The Emancipation Proclamation

 

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President Abraham Lincoln

Emancipation Proclamations. For many years there has been a fiction that Gen. Benjamin F. Butler issued the first proclamation freeing the slaves. That officer never issued such a proclamation, but he was the first to suggest to the government a partial solution of the very perplexing question as to what was to be done with the slaves during the Civil War. It was held that the Constitution of the United States did not give to Congress, or to the non-slave-holding States, any right to interfere with the institution of slavery. This was reaffirmed by Congress in a resolution passed by the House, Feb. 11, 1861, without a dissenting voice, to reassure the South that, in spite of the election of Mr. Lincoln, the North had no intention of usurping power not granted by the Constitution. But when, after the outbreak of the war, the army began to occupy posts in the seceding and slave-holding States,

the negroes came flocking into the Union lines, large numbers being set free by the disorganized condition of affairs from the usual labor on the farms and plantations of the South. Then the question arose, What can be done with them? General Butler, when they came into his camp at Fort Monroe, detained them and refused to surrender them upon the application of their owners on the plea that they were contraband of war, that is, property which could be used in military operations, and therefore, by the laws of war, subject to seizure. He set the able-bodied men to work upon government fortifications, and when they brought their women and children with them he issued rations to them and charged them to the service of the men.

The President sustained General Butler's action in this case and the example was followed by other commanders. The government ordered strict accounts to be kept of the labor thus performed, as it was not yet determined that these laborers should be regarded as free. On Aug. 6, 1861, the President signed an act passed by Congress which declared that when any slave was employed in any military or naval service against the government the person by whom his labor was claimed, that is, his owner, should forfeit all claims to such labor.  The intent at the time this bill was passed was that it should be in force only tentatively, for few were then able to see what proportions the war would assume and what other measures would be found necessary to end it.

Benjamin Butler

General Benjamin Butler

General Fremont, then in command of the Western Department of the army, chose to assume that the confiscation act of Congress had unlimited scope, and Aug. 31, 1861, issued a proclamation confiscating the property and freeing the slaves of all citizens of Missouri who had taken, or should take, up arms against the government. This action of Fremont embarrassed President Lincoln greatly.

General Fremont

General Fremont

For whatever may have been his hope that the outcome of the war would be the final abolition of slavery, he could not fail to see that to permit the generals of the army to take such a course then in this matter was rather premature. He accordingly wrote to General Fremont requesting him to modify his proclamation. The general replied with a request that the President himself would make the necessary modifications. President Lincoln therefore issued a special order, Sept. 11, 1861, declaring that the emancipation clause of General Fremont's proclamation " be so modified, held, and construed as to conform with and not to transcend the provisions on the same subject contained in the act of Congress approved Aug. 6," preceding. Another instance of the kind occurred at the hands of General Hunter, the following year. That officer, being in command at Hilton Head, N. C., proclaimed the States of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina,

 in his department, under martial law, and May 9, 1862, issued an order in which occurred these words: " Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these States—Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina—heretofore held as slaves are therefore declared forever free." Though President Lincoln had been bitterly censured by extremists for his action towards General Fremont and though he knew that to interfere with General Hunter would only bring upon him even a worse storm of reproaches, he did not shrink from what he believed his duty in the matter. He immediately issued a proclamation sternly revoking General Hunter's order, saying that the government had not had any knowledge of the general's intention to issue an order, and distinctly stating that "neither General Hunter nor any other commander or person has been authorized by the government of the United States to make proclamation declaring the slaves of any State free." " I further make known," he continued, " that whether it be competent for me, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, to declare the slaves of any State or States free; and whether, at any time or in any case, it shall have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the government to exercise such supposed power, are questions which, under my responsibility, I reserve to myself, and which I cannot feel justified in leaving to commanders in the field." Though much displeasure was expressed by many at the time concerning the position thus taken by the President, it was generally admitted later that he was justified in taking it, since it was from no lack of sympathy with the cause of emancipation that he withheld his sanction from the premature attempts to secure it.

On July 16, 1862, Congress passed an act for the suppression of slavery, one provision of which declared the absolute " freedom of the slaves of rebels" under certain operations of war therein defined. This gave the President a wide field for the exercise of executive power, but he used it with great prudence. The patient Lincoln hoped the wise men among the Confederates might heed the threat contained in the act. Finally, in September, he issued the following warning proclamation:

PROCLAMATION.
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States and each of the States, and the people thereof, in which States that relation is or may be suspended or disturbed.

That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress, to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave States, so-called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States, and which States may then have voluntarily adopted, or there-after may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the efforts to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the governments existing there, will be continued.

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free ; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States, and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.

That attention is hereby called to an act of Congress entitled 'An Act to make an additional Article of War,' approved March 13, 1862, and which act is in the words and figures following :

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That here-after the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such :
' Article —. All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due ; and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.'
' Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.'
Also, to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled ` An Act to Suppress Insurrection, to Punish Treason and Rebellion, to Seize and Confiscate Property of Rebels, and for other Purposes,' approved July 17, 1862, and which sections are in the words and figures following:
'Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the Government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army ; and all slaves captured from such persons, or deserted by them and coming under the control of the Government of the United States ; and all slaves of such persons found on (or) being within any place occupied by rebel forces and after-ward occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.'
' Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offence against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make an oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto ; and no persons engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretence whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.'
And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act and sections above recited.
And the Executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the rebellion shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between the United States and their respective States and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
" By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

 

Lincoln Reads Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln's First Recitation of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet


This warning was unheeded, and on the day mentioned the President issued the following proclamation:

PROCLAMATION.

Whereas, On the 22d day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

' That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free ; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

' That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.'

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, Ste. Marie, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are, for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free ; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence ; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States, to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my name, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washing-ton, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN. By the President :

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Abraham Lincoln Signature

Abraham Lincoln's Signature and Seal on the Emancipation Proclamation


By the Emancipation Proclamation 3,063,392 slaves were set free, as follows:
Arkansas 111,104

Alabama 435,132

Florida 61,753

Georgia 462,232

Mississippi 436,696

North Carolina 275,081

South Carolina 402,541

Texas 180,682

Virginia (part) 450,437
Louisiana (part) 247,734
 


The pen with which President Lincoln wrote his Proclamation of Emancipation was given to Senator Sumner by the President, at the request of the former, and by him presented to the late George Livermore, of Boston. It is a steel-pen, of the kind called "The Washington," in a common cedar holder—all as plain and unostentatious as was the President himself.

The institution of slavery was not disturbed by the proclamation in eight States, which contained 831,780 slaves, distributed as follows:
Delaware 1,798
Kentucky 225,490
Maryland 87,188
Missouri 114,465
Tennessee 275,784
Louisiana (part) 85,281
West Virginia 12,761
Virginia (part) 29,013

The remainder were emancipated by the Thirteenth Amendment to the national Constitution, making the whole number set free 3,895,172.

 

 

 

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