Fred Douglass' Interview with the President.
Fred Douglass delivered a lecture on Wednesday evening, before the "Woman's Loyal League," at the Cooper Institute, New York, in the course of which he did not like the Proclamation of Mr. Lincoln, because it said to take the slaves from the traitors in the South, but to leave them with loyal men. He did not like that. He had tried to impress it on the President, but it did no good. He hardly believed the President, though, for he knew him too well — he had been to see him. [Cheers and laughter.] It was no Greek meeting Greek when they met — [more laughter] — but is was a rail splitter meeting a nigger. [Boisterous laughter.] Probably some of them would like to know how the "black man was received at the White House?" He received me, continued the speaker, for all the world just as you see one gentleman receive another — [shouts of laughter] — with the hand and the voice of welcome; not too cordially, nor too coldly, but just the right thing; and I made myself quite at home in his presence. One thing I told him then, which I now tell to you; and that was, that if I were called upon to point out the most discouraging feature of the present situation, it would not be any of the distress experienced by flood and field, by our forces, but it would be the tardiness and hesitation and vacillation of the President of the United States. Mr. Lincoln did not, of course, admit that this came from me, but went on at once to defend himself from the charges brought — and there was one charge he did not defend himself from at all. He admitted that he was slow, but would not allow it to be understood that he was vacillating. "I don't think that charge can be sustained, Mr. Douglass." — Think of the President of the United States addressing a black man as Mr. Douglass. — [Laughter.] He moved his hands back and forth as he said "vacillation," and says he, "I don't think that can be sustained, sir." [Laughter.] Says he, "When I take a position I think no man can say I ever retreat." [Cheers.] But this warm heart and high feelings, the speaker continued to say, did not control Mr. Lincoln's utterances. It was policy, policy, prudence, prudence, with him. So it was we were trying to crush every noble utterance, but doing from necessity what we knew in our heart of hearts to be a great virtue, and as such was demanded to be done.