james oakes On August 30, 1861, Gen. John C. Frémont issued an order that would, among other things, emancipate the slaves of all rebels in Missouri.1 On September 2, President Abraham Lincoln sent a friendly telegram urging the general to "modify" his order "so as to conform to the first and fourth sections" of the First Confiscation Act recently passed by Congress and signed by Lincoln on August 6.2 Lincoln's letter to Frémont, like his later order revoking Gen. David Hunter's proclamation abolishing slavery in three states, are among the most familiar items in a very familiar narrative of events that historians cobble together to demonstrate that in the first year of the Civil War Lincoln and the Republicans were "reluctant" emancipators. Not until January 1, 1863--some twenty months after the war began--did Lincoln finally accept emancipation as a legitimate goal of the war. Strictly speaking, of course, Lincoln did not tell Frémont he could not free slaves; he told him to "modify" his order to conform to the first and fourth sections of the First Confiscation Act. But this is a mere technicality, because in standard accounts of the Civil War, the First Confiscation Act did not
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Nov 16, 2013
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