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History of Negro Citizenship
			
692         HISTORY OF NEGRO CITIZENSHIP

tional government depended, Lincoln would have had
no legal warrant to free a single slave.
  It was equally essential that there should be a mili-
tary necessity, and that this necessity should be appar-
ent to the people; for without this necessity there was
no authority for the measure, and without the support
of public sentiment there was no power to maintain it.
This fully explains Mr. Lincoln's famous letter to Hor-
ace Greeley, in which he declared that his paramount
object was not the abolition of slavery but the preser-
vation of the union. Many people have hastily con-
cluded upon the basis of this declaration that the act
which conferred freedom upon the slave and immortal-
ity upon Lincoln, was not due to his personal convic-
tion of its justice and humanity, but to an irresistible
military necessity.  If this is meant, as it seems to be, to
deprive Lincoln of the credit of this great measure and
of all claims to the love and gratitude of the race to
whom he gave liberty, it is a strange misreading of his-
tory, or a strange perversion of its meaning.  On the
contrary, it was Mr. Lincoln's conviction of the wisdom
and humanitv of the act that led him to so shape events
as to make this military necessity apparent to the peo-
ple, and, when the right moment had come, to act with
promptness and decision.
  Would Pierce or Buchanan ever have recognized such
necessity? It seems to be forgotten by those who make
this criticism that Lincoln was not an autocrat with un-
restricted power to carry out his personal wishes, but a
constitutional ruler, with strictly defined and limited
authority, and that the issuing of an edict of freedom
to the slaves in time of peace, or without a clear mili-
tary necessity would have been, according to the con-
stitution a high crime and misdemeanor, for which it
would have been the duty of Congress to impeach him,
and upon conviction to depose him from his high office.
Lincoln was a lawyer with a clear idea of his constitu-
tional power; but above all, he was a statesman, and




			
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African Methodist Episcopal Church Review, Vol. 15, Num. 3

History of Negro Citizenship

W.

Volume:  15
Issue Number:  03
Page Number:  689
Date:  01/1899


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