A Supporter of the Confederacy Reflects on the Emancipation Proclamation

Author:   Mansfield Lovell


In a letter to his son, Confederate Major General Mansfield Lovell (1822-1884) predicts that Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation “will produce dissensions and troubles at the North and…thus indirectly benefit our Cause.” Lovell, a West Point graduate who had served in the Mexican War, had unsuccessfully defended New Orleans against a Union fleet in April 1862.

Even before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair (1813-1883), a former Democrat from Maryland, had warned the President that this decision might stimulate antiwar protests among northern Democrats and cost the administration the fall 1862 elections. In fact, Peace Democrats did protest against the proclamation and Lincoln’s assumption of powers not specifically granted by the Constitution. Among the “abuses” they denounced were his unilateral decision to call out the militia to suppress the “insurrection,” impose a blockade of southern ports, expand the army beyond the limits set by law, spend federal funds without prior congressional authorization, and suspend the writ of habeas corpus (the right of persons under arrest to have their case heard in court). The Lincoln administration imprisoned about 13,000 people without trial during the war, and shut Democratic newspapers in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago for varying amounts of time.

The Democrats failed to gain control of the House of Representatives in the Fall 1862 election, in part because the preliminary emancipation proclamation gave a higher moral purpose to the northern cause.


I received your letter, my dear Jos….Tell mother she must put you all to school, no matter what it costs and that she must have you escort her to table…I am glad to hear that you are improving in arithmetic, my Son. You do not take to it easily or naturally and for that reason will have to apply yourself more studiously, than you would to anything that you learned without trouble. The greater the difficulty of any study the greater exertion you must use–

I think Lincoln’s proclamation will produce dissensions and trouble at the North, and will thus indirectly benefit our Cause. The Democratic party there is not willing to go headlong into any abolition war. And the elections will show that Lincoln’s policy will be condemned. Give my best love to your little brother and sister and write to me as often as you wish. It will help to improve you in writing in expressing your thoughts. Be a good boy and take care of your beautiful mother while I am gone.


Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute