“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 designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free “~ text from The Emancipation Proclamation, given by President Abraham Lincoln, January 1, 1863
On January 1st of this year, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. As you may know, President Lincoln gave this famous speech in the third year of our very bloody Civil War. In it our President proclaimed that all slaves in the remaining Confederate states shall be free, which added not only political clarity to the war, but a moral one as well. As each section of the Confederacy came back under Union control, slaves were freed and then able to join the Union Army and Navy as freemen. The liberated were then becoming part of the liberators.
One interesting note here is that the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to those states and territories that had not seceded from the Union or to those that had by then come back under Union control. Plus it depended on a Union victory. Lincoln understood that this Proclamation would not end slavery; it would take a Constitutional amendment to finally do that. However, never doubt the power of words followed by action; this bold statement was to be the first nail in slavery’s coffin. For once men taste freedom, fight for it, die for it, they will never be ready to bow before another again.
It is also significant that Lincoln gave this Proclamation in the midst of battle, where victory was not guaranteed. It was a Proclamation of hope, of truth, of what the possibility of liberty would mean to all men. Sure, it would destroy what once was; disrupt the comfort of some, the lethargy of others, and the apathy of most. It would require extreme sacrifice for both the freeman and the slave, yet the chance to be free often does. The bell of liberty is a crashing sound that can drowns out the crack of the slave master’s whip, and once rung, cannot be unrung. Not all the freed slaves fought with the Union, but over 200,000 did. They understood the cost of liberty, and were willing to pay any price to keep it.
Gone are the days when plantations held entire families hostage to provide for another’s future well-being. No longer can one human legally own another (at least in our country). No longer can someone take 100% of the product of someone else’s labor under threat of a beating or death. However, this begs the question; if forcefully taking 100% of the product of someone’s labor to benefit another is slavery, how much could you forcefully take and it still not be slavery? 10%? How about 50%? Are you not still a slave if you are threatened with some sort of punishment if you do not turn over part of what you have labored for in order to provide for another who has not? Are you still free if what you own can be taken just because the law says it can?
Remember, slavery was once legal too; it did not make it right. And unfortunately, we now have a modern day slavery on our hands; except this time, the American working people are the slaves, and the government is the new planation. On this plantation we are controlled, just as the slaves were. We are being told how much of our earnings we can keep, what we may eat and drink, where we may live, how we may travel, what we must or must not purchase (healthcare, guns), what we must teach, how we may protect ourselves and against whom, and how we should think. Does this sound like a nation of freemen to you? Are we not becoming slaves to the owners of this new plantation: the politicians, the bureaucrats and all those who align themselves with them to dine on the fruits of our labors? Why do we allow this?
There were hundreds of thousands of slaves in the South, yet only a little over 200,000 chose to fight with the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War. It is telling on how even slaves can get comfortable with slavery. Even if the familiar is miserable, so many will still choose the familiar. Fear of the unknown, even when that unknown could hold the promise of freedom, can paralyze many. Perhaps that is why we are at where we are today. Half our nation seems more comfortable crouching down for the familiar toss of crumbs from the master’s plantation table, than standing up as masters of their own table. Liberty can be a scary thing. It was back then. It apparently still is now.
Like Lincoln, we are in the midst of a war, only this time it is a war of ideas. Perhaps it is time that we lovers of liberty take the bold step and make our own Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of this war, to tell our fellow enslaved Americans what the promise of freedom from the government plantation really means. We become the masters again.
“We the People are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men that would pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th U.S. President