The Sunday Question May 8, 2011Brooks D. Simpson Who freed the slaves? Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like Loading... Related
Abe Lincoln freed them with the Emancipation Proclamation; Union soldiers freed them with every mile they advanced into the Confederacy; slaves freed themselves in droves, fleeing northward or to the nearest Union-held territory; and ironically the biggest freer of slaves was the CSA itself, by firing on Fort Sumter and setting events down the path where all those other things could happen.
A mix of:
A. Lincoln and the US Congress, with the support of the American people; the AUS, including the USCT; and themselves.
Twarn’t the CSA and the PACS…
The members of the South Carolina Secession Convention, by voting to secede from the Union. Jefferson Davis also gets credit for choosing to fire on Fort Sumter.
My serious answer is that the slaves freed themselves, taking advantage of the cnditIons and opportunities presented To them by the war. I do think that Lincoln gets some credit for policies that helped create avenues of freedom for the slaves.
As Steve points out, it was multiple folks, including the slaves themselves.
The 13th Amendment, Marc I consider you first response serious. South Carlina’s secession and the firing on Ft Sumter was what put the politics in motion for it to come about. I don’t think Lincoln’s administration had any legislation being purposed concerning the ending of slavery before South Carlina’s secession and the war that followed.
the United States Government, with first the EP and later the 13th Amendment, it was enforced by the U.S.Army.
but there is some merit to the idea that Slavery committed “suicide by cop”.
Slavery is the most overlooked/avoided subject in U.S. historical studies. One reads plenty on it’s morality or lack thereof, of the political fights to preserve or abolish it, but the everyday experience of it is a rare subject. Even the post war narrative is mostly about Jim Crow and nothing about why the Freedmen stayed in the South and put up with the atrocious behavior of the the White Southerner and the almost criminal indifference of the North.
Is there a correct answer? All of the above are good, but I think you have to go further back and give soem credit to those fanatics – the abolitionists, Weld, Garrison, the Grimkes, etc., and to the free-soilers like Frank Blair and B. Gratz Brown in Missouri.
In Confederate Reckoning, Stephanie McCurry argues that the Confederate Army damaged slavery, not intentionally, but in the course of fighting the war. I’m conventional, so I’d go with Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army, if we define the Union Army to include the USCTs, and all that they meant.
Technically speaking, the United States government freed the slaves.
The US government includes the president, the Congress, the army, etc. All had a role.
African Americans were agents in this through enlistment in the USA armed forces; and other direct or indirect support for the Union.
The question was “WHO” freed the slaves, not what. Obviously, the EP and 13th Amendment freed the slaves legally. As to who freed the slaves, I think that once the war started the slaves themselves knew what a Union victory meant, even before the EP was issued. Union armies represented freedom, even if not from the outset of the war.
Lincoln and his administration, plus most Republicans, Union soldiers, civilians, and thousands of others also deserve credit.
I agree with Marc. Southerners secessionists deserve unwanted credit for attempting treason in the first place. They knew that slavery was dead if they lost the war, and dying if they returned to the Union by January 1, 1863.
Credit, too, must go to Confederate generals and political figures who had no general in chief until it was too late, and no overall strategy.
Confederate generals helped by being such poor army commanders.
Speaking of the CSA’s general in chief, Hattaway and Jones make the point that Lee could have done more for the Confederacy’s cause by remaining as chief of staff in Richmond in 1862 and after, rather than taking command in the field…
If Lee remains with Davis in Richmond who takes over when Johnston was wounded? G.W.Smith was the senior General with the army, would you trust him with the job?
Obviously Davis did not trust Smith.
Bring PGT Beauregard back? He knew the theater and had the rank, at least. Outside Lee, the choices in theater would have been Holmes, Jackson, Longstreet, Magruder, and Smith.