Bill Ward: Proclamation did not free all slaves

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2016

The writer is responding to an essay in the Aug. 28 Salisbury Post, “How the Empire began,” by Betty Dan Spencer.

If Mrs. Spencer wants to tout herself as a historian, she needs to cast her net into the deep end of the history pool, apart from the narrow confines of Salisbury and Rowan County. Those are only tiny specks on a very large page.

In her article, Mrs. Spencer wrote:

“[D]r. W.H. Howerton, advertised in June 1862, that he had returned to Salisbury. … Wearing a different hat, Howerton, as agent, advertised an auction to be held at the Boyden House on January 2, 1865. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued in January [1], 1863, to be auctioned was one negro man described as a No. 1 field hand, and a negro woman and child, described as a No. 1 cook, washer and ironer.”

Ms. Spencer’s statement, “Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued in January 1863…” made no sense. Did she read somewhere that King Lincoln ruled the entire country and this was one of his executive orders, a la Obama?

In my years of researching and writing about history, I quickly determined that the Emancipation Proclamation was one of the biggest pieces of political fluff in American History. I invite anyone to carefully read and digest that document to think differently. One author who made a good analysis of it was Charles Adams in his book, “When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession.” Adams, originally from Canada, lived in New York City for years.

The war wasn’t going well for the Union. As casualties reached tens of thousands, pressure on Washington increased. Newspapers decried the need for war between north and south. Politicians and relatives of Union soldiers urged the administration to stop the killing. Lincoln needed a way to stem the tide of war, and what he came up with was diabolical.

Lincoln had no benevolent motivation towards slavery or continuation of the Union. His actions declared his allegiance to the power of Northern business and industry. He tried to persuade free blacks to submit to deportation for colonization to Africa, which was wisely refused. Lincoln wanted a white America.

Another author who delved into this subject was Lerone Bennett, Jr., the executive editor of Ebony Magazine when he wrote, “Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream.” He discussed Lincoln’s motivations, including the Emancipation Proclamation, and how they were badly flawed. The book became a blockbuster best seller, yet papers such as The New York Times never listed it or reviewed it. When Bennett came to Salisbury to speak at Livingston College, all of his publications were listed on Livingston’s website, except this one. I guess they call it “innovative instruction.”

The Union Army was being beaten by the Confederate Army. Lincoln needed any excuse, to release his Emancipation Proclamation.

The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) was the bloodiest day of the war, a very bloody draw. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac sustained 12,410 casualties. Lee’s Army lost 10,700 men. Lee left the field to go back to Northern Virginia. But by the standards of the day, the Union claimed victory. That was all Lincoln needed to announce his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862.

Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. But later that month, Lincoln’s own state sent a strong message when it passed a resolution, “The Emancipation Proclamation Denounced.” The Illinois legislature questioned the legality of the proclamation. on constitutional grounds.

The resolution said, in part: “The proclamation invites servile insurrection as an element in this emancipation crusade — a means of warfare, the inhumanity and diabolism of which are without example in civilized warfare, and which we denounce, and which the civilized world will denounce as an uneffaceable disgrace to the American people.”

Lincoln had hoped for a slave uprising in the South. It never happened. Lincoln had been selective in writing the proclamation. It “freed the slaves” only in those areas of the Confederate states where it had no force in the law. Even Lincoln doubted the legality of the instrument, used as a tool of war. In places exempted by the Proclamation and occupied by Union forces, the slaves were “freed” simply by the presence of an occupying army.

Little documentation exists about slaves who ran away from Confederate territories upon hearing about the Proclamation. Those many who remained continued to be loyal and work for their white families throughout the war.

Charles Dickens, a literary giant of his time, represented the views of many British writers: “The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states.” Ample proof exists that slavery was on its decline by 1850.

Bill Ward is a writer and historian living in Salisbury. Contact him at .