To John C. Fremont

Private and confidential. Major General Fremont: Washington D.C. Sept. 2, 1861.

My dear Sir: Two points in your proclamation of August 30th give me some anxiety. First,[1] should you shoot a man, according to the proclamation, the Confederates would very certainly shoot our best man in their hands in retaliation; and so, man for man, indefinitely. It is therefore my order that you allow no man to be shot, under the proclamation, without first having my approbation or consent.

Secondly,[2] I think there is great danger that the closing paragraph, in relation to the confiscation of property, and the liberating slaves of traiterous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends, and turn them against us—perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me therefore to ask, that you will as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections of the act of Congress, entitled, “An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,” approved August, 6th, 1861, and a copy of which act I herewith send you. This letter is written in a spirit of caution and not of censure.

I send it by a special messenger, in order that it may certainly and speedily reach you. Yours very truly A. LINCOLN


Copy of letter sent to Gen. Fremont, by special messenger leaving Washington Sep. 3. 1861.

[1]   Fremont’s reply of September 8, in regard to this point was as follows: “I do not think the enemy can either misconstrue it, or urge any thing against it, or undertake . . . unusual retaliation. . . . The article does not at all refer to ordinary prisoners of war. . . . I have to ask that you will permit me to carry out upon the spot the provisions of the proclamation in this respect. . . . ”. The language of Fremont’s proclamation, however, was: “All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by courtmartial, and if found guilty will be shot.”.

[3]   Fremont’s reply of September 8, in regard to this point was, “If . . . your better judgement still decides that I am wrong in the article respecting the liberation of slaves, I have to ask that you will openly direct me to make the correction. . . . I acted with full deliberation and . . . the conviction that it was . . . right and necessary. I still think so.”.


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