Harper's Weekly 09/06/1862


THE PRESIDENT AND SLAVERY.

THE President has taken advantage of a rath-
er impertinent and very injudicious letter
addressed to him by Mr. Horace Greeley, to
state to the public his position on the slavery
question. We publish his letter in another col-
umn. While distinctly avowing his personal
wish that “all men every where could be free,”
the President declares that his sole exclusive
aim is to restore the Union, without reference
to slavery; and that while he would not hesitate
to proclaim emancipation if he were satisfied
that that would restore the Union, neither would
he scruple to save the Union with slavery. He
thus takes issue on the one hand with the pro-
slavery half-and-half Union men of the Border
States who object to the restoration of the Union
at the cost of their peculiar institution, and, on
the other, with the fanatical ultraists of the
North who object to the restoration of the Union
unless slavery be destroyed.


In this position Mr. Lincoln will undoubtedly
find himself supported by the bulk of the people
of the country. What we all want, first, is to
put down the rebellion. When that is done, we
can deal with slavery and its antecedents as our
necessities may dictate.


Nothing can be falser than to assume, as some
of the followers of Mr. Wendell Phillips do, that
if we restore the Union without destroying slav-
ery, our work will be only half accomplished,
and it will be left to another generation to com-
plete it. Whatever be the issue of the war,
slavery has already received a death-blow from
which it can never recover. There is no State
in the Union in which it can ever be again a
thriving or even a safe institution. That iron
despotism of the master class, and that rigid
system of municipal law, which alone could ren-
der it safe for white men and women to inhab-
it vast plantations surrounded by negro slaves,
have been utterly shattered by the events of the
war. Even where the black has not had cour-
age, or sense, or opportunity to escape to the
Union lines, and claim the privilege of freedom
offered him by our laws, he has been utterly de-
moralized, and rendered forever unfit to resume
the patient toil of past years.


It is known, probably, to nine out of ten
slaves in the South that every Slave State now
contains a safe refuge whither fugitives can fly
for emancipation, and where no overseer or
blood-hound can follow them. That these fugi-
tives thus far have come into our lines by hun-
dreds instead of tens of thousands is mainly due
to the fact that the entire white population of
the South is armed, and all general movements
of the negroes are at once repressed by whole-
sale massacres. But neither the rifle nor the
stake can expel from the mind of the slave the
knowledge that freedom is near him, and that
he can obtain it when he chooses to make the
effort; and with this thought in his brain, he is
worse than valueless as property.


This great fact is ever present to Mr. Lin-
coln's mind. In conversation with a leading
banker of this city, who is also a prominent
member of the Republican Party, he lately ob-
served that, in his opinion, it was “much wiser
to do a thing than to talk about it.”Frémont
and Hunter talked—in proclamations. The
President, or rather the war—for he is merely
the instrument of events—is “doing the thing:”
sapping the foundation of slavery; rendering it
unprofitable and unsafe; exploding one by one
all the delusions which induced the people of
the South to cling to it; and slowly but sure-
ly, without noisy proclamations or windy words,
clearing the way for a general emancipation of
all the slaves on this continent.


How and when these systematic and regular
approaches may be succeeded by the final as-
sault it is yet impossible to say. But the
President has by his acts won an indisputable
claim to confidence in his honesty, and all those
among us who have no other aim in view than
the good of the country will be content to leave
the subject in his hands.



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