Thank you to everyone who attended the January meeting to hear Jim Lewis speak on “Hell’s Half Acre”. Total attendance for the lecture was 82. There were 51 diners, four who were non-members. Also attending were an additional 24 members and seven who were non-members to hear the presentation. Thank you once again for your outstanding support and interest in the Round Table.

Remember to make your dinner reservation by 11 a.m. Monday February 13th to hear Earl Hess speak on “Civil War Tactics.” I’m looking forward to seeing all of you at the February meeting.

Since February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, I decided to write my column on what he believed to be his most important achievement – The Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln / The Emancipation Proclamation – January 1st, 1863

With the discussion of Presidential Executive Orders in today’s news, I thought it would be interesting to review Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Here are some of my thoughts on the Proclamation.

The first draft was presented to Lincoln’s Cabinet on July 22, 1862. The issuing of this draft was delayed at the advice of Secretary of State Seward until the Union had a significant military victory. A Preliminary Proclamation was issued September 22, 1862 after the Union victory at Antietam. A 3rd draft was written between December 29-31, 1862 and the Proclamation was issued and became law on January 1, 1863. Lincoln signed the Proclamation on that day against the advice of most of his Cabinet.

Was it a legal document? The Constitution in 1863 did not allow Lincoln via executive order to free slaves in Union states. Slavery was legal in the US Constitution. Through the War Powers clause of the Constitution Lincoln, as Commander-in-Chief, was able to claim presidential authority to free slaves in the states in rebellion. States who remained part of the Union with slaves were not affected. These states were Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and the state to become West Virginia. The Proclamation was a temporary document and it would need Congress to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution to enact into law.

Lincoln was looking for the Proclamation to have an impact militarily, politically and morally. Militarily, he hoped that slaves would come forward and join the Union army as well as leave the plantations in the South reducing its labor force choking it economically. Politically, it would make it more difficult for England and France to support the Confederacy. Morally, the scourge of slavery could be ended and the process to free all slaves would be in place if the North won the war. Hindsight tells us that all of this was accomplished but whether the Proclamation did this is debatable. Author Richard Hofstadter is quoted that the Proclamation “had all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading”.

“If my name ever goes into history… it will be for this act [the Emancipation Proclamation]”, President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln wrote every word of the Emancipation Proclamation with little or no consultation. It was written in the manner to meet legal requirements and as such not very inspiring. Having said that, the Proclamation was the first written document promising to end slavery.

One final tidbit. In reading and re-reading the Emancipation Proclamation and the section that speaks to the States in rebellion, Tennessee is left off the list. I have listed a couple of books in my sources if you would like to read more on this topic.

In March, Curt Fields, Historian, “Appomattox: The Days before the Surrender” will be the presenter at the Round Table’s monthly meeting March 14th, 2017, on this topic.

John Stegner, President


The Greatest Speech, Ever – James L. Cotton Jr.

Lincoln’s Hundred Days – Louis P Masur

Lincoln’s Gamble – Todd Brewster