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Tag: guest post

Emancipation Proclamation: “It is my Desire to be Free”

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Only 100 days after promising in the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that slaves in the Confederacy would soon be freed, Lincoln fulfilled that promise by signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This proclamation changed the character of the war, adding moral force to the Union cause and strengthening the Union both militarily and politically while the rebellion was still in full force.

Despite the expansive wording of the proclamation, which stated ”that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious areas ”are, and henceforward shall be free,” the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union and it excused parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most importantly of all, the freedom it promised depended upon a Union military victory.

The Emancipation Proclamation also failed to apply to the slave-holding border states that had remained loyal to the Union, such as Maryland. On April 25, 1864, Annie Davis, an enslaved woman living in Maryland, wrote a brief but touching letter to President Abraham Lincoln, asking if she was free.

Mr. President It is my Desire to be free. to go to see my people on the eastern shore. my mistress wont let me you will please let me

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The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Throughout the Civil War, when President Lincoln needed to concentrate—when he faced a task that required his focused and undivided attention—he would leave the White House, cross the street to the War Department, and take over the desk of Thomas T. Eckert, chief of the military telegraph staff.

The hub of the Union’s military communication center had become an unlikely refuge for the President. Anxiously awaiting the latest reports from the front, hovering over the shoulder of an operator, he would enjoy the easy banter of the telegraph staff and, somehow, find relief from the strain of his office.

In early July of 1862, President Lincoln asked the telegraph chief for some paper, explaining that he had something ”special” to write. Slowly, putting down just one or two lines at a time, Lincoln began to work.

Only when a draft was finished did Lincoln reveal that he had composed an order ”giving freedom to the slaves in the South, for the purpose of hastening the end of the war.”

This Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation indicated Lincoln’s intention of issuing the final proclamation in the near future:

That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or

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The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times

 

The Roosevelts had planned for a “more homey” lighting of the National Christmas tree on December 24 in 1941. FDR had directed that the tree be moved from the Ellipse to the White House grounds, just next to the South Lawn Fountain.  But after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was some doubt that the ceremony would take place at all. With firm backing from the President, the tree-lighting went forward, and thousands came to the White House to share a bright moment of hope during dark and uncertain times.

Plans for this “more homey” event had been set in motion the previous December. A few days before the ceremony, the Roosevelts had an idea. At the 1940 tree-lighting ceremony, FDR raised the issue to the crowds gathered on the Ellipse, “Next year the celebration must take place on the South End of the White House, where all can see the tree,” and “all you good people” would be invited to the gardens of the Executive Mansion to hear the President deliver his message.

A few months later, FDR wrote a memo to Col. Edward Starling,  the head of the Secret Service detail: “I was not fooling and I think the proper place for the tree is right next to the fence at the south end of the White House … [ Read all ]

Jefferson in Paris: The Constitution, Part I

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is the Senior Registrar in the Exhibits Division.

“It is impossible to increase taxes, disastrous to keep on borrowing, and inadequate to merely to cut expense.”

This is not a quote from the 2012 American  elections or the current fiscal cliff debate.  These are the words of Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, finance minister of France, describing the financial conditions of his country in 1786 to his king, Louis XVI.

The French monarchy was deep in debt due to continuous war expenditures, most recently from the American Revolution, when France supplied monies, ships, soldiers, and arms to the the struggling United States, not to mention its own naval engagements with the British Navy. The French people were poor and hungry, and there was great inequality among the classes. Attempts at reform failed, setting the stage for the bloody civil rupture known as the French Revolution, beginning with democratic ideas and ending in Napoleonic despotism.

With his experience in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Continental Congress, and as Governor of Virginia behind him, Thomas Jefferson continued his practical education in world affairs in pre-revolutionary France. Across the Atlantic, the fledgling American government had its own problems, which though different, were … [ Read all ]

The Real Widows of the Pension Office

Today’s post was written by Pamela Loos-Noji, a former volunteer with the Civil War Widows Pension Project. The National Archives holds 1.28 million case files of pension applications from family members of deceased Civil War Union soldiers. A team of more than 60 volunteers, led by National Archives staff, is digitizing the files and placing them online. Pamela will be giving a talk on “The Real Widows of the Pension Office” on October 16 and 18.

The reason I decided to volunteer was an article written by a friend of mine about her experience working with the Civil War Widows Pension Project. She wove a compelling story of the person at the center of her file and brought the relationship between a mother and her soldier son to life in a way that surprised me. I was hooked. I, too, wanted to find stories, have people from the past speak to me of their lives, and to share what I learned.

The years after the Civil War were right in the middle of the Victorian era. In my mind, Victorians were uptight, straight-laced people who did not express strong feelings and who acted in a very proper manner. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

In fact, I learned a lesson I thought I’d already learned about history. People are the same as they’ve always been. … [ Read all ]