Horace Greely: Executive Mansion,
Dear Sir Washington, August 22, 1862.
just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune.
If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to
be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any
inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here,
argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial
tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always
supposed to be right.
As to the
policy I “seem to be pursuing” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in
save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The
sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be
``the Union as it was.''  If there be those who would not save
the Union, unless they could at the same time save
slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the
Union unless they could at the same time destroy
slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not
either to save or to 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
save 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 I believe it helps to save
the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not
believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less
whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the
cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt
new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
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 every where could be free.
 ALS, Wadsworth
Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Greeley's communication of August 19, printed
in the Tribune of August 20, 1862, under the
headline ``The Prayer of Twenty Millions,'' expressed disappointment with ``the
policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of Rebels. . . . I. We
require of you . . . that you EXECUTE THE LAWS. . . . II. We think you are
strangely and disastrously remiss . . . with regard to the emancipating
provisions of the new Confiscation Act. . . . III. We think you are unduly
influenced by the counsels . . . of certain fossil politicians hailing from the
Border Slave States. . . . IV. We think timid counsels in such a crisis
calculated to prove perilous. . . . V. We complain that the Union cause has
suffered . . . from mistaken deference to Rebel Slavery. . . . VI. We complain
that the Confiscation Act which you approved is habitually disregarded by your
Generals. . . . VII. Let me call your attention to the recent tragedy in
New-Orleans. . . . A considerable body of . . . men, held in Slavery by two
Rebel sugar-planters . . . made their way to the great mart of the South-West,
which they knew to be in the undisputed possession of the Union forces. . . .
They came to us for liberty and protection. . . . They were set upon and
maimed, captured and killed, because they sought the benefit of that act of
Congress. . . . VIII. On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is
not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who
does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion and at the same time
uphold its inciting cause are preposterous and futile. . . . IX. I close as I
began with the statement that what an immense majority of the Loyal Millions of
your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging
execution of the laws of the land. . . .''
Greeley printed Lincoln's letter in the Tribune on August 25 and followed with a lengthy response,
of which the following provides the core: ``I never doubted . . . that you
desire, before and above all else, to re-establish the now derided authority .
. . of the Republic. I intended to raise only this question---Do you propose to do this by recognizing, obeying, and enforcing
the laws, or by ignoring, disregarding, and in effect denying them?''
 At this point Lincoln crossed out the
following sentence: ``Broken eggs can never be mended, and the longer the
breaking proceeds the more will be broken.''
Source: Basler, Collected Works, Vol. V, pp.
388-389. [Downloaded 4/26/2015 from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/.]