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    Abraham Lincoln Autograph Letter Signed "A. Lincoln." One page, 4.75" x 7.75", Washington, March 5, 1862, to Secretary of State William H. Seward, in full: "My dear Sir Please summon the Cabinet to meet me here at 7 o'clock this evening." The letter is countersigned at the bottom by William H. Seward. Below Seward's signature is a separate note, dated March 6, 1862, in an unknown hand, reading, in full: "The Presidents Message to Congress, Recommending Compensated Emancipation, To preserve the Union." Lightly toned; small chip at right edge.

    Abraham Lincoln first flirted with the idea of compensated emancipation, that is, compensating a slave owner monetarily for the loss of his slaves, in the fall of 1861. In essence, the government would purchase the enslaved persons and immediately set them free. The small State of Delaware, which had remained loyal to the Union despite the continued existence of slavery within its borders, appeared to be the perfect place to try out his idea. In his book "From Slavery to Freedom," Historian John Hope Franklin wrote: "... [Lincoln] attempted an experiment with compensated emancipation in Delaware. He interested his friends there and urged them to propose it to the Delaware legislature. He went so far as to write a draft of the bill, which provided for gradual emancipation, and another which provided that the federal government would share the expenses of compensating masters for their slaves. Although these bills were much discussed, there was too much opposition to introduce them." (John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, p. 280.)

    He remained steadfast and, in early 1862, decided to try again. After meeting with his cabinet the previous evening, Lincoln appeared before Congress on the morning of March 6, 1862, in the hopes that he could convince them to implement a plan for compensated emancipation. In a speech made before a joint session of Congress, Lincoln, speaking directly to the Border States said, "...If the proposition [of compensated emancipation] contained in the resolution does not meet the approval of Congress and the country, there is the end; but if it does command such approval, I deem it of importance that the States and people immediately interested should be at once distinctly notified of the fact...The leaders of the existing insurrection entertain the hope that this Government will ultimately be forced to acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region...To deprive them of this hope substantially ends the rebellion, and the initiation of emancipation completely deprives them of it as to all the States initiating it. The point is not that all the States tolerating slavery would very soon, if at all, initiate emancipation; but that while the offer is equally made to all, the more northern shall by such initiation make it certain to the more southern that in no event will the former ever join the latter in their proposed confederacy...Such a proposition on the part of the General Government sets up no claim of a right by Federal authority to interfere with slavery within State limits, referring, as it does, the absolute control of the subject in each case to the State and its people immediately interested. It is proposed as a matter of perfectly free choice with them." (Roy P. Basler, editor. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume V, 1861-1862, p. 145-6) Again, the proposal fell on deaf ears.

    Lincoln, however, found success of sorts six weeks later in the nation's capital. On April 16, 1862, he signed (but did not write) the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, ending slavery in Washington, D.C. As a result of the new law, 2,989 slaves were freed. Slaveholders who were loyal to the Union were paid up to $300 for each slave and each freeman was paid $100 if they voluntarily immigrated to places outside of the U. S, such as Liberia or Haiti. The D. C. Emancipation Act remains the only compensated emancipation plan to be implemented in the United States.

    Lincoln's own views on slavery had undergone a pronounced change. Lincoln called together his cabinet for another meeting on July 22, 1862. He officially declared his intention to take an even more radical step: the discussion of his draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.


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