On June 19, , endorsed by Lincoln, Congress passed an act banning slavery on all federal territory. In July, the Confiscation Act of was enacted, which set up court procedures to free the slaves of those convicted of aiding the rebellion.
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Although Lincoln believed this was not within Congress's power, he approved the bill in deference to the legislature. He felt such action could be taken only by the Commander-in-Chief, using Constitutional war powers, which he planned to do. Lincoln discussed a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet. Privately, Lincoln concluded that the Confederacy's slave base had to be eliminated. However, Copperheads argued that emancipation was a stumbling block to peace and reunification. Although he said he personally wished all men could be free, Lincoln stated that the primary goal of his actions as president he used the first person pronoun and explicitly refers to his "official duty" was that of preserving the Union:  : — My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union The Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22, , with effect on January 1, , declared free the slaves in 10 states not then under Union control, with exemptions specified for areas under Union control in two states.
Once the abolition of slavery in the rebel states became a military objective, Union armies advancing south liberated three million slaves. Lincoln's comment on the signing of the Proclamation was: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper. He supported this in the Proclamation, but the undertaking failed. Enlisting former slaves became official policy. By the spring of , Lincoln was ready to recruit black troops in more than token numbers.
In a letter to Tennessee military governor Andrew Johnson encouraging him to lead the way in raising black troops, Lincoln wrote, "The bare sight of 50, armed and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi would end the rebellion at once". Lincoln spoke at the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery on November 19, In words, and three minutes, Lincoln asserted that the nation was born not in , but in , "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". He defined the war as dedicated to the principles of liberty and equality for all.
He declared that the deaths of so many brave soldiers would not be in vain, that slavery would end, and the future of democracy would be assured, that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth". Grant's victories at the Battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign impressed Lincoln. Responding to criticism of Grant after Shiloh , Lincoln had said, "I can't spare this man.
He fights. Meade's failure to capture Lee's army after Gettysburg and the continued passivity of the Army of the Potomac persuaded Lincoln to promote Grant to supreme commander. Grant stayed with Meade's army and told Meade what to do. Lincoln was concerned that Grant might be considering a presidential candidacy in , as was McClellan. Lincoln arranged for an intermediary to inquire into Grant's political intentions. Assured that he had none, Lincoln submitted Grant's appointment to the Senate. He obtained Congress's consent to make him Lieutenant General, a rank that had remained unoccupied since George Washington.
Grant waged his bloody Overland Campaign in , with heavy losses on both sides. Grant's army moved steadily south. Lincoln authorized Grant to target infrastructure—plantations, railroads, and bridges—hoping to destroy the South's morale and weaken its fighting ability. Lincoln emphasized defeat of the Confederate armies rather than destruction which was considerable for its own sake.
As Grant continued to attrit Lee's forces, efforts to discuss peace began. Lincoln refused to allow any negotiation with the Confederacy as a coequal; his sole objective was an agreement to end the fighting and the meetings produced no results.
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The Confederate government evacuated and the city fell. Lincoln visited the conquered capital. On April 9, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox officially ending the war. Lincoln ran again in Stanton and Andrew Johnson. Lincoln used conversation and his patronage powers—greatly expanded from peacetime—to build support and fend off the Radicals' efforts to replace him. To broaden his coalition to include War Democrats as well as Republicans, Lincoln ran under the label of the new Union Party.
Grant's bloody stalemates damaged Lincoln's re-election prospects, and many Republicans feared defeat. Lincoln confidentially pledged in writing that if he should lose the election, he would still defeat the Confederacy before turning over the White House:  : 80 Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed envelope. While the Democratic platform followed the "Peace wing" of the party and called the war a "failure", their candidate, McClellan, supported the war and repudiated the platform. Lincoln provided Grant with more troops and led his party to renew its support for Grant.
The National Union Party was united by Lincoln's support for emancipation. State Republican parties stressed the perfidy of the Copperheads. On March 4, , Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. In it, he deemed the endless casualties to be God's will. Historian Mark Noll claims this speech to rank "among the small handful of semi-sacred texts by which Americans conceive their place in the world". Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
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Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3, years ago, so still it must be said, "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether". With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Reconstruction began during the war, as Lincoln and his associates considered how to reintegrate the nation, and the fates of Confederate leaders and freed slaves.
Shortly after Lee's surrender, a general asked Lincoln how to treat defeated Confederates. Lincoln replied, "Let 'em up easy. His main goal was to keep the union together. He planned to go forward not by focusing on who to blame, but on how to rebuild the nation as one. Thaddeus Stevens , Sen. Charles Sumner and Sen. Benjamin Wade , who otherwise remained Lincoln's allies. Determined to reunite the nation and not alienate the South, Lincoln urged that speedy elections under generous terms be held.
His Amnesty Proclamation of December 8, , offered pardons to those who had not held a Confederate civil office, had not mistreated Union prisoners, and would sign an oath of allegiance. As Southern states fell, they needed leaders while their administrations re-formed. Banks to promote a plan that would restore statehood when 10 percent of the voters agreed. Democratic opponents accused Lincoln of using the military to ensure his and the Republicans' political aspirations. The Radicals denounced his policy as too lenient, and passed their own plan, the Wade—Davis Bill , in , which Lincoln vetoed.
The Radicals retaliated by refusing to seat elected representatives from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
Lincoln's appointments were designed to harness both moderates and Radicals. Chase , who Lincoln believed would uphold his emancipation and paper money policies. After implementing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln increased pressure on Congress to outlaw slavery throughout the nation with a constitutional amendment. He declared that such an amendment would "clinch the whole matter". This first attempt failed, falling short of the required two-thirds majority on June 15, , in the House of Representatives.
After a House debate, the second attempt passed on January 31, Lincoln believed the federal government had limited responsibility to the millions of freedmen. He signed Senator Charles Sumner's Freedmen's Bureau bill that set up a temporary federal agency designed to meet the immediate needs of former slaves. The law opened land for a lease of three years with the ability to purchase title for the freedmen. Lincoln announced a Reconstruction plan that involved short-term military control, pending readmission under the control of southern Unionists. Historians agree that it is impossible to predict exactly how Reconstruction would have proceeded had Lincoln lived.
Biographers James G. Randall and Richard Current , according to David Lincove, argue that: .
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It is likely that had he lived, Lincoln would have followed a policy similar to Johnson's, that he would have clashed with congressional Radicals, that he would have produced a better result for the freedmen than occurred, and that his political skills would have helped him avoid Johnson's mistakes. Eric Foner argues that: . Unlike Sumner and other Radicals, Lincoln did not see Reconstruction as an opportunity for a sweeping political and social revolution beyond emancipation.
He had long made clear his opposition to the confiscation and redistribution of land. He believed, as most Republicans did in April , that the voting requirements should be determined by the states. He assumed that political control in the South would pass to white Unionists, reluctant secessionists, and forward-looking former Confederates. But time and again during the war, Lincoln, after initial opposition, had come to embrace positions first advanced by abolitionists and Radical Republicans.
Lincoln undoubtedly would have listened carefully to the outcry for further protection for the former slaves It is entirely plausible to imagine Lincoln and Congress agreeing on a Reconstruction policy that encompassed federal protection for basic civil rights plus limited black suffrage, along the lines Lincoln proposed just before his death. Lincoln adhered to the Whig theory of the presidency, giving Congress primary responsibility for lawmaking while the Executive enforced them. Lincoln vetoed only four bills; the only important one was the Wade-Davis Bill with its harsh Reconstruction program.
The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act provided government grants for agricultural colleges in each state. The Pacific Railway Acts of and granted federal support for the construction of the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad , which was completed in In July , the US issued paper currency for the first time. The currency became known greenbacks , because it was printed in green on the reverse side. Other important legislation involved two measures to raise revenues for the Federal government: tariffs a policy with long precedent , and a Federal income tax.
In , Lincoln signed the second and third Morrill Tariff s, following the first enacted by Buchanan. Also in , Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of , creating the first U. The Revenue Act of adopted rates that increased with income. Lincoln presided over the expansion of the federal government's economic influence in other areas.