Harper's Weekly 05/31/1862


The following proclamation by the President of the
United States is published:

Whereas, there appears in the public prints what pur-
ports to be a proclamation of Major-General Hunter, in
the words and figures following, to wit:


Head-quarters, Department of the South,
Hilton Head, S. C. May 9, 1862.

The three States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina,
comprising the Military Department of the South, having
deliberately declared themselves no longer under the pro-
tection of the United States of America, and having taken
up arms against the said United States, it becomes a mil-
itary necessity to declare them under martial law. This
was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862.
Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether
incompatible. The persons in these three States—Geor-
gia, South Carolina, and Florida—heretofore held as
slaves, are therefore declared forever free.

David Hunter, Major-General Commanding.

Ed. W. Smith, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

And whereas, the same is producing some excitement
and misunderstanding,

Therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United
States, proclaim and declare that the Government of the
United States had no knowledge or belief of an intention
on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclama-
tion, nor has it yet any authentic information that the doc-
ument is genuine; and, further, that neither General
Hunter nor any other commander or person has been au-
thorized by the Government of the United States to make
proclamation declaring the slaves of any State free, and
that the supposed proclamation now in question, whether
genuine or false, is altogether void so far as respects such

I further make known, that whether it be competent for
me, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, to de-
clare the slaves of any State or States free, and whether at
any time, or in any case, it shall have become a necessity
indispensable to the maintenance of the Government to
exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under
my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I can
not feel justified in leaving to the decision of commanders
in the field. These are totally different questions from
those of police regulations in armies and camps.

On the 6th day of March last, by a special message, I
recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint resolu-
tion, to be substantially as follows:

Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate
with any State which may adopt a gradual abolishment
of slavery, giving to such State, in its discretion, compen-
sation for the inconveniences, public and private, produced
by such change of system.

The resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopt-
ed by large majorities in both branches of Congress, and
now stands an authentic, definite, and solemn proposal of
the nation to the States and people most immediately in-
terested in the subject-matter. To the people of these
States I now earnestly appeal. I do not argue. I be-
seech you to make the arguments for yourselves. You can
not, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg
of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging,
if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This
proposal makes common cause for a common object, cast-
ing no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The
change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of
heaven, not rending or wrecking any thing. Will you
not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one
effort in all past times as in the Providence of God it is
now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not
have to lament that you have neglected it.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and
caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 19th day of May, in
the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and
sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United
States the eighty-sixth.

Abraham Lincoln.
By the President—Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State.

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