What Was the Proclamation Meant to Accomplish.
When a statesman acts from clear and intelligible motives of public policy, it is not difficult to conjecture the results which he expects to accomplish by such action. But the extraordinary proclamation just issued by the president seems so unlikely to lead to any results which a statesman would design or a patriot could desire, that it is not easy to reconcile it with Mr. Lincoln's sagacity, his sense of justice, or his self-poise of character. He surely cannot suppose that the rebels, in terror of his menace, will elect, this fall, representatives to the national congress. Since he cannot entertain this puerile expectation, is it possible that he thinks he can actually abolish slavery in the rebel states on the first of January? This expectation is scarcely less chimerical than the other. If the proclamation was intended to give a new impulse to recruiting, it ought to have been better timed. It should, in that case, have been issued before the call for a draft. We could then have seen whether it was potent enough in rallying recruits to the Union standards to render the draft unnecessary. It is clear that it has been issued for no such purpose, and that it would be an idle way of effecting enlistments if it had. As a means of conciliating Europe it is equally nugatory. We may be quite certain that the governments, the press, and a majority of the people of Europe, will reprobate an attempt to turn suddenly loose three or four millions of ignorant slaves, of all ages, without a cent of property, without a home to shelter them, without any means of employment in the general upheaval and convulsion of southern society which would be the direct consequence of such a measure, if it were possible to execute it. The proclamation will neither terrify the rebels into submission, nor practically emancipate their slaves, nor help enlistments, nor conciliate foreign powers. What then is its purpose?
It is not the measure of a statesman, but of a politician. We will speak of Mr. Lincoln in the language of decorum. We must not forget that he is the president of the United States. But when he departs from a policy to which he has so often publicly declared his adhesion; when he performs an act so inconsistent with his inaugural address and messages, and with his own action in the cases of Gen. Fremont, Secretary Cameron and General Hunter, we are afflicted at his vacillation of purpose, at the weakness of character which had been dogged by the clamor of a powerful faction into a surrender of his own deliberate judgment.
A second proclamation was wholly uncalled for, and even unauthorized by the confiscation act, except a proclamation of pardon and amnesty. Great as is the national humiliation at the descent of its chief magistrate to such an artifice, it is not easy to resist the conclusion that this proclamation was made for the sake of its political effect on the republican convention at Syracuse.
The reasons why the president attaches so much importance to the proceedings of this convention are perfectly intelligible, if we can once conceive the possibility of his resorting to such extraordinary means to gain its indorsement. When the republican state convention was held in Massachusetts a week or two since, that body withheld from Mr. Lincoln the customary resolution of confidence which a president expects from a state convention of his own party. This indignity from his party in the leading state of New England, coupled as it was, in his own mind, with the abuse of the republican press, and the secret meeting of New England governors for purposes supposed to be adverse to his administration, led him to fear that he might encounter a similar or worse indignity from the republican party of the great state of New York. The conservatives of this state are so strong that they would be certain to introduce a resolution of hearty indorsement and insist on its passage. The radicals under the lead of Mr. Greeley would have opposed it with great vigor. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward would have been bitterly assailed in a debate spicy and excited enough to be universally read. Probably neither of them cared to sit for their portraits to such limners in the presence of the whole country. The proclamation was accordingly issued on the 22d, in season to ward off these criticisms and secure the hearty support of the radicals to a resolution of indorsement. Mr. Seward gave in; but Mr. Blair, who has no personal interest in New York politics, continued to oppose such a proclamation to the last.
The haste with which the draft of the proclamation was prepared to serve a political emergency, did not allow a mature consideration of its bearings. It is a crude and vulnerable document, incongruous with itself and with the act of congress in which it purports to be founded. We must postpone a full exposure of its logical absurdities to a more convenient opportunity.