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Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Hannibal Hamlin


150 years ago today, on September 28, 1862, Lincoln sent a letter to his then vice-president, Hannibal Hamlin concerning the preliminary emancipation proclamation he had drafted on the 22nd freeing all slaves held in the country.

He’d done this after the battle of Antietam in Maryland, fought on September 17, 1862, had ended in a draw, rather than another Confederate victory. It wasn’t until January of 1863, that he drafted the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation pronouncing all slaves held in the rebellious states free.

The letter:

To Hannibal Hamlin

(strictly private).

Executive Mansion

Washington, September 28, 1862.

My Dear Sir:  Your kind letter of the 25th is just received.  It is known to some that while I hope something from the proclamation, my expectations are not as sanguine as are those of some friends.  The time for its effect southward has not come; but northward the effect should be instantaneous.

It is six days old, and while commendation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals is all that a vain man could wish, the stocks have declined, and troops come forward more slowly than ever.  This, looked soberly in the face, is not very satisfactory.  We have fewer troops in the field at the end of six days than we had at the beginning–the attrition among the old outnumbering the addition by the new.  The North responds to the proclamation sufficiently in breath; but breath alone kills no rebels.

I wish I could write more cheerfully; nor do I thank you the less for the kindness of your letter.  Yours very truly,

A. Lincoln

Hamlin, Lincoln’s vice-president for his first term, later replaced by Andrew Johnson on the ticket in 1864, didn’t play much of a role during Lincoln’s first term, but he was a strong supporter of Negro rights. He influenced the president’s decision to recruit black soldiers late in the war. Early in the war, after the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, Hamlin pressured Lincoln to pursue both emancipation and the use of black soldiers as a war strategy. He urged the immediate Proclamation of Emancipation in 1862.

For more about the letter, Hannibal Hamlin, the proclamation, and the battle of Antietam, visit these sites:

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  1. Thanks, Susan, for your informative posts. Good luck with your books.

  2. Very interesting. Thanks for the post.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Ella!

  4. Lisa Rayns says:

    I have to agree with the others. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for stopping, Lisa!

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