Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

Lincoln's Vow

The war which was to have been over in ninety days was still dragging on. When it began, Lincoln had no intention to interfere with slavery in the states where it already existed. Even later on, in writing to the great newspaper editor, Horace Greeley, he said: "My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

But, little by little, Lincoln saw that slavery was the real cause of the war, and that if it were not for the negroes, the Southerners who were on the battle field would soon be forced to surrender from lack of food. He also knew that most people in the North wished him to abolish slavery. They made this plain in countless ways, and hosts of Union soldiers tramped for miles to the tune of

"John Brown's body lies a-moldring in the grave;

His soul goes marching on!"

because they felt they were carrying out the good work Brown had so unwisely begun.

There was, besides, another question: France had promised to recognize the independence of the Confederates if Great Britain did; and just at this time it seemed as if the British, who needed cotton, might yet do so. The Southerners fully expected it, and openly boasted that "cotton is king." But, on the other hand, while Great Britain might side with the Confederates as long as the war was only against secession, she could not do so if the war was also against slavery, because her people were opposed to slavery, which was no longer allowed in any of her colonies.

In the very beginning of the war, Generals Fremont and Halleck both made proclamations freeing the slaves in the districts where they were stationed. But Lincoln knew that the right moment had not yet come, and therefore bade them free only the slaves they seized as contraband. As it now seemed to Lincoln that the right time had come, he made a vow that as soon as the Union won a victory he would make a proclamation emancipating, or setting free, all the slaves in the rebel states. Therefore, five days after the battle of Antietam, on September 22, 1862, President Lincoln announced that he would declare the slaves in the Confederate States free, if their owners did not lay down their arms and obey the Union by January 1, 1863. At that date, he issued another proclamation, setting those slaves free. This famous state paper was written entirely by Lincoln, who signed it on New Year's Day, after shaking hands with the many guests who came to wish him a happy New Year.

No slaves were freed, at that time, in the states or parts of states that were in the hands of the Union forces; but later on Congress proposed that a thirteenth Amendment be added to the Constitution, forbidding slavery in the United States forever. The necessary number of states finally accepted this amendment, which went into force in 1865.

The Confederate States paid no attention at all to the Emancipation Proclamation, so the negroes dared claim their freedom only when the Union troops were near enough to protect them. Besides, the greater part of the colored people could not read, and did not even know they had been declared free until told the joyful news by Northern soldiers.

The first regiment of colored freemen had already been formed, however, and the proclamation was read aloud to them, too, very near the place where some of the South Carolinians had drawn up a law saying the negroes should be slaves forever. Although many people had predicted that negroes never could be trained to fight properly, they covered themselves with glory when the time came. Indeed, colored people bravely helped Union soldiers whenever they could, often risking their own lives to do so, and one of the most heroic deeds in all the war was done by a negro boy, at Fort Wagner, in 1863. This lad fell in a gallant attempt to climb the wall. Seeing one of the officers hesitate because he could not get up without hurting him, the poor boy bravely said: "I'm done gone, massa! Step on me and you can scale the wall!"