Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Emancipation for All?

 By Julia Ridgmont

Recently, I was working on a project revolving around the game of baseball, and out of curiosity, I decided to look up the most expensive autographed baseball in history. Google pointed me to this article written by Jenny Chang in which she asserts that a brand new baseball signed by Babe Ruth sold for over $388,000 (though I’m not sure how the “brand new” part works since ol’ Babe lived . . . well, a long time ago). I found much more interesting—and ironic—autographed items listed in this article, however, such as a newspaper signed by John F. Kennedy right before he was assassinated and a photograph signed by Jesse James, which his granddaughter apparently gave up for hard cash. Wow, that’s harsh.


Among these anomalies, I also discovered an interesting fact about the Emancipation Proclamation that I suspect not many people know. President Abraham Lincoln didn’t sign just one copy of the famed document. He signed 48 copies, with 26 of them still in existence today. (The original draft, written by Lincoln’s hand, burned in the Chicago fire in 1871.) While most of the surviving copies reside in museums and other government collections now, a precious few are privately owned, with the record high for the purchase of one copy being $3.7 million.


What else do we know—or not know—about the proclamation? For starters, it was issued twice, first on September 22, 1862 as a warning to the Southern states who had seceded from the Union, which included Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South and North Carolina, and Virginia. President wasn’t wholly concerned about freeing the slaves, though it did bother him some and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Rather, his main purpose for issuing the proclamation was to help the Union come together and he was prepared to use whatever means available to make it happen. Thus, this warning alerted the Confederate states they would be losing their slaves if they didn’t “cease their rebellion” by the first of January in the coming year. (Unfortunately, we all know what the Conferacy’s decision was.) The second issuing of the proclamation did, in fact, occur on January 1, 1863—and ironically, it did not free slaves that were within Union lines (for fear of those states erupting in ire as well). It only made provisions for those border states which were causing so much trouble. And by provisions, I really do mean that. Lincoln’s idea was to compensate the slave owners for their slaves. This idea didn’t go over too well, though. But this is something else I learned about the proclamation that I didn’t know before. Did you?


Lincoln had to use some fancy footwork to get this proclamation out to the people. First, he wasn’t technically within his rights to do so as President of the United States of America. Instead, he had to do it as the Commander in Chief of its army and navy. Also, his cabinet advised him to wait until the Union army secured a victory and the people would be more receptive to it. While the Battle at Antietam didn’t exactly result in the rout they wished for, it was enough of a victory to count, and Lincoln followed through on this course of action.


First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation with Lincoln's Cabinet - Painting by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

If the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all of the 4 million people enslaved at that time, what good did it do?


First, the Emancipation Proclamation effectively cut off Southern negotiations with outsiders like France and England, who abhorred slavery, thereby negating any assistance that might have come to the Confederacy. Second, it allowed people of African-American descent to join the army, giving the Union a much-needed advantage with over 200,000 enlistments. And third, the proclamation changed the focus of the war. At first, the two sides were fighting over states’ rights which included the question of what to do with the institution of slavery as it pertained to westward expansion. Once the proclamation was issued, however, the cause of freedom for all quickly gained momentum and in one of the bloodiest conflicts to ever take place on American soil, that freedom was won.


And here’s one more fun fact for you: The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House. At the time, however, it wasn’t a bedroom but an office which Lincoln used for his cabinet members. The walls were lined with war maps.


President Lincoln considered the Emancipation Proclamation to be his greatest achievement while in the White House, and it is easy to see why.


Several of my Christian historical western romances take place right after the Civil War ended, including An Agent for Jessica in the Pinkerton Matchmaker series. Though I don’t go into a great amount of war details, I like to explore the way this great conflict must have affected people’s lives afterward. Another book of mine that mentions battle scars of the mental kind, even years after the war, is The Christmas Switch, one of my personal favorites. If you haven’t had a chance to check these titles out, I’d like to invite you to do so. In addition to these titles, I’ll have another book, Buck’s Resilient Bride, to share with you which also touches on this subject.


Cheers for now and keep reading those historical romances that leave you with a feeling of warmth and belonging.




1 comment:

  1. I also have several books set just after the war was ended. I enjoyed your post and learned some new facts. Thanks for sharing.


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