On the opinion that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free any slaves…

Posted on December 18, 2009 by


I’m somewhat embarrassed by it, but until late this past summer, I didn’t realize that Maryland took action to free slaves in the state… and yes, this happened before the end of the Civil War. I’ve been looking into this a bit more and mostly following the flow of thoughts and events through the wartime newspapers of western Maryland. What continually “pinged” on me in the course of my research is the way that some people (today) feel a need to believe that the Emancipation did nothing. The situation in Maryland becomes even more interesting when one considers how many of these same folks regularly bring up that the other slaveholding states that did not secede weren’t covered under the EP. Now, this Maryland thing aside, I would argue that they are wrong regarding the EP, but WITH the Maryland information before me now, I’m even more convinced that the EP did a great deal more than some seem to think. Now, don’t get me wrong. Maryland’s independent emancipation of slaves was not a smooth and easy process. It was excruciatingly painful to many slaveholders and slaves alike. In some ways, I think this is one of the very things that slaveholders in the seceding states feared rather intensely (a greater incentive to go to war in defense of “rights”, perhaps…). I can also see how the non-slaveholders were concerned about the impact of freeing slaves (not that I couldn’t see it before, but it became even more clear with my findings in Maryland). Nonetheless, the Maryland legislature made it happen and a reversal of the independent emancipation (in the event that the Union lost the war), wasn’t in the proposal that became law on 1 November 1864. Another thing that I found of interest was Lincoln’s appeal to the Maryland legislature to free slaves. I’ll have more on this later.