Sunday, September 11, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Lincoln Orders Fremont to Modify Emancipation Proclamation

On Wednesday, September 11, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Major General John Frémont in St. Louis ordering him to modify his August 30 proclamation to the people of Missouri.

The general had declared:
"The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, and who shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free."

On August 6, Lincoln had signed a Confiscation Act into law.  This act allowed for the confiscation only of those "persons held to service" who were "employed in hostility to the United States."  The act did not free the confiscated slaves.  Their status was left undefined, presumably for Congress to decide at some future time.  Lincoln found Frémont's emancipation proclamation to be dictatorial, far beyond the power of any general in the field.  At this point, he was trying to limit the war to the question of preserving the Union.  He asked Frémont to modify the order to conform with the Confiscation Act; the general refused.  Now Lincoln was through asking:

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 11, 1861,
Major-Gen. John C. Fremont:
SIR: Yours of the 8th, in answer to mine of 2d inst., was just received. Assuming that you upon the ground could better judge of the necessities of your position, than I could at this distance, on seeing your proclamation of Aug. 30, I perceived no general objection to it; the particular objectionable clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property, and the liberation of slaves, appeared to me to be objectionable in its non-conformity to the act of Congress, passed the 6th of last August upon the same subjects, and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly. Your answer just received, expresses the preference on your part that I should make an open order for the modification, which I very cheerfully do. It is therefore ordered that the said clause of said proclamation be so modified, held and construed as to conform with and not to transcend the provisions on the same subject contained in the act of Congress, entitled "An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes, approved Aug. 6, 1861," and that said act be published at length with this order. Your obedient servant,
(Signed) A. LINCOLN.

Also on September 11, 1861, in Kentucky, the legislature passed a resolution calling on Governor Beriah Magoffin to order Confederate troops to leave the state.  Another resolution calling for both armies to leave was defeated. 
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