As we have seen, Fremont took the bold step of declaring the slaves of secessionists free. This was more than Lincoln could tolerate. At this early stage in the war, Lincoln could not risk fueling widespread Southern claims that the Union intended to abolish slavery. He felt it would cost him the slaveowning border states. He had to keep Kentucky, so he ordered Fremont to take back the emancipation clause.
Would Lincoln eventually change his mind about freeing the slaves? Stay tuned.
Lincoln’s letter to Fremont:
Washington, D.C. Sep. 11, 1861
Major General John C. Fremont,
Yours of the 8th in answer to mine of 2nd Inst. is just received. 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
sawperceived 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 [sic] 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; and that said act be published at length with this order –
Your obt. Sevt.