A Proclamation — By the President of the United States.
WASHINGTON, May 19, 1862.
WHEREAS, there appears in the public prints what purports to be a proclamation of Major General Hunter; and, whereas, the same is producing some excitement and misunderstanding,
Therefore, I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States, proclaim and declare that the Government of the United States had no knowledge or belief of an intention on the part of Gen. Hunter to issue such a proclamation, nor has it yet any authentic information that the document is genuine; and further, that General Hunter nor any other commander or person has been authorized by the Government of the U. S. to make proclamation declaring the slaves of any State free, and that the supposed proclamation now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void so far as respects such declaration.
I further make known that, whether it be competent for me as Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy to declare the slaves of any State or States free, and whether at any time or in any case it shall have become a necessity and indispensable to the maintenance of the Government, to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I cannot feel justified in leaving to commanders in the field. These are totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies and camps.
On the 6th day of March last, by a special message, I recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolution, and be substantially as follows:
Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such States in its discretion to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
The resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large majorities in both branches of Congress and now stands an authentic, definite and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and people most interested in the subject matter.
To the people of these States I now earnestly appeal. I do not argue. I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves. You cannot be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and party politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dew of Heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time as, in the providence of God, it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to meant that you have neglected it.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 19th day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.
[Signed] ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
By the President:
[Signed] WM. H. SEWARD.