On January 1st (2013) my lovely bride and I will celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary. I cannot even dream of another woman I would have wanted to spend those 32 years with. She is the exemplification of “my better half”. She is Carol Connelly to my Melvin Udall in “As Good as it Gets”. “You make me want to be a better man.”
This date also marks the 150th anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation, issued by President Lincoln and effective on January 1, 1863, declared an end to slavery in all those states and territories then in rebellion against the Union. It specifically did not free slaves or abolish slavery in any of the other states, including Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware that were slave-holding states.
Imagine if in 1942 President Roosevelt had issued an executive order freeing all of the inmates in the concentration camps inside Germany what the effect would have been. This executive order would have had no binding legal effect on Germany. In comparison the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln also had no legal binding effect on the states that had seceded from the United States.
The Emancipation Proclamation allegedly provided the basis for the Union army to free slaves in the Confederate states as a gained control over them. It also added the abolition of slavery to the Northern war aims. It allegedly made possible the enlistment of blacks in the Union forces, and it is estimated that 200,000 blacks served in the Union Army and Navy.
President Lincoln, however, according to the film, was rightfully concerned that the proclamation, as a “war measure”, might be overturned by legal challenges, or, that an act of Congress abolishing slavery could be overturned by future legislatures. In 1865, according to the film, as the war was drawing to an end, he decided that there must also be an Amendment to the Constitution, free of such challenges.
The movie “Lincoln” currently showing, describes in detail how he worked to get the amendment passed in the lame duck Congress. The film purports it passed Congress in February 1865 and was ratified by the states and went into effect December 6, 1865.
The Constitution requires that three fourths of the states ratify an Amendment before it becomes effective. Do you know what the last state to ratify this Amendment was; and when? Don’t skip to the end yet!
The film is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”. In fact, the Amendment was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, not during a “lame duck” Congress. It was later passed by the House on January 31, 1865. Is the film attempting to rewrite history? Or whitewash it?
The 13th Amendment states: “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln was merely a political move to enhance his standing as seen by the citizens of the Union.
There are lessons here:
First, the ratification of an Amendment to the Constitution does not take years to accomplish as evidenced by the 13th amendment. It can be accomplished in a matter of months. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House on January 31, 1865. He took just under 10 months for the amendment to pass the second House of Congress and just over 10 months to have it ratified by the required number of States. When individuals complain about the length of the ratification process today, they are ignoring the facts. We could have a Balanced Budget Amendment passed and ratified in less than a year; If, our elected Representatives desired to do so.
Second, the prevailing knowledge of something is rarely true if it has been doctored by those who are able to. The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, or even free the slaves in southern states. It was in fact only a political move to enhance Lincoln’s political standing.
As you celebrate the New Year, please also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. Not because the Emancipation Proclamation was legal but because of its intended and eventual purpose. Slavery of any person or peoples is wrong!
I believe this country could, and would, have resolved this issue without a war. The British Empire had already abolished slavery (with certain exemptions) in 1833, and removed those exemptions a decade later in 1843. In 1886 slavery was abolished in Cuba, and in 1888 slavery was abolished in Brazil. There was 444 years of acknowledged public slavery, beginning with public auctions of African slaves in Portugal in 1444.
You might also wish my lovely bride a “Happy Anniversary”. She deserves recognition for having endured 32 years with me.
Oh, yes, March 16, 1995. You may not remember that date, but it is interesting. That is the date that the State of Mississippi (where my bride, who is now officially a Lady, was born) ratified the 13th Amendment.
William “Doc” Halliday is a native of Holyoke, Massachusetts. A U. S. Army veteran, he served multiple tours in Southeast Asia. He lives in the Shreveport, Louisiana area, and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org