Lincoln, Slaves And The Border States


There was much truth in the view that slavery would have been safer and a more permanent institution had the South not sought independence from the union with the Northern States. It is also well known that Lincoln was no "great emancipator" and his fixation on maintaining a territorial union (if he had to kill everyone to accomplish it) overshadowed any kindly feeling he might have held for the African slave. Though he had no issue with slavery in the Southern States, he did want to maintain the flow of tariff money from them and keep the New England textile mills that depended on cotton in operation. When it became obvious that he could not easily subjugate the South militarily, he seized on (Royal Governor) Lord Dunmore’s 1775 scheme to incite a murderous slave rebellion in Virginia and the Carolinas as a means to "bring the colonists to respect the dignity of the Crown."

The last sentence by an anti-slavery advocate rightly puts equal blame on the North for the institution of slavery, yet there was no effort by the wealthy pro-abolition moralists of the Republican party to rid the country of slavery by simply compensating the owners. It is said that the $8 billion spent to wage war would have bought the freedom of every slave five times over, and provided all with the proverbial 40 acres and a mule.

Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402

Memorandum of an Interview Between the President and Some Border State Representatives:
Washington, March 10, 1862

"The President then disclaimed any intent to injure the interests or wound the sensibilities of the slave States. On the contrary, his purpose was to protect one and respect the other; that we were engaged in a terrible, wasting and tedious war; immense armies were in the field, and must continue in the field as long as the war lasts; that these armies must, of necessity, be brought into contact with slaves in the States we represented and in other States as they advanced; that the slaves would come into the camps…that it kept alive a spirit hostile to the government in the States we represented, (this) strengthened the hopes of the Confederates that at some day the border States would unite with them and thus tend to prolong the war….(and Lincoln) was of opinion, if this Resolution be adopted by Congress and accepted by our States, these causes of irritation and these hopes would be removed (and the war shortened). (He made this proposition) that emancipation was a subject exclusively under the control of the States, and must be adopted or rejected by each for itself; that he did not claim nor had this government any right to coerce them for this purpose, that such was no part of his proposition and he wished it to be clearly understood (and) he hoped we would take the subject under serious consideration.

Mr. Menzies, of Kentucky, inquired if the President thought there was any power, except in the States themselves, to carry out his scheme of emancipation? The President replied, he thought there could not be. Mr. Crisfield said he did not think the people of Maryland…did not like to be coerced into emancipation, either by the direct action of the government or by indirection (such as) the confiscation of Southern property now threatened….The President replied that "unless he was expelled by the act of God or the Confederate Armies, he should occupy that (White) house for three years, and as long as he remained there, Maryland had nothing to fear, either for her institutions or her interests…"

Mr. Hall, of Missouri…said he did not pretend to disguise hi anti-slavery feeling; that he thought it was wrong and should continue to think so…slavery existed, and that too, as well by the act of the North, as well as the South; and in any scheme to get rid of it, the North, as well as the South, was morally bound to do its full and equal share."

(The Great Conspiracy, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886)