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A Confederate Newspaper Prints Lincoln’s Response
to Horace Greeley’s
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On the front page under “News from the North” is the text of Abraham Lincoln’s reply to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley. Greeley’s letter urging Lincoln to emancipate all slaves in Union-held territory was known as “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.” It was first published on August 20, 1862. Lincoln responded on August 22, declaring that his paramount goal is to save the Union, regardless of its effect on slavery, as well as his personal views that all men should be free.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]. Newspaper. Richmond Whig, Richmond, Va., August 30, 1862. 2 pp., 17 x 24 in.

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“…As to the policy I ‘seem to be pursuing,’ as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

            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 this 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. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

            I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.”

Historical Background

Though this letter is often as proof that Lincoln did not intend to abolish slavery, unknown to Greeley and most Americans, Lincoln had already drafted the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and was only waiting for a Union military victory to deliver it. Moreover, Lincoln makes a “divide and conquer” rhetorical move: he splits the issue by stating that his constitutional duty as president is to keep the Union together while simultaneously expressing his personal view of universal freedom at the end.

Additional content in this issue includes a front page editorial, “European Recognition,” “The Indian Atrocities in Minnesota,” “Yankee Finances,” “An Order From Gen. Burnside,” “The Peninsular Campaign—Gen. [J. Bankhead] Magruder’s Official Report,” which takes over two columns with considerable detail.

The back page has additional content with: “A Brilliant Cavalry Exploit,” “The Impressment of Slaves In Georgia,” “Outrages in Arkansas,” “From Kentucky” and more. Additionally, there are various reports from the “Confederate Congress” and numerous advertisements, including a “$100 Reward” for a runaway slave.

The Richmond Whig is one of the less common—but still important—newspapers from the capital of the Confederacy.

In Four Years in Rebel Capitals: An Inside View of Life in the Southern Confederacy from Birth to Death, journalist T. C. DeLeon wrote that the Richmond Whig was among the South’s best wartime newspapers. Their pages “recorded the real and true history of public opinion during the war. In their columns is to be found the only really correct and indicative ‘map of busy life, its fluctuations and its vast concerns’ in the South, during her days of darkness and of trial.”[1]

One of the more interesting episodes in the history of the Whig, is its alleged involvement in a terror plot against New York City during the Civil War. The Whig was reputed to have worked with the Confederate government to use advertisements and editorials to convey secret messages to Southern sympathizers in the North. In October 1864, the Whig was alleged to have run an editorial that signaled Southern supporters to embark on a terror campaign that called for widespread fires to be set in New York, city and federal offices to be taken over, and the capture of the city’s military commander, Maj. Gen. John Adams Dix.[2]


Good. Never bound, several folds with minor wear at the folds.