Letter from Abraham Lincoln to his friend Illinois politician James C. Conkling on August 26, 1863 written from the Executive Mansion. This handwritten copy is one of three distributed among Lincoln’s supporters.
Writing in response to Conkling’s invitation to a mass meeting of the “Unconditional Union Men” of Illinois planned for September in Springfield, Lincoln declines the offer and asks Conkling to share his letter instead. The meeting came following months of attacks against Lincoln by Illinois Democrats who criticized the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1, 1863. A wartime measure, the controversial Proclamation freed enslaved Americans in the rebelling states and allowed African Americans to enlist in the United States military. Vocal denunciations across the South and among Copperheads led Lincoln’s Republican allies to come to his defense, including in his home state of Illinois where a mass meeting was planned to demonstrate support for his administration. In this seven page letter sent to Conkling, Lincoln analyzed his goals during War, explained his position on the issue of slavery, and defended the Emancipation Proclamation. Writing in part, “Peace does not appear so distant — as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time.”