I don't know where I heard this originally (somewhere in grade school I think) but I have a very vivid memory of hearing this story:

Apparently at the beginning of the Civil War, Lincoln sent a letter to Davis imploring him to rejoin the Union without pursuing war in order to spare the lives of American soldiers etc etc, and if Davis did so within 100 days, Lincoln would abandon (or postpone?) the idea of abolishing slavery. Something along those lines - like if Davis rejoined the Union without war within 100 days, the South could keep their slaves.

I looked for this letter online and couldn't find anything, so I was wondering if any history buffs could clarify if there is any truth to this, or if I made this up somehow? Thanks!

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    Lincoln did not have designs about abolishing slavery in slave states (constitutionally he could not have that). Slave states like Maryland, Missouri, Delaware and Kentucky actually preferred to stay in the Union.
    – rs.29
    Feb 15, 2022 at 7:58
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    Lincoln's letters are well-documented and published. There was no such a letter. For instance, I am sure you can find this book, "Lincoln: Speeches and Writings : 1859-1865" either in your local library or through inter-library loan. Feb 15, 2022 at 9:14

1 Answer 1


This is probably referring to the preliminary announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. The preliminary version was announced on 22 Sept 1862, announcing the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect on 1 Jan 1863, 100 days later. This is outlined at a University of Michigan site:

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln initiated a debate when he issued what is often termed the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Contemplating how slavery’s abolition would undermine the Confederacy, the President aimed to use the threat of emancipation to force Southern states to rejoin the Union. Lincoln proposed that 100 days hence, on January 1, 1863, slavery would be abolished in all rebellious territories, with two conditions: efforts to colonize or remove former slaves to a separate territory would continue, and loyal slaveholders would be compensated for the loss of their property.

Note the portion about loyal slaveholders would be compensated. This indicated it was not an offer for rebellious states to keep their slaves, so that aspect of the query is incorrect.

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