Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Lincoln Versus Horace Greeley

What did Horace Greeley say to Lincoln on the subject of emancipation?

Horace Greeley (1811–1872) was the influential editor of the New York Tribune and one of the best-known men in the nation. Like Lincoln, he came from humble, almost hard-scrabble conditions, and had risen through merit to become a person of much consequence. In the summer of 1862, Greeley wrote an open letter to Lincoln and printed it in his paper. The letter was entitled “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.”

Without declaring that Lincoln should immediately emancipate all the slaves, Horace Greeley asserted that the president had not done enough for the cause of the nation: white and black combined. He was, Greeley declared, fighting the war on a limited basis, and allowing the Confederates to think that all would someday be well: that the North and the South would be reconciled. To that end, Lincoln and his army men had gone too softly on the Southern slaveholders. “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, more especially of the Confiscation Act. This act gives freedom to the slaves of rebels coming within our lines.”

Horace Greeley, the founding editor of the New York Tribune as well as founder of the Liberal Republican Party, was a critic of Lincoln, saying that, in essence, the president was being too soft on the South.


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