The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

An insurgent force of about fifteen hundred, for months dominating
the narrow peninsular region constituting the counties of Accomac and
Northampton, and known as Eastern Shore of Virginia, together with
some contiguous parts of Maryland, have laid down their arms, and the
people there have renewed their allegiance to and accepted the
protection of the old flag. This leaves no armed insurrectionist
north of the Potomac or east of the Chesapeake.

Also we have obtained a footing at each of the isolated points on the
southern coast of Hatteras, Port Royal, Tybee Island (near Savannah),
and Ship Island; and we likewise have some general accounts of
popular movements in behalf of the Union in North Carolina and

These things demonstrate that the cause of the Union is advancing
steadily and certainly southward.

Since your last adjournment Lieutenant-General Scott has retired from
the head of the army. During his long life the nation has not been
unmindful of his merit; yet on calling to mind how faithfully, ably,
and brilliantly he has served the country, from a time far back in
our history, when few of the now living had been born, and
thenceforward continually, I cannot but think we are still his
debtors. I submit, therefore, for your consideration what further
mark of recognition is due to him, and to ourselves as a grateful

With the retirement of General Scott came the Executive duty of
appointing in his stead a general-in-chief of the army. It is a
fortunate circumstance that neither in council nor country was there,
so far as I know, any difference of opinion as to the proper person
to be selected. The retiring chief repeatedly expressed his judgment
in favor of General McClellan for the position, and in this the
nation seemed to give a unanimous concurrence. The designation of
General McClellan is therefore in considerable degree the selection
of the country as well as of the Executive, and hence there is better
reason to hope there will be given him the confidence and cordial
support thus by fair implication promised, and without which he
cannot with so full efficiency serve the country.

It has been said that one bad general is better than two good ones,
and the saying is true if taken to mean no more than that an army is
better directed by a single mind, though inferior, than by two
superior ones at variance and cross-purposes with each other.

And the same is true in all joint operations wherein those engaged
can have none but a common end in view and can differ only as to the
choice of means. In a storm at sea no one on hoard can wish the ship
to sink, and yet not unfrequently all go down together because too
many will direct and no single mind can be allowed to control.

It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not
exclusively, a war upon the first principle of popular government–
the rights of the people. Conclusive evidence of this is found in
the most grave and maturely considered public documents, as well as
in the general tone of the insurgents. In those documents we find
the abridgment of the existing right of suffrage and the denial to
the people of all right to participate in the selection of public
officers except the legislative boldly advocated, with labored
arguments to prove that large control of the people in government is
the source of all political evil. Monarchy itself is sometimes
hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people.

In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit
raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.
It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be
made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with
its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a
brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal
footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It
is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital;
that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by
the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next
considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and
thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive
them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is
naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or
what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once
a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed,
nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the
condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and
all inferences from them are groundless.

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the
fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first
existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the
higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of
protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and
probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital
producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole
labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own
capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital
hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong
to neither class–neither work for others nor have others working for
them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people
of all colors are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a
large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their
families–wives, sons, and daughters,–work for themselves on their
farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product
to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of
hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a
considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital;
that is, they labor with their own hands and also buy or hire others
to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not a distinct class.
No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed

Again, as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such
thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for
life. Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years
back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless
beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with
which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own
account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to
help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which
opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and
progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more
worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less
inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned.
Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already
possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the
door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities
and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

>From the first taking of our national census to the last are seventy
years, and we find our population at the end of the period eight
times as great as it was at the beginning. The increase of those
other things which men deem desirable has been even greater. We thus
have at one view what the popular principle, applied to government
through the machinery of the States and the Union, has produced in a
given time, and also what if firmly maintained it promises for the
future. There are already among us those who if the Union be
preserved will live to see it contain 200,000,000. The struggle of
to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also.
With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us
proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.



WASHINGTON, December 20, 1861.


I transmit to Congress a letter from the secretary of the executive
committee of the commission appointed to represent the interests of
those American citizens who may desire to become exhibitors at the
industrial exhibition to be held in London in 1862, and a memorial of
that commission, with a report of the executive committee thereof and
copies of circulars announcing the decisions of Her Majesty’s
commissioners in London, giving directions to be observed in regard
to articles intended for exhibition, and also of circular forms of
application, demands for space, approvals, etc., according to the
rules prescribed by the British commissioners.

As these papers fully set forth the requirements necessary to enable
those citizens of the United States who may wish to become exhibitors
to avail themselves of the privileges of the exhibition, I commend
them to your early consideration, especially in view of the near
approach of the time when the exhibition will begin.





Dec.31, 1861


DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 23d is received, and I am constrained to say
it is difficult to answer so ugly a letter in good temper. I am, as
you intimate, losing much of the great confidence I placed in you,
not from any act or omission of yours touching the public service, up
to the time you were sent to Leavenworth, but from the flood of
grumbling despatches and letters I have seen from you since. I knew
you were being ordered to Leavenworth at the time it was done; and I
aver that with as tender a regard for your honor and your
sensibilities as I had for my own, it never occurred to me that you
were being “humiliated, insulted, and disgraced”; nor have I, up to
this day, heard an intimation that you have been wronged, coming from
any one but yourself. No one has blamed you for the retrograde
movement from Springfield, nor for the information you gave General
Cameron; and this you could readily understand, if it were not for
your unwarranted assumption that the ordering you to Leavenworth must
necessarily have been done as a punishment for some fault. I thought
then, and think yet, the position assigned to you is as responsible,
and as honorable, as that assigned to Buell–I know that General
McClellan expected more important results from it. My impression is
that at the time you were assigned to the new Western Department, it
had not been determined to replace General Sherman in Kentucky; but
of this I am not certain, because the idea that a command in Kentucky
was very desirable, and one in the farther West undesirable, had
never occurred to me. You constantly speak of being placed in
command of only 3000. Now, tell me, is this not mere impatience?
Have you not known all the while that you are to command four or five
times that many.

I have been, and am sincerely your friend; and if, as such, I dare to
make a suggestion, I would say you are adopting the best possible way
to ruin yourself. “Act well your part, there all the honor lies.” He
who does something at the head of one regiment, will eclipse him who
does nothing at the head of a hundred.

Your friend, as ever,



WASHINGTON, D.C., December 31, 1861

GENERAL H. W. HALLECK, St. Louis, Missouri:

General McClellan is sick. Are General Buell and yourself in
concert? When he moves on Bowling Green, what hinders it being
reinforced from Columbus? A simultaneous movement by you on Columbus
might prevent it.


[Similar despatch to Buell same date.]



WASHINGTON CITY, January 1, 1862


General McClellan should not yet be disturbed with business. I think
you better get in concert with General Halleck at once. I write you
to-night. I also telegraph and write Halleck.



EXECUTIVE MANSION, January 1, 1862


General McClellan is not dangerously ill, as I hope, but would better
not be disturbed with business. I am very anxious that, in case of
General Buell’s moving toward Nashville, the enemy shall not be
greatly reinforced, and I think there is danger he will be from
Columbus. It seems to me that a real or feigned attack upon Columbus
from up the river at the same time would either prevent this or
compensate for it by throwing Columbus into our hands. I wrote
General Buell a letter similar to this, meaning that he and you shall
communicate and act in concert, unless it be your judgment and his
that there is no necessity for it. You and he will understand much
better than I how to do it. Please do not lose time in this matter.

Yours very truly,



In view of the recent declaration of the people of Maryland of their
adhesion to the Union, so distinctly made in their recent election,
the President directs that all the prisoners who having heretofore
been arrested in that State are now detained in military custody by
the President’s authority, be released from their imprisonment on the
following conditions, namely: that if they were holding any civil or
military offices when arrested, the terms of which have expired, they
shall not resume or reclaim such office; and secondly, all persons
availing themselves of this proclamation shall engage by oath or
parole of honor to maintain the Union and the Constitution of the
United States, and in no way to aid or abet by arms, counsel,
conversation, or information of any kind the existing insurrection
against the Government of the United States.

To guard against misapprehension it is proper to state that this
proclamation does not apply to prisoners of war.


WASHINGTON, January 2, 1862


I transmit to Congress a copy of a letter to the Secretary of State
from James R. Partridge, secretary to the executive committee to the
in exhibition to be held in London in the course present year, and a
copy of the correspond which it refers, relative to a vessel for the
of taking such articles as persons in this country may wish to
exhibit on that occasion. As it appears no naval vessel can be spared
for the purpose, I recommend that authority be given to charter a
suitable merchant vessel, in order that facilities similar to those
afforded by the government exhibition of 1851 may also be extended to
citizens of the United States who may desire to contribute to the
exhibition of this year.




WASHINGTON, January 4, 1862.


Have arms gone forward for East Tennessee? Please tell me the
progress and condition of the movement in that direction. Answer.

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