Abraham Lincoln to John C. Fremont, Wednesday, September 11, 1861

Lincoln letter to Fremont 1.gif


Abraham Lincoln to John C. Fremont, Wednesday, September 11, 1861


This private letter was sent from President Lincoln to Major-General Fremont after Fremont has proclaimed all slaves in Mississippi free.


This document show's President Lincoln's aversion to directly using martial law to justify freeing slaves. It also allows a glimpse into the steps President Lincoln thought necessary for the later Emancipation Proclamation to succeed.


President Abraham Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.


September 11, 1861


Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois.


Rights held by Library of Congress.


Letter and transcribed document.




Washington, D. C. Sep. 11. 1861.


Yours of the 8th in answer to mine of 2nd Inst. is just received.2 Assuming that you, upon the ground, could better judge of the necessities of your position than I could at this distance, on seeing your proclamation of August 30th I saw perceived no general objection to it--

The particular clause, however, in relation to the confiscation of property and the liberation of slaves, appeared to me to be objectionable, in it's non-conformity to the Act of Congress passed the 6th of last August upon the same subjects; and hence I wrote you expressing my wish that that clause should be modified accordingly-- Your answer, just received, expresses the preference on your part, that I should make an open order for the modification, which I very cheerfully do-- It is therefore ordered that the said clause of said proclamation mentioned be so modified, held, and construed, as to conform to, and not to transcend, the provisions on the same subject contained in the Act of Congress entitled "An Act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes" Approved, August 6. 1861;3 and that said act be published at length with this order--

Your Obt. Servt

A. Lincoln

[Note 1 On September 2 Lincoln requested that Gen. Fremont modify the portion of his August 30 proclamation that would free the slaves of Confederates in Missouri. In his response Fremont allowed that he had written his proclamation "without advice or consultation from anyone," and asked Lincoln to openly direct him to correct that portion of his proclamation that Lincoln found problematic. "If I were to retract of my own accord," he wrote, "it would imply that I myself thought it wrong." Lincoln therefore so directs Fremont in this letter, which was widely published in newspapers. See Lincoln to Fremont, September 2, 1861, Fremont to Lincoln, September 8, 1861.]

[Note 2 Fremont's letter to which Lincoln is responding had been hand-carried to Washington by Mrs. Fremont, the former Jessie Benton, the daughter of Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. Lincoln and Mrs. Fremont met at the White House late at night on September 10.]

[Note 3 This act of Congress provided for the freeing of slaves only if they were "employed in hostile service against the Government."]

Original Format