Is this a sign of strong character; of an upstanding, selfless human being, to, as President Abraham Lincoln did: be able to “distinguish between his “personal wish” and his “official duty”?

"In July, Congress passed a Confiscation Act, which enabled the freeing of slaves of those fighting the Union. But this was not enforced by the Union generals, and Lincoln ignored the non-enforcement."

“An exchange of letters between Lincoln and Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, in August of 1862, gave Lincoln a chance to express his views. Greeley wrote:

“Dear Sir. I do not intrude to tell you-for you must know already-that a great proportion of those who triumphed in your election ... are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of rebels,... We require of you, as the first servant of the Republic, charged especially and preeminently with this duty, that you EXECUTE THE LAWS. ... We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss . .. with regard to the emancipating provisions of the new Confiscation Act....

We think you are unduly influenced by the councils ... of certain politicians hailing from the Border Slave States.””

“Lincoln had already shown his attitude by his failure to countermand an order of one of his commanders, General Henry Halleck, who forbade fugitive Negroes to enter his army's lines. Now he replied to Greeley:

“Dear Sir: ... I have not meant to leave any one in doubt. .. . My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or 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 do 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 it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . .. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free. Yours. A. Lincoln.””

And as such, “... Lincoln distinguished between his "personal wish" and his "official duty."




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