The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

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1993

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Lincoln’s September 17, 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation had a major political flaw. It stirred up opposition to Lincoln among whites, but its principal beneficiaries, enslaved blacks, could not vote. When Lincoln’s cabinet member Montgomery Blair saw the draft of the proclamation, he said “it would cost the administration the fall elections.” 1

An Ohio Republican Congressional candidate saw his fate foreordained. He wrote to Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase that “the President’s proclamation has come just in the nic of time to save the country perhaps, while from present appearance it will defeat me and every other Union candidate along the border.” He was, in fact, beaten.2

The anti-emancipation Democrats nearly doubled the number of seats they occupied in the House of Representatives in the 1862 elections that were held just weeks after Lincoln’s proclamation.  In heavily immigrant New York, Democrats squeaked out a victory, electing anti-war candidate Horatio Seymour governor. Democrats also won big in Indiana, a state with one of the smallest immigrant populations in the North. 3

Black-man-cant-save-white-thumb

This cartoon pokes fun at Northern racists. Even though African Americans were offering to save the whites from drowning, the “Negrophobe” refuses the black man’s rescue rope.

Emancipation alone did not account for the Republican defeat. War weariness, worsening casualty rates in 1862’s massive battles, and the erosion of civil liberties under the Republicans all alienated voters. Word that a military draft would soon be imposed led many voters to complain that while black men were being freed, white men would soon be enslaved involuntarily by being thrown into the army.4

There were other possible explanations for the electoral outcome. The president’s party historically loses seats in off-year elections. The absence of many Republican voters from their hometowns on Election Day because they were in the army likely also played a role. Soldiers not allowed to cast absentee ballots were effectively disenfranchised because they had volunteered to risk their lives for their country.5

In the days after the voting ended, one of America’s most prominent immigrants would place the blame for the political setback on the shoulders of Abraham Lincoln.6

lincoln-emancipation-cartoon-thumb

President Lincoln, Writing the Proclamation of Freedom by David Gilmore Blythe (1864)


Video
Historians Talk About the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Sources

1. Lincoln’s Hundred Days by Luis P. Masur published by Belknap/Harvard (2012) p. 151; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo published by Simon & Schuster (2006); Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) by Harold Holzer published by Harvard University Press (February 2012)
2. Lincoln’s Hundred Days by Luis P. Masur published by Belknap/Harvard (2012) p. 153; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo published by Simon & Schuster (2006); Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) by Harold Holzer published by Harvard University Press (February 2012)
3. Lincoln’s Hundred Days by Luis P. Masur published by Belknap/Harvard (2012) p. 151-152; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo published by Simon & Schuster (2006); Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) by Harold Holzer published by Harvard University Press (February 2012)
4. Lincoln’s Hundred Days by Luis P. Masur published by Belknap/Harvard (2012); Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo published by Simon & Schuster (2006); Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) by Harold Holzer published by Harvard University Press (February 2012)
5. Lincoln’s Hundred Days by Luis P. Masur published by Belknap/Harvard (2012); Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo published by Simon & Schuster (2006); Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) by Harold Holzer published by Harvard University Press (February 2012)
6. Lincoln’s Hundred Days by Luis P. Masur published by Belknap/Harvard (2012); Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo published by Simon & Schuster (2006); Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context, and Memory (Nathan I Huggins Lectures) by Harold Holzer published by Harvard University Press (February 2012)

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

 

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