Return to General David Hunter
Lincoln from Hiram Ketchum
Against Hunter's Emancipation Proclamation
May 16, 1862

Library of Congress

New York May 16. 1862

Sir. I have been a careful observer of your course as president of the United States; it has met my approbation, and
received my hearty support. I am aware of your numerous and pressing engagements, and would not, therefore,
inconsiderately intrude for a single moment upon your time, but in the exercise of my right and duty, as an American
Citizen, I now address you.

I have read with deep regret the proclamation of Major Genl Hunter under date of May 9. 1862, in which he declares
that the persons in the States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina heretofore held as Slaves are forever declared
free.1 I will not attempt to reason on the subject of such a declaration but in my judgment this officer who made it
should be instantly stripped of his command; there is no other way of making proper atonement to outraged law.

When this rebellion broke out the first and most imperative duty devolving upon the Government was its own
preservation, that must be done -- that was done. The acts which the Government have seen proper to adopt, in good
faith, for its own preservation will undoubtedly be sustained by the American people. But when the rebellion is
mastered, and there no longer exists a necessity for summary measures to support and preserve the Government,
then the Constitution and laws, according to their letter and spirit, must be maintained. For it is too late to deny that
obedience to law is absolutely essential to the preservation of liberty. It may well be that recent experience has shown
that amendments of the fundamental law are necessary, but let these amendments be made in a constitutional way
before they are acted upon

I Am Very Respectfully & truly

Yr. obt Servt & fellow Citizen

Hiram Ketchum
Abraham Lincoln