Letter from President Lincoln

A letter from President Lincoln transmitting a proposed constitutional amendment barring Congress from prohibiting slavery. (Credit Maryland State Archives, Baltimore Sun / January 23, 2014)

Your recent article on the legislature's revisiting of an 1861 vote supporting slavery requires clarification regarding several points ("Maryland lawmakers asked to revisit vote for slavery Jan. 30). The reference to Maryland as being a "loyal" border state in particular is debatable

Thousands of Marylanders flocked to the South to serve, fight, and often die for the Confederacy. Had members of the Maryland legislature not been forcibly imprisoned at Fort McHenry in April 1861, the state in all likelihood would have seceded. From 1861 until the end of the war the "loyalty" of Marylanders was enforced at the point of federal bayonets.

President Lincoln's views regarding the prosecution of the war essentially never changed. Lincoln's wartime objectives were to perpetuate the Union while establishing a strong centralized government.

In 1862, Lincoln stated in a famous letter to Horace Greely: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not to save or 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 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 forebear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help 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 shall help the cause."

Even during the latter stages of the war, at the secret Hampton Roads Peace Conference of 1865, Lincoln agreed to remunerate Southern slaveholders $400 million for their slaves with the proviso that they rejoin the Union. The proposal was not acceptable to the South — not because of its unwillingness to free the slaves, but rather because of the forced reunification with the North.

The willingness to offer this type of monetary compensation doesn't sound like a man who was prosecuting a war out of deep moral reservations concerning the institution of slavery.

Instead of dwelling on historical revision, the Maryland legislature should tackle the real problems that plague us, such as high taxes, high crime rates and joblessness.

L.R. Fritz, Baltimore

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