Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To August Belmont [1]

July 31, 1862.

Dear Sir: You send to Mr. W[eed] an extract from a letter written at New Orleans the 9th instant, which is shown to me. You do not give the writer's name; but plainly he is a man of ability, and probably of some note. He says: ``The time has arrived when Mr. Lincoln must take a decisive course. Trying to please everybody, he will satisfy nobody. A vacillating policy in matters of importance is the very worst. Now is the time, if ever, for honest men who love their country to rally to its support. Why will not the North say officially that it wishes for the restoration of the Union as it was?''

And so, it seems, this is the point on which the writer thinks I have no policy. Why will he not read and understand what I have said?

The substance of the very declaration he desires is in the inaugural, in each of the two regular messages to Congress, and in many, if not all, the minor documents issued by the Executive since the inauguration.

Broken eggs cannot be mended; but Louisiana has nothing to do now but to take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs. The sooner she does so, the smaller will be the amount of that which will be past mending. This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt. If they expect in any contingency to ever have the Union as it was, I join with the writer in saying, ``Now is the time.''

How much better it would have been for the writer to have gonePage  351 at this, under the protection of the army at New Orleans, than to have sat down in a closet writing complaining letters northward! Yours truly, A. LINCOLN.


[1]   NH, VII, 299-300. Belmont, the New York financier, replied on August 10, ``I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your esteemed favor. Its contents bear the stamp of that statesmanship and patriotism which I know to have guided all your actions. . . . I share entirely your views with regard not only to the duty, but also the policy of the revolted States to return to their allegiance without allowing their unequal struggle . . . to increase in violence. . . . The words conquest and subjugation have been used to good effect by our opponents. . . . while the rebel leaders can keep up . . . the idea that the North means conquest and subjugation, I fear that there is very little hope for any Union demonstration in the revolted States. . . . My own conviction has always been, that . . . we would have to come to a national convention for the reconstruction of one government over all the States. . . . My impression is, that such a solution would, at the proper time, be acceptable to a majority of the Southern people, and I sent to Mr. Weed the letter which procured me the honor of receiving your note, for the very reason that I saw in it an indication of the writer's desire for a reconstruction of the Union. He is a very wealthy and influential planter. . . .'' (August Belmont, A Few Letters and Speeches of the Late Civil War, privately printed, New York, 1870, pp. 71-72).