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Tag: lincoln

Emancipation Proclamation: A Certificate of Freedom

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

Before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the Federal Government took steps to begin the process of freeing the slaves. In July 1862—acting on Lincoln’s warning that freeing slaves in parts of the South occupied by Union troops might ”become a necessity” and in hopes of crippling the Confederacy—the Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act.

This act gave the military the power to seize and confiscate the property of the Confederate people—to seize their slave ”property” in occupied areas. As a result, the progress of Union troops meant the promise of freedom for many. Troops successfully freed slaves belonging to members of the Confederate military or Confederate sympathizers in those areas.

Image: Order Granting Freedom to Wally Caruz and Family, 08/15/1862; General James R. Chalmers' Papers, 1874–1899; War Department Collection of Confederate Records, 1825–1927, Record Group 109; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. (National Archives Identifier 3854715)

The Army issued this pass to Wally Caruz and his family. The pass amounted to a certificate of freedom and declared them ”forever emancipated.” The order says that:

Wally Caruz family a colored . . . formerly Slaves having by direction of their owner been engaged in the rebel service, are hereby confiscated as being contraband of war, and not being

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Emancipation Proclamation: Freedom in Washington, DC

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

Image: Petition of Margaret C. Barber, 05/21/1862; Record Group 217; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 4644520)

Nine months before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he signed a bill on April 16, 1862, that ended slavery in the District of Columbia. The act finally concluded many years of disagreements over ending ”the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital.

The law provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to loyal Unionist masters of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration. Although this three-way approach of immediate emancipation, compensation, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, it pointed toward slavery’s death. Emancipation was greeted with great joy by the District’s African American community.

The white population of DC took advantage of the act’s promise of compensation. One month after the act was issued, Margaret Barber presented a claim to the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, saying that she wanted to be compensated by the Federal Government, which had freed her 34 slaves.

Image: Petition of Margaret C. Barber, 05/21/1862; Record Group 217; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 4644520)

Margaret Barber estimated … [ Read all ]

Thanksgiving with the Presidents

Today’s guest post comes from Susan Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

Did you know that before the 1940s, Thanksgiving was not on a fixed date but was whenever the President proclaimed it to be?

George Washington issued the first Presidential proclamation for the holiday in 1789.  That year he designated Thursday, November 26 as a national day of “public thanksgiving.”  The United States then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.   Seventy-four years later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November.

By the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on.  Tradition had dictated that the holiday be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month, however, this tradition became increasingly difficult to continue during the challenging times of the Great Depression.

Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas and statistics showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their holiday shopping.  Business leaders feared they would … [ Read all ]

Emancipation for DC

D.C. Emancipation Act, Public Law 37-50, April 16,1862

D.C. Emancipation Act, Public Law 37-50, April 16,1862

Today is Emancipation Day for the District of Columbia. Some of you might immediately wonder if this is related to DC’s current efforts to win representation and a vote, but it is a celebration for a different kind of freedom for the residents of DC.

Eight and a half months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.

Lincoln had struggled with how to resolve the issue of slavery, even encouraging freed slaves to return to Africa. And of course, slavery in the nation’s capital was an even thornier issue—antislavery advocates spoke of “the national shame.”

The bill had some success. Over the next  nine months, the Board of Commissioners appointed to administer the act approved 930 petitions, completely or in part, from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves.

Although its combination of emancipation, compensation to owners, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act was an early signal of slavery’s death. In the District itself, African Americans greeted emancipation with great jubilation. For many years afterward, Emancipation Day was celebrated with parades and festivals.

The D.C. Emancipation Act is currently at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. At Archives.gov, you can see a larger [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Happy Birthday, Grover Cleveland!

President Grover Cleveland (ARC 518139)

President Grover Cleveland (ARC 518139)

If Grover Cleveland were alive today, he would need to blow out 174 candles. And of course, he would need to be careful not to set his mustache alight as he bent toward the mighty blaze of his birthday cake.

Grover Cleveland’s election marked a turning point in Presidential facial hair. The beard was going out of fashion, and the mustache was rising to upper-lip prominence.

In fact, Lincoln was the first President to sport a beard (though Martin Van Buren was stiffly bewhiskered by sideburns). But after Lincoln’s death in 1865, his sucessor Andrew Johnson was clean shaven.  Grant, Hayes, and Garfield made their turn through the highest office with fine beards, but the tide turned with the appearance of Chester A. Arthur’s mustache and meager sideburns.

President Cleveland had embraced the look of the clean-shaved face when he entered office the first time in 1885, but he maintained a mustache. When he returned for a second term in 1893, he still had the mustache.

Cleveland is the only President to be elected to two non-consective terms. For his second term, he defeated the incumbent President Harrison, who was the last President to date to have a beard. Did this electoral defeat signal the end of a hirsute era?

Cleveland was also the only President to be married in the White House. … [ Read all ]