The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

I am constantly pressed by those who scold before they think, or
without thinking at all, to give commands respectively to Fremont,
McClellan, Butler, Sigel, Curtis, Hunter, Hooker, and perhaps others,
when, all else out of the way, I have no commands to give them. This
is now your case; which, as I have said, pains me not less than it
does you. My belief is that the permanent estimate of what a general
does in the field is fixed by the “cloud of witnesses” who have been
with him in the field, and that, relying on these, he who has the
right needs not to fear.

Your friend as ever,





Your despatch of this morning is just received, and I fear I do not
perfectly understand it.

My view of the principle is that every soldier obtained voluntarily
leaves one less to be obtained by draft. The only difficulty is in
applying the principle properly. Looking to time, as heretofore, I
am unwilling to give up a drafted man now, even for the certainty,
much less for the mere chance, of getting a volunteer hereafter.
Again, after the draft in any district, would it not make trouble to
take any drafted man out and put a volunteer in–for how shall it be
determined which drafted man is to have the privilege of thus going
out, to the exclusion of all the others? And even before the draft
in any district the quota must be fixed; and the draft must be
postponed indefinitely if every time a volunteer is offered the
officers must stop and reconstruct the quota. At least I fear there
might be this difficulty; but, at all events, let credits for
volunteers be given up to the last moment which will not produce
confusion or delay. That the principle of giving credits for
volunteers shall be applied by districts seems fair and proper,
though I do not know how far by present statistics it is practicable.
When for any cause a fair credit is not given at one time, it should
be given as soon thereafter as practicable. My purpose is to be just
and fair, and yet to not lose time.



August 17, 1863.


MY DEAR SIR:–Months ago I should have acknowledged the receipt of
your book and accompanying kind note; and I now have to beg your
pardon for not having done so.

For one of my age I have seen very little of the drama. The first
presentation of Falstaff I ever saw was yours here, last winter or
spring. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is to say, as I truly
can, I am very anxious to see it again. Some of Shakespeare’s plays
I have never read, while others I have gone over perhaps as
frequently as any un-professional reader. Among the latter are Lear,
Richard III., Henry VIII., Hamlet, and especially Macbeth. I think
nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful.

Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the soliloquy in
Hamlet commencing “Oh, my offense is rank,” surpasses that commencing
“To be or not to be.” But pardon this small attempt at criticism. I
should like to hear you pronounce the opening speech of Richard III.
Will you not soon visit Washington again? If you do, please call and
let me make your personal acquaintance.

Yours truly,



August 17, 1863.

HON. P. F. LOWE, San Francisco, Cal.:

There seems to be considerable misunderstanding about the recent
movement to take possession of the “New Almaden” mine. It has no
reference to any other mine or mines.

In regard to mines and miners generally, no change of policy by the
Government has been decided on, or even thought of, so far as I know.

The “New Almaden” mine was peculiar in this: that its occupants
claimed to be the legal owners of it on a Mexican grant, and went
into court on that claim. The case found its way into the Supreme
Court of the United States, and last term, in and by that court, the
claim of the occupants was decided to be utterly fraudulent.
Thereupon it was considered the duty of the Government by the
Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney-General, and myself to take
possession of the premises; and the Attorney-General carefully made
out the writ and I signed it. It was not obtained surreptitiously,
although I suppose General Halleck thought it had been, when he
telegraphed, simply because he thought possession was about being
taken by a military order, while he knew no such order had passed
through his hands as general-in-chief.

The writ was suspended, upon urgent representations from California,
simply to keep the peace. It never had any direct or indirect
reference to any mine, place, or person, except the “New Almaden”
mine and the persons connected with it.





At this late moment I am appealed to in behalf of William Thompson of
Company K, Third Maryland Volunteers, in Twelfth Army Corps, said to
be at Kelly’s Ford, under sentence to be shot to-day as a deserter.
He is represented to me to be very young, with symptoms of insanity.
Please postpone the execution till further order.



WASHINGTON, D. C., August 22, 1863.


Please send me if you can a transcript of the record in the case of
McQuin and Bell, convicted of murder by a military commission. I
telegraphed General Strong for it, but he does not answer.




MRS. ELIZABETH J. GRIMSLEY, Springfield, Ill.:

I mail the papers to you to-day appointing Johnny to the Naval




August 26, 1863.


MY DEAR SIR:–Your letter inviting me to attend a mass meeting of
unconditional Union men, to be held at the capital of Illinois, on
the 3d day of September, has been received. It would be very
agreeable for me thus to meet my old friends at my own home, but I
cannot just now be absent from here so long as a visit there would

The meeting is to be of all those who maintain unconditional devotion
to the Union, and I am sure that my old political friends will thank
me for tendering, as I do, the nation’s gratitude to those other
noble men whom no partisan malice or partisan hope can make false to
the nation’s life.

There are those who are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say:
You desire peace, and you blame me that we do not have it. But how
can we obtain it? There are but three conceivable ways:

First–to suppress the rebellion by force of arms. This I am trying
to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed. If you
are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against
this. Are you for it? If you are you should say so plainly. If you
are not for force nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some
imaginable compromise.

I do not believe that any compromise embracing the maintenance of the
Union is now possible. All that I learn leads to a directly opposite
belief. The strength of the rebellion is its military, its army.
That army dominates all the country and all the people within its
range. Any offer of terms made by any man or men within that range,
in opposition to that army, is simply nothing for the present;
because such man or men have no power whatever to enforce their side
of a compromise, if one were made with them.

To illustrate: Suppose refugees from the South and peace men of the
North get together in convention, and frame and proclaim a compromise
embracing a restoration of the Union. In what way can that
compromise be used to keep Lee’s army out of Pennsylvania? Meade’s
army can keep Lee’s army out of Pennsylvania, and, I think, can
ultimately drive it out of existence. But no paper compromise to
which the controllers of Lee’s army are not agreed can at all affect
that army. In an effort at such compromise we would waste time,
which the enemy would improve to our disadvantage; and that would be

A compromise, to be effective, must be made either with those who
control the rebel army, or with the people, first liberated from the
domination of that army by the success of our own army. Now allow me
to assure you that no word or intimation from that rebel army, or
from any of the men controlling it, in relation to any peace
compromise, has ever come to my knowledge or belief. All charges and
insinuations to the contrary are deceptive and groundless. And I
promise you that if any such proposition shall hereafter come, it
shall not be rejected and kept a secret from you. I freely
acknowledge myself to be the servant of the people, according to the
bond of service, the United States Constitution, and that, as such, I
am responsible to them.

But, to be plain: You are dissatisfied with me about the negro.
Quite likely there is a difference of opinion between you and myself
upon that subject. I certainly wish that all men could be free,
while you, I suppose, do not. Yet, I have neither adopted nor
proposed any measure which is not consistent with even your view,
provided you are for the Union. I suggested compensated
emancipation; to which you replied you wished not to be taxed to buy
negroes. But I had not asked you to be taxed to buy negroes, except
in such way as to save you from greater taxation to save the Union
exclusively by other means.

You dislike the Emancipation Proclamation, and perhaps would have it
retracted. You say it is unconstitutional. I think differently. I
think the Constitution invests its commander-in-chief with the law of
war in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that
slaves are property. Is there, has there ever been, any question
that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be
taken when needed? And is it not needed whenever it helps us and
hurts the enemy? Armies, the world over, destroy enemies’ property
when they cannot use it, and even destroy their own to keep it from
the enemy. Civilized belligerents do all in their power to help
themselves or hurt the enemy, except a few things regarded as
barbarous or cruel. Among the exceptions are the massacre of
vanquished foes and non-combatants, male and female.

But the proclamation, as law, either is valid or is not valid. If it
is not valid it needs no retraction. If it is valid it cannot be
retracted, any more than the dead can be brought to life. Some of
you profess to think its retraction would operate favorably for the
Union, why better after the retraction than before the issue? There
was more than a year and a half of trial to suppress the rebellion
before the proclamation was issued, the last one hundred days of
which passed under an explicit notice that it was coming, unless
averted by those in revolt returning to their allegiance. The war
has certainly progressed as favorably for us since the issue of the
proclamation as before.

I know, as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of
the commanders of our armies in the field, who have given us our most
important victories, believe the emancipation policy and the use of
colored troops constitute the heaviest blows yet dealt to the
rebellion, and that at least one of those important successes could
not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers.

Among the commanders who hold these views are some who have never had
any affinity with what is called “Abolitionism,” or with “Republican
Party politics,” but who hold them purely as military opinions. I
submit their opinions are entitled to some weight against the
objections often urged that emancipation and arming the blacks are
unwise as military measures, and were not adopted as such in good
You say that you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem
willing to fight for you; but no matter. Fight you, then,
exclusively, to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose
to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered
all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue
fighting, it will be an apt time then for you to declare you will not
fight to free negroes. I thought that in your struggle for the
Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy,
to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do
you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to
do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do in
saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes,
like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for
us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us
they must be prompted by the strongest motive, even the promise of
freedom. And the promise, being made, must be kept.

The signs look better. The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to
the sea. Thanks to the great Northwest for it; nor yet wholly to
them. Three hundred miles up they met New England, Empire, Keystone,
and Jersey, hewing their way right and left. The sunny South, too,
in more colors than one, also lent a helping hand. On the spot,
their part of the history was jotted down in black and white. The
job was a great national one, and let none be slighted who bore an
honorable part in it And while those who have cleared the great
river may well be proud, even that is not all. It is hard to say
that anything has been more bravely and well done than at Antietam,
Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, and on many fields of less note. Nor must
Uncle Sam’s web-feet be forgotten. At all the watery margins they
have been present; not only on the deep sea, the broad bay, and the
rapid river, but also up the narrow, muddy bayou, and wherever the
ground was a little damp, they have been and made their tracks.
Thanks to all. For the great Republic–for the principle it lives by
and keeps alive–for man’s vast future–thanks to all.

Peace does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come
soon, and come to stay, and so come as to be worth the keeping in all
future time. It will then have been proved that among freemen there
can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that
they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the
cost. And there will be some black men who can remember that with
silent tongue, and clinched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised
bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation;
while I fear there will be some white ones unable to forget that with
malignant heart and deceitful speech they have striven to hinder it.

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