Although Kevin Levin has already highlighted this brilliant revisionist (see what I did there?) understanding of emancipation, I think it’s worth presenting again, just so we can see how the minds of some passionate Confederate heritage advocates function:
How the South Freed Its Own Slaves
According to today’s “historians,” Lincoln freed the slaves with his famous Emancipation Proclamation. Of course, this is nonsense, but let us for the moment use that particular conclusion to look at the matter correctly. The EP said that if the Southern States which had left the Union did not lay down their arms and return within 100 days after the issuance of the Proclamation, their slaves would be considered free. In other words, the EP freed NO slaves, not even those in the Southern States. Their emancipation was directly linked to whether or not the States who had seceded returned to the Union within the 100 day period specified by Lincoln. So, obviously, even the slaves in the South were not emancipated by the Proclamation directly. Their emancipation depended upon the action of the States who had left the Union. If any or all of them returned, SLAVERY REMAINED. If they did not, THEN AND ONLY THEN were the slaves within them considered BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT to be free. Of course, as has been said over and over again, the federal government was in no position to enforce that emancipation, it could do no more than create a situation on paper that would only become the force of law at such time as the war was won by the Union.
Given the above, therefore, the only conclusion that can be logically adduced is that neither Lincoln nor his government freed the slaves. The slaves were freed (eventually) by those Southern States who REFUSED to lay down their arms within the hundred day grace period offered to them. In effect, therefore, the Southern States—by ignoring Lincoln’s ultimatum—freed their OWN slaves. It makes no difference that such was not their intention! After all, Lincoln’s intention was to end the war, NOT free the slaves. Ergo, if he is given credit for freeing them though that was not his intention, then fairness and reason demand that the Southern States ALSO receive credit even absent any intention to emancipate the slaves.
Actually, most historians today don’t say Lincoln freed the slaves, but that’s a minor point (it’s really important for Confederate heritage advocates to maintain that such is the prevailing orthodoxy, however). Moreover, historians now recognize that the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation did indeed free some people on January 1, 1863, but I don’t expect our Confederate heritage advocate to engage in reading scholarship.
Besides, if intention is irrelevant, than it does no good to cite Lincoln’s declarations on emancipation in 1861 and 1862, because, whatever his intention, by going to war Lincoln set in motion a conflict that would free the slaves, thus making him the Great Emancipator. Lincoln;s intention, after all, was not to end the war, but to win it as a means to his end of preserving the Union. He came to see emancipation as a necessity to make sure that the reunion would be a lasting one by removing the prime cause of controversy.
I’ve always wondered by Confederates at the time failed to take credit for their master emancipationist stroke, or why they continued to insist that enslaved blacks were enslaved when they discussed black enlistment. Is this another case where a Confederate heritage advocate makes the case that Confederate leaders left a heritage of stupidity and ineptitude? Is that any way to honor the Confederacy?
People who are sincerely interested in honoring Confederate heritage should understand that the renderings of history as offered above leave people snickering at the whole enterprise. That’s sad, but, absent efforts to make sure that scholarship is shorn of such revisionism (hee hee), such will continue to be the case.