Can we please put this nonsense that Lincoln could have avoided war by buying the slaves to bed forever?
Here is President Lincoln’s Message to Congress recommending compensated emancipation delivered March 6, 1862:
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I recommend the adoption of a joint resolution by your honorable bodies, which shall be substantially as follows:
Resolved , That the United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State, in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
If the proposition contained in the resolution does not meet the approval of Congress and the country, there is the end; but if it does command such approval, I deem it of importance that the States and people immediately interested should be at once distinctly notified of the fact, so that they may begin to consider whether to accept or reject it. The Federal Government would find its highest interest in such a measure, as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation. The leaders of the existing insurrection entertain the hope that this Government will ultimately be forced to acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region, and that all the slave States north of such part will then say, “The Union for which we have struggled being already gone, we now choose to go with the Southern section.” To deprive them of this hope substantially ends the rebellion, and the initiation of emancipation completely deprives them of it as to all the States initiating it. The point is not that all the States tolerating slavery would very soon, if at all, initiate emancipation; but that while the offer is equally made to all, the more northern shall by such initiation make it certain to the more southern that in no event will the former ever join the latter in their proposed confederacy. I say “initiation” because, in my judgment, gradual and not sudden emancipation is better for all. In the mere financial or pecuniary view any member of Congress with the census tables and Treasury reports before him can readily see for himself how very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase, at fair valuation, all the slaves in any named State. Such a proposition on the part of the General Government sets up no claim of a right by Federal authority to interfere with slavery within State limits, referring, as it does, the absolute control of the subject in each case to the State and its people immediately interested. It is proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them.
In the annual message last December I thought fit to say “the Union must be preserved, and hence all indispensable means must be employed.” I said this not hastily, but deliberately. War has been made and continues to be an indispensable means to this end. A practical reacknowledgment of the national authority would render the war unnecessary, and it would at once cease. If, however, resistance continues, the war must also continue; and it is impossible to foresee all the incidents which may attend and all the ruin which may follow it. Such as may seem indispensable or may obviously promise great efficiency toward ending the struggle must and will come.
The proposition now made (though an offer only), I hope it may be esteemed no offense to ask whether the pecuniary consideration tendered would not be of more value to the States and private persons concerned than are the institution and property in it in the present aspect of affairs.
While it is true that the adoption of the proposed resolution would be merely initiatory, and not within itself a practical measure, it is recommended in the hope that it would soon lead to important practical results. In full view of my great responsibility to my God and to my country, I earnestly beg the attention of Congress and the people to the subject.
And, if you think someone should have considered compensated emancipation before the war began, consider this from an address delivered to a pro-slavery convention in Missouri in 1855:
…abolition, under existing circumstances, is believed to be morally impossible. In 1850, according to the census of the United States, there were in the slave States, including the District of Columbia, three million one hundred and ninety-five thousand nine hundred and fifty-one slaves. The average value of an ordinary lot of slaves is generally estimated at one-half the price of a prime field hand. Such a slave will now readily sell for 1200 dollars. Taking $600, then, as the average, it will give us 1,917,570,600 dollars as the total value of the slaves in 1850. The natural increase, since that time, makes it reasonable to estimate the present value, in round numbers, at two thousand millions of dollars. At six per cent., the annual interest on that sum will amount to one hundred and twenty millions.
Strike out of existence at once this vast amount of productive capital, and it is not in the power of human arithmetic to express, the financial ruin that would result, not merely to the slaveholding, but also to the non-slaveholding States, and to the civilized world. Besides, it should not be forgotten that negro slaves are constitutionally adapted to labor in those climates where the great staples of cotton, rice and sugar can be produced. Emancipation, therefore, would convert this vast region, the abode of wealth, civilization and refinement of the highest order, into a howling wilderness. The loss of productive property in land, houses, machinery, and improvements of various kinds, thus rendered valueless, can hardly be estimated…
But the financial ruin is by no means the most important item in this account of prospective abolitionism. Look to St. Domingo and the British West Indies. In short, look where you please, all history attests that emancipation would be the greatest calamity that could be afflicted on the blacks themselves: that American slavery has elevated their character, and ameliorated their condition, in all respects; that wherever fanaticism or misguided philanthropy has cut them loose from the guardianship of the white race, they have not merely degenerated, but have retrograded with rapid strides towards a savage, and even brutal race….
….it may be objected, that slavery is a moral wrong; that our obligation to do right is paramount to all others; and that it never can be justifiable to do wrong from an apprehension of any evils, whether real or imaginary, that may be anticipated to result from doing right… [however] All who are well informed on the subject know that if the Bible sanctions anything, it sanctions slaveholding. The most candid and prominent of the anti-slavery leaders (whether religious or infidel) have, within the last ten years, totally abandoned the Bible argument; and many of the latter class may now be heard blaspheming the God of the Bible in terms so malignant and fiendish, as might well make demons shudder….
Source: Missouri’s War: The Civil War in Documents edited by Silvana R. Siddali