Allen Guelzo – July 22, 1862

July 22, 1862 is certainly a notable day in the history of emancipation in the American Civil War. It was on this date, 150 years ago today, that Abraham Lincoln presented the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his “Team of Rivals.” In other words, a momentous occasion where Lincoln briefed and sought reactions from his cabinet to a major shift in administration policy away from encouraging gradual compensated emancipation by the states toward embracing immediate uncompensated freedom for the slaves enforced by the federal government at gun point.

The meeting is famous and others scholars have spent great pains describing it, so I won’t waste this blog’s space of detailing it yet again. If readers want a decent account of the July 22 meeting to remind them of its particulars, <click here>. And, of course, there is the famous Francis Bicknell Carpenter painting below celebrating and depicting it as a moment akin with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

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In a recent essay in the National Review Online, Allen Guelzo, Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, asks a trenchant question. Starting from the 150th anniversary of Lincoln presenting his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, he ponders why isn’t this document celebrated more? Guelzo writes:

The Emancipation Proclamation did more, and for more Americans, than any other presidential document before or since. It declared that over 3 million black slaves (representing some $3 billion in capital investment) would “thenceforward, and forever, be free” (thus transforming that $3 billion into a net zero, overnight) and turned the Civil War from being a police action against the breakaway southern Confederacy into a crusade for freedom. It was, as Lincoln himself said, “the central act of my administration and the great event of the nineteenth century.”

Still, there will be no federal holiday, no emancipation parades, no proclamation fireworks.

Allen Guelzo then provides his readers with some probable reasons why the Emancipation Proclamation is not more celebrated. The first problem, Guelzo suggests, is the document’s highly legalistic language. As he writes, “the language of the proclamation is so stultifyingly and legally dull, full of whereases and therefores, that the whole thing leaves approximately the same impression on the spirit as a lump of coal.

The next problem, Guelzo acknowledges is that the Emancipation Proclamation kept in slavery large numbers of African Americans, in both the loyal Border States and in parts of the Confederate South then under Union occupation. “If the proclamation was indeed about freeing slaves,” he writes, “then the slaves in those places must have had an interesting time understanding why they didn’t qualify.

Also problematic, Allen Guelzo asserts is the fact that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation solely by virtue of his authority as commander-in-chief, as a war measure aimed at suppressing a rebellion. In other words, it is hard to celebrate a document that did not stem from altruistic idealism, but from military necessity. “No parting the Red Sea, no making the world safe for democracy” exclaims Guelzo sarcastically. “The proclamation is presented as nothing more than a military tactic for subduing the Confederacy.

Finally, Guelzo suggests the last reason for lack of celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation is that modern audiences, especially African Americans, do not like the idea of freedom for the black slaves granted by the fiat of a lone white politician. As Allen Guelzo puts it, “that the proclamation is just one more self-righteous reminder to African-Americans that they have no agency of their own, but must rely on the goodwill of white folks, even for freedom.” In other words, that it tends to diminish African-American agency and their very real contributions to the coming of freedom in the Civil War.

Guelzo then goes on to defend some of the less admirable qualities of Emancipation Proclamation. For example, he argues that Lincoln, a skilled lawyer, had to write the document in a particularly legalistic way with very precise language to defend it against the constitutional challenges it would conceivably face from slaveholders about to be divested of billions of dollars of their property by the stroke of the President’s pen.

He also contends, that although the slaves did everything in their power to obtain their freedom in the war, that ultimately they could not emancipate themselves. Guelzo writes:

One thing they could not do, however, was emancipate themselves. The runaway slave would always remain, legally, a slave. And if the day ever came when the Union grew tired enough of war to open negotiations for some amicable settlement with the Confederacy, we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that southern negotiators would not have made the rendition of those runaway slaves part of the settlement — or that war-weary northern whites would not have agreed to it. Emancipation had to be de jure, not just de facto, and that required a legal action. And the only man with the power, the authority, and the wisdom to do it so that it could never be undone was Abraham Lincoln.

So Guelzo, predictably given his past scholarship on the subject, seeks to restore Abraham Lincoln to his central role in emancipation during the Civil War–no surprise there. But then he goes further to assert that the desire for black agency and participation in freedom for the slaves is at the heart of why the Emancipation Proclamation is not celebrated more. Guelzo asserts, “Precisely because notions of self-emancipation are more a matter of sentiment and pride than of footnotes, they pose the most intractable resistance to restoring the honor of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Allen Guelzo provides insightful discussion on why the Emancipation Proclamation is not more celebrated. However, what is missing here is an important question. How did the former slaves commemorate their freedom after emancipation and how do their descendants and others continue to celebrate it today? Guelzo is no doubt correct “that white and black owe each other far more than either can pay off.” But the simple fact is that until recent decades few white Americans were willingly to acknowledge that interdependence and African Americans largely were left to their own devices in celebrating emancipation–and celebrate it they did. Scholars have begun studying these celebrations in recent years, most notably Mitch Kachun in his book, Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003).

One important point about black celebrations of freedom was liberated slaves did it on a schedule that was meaningful to them. For example, one of the most famous emancipation celebrations is Juneteenth, typically celebrated on June 19. On this date in 1865, Union general Gordon Granger, recently arrived in Galveston with 2,000 federal troops, issued an order enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. So July 22, 1862 had no particular meaning to the Texas slaves because they did not effectively become free for nearly three more years. Neither did September 22, 1862 (when Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation public) or January 1, 1863 (when it became final) because on those days Texas slaves were still in bondage. So understandably, former Texas slaves began in 1866 commemorating the day they actually gained their freedom.

The same thing is true elsewhere in the United States. In Florida, May 20 is the unofficial emancipation commemoration day because on that date in 1865, Union general Edward McCook read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee, bringing slavery there to an effective end. In Columbus, Mississippi, Emancipation Day is May 8, locally called “Eight o’ May,” commemorating the day the slaves there learned of their freedom. In Paducah and McCracken County, Kentucky, Emancipation Day is August 8, again when the slaves there learned they were free. Emancipation Day in District of Columbia, which falls on April 16, is the day Abraham Lincoln signed congressional legislation freeing slaves there, effectively making slaves there free (although in modern times, in practice the commemoration is shifted a day or two some years to give government workers a three-day weekend).

The commonality here is that ex-slaves commemorated their freedom when they actually became free as opposed to when Abraham Lincoln shared his decision with his cabinet to issue an Emancipation Proclamation (July 22), announced it (September 22), or finalized it (January 1).

This is not to say that Abraham Lincoln was not involved, as the Emancipation Proclamation formed the authority by which freedom which the Union Army implemented freedom in the Confederate South, and Lincoln signed the D.C. emancipation bill. So, Allen Guelzo is absolutely correct that Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation played an important role in bringing freedom to the slaves. But we must acknowledge that emancipation is an event larger than even a historical giant such as Lincoln. There were lots of other key players in the historical drama of emancipation in the American Civil War, including the U.S. Congress, the Union Army, and the slaves themselves.

In short, if the emancipation’s celebration in the United States was and remains a rather decentralized, ad hoc affair, perhaps it is because emancipation itself was a rather decentralized, ad hoc event. First, it effectively occurred at many different times in many different places. Second, Abraham Lincoln could exert his considerable executive power to make it happen, but in the end many other people’s cooperation was required to implement it against the wishes of millions of Americans in opposition. So it is not wise to suggest, as Allen Guelzo does that African Americans pose the biggest obstacle to a national holiday commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation.  Emancipation was an event much bigger than this admittedly key document or its author, and the decentralized and largely informal nature of its celebration currently and in the past, ironically captures that truth better than would a national holiday focused on the Emancipation Proclamation.

Sources: 1) http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/309703/emancipation-un-holiday-allen-c-guelzo; 2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_Day.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at donald_shaffer@yahoo.com
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14 Responses to Allen Guelzo – July 22, 1862

  1. Here’s a picture of a January 1st Emancipation Day parade in the 1920s in St. Augustine Florida – http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/132524?cid=46&pc=Twine Collection. The question is not did they celebrate January 1 but why did they drift away from these celebrations. My guess is that 1. It was viewed as an African American deep south celebration as it did not free everyone – didn’t touch the border states or African Americans that were already beyond the reach of the South as in the North or D.C. 2. Because it was not a national act it simply did not have a national audience – note that celebrating the 13th Amendment never caught on at all and the 13th amendment really did end slavery (but was still a regional deal.) 3. Unfortunately its identification as a national holiday was/is limited by our racism (much like Martin Luther King Day) as not pertaining to whites.

    I hope that America gets beyond this even after 150 years and begins to understand (all Americans) the importance of the January 1 date. We’ll see this January for the 150th how much traction the Emancipation Proclamation has finally gained.

  2. Allen C. Guelzo says:

    Donald: I think this misses the point, and the miss occurs in this sentence: “The commonality here is that ex-slaves commemorated their freedom when they actually became free.” There is an ambiguity in the term “free” which allows it to mean both de facto and de jure freedom. The slaves may have been de facto free at disparate times (even before the E.P.), but they became de jure free with the E.P. — and de jure was what counted. De facto freedom is like the freedom of a prison escapee: it can be terminated at any time. BTW, if you look at the freedmens’ testimony before the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, they unanimously date freedom, not to a de facto moment of “actual” freedom, but to the E.P. I think this struggle to claw away from Lincoln (and it runs from Hofstadter to Lerone Bennett) is more about cultural pride than history. The problem occurs when we demean the latter to serve the former. Lincoln’s act really was the great act of the 19th century; what prupose is served by occluding that?

    • Hi Allen. First, thank you for commenting on my response to your piece in the NRO, especially so quickly–I’m grateful.

      I agree with you that in the end emancipation probably wouldn’t have survived had not become law, although ultimately the 13th Amendment is what made it truly law. As you point out in your article, Lincoln feared a constitutional challenge to the Emancipation Proclamation. He could protect it with precise legal language and it certainly didn’t hurt when Roger Taney died in October 1864 to be replaced as Chief Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court by the pro-abolition Salmon Chase. But even Lincoln realized the Emancipation Proclamation was not enough as law, which is why he helped lobby Congress intensely to get the necessary two-thirds majority for the 13th Amendment so it would pass there and head on the states for ratification.

      I also appreciate the distinction you make between between de jure and de facto emancipation. My response would be you don’t get de jure emancipation without a heck of a lot of people besides Lincoln. As I point out in my blog post, Congress, the Union Army, and the slaves themselves each play roles in achieving emancipation arguably as critical as Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln could have issued as many Emancipation Proclamations as he wanted but they would not have mattered much without thousands, millions really, of other people who made the proclamation have a real impact. That is the problem with de jure emancipation: it doesn’t become a de jure without a whole lot of de facto. Plus, it is hard to say if law coming from Washington, D.C., could have reversed what was de facto going on across the South. The war destroyed slavery’s means of enforcement and to use a horrible but appropriate analogy, it would have been hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube. Even if the North had settled the war with a negotiated settlement and agreed to return the slaves to their rebel owners how many soldiers in the Union Army would have cooperated? A lot of “toothpaste” probably would have been forced back into the tube eventually, but a lot would have been left out, perhaps not enough for the slave system to survive. And certainly, things would have gotten really messy.

      As for what some slaves said, I’m sure they did think the Emancipation Proclamation was important, which was why Lincoln gained a heroic status in the postwar black community. But I think you would agree with me that actions speak louder than words about how people really feel. And how the former slaves commemorated freedom says a whole lot more about their historical memory concerning emancipation than the testimony of some freedmen to the Joint Committee. So to them de facto emancipation mattered a whole lot more than de jure emancipation, and so they tended to celebrate more their de facto emancipation as opposed to their de jure emancipation (although as another commentator points out de jure emancipation certainly wasn’t absent from their commemoration).

      So Lincoln understandably saw his contribution to emancipation as critical and I don’t doubt he sincerely believed the Emancipation Proclamation to be the critical moment of the 19th-century. Politicians worry about their legacy, U.S. Presidents especially, and Lincoln believed correctly the Emancipation Proclamation was what he would be remembered for. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept his own assessment that emancipation was essentially about him. I would hold emancipation is the central event of the 19th century in American history. But Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation are not the totality of the event. Important to be sure, but to put them on a pedestal serves to deny credit to everyone else that was involved, however small their contributions, because collectively it was ultimately very important too.

      So let’s give Abe his due and everyone else too! :-)

      Thanks again for commenting!

      Don

  3. Mitch Kachun says:

    I know some of you are aware of my work on emancipation celebrations. Is that work irrelevant here? See Festivals of Freedom (UMass 2003); “‘A beacon to oppressed peoples everywhere'”: Major Richard R. Wright Sr., National Freedom Day, and the Rhetoric of Freedom in the 1940s,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 128, Number 3 (July 1, 2004) , 279–306; “Celebrating Freedom: Juneteenth and the Emancipation Day Tradition,” in Thomas J. Brown, ed., Remixing the Civil War (Johns Hopkins UP, 2011). Many blacks reject the EP as an event to be celebrated because–important as it was–it did not result in true and lasting (de facto) freedom. Juneteenth seems to have greater resonance because it recognizes the incomplete task of emancipation and then idea of justice delayed. And we DO have a national holiday commemorating emancipation, but no one seems to acknowledge National Freedom Day. Why? There are multiple and overlapping explanations. I’ve said all this before.

    • Hi Mitch. Thanks for weighing in. You are the best advocate for your own work. Plus, I’m embarrassed to confess although I’ve read your book, I don’t own a copy. :-(

      Best,

      Don

  4. Margaret D. Blough says:

    I don’t think giving Lincoln the credit that he is due takes away from anyone. It was a gutsy act of leadership. He presented the draft to his Cabinet as a fait accompli-the only thing genuinely on the table was timing. The preliminary EP was released as the critical 1862 congressional and gubernatorial elections were beginning and was blamed by many Republicans for the losses suffered in those elections. It was written as a legal document because it WAS a legal document, unlike the soaring Inaugural and Gettysburg Addresses, and Lincoln was doing all in his power as a lawyer drafting a legal document to ensure that it withstood attack in the courts (anyone who doubts how genuine this fear was should read how the postwar SCOTUS gutted the 14th Amendment for generations in the Slaughterhouse Cases). Aside from selling it to the public, it HAD to be tied to military purposed since the War Powers (a very controversial and untested doctrine) was the ONLY constitutional basis for the EP. He first started pushing for the 13th Amendment before the 1864 presidential election because he feared as to what would happen to formerly enslaved persons who’d been freed once the war ended (at the latest) or when each of the areas covered by the EP came under Union control. Grudgingly, many Unionists who had no interest in abolition came to support emancipation because they came to realize the importance of slave labor to the Confederate war effort and also came to accept that, so long as slavery continued to exist, the Union could never be safe.

  5. Allen C. Guelzo says:

    I hate to get metaphysical here, much less Aristotelian, but we’re not taking fully into account the meaning of “cause,” either. Because someone happens to be in the same room as an event, does not mean they caused it. Fugitive slaves, sympathetic army officers, and abolition activists do not “cause” emancipation except in the sense of providing the material casuality; they certainly do not provide a sufficient cause, since all three existed prior to the E.P. We can certainly have material causation, proximate causation, sufficient causation, and final causation, and I will leave it to others to assign which cause belongs to whom concerning the E.P. But I think things are in order:
    1. The end of slavery required a legal act. Lincoln originally hoped to cajole the border states into beginning that process when he drew up the Delaware plan in 1861, because he recognized that a legislative solution to slavery was the only one which could eliminate slavery as both practice and legal existent. And the 13th Amendment is Lincoln’s final statement about the need for a legislative solution. But so long as Congress refused, the state legislatures refused, and the Army refused to move in that direction, the one path which remained open was unilateral executive action, through a “war powers” proclamation. In this circumstance, I believe that the proximate cause was McClellan and the threat of a McClellanite coup in the summer and fall of 1862 (Richard Slotkin’s new book on Antietam has a similar judgment to make about McClellan, and William Styple’s forthcoming book on McClellan and Thomas Key will go a long way toward establishing how close McClellan was to some kind of military intervention). The idea of using the government’s “war powers” was not a new one: J.Q. Adams articulated this back in the 1830s, and both Sumner and C.F. Adams urged the use of “war powers” on Lincoln to abolish slavery. But they weren’t the people to issue the document; that pointed in one direction only, and that was Lincoln.
    2. The difficulty in talking about a “massive spate of slave flight and resistance” is tghe softness of the evidence. Despite the labors of Herbert Aptheker and WEB DuBois to promote the idea of the CW as a “general strike,” and more recently Steven Hahn to argue for the CW as a slave revolt, this is the wish giving fatherhood to the thought. Even Ira Berlin’s Emancipation Project notes that there are no readily-available statistics on fugitives and contrabands during the war. William Seward’s guess-timate in 1865 that there may have been as many as 200,000 contrabands would amount to less than 5% of the slave population. It seems to me that one of the great, unexplored topics for CW research is precisely the numbers and extent of the contrabands; we have some isolated studies of contraband camps (like Roanoke Island) but a comprehensive study is still waiting to be written. Until then, speculation about “massive” slave flight is empty-handed. I do not say this because I subscribe to the delusion that the slaves were all happy, contented Sambos who just loved ol’ marster too much to leave him; to the contrary, the slaves were smarter than either side, and saw no sense in risking their necks for the promises of any white men, in blue or in gray.
    3. I don’t know which K-12 teachers Patrick Rael has been interacting with, but the ones I meet year after year are always quick to tell me that (a) Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, (b) Lincoln only freed slaves where he had no power, and left slaves in bondage where he could have, (c) the E.P. had the moral grandeur of a bill of lading (thank you, Richard Hofstadter). What I hear from black students is that Lincoln was a racist and the E.P. was only a political sideshow to restore the Union or distract the British. And what I heard most recently from a professor in an academic audience I spoke to was this: “It just doesn’t feel right to me to say that one man did this for other people.” If Patrick Rael has heard from a different constituency, I say bless him, and let him be grateful for that. But I have had to cope with different circumstances; hence, my concern that that the E.P. not be forgotten.
    4. Donald: toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube, but fugitives are not toothpaste. They can be returned to slavery. I agree that any attempt to implement slave rendition as part of some ignoble negotiated settlement with the Confederacy would have been difficult, messy, and inadequate. But should we really suppose that the Confederates wouldn’t have tried? And that, given prevailing white Northern racial insanities, Northern whites wouldn’t have co-operated? If so, you have a better opinion of slaveholders and white racists than I do. They fought to tear fugitives from the grasp of the British in 1783 and 1815, and more damnably successful than we like to admit; why wouldn’t they have done so again? Again, the document that stood in the way of this rendition was the E.P., which Lincoln insisted that he would resign the presidency rather than retract it.
    One last word for Mitch Katun, who has done such very fine work on emancipation observances: I don’t take anything in your comment as snarky. To the contrary, I mourn the absence of an official national observance of emancipation. Your essay in Remixing illustrated a number of the efforts which have been made in this direction, and perhaps we will both live to see something of them come to fruition on a national scale. “I am an aboliitonist/I glory in the name/Though now by Slavery’s minions hiss’d. And covered o’er with shame….”

  6. Allen C. Guelzo says:

    OK, just once more with Patrick before we both wear out our welcome with Donald: “the actual number of slaves who fled is perhaps of less significance than their impact on Union policymaking.” I think the real impact on policy worked in exactly the other way. White Southerners’ paranoia about a second Nat Turner or Gabriel Prosser or Denmark Vesey also infected white Northerners’ assumptions that emancipation must be a trigger for race war. (This is why Howard Jones argued that the E.P. was actually more, rather than less, likely to trigger a British intervention in the fall of 1862). Slave resistance would have acted to stiffen policy reluctance to emancipate, not encourage it, and the West Indies (especially Jamaica and St. Domingue) were the most-offered exhibits. Patrick is entirely right to state that no one began the war with the assumption that the war would lead to emancipation; but many others – specifically, seven Southern states’ worth – did assume that Lincoln’s election would lead to emancipation, an expectation he himself shared (although that expectation was wrapped out plans for gradual emancipation, not immediate emancipation). Why else did the Southern states secede, if not because they read the long-term handwriting of emancipation on the wall?
    Yes, Patrick is right to say that Lincoln was “adducing from events in the field that the slaves could be a source of strength for the Union”; but he was also disappointed that slave resistance was not greater than it turned out to be. The provision he wrote into the preliminary E.P. – requiring the U.S. military to assist slaves in any attempt they made to secure “actual freedom” – was read at once by his cabinet as a call for slave insurrection, which is why Seward objected to its inclusion so strenuously as the one provision in the E.P, he could not support. And he met with both Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany to suggest behind-the-lines insurrection strategies. But he was surprised to find so few takers. Lastly, there has to be some doubt about the “influence” exerted by any number of freedpeople on the political process, because next to none of them had a vote (whereas plenty of Northern Democratic white racists did). If they did have such influence, then why did Reconstruction turn into such a disappointment?
    Fundamentally, what I’m asking is, if “slave behavior entered into a critical dialectic with imperial consideration of emancipation,” where, exactly, do we see this operating? In whose discourse? In what elections? In what members of Congress? In what policy treatises? Or is it possible that Lincoln did what he did, because he was convinced it was right, and because he was the only person, as the president and Commander-in-Chief, who could actually push the button. I know that it sounds too much like I’m proposing to revive the “Great Man” theory (not to mention the “Great White Man” theory), but isn’t the E.P. one moment when the hermeneutic of suspicion has to fall by the way? After all, even Charles Sumner allowed that Lincoln “put his name to Emancipation — made speeches that nobody else could have made — & early dedicated himself to the support of Human Rights as announced in the Decltn. of Indep. Therefore, we honor him, & Fame takes him by the hand.”

  7. Allen C. Guelzo says:

    Mitch: I see that I misspelled your name. I’m afraid this shows what a terrible typist I am. After all these years I still hunt and peck. The wonder is that I didn’t misspell Lnconli’s name two.

  8. Brad says:

    As an attorney, there is a big difference between de jure and de facto and to talk about them in the same sentence confuses the issue. Without the issuance of the de jure act, the issuance of the EP, there would have been no legal freedom. The de facto part indicates the acceptance of a law society gives. However, that has no affect on whether a law exists or not. When it is passed it exists. Without de jure, de facto is meaningless. You could have had all the slaves acting as if they were free but without the legal act they had no status as free individuals. That is why the de jure part is significant: no EP, no legal status for their de facto status as free individuals.

    • Hi Brad. Your post presumes that the law leads and reality follows. That isn’t always the case. The Civil War is a good example of where the law played catch up with reality for most of the war. Certainly, there would have been no legal freedom without changes to the law. But to a large extent all the legal changes such as the various acts passed by Congress in regard to emancipation, the Emancipation Proclamation, and eventually the 13th Amendment confirmed what already existed and sought to keep it from being rolled back some how.

  9. Brad says:

    Donald,

    I agree to a certain extent as, in general, a law will not exist until the circumstances — the reality — leading to its enactment exist. Nonetheless, just because the reality exists, that doesn’t mean that what a law addresses will have legal standing without the law. Although the slaves may have been acting as if they were, in fact, free, without the legal recognition, they could have been returned to bondage at any time. That is why Lincoln pushed for the 13th Amendment. Once the circumstances mandating the EP disappeared, slaves would have been subject to remaining as such notwithstanding their de facto status.

    • Hi Brad. It is hard to see how slavery could have been re-imposed in reality at the end of the Civil War. The war effectively destroyed it in most places. Nonetheless, it was a good thing that the 13th Amendment was adopted to put the matter beyond doubt and well as to help mop up the remnants of slavery in places like Kentucky that were exempt from the EP but did not enact state-level emancipation like Maryland and Missouri.

  10. edabney says:

    There are several reasons, I think, this document, isn’t as well celebrated as others in American culture. One being the dispersed nature of emancipation and the fact that millions of people were enslaved by several thousands means there is no one place to make an American pilgrimage to or to fawn over a often seen tangible reference to America.

    In that I mean, July 4th is a day that increasingly over the last approx. 60 years has been about family gatherings, swimming, and eating made better when the South got air conditioning. However, there is still a grouping of places Americans are drawn to on July 4th to: New York City (being the first capital under the U.S. Constitution); Philadelphia (specifically, Independence Hall), and for the very savvy, Yorktown (for the surrender of the British in the American Revolution).

    Emancipation Proclamation…where do you go for that? You could certainly go to the President Lincoln’s Cottage but with its location on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home some people may assume they can’t go. Furthermore, the Cottage just doesn’t have the national spotlight like the other building Lincoln lived in. The White House…all but inaccessible in our post-9/11 /2001 world.

    Emancipation on the ground? Hundreds of plantations sites around the country but too many shy away from honest discussions of enslavement, emancipation, and the nuances of freedom and with so many how could you tour them all?

    While, there are sundry other reasons; I believe it is hard for your average American to simply think of a single place or even three or four places where not only the Emancipation Proclamation can be regularly discussed but also where enslavement, wartime emancipation, and post-war freedom struggles are *THE* focus of the site.

    However, I think this is one of the exciting challenges facing folks, like myself, in the public history field. Bringing those stories to the foreground can encourage people to question if any one single place ought to be *THE* site for telling a set of stories. The field is, slowly (but more rapidly than ever), willing to include these stories to connect with people in a variety of media and personal and non-personal services.

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