Washington, August 22, 1862.
Hon. HORACE GREELEY:
Dear Sir: I have 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 doubt.
I would 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.
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 every where could be free. Yours,
SOURCE: Roy P. Basler, Editor, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5, p. 388-9; See also: The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, Series 2. General Correspondence 1858-1864, Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley, Friday, August 22, 1862 which is incorrectly identified as a clipping from the Aug. 23, 1862 issue of the New York Tribune. Greeley did not print Lincoln’s response until it appeared under the heading, “President Lincoln’s Letter,” in the New York Daily Tribune, Monday, August 25, 1862, p. 4. The clipping in the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, titled "A Letter From The President," is actually from The National Intelligencer, Washington, D. C., Saturday, August 23, 1862, p. 3.