Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln/Volume 9/Greeley, Horace

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Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 9: Letters and Telegrams
Greely, Horace
Letters of June 27, 1848, on the boundary of Texas; August 22, 1862, on slavery and saving the Union; July 9, 1864, on a peace proposition from Jefferson Davis; July 15, 1864 (telegram and letter), following up on the peace proposition; August 6, 1864 (telegram), regarding publication of recent correspondence; August 9, 1864, on publication of correspondence and refusing to receive Alexander Stephens.

Greeley, Horace.

Washington, June 27, 1848.

Friend Greeley: In the "Tribune" of yesterday I discovered a little editorial paragraph in relation to Colonel Wentworth of Illinois, in which, in relation to the boundary of Texas, you say: "All Whigs and many Democrats having ever contended it stopped at the Nueces." Now this is a mistake which I dislike to see go uncorrected in a leading Whig paper. Since I have been here, I know a large majority of such Whigs of the House of Representatives as have spoken on the question have not taken that position. Their position, and in my opinion the true position, is that the boundary of Texas extended just so far as American settlements taking part in her revolution extended; and that as a matter of fact those settlements did extend, at one or two points, beyond the Nueces, but not anywhere near the Rio Grande at any point. The "stupendous desert" between the valleys of those two rivers, and not either river, has been insisted on by the Whigs as the true boundary.

Will you look at this? By putting us in the position of insisting on the line of the Nueces, you put us in a position which, in my opinion, we cannot maintain, and which therefore gives the Democrats an advantage of us. If the degree of arrogance is not too great, may I ask you to examine what I said on this very point in the printed speech I send you.

Yours truly,            
A. Lincoln.


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 perceptible 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 everywhere could be free.

Yours,

A. Lincoln.


Washington, D. C, July 9, 1864.

Hon. Horace Greeley.

Dear Sir: Your letter of the 7th, with inclosures, received.

If you can find any person, anywhere, professing to have any proposition of Jefferson Davis in writing, for peace, embracing the restoration of the Union and abandonment of slavery, whatever else it embraces, say to him he may come to me with you; and that if he really brings such proposition, he shall at the least have safe conduct with the paper (and without publicity, if he chooses) to the point where you shall have met him. The same if there be two or more persons.

Yours truly,

A. Lincoln.

[Telegram.]

Executive Mansion,                
Washington, July 15, 1864.

Hon. Horace Greeley, New York:

I suppose you received my letter of the 9th. I have just received yours of the 13th, and am disappointed by it. I was not expecting you to send me a letter, but to bring me a man, or men. Mr. Hay goes to you with my answer to yours of the 13th.

A. Lincoln.


[Letter Carried by Major John Hay.]

Executive Mansion,                
Washington, July 15, 1864.

Hon. Horace Greeley. My dear Sir: Yours of the 13th is just received, and I am disappointed that you have not already reached here with those commissioners, if they would consent to come on being shown my letter to you of the 9th instant. Show that and this to them, and if they will come on the terms stated in the former, bring them. I not only intend a sincere effort for peace, but I intend that you shall be a personal witness that it is made.

Yours truly,        
A. Lincoln.


[Telegram.]

Executive Mansion,                
Washington, August 6, 1864.

Hon. Horace Greeley, New York:

Yours to Major Hay about publication of our correspondence received. With the suppression of a few passages in your letters in regard to which I think you and I would not disagree, I should be glad of the publication. Please come over and see me.

A. Lincoln.


[Private.]

Executive Mansion,                
Washington, August 9, 1864.

Hon. Horace Greeley.

Dear Sir: Herewith is a full copy of the correspondence, and which I have had privately printed, but not made public. The parts of your letters which I wish suppressed are only those which, as I think, give too gloomy an aspect to our cause, and those which present the carrying of elections as a motive of action. I have, as you see, drawn a red pencil over the parts I wish suppressed.

As to the Alexander H. Stephens matter, so much pressed by you, I can only say that he sought to come to Washington in the name of the "Confederate States," in a vessel of "the Confederate States navy," and with no pretense even that he would bear any proposal for peace; but with language showing that his mission would be military, and not civil or diplomatic. Nor has he at any time since pretended that he had terms of peace, so far as I know or believe. On the contrary, Jefferson Davis has, in the most formal manner, declared that Stephens had no terms of peace. I thought we could not afford to give this quasi-acknowledgment of the independence of the Confederacy, in a case where there was not even an intimation of anything for our good. Still, as the parts of your letters relating to Stephens contain nothing worse than a questioning of my action, I do not ask a suppression of those parts.

Yours truly,            
A. Lincoln.

[See also Clay, Clement C.]