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Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress, Words and Deeds in American History Collection Alternate: The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the cabinet

[Detail] The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation

Historical Comprehension: Abraham Lincoln to Albert G. Hodges

On March 26, 1864, three men from Kentucky met with Lincoln to discuss issues impacting the border states, especially the service of African Americans in the military. Lincoln's visitors were Governor Thomas Bramlette, former Senator Archibald Dixon, and Albert G. Hodges, the editor of the Frankfort Commonwealth. Upon leaving, Hodges asked Lincoln for a written statement of the ideas he'd shared with them. In a letter written on April 4th, Lincoln complied with Hodges' request, reiterating his personal opposition to slavery and his feeling of presidential duty to uphold the Constitution, which prohibited him from taking a stand "on the moral question of slavery."

Examine Lincoln's explanation and identify his major arguments.

  • What points was Lincoln making by using the analogy of amputating a limb to save a life?
  • According to Lincoln, would the nation have had the manpower necessary to win the war without the Emancipation Proclamation and the enlistment of African-American soldiers and sailors?
  • Why did Lincoln believe that the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, did not violate his sacred oath to uphold the Constitution?
  • What did Lincoln mean when he wrote, "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me?"