Lincoln's Letter to Horace Greeley
Washington, August 22, 1862.
Hon. Horace Greeley:
I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through
the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or
assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do
not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any
inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not
now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable [sic]
in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference
to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
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 the
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 everywhere could be free.
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