Abraham Lincoln, April 4, 1864
Lincoln continued to reassure his critics that he had no intention of rescinding the proclamation. He repeated his commitment to emancipation in this note to Henry C. Wright of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. In 1864, he would risk his political fortunes and his reelection by throwing his full support behind the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.
Lincoln’s views on how to integrate formerly enslaved people into society evolved throughout his presidency. After Louisiana applied for readmission to the Union, Lincoln wrote to the newly elected governor, Michael Hahn, and raised the subject of extending the vote to some African Americans, especially veterans. “They would probably help, in some trying time to come, to keep the jewel of liberty within the family of freedom.”
On April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln gave his last public speech. He advocated extending the vote to “very intelligent” African American citizens and veterans. Before this speech, no president had ever publicly endorsed even limited suffrage for African Americans. John Wilkes Booth was in the crowd. He turned to his coconspirator, Lewis Powell, and exclaimed, “That is the last speech he will ever make.” Three days later Booth assassinated the president.