| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
PROCLAMATION OF EMANCIPATION
(PROC-LA-MA-TION OF E-MAN-CI-PA-TION.)
Well, children, those words look big enough to take away
your breath! They are bigger than "religious persecution,"
of which we had so much in the colonial times; or,
"taxation without representation", "declaration of independence,"
of which we heard in the Revolution; or, "impressment of
American seamen," of which we heard in the war of 1812.
I wish I were not obliged to use any large words in these
little histories; but once in a while it seems impossible to do
without them. These phrases, with their long words, have
been handed down through all these years of our country's
history until they have come to be as settled as the name of
a city or the name of a river; and someway it doesn't
 seem as if they ought to be changed, not even for little
folks, any more than the names of cities or rivers should be
And there are not many of them after all.
See if you can repeat these words all together.
1. The early settlers in this country left England to be
free from "religious persecution."
2. The cause of the Revolution was "Taxation without
3. The people of this country drew up a paper in which
they said they would no longer be ruled over by the English.
This was called the "Declaration of Independence."
4. The cause of the war of 1812 was the "Impressment
of American Seamen."
5. And now one more: Abraham Lincoln believed
that the negro slaves had a right to be free; so he drew up
a paper telling them they should be free. This was called
the "Proclamation of Emancipation."
You remember Gen. Butler had settled the question of
what was to be done with the slaves by saying that they
were to be taken as "contraband goods," just like so many
cattle, or so many barrels of sugar, or bales of cotton.
But there came a time when it was necessary for some
law to be made by the government itself in regard
to this matter. There needed to be a law regarding the
treatment of these slaves which all the soldiers should obey:
 for as it stood now, one general who believed in freeing the
slaves would take them into their camps when they fled
from their masters, and shield them from harm; while
another general, who cared nothing about the slavery
question, and was fighting only to save the Union, would let the
slave-hunter come into the camp and carry off the poor,
The slaves themselves were growing to feel unsafe. They
did not know when they fled to the Union camps whether
they would fall into the hands of friends or foes.
And so, on New Year's Day, 1863, Abraham Lincoln
sent out his "Proclamation of Emancipation," saying that
from this time forth no man should own another man and
call him his "slave." The negro was now as free as the
white man. No one had now any right to take him away
from his wife and his children to be sold, or to carry away
his wife and children from him.
Of course, the Southerners were more bitter than ever;
and you can hardly wonder that they were. There were
men whose regular business had been to buy and sell
negroes, just as men now buy and sell horses. They had
invested their money in this business, and now, of course,
it was all lost. There were others who owned great farms,
or plantations as they call them in the South; the work
of which had been always done by the slaves. Now these
slaves were all free; and, on those plantations where the
 master had been cruel to them, you may be sure these
slaves did not work very long after the news of freedom
reached their ears.
We can afford to be generous to these slave-owners even;
when we think what a blow it was to them to have their
habits of life all broken up in this way. Many of them
were as honest as honest can be in believing those black
men and women belonged to them; and that they had a
right to use them to work their farms. Then, too, there
were thousands and thousands of slave-owners who were
just as kind to these black people as they were to their own
families. Their slaves had their own little cabins, snug
and warm, where they could sit happy as children through
the long summer evenings, playing their banjos and
singing their funny old plantation songs.
Did you ever hear any of these plantation songs? I wish
there were room to put five or six of them in this book; for
someway, it doesn't seem as if we can have much idea of
these simple hearted people unless we hear their songs.
They were such strange people! Ignorant, because they
were seldom allowed to learn to read; believing in ghosts
and goblins, fond of yelling and singing and dancing, full
of strange ideas of the Bible and God and heaven, either
hating their masters, as they hated work, or else loving
them as a dog loves his master, ready to die for them and
the "missus," as they used to call their masters' wives.
 You must ask your teachers to read parts of Uncle
Tom's Cabin to you, children. In that book you will get an
honest story of Southern life, you will read of kind slave-owners,
and of cruel slave-owners, of good slaves and of
bad slaves; for I don't want you to think, as I did when I
was a little child, that all the Southerners were wicked,
wicked people, and that all the slaves were whipped and
lashed every day of the year. You must remember the
Southerners were just as honest in their opinions during
the war as the Unionist soldiers were. They were just as
brave too; they were ready to suffer everything for their
dear States, just as our soldiers were ready to suffer every
thing for the Union. You must remember, too, that very,
very many of them were kind to their slaves; so kind, that
if it were not that these slaves had souls which had the right
to grow, minds which had the right to study and learn
about the beautiful things of this world—if it were not for
these, one might almost think these slaves, many of them,
were better off before they were made free. But, it cannot
be right for one person to have the right to say he owns
another man, can it? And so because the principle of
slavery was wrong, it was a grand thing for Abraham
Lincoln to come out fairly and squarely and say, "No person
in the United States shall hereafter own slaves!"
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