Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to Horace Greeley

June 30, 2020

Slavery as practiced here in the United States was an immoral abomination. It is too bad that Mr. Lincoln was not trying to abolish it.

Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune. Mr. Lincoln told us in this letter the real purpose of the Civil War was not to free slaves, but to “save the Union”. I am not sure how unions are “saved” at gunpoint. Mr. Lincoln revealed his real purpose in this line, “The sooner the national authority can be restored….” Mr. Lincoln said everything else was subordinate to this purpose. “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” Unopposed “national authority” was his goal. This authority would be used to impose protectionist tariffs, create a central bank to control the money and for internal improvements (Railroads, etc.). The Civil War was a repeat of the Revolution, except this time “Great Britain” won.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, August 22, 1862.

Hon. Horace Greeley:
Dear Sir.

I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.

As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

Yours,
A. Lincoln.

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