The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

I beg indulgence to discuss these proposed articles at some length.
Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without
slavery it could not continue.

Among the friends of the Union there is great diversity of sentiment
and of policy in regard to slavery and the African race amongst us.
Some would perpetuate slavery; some would abolish it suddenly and
without compensation; some would abolish it gradually and with
compensation; some would remove the freed people from us, and some
would retain them with us; and there are yet other minor diversities.
Because of these diversities we waste much strength in struggles
among ourselves. By mutual concession we should harmonize and act
together. This would be compromise, but it would be compromise among
the friends and not with the enemies of the Union. These articles
are intended to embody a plan of such mutual concessions. If the
plan shall be adopted, it is assumed that emancipation will follow,
at least in several of the States.

As to the first article, the main points are, first, the
emancipation; secondly, the length of time for consummating it
(thirty-seven years); and, thirdly, the compensation.

The emancipation will be unsatisfactory to the advocates of perpetual
slavery, but the length of time should greatly mitigate their
dissatisfaction. The time spares both races from the evils of sudden
derangement–in fact, from the necessity of any derangement–while
most of those whose habitual course of thought will be disturbed by
the measure will have passed away before its consummation. They will
never see it. Another class will hail the prospect of emancipation,
but will deprecate the length of time. They will feel that it gives
too little to the now living slaves. But it really gives them much.
It saves them from the vagrant destitution which must largely attend
immediate emancipation in localities where their numbers are very
great, and it gives the inspiring assurance that their posterity
shall be free forever. The plan leaves to each State choosing to act
under it to abolish slavery now or at the end of the century, or at
any intermediate tune, or by degrees extending over the whole or any
part of the period, and it obliges no two States to proceed alike.
It also provides for compensation, and generally the mode of making
it. This, it would seem, must further mitigate the dissatisfaction
of those who favor perpetual slavery, and especially of those who are
to receive the compensation. Doubtless some of those who are to pay
and not to receive will object. Yet the measure is both just and
economical. In a certain sense the liberation of slaves is the
destruction of property–property acquired by descent or by purchase,
the same as any other property. It is no less true for having been
often said that the people of the South are not more responsible for
the original introduction of this property than are the people of the
North; and when it is remembered how unhesitatingly we all use cotton
and sugar and share the profits of dealing in them, it may not be
quite safe to say that the South has been more responsible than the
North for its continuance. If, then, for a common object this
property is to be sacrificed, is it not just that it be done at a
common charge?

And if with less money, or money more easily paid, we can preserve
the benefits of the Union by this means than we can by the war alone,
is it not also economical to do it? Let us consider it, then. Let
us ascertain the sum we have expended in the war Since compensated
emancipation was proposed last March, and consider whether if that
measure had been promptly accepted by even some of the slave States
the same sum would not have done more to close the war than has been
otherwise done. If so, the measure would save money, and in that
view would be a prudent and economical measure. Certainly it is not
so easy to pay something as it is to pay nothing, but it is easier to
pay a large sum than it is to pay a larger one. And it is easier to
pay any sum when we are able than it is to pay it before we are able.
The war requires large sums, and requires them at once. The
aggregate sum necessary for compensated emancipation of course would
be large. But it would require no ready cash, nor the bonds even any
faster than the emancipation progresses. This might not, and
probably would not, close before the end of the thirty-seven years.
At that time we shall probably have a hundred millions of people to
share the burden, instead of thirty-one millions as now. And not
only so, but the increase of our population may be expected to
continue for a long time after that period as rapidly as before,
because our territory will not have become full. I do not state this
inconsiderately. At the same ratio of increase which we have
maintained, on an average, from our first national census, in 1790,
until that of 186o, we should in 1900 have a population of
103,208,415. And why may we not continue that ratio far beyond that
period? Our abundant room, our broad national homestead, is our
ample resource. Were our territory as limited as are the British
Isles, very certainly our population could not expand as stated.
Instead of receiving the foreign born as now, we should be compelled
to send part of the native born away. But such is not our condition.
We have 2,963,000 square miles. Europe has 3,800,000, with a
population averaging 73 persons to the square mile. Why may not our
country at some time average as many? Is it less fertile? Has it
more waste surface by mountains, rivers, lakes, deserts, or other
causes? Is it inferior to Europe in any natural advantage? If,
then, we are at some time to be as populous as Europe, how soon? As
to when this may be, we can judge by the past and the present; as to
when it will be, if ever, depends much on whether we maintain the

[a page of tables of projected statistics]

These figures show that our country may be as populous as Europe now
is at some point between 1920 and 1930, say about 1925–our
territory, at 73 persons to the square mile, being of capacity to
contain 217,186,000.

And we will reach this, too, if we do not ourselves relinquish the
chance by the folly and evils of disunion or by long and exhausting
war springing from the only great element of national discord among
us. While it cannot be foreseen exactly how much one huge example of
secession, breeding lesser ones indefinitely, would retard
population, civilization, and prosperity, no one can doubt that the
extent of it would be very great and injurious.

The proposed emancipation would shorten the war, perpetuate peace,
insure this increase of population, and proportionately the wealth of
the country. With these we should pay all the emancipation would
cost, together with our other debt, easier than we should pay our
other debt without it. If we had allowed our old national debt to
run at six per cent. per annum, simple interest, from the end of our
revolutionary struggle until to-day, without paying anything on
either principal or interest, each man of us would owe less upon that
debt now than each man owed upon it then; and this because our
increase of men through the whole period has been greater than six
per cent.–has run faster than the interest upon the debt. Thus time
alone relieves a debtor nation, so long as its population increases
faster than unpaid interest accumulates on its debt.

This fact would be no excuse for delaying payment of what is justly
due, but it shows the great importance of time in this connection–
the great advantage of a policy by which we shall not have to pay
until we number 100,000,000 what by a different policy we would have
to pay now, when we number but 31,000,000. In a word, it shows that
a dollar will be much harder to pay for the war than will be a dollar
for emancipation on the proposed plan. And then the latter will
cost no blood, no precious life. It will be a saving of both.

As to the second article, I think it would be impracticable to return
to bondage the class of persons therein contemplated. Some of them,
doubtless, in the property sense belong to loyal owners, and hence
Provision is made in this article for compensating such.

The third article relates to the future of the freed people. It does
not oblige, but merely authorizes Congress to aid in colonizing such
as may consent. This ought nut to be regarded as objectionable on
the one hand or on the other, insomuch as it comes to nothing unless
by the mutual consent of the people to be deported and the American
voters through their representatives in Congress.

I cannot make it better known than it already is that I strongly
favor colonization; and yet I wish to say there is an objection urged
against free colored persons remaining in the country which is
largely imaginary, if not sometimes malicious.

It is insisted that their presence would injure and displace white
labor and white laborers. If there ever could be a proper time for
mere catch arguments that time surely is not now. In times like the
present men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly
be responsible through time and in eternity. Is it true, then, that
colored people can displace any more white labor by being free than
by remaining slaves? If they stay in their old places, they jostle
no white laborers; if they leave their old places, they leave them
open to white laborers. Logically, there is neither more nor less of
it. Emancipation, even without deportation, would probably enhance
the wages of white labor, and very surely would not reduce them.
Thus the customary amount of labor would still have to be performed.
The freed people would surely not do more than their old proportion
of it, and very probably for a time would do less, leaving an
increased part to white laborers, bringing their labor into greater
demand, and consequently enhancing the wages of it. With
deportation, even to a limited extent, enhanced wages to white labor
is mathematically certain. Labor is like any other commodity in the
market-increase the demand for it and you increase the price of it.
Reduce the supply of black labor by colonizing the black laborer out
of the country, and by precisely so much you increase the demand for
and wages of white labor.

But it is dreaded that the freed people will swarm forth and cover
the whole land. Are they not already in the land? Will liberation
make them any more numerous? Equally distributed among the whites of
the whole country, and there would be but one colored to seven
whites. Could the one in any way greatly disturb the seven? There
are many communities now having more than one free colored person to
seven whites, and this without any apparent consciousness of evil
from it. The District of Columbia and the States of Maryland and
Delaware are all in this condition. The District has more than one
free colored to six whites, and yet in its frequent petitions to
Congress I believe it has never presented the presence of free
colored persons as one of its grievances. But why should
emancipation South send the free people North? People of any color
seldom run unless there be something to run from. Heretofore colored
people to some extent have fled North from bondage, and now, perhaps,
from both bondage and destitution. But if gradual emancipation and
deportation be adopted, they will have neither to flee from. Their
old masters will give them wages at least until new laborers can be
procured, and the freedmen in turn will gladly give their labor for
the wages till new homes can be found for them in congenial climes
and with people of their own blood and race. This proposition can be
trusted on the mutual interests involved. And in any event, cannot
the North decide for itself whether to receive them?

Again, as practice proves more than theory in any case, has there
been any irruption of colored people northward because of the
abolishment of slavery in this District last spring?

What I have said of the proportion of free colored persons to the
whites in the District is from the census of 1860, having no
reference to persons called contrabands nor to those made free by the
act of Congress abolishing slavery here.

The plan consisting of these articles is recommended, not but that a
restoration of the national authority would be accepted without its

Nor will the war nor proceedings under the proclamation of September
22, 1862, be stayed because of the recommendation of this plan. Its
timely adoption, I doubt not, would bring restoration, and thereby
stay both.

And notwithstanding this plan, the recommendation that Congress
provide by law for compensating any State which may adopt
emancipation before this plan shall have been acted upon is hereby
earnestly renewed. Such would be only an advance part of the plan,
and the same arguments apply to both.

This plan is recommended as a means, not in exclusion of, but
additional to, all others for restoring and preserving the national
authority throughout the Union. The subject is presented exclusively
in its economical aspect. The plan would, I am confident, secure
peace more speedily and maintain it more permanently than can be done
by force alone, while all it would cost, considering amounts and
manner of payment and times of payment, would be easier paid than
will be the additional cost of the war if we rely solely upon force.
It is much, very much, that it would cost no blood at all.

The plan is proposed as permanent constitutional law. It cannot
become such without the concurrence of, first, two thirds of
Congress, and afterwards three fourths of the States. The requisite
three fourths of the States will necessarily include seven of the
slave States. Their concurrence, if obtained, will give assurance of
their severally adopting emancipation at no very distant day upon the
new constitutional terms. This assurance would end the struggle now
and save the Union forever.

I do not forget the gravity which should characterize a paper
addressed to the Congress of the nation by the chief magistrate of
the nation, nor do I forget that some of you are my seniors, nor that
many of you have more experience than I in the conduct of public
affairs. Yet I trust that in view of the great responsibility
resting upon me you will perceive no want of respect to yourselves in
any undue earnestness I may seem to display.

Is it doubted, then, that the plan I propose, if adopted, would
shorten the war, and thus lessen its expenditure of money and of
blood? Is it doubted that it would restore the national authority
and national prosperity and perpetuate both indefinitely? Is it
doubted that we here–Congress and executive–can secure its
adoption? Will not the good people respond to a united and earnest
appeal from us? Can we, can they, by any other means so certainly or
so speedily assure these vital objects? We can succeed only by
concert. It is not “Can any of us imagine better?” but “Can we all
do better?” Object whatsoever is possible, still the question recurs,
“Can we do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to
the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and
we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think
anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall
save our country.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 | View All | Next -»