Fremont Proclamation: Review Background Information

It’s August 30, 1861. The war has been raging more than four months, but four slave states – Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri – have not yet joined the Confederacy. If they leave the Union and add their strength to the rebel cause, I think the war is lost. Today my western commander, John Fremont, makes a stunning proclamation. The war is not going well, and as a military matter he frees the slaves of all rebels in Missouri. The order thrills those who oppose slavery in the North, but it goes further than Congress’s new confiscation law allows and angers slaveholders in the loyal slave states, threatening to push them into the arms of the Confederacy.

The country awaits my reaction to this proclamation.

Name of Person 1

Frederick Douglass
(1817-1895)

A former slave and leader of the abolitionist movement. Through his speeches and published writings, he was a strong advocate for any serious emancipation efforts. During the war, he also played an important role in recruiting black soldiers to fight in the Union army. Later, Douglass would emerge as perhaps the nineteenth century’s most eloquent advocate for civil rights.

Name of Person 1

Joshua Speed (1814-1882)

Kentucky’s Confederate sympathizers and even pro-Unionists do not want to free 20,000 slaves. Fremont may as well “attack the freedom to worship in the North or the right of a parent to teach his child to read.” Endorsing this proclamation may lead to the emancipation of slaves in Missouri, but it could also lead to Kentucky’s secession.

Endorse Fremont’s Order

Endorse Fremont’s proclamation. “To fight against slaveholders, without fighting against slavery, is but a half-hearted business, and paralyzes the hands engaged in it… Fire must be met with water… War for the destruction of liberty must be met with war for the destruction of slavery.”

Revoke Fremont’s Order

Kentucky’s Confederate sympathizers and even pro-Unionists do not want to free 20,000 slaves. Fremont may as well “attack the freedom to worship in the North or the right of a parent to teach his child to read...” Endorsing this proclamation may lead to the emancipation of slaves in Missouri, but it could also lead to Kentucky’s secession.

So those are my choices: Endorse Fremont’s emancipation proclamation and risk losing Union loyalty in Missouri and the other Border States, or overrule it and risk losing the support of antislavery Republicans. What should I do?