Ben has posted my latest piece in my series on the Civil War for Ashbrook. The topic is emancipation as a part of Lincoln’s strategy.
I find Allan Guelzo’s argument very persuasive. Lincoln’s preferred approach to emancipation, which he hoped to implement at the beginning of his presidency, called for convincing the legislatures of the slave states to agree to gradual, compensated emancipation, and simultaneously convincing the Congress to provide the funds for compensation. After all, the states, not the federal government, had the consitutional authority to pass laws with regard to slavery.
For Lincoln’s scheme to work, slavery had to be excluded from the federal territories. That’s why he refused to compromise on the issue of slavery’s expansion.
Secession threw a wrench into Lincoln’s origional plan, so he modified his approach. Now success depended on a combination of military success on the one hand and acceptance of the plan by the loyal slave states on the other. Neither was forthcoming by the end of 1862.
Emancipation as a military measure, under Lincoln’s executive war power, was the best of the remaining alternatives--contraband, confiscation, and martial law emancipation. The Republicans paid a heavy political price in the elections of 1862, but the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation was a critical element in saving the Union.
Let the food fight begin.