Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 6.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Stephen A. Hurlbut [1]

Executive Mansion,
My dear General Hurlbut: Washington, July 31, 1863.

Your letter by Mr. Dana was duly received. I now learn that your resignation has reached the War Department. I also learn that an active command has been assigned you by Gen. Grant. The Secretary of War and Gen. Halleck are very partial to you, as you know I also am. We all wish you to re-consider the question of resigning; not that we would wish to retain you greatly against your wish and interest, but that your decision may be at least a very well considered one.

I understand that Senator Sebastian [2] of Arkansas thinks of offering to resume his place in the Senate. Of course the Senate, and not I, would decide whether to admit or reject him. Still I should feel great interest in the question. It may be so presented as to be one of the very greatest national importance; and it may be otherwise so presented, as to be of no more than temporary personal consequence to him.

The emancipation proclamation applies to Arkansas. I think it is valid in law, and will be so held by the courts. I think I shall not retract or repudiate it. Those who shall have tasted actual freedom I believe can never be slaves, or quasi slaves again. For the rest, I believe some plan, substantially being gradual emancipation, would be better for both white and black. The Missouri plan, recently adopted, I do not object to on account of the time for ending the institution; but I am sorry the beginning should have been postponed for seven years, leaving all that time to agitate for the repeal of the whole thing. It should begin at once, giving at least the new-born, a vested interest in freedom, which could not be taken away. If Senator Sebastian could come with something of this sort from Arkansas, I at least should take great interest in his case; and I believe a single individual will have scarcely done the world so great a service. See him, if you can, and read this to him; but charge him to not make it public for the present. Write me again. Yours very truly. A. LINCOLN

Page  359

Annotation

DS (copy not in L's hand but with 2 interlineations and signature of L) in IHi

[1]   ADfS, DLC-RTL. Charles A. Dana, who had been on an inspection tour under special instructions from the War Department, brought a letter from General Stephen A. Hurlbut dated July 10, as follows:

``I take the liberty of writing this unofficial letter by Mr. Dana now on his way to Washington, that you may more fully understand the reasons of my resignation which will soon reach you.

``I believe the war as war is practically over. . . . My duties and responsibilities for the last six months have been peculiarly trying. . . . Yet . . . this and much more I would freely undergo did I believe it necessary.

``You are aware that I am very comfortably poor, in fact dependent on my profession.

``I am rapidly losing the faculty of practice and when I return unless it is done soon, shall be but a fourth rate lawyer. . . .

``It is from no disgust at the service---from no difficulties with my superiors. . . . I urgently therefore request that my resignation now passing through official channels may be accepted. . . .

``You will believe that I am perfectly sincere in this---and you too will believe that from the midst of an unbounded corruption, and with the largest opportunities for private gain, I come out of this place with clean hands. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

Hurlbut's resignation was not accepted.

[2]   On July 20, B. W. Sharp wrote Lincoln from Memphis that William K. Sebastian ``former (and present Senator Elect from the State of Ark) senator from the state of Ark . . . informed me that it is his intention upon the next meeting of Congress to be present & claim his seat. . . . The leading men of the state are desirous that he should take this course; I believe Judge S. to be a consistent Union man. . . .'' (DLC-RTL). On September 8, Hurlbut wrote Lincoln ``I have seen Mr. Sebastian and shown him your letter. . . . I doubt if Sebastian has nerve enough, to accept the necessities of the times. . . .'' (Ibid.).