Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Stephen A. Hurlbut [1]

Private Executive Mansion Major General Hurlbut Washington, Nov. 14. 1864

Few things, since I have been here, have impressed me more painfully than what, for four or five months past, has appeared as bitter military opposition to the new State Government of Louisiana. I still indulged some hope that I was mistaken in the fact; butPage  107 copies of a correspondence on the subject, between Gen. Canby and yourself, and shown me to-day, dispel that hope. A very fair proportion of the people of Louisiana have inaugerated a new State Government, making an excellent new constitution---better for the poor black man than we have in Illinois. This was done under military protection, directed by me, in the belief, still sincerely entertained, that with such a nucleous around which to build, we could get the State into position again sooner than otherwise. In this belief a general promise of protection and support, applicable alike to Louisiana and other states, was given in the last annual message. During the formation of the new government and constitution, they were supported by nearly every loyal person and opposed by every secessionist. And this support, and this opposition, from the respective stand points of the parties, was perfectly consistent and logical. Every Unionist ought to wish the new government to succeed; and every disunionist must desire it to fail. It's failure would gladden the heart of Slidell in Europe, and of every enemy of the old flag in the world. Every advocate of slavery naturally desires to see blasted, and crushed, the liberty promised the black man by the new constitution. But why Gen. Canby and Gen. Hurlbut should join on the same side is to me incomprehensible.

Of course, in the condition of things at New-Orleans, the military must not be thwarted by the civil authority; but when the constitutional convention, for what it deems a breach of previlege, arrests an editor, in no way connected with the military, the military necessity for insulting the Convention, and forcibly discharging the editor, is difficult to perceive. [2] Neither is the military necessity for protecting the people against paying large salaries, fixed by a Legislature of their own choosing, very apparant. Equally difficult to perceive is the military necessity for forcibly interposing to prevent a bank from loaning it's own money to the State. These things, if they have occurred, are, at the best, no better than gratuitous hostility. I wish I could hope that they may be shown to not have occurred. To make assurance against misunderstanding, I repeat that in the existing condition of things in Louisiana, the military must not be thwarted by the civil authority; and I add that on points of difference the commanding general must be judge and master. But I also add that in the exercise of this judgment and control, a purpose, obvious, and scarcely unavowed, to transcend all military necessity, in order to crush out the civil government, will not be overlooked. Yours truly A. LINCOLN


[1]   ADfS, DLC-RTL; LS, DLC. The correspondence between General Edward R. S. Canby and Hurlbut may be found in OR, I, XLI, IV, 412-13. In reply toPage  108

Hurlbut's question ``to what extent am I compelled . . . to recognize the acts and proceedings of the State of Louisiana in its several branches. . . .'' Canby replied on October 29, ``It is scarcely necessary for me to say that until the President . . . revokes his proclamation of December 8, 1863, or until Congress has acted definitely upon the subject, all attempts at civil government, within the territory declared to be in insurrection, are the creation of military power, and, of course, subject to military revision and control. . . .''

On November 29, Hurlbut replied to LINCOLN's letter:

``I am this day in receipt of your letter of November 14th. I confess myself much surprised at the tenor and spirit of its contents and am well assured that correct information has not been furnished you of the position either of Genl Canby or myself.

``I recognize as thoroughly as any man the advance toward the right made by the adoption of the Free Constitution of Louisiana, and have done and shall do all in my power to vindicate its declaration of freedom, and to protect and prepare the emancipated Bondsmen for their new status & condition. The fact has been withheld from you, Mr President, but it still exists that nothing has been done for this purpose since the adoption of the Constitution---except by military authority. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

For Canby's reply to LINCOLN's letter to Hurlbut, see the note to LINCOLN's letter to Canby, December 12, infra.

[2]   Thomas P. May, the radical editor of the New Orleans Times, had been arrested for publishing a description of the convention in which delegates were described as being drunk.