American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Updated May 3, 2015

Lincoln's Message to Congress, April 16, 1862

April 16, 1862.

Fellow citizens of the Senate, and House of Representatives.

The Act entitled ``An Act for the release of certain persons held to service, or labor in the District of Columbia'' has this day been approved, and signed.

I have never doubted the constitutional authority of congress to abolish slavery in this District; and I have ever desired to see the national capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way. Hence there has never been, in my mind, any question upon the subject, except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances. If there be matters within and about this act, which might have taken a course or shape, more satisfactory to my jud[g]ment, I do not attempt to specify them. I am gratified that the two principles of compensation, and colonization, are both recognized, and practically applied in the act.

In the matter of compensation, it is provided that claims may be presented within ninety days from the passage of the act ``but not thereafter''; and there is no saving for minors, femes-covert, insane, or absent persons. I presume this is an omission by mere over-sight, and I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or supplemental act. ABRAHAM LINCOLN


Source:  Basler, Collected Works, Vol. V, p. 192.  [Downloaded 4/27/2015 from]