoiced if something
more dreadful than the sale of Freedom to a few Slaves in the Border
States shall not result from it.

“If it closes with the Government of our Fathers secure, and
Constitutional Liberty in all its purity guaranteed to the White man,
the result will be better than that having a place in the fears of many
good men at present, and much better than the past history of such
revolutions can justify us in expecting.

“In this period of the Nation’s distress, I know of no human institution
too sacred for discussion; no material interest belonging to the citizen
that he should not willingly place upon the altar of his Country, if
demanded by the public good.

“The man who cannot now sacrifice Party and put aside selfish
considerations is more than half disloyal. Such a man does not deserve
the blessings of good government. Pride of opinion, based upon
Sectional jealousies, should not be permitted to control the decision of
any political question. These remarks are general, but apply with
peculiar force to the People of the Border States at present.

“Let us look at our condition. A desolating War is upon us. We cannot
escape it if we would. If the Union Armies were to-day withdrawn from
the Border States without first crushing the Rebellion in the South, no
rational man can doubt for a moment that the adherents of the Union
Cause in those States would soon be driven in exile from their homes by
the exultant Rebels, who have so long hoped to return and take vengeance
upon us.

“The People of the Border States understand very well the unfriendly and
selfish spirit exercised toward them by the leaders of this Cotton-State
Rebellion, beginning some time previous to its outbreak. They will not
fail to remember their insolent refusal to counsel with us, and their
haughty assumption of responsibility upon themselves for their misguided

“Our people will not soon forget that, while declaiming against
Coercion, they closed their doors against the exportation of Slaves from
the Border States into the South, with the avowed purpose of forcing us
into Rebellion through fears of losing that species of Property. They
knew very well the effect to be produced on Slavery by a Civil War,
especially in those States into which hostile Armies might penetrate,
and upon the soil of which the great contests for the success of
Republican Government were to be decided.

“They wanted some intermediate ground for the conflict of arms-territory
where the population would be divided. They knew, also, that by keeping
Slavery in the Border States the mere ‘friction and abrasion’ to which
you so appropriately allude, would keep up a constant irritation,
resulting necessarily from the frequent losses to which the owners would
be subjected.

“They also calculated largely, and not without reason, upon the
repugnance of Non-Slaveholders in those States to a Free Negro
population. In the meantime they intended persistently to charge the
overthrow of Slavery to be the object of the Government, and hostility
to this Institution the origin of the War. By this means the
unavoidable incidents of the strife might easily he charged as the
settled purposes of the Government.

“Again, it was well understood, by these men, that exemplary conduct on
the part of every officer and soldier employed by the Government could
not in the nature of things be expected, and the hope was entertained,
upon the most reasonable grounds, that every commission of wrong and
every omission of duty would produce a new cause for excitement and a
new incentive to Rebellion.

“By these means the War was to be kept in the Border States, regardless
of our interests, until an exhausted Treasury should render it necessary
to send the tax-gatherer among our people, to take the little that might
be left them from the devastations of War.

“They then expected a clamor for Peace by us, resulting in the
interference of France and England, whose operatives in the meantime
would be driven to want, and whose aristocracy have ever been ready to
welcome a dissolution of the American Union.

“This cunningly-devised plan for securing a Gulf-Confederacy, commanding
the mouths of the great Western rivers, the Gulf of Mexico, and the
Southern Atlantic ocean, with their own territory unscathed by the
horrors of war, and surrounded by the Border States, half of whose
population would be left in sympathy with them, for many years to come,
owing to the irritations to which I have alluded, has, so far, succeeded
too well.

“In Missouri they have already caused us to lose a third or more of the
Slaves owned at the time of the last census. In addition to this, I can
make no estimate of the vast amount of property of every character that
has been destroyed by Military operations in the State. The loss from
general depreciation of values, and the utter prostration of every
business-interest of our people, is wholly beyond calculation.

“The experience of Missouri is but the experience of other Sections of
the Country similarly situated. The question is therefore forced upon
us, ‘How long is this War to continue; and, if continued, as it has
been, on our soil, aided by the Treason and folly of our own citizens,
acting in concert with the Confederates, how long can Slavery, or, if
you please, any other property-interest, survive in our States?’

“As things now are, the people of the Border-States yet divided, we
cannot expect an immediate termination of the struggle, except upon
condition of Southern Independence, losing thereby control of the lower
Mississippi. For this, we in Missouri are not prepared, nor are we
prepared to become one of the Confederate States, should the terrible
calamity of Dissolution occur.

“This, I presume, the Union men of Missouri would resist to the death.
And whether they should do so or not, I will not suppose for an instant,
that the Government of the United States would, upon any condition,
submit to the loss of territory so essential to its future commercial
greatness as is the State of Missouri.

“But should all other reasons fail to prevent such a misfortune to our
people of Missouri, there is one that cannot fail. The Confederates
never wanted us, and would not have us. I assume, therefore, that the
War will not cease, but will be continued until the Rebellion shall be
overcome. It cannot and will not cease, so far as the people of
Missouri are concerned, except upon condition of our remaining in the
Union, and the whole West will demand the entire control of the
Mississippi river to the Gulf.

“Our interest is therefore bound up with the interests of those States
maintaining the Union, and especially with the great States of the West
that must be consulted in regard to the terms of any Peace that may be
suggested, even by the Nations of Europe, should they at any time
unfortunately depart from their former pacific policy and determine to
intervene in our affairs.

“The War, then, will have to be continued until the Union shall be
practically restored. In this alone consists the future safety of the
Border-States themselves. A separation of the Union is ruinous to them.
The preservation of the Union can only be secured by a continuation of
the War. The consequences of that continuation may be judged of by the
experience of the last twelve months. The people of my State are as
competent to pass judgment in the premises as I am. I have every
confidence in their intelligence, their honesty, and their patriotism.

“In your own language, the proposition you make ‘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. It is
proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them.

“In this view of the subject I can frankly say to you that, personally,
I never could appreciate the objections so frequently urged against the
proposition. If I understood you properly, it was your opinion, not
that Slavery should be removed in order to secure our loyalty to the
Government, for every personal act of your administration precludes such
an inference, but you believe that the peculiar species of Property was
in imminent danger from the War in which we were engaged, and that
common justice demanded remuneration for the loss of it.

“You then believe, and again express the opinion, that the peculiar
nature of the contest is such that its loss is almost inevitable, and
lest any pretext for a charge of injustice against the Government be
given to its enemies, you propose to extend to the people of those
States standing by the Union, the choice of payment for their Slaves or
the responsibility of loss, should it occur, without complaint against
the Government.

“Placing the matter in this light, (a mere remuneration for losses
rendered inevitable by the casualties of War), the objection of a
Constitutional character may be rendered much less formidable in the
minds of Northern Representatives whose constituents will have to share
in the payment of the money; and, so far as the Border States are
concerned, this objection should be most sparingly urged, for it being a
matter entirely of their ‘own free choice,’ in case of a desire to
accept, no serious argument will likely be urged against the receipt of
the money, or a fund for Colonization.

“But, aside from the power derived from the operations of war, there may
be found numerous precedents in the legislation of the past, such as
grants of land and money to the several States for specified objects
deemed worthy by the Federal Congress. And in addition to this may be
cited a deliberate opinion of Mr. Webster upon this very subject, in one
of the ablest arguments of his life.

“I allude to this question of power merely in vindication of the
position assumed by me in my vote for the Resolution of March last.

“In your last communication to us, you beg of us ‘to commend this
subject to the consideration of our States and people.’ While I
entirely differ with you in the opinion expressed, that had the members
from the Border States approved of your Resolution of March last ‘the
War would now be substantially ended,’ and while I do not regard the
suggestion ‘as one of the most potent and swift means of ending’ the
War, I am yet free to say that I have the most unbounded confidence in
your sincerity of purpose in calling our attention to the dangers
surrounding us.

“I am satisfied that you appreciate the troubles of the Border States,
and that your suggestions are intended for our good. I feel the force
of your urgent appeal, and the logic of surrounding circumstances brings
conviction even to an unwilling believer.

“Having said that, in my judgment, you attached too much importance to
this measure as a means for suppressing the Rebellion, it is due to you
that I shall explain.

“Whatever may be the status of the Border States in this respect, the
War cannot be ended until the power of the Government is made manifest
in the seceded States. They appealed to the sword; give them the sword.
They asked for War; let them see its evils on their own soil.

“They have erected a Government, and they force obedience to its
behests. This structure must be destroyed; this image, before which an
unwilling People have been compelled to bow, must be broken. The
authority of the Federal Government must be felt in the heart of the
rebellious district. To do this, let armies be marched upon them at
once, and let them feel what they have inflicted on us in the Border.
Do not fear our States; we will stand by the Government in this work.

“I ought not to disguise from you or the people of my State, that
personally I have fixed and unalterable opinions on the subject of your
communication. Those opinions I shall communicate to the people in that
spirit of frankness that should characterize the intercourse of the
Representative with his constituents.

“If I were to-day the owner of the lands and Slaves of Missouri, your
proposition, so far as that State is concerned, would be immediately
accepted. Not a day would be lost. Aside from public considerations,
which you suppose to be involved in the proposition, and which no
Patriot, I agree, should disregard at present, my own personal interest
would prompt favorable and immediate action.

“But having said this, it is proper that I say something more. The
Representative is the servant and not the master of the People. He has
no authority to bind them to any course of action, or even to indicate
what they will, or will not, do when the subject is exclusively theirs
and not his.

“I shall take occasion, I hope honestly, to give my views of existing
troubles and impending dangers, and shall leave the rest to them,
disposed, as I am, rather to trust their judgment upon the case stated
than my own, and at the same time most cheerfully to acquiesce in their

“For you, personally, Mr. President, I think I can pledge the kindest
considerations of the people of Missouri, and I shall not hesitate to
express the belief that your recommendation will be considered by them
in the same spirit of kindness manifested by you in its presentation to
us, and that their decision will be such as is demanded ‘by their
interests, their honor, and their duty to the whole Country.’

“I am very respectfully, your obedient servant,


“To his Excellency,

While mentally revolving the question of Emancipation–now, evidently
“coming to a head,”–no inconsiderable portion of Mr. Lincoln’s thoughts
centered upon, and his perplexities grew out of, his assumption that the
“physical difference” between the Black and White–the African and
Caucasian races, precluded the idea of their living together in the one
land as Free men and equals.

In his speeches during the great Lincoln-Douglas debate we have seen
this idea frequently advanced, and so, in his later public utterances as

As in his appeal to the Congressional delegations from the Border-States
on the 12th of July, 1862, he had held out to them the hope that “the
Freed people will not be so reluctant to go” to his projected colony in
South America, when their “numbers shall be large enough to be company
and encouragement for one another,” so, at a later date–on the 14th of
August following–he appealed to the Colored Free men themselves to help
him found a proposed Negro colony in New Granada, and thus aid in the
solution of this part of the knotty problem, by the disenthrallment of
the new race from its unhappy environments here.

The substance of the President’s interesting address, at the White
House, to the delegation of Colored men, for whom he had sent, was thus
reported at the time:

“Having all been seated, the President, after a few preliminary
observations, informed them that a sum of money had been appropriated by
Congress, and placed at his disposition, for the purpose of aiding the
colonization in some country of the people, or a portion of them, of
African descent, thereby making it his duty, as it had for a long time
been his inclination, to favor that cause; and why, he asked, should the
people of your race be colonized, and where?

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