With the creation this week of Juneteenth as a national holiday, I have seen several posts that, though meaning well in celebrating the day, have made mistakes about the history. Even my own college wrote that because the slaves in Texas had not heard about the Emancipation Proclamation, they were not free until federal troops arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865. Instead of my usual routine of making a historical comparison, I want to take time this week and clarify the Emancipation Proclamation and its role in Juneteenth. I also want to give a warning of a trend that I do not see as helpful in national healing.
I know this is a minor issue, but there is no connection between the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth. The reason is that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves. If you are confused by this, trust me, you are not alone. It is one of the most misunderstood executive orders ever given. The same President Lincoln who had promised in his Inaugural Address that he had no plans to free any slaves and, even if he did, he did not have the power to do so, had a change of heart by the summer of 1862.
Having endured a string of military losses by that August, Lincoln knew he needed to do something to shake things up. He now realized that this would be a much longer war than he had originally anticipated. Also, by that summer, Lincoln, who hated the institution of slavery, had been receiving a great deal of pressure to do something about slavery from abolitionists in his party and he had been considering issuing an emancipation order. What made him nervous was that the order might hurt the war effort from Democrats, especially the border slave states like Missouri and Kentucky that had stayed loyal to the Union. Once Lincoln decided to issue the order, he needed to wait for a military victory, so it looked like he was making the proclamation out of strength, not desperation.
Finally, on Sept. 17, 1862, Lincoln got the victory he needed. Though it is hard to call the Battle of Antietam a victory, Robert E. Lee’s forces were turned back from Maryland. That was enough for Lincoln. Five days later he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The order stated, “All persons held as slaves within any States, or designated part of the State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” As good as this order seems, there is a real catch. Only slaves who were in states in rebellion were set free. In other words, the order did not apply to slaves in states like Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware where Lincoln had authority. The order applied only to slaves in states where Lincoln did not.
As I stated at the beginning, the Emancipation Proclamation did not really free anyone. Slaves could now free themselves. If slaves could run away to northern lines or to the Union Army, they would be free. Prior to this, Lincoln had ordered the army to return all runaways. Even if slaves in Texas had heard about the Proclamation, it would have made no difference. They were no freer than slaves in any southern state.
So why issue the Proclamation if it did not actually free slaves? First, it was done as a military effort, which was the way Lincoln justified the legality of the order. Slaves in the fields allowed for more men to join the Confederate armies. If slaves could now be considered free and could run to Union lines, then the South would be deprived of a valuable military resource. Secondly, the order was meant to be an encouragement. Though the order was issued in September, it was not going to take effect until January 1, 1863. The idea was that if any state (Lincoln was gambling on the border states like Arkansas and Tennessee) rejoined the Union before January, then their slaves would be protected. So, the document that we associate with freeing slaves was actually a way to protect it.
When we talk about Juneteenth instead of mentioning the Emancipation Proclamation, we need to mention the 13th Amendment. The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. As such, it could and probably would have been overturned if Lincoln had lost reelection in 1864. There was also a good chance that the courts would declare the Proclamation unconstitutional, as most executive orders should be. To guarantee freedom for slaves in all the states forever, he pushed for the 13th Amendment, which did free the slaves. The Amendment was passed in Congress on Jan. 31, 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered his army (only his army, not the Confederacy) on April 9. News of the surrender did not instantly reach the west. General Kirby Smith, who controlled Texas, surrendered May 26 and finally Stand Waite in Indian Territory surrendered June 23. During that time, on June 19, Texas slaves heard that the war was over and that slaves were now free. Had they known about the Emancipation Proclamation earlier, it would not have mattered. It was the end of the war and the 13th Amendment that made them free.
Finally, one quick thought. The official name of this new national holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day. While I completely support this as a holiday, I believe the name is intentionally packed with political divisiveness. Just two weeks after Juneteenth is our nation’s actual Independence Day. Though I try to stay away from conspiracy theories in this column, it seems as if this name is an attack on our nation’s history. Many names could have been used. I would have voted for Emancipation Day, but naming it Independence Day seems as one more attempt to minimize what our Founding Fathers did in 1776. Yes, our Founders owned slaves, and yes, this nation was built upon the backs of slaves, but it is still the greatest nation on Earth. Yes, it took a hundred years for Jefferson’s words on equality to ring true – and let’s celebrate that day – but let’s not forget that first we had to create the nation and then we could try to live up its principles.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Sheetz zoning reversal: ‘Slimy politics’ & the monetization of Warren County
The following members of the Board of Supervisors don’t care what their constituents think:
- Tony Carter, Happy Creek District
- Cheryl Cullers, South River District
- Delores Oates, North River District
Tonight they voted to allow for a rezoning so that Sheetz can build a “convenience store” at Exit 13 right at the entrance to Apple Mountain Lake. They voted it down in February and Mr. Carter (who is actually supposed to represent us) actually brought it up for a re-vote even though he voted it down in February under the pretense of a “bus stop”. This was not about a bus stop. This was about money pure and simple.
Shame on them for voting for the destruction of the character of Linden. The community overwhelming showed them that we didn’t want it but they didn’t listen. Money trumps caring about people it seems.
So, your first sight into coming in Warren County from 66 – a Sheetz. I hope you didn’t build out here to get away from commercialism or to live in the country! The Board of Supervisors has stripped both those hopes away tonight.
Just more slimy politics folks. Nothing to see here, move along.
Apple Mtn., Linden
Just when you thought our political leaders could not divide us any further, they have now turned on themselves. Right now, both parties are dealing with internal conflicts. The Democrats are struggling between the so called “progressives” (I still believe they are not using that term correctly) and the “moderates.” One recent difference is between how to respond to problems in Israel. As for the Republicans, they seem to have the bigger conflict right now, as seen by the removal of Liz Chaney from Republican leadership over her beliefs about Trump. Historically speaking, this is not new. During the Republicans’ most dominant period in history, they twice splintered into competing factions and both times allowed the Democrats to crack their control of the White House.
There have been two great runs in political history, one by each party, but the Republicans had the larger of the two. Between Abraham Lincoln who won in 1860 and FDR who won in 1932 and ended the Republican’s run, there were only two Democratic presidents. In other words, for a 72-year span, Republicans controlled 64 years and Democrats only eight. Yet instead of being satisfied with their dominance, the Republicans split into factions.
During the Gilded Age (1870s-early 1900s), three Republican factions emerged, two revolving around prominent figures. The first group were the Mugwumps. In a time of political corruption, mostly from the spoils system or rewarding political supporters, the Mugwumps were calling for reform. They wanted to see civil service exams so government jobs could be based on merit instead of patronage. The Mugwumps were the weakest of the divisions.
Then there were the Stalwarts, led by the very powerful New York Senator Roscoe Conklin. These were the most traditionalist who wanted to keep the spoils system intact. It was this group that supported a third term for President Grant because they were profiting from the corruption in his administration. Finally, there were the Half-Breeds, led by the most powerful of them all, the Senator from Maine James Blaine. They took a page from the Mugwumps and called for reform, but in reality, they were no different than the Stalwarts, except they wanted Blaine as president.
The Republican party was able to stay together in 1880 when it compromised with Garfield, a Half-Breed presidential nominee who was not Blaine and Chester Arthur, a Stalwart for V.P. The partnership did not last long as Garfield was assassinated by what many thought was a Stalwart plot. However, before Garfield died, he pushed for some civil service reforms. When Arthur took over, he went against his own faction and pushed through the Pendleton Civil Service Act. Pendleton was a good start but not enough for the Mugwumps.
In the 1884 election, one of the more interesting that I have discussed many times, the Half-Breeds were tired of messing around. They dumped Arthur and succeeded in running Blaine for president. The Democrats took advantage of Blaine’s ties to corruption and cover-ups by courting the Mugwump vote when they ran a true reformer in Grover Cleveland. The move gave the Democrats just enough votes for the rare victory.
The next couple of elections danced around some as the Republicans took back the White House in 1888, only to lose again to Cleveland in 1892. Starting in 1896 the Republicans regained their control with McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, then Taft. However, even though the old three-way split in the party had dissolved some time earlier, a new division had grown by the 1912 election. Teddy Roosevelt left office after a term-and-a-half, and he handpicked his successor to follow through with his progressive reforms. (These were the real progressives, who wanted reform but slow moderate changes.)
By this point, both parties were divided between progressive and moderate wings. Complicating matters was that there were more internal conflicts than external between groups. The problem was TR’s replacement, who, though a good progressive, was willing to compromise too much with the moderates for TR’s liking. In 1912, Roosevelt decided to retake his party and ran for the presidency. Yet when Taft was re-nominated instead, TR stole away the progressive wing of his party and formed a third party, the Progressive Party, which became better known by the best party name in history, the Bull Moose Party. Of course, with the Republicans divided, the Democrats ran their own progressive, Woodrow Wilson, and won.
We will have to watch over the next few years to see if history will repeat itself. Will the divide between the progressives and moderates in the Democratic Party sink the party’s chances for reelection? If Trump runs again, will he cause a third-party split from the Republican party led by Republicans like Chaney and Romney. Time will tell, but, historically speaking, this could be a bumpy couple of years ahead for both parties.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog.
The day (June 6, 1944) in World War II
The greatest mobilization of military forces in the history of the world. 10,000 casualties… 4,414 dead that day.
Let us remember the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Boatmen, Chaplains, Medics, Corpsmen, Nurses, Doctors, Cooks…. all that served!
And the wives, children, mothers, dads, loved ones back home with blue stars in windows…many of which would turn to Gold amid a tidal wave of tears…weeping mothers, dads, children, brothers, and sisters…relatives…aunts, and uncles…sweethearts. They gave that we might be Free. God bless their ever-lasting Souls. And God help US TO REMEMBER!!
In Jesus, we pray to be worthy of their sacrifice, AMEN
I was a small boy and saw the tears and heard the crying. Our next-door family lost their dad. His children were my playmates. My dad and uncles served. Thankfully they came home.
The Rt. Rev. Larry W. Johnson
Front Royal, VA
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foothold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.
Let us honor and remember the brave men and women who laid down their lives to preserve our freedom
This Memorial Day, we pause with solemn gratitude to honor and remember the brave men and women who laid down their lives to preserve our freedom, and we pray for lasting peace throughout our Commonwealth, our nation, and the world so that future generations may enjoy the blessings of liberty.
Since the founding of our great Commonwealth, Virginians have proudly answered the call to duty and given their lives in heroic service to our nation. These patriots were bound by their love of country and united in their quest to uphold our founding ideals. Their selfless acts of courage and patriotism embody the very best of our Commonwealth and our nation, and it is our responsibility to ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain. We must come together as they did, to continue their work and to build a brighter and better future for everyone.
Today, and every day, we honor the extraordinary service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Let us pray for the fallen and for the loved ones they left behind. Let us continue our enduring mission of building a Commonwealth and a nation worthy of the patriots we honor today.
Memorial Day – May 31, 2021: Remembering the service of the fallen
On Memorial Day, we take time to honor the ultimate sacrifice made by those who fought for our country.
Many of those who died in the service of our country are known to us personally. They were our sons, our fathers, our uncles, aunts, or cousins, or they were our friends.
The heroes of wars long past are not forgotten. Veterans group walk the old graveyards to place flags on the tombstones of those who died in battles long past but still remembered. Their great sacrifices and honorable service helped our country become the nation it is today. We can never forget.
Many of their names are on tombstones in our own country and in cemeteries across the globe.
Some cannot be named specifically, and they are honored in a special way: at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
It is guarded by faithful sentinels night and day.
The importance of this duty is expressed in the “Sentinel’s Creed”:
My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me, never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance, my standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well-meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored Glory rest under my eternal vigilance.
— Sentinel’s Creed of the Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.