Monday, March 25, 2013

Item of the Month for March 2013 - A Massachusetts Governor Marks the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

As we in Massachusetts, the country and the world note the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, we can look to numerous ways in which the long conflict is and has been remembered. In January of this year, the original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation was placed on display in the National Archives to much acclaim. This commemorates the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s edict.

Massachusetts Governors often issue proclamations relating to such significant historical events. Thus, on September 22nd, 1962, Governor John A. Volpe not only praised what had happened 100 years before, but in doing so spoke specifically about Lincoln’s views on the subject of slavery. One section below refers to a call by Horace Greeley that the President act more forcefully to end the institution.

Sections of the proclamation read as follows:

Whereas, President Lincoln, the first great leader of the Republican party, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which became final on January 1, 1863, after months of deliberation and out of his long-held and firm conviction of equal rights and freedom for every man, and

Whereas, As early as 1837 Lincoln protested against the pro-slavery resolution adopted by his State Legislature in Illinois; in October of 1854, speaking of slavery’ he said, “I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself, because… it enables the enemies of free Institutions to taunt us as hypocrites, causes friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity…”and

Whereas, on August 22, 1862, a month after President Lincoln had first discussed with his cabinet, the subject of emancipation he took the entire nation into his confidence through his published reply to Horace Greeley’s challenging letter on the subject: “I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution….My paramount object in this struggle is to save the union, and it is not either to save or to destroy slavery…….I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men could be free,” 

One may visit the State Library to find extensive materials about the Civil War. Our current exhibit: “It was Everyone’s War: Celebrating the Contributions of Massachusetts to Abolition and the Civil War,” will be up through May 31st, 2013. And, there have been some other entries on our blog related to this long conflict. Please go to the link below and type in the term Civil War to view them.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian
State Library of Massachusetts