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The First Reading of The Emancipation Proclamation: July 22nd, 1862

By Scott Ackerman

As we move through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 2012 has already seen the anniversary of the bloodbath at Shiloh, and of the meat-grinder known as the Seven Days Battles. This fall, Antietam and Fredericksburg will effect commemorations worthy of the soldiers who fought and died there 150 years ago. Inextricably linked to the events at Antietam and Fredericksburg will be the commemoration of Emancipation, as Antietam provided the victory Lincoln needed to announce his proclamation to the public, while the disaster at Fredericksburg led many to wonder if Lincoln would follow through with his redefinition of the war. Amid all the celebration and thoughtful reflection, the anniversary of Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet on July 22nd should not be overlooked. Although it marked neither the beginning, nor the end, of a profound revolution in American society, it was nonetheless a critical moment in the translation of slave agency into federal emancipation policy.

As we pause to remember what this mid-summer moment meant for the slaves still toiling on Southern fields, for the soldiers who would provide much of the Emancipations Proclamation enforcement, and for generations who struggled with the meaning of freedom in the war of the Civil War, let us also reflect on why Soldier’s Home proved so critical to the Emancipation saga. Gaining a respite from the crush of office seekers and social obligations of the White House, while enjoying the cool hillside breezes gave Lincoln the opportunity during those critical summer months of 1862 to fully consider the breadth, scope, and ultimately, the entire meaning of the Union war effort. Consequently, as you (hopefully) visit our site this weekend, this summer, or even this year, take a moment to picture Lincoln wandering these same rooms and grounds exactly 150 years ago, contemplating and crafting a document that would change the nature of the Union war effort, and ultimately, the nation as a whole.

Mr. Ackerman is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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Jonn Tyler: Confederate Congressman, Peace Delegate, and 10th President

John Tyler

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

By Maura James

John Tyler, tenth president of the United States, died January 18, 1862.  Historians typically do not associate Tyler with the Civil War period.  The Tyler presidency was often called an ‘accident’, and it is notable that Tyler’s Whig party expelled him during his presidency.  The annexation of Texas was Tyler’s last, and probably most memorable, act in office.  Tyler is best known for concessions during his presidency that later led to the Civil War.  Although Tyler owned slaves, he believed the institution of slavery would end if left alone.  “He had denounced the conception of slavery.  His solution to its eventual disappearance, however, hinged on the theory of ‘dispersion” (Kleber 700).  In addition to his presidency, Tyler became very active in Virginia and Confederate politics shortly before his death.

In hopes of saving the Union, Tyler petitioned Virginia to lead a peace conference in Washington in January 1861.  On February 4th, ironically the same day the Confederate States of America declared themselves a separate nation, Tyler convened with other state representatives in Washington.  Since Virginia had not yet seceded, Tyler hoped his home state could lead the delegation in a peaceful resolution to the pre-Civil War activities.  The Washington Peace Conference organized an agenda and took their findings to President Buchanan.  Buchanan dismissed Tyler and stated he would leave the new problem of secession to his successor, Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln, too, was wary of the Conference.  He confided in close friend Orville Browning that “no good results would come out of it” (Holzer).  After Lincoln was inaugurated, the peace committee communicated with him directly.  The delegation hoped the new president would negotiate compromise to keep the fragile peace, but Lincoln held firm to the notion that he was elected to defend the Union and the then recent assaults on it.

When Virginia seceded on April 17, 1861, shortly after the shots were fired at Fort Sumter, “Tyler threw his… support to the new confederacy” (Kleber 703).  While Tyler had been urging peace in Washington earlier in 1861, he had also served in the provisional Confederate Congress.  After the U.S. Senate and Lincoln rejected the Washington Peace Conference’s plan, Tyler urged Virginia to secede.  He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives.  After moving to Richmond to fulfill his role in the new Confederate government, Tyler suffered a stroke.  “Six days later he died” (Kleber 703); even before Tyler started his work as a Confederate Congressman.

John Tyler was a man of ‘firsts’.  He was the first Vice President to become President after his predecessor died in office.  Some even claim he was the first and only American president to die on foreign soil; as he died in the Confederate States of America which were not part of the Union in 1862.  He was also the founder of the Washington Peace Conference.  A conference that, although was unsuccessful, hoped to alleviate the pressures of civil war.  Lincoln stood in defiance to the group, not because he did not want peace, but because he knew, by 1861, the time for compromise was over.

Ms. James is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.


Works Cited

Kleber, Louis C. “John Tyler.” History Today 25.10 (1975): 697. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 Jan. 2011.

Holzer, Harold. “Give Peace a Chance.” America’s Civil War 23.6 (2011): 44-49. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 Jan. 2011.

Sites Referenced


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