The grave question uppermost in men's minds was whether the Union could be saved at all; but, slowly evolving out of the doubts and perplexities of the situation, and beginning to assume definite shape, was another, destined to overshadow all other questions, whether it were best to try to save the Union with slavery or to try to save it without. The Radicals declared that it must be saved without slavery, but Lincoln hesitated and seemed to be groping his way.
My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it—if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it—and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save this Union.
1 Indeed, Lincoln's will issue his executive order on January 1, 1863, recalled today as the Emancipation Proclamation.
2 Actually, Lincoln emancipated the slaves in the nation's capital when he signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862.
Source: Civil War Times, 1861-1865, Daniel Wait Howe