Six Months at the White House/XXVIII

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In Barrett's biography of Mr. Lincoln, it is stated that the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was written on board of the steamboat returning from his 8th of July visit to the army at Harrison's Landing. This circumstance was not included in the statement given me, and to others in my presence, at different times; but from the known relations of the author with the President, it is undoubtedly true. The original draft was written upon one side of four half sheets of official foolscap. He flung down upon the table one day for me, several sheets of the same, saying, "There, I believe, is some of the very paper which was used;--if not, it was, at any rate, just like it." The original draft is dated September 22d, 1862, and was presented to the Army Relief Bazaar, at Albany, N.Y., in 1864. It is in the proper handwriting of Mr. Lincoln, excepting two interlineations in pencil, by Secretary Seward, and the formal heading and ending, which were written by the chief clerk of the State Department.

The final Proclamation was signed on New Year's Day, 1863. The President remarked to Mr. Colfax, the same evening, that the signature appeared somewhat tremulous and uneven. "Not," said he, "because of any uncertainty or hesitation on my part; but it was just after the public reception, and three hours' hand-shaking is not calculated to improve a man's chirography." Then changing his tone, he added: "The South had fair warning, that if they did not return to their duty, I should strike at this pillar of their strength. The promise must now be kept, and I shall never recall one word."

I remember to have asked him, on one occasion, if there was not some opposition manifested on the part of several members of the Cabinet to this policy. He replied, "Nothing more than I have stated to you. Mr. Blair thought we should lose the fall elections, and opposed it on that ground only." "I have understood," said I, "that Secretary Smith was not in favor of your action. Mr. Blair told me that, when the meeting closed, he and the Secretary of the Interior went away together, and that the latter said to him, if the President carried out that policy, he might count on losing Indiana, sure!" "He never said anything of the kind to me," returned the President. "And what is Mr. Blair's opinion now?" I asked. "Oh," was the prompt reply, "he proved right in regard to the fall elections, but he is satisfied that we have since gained more than we lost." "I have been told," I added, "that Judge Bates doubted the constitutionality of the proclamation." "He never expressed such an opinion in my hearing," replied Mr. Lincoln. "No member of the Cabinet ever dissented from the policy, in any conversation with me."