The Emancipation Proclamation

Today in History, January 1, 1863:

President Abraham Lincoln signs the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring an end to slavery in the rebelling states.

The road to the end of slavery had been long and hard, and it wasn’t over yet. But this was the most definitive statement ever made in America about the evil and the demise it must suffer.

The founding fathers had known slavery was wrong; but they didn’t believe they could end it and still create the nation that would be America…the southern states depended on slavery for their economy. So they “kicked the can down the road”.

The nation continued to deal with the inequity of it’s principles and its sins through each administration. Andrew Jackson dealt with it during the Nullification Crisis; but again, half measures to keep the peace.

The Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act…our early history was juggling Abolition against the slave driven economy of the South on a continuous basis by some of the most talented people of the time.

The Republican party was born of abolitionist beliefs, but still, only half measures.

Even the Proclamation was a half measure. It only declared slavery ended in states in which it could not be enforced….Confederate states. But it made the war about the end of slavery, not only about the perpetuation of the Union. The dye was cast for freedom.

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second 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 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.”

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, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, 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 Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, 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 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 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 of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN 
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Fighting the Good Fight…and Consequences

Today in History, March 22: 1871:

North Carolina Governor William Holden (no, not THAT William Holden) is removed from office by impeachment…the first US Governor to receive this punishment.

His crime? Holden was a Republican and an abolitionist…during his tenure as Governor he hired two dozen detectives to hunt down the leaders of the NC KKK, got a bill passed that called out the militia against the KKK, and suspended habeas corpus to enhance his ability to prosecute the leaders of the Klan.

In 1870 the state’s Democrats won the legislature and quickly moved to impeach Holden for his hard-handed tactics against the KKK.

Holden had enacted these actions to counter the assassination of a Republican Senator and the hanging of an African-American police officer, amongst other crimes. In 2011, the entirety of the North Carolina Senate voted to pardon Holden.

gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.” – Frederick Douglass

Today in History, February 20, 1895:

Frederick Douglass dies of either a heart attack or stroke in Washington DC after having appeared at an event of the National Council of Women where he received a standing ovation.

Thousands paid their respects at his funeral before he was returned to New York City to be interred at Mount Hope Cemetery in his family plot.

Douglass had been born circa 1818 (he never knew his actual birth date) into slavery in Maryland.

In 1838, on his third attempt, he escaped slavery. In the coming years Frederick Douglass became a well respected orator and statesman for the growing abolitionist and equal rights movements, impressing his listeners with his intellect and powerful messages.

“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe.

In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’ Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.” – Frederick Douglass

The Thirteenth Amendment

Today in History, February 1: 1865 –

“Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

One day after Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, President Abraham lincoln signs the act outlawing slavery.

It would take until December of the same year for enough states to ratify the amendment so that Secretary of State William Seward could proclaim it the law of the land. Of course Lincoln would give his life the cause of Union and freedom before then.