Final Emancipation: Review Background Information

Although the emancipation order I announced in September has not yet taken effect, it has already stirred a firestorm of controversy. Even some members of my own Republican Party say the order is misguided, and serves only to hand our Democratic opponents a political club with which to beat us. The Democrats have done well lately, capturing 35 new seats in Congress and several statehouses in the fall elections. Some Republicans blame our political defeats on military setbacks, while others believe that my emancipation policy is the reason for our loss at the polls. Many white Northerners do not believe that freeing the slaves is essential at all to saving the Union. I am accused of exceeding my constitutional authority. Shall I stand by the emancipation order and issue a final proclamation? Or should I back down from the pledge and try to save my party? There is no shortage of advice from either side.

Name of Person 1

Charles Sumner (1811-1874)

US senator, lawyer, and intellectual. Known for his powerful oratory and deep commitment to the cause of civil rights, Sumner emerged as an antislavery leader in the 1840s. As a senator from Massachusetts, he regularly pressed President Lincoln to sponsor legislation to free the slaves, grant them civil rights and enlist them in the Union Army.

Name of Person 1

Orville Browning (1806-1881)

Senator from Illinois and friend of Lincoln. He was a delegate to the Chicago convention of 1860, which nominated Lincoln for the presidency, and was an active supporter of the government during the Civil War. In 1861, Governor Yates appointed him to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Stephen A. Douglas. He served until 1863.

Stand by the Proclamation

I have said from the start that the war should be waged to abolish slavery and not solely to preserve the Union. The president has finally taken action to free the slaves. Now is no time for retreat. “Our armies must be pressed forward and the proclamation must be pressed forward…and the country must be made to feel there will be no relaxation of any kind.”

Rescind the Proclamation

The President is “fatally bent” on issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. “God grant it may [not] be productive of the mischief I fear.”

So those are my choices: I can stand by my pledge to free the slaves as a matter of military necessity or revoke the emancipation order in the face of political opposition. What should I do?