There’s a new book coming out about President Lincoln and the notorious Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
In early September Scribner's will bring out Todd Brewster’s .
This isn’t a book review—I haven’t read the book. I think probably I won’t read it.
I believe that the Proclamation is fundamentally a political (not philosophical) document, and I think it’s largely misunderstood. Of course, lots of folks think that “Lincoln freed the slaves,” when in fact the Proclamation is a very circumscribed and limited version of freeing the slaves: basically, it “freed” slaves in the Confederate states, where federal (Union) proclamations had no immediate legal effect. And, let’s be clear, the Proclamation did not make slavery illegal in the United States.
I continue to be fascinated by the myths of American history, and by the persistence of a number of authors in declaring that the Proclamation (and even the Declaration of Independence) were all about “equality.” I think, in fact, in 1776 and in 1863 there wasn’t a whole lot of public discourse, or interest in, or advocacy of the notions of democratic equality and human equality as we understand the words now……
There weren’t a whole lot of folks who really wanted to make black people “equal” to white people, especially not Old Abe.