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Old 24 September 2018, 03:41 AM
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Given that freeing slaves in the Union required changing the law, didn't Lincoln not have that authority in the first place?
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Old 24 September 2018, 04:41 AM
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That’s my take, but I’m interested to hear an alternative (if anyone would put one forth). On the subject of hindsight, much of what Lincoln actually did was "unthinkable" by mid-19th century standards and yet he did it anyways. Are we right in thinking that freeing all slaves with the stroke of a pen and some bayonets would have really been "too far" even though so much else wasn’t?

I really do think the answer is "obviously yes," not only because of the legal/constitutional reasons, but because "bayonets" weren’t as much of an option for those states not in open rebellion.
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Old 24 September 2018, 02:23 PM
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I think Congress would have supported general emancipation if that was what was required. By the time Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Congress had already passed laws abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and in all Federal territories and freeing all slaves of rebellious slave owners.
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Old 24 September 2018, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
I think Congress would have supported general emancipation if that was what was required.
I doubt they would have enacted a general emancipation for all everywhere.

ETA - My first comments on your comment here missed the point of the conversation. But anyway, I don't think they would have passed such legislation at the time and risk losing what support they may have still had in those border states controlled by the union. And I agree that Lincoln probably didn't have the power to do so. He was only using the power that they had (mostly) already ceded to the federal govt in the legislature you mentioned, which is another reason (besides to not lose support in the border slave states) why the EP was so carefully worded so as to exclude those areas already held by the union.

Last edited by ganzfeld; 25 September 2018 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 25 September 2018, 02:24 AM
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That is a really good question, ASL. My theory was simply that Lincoln knew he had enough enemies as is and didn’t need to make more, when he was struggling with the ones he already had. However satisfying it may be to tell them off, the border states had resources he needed, and it’s a good rule of life to try to keep your enemies list as short as reasonably possible.

Though I heard that many of these slave-owning states, eventually voted to free their slaves in elections held during the war. On some level, even they realized “Wait, we’re fighting a war against slavery, while owning slaves. This is kind of messed up.” Though that may be another motive when it came to Lincoln’s decision. Not only did leaving them out of the Emancipation leave people off his enemies list, if he had demanded that these states give up their slaves, the best case scenario is that they dig in their heels, say, “STFU!” and generally refuse to lend Lincoln any further support. Worst case, they might decide to join in the secession.

While I know the South fired the first shot in all this by shelling Fort Sumter, thus making peaceful secession impossible, there are times I still wonder what would have happened if the US just let the NFBSKers secede. Given that the South sucked at everything except human rights violations, I frankly think they wouldn’t have lasted long.

Take into account that the South had a total population of nine million, of which four million were slaves. Also nearly every state in the Confederacy contained microstates made up of people who refused to go along with the secession and did what they could to support the Union. The whole thing would collapse like wet cardboard once faced with the slightest stress and rebelling against a larger, better armed opponent is the very definition of stress.
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Old 25 September 2018, 11:26 AM
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Call me cynical but I seriously doubt there was any kind of sudden self recognition about hypocrisy in those union slave states at the end of the war. They already had made it about what Lincoln always said it was about, the union. It was probably more that they saw the writing on the wall and wanted to at least have the pretense that it was on their own terms, not something they were being forced to do.
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