The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7




July 31, 1862.

Broken eggs cannot be mended; but Louisiana has nothing to do now but
to take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken
eggs. The sooner she does so, the smaller will be the amount of that
which will be past mending. This government cannot much longer play
a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those
enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years
trying to destroy the government, and if they fail, still come back
into the Union unhurt. If they expect in any contingency to ever
have the Union as it was, I join with the writer in saying, “Now is
the time.”

How much better it would have been for the writer to have gone at
this, under the protection of the army at New Orleans, than to have
sat down in a closet writing complaining letters northward!

Yours truly,



August 4, 1863.


DEAR SIR -Your very acceptable letter, dated Orbe, Canton de Vaud,
Switzerland, 18th of July, 1862, is received. The moral effect was
the worst of the affair before Richmond, and that has run its course
downward. We are now at a stand, and shall soon be rising again, as
we hope. I believe it is true that, in men and material, the enemy
suffered more than we in that series of conflicts, while it is
certain that he is less able to bear it.

With us every soldier is a man of character, and must be treated with
more consideration than is customary in Europe. Hence our great
army, for slighter causes than could have prevailed there, has
dwindled rapidly, bringing the necessity for a new call earlier than
was anticipated. We shall easily obtain the new levy, however. Be
not alarmed if you shall learn that we shall have resorted to a draft
for part of this. It seems strange even to me, but it is true, that
the government is now pressed to this course by a popular demand.
Thousands who wish not to personally enter the service are
nevertheless anxious to pay and send substitutes, provided they can
have assurance that unwilling persons, similarly situated, will be
compelled to do likewise. Besides this, volunteers mostly choose to
enter newly forming regiments, while drafted men can be sent to fill
up the old ones, wherein man for man they are quite doubly as

You ask, “Why is it that the North with her great armies so often is
found with inferiority of numbers face to face with the armies of the
South?” While I painfully know the fact, a military man, which I am
not, would better answer the question. The fact I know has not been
overlooked, and I suppose the cause of its continuance lies mainly in
the other facts that the enemy holds the interior and we the exterior
lines, and that we operate where the people convey information to the
enemy, while he operates where they convey none to us.

I have received the volume and letter which you did me the honor of
addressing to me, and for which please accept my sincere thanks. You
are much admired in America for the ability of your writings, and
much loved for your generosity to us and your devotion to liberal
principles generally.

You are quite right as to the importance to us, for its bearing upon
Europe, that we should achieve military successes, and the same is
true for us at home as well as abroad. Yet it seems unreasonable
that a series of successes, extending through half a year, and
clearing more than 100,000 square miles of country, should help us so
little, while a single half-defeat should hurt us so much. But let
us be patient.

I am very happy to know that my course has not conflicted with your
judgment of propriety and policy I can only say that I have acted
upon my best convictions, without selfishness or malice, and that by
the help of God I shall continue to do so.

Please be assured of my highest respect and esteem.




FELLOW CITIZENS: I believe there is no precedent for my appearing
before you on this occasion, but it is also true that there is no
precedent for your being here yourselves, and I offer in
justification of myself and of you that, upon examination, I have
found nothing in the Constitution against it. I, however, have an
impression that; there are younger gentlemen who will entertain you
better and better address your understanding than I will or could,
and therefore I propose but to detain you a moment longer. I am very
little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to
produce some good by it. The only thing I think of just now not
likely to be better said by some one else is a matter in which we
have heard some other persons blamed for what I did myself There has
been a very widespread attempt to have a quarrel between General
McClellan and the Secretary of War Now, I occupy a position that
enables me to believe that these two gentlemen are not nearly so deep
in the quarrel as some presuming to be their friends. General
McClellan’s attitude is such that in the very selfishness of his
nature he cannot but wish to be successful–and I hope he will–and
the Secretary of War is precisely in the same situation. If the
military commanders in the field cannot be successful, not only the
Secretary of War, but myself, for the time being the master of both,
cannot but be failures. I know General McClellan wishes to be
successful, and I know he does not wish it any more than the
Secretary of War for him, and both of them together no more than I
wish it. Sometimes we have a dispute about how many men General
McClellan has had, and those who would disparage him say he has had a
very large number, and those who would disparage the Secretary of War
insist that General McClellan has had a very small number. The basis
for this is, there is always a wide difference, and on this occasion
perhaps a wider one, between the grand total on McClellan’s rolls and
the men actually fit for duty; and those who would disparage him talk
of the grand total on paper, and those who would disparage the
Secretary of War talk of those at present fit for duty. General
McClellan has sometimes asked for things that the Secretary of War
did not give him. General McClellan is not to blame for asking for
what he wanted and needed, and the Secretary of War is not to blame
for not giving when he had none to give. And I say here, so far as I
know, the Secretary of War has withheld no one thing at any time in
my power to give him. I have no accusation against him. I believe
he is a brave and able man, and I stand here, as justice requires me
to do, to take upon myself what has been charged on the Secretary of
War as withholding from him. I have talked longer than I expected to
do, and now I avail myself of my privilege of saying no more.




Your despatch saying “I can’t get those regiments off because I can’t
get quick work out of the V. S. disbursing officer and the paymaster”
is received. Please say to these gentlemen that if they do not work
quickly I will make quick work with them. In the name of all that is
reasonable, how long does it take to pay a couple of regiments? We
were never more in need of the arrival of regiments than now–even




GOVERNOR CURTIN, Harrisburg, Penn.:

It is very important for some regiments to arrive here at once. What
lack you from us? What can we do to expedite matters? Answer.



WASHINGTON, D. C., August 12, 1862.

MAJOR-GENERAL CURTIS, St. Louis, Missouri:

Would the completion of the railroad some distance farther in the
direction of Springfield, Mo., be of any military advantage to you?
Please answer.



WASHINGTON, Thursday, August 14, 1862.

This afternoon the President of the United States gave an audience to
a committee of colored men at the White House. They were introduced
by Rev. J. Mitchell, Commissioner of Emigration, E. M. Thomas, the
chairman, remarked that they were there by invitation to hear what
the Executive had to say to them.

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? Why
should they leave this country? This is, perhaps, the first question
for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have
between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other
two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss; but this
physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think.
Your race suffer very greatly, many of them, by living among us,
while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each
side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason, at least, why we
should be separated. You here are free men, I suppose.

[A voice -“Yes, sir!”]

Perhaps you have long been free, or all your lives. Your race are
suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any
people. But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far
removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. You
are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoys.
The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free,
but on this broad continent not a single man of your race is made the
equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best,
and the ban is still upon you. I do not propose to discuss this, but
to present it as a fact, with which we have to deal. I cannot alter
it if I would. It is a fact about which we all think and feel alike,
I and you. We look to our condition. Owing to the existence of the
two races on this continent, I need not recount to you the effects
upon white men, growing out of the institution of slavery.

I believe in its general evil effects on the white race. See our
present condition–the country engaged in war–white men cutting one
another’s throats–none knowing how far it will extend–and then
consider what we know to be the truth: But for your race among us
there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do
not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless I repeat,
without the institution of slavery and the colored race as a basis,
the war could not have an existence. It is better for us both,
therefore, to be separated. I know that there are free men among
you, who, even if they could better their condition, are not as much
inclined to go out of the country as those who, being slaves, could
obtain their freedom on this condition. I suppose one of the
principal difficulties in the way of colonization is that the free
colored man cannot see that his comfort would be advanced by it. You
may believe that you can live in WASHINGTON, or elsewhere in the
United States, the remainder of your life, as easily, perhaps more
so, than you can in any foreign Country; and hence you may come to
the conclusion that you have nothing to do with the idea of going to
a foreign country.

This is (I speak in no unkind sense) an extremely selfish view of the
case. You ought to do something to help those who are not so
fortunate as yourselves. There is an unwillingness on the part of
our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain
with us. Now, if you could give a start to the white people, you
would open a wide door for many to be made free. If we deal with
those who are not free at the beginning, and whose intellects are
clouded by slavery, we have very poor material to start with. If
intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would move in this
matter, much might be accomplished.

It is exceedingly important that we have men at the beginning capable
of thinking as white men, and not those who have been systematically
oppressed. There is much to encourage you. For the sake of your
race you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the
purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people. It is
a cheering thought throughout life that something can be done to
ameliorate the condition of those who have been subject to the hard
usages of the world. It is difficult to make a man miserable while
he feels he is worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God
who made him. In the American Revolutionary war sacrifices were made
by men engaged in it, but they were cheered by the future. General
WASHINGTON himself endured greater physical hardships than if he had
remained a British subject, yet he was a happy man because he had
engaged in benefiting his race, in doing something for the children
of his neighbors, having none of his own.

The colony of Liberia has been in existence a long time. In a
certain sense it is a success. The old President of Liberia,
Roberts, has just been with me–the first time I ever saw him. He
says they have within the bounds of that colony between three and
four hundred thousand people, or more than in some of our old States,
such as Rhode Island or Delaware, or in some of our newer States, and
less than in some of our larger ones. They are not all American
colonists or their descendants. Something less than 12,000 have been
sent thither from this country. Many of the original settlers have
died; yet, like people else-where, their offspring outnumber those
deceased. The question is, if the colored people are persuaded to go
anywhere, why not there?

One reason for unwillingness to do so is that some of you would
rather remain within reach of the country of your nativity. I do not
know how much attachment you may have toward our race. It does not
strike me that you have the greatest reason to love them. But still
you are attached to them, at all events.

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