Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kentucky and Fremont's Proclamation

On the Library of Congress American Memory website I ran across a letter from Robert Anderson (the hero of Fort Sumter and a Kentucky native) to President Abraham Lincoln expressing the sentiments of Kentuckians about General John Fremont's premature proclamation (Lincoln quickly rescinded it) that freed the slaves of secessionists in Missouri.

It is obvious after reading it that Anderson thought that Kentuckians believed if slaves were freed in the Unionist majority slave Border State of Missouri (even if they were only the slaves of supporters of the Confederacy) then it could happen to them too.

I feel it my duty to say that Major General Fremont's Proclamation, followed as it has been by the act of a military commission, manumitting slaves, is producing most disastrous results in this State, and that it is the opinion of many of our wisest and soundest men that if this is not immediately disavowed, and annulled, Kentucky will be lost to the Union. I have already heard that on the reception of the news from Missouri, this morning, a company which was ready to be sworn into the service was disbanded. Kentucky feels a direct interest in this matter, as a portion of General Fremont's force is now upon her soil.

Robert Anderson.

Louisville, Ky.

Sept. 13, 1861.

Anderson was not alone in his warnings for Lincoln in this issue. Lincoln's good friend Joshua Speed wanted to make sure Lincoln was fully apprised of the dire consequences Fremont's proclamation would have on Kentuckians; white owners and non-owners and African Americans too. This was a full year before Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which threw Kentuckians into a fury, even though that document excluded the Bluegrass state.

Louisville 3 Sept 1861.

Dear Lincoln

I have been so much distressed since reading, that (to us and to the union cause) that foolish proclamation of Fremont, that I have been unable to eat or sleep--

It will crush out every vestage of a union party in the state-- I perhaps & a few others will be left alone -- for I do not intend that the act of any military cheiftain or any administration to shall drive me from my fidelity to my government:

Think of its practical workings-- We have from 180 to 200000 slaves among us-- A military commander issues an edict which declares 20.000 of them free men-- I suppose that would be about the relative proportion which would be declared free They would not be slow to assert their claim-- It would be a necessity with our entire people to resist -- for the loyal slaveholder & the non slaveholder would all be alike interested in resistance. Cruelty & crime would run riot in the land & the poor negroes would be almost exterminated--

So fixed is public sentiment in this state against freeing negroes & allowing negroes to be emancipated & remain among us -- That you had as well attack the freedom of worship in the north or the right of a parent to teach his child to read -- as to wage war in a slave state on such a principle--

You will have about as much support in one case as in the other--

Think of this I implore you

Your friend

J. F. Speed

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