CHAPTER XII. THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION
"If there be those who would not save the Union unless they
could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree
"My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to
save or to destroy slavery."
Here seemed to be specific denial of raising a moral issue; yet unknown to the public at the moment there had already been drafted and discussed in Cabinet the emancipation proclamation. Greeley had presented abolitionist demands essential to cement the North. A month later, September 13, a delegation of Chicago clergymen came to Washington, had an audience with Lincoln, presented similar arguments, but also laid stress on the necessity of securing the sympathy of Europe. This was but nine days before the first proclamation was issued, but Lincoln replied much as to Greeley, though he stated, "I will also concede that Emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition." Immediately after the event, September 24, making a short speech to a serenading party, Lincoln said, "I can only trust in God I have made no mistake.... It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment and, maybe, take action upon it." Over a year later, December 8, 1863, in his annual message to Congress, he noted a "much improved" tone in foreign countries as resulting from the emancipation proclamation, but dwelt mainly on the beneficial effects at home.
Evidently there is slight ground for believing Lincoln to have been convinced that foreign relations would be improved by the proclamation. On the contrary, if he trusted Seward's judgment he may have fearedthe effect on Europe, for such was Seward's prophecy. Here may have lain the true meaning of Lincoln's speech of September 24 - that it was now for "the world to pass judgment and, maybe, take action upon it." After all foreign policy, though its main lines were subject to the President's control, was in the hands of Seward and throughout this entire period of six months since the introduction of the Confiscation Bill up to Lincoln's presentation of his draft proclamation to the Cabinet in July, Seward had been using the threat of a servile insurrection as a deterrent upon French-British talk of intervention. At times Seward connected servile insurrection with emancipation - at times not.
Seward had begun his career as Secretary of State with an appeal to Europe on lines of old friendship and had implied, though he could not state explicitly, the "noble" cause of the North. He had been met with what he considered a "cold" and premature as well as unjustifiable declaration of neutrality. From the first day of the conflict Lyons and Mercier had been constant in representing the hardships inflicted by the American war upon the economic interests of their respective countries. Both men bore down upon the interruption of the cotton trade and Seward kept repeating that Northern victories would soon release the raw cotton. He expected and promised much from the capture of New Orleans, but the results were disappointing. As time went on Seward became convinced that material interests alone would determine the attitude and action of Great Britain and France. But the stored supplies were on hand in the South, locked in by the blockade and would be available when the war was over provided the war did not take on an uncivilized and sanguinary character through a rising of the slaves. If that occurred cotton would be burned and destroyed and cotton supply to Europe would be not merely a matter of temporary interruption, but one of long-continued dearth with no certainty of early resumption. Fearing the growth in England, especially, of an intention to intervene, Seward threatened a Northern appeal to the slaves, thinking of the threat not so much in terms of an uncivilized and horrible war as in terms of the material interests of Great Britain. In brief, considering foreign attitude and action in its relation to Northern advantage - to the winning of the war - he would use emancipation as a threat of servile insurrection, but did not desire emancipation itself for fear it would cause that very intervention which it was his object to prevent.
His instructions are wholly in line with this policy. In February, 1862, the Confiscation Bill had been introduced in Congress. In April, Mercier's trip to Richmond had caused much speculation and started many rumours in London of plans of mediation. On May 28, Seward wrote to Adams at great length and especially emphasized two points: first that while diplomats abroad had hitherto been interdicted from discussing slavery as an issue in the war, they were now authorized to state that the war was, in part at least, intended for the suppression of slavery, and secondly, that the North if interfered with by foreign nations would be forced to have recourse to a servile war. Such a war, Seward argued, would be "completely destructive of all European interests...." A copy of this instruction Adams gave to Russell on June 20. Eight days later Adams told Cobden in reply to a query about mediation that it would result in a servile war. Evidently Adams perfectly understood Seward's policy.