January 1, 1863: The Emancipation Proclamation (Transcript)
This Week In Southern History
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For This Week In Southern History, we go all the way back to 1863, and here’s what the world looked like then!
In Sacramento, California, the ground is broken on what will be America’s first Transcontinental railroad causing mediocre white men everywhere to question the railroad’s actual gender
Over in Denmark, The death of King Fredrick the VII brings about the Second Schleswig-Holstein crisis. We all remember that, right? What a tragedy… I mean, you cant have Christian IX assuming power like that and expect everything to stay all hunky-dory! Lord, it always comes down to someones dip shit cousin ruining it for everyone, doesn't it?
In late December, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, along with winning an award for fanciest sounding name ever, pens his most famous poem in Christmas Bells, or as we all know it, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” which tells the story of a man hearing Christmas Bells during The Civil War….It was a war that had seen a dynamic shift earlier in the year because it was this week in Southern history, on January 1st, 1863, in what he called his “… greatest and most enduring contribution to the history of the war,” Abraham Lincoln issued The Emancipation Proclamation.
Abraham Lincoln would go on to say, “It is, in fact, the central act of my administration and the great event of the 19th century.” History would undoubtedly go on to prove him correct, in my opinion, but my my, what a hell of a thing to say about something you did. Again, he’s correct but imagine being such a profound sumbitch that you knew in that moment “this shit right here yall? Ain't no one gonna do shit this badass for the rest of this century, and matter fact, ain't no one done shit this badass since the last damn century IF THAT!” I aspire to have even a fraction of that confidence just once in my life. Hopefully, while trying to talk my wife into getting a new TV.
Hell, why wouldn’t he feel that way, though? He was freeing the slaves! We’ve all seen Elon Musk nearly break his back trying to give himself a reach around for pretending to invent a car battery as if his daddy didn't own a Zambian Emerald Mine, so if the son of a cabinet maker born in a f*ckin log cabin wants to drop the mic on ending one of the most horrific institutions the world has ever seen then drop that sh*t and moonwalk outta here, Abe!
Here’s the thing, however…. The Emancipation Proclamation didn't do that. Since the proclamation only applied to areas outside of Lincoln’s control, it had basically zero effect on freeing any slaves….. at that moment, that is. We’ll put a pin in this, ok?
Abraham Lincoln said something once that people love quoting for one reason or another… he said: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it.”
Many people conveniently stop right there as if that’s all there is to it, but Abraham Lincoln continued …” and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”
I know that the English language is nuanced, and we cant always gather intent, especially if we weren’t there and didn't have the context and blah blah blah, but it’s pretty clear to me that what Abraham Lincoln was saying is “I JUST WANT THIS F***** WAR TO END!” And I personally think that is a reasonable stance to take on any war.
Lincoln was clear at the beginning of The War that it was not about freeing the slaves but rather preserving The Union… A Union slowly being torn apart because slave-states kept seceding. Tomato, To-mah-to, Potato, Po-tah-to, let's call the whole thing war!
You can say whatever you want, but words themselves are often hollow and meaningless. It has happened since the first man decided he was going to be a politician, it happens all the time in modern-day politics, and yeah.. it’ll happen forever. We see “thoughts and prayers” thrown around instead of any attempt at policy change that may, at the very least, drastically reduce how often we are put in the position of offering them. We see people from every party imaginable stand up for the working man using their words, only to vote in a way that keeps their constituents in the poorhouse the second they are elected. I myself am guilty of hollow words. I write this little “humor” series, and I’d be lying to you if I said I did it for much more than how it makes me feel when someone compliments me. When someone tells me, they love hearing someone with my accent say such things. I’ll be the first to tell you that is a substantial motivating factor. That, and I enjoy making a dollar or two here and there from the comfort of my bed wearing only my underwear. Guilty as charged.
Anyone can proclaim things, as Lincoln did with the Emancipation Proclamation, but if the proclamation didn’t actually free any slaves, then isn’t it just words?
It is widely known that because of the cotton trade and other means of expanding their power and influence, countries like Great Britain and France were keen on supporting the confederacy in The Civil War. Those countries would wind up being neutral and become giant allies of The United States as a whole after the war and remain two of our closest allies to this day. Why the sudden change of heart, you ask? Well, both of those countries were firmly against slavery! Now that had not long been the stance either of these countries took on slavery.. matter fact, both of them had only given up slavery in the past 50 or so years, so it was a bit like when your wife stops smoking cigarettes and immediately tells you how much you stink and how stupid you are for smoking but hey… late to the party don't mean you ain't here baby and being opposed to slavery is always what’s up!
Until the Emancipation Proclamation, it had not occurred to our friends across the pond that this war was about slavery. I'm sure it didn't help that every confederate they met was constantly saying, “It ain't about slavery!” Even when no one asked. But the picture became very clear on January 1, 1863.
Can you imagine how much different things would have turned out for The Union had Robert E Lee had the support of General Cornwallis’s great-grandson or whomever the f*ck was running the British army at the time? I think America would feel like a team NOT named Alabama during an SEC Championship (My blood boils typing this)
I think we all know that Nick Sab… er, excuse me, Robert E Lee (sorry, its playoff season… go Dawgs) General Robert E Lee would have handily beaten the Union, this country would look wildly different today, and indeed, it would have taken longer to ratify the 13th amendment… that is, if it had ever been proposed.
The 13th Amendment, as you all know, is the amendment to the constitution that abolishes slavery. I’m going to say something right now without assuming a position, but I think we should always consider that nearly 100 years into our countries existence, we had to change our rule book to say that SLAVERY… the enslavement of HUMAN BEINGS.. is a bad thing. This is just something to keep in mind when discussing the permanence and “concrete-ed-ness” of said document. Thank you for allowing me to make up the word “concrete-ed-ness”. I propose we amend the dictionary.
Just in case anyone needs it laid out, The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
“But this amendment was ratified in December of 1865, Corey? Abraham Lincoln had already been shot by then!”
And how! Right, you are ole chap! And I would also argue (along with anyone else with a functioning brain) that the abolition of slavery didn’t even come close to settling the score for black people and that systemically we still fight that battle to this day and will continue to do so long after we all have flying cars and custom sex robots… but it was a start. And none of it would have happened without a man in a top hat proclaiming some sh*t!
As I said earlier, Great Britain and France were ready to back The Confederacy in The Civil War, and the only reason they did NOT was because of their anti-slavery stances. They had truly believed the war was over states’ rights until then, which is true. The south just left out the part where their favorite of those rights was slavery. It was made clear to Great Britain and France that this war was about slavery because of The Emancipation Proclamation.
Indeed, the Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves.. the 13th Amendment did. The 13th amendment, which was drawn up after Lincoln and his congressional supporters realized that the Emancipation Proclamation would have no constitutional basis at the end of the war. A pretty sweet “one thing led to another” if there ever was one.
So yeah… sometimes words are hollow; for the most part, actions speak louder. But every now and then…. All you need is for the right people to hear you.
Congress passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865… it was ratified on December 6, 1865. Abraham Lincoln would not get to see this because on April 15, 1865… he was shot in the head. I'm sure it was over states rights.
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