Friday, November 16, 2007

"I am not at Liberty to Shift my Ground"

Lincoln Seated, 1861

The advice kept on coming. Well-meaning individuals wanted the president-elect to issue some sort of a statement to the South. The editor of the Missouri Republican begged Lincoln to gather some of his speeches together and have them published in the New York Tribune and the Chicago Tribune. He hoped the speeches would “put you fairly before the country on the points at issue between the North and South.”

Lincoln wrote the editor and explained why he could not follow his advice:

Private & Confidential.

Springfield Nov 16th 1860.

My dear Sir

Mr. Ridgely showed me a letter of yours in which you manifest some anxiety that I should make some public declaration with a view to favorbably affect the business of the country. I said to Mr. Ridgely I would write you to-day, which I now do.

I could say nothing which I have not already said, and which is in print and accessible to the public. Please pardon me for suggesting that if the papers, like yours, which heretofore have persistently garbled, and misrepresented what I have said, will now fully and fairly place it before their readers, there can be no further misunderstanding. I beg you to believe me sincere when I declare I do not say this in a spirit of complaint or resentment; but that I urge it as the true cure for any real uneasiness in the country that my course may be other than conservative. The Republican newspapers now, and for some time past, are and have been republishing copious extracts from my many published speeches, which would at once reach the whole public if your class of papers would also publish them.

I am not at liberty to shift my ground -- that is out of the question. If I thought a repetition would do any good I would make it. But my judgment is it would do positive harm. The secessionists, per se believing they had alarmed me, would clamor all the louder

Yours &c

A. Lincoln.

The next day, Lincoln reiterated his position to Illinois politician Gustave Koerner, saying he would not take any “position towards the South which might be considered a sort of apology for his election.”

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