The President's Proclamation and His Greeley Letter.
The Illinois Journal attempts to convict us of inconsistency, in relation to the proclamation of President Lincoln. The paltry pettifogging of the Journal may satisfy the editors, and such of its readers as receive its assertions as political gospel, without examination. We repeatedly sought the opinion of that paper in relation to Greeley's letter and Mr. Lincoln's reply, but up to the date of the proclamation "mum" was the word. With the class whose opinions are formed or expressed only in accordance with, and at the dictation of, the powers that be, we have no sympathy. The Journal editors, afraid to express an opinion as independent editors, chose to wait until they could see which way the wind blew, and then, assuming that the president of the United States had condescended to a trick of so wording his letter to Greeley that he could fall on either side, conservative or radical, as occasion might require, denounce all who do not agree with them in their new theory that the constitution is a thing of the past & only waste paper, to be trampled upon, despised, rejected as may suit the whims, caprice, or interests of abolitionists?
Our position has always been consistent. The president declared his "paramount object" in this struggle was to save the Union; and, moreover, save it under the constitution, and as if to remove all doubt, adopted the phrase so objectionable to the Tribune and Journal: "The Union as it was." This we endorsed & this the Tribunes assailed & and the Journal, being under the disagreeable necessity of carrying for Lincoln and his enemy, Trumbull, at the same time, neither approved nor opposed. In his letter to Greeley the president gives expression to his individual desires in relation to the freeing of slaves, but evidently intimates that those desires cannot be gratified consistently with the "paramount object," "to save the Union" & the "Union as it was;" "to save it under the constitution." If he could free them and save the Union he would, but as he had frequently before contended, he could not, he had made up his mind to adhere to the constitution, and let Greeley and the nigger go. The people throughout the country so understood the president, and rejoiced at what they supposed was a declaration that he had determined not to yield to the abolition pressure. Mr. Lincoln's letter can be read in no other way than the expression of his deliberate, settled conviction that no emancipation with his desire to save the Union and maintain the constitution. So the Journal understood him, and therefore was silent, as to the meaning of the Greeley letter, until to-day. What the president's opinion was is manifest from the following from his inaugural:
"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
And by the unanimous resolution of the house of representatives in congress:
"Resolved, That neither congress, nor the people, nor the governments of the non-slaveholding states, have the right to legislate upon or interfere with slavery in any of the slaveholding states of the Union."
In view of such representations, and the further belief in the sincerity of Mr. Lincoln, his declaration, to uphold the constitution, and his further implied if not expressed assertion that the policy recommended by Greeley would destroy the Union and subvert the constitution, met our approval, and we fully concurred that all should unite in aiding him to resist the pressure of the abolitionists to induce him to violate the constitution.
Any other view of the president's letter, as explained by his inaugural, the resolution of congress, and his own reasons given but nine days previous to its issue, why the proclamation would be unjust, impolitic and ill-timed, would involve a charge of hypocrisy. We believe Mr. Lincoln has been forced to his present position by the "pressure" of the abolitionists, who continue to press him for the adoption of further unwise, impolitic and suicidal measures.
The Journal will find that our articles, and the resolutions of the democratic convention are all consistent. There is no conflict between them. Will the Journal answer these two questions:
Does the proclamation of the president, by its own force, without an act of congress, emancipate the slaves?
Has the president of the United States, "under the constitution," the power to emancipate the slaves in a rebellious state.