Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Diary of John Hay: September 23, 1862

The President wrote the Proclamation on Sunday morning carefully. He called the Cabinet together on Monday, Sept. 22, made a little talk to them, and read the momentous document. Mr. Blair and Mr. Bates made objections; otherwise the Cabinet was unanimous. The next day Mr. Blair, who had promised to file his objections, sent a note stating that, as his objections were only to the time of the act, he would not file them lest they should be subject to misconstruction.

I told the President of the serenade that was coming, and asked if he would make any remarks. He said, no; but he did say half a dozen words, and said them with great grace and dignity. I spoke to him about the editorials in the leading papers. He said he had studied the matter so long that he knew more about it than they did.

At Gov. Chase’s there was some talking after the serenade. Chase and Clay made speeches, and the crowd was in a glorious humor. After the crowd went away, to force Mr. Bates to say something, a few old fogies staid at the Governor's, and drank wine. Chase spoke earnestly of the Proclamation. He said: — “This was a most wonderful history of an insanity of a class that the world had ever seen. If the slaveholders had staid in the Union, they might have kept the life in their institution for many years to come. That what no party and no public feeling in the North could ever have hoped to touch, they had madly placed in the very path of destruction.” They all seemed to feel a sort of new and exhilarated life; they breathed freer; the President's Proclamation had freed them as well as the slaves. They gleefully and merrily called each other and themselves abolitionists, and seemed to enjoy the novel accusation of appropriating that horrible name.

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 66-7; Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War: in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 50.

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