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Civil War Trust

William Seward to Charles Francis Adams on the Emancipation Proclamation

September 22nd, 1862
William H. Seward

The following is a letter from Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, to Charles Francis Adams, Ambassador to England and in effect, the leader of the whole American diplomatic corps.  Within the letter, Seward explains Lincoln’s rationale for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which was put into effect on January 1, 1863.


DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 1862.

To the Diplomatic and Consular Officers of the United States in foreign countries:

GENTLEMEN: You will receive by the post which conveys this dispatch evidences that the aggressive movements of the insurgents against the loyal States is arrested, and that the renewed and reinvigorated forces of the Union are again prepared for a new and comprehensive campaign. If you consult the public journals you will easily learn that the financial strength of the insurrection is rapidly declining, and that its ability to bring soldiers into the field has been already taxed to its utmost. You will perceive, on the other hand, that the fiscal condition of the country is sound, and that the response to the calls for new levies is being made promptly, without drawing seriously upon the physical strength of the people.

I have heretofore indicated to our representatives abroad the approach of a change in the organization of society in the insurrectionary States. That change continues to reveal itself more distinctly every day. In the judgment of the President the time has come for setting forth the great fact distinctly for the serious consideration of the people in those States, and for giving them to understand that if they will persist in forcing upon the country a choice between the dissolution of this necessary and beneficent Government, or a relinquishment of the protection of Slavery, it is the Union, and not Slavery, that must be maintained and preserved. With this view, the President has issued a Proclamation, in which he gives notice that Slavery will be no longer recognized in any State which shall be found in armed rebellion on the first of January next. While good and wise men of all nations will confess that this is just and proper as a military proceeding for the relief of the country from a desoluting and exhausting civil war, they will, at the same time, acknowledge the moderation and magnanimity with which the Government proceeds in a transaction of such great solemnity and importance.

I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

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