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76 n August 30, 1861, Major General John Charles Frémont took a step that placed him in direct opposition to his commander -in-chief, Abraham Lincoln. That morning, after giving it careful thought the previous night, Frémont issued a proclamation declaring martial law throughout Missouri, an action that the president had not authorized. In addition, the proclamation declared free all slaves in the state whose owners had taken up arms against the Union. The general’s action alarmed not only the president and Missouri state officials, but the governors of the other border states as well. Frémont said his reason for issuing the proclamation was to bring law and order to the state of Missouri. In addition to declaring martial law, the proclamation stated that “all persons who shall be taken with arms in their hand within these lines, shall be tried by court-martial, and if found guilty, will be shot.” Property, including “chattel,” of those Missourians or others fighting in the state against the Union—and there were thousands doing that—would be “confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free.” What was set free instead was a firestorm. Frémont had not conferred with the president. In fact, he had told only Jessie and a close aide about the proclamation, a few hours before it was publicly announced. Jessie, an antislavery advocate, totally agreed with her husband’s measure. It was good that she did, because she would soon have to defend his actions in Washington, D.C., to President Lincoln. CHAPTER 8 Jessie and Lincoln m O The president, like the nation as a whole, was astounded by Frémont’s edict. Since winning the 1860 election and assuming the presidency, Lincoln had tried his utmost to avoid civil war. But once it was a reality, he knew that if the Union were to have a chance of survival, the border states that permitted slavery— Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware—had to remain loyal. These states controlled vital waterways capable of moving men, equipment, and products that were essential to the Union’s cause. Lincoln knew full well that there were Southern sympathizers in each of the border states and that the Confederates wanted to persuade as many of those states as they could to join their rebellion. If they were successful, it could be a prelude to toppling the Union. Keeping these states satisfied, Lincoln thought, could keep them from joining the South. He therefore 77 / JESSIE AND LINCOLN This portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was painted by William Cogswell after the president ’s death and is unusual because it shows him standing . Most often seen are busts of President Lincoln or paintings and photographs showing him seated. (White House Gallery of Official Portraits of the Presidents, James S. Copley Library) did his very best to avoid the appearance of threatening slavery where it existed. The one thing Lincoln did not want to do was to tamper with the “peculiar institution” as it existed in the border states. At the same time, he had to deal with those in the North who wanted to make slavery the central issue in the war. For Lincoln, the objective had always been the preservation of the Union, the very reason for the war. Nothing was more important in his mind or in his policy. The president was walking a fine line. It was not that he was proslavery. He had won election on a Republican Party platform opposing the extension of slavery into the western territories. He was not an abolitionist either—he knew that America could not exist “half slave and half free,” but he believed that it was not the right time to be pushing the issue as Frémont did. On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued his own Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect a hundred days later on January 1, 1863. Always aware of the sensitivity of the slavery issue, he did not force emancipation upon the border states even then. He offered the rebellious states the opportunity to keep their “chattel” if they stopped fighting. The document said: “That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” In this statement, Lincoln did not...


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