Lincoln’s 1864 Message to Congress

6 December 1864

16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: histmag.org

16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: histmag.org

The Thirty-eighth U.S. Congress received President Abraham Lincoln’s annual message. With the Confederacy on the verge of defeat, the message mainly focused on winning the war and restoring the Confederate states to the Union.

Lincoln reported the reopening of captured southern ports for Federal commerce, but higher taxes were needed to finance the $1.74 billion debt. Noting that immigration had replenished northern war losses, Lincoln stated, “The important fact remains demonstrated that we have more men now than we had when the war began… that we are gaining strength, and may, if need be, maintain the contest indefinitely…”[1]

The message included a satisfactory assessment of the new pro-U.S. state governments in Arkansas and Louisiana. Lincoln also noted that Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee would soon have pro-U.S. governments as well, but “Maryland presents the example of complete success” for having recently adopted a new state constitution abolishing slavery.[2]

Lincoln requested that Congress reconsider passing the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery; the amendment had passed in the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives. He noted that the recently elected members to the new Congress (scheduled to assemble next year) would certainly pass the amendment, but he preferred amendment opponents (mostly Democrats) in this Congress to end their opposition in the spirit of bipartisanship.[3]

Noting the November election results in which he won reelection, Lincoln stated, “The most reliable indication of public purpose in this country is derived through our popular elections.” He claimed that electing predominantly pro-Union candidates throughout the North showed that the people sought to continue the war until the Union was restored: “In affording the people the fair opportunity of showing one to another and to the world this firmness and unanimity of purpose, the election has been of vast value to the national cause.”[4]

Lincoln asserted that only continued war could decide whether the Union would be reunited, because the Confederates “can not voluntarily reaccept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it.” Lincoln concluded, “In stating a single condition of peace I mean simply to say that the war will cease on the part of the Government whenever it shall have ceased on the part of those who began it.” Thus, Lincoln reiterated his demand for the Confederacy’s unconditional surrender, or else the war would continue.[5]

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  • [1] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 606-607; Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 208
  • [2] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 606-607; Lincoln 1864 Annual Message
  • [3] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 606-607; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 686-87
  • [4] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 606-607; Lincoln 1864 Annual Message
  • [5] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 606-607; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition, 2012), Kindle Locations 56615-56618
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One thought on “Lincoln’s 1864 Message to Congress

  1. […] President Lincoln submitted his annual message to Congress. […]

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