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Primary Sources - Workshop in American History Workshop 4 - Concerning Emancipation: Who Freed the Slaves?homesitemap
Introduction -Link Before You Watch - link Lectures and Activities Classroom and Applications - Link

Workshop 4:  Lectures & Activities

Lecture Transcript Two:
The Forces for Emancipation

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There is pressure coming from abolitionists. There is also pressure coming from Congress. We talk about the presidency. Well, what's Congress doing? And realize once secession occurred, the Republicans have a majority. I mean, all those Southern Democrats left, so they basically can do whatever they want to do, and they are by and large far more radical in their approach to the question of slavery than Lincoln is. The abolitionists represented one force, pressing on Lincoln to do something about the issue of slavery. But it wasn't the only force. Take a look at Congress, Congress itself. Congress is predominantly Republican, and they're filled with Republicans who stand to the left on the political spectrum of Lincoln. After all, they got to take over once the South seceded. One of the facts of all those Southern Democrats leaving is the Republicans could pass whatever legislative agenda that they chose to pass. And they got busy on the subject of slavery.

They passed the Confiscation Act of 1861, made property in support of the rebellion subject to prize and capture wherever found. They abolished slavery in Washington, D.C. This is something that had troubled leaders for a long time, that right there in the nation's capital, slavery continued to exist. It's finally abolished during the war by Congress. They abolished slavery in the territories, once and for all getting rid of this question of whether or not it would be possible to have slavery exist in the territories. They passed a second Confiscation Act a year after the first one in July of 1862, Seizure of Property of Those in the Rebellion, slaves being captives of war and set forever free. This is the language in the acts passed by Congress—certainly ratified and approved by the president, but he is not the one necessarily taking the lead here. Militia Act, authorizing the use of persons of African descent to suppress the rebellion. Even the articles of war themselves that were adopted by Congress are put into that preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Look at that document, and you see in the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, who is Lincoln quoting? He is quoting Congress, which in some ways has already built some momentum, pushed, perhaps led in this movement.

We've already talked a little bit about military actions, so not just things happening in congressional halls, but happening out there in the military field, having to respond to events that the politicians in Washington maybe don't know anything about. In 1861, Benjamin Butler, general, provides food, shelter, and work to fugitive slaves. And then Freemont in December of 1861 issues his order that ultimately Lincoln will revoke. And he'll do so in quite harsh language. David Hunter issues an order liberating the slaves of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. He decided to do it on his own. And again, Lincoln will revoke that order. Lincoln has plenty of concerns, but still these are the actions.

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