Monday, July 5, 2021

The Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and Juneteenth

 There is a lot of confusion about the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth. The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 did not free a single slave because it only applied to the Confederacy, which had seceded from the Union. There were still slaves in Maryland in spite of the Emancipation Proclamation! It was the Thirteenth Amendment which really abolished slavery. However, the Amendment did not apply to the  enslaved persons of the Confederacy until after the Civil War had ended. Juneteenth was when the slaves in Texas first heard that they were free, in June 1865, after the end of the war.  From Undivided Nation:

How many slaves did the Emancipation Proclamation free? Experts say that there were around four million slaves in the U.S. in the 1860’s. So maybe it freed half of them? Not close. The Emancipation Proclamation actually freed ZERO slaves.

I am no historian, but after a good deal of reading President Lincoln’s own words on slavery and the issue of race in America, I think the Emancipation Proclamation was more about preserving the Union and winning the war than it was a heartfelt desire for justice and racial equality in America. Here are some of the “Great Emancipator’s” own words.

In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates for Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat in 1858, Lincoln stated his view of white supremacy: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. (Source)

At the time of Lincoln’s inauguration to the Presidency on March 4, 1861, the United States was being torn apart. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as the President of the Confederate States of America just two weeks earlier in Montgomery, Alabama. In Lincoln’s inaugural address, he spoke to many in the newly formed Confederate States saying, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” (Source)

In August 1862, 16 months into the Civil War, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley published an editorial calling on President Abraham Lincoln to declare emancipation for all slaves in Union-held territories. With a preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation having already been presented to his cabinet, Lincoln wrote to Mr. Greeley, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” (Source)

I have come to the conclusion that the Emancipation Proclamation was a shrewd wartime move by a President whose purpose was to preserve the Union above all. The “Great Emancipator” was more of a great messenger and used the proclamation to define the war as a conflict over slavery and made emancipation an official part of the North’s military strategy. (Read more.)

What is Juneteenth? From History:

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday. 

Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Court House two months earlier in Virginia, but slavery had remained relatively unaffected in Texas—until U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” (Read more.)

Part of the reason I have some basic awareness of such things is because I grew up in Frederick, Maryland, the hometown of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney of the dreadful Dred Scott Decision. Taney's statue was in Frederick and so was his house, both of which we visited on public school field trips. Taney's grave was in the Catholic cemetery of Saint John the Evangelist Church, not far from the grave of one of Marie-Antoinette's judges. So as a child I had to learn about the Civil War and slavery whether I wanted to or not. It was all around me. Sadly, erasing history makes for ignorant people.


1 comment:

julygirl said...

Thank for this! There are powers who want to skew the truth about the whole business of emancipation.