What if there was no Emancipation Proclamation?

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ForeverFree

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What would have happened if Lincoln had not issued the EP?

Would it have made a difference to the Union war effort? The EP enabled the enlistment of ex-slaves into the Union, and tens of thousands of them did serve in the Colored Troops. Would the Union have won the war anyway?

The EP was a promise to free the slaves, and that promise was kept with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. But if there had been no EP, would those Amendments have even been proposed or ratified, assuming the Union won?

Patrick Cleburne, in his proposal to free the slaves if they would fight for the Confederacy, said that slaves had gone from being a strength of the CSA to a weakness. He noted that slaves were joining the Union forces, acting as spies and guides, and otherwise helping the Union cause. Was some of that behavior prompted by the EP's promise of freedom?
 

K Hale

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I don't know that I'd say it was a promise to free the slaves, since nothing was supposed to change slaverywise if the Confederate states came back into the Union before Jan. 1, 1863.
 

ForeverFree

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I think it's fair to say to say that in September 1962, the odds that the EP would have caused any state in the Confederacy to re-join the United States were slim, at best.
 
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K Hale

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I think it's fair to say to say that in September 1962, the odds that the EP would have caused any state in the Confederacy to re-join the United States were slim, at best.
Probably well past slim at that point.
 

brass napoleon

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I don't know that it would have made much of a difference on the battlefield, since most Union commanders were reluctant to use freed slaves in combat. The big difference was what it did politically. The Confederacy was on the verge of recognition by England, and by turning the war into a war against slavery, Lincoln guaranteed that that wouldn't happen. (For reasons I've never understood, France and Russia wouldn't recognize the Confederacy either as long as England didn't.) It also weakened the Confederate war effort by stripping Southern society of a large part of its domestic workforce. There was also the psychological benefit of knowing that if the Union was reunited after the war, it wouldn't be going right back to the same old situation that triggered the war in the first place.

The EP backfired in some ways too, in that many Northern soldiers preferred to desert rather than fight to free the slaves, but overall I think it probably helped the Union war effort considerably.
 

ForeverFree

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I don't know that it would have made much of a difference on the battlefield, since most Union commanders were reluctant to use freed slaves in combat.
- snip -
The EP backfired in some ways too, in that many Northern soldiers preferred to desert rather than fight to free the slaves, but overall I think it probably helped the Union war effort considerably.
Just to add a note - these statements might give the impression that the EP somehow led to a weakening of Union troop strength.

I've never read anything which indicated that to be the case. The colored troops number around 180,000, including many slaves, and many did fight. Even with desertions of whites over the issue - whose numbers I've never seen quantified - the EP has been acknowledged by both the Union and the Confederacy as a boost to the Union armed forces.

Having said that, it's not clear to me that those added numbers were decisive in determining the course of the war. The Union would probably have prevailed anyway.
 
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brass napoleon

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The colored troops number around 180,000, including many slaves, and many did fight. Even with desertions of whites over the issue - whose numbers I've never seen quantified - the EP has been acknowledged by both the Union and the Confederacy as a boost to the Union armed forces.
Agreed. Didn't mean to give any other impression.
 

ole

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As has been noted, the Emancipation Proclamation had little affect on the Confederacy's ability to wage war until Union Troops began their incursions and the slaves voted with their feet, but the snowball effect made it increasing difficult to sustain its rails and food supply. It might also be noted that freed slaves put a heavy burden on the liberating troops and their ability to maintain supply.
 

ForeverFree

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It might also be noted that freed slaves put a heavy burden on the liberating troops and their ability to maintain supply.
From a purely Union military point of view, that's a legitimate way to look at it. Although a slave in Union controlled territory might say that the Union forces placed a strain on his ability to feed and care for himself.

I don't have any way to calculate this, but: I wonder if responsibilities regarding the care of the slaves by the Union were matched by the value gained by slave enlistment in the Union army, along with other support (as spies, guides, support staff, etc)? In the end, was it a "fair exchange"?
 
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ole

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Have read no statistics on that, ForeverFree. The healthier men were employed. That, of course, totally ignores the elderly and children. Might have been a fair exchange; might also get a fair-sized debate going.

Ole
 

OpnOlympic

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What if there was no Emancipation

Lincoln was well aware of the disadvantages of emancipation, but he also considered it tatamount to losing the war, if it were not done. Lincoln was not perfect and was not always correct in his calculations but, in this case, IMO the historical evidence tends to support his estimation.
It seems to be general consensus of most historians, the EP, changed the direction of the war. Turning if from a war to restore an 'idealized' past, into a crusade, into an 'idealized' future. I also think the evidence tends to agree with consensus.
 

ForeverFree

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OpnOlympic, I think the consensus is yes, the EP and its after-effects were a plus, not a minus.

But, it was an act that was controversial and fraught with risk. In retrospect, I think the United States had enough resources to win the war without the EP - although obviously, some decision about what to do with the slaves needed to be made, and the EP basically was a more thorough and well-thought extension of the Confiscation Acts.

I wonder if Lincoln would have taken those risks, if he thought the Union would have won anyway? We'll never know, it's just something to think about.
 
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OpnOlympic

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As already noted, was very aware of the reason's not to emancipate, but, Lincoln was very pragmatic, except, concerning the restoration of the Union.
He had already expressed his view of slavery as subordinate to the Union(although, when he stated it, he had already decided that emancipation was, in fact, necessary, to preserve the Union.) The statement was true, in all aspects of Lincoln's intent of saving the Union, whatever the cost to slavery.
So, if Lincoln 'had' decided that emancipation was not necessary, he would not have done so.


P.S. But, IMO, it would only have delayed some kind of Emancipation plan, because Lincoln considered slavery the cause of the sectionalism that led to war. As the incubus of war, he could not leave it untouched, so it could start another war, later.
 

brass napoleon

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I wonder if Lincoln would have taken those risks, if he thought the Union would have won anyway? We'll never know, it's just something to think about.
I actually think Lincoln would have done it anyway. He was pragmatic, but he also detested slavery. He would never have done it if he thought it would hurt the war effort, and he wouldn't have done it in peacetime, because it would have been unconstitutional and it would have been too much of a disruption of society. But as a wartime measure, with society disrupted already, why not? He would have regretted it for the rest of his life if he didn't.
 

BillO

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I have to admit I always considered the emancipation proclamation more political theatre aimed at the europeans than a heartfelt concern for slaves. I quess because the only slaves it seemed to free were the slaves that he had no direct control over. That, plus the fact that the war had lately been going badly for him and he needed something stronger than perserving the union to entice recruits.
 
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unionblue

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I have to admit I always considered the emancipation proclamation more political theatre aimed at the europeans than a heartfelt concern for slaves. I quess because the only slaves it seemed to free were the slaves that he had no direct control over. That, plus the fact that the war had lately been going badly for him and he needed something stronger than perserving the union to entice recruits.
"...After ten o'clock the people began to collect by land, and also by water,--in steamers sent by General Saxon for the purpose; and from that time all the avenues of approach were thronged. The multitude were chiefly colored women, with gay handkerchiefs on their heads, and a sprinkling of men, with that peculiarly respectable look which those people always have on Sundays and holidays. There were many white visitors also,--ladies on horseback, and in carriages, superintendents and teachers, officers, and cavalry-men. Our companies were marched to the neighborhood of the platform, and allowed to sit or stand, as at the Sunday services; the platform was occupied by ladies and dignitaries, and by the band of the Eighth Maine, which kindly volunteered for the occasion; the colored people filled up all the vacant openings in the beautiful grove around, and there was a cordon of mounted visitors beyond. Above, the great live oak branches and their trailing moss; beyond the people, a glimpse of the blue river.

The services began a halfpast eleven o'clock, with prayer by our chaplain, Mr. Fowler, who is always, on such occasions, simple, reverential, and impressive. Then the President's Proclamation was read by Dr. W. H. Brisbane, a thing infinitely appropriate; a South Carolinian addressing South Carolinians; for he was reared among these very islands, and here long since emancipated his own slaves.

Then the colors were presented to us by the Rev. Mr. French, a chaplain who brought them from the donors in New York. All this was according to the programme. Then followed an incident so simple, so touching, so utterly unexpected and startling, that I can scarcely believe it on recalling, though it gave the key-note to the whole day.

The very moment the speaker had ceased, and just as I took and waved the flag, which now for the first time meant anything to those poor people, there suddenly arose, close beside the platform, a strong male voice (but rather cracked and elderly), into which two women's voices instantly blended, singing, as if by an impulse that could no more be repressed than the morning note of the song-sparrow.--

"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing!"

People looked at each other, and then at us on the platform, to see whence came this interruption, not set down in the bills. Firmly and irrepressibly the quavering voices sang on, verse after verse; others of the colored people joined in; some whites on the platform began, but I motioned them to silence.

I never saw anything so electric; it made all other words cheap; it seemed the choked voice of a race at last unloosed. Nothing could be more wonderfully unconscious; art could not have dreamed of a tribute to the day of jubilee that should be so affecting; history will not believe it; and when I came to speak of it, after it was ended, tears were everywhere.

If you could have heard how quaint and innocent it was! Old Tiff and his children might have sung it; and close before me was a little slave-boy, almost white, who seemed to belong to the party, and even he must join in. Just think of it!--the first day they had ever had a country, the first flag they had ever seen which promised anything to their people, and here, while mere spectators stood in silence, waiting for my stupid words, these simple souls burst out in their lay, as if they were by their own hearths at home!

When they stopped, there was nothing to do for it but to speak, and I went on; but the life of the whole day was in those unknown people's song."

Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Camp Saxton, near Beaufort, S.C., January 1, 1863.

I suggest the Emancipation Proclamation had a bit more impact than we all suspect in this present time.

Unionblue
 

BillO

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I've read that passage before and I'm sure that the freed slaves passion and joy was a thing to behold but a signed piece of paper didn't free them, the army did. Now what the proclamation did do was to clear up any and all confusion and misunderstandings as to the official standing of the contrabands that before had been in a sort of legal limbo. A fine distinction but it seems important to me.
 

ole

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official standing of the contrabands
During the early occupation of West Tennessee, there was just such confusion. Blacks were hired, but there arose a question of who was to be paid. The master or the worker? In more than a few cases, pay had to be withheld until it was determined who was to be paid. The Confiscation acts and the EP tended to clarify that quandary -- doesn't matter who he belongs to. Pay him. Simplifies the paperwork.

Ole
 
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unionblue

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I've read that passage before and I'm sure that the freed slaves passion and joy was a thing to behold but a signed piece of paper didn't free them, the army did. Now what the proclamation did do was to clear up any and all confusion and misunderstandings as to the official standing of the contrabands that before had been in a sort of legal limbo. A fine distinction but it seems important to me.
BillO,

Your statement above has merit.

"I congratulate you, upon what may be called the greatest event of our nation's history, if not the greatest event of the century. In the eye of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, there is not now, and there has not been, since the 1st day of January, a single slave lawfully deprived of Liberty in any of the States now recognized as in Rebellion against the National Government. In all these States Slavery is now in law, as in fact, a system of lawless violence, against which the slave may lawfully defend himself... The change in attitude of the Government is vast and startling. For more than sixty years the Federal Government has been little better than a stupendous engine of Slavery and oppression, through which Slavery has ruled us, as with a rod of iron... Assuming that our Government and people will sustain the President and the Proclamation, we can scarcely conceive of a more complete revolution in the position of a nation... I hail it as the doom of Slavery in all the States... At last the outspread wings of the American Eagle afford shelter and protection to men of all colors, all countries and climes, and the long oppressed black man may honorably fall or gloriously flourish under the star-spangled banner.

I stand here tonight not only as a colored man and an American, but by the express decision of the Attorney-General of the United States, as a colored citizen, having, in common with all other citizens, a stake in the safety, prosperity, honor, and glory of a common country. We are all liberated by this proclamation. Everybody is liberated. The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated, the brave men now fighting the battles of their country against rebels and traitors are now liberated, and may strike with all their might, even if they do hurt the Rebels, at their most sensitive point. [Applause.] I congratulate you upon this amazing change--the amazing approximation toward the sacred truth of human liberty."

Frederick Douglass, speaking at The Cooper Institute in New York, February 6, 1863, on the Emancipation Proclamation.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

OpnOlympic

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Early in the War, when Lincoln was negotiating with border state slave owners for a plan for compensated Emancipate their slave, because, Lincoln warned them, just the friction of the war itself would surely destroy slavery, if the war was not quickly end; bedbefore the war became a Revolution.



P.S. but, as the slave-owners would not sacrifice their slaves for southern independence, so also, they would not sacrifice them for their pocketbooks.
 
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