|Abraham Lincoln's Response to
General David Hunter's Orders No. 11
|Editors note: Material in  were items that Abraham Lincoln removed from the document.
Abraham Lincoln's Response (May 19, 1862)
By the President of The United States of America.
Whereas there appears in the public prints, what purports to be a proclamation, of Major General
Hunter, in the words and figures following, to wit:
Headquarters Department of the South,
Hilton Head, S.C., May 9, 1862
General Orders No. 11. -- The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the
military department of the south, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of
the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a
military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April,
1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three
States--Georgia , Florida, and South Carolina--heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever
Major General Commanding.
Ed. W. Smith, Acting Assistant Adjutant General.
Abraham Lincoln's Response
And whereas the same is producing some excitement, and misunderstanding: therefore
I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, proclaim and declare, that the government of the
United States, had no knowledge, information, or belief, of an intention on part of General Hunter to issue
such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the document is genuine. And further,
that neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been [expressly] [implicitly]
authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any
State free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, [what helper]whether genuine of false, is
altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.
I further make known that whether it be competent for me, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and
Navy, to declare the Slaves of any state or states, free, and whether at any time, in any case, it shall have
become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of government, to exercise such supposed power,
are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I [will pursuit to be decision
for me by written any has all of my military ?] ]can not feel justified in leaving to the decision of
commanders in the field. These are totally different questions from those of police regulations in armies
On the sixth day of March last, by a special message, I recommended to Congress the adoption of a joint
resolution to be substantially as follows:
Resolved, That the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt a gradual
abolishment of slavery, giving to such State Pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in it discretion to
compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system.
The resolution, in the language above quoted, was adopted by large majorities in both branched of
Congress, and now stands an authentic, definite, and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and
people most immediately interested in the subject manner. To the people of those states I now earnestly
appeal. I do not argue. I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves. [The strong tendency to a
total disruption of society in the South is apparent. You can stay up without your ? possibily I can not.
You can stay it without having a hair of white or black.]You can not if you would, be blind to the signs of
the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above
personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no
reproaches upon any. It acts [plays] not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as
the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not
been done, by one effort, in all past time, as, in the providence of God, it is now your high privilege to do.
May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.
[You can not if you would, be blind to the sign of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged
consideration of them, ranging, if it may be far above personal and partisan politics.]
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this nineteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and sixty-two; and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.
By the President:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
* * *
The first part of Abraham Lincoln's response simply overrules General Hunter in Lincoln's role as
commander in chief.
The second part is a resolution that would pay for release of slaves. There was no follow-up legislation
and events would speed past this resolution. In Maryland owners would be compensated by the state for
the loss of their slaves. Delaware, Kentucky freed their slaves by the 13th amendment. Missouri and
West Virginia freed slaves during the War of Rebellion.
The slaves in the District of Columbia were liberated earlier on April 16, 1862 with slave owners being
compensated for their loss.
|President Abraham Lincoln
|General David Hunter