Page:The Republican Party (1920).djvu/48

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Construction and Reconstruction

of the northern states against his administration and realized the necessity, for the continued support of the government, of winning and holding the border states. He knew that these latter would be alienated and perhaps driven into the arms of the enemy by a premature emancipation proclamation. Instead, therefore, of taking precipitate and radical action he wisely and justly sought other means of disposing of the slavery question, in which he was cordially supported by Congress and by the Republican party. Especially did he offer the co-operation of the national government with the states or with any state in a voluntary, gradual and compensated emancipation of the slaves. To this generous offer, however, not a single state responded.

Finally in September, 1862 finding that the slave states would not accept the offer and realizing that slave labor was one of the chief economic supports of the rebellion he deemed the time ripe for emancipation, explicitly as a war measure for the preservation of the Union. He had been willing to retain slavery for the sake of saving the Union but his offer had been rejected. Now he would destroy slavery for the sake of saving the Union. At first his announcement had a politically bad effect. It divided the North and united the South. All through the great free states of the North, where the clamor for emancipation had months before been loudest, men fell away from the support of the administration, declared the war a failure and called for "compromise" with the seceding states. So serious was the defection of northern Democrats and the hostility of the Constitutional Unionists, that there was danger of the election of a House of Representatives that would oppose the administration and its further prosecution of the war.