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This is number 242 of 585 Primary Sources.

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Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley

Primary source: Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley, letter, 1862.
Caption: President Abraham Lincoln responds on August 22, 1862, to the publisher Horace Greeley, who three days earlier criticized the government for not making emancipation a key war aim. What Greeley did not know and what Lincoln in his letter does not divulge is that a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was on Lincoln's desk as he wrote this letter to Greeley.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, August 22, 1862.

Hon. Horace Greeley:

Dear Sir.

[. . . ]


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. . . .

Yours,
A. Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley, 22 August 1862, in Roy P. Basler, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, c. 1953–55).



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