The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, v7
Abraham Lincoln

Part 7 out of 7

WASHINGTON, April 11, 1865.

BRIG. GEN. G. H. GORDON, Norfolk, Va.:

Send to me at once a full statement as to the cause or causes for
which, and by authority of what tribunal George W. Lane, Charles
Whitlock, Ezra Baler, J. M. Renshaw, and others are restrained of
their liberty. Do this promptly and fully.


APRIL 11, 1865.


A Proclamation.

Whereas by my proclamations of the 19th and 27th days of April, A.D.
1861, the ports of the United States in the States of Virginia, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi,
Louisiana, and Texas were declared to be subject to blockade; but

Whereas the said blockade has, in consequence of actual military
occupation by this Government, since been conditionally set aside or
relaxed in respect to the ports of Norfolk and Alexandria, in the
State of Virginia; Beaufort, in the State of North Carolina; Port
Royal, in the State of South Carolina; Pensacola and Fernandina, in
the State of Florida; and New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana; and

Whereas by the fourth section of the act of Congress approved on the
13th of July, 1861, entitled "An act further to provide for the
collection of duties on imports, and for other purposes," the
President, for the reasons therein set forth, is authorized to close
certain ports of entry:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln. President of the
United States, do hereby proclaim that the ports of Richmond,
Tappahannock, Cherrystone, Yorktown, and Petersburg, in Virginia; of
Camden (Elizabeth City), Edenton, Plymouth, Washington, Newbern,
Ocracoke, and Wilmington in North Carolina; of Charleston,
Georgetown, and Beaufort, in South Carolina; of Savannah, St. Marys,
and Brunswick (Darien), in Georgia; of Mobile, in Alabama; of Pearl
River (Shieldsboro), Natchez and Vicksburg, in Mississippi; of St.
Augustine, Key West, St. Marks (Port Leon), St. Johns (Jacksonville),
and Apalachicola, in Florida; of Teche (Franklin), in Louisiana; of
Galveston, La Salle, Brazos de Santiago (Point Isabel), and
Brownsville, in Texas, are hereby closed, and all right of
importation, warehousing, and other privileges shall, in respect to
the ports aforesaid, cease until they shall have again been opened by
order of the President; and if while said parts are so closed any
ship or vessel from beyond the United States or having on board any
articles subject to duties shall attempt to enter any such port, the
same, together with its tackle, apparel, furniture, and cargo, shall
be forfeited to the United States.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this eleventh day of April, A.D.,
1865, and of the independence of the United States of America, the


By the President
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.


APRIL 11, 1865.


A Proclamation.

Whereas by my proclamation of this date the port of Key West, in the
State of Florida, was inadvertently included among those which are
not open to commerce:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the
United States, do hereby declare and make known that the said port of
Key West is and shall remain open to foreign and domestic commerce
upon the same conditions by which that commerce has there hitherto
been governed.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal
of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this eleventh day of April, A.D.
1865, and of the independence of the United States of America the


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.


APRIL 11, 1865.


A Proclamation.

Whereas for some time past vessels of war of the United States have
been refused in certain foreign ports, privileges and immunities to
which they were entitled by treaty, public law, or the community of
nations, at the same time that vessels of war of the country wherein
the said privileges and immunities have been withheld have enjoyed
them fully and uninterruptedly in ports of the United States, which
condition of things has not always been forcibly resisted by the
United States, although, on the other hand, they have not at any time
failed to protest against and declare their dissatisfaction with the
same. In the view of the United States, no condition any longer
exists which can be claimed to justify the denial to them by any one
of such nations of customary naval rights as has heretofore been so
unnecessarily persisted in.......

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States,
do hereby make known that if, after a reasonable time shall have
elapsed for intelligence of this proclamation to have reached any
foreign country in whose ports the said privileges and immunities
shall have been refused as aforesaid, they shall continue to be so
refused, then and thenceforth the same privileges and immunities
shall be refused to the vessels of war of that country in the ports
of the United States, and this refusal shall continue until war
vessels of the United States shall have been placed upon an entire
equality in the foreign ports aforesaid with similar vessels of other
countries. The United States, whatever claim or pretense may have
existed heretofore, are now, at least, entitled to claim and concede
an entire and friendly equality of rights and hospitalities with all
maritime nations.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal
of the United States to be affixed..................


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.


APRIL 11, 1865

FELLOW-CITIZENS--We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness
of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the
surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous
and speedy peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained. In
the midst of this, however, He from whom blessings flow must not be

A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be
duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the
cause of rejoicing be overlooked. Their honors must not be parceled
out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the pleasure
of transmitting much of the good news to you. But no part of the
honor for plan or execution is mine. To General Grant, his skillful
officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant navy stood ready,
but was not in reach to take active part. By these recent successes,
the reinauguration of the national authority--reconstruction which
has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more
closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty.
Unlike a case of war between independent nations, there is no
authorized organ for us to treat with--no one man has authority to
give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with
and mould from disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a
small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ
among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and measure of
reconstruction. As a general rule, I abstain from reading the
reports of attacks upon myself, Wishing not to be provoked by that to
which I cannot properly offer an answer. In spite of this
precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured
for some supposed agency in setting up and seeking to sustain the new
State government of Louisiana. In this I have done just so much and
no more than the public knows. In the Annual Message of December,
1863, and the accompanying proclamation, I presented a plan of
reconstruction, as the phrase goes, which I promised, if adopted by
any State, would be acceptable to and sustained by the Executive
Government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the
only plan that might possibly be acceptable, and I also distinctly
protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when or whether
members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States.
This plan was in advance submitted to the then Cabinet, and approved
by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then and
in that connection apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the
theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should
drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed people, and that I
should omit the protest against my own power in regard to the
admission of members of Congress. But even he approved every part
and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by
the action of Louisiana. The new constitution of Louisiana,
declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the
proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt
apprenticeship for freed people, and is silent, as it could not well
be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that,
as it applied to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully
approved the plan. The message went to Congress, and I received many
commendations of the plan, written and verbal, and not a single
objection to it from any professed emancipationist came to my
knowledge until after the news reached Washington that the people of
Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July,
1862, I had corresponded with different persons supposed to be
interested in seeking a reconstruction of a State government for
Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned,
reached New Orleans, General Banks wrote me that he was confident
that the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct
substantially on that plan. I wrote to him and some of them to try
it. They tried it, and the result is known. Such has been my only
agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it
my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better
broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise and break it,
whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the
public interest; but I have not yet been so convinced. I have been
shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which
the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be
definitely fixed upon the question whether the seceded States, so
called, are in the Union or out of it. It would perhaps add
astonishment to his regret were he to learn that since I have found
professed Union men endeavoring to answer that question, I have
purposely forborne any public expression upon it. As appears to me,
that question has not been nor yet is a practically material one, and
that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically
immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of
dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may become, that question
is bad as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all--a
merely pernicious abstraction. We all agree that the seceded States,
so called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union,
and that the sole object of the Government, civil and military, in
regard to those States, is to again get them into their proper
practical relation. I believe that it is not only possible, but in
fact easier, to do this without deciding or even considering whether
those States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding
themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether
they had been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to
restore the proper practical relations between these States and the
Union, and each forever after innocently indulge his own opinion
whether, in doing the acts he brought the States from without into
the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having
been out of it. The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which
the Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all if
it contained fifty thousand, or thirty thousand, or even twenty
thousand, instead of twelve thousand, as it does. It is also
unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to
the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on
the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.
Still, the question is not whether the Louisiana government, as it
stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, Will it be
wiser to take it as it is and help to improve it, or to reject and
disperse? Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation
with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State
government? Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore Slave State
of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the
rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a
State government, adopted a Free State constitution, giving the
benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering
the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored
man. This Legislature has already voted to ratify the Constitutional
Amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout
the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed
to the Union and to perpetuate freedom in the State--committed to the
very things, and nearly all things, the nation wants--and they ask
the nation's recognition and its assistance to make good this
committal. Now, if we reject and spurn them, we do our utmost to
disorganize and disperse them. We, in fact, say to the white man:
You are worthless or worse; we will neither help you nor be helped by
you. To the blacks we say: This cup of liberty which these, your
old masters, held to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you
to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in
some vague and undefined when, where, and how. If this course,
discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to
bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I
have so far been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we
recognize and sustain the new government of Louisiana, the converse
of all this is made true. We encourage the hearts and nerve the arms
of twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and
proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and
ripen it to a complete success. The colored man, too, in seeing all
united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring to
the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he
not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps towards it,
than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government
of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl,
we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing
it. Again, if we reject Louisiana, we also reject one vote in favor
of the proposed amendment to the National Constitution. To meet
this proposition, it has been argued that no more than three fourths
of those States which have not attempted secession are necessary to
validly ratify the amendment. I do not commit myself against this,
further than to say that such a ratification would be questionable,
and sure to be persistently questioned, while a ratification by three
fourths of all the States would be unquestioned and unquestionable.
I repeat the question, Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical
relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new
State government? What has been said of Louisiana will apply to
other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each State,
and such important and sudden changes occur in the same State, and
withal so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive
and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and
collaterals. Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become
a new entanglement. Important principles may and must be inflexible.
In the present situation as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to
make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am
considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action
will be proper.


WASHINGTON, D. C., April 12, 1865.

I have seen your despatch to Colonel Hardie about the matter of
prayers. I do not remember hearing prayers spoken of while I was in
Richmond; but I have no doubt you have acted in what appeared to you
to be the spirit and temper manifested by me while there. Is there
any sign of the rebel legislature coming together on the
understanding of my letter to you? If there is any such sign, inform
me what it is; if there is no such sign, you may withdraw the offer.


WASHINGTON, D.C., April 12, 1865.


I have just seen Judge Campbell's letter to you of the 7th. He
assumes, as appears to me, that I have called the insurgent
legislature of Virginia together, as the rightful legislature of the
State, to settle all differences with the United States. I have done
no such thing. I spoke of them, not as a legislature, but as "the
gentlemen who have acted as the legislature of Virginia in support of
the rebellion." I did this on purpose to exclude the assumption that
I was recognizing them as a rightful body. I deal with them as men
having power de facto to do a specific thing, to wit: "To withdraw
the Virginia troops and other support from resistance to the General
Government," for which, in the paper handed Judge Campbell, I
promised a specific equivalent, to wit: a remission to the people of
the State, except in certain cases, of the confiscation of their
property. I meant this, and no more. Inasmuch, however, as Judge
Campbell misconstrues this, and is still pressing for an armistice,
contrary to the explicit statement of the paper I gave him, and
particularly as General Grant has since captured the Virginia troops,
so that giving a consideration for their withdrawal is no longer
applicable, let my letter to you and the paper to Judge Campbell both
be withdrawn, or countermanded, and he be notified of it. Do not now
allow them to assemble, but if any have come, allow them safe return
to their homes.



Mr. Colfax, I want you to take a message from me to the miners whom
you visit. I have very large ideas of the mineral wealth of our
nation. I believe it practically inexhaustible. It abounds all over
the Western country, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and its
development has scarcely commenced. During the war, when we were
adding a couple of millions of dollars every day to our national
debt, I did not care about encouraging the increase in the volume of
our precious metals. We had the country to save first. But now that
the rebellion is overthrown, and we know pretty nearly the amount of
our national debt, the more gold and silver we mine, we make the
payment of that debt so much the easier. "Now," said he, speaking
with more emphasis, "I am going to encourage that in every possible
way. We shall have hundreds of thousands of disbanded soldiers, and
many have feared that their return home in such great numbers might
paralyze industry, by furnishing, suddenly, a greater supply of labor
than there will be demand for. I am going to try to attract them to
the hidden wealth of our mountain ranges, where there is room enough
for all. Immigration, which even the war has not stopped, will land
upon our shores hundreds of thousands more per year from overcrowded
Europe. I intend to point them to the gold and silver that wait for
them in the West. Tell the miners for me, that I shall promote their
interests to the utmost of my ability; because their prosperity is
the prosperity of the nation; and," said he, his eye kindling with
enthusiasm, "we shall prove, in a very few years, that we are indeed
the treasury of the world."


April 14, 1865


I intend to adopt the advice of my friends and use due precaution....
I thank you for the assurance you give me that I shall be
supported by conservative men like yourself, in the efforts I may
make to restore the Union, so as to make it, to use your language, a
Union of hearts and hands as well as of States.

Yours truly,



Allow Mr. Ashmer and friend to come in at 9 A.M. to-morrow.

April 14, 1865


Back to Full Books