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

To Nathaniel P. Banks [1]

Executive Mansion, Washington,
My dear General Banks August 5, 1863.

Being a poor correspondent is the only apology I offer for not having sooner tendered my thanks for your very successful, and very valuable military operations this year. The final stroke in opening the Mississippi never should, and I think never will, be forgotten.

Recent events in Mexico, I think, render early action in Texas more important than ever. I expect, however, the General-in-Chief, will address you more fully upon this subject. [2]

Governor Boutwell read me to-day that part of your letter to him, which relates to Louisiana affairs. While I very well knowPage  365 what I would be glad for Louisiana to do, it is quite a different thing for me to assume direction of the matter. I would be glad for her to make a new Constitution recognizing the emancipation proclamation, and adopting emancipation in those parts of the state to which the proclamation does not apply. And while she is at it, I think it would not be objectionable for her to adopt some practical system by which the two races could gradually live themselves out of their old relation to each other, and both come out better prepared for the new. Education for young blacks should be included in the plan. After all, the power, or element, of ``contract'' may be sufficient for this probationary period; and, by it's simplicity, and flexibility, may be the better.

As an anti-slavery man I have a motive to desire emancipation, which pro-slavery men do not have; but even they have strong enough reason to thus place themselves again under the shield of the Union; and to thus perpetually hedge against the recurrence of the scenes through which we are now passing.

Gov. Shepley has informed me that Mr. Durant is now taking a registry, with a view to the election of a Constitutional convention in Louisiana. This, to me, appears proper. If such convention were to ask my views, I could present little else than what I now say to you. I think the thing should be pushed forward, so that if possible, it's mature work may reach here by the meeting of Congress.

For my own part I think I shall not, in any event, retract the emancipation proclamation; nor, as executive, ever return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.

If Louisiana shall send members to Congress, their admission to seats will depend, as you know, upon the respective Houses, and not upon the President.

If these views can be of any advantage in giving shape, and impetus, to action there, I shall be glad for you to use them prudently for that object. Of course you will confer with intelligent and trusty citizens of the State, among whom I would suggest Messrs. Flanders, Hahn, and Durant; and to each of whom I now think I may send copies of this letter. Still it is perhaps better to not make the letter generally public. Yours very truly



Copies sent to Messrs. Flanders, Hahn & Durant, each indorsed as follows.

Page  366The within is a copy of a letter to Gen. Banks. Please observe my directions to him. Do not mention the paragraph about Mexico.

Aug. 6. 1863. A. LINCOLN


[1]   ALS, IHi; copy and AES, DLC-RTL. The endorsement as printed at the end of the letter is written on the copy preserved in the Lincoln Papers. See Lincoln to Flanders, August 6, infra. Banks' letter to George S. Boutwell has not been located.

On September 5, Banks acknowledged receipt of Lincoln's letter:

``It gives me pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter relating to the re-organization of Government in the State of Louisiana---and to say that I shall not only execute your orders, but that I cordially concur in your views. . . .

``The expedition ordered by the department of war for the re-establishment of the American Flag in Texas is now nearly ready. The advance sailed for the Sabine Pass at midnight the 4th instant. My purpose is to move upon the Sabine Lake, marching to Beaumont, thence to Liberty Houston and Galveston. Galveston will fall by a movement in its rear. In possession of Galveston and Houston the whole state is in our possession. . . . All depends on the movement upon the Sabine which sailed last night under command of Major General Franklin. . . . The Sabine is the weak and the key point of Texas for assault. From thence, if safely landed we can secure every position to the Rio Grande. Let me say that if we land safely your utmost expectations will be realized. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

[2]   Halleck telegraphed Banks at 12:30 P.M., August 6, ``There are important reasons why our flag should be restored in some point of Texas with the least possible delay. Do this by land at Galveston, at Indianola, or at any other point you may deem preferable. . . .'' (OR, I, XXVI, I, 672).