In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the U. S. Supreme Court – disregarding the constitutionally-authorized ban – declared that Congress could not interfere with slavery or prohibit it in any territory, thereby “reopening the African slave trade [through] perversions of judicial power.”
Republicans won the election of 1860 and, in accordance with this plank in their platform, they begin to take action to end slavery. For example, in 1862, they passed a federal law prohibiting slavery in the federal territories – a direct affront to the 1857 Dred Scott decision in which the U. S. Supreme Court had forbidden Congress from ending slavery in any territory. In 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation – another act directly refuting the Supreme Court decision. The Republican Congress had indeed begun pursuing measures for the “total and final suppression of that execrable traffic.”
On New Year’s Day in 1863, the Republican Party’s Emancipation Proclamation came into effect. While Republicans rejoiced, Democrat politicians and newspapers denounced President Abraham Lincoln (R-IL) for freeing slaves.
Demonstrating their depravity, New York’s Gov. Horatio Seymour, who would be the 1868 Democrat presidential nominee, denounced the Emancipation Proclamation as “a proposal for the butchery of women and children.”
The Louisville Daily Democrat called it “an outrage of all constitutional law, all human justice, all Christian feeling.”
Although this is often ignored by the revisionists in academia Republicans led the charge on civil rights and women’s rights.
Five days after the Battle of Antietam, September 22, 1862, Lincoln met with his cabinet to draft the Emancipation Proclamation. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Portland Chase recorded Lincoln as stating:
“The time for the annunciation of the emancipation policy can no longer be delayed.
Public sentiment will sustain it, many of my warmest friends and supporters demand it, and I have promised God that I will do it.”
When asked about this last statement, Lincoln replied:
“I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee were driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves.”
The Emancipation Proclamation stated:
“I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief …
do, on the FIRST DAY OF JANUARY, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three … publicly proclaim … that … persons held as slaves … are, and henceforward shall be, free …
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence … and … labor faithfully for reasonable wages …
And upon this act … I invoke … the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
Nine-year-old Booker T. Washington remembered:
“There was more singing in the slave quarters than usual … Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom …
Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper — the Emancipation Proclamation …
After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased.
My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks.
She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.”
Freedom was proclaimed to slaves in many Southern States on June 19, 1865, resulting in that date being celebrated annually as “Juneteenth.”
Internationally, the Emancipation Proclamation had the effect of giving the North the “moral high ground,” causing European support of the Confederacy to evaporate — as no country wanted to be perceived as supporting slavery.
Lincoln stated in his Second Annual Message, December 1, 1862.
“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free … We shall nobly save — or meanly lose — the last, best hope of earth.
Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain … a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”
The Emancipation Proclamation did not attempt to free slaves in Northern States as the North was not in rebellion. Lincoln had no legal ground to overrule the legitimate governments in those States.
With his skill as a lawyer, Lincoln was attempting a legal maneuver.
If the South was declared a “war-zone,” the President, acting in his war-time role as “Commander-in-Chief,” could issue an executive order in the states at war, and thus, his order would have the force of law in those states.
Congress saw the Emancipation Proclamation is as an unconstitutional usurpation of power.
In fact, President Washington, in his Farewell Address, specifically warned against the executive usurping power in times of crisis:
“But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.
The precedent (of usurpation) must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.”
Though Lincoln considered his executive proclamation an “instrument of good,” it was deemed unconstitutional by Congress, so he worked another route.
Rather than ruling through executive orders and proclamations, Lincoln undertook to free the slaves using the proper constitutional means of passing the 13th Amendment.
An amendment required an enormous amount political effort, as 2/3’s of Congress needed to approve it. This was portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s movie, Lincoln (2012).
Lincoln proclaimed a second National Day of Fasting to be observed on April 30, 1863:
“We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us … and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us …
Let … the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country.”
Two days later, on May 2, 1863, Confederate soldiers shot one of their own best generals — Stonewall Jackson, as he was returning at twilight during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Most Civil War historians hold that if Jackson had not been shot and was present at the Battle of Gettysburg two months later, the South may have won.
Lincoln then helped push through the Coinage Act of 1864, which placed the phrase “In God We Trust” on a two-cent coin.
The 13th Amendment to abolish slavery was passed in the U.S. Senate on April 8, 1864. All 30 Republican Senators voted in favor of it, joined by only 4 Democrats.
The U.S. House passed the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865, with all 86 Republicans voting in favor, joined by 15 Democrats, 14 Unconditional Unionists, and 4 Union men.
Voting against the 13th Amendment were 50 Democrat Congressmen, joined by 6 Union men.
Though not necessary, Lincoln — the first Republican President — added his signature to the 13th Amendment after the words “Approved February 1, 1865.”
On March 2, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent a message to Union General Ulysses S. Grant asking for a meeting.
On March 3, 1865, Lincoln established the Freedmen’s Bureau and signed the Act placing “In God We Trust” on all gold and silver coins.
Though Republicans were successful in their efforts to officially abolish slavery with the 13th Amendment, Democrats in Southern States passed Black Codes, Jim Crow Laws, and created racist vigilante organizations.
Republicans responded by enlarging the Federal Government’s power with the 14th Amendment in 1868 to ensure civil rights for freed slaves in the Southern States.
When Democrats enacted racial voting restrictions, Republicans countered by enacting the 15th Amendment in 1870, ensuring the right of freed slaves to vote.
These Amendments were “instruments of good,” nevertheless, they did have the unanticipated consequence of enlarging the Federal Government’s control over the States to an unprecedented degree.
Earlier in his career, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861, Lincoln shared his hopes that America would help inspire freedom in other countries of the world:
It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance …
This is the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence … I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.”