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

Fragment [1]

[c. August 26, 1863?]

Suppose those now in rebellion should say: ``We cease fighting: re-establish the national authority amongst us---customs, courts, mails, land-offices,---all as before the rebellion---we claiming to send members to both branches of Congress, as of yore, and to hold our slaves according to our State laws, notwithstanding anything or all things which has occurred during the rebellion.'' I probably should answer: ``It will be difficult to justify in reason, or to maintain in fact, a war on one side, which shall have ceased on the other. You began the war, and you can end it. If questions remain, let them be solved by peaceful means---by courts, and votes. This war is an appeal, by you, from the ballot to the sword; and a great object with me has been to teach the futility of such appeal---to teach that what is decided by the ballot, can not be reversed by the sword---to teach that there can be no successful appeal from a fair election, but to the next election. Whether persons sent to congress, will be admitted to seats is, by the constitution, left to each House to decide, the President having nothing to do with it. Yet the question can notPage  411 be one of indifference to me. I shall dread, and I think we all should dread, to see the `the disturbing element' so brought back into the government, as to make probable a renewal of the terrible scenes through which we are now passing. During my continuance here, the government will return no person to slavery who is free according to the proclamation, or to any of the acts of congress, unless such return shall be held to be a legal duty, by the proper court of final resort, in which case I will promptly act as may then appear to be my personal duty.['']

Congress has left to me very large powers to remit forfeitures and personal penalties; and I should exercise these to the greatest extent which might seem consistent with the future public safety. I have thus told you, once more, so far as it is for me to say, what you are fighting for. The prospects of the Union have greatly improved recently; still, let us not be over-sanguine of a speedy final triumph. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in his own good time, will give us the rightful result.


[1]   AD, DLC-RTL. The date supplied to this two-page manuscript in the Lincoln Papers has been retained for want of a better assignment, and is based on the following endorsement written by Robert Todd Lincoln on the back of the second page: ``This was probably written at the time of the Springd Letter, but not incorporated with it---& never published.''

Although the contents of the fragment are apropos of circumstances in August, 1863, it should be noted that they are hardly less apropos of August, 1864 (See Lincoln's letter to Charles D. Robinson, August 17, 1864,infra), and might well have expressed Lincoln's point of view at any one of numerous dates.