The Timing and Nature of the Emancipation Proclamation

With the Civil War going badly, and as the people of the Northern states began to lose enthusiasm for the war, Abraham Lincoln decided to switch tactics. On page 229 of Fight, Flight, Fraud: The Story of Taxation by Charles Adams we read the following statement made by Lincoln:

“Things had gone from bad to worse until I felt we had reached the end of our rope on the plan we were pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the game. I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy.”

Aside from the noble sentiment and the stirring prose, the Emancipation Proclamation was an incredibly flawed document. Bruce Catton, in an essay for the American Heritage Pictorial History of the Civil War, writes:

“Technically, the proclamation was almost absurd. It proclaimed freedom for all slaves in precisely those areas where the United States could not make its authority effective, and allowed slavery to continue in slave states which remained under Federal control…. But in the end it changed the whole character of the war and, more than any other single thing, doomed the Confederacy to defeat.”

These quotes are cited from page 379 and 380 of The Creature from Jekyll Island, A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin.

In the final analysis the Emancipation Proclamation proved to be an incredibly shrewd political maneuver, not an act of transcendental moral courage.


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