Sunday, September 23, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation - 150th Anniversary

Yesterday, September 22, was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

A turning point for freedom in America, 150 years later, Donna Brazile, CNN, September 22, 2012.

This fall, the descendants of slaves, millions of ethnic and religious minorities from other lands, African-Americans and immigrants -- Latinos, Asians, Europeans -- and women, as well as working- and middle-class Americans, will decide whether to claim their future. We are all in this together.
All Americans will have a chance to move Lincoln's vision forward to help close the opportunity gap, to end the economic inequality resulting from government policies that favor a handful over the many who work equally hard. Abraham Lincoln would be proud to see the progress we have made. But he also would understand that there is still more work to do. Together.
Claim it.

President Obama's Emancipation Proclamation,  Ray Errol Fox and Jacopo della Quercia, Huffington Post, September 22, 2012.

Not for the first time in our nation's fractious history of presidential elections, we are debating what it means to be free in The United States of America. Not for the first time, a U.S. President is arguably staking his mandate to lead the country on the body politic interpretation of the freedom of the individual. And, not for the first time, but presumably for the last time, "We the People" are coming to grips with Thomas Jefferson's seemingly unassailable dictum that "all men are created equal."

By becoming the first U.S. President to come out in support of same-sex marriage, President Obama has boldly illuminated bone-deep and often ugly differences of opinion dividing Americans, and exposed them to open civil discussion. Comparisons to Abraham Lincoln and his stand on slavery a century and a half ago are ample and inescapable.

Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, and the course of US History, Stanley Harrold, The Times and Democrat, September 22, 2012.
Critics at the time and since have pointed out that the Final Proclamation did not affect slavery in the border slave states, or in portions of the Confederacy occupied by Union troops. Yet, with the Final Proclamation, slavery could not survive in the Border South. More important, from Jan. 1, 1863, onward, Northern troops fought for black freedom as well as preservation of the Union. Slaves became free immediately as Union armies advanced into Confederate territory. The war to restore the Union as it had been before December 1860 ended on Jan. 1, 1863. An old U.S. Constitution that recognized slavery died; a new Constitution that recognized black freedom stirred to life. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments formalized this change. Black freedom suffered a terrible setback as Reconstruction ended in failure. It took the mid-20th-century’s civil rights movement to revive that freedom and extend it.

Still, without the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, the path to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 may have been much different and more difficult.

Lincoln's Great Gamble, Richard Striner, New York Times Opinionator, September 21, 2012.

Lincoln’s gamble was dangerous indeed. But he did what he believed he had to do. It was not, in the end, a political calculation. According to the diary of Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Lincoln told his cabinet on Sept. 22 he had made a promise to God. “He had made a vow, a covenant,” Welles recounted, “that if God gave us the victory in the approaching battle, he would . . . move forward in the cause of emancipation.”

And so the stakes of the war would be raised to a level commensurate with all of the carnage and all of the sacrifice. The meaning of the war would be changed — forever changed — by Lincoln’s proclamation.

Freedom and Restraint, John Fabian Witt, The Opinion Pages, New York Times, September 21, 2012.

The pocket-size pamphlet quickly became the blueprint for a new generation of treaties, up to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Strong nations like Prussia and France had long suspected that law-of-war initiatives were little more than maneuvering by weaker countries and closet pacifists hoping to make war more difficult. Lincoln’s code broke that diplomatic logjam: It contained no hidden European agenda, and no one could accuse the Lincoln administration of trying to hold back strong armies.