Emancipation Proclamation Sesquicentennial – Discussion in the Man Cave

January 3, 2013

New Year Eve Day a StarTribune op-ed was titled: WHEN THE WATCHWORD WAS FREEDOM.   Wallace Alcorn observes: “One hundred and fifty years ago this evening, on New Year’s Eve 1862, thousands of black people across the South Carolina sea islands surrounding Port Royal Sound gathered in their small churches for another Watch Night Service  . . .  Although they understood  they had received spiritual freedom, they remained slaves – at the stroke of midnight, they would become free men and women.”  Alcorn explains: “Here at Port Royal 150 years ago, these slaves were freed by the Proclamation, because it pertained to Union held territory within the Confederate States, and the Union Army was occupying the area.”  Enforcement of the Proclamation and freeing of all slaves waited one and a half years for the ending of the war and enactment of the 13th Amendment.

New Year’s Day mid-morning the Becketwood Man Cave habitual visitors met with Happy New Year greetings and then on to discussion. Dominating the conversation was the previous day’s op-ed:  WHEN THE WATCHWORD WAS FREEDOM.  The wide-ranging discussion regarding Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had one knowledgeable Man Cave brother note: “I have heard it noted that Lincoln freed no slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation”.  This viewpoint is the well-known assertion of respected historian Richard Hafstadter.  (his books were a staple  in my graduate studies in the Sixties and early Seventies) In spite of profound respect for Lincoln Hofstadter asserted the Emancipation Proclamation:  “contained no indictment of slavery, . . . expressly omitted the loyal slave states from its terms . . .  (and) did not in fact free any slaves.”

As the Man Cave resident academic historian conversation focused for a time on myself.  (All Man Cave members have their respected specialties based on  professional careers)  After brief thought I suggested that in preparing a lecture on the topic the following title might be posed:  Paradox –  Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation Freed No Slaves in the Particular – but as to Result Freed All.

Freed no slaves   Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation September 22, 1862 that all slaves were emancipated in any state not under Union control by January 1, 1863.  As Commander-in-Chief Lincoln claimed martial “war power” to suspend civil law in states still in  rebellion on that date.  The Proclamation was not applicable in the slave “Border States”,  or areas of the Confederate States of America already under control of the Union Army. Hofstadter and others pointed out  that Lincoln was only, in fact,  ” freeing” slaves over that which the Federal Union had no power.

as to Result Freed All   Areas of the Confederate  states under Union control slaves were no longer contraband of war but freedmen immediately upon the Proclamation becoming effective  the second year of the Civil War. The fifteen months of war that followed Union commanders placed immediately into effect the Proclamation as the Union Army advanced. Thus many slaves became freedmen during the course of the war. Lincoln advocated and pushed passage and ratification of a Constitutional amendment  to abolish slavery in all of the United States. Slavery, thus, became illegal with a two-thirds vote of the House of Representative approval February 186 5.  Ratification of the 13th Amendment by the states followed  December 1865.  Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation (10-22-1862) provided the genesis, impetus,  and dynamic that in the course of the Civil War led to  freeing all slaves.

New Year’s afternoon my wife and I watched the movie “Lincoln” and Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis brilliantly portray Lincoln’s insistence and political savvy  shepherding through  the House of Representative the majority needed  to amend the Constitution making slavery illegal.  That became reality by December 1865.  Lincoln, indeed, – The Great Emancipator who brought “The Day Of Jubilee” for slaves to  reality.

Published by profbartling1

Retired professor Concordia University, St. Paul, Mn. Taught mainly American History. Also taught in other areas of history, philosophy, and theology,

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