Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Forgotten Freedom

The original Emancipation Proclamation, five pages long,
is in the National Archives.
One would think that in a country that is always sounding off about being the home of liberty and freedom, that the front pages of yesterday's newspapers would have rung with the marking of the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant documents of freedom in our history.

I found five.

They are posted below.

To the credit of one of the nation's three commonwealths, three of them were in Virginia.

None were in the other two commonwealths, Massachusetts or Pennsylvania. (Yes, that includes The Mercury.)

Certainly, these are not all the newspapers in the country, and so I'm sure there are others that remembered.

But as a sample, it's a poor showing.

The Daily Press of 

Hampton Roads, VA
Having missed it myself, I suppose I can understand how it could happen.

But really, no I can't understand how that could happen.

Unless of course we accept that history is no longer valued in this country; this at the same time that "heritage tourism" is being touted as one path to revitalization for older towns.

We ignore history constantly in debating the issues of the day and half our children know more about "gangham-style" then the Bill of Rights.

One might think that with "Lincoln" now roaring through the movie theaters that some of us might have remembered....
Lynchburg, Va.
Any way, courtesy of the National Archives, here is your brief refresher on the Emancipation Proclamation ... one day late:
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.
Richmond, Va.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.
Greensboro, N.C.
From the first days of the Civil War, slaves had acted to secure their own liberty. The Emancipation Proclamation confirmed their insistence that the war for the Union must become a war for freedom. It added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened the Union both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to slavery's final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
In reading Lincoln biographies, I have always been amazed at the carefulness of his positions. Some change was the evolution of his positions, while others seem to have been calculated to ensure he did not proceed ahead of the mood or willingness of the nation.

When campaigning in Illinois, he would talk about abolition in the north of the state, where is was supported, but nary a whisper while campaigning in the south.

Although he was a great leader, he was also a great politician, a reminder that that label need not always be pejorative, or that both words are not always  mutually exclusive.

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