Richard Striner: 'Hurrah for Old Abe'

tags: NYT, Richard Striner, Washington College, Lincoln and race, Disunion



Richard Striner, a history professor at Washington College, is the author of “Lincoln and Race.”

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, but the immediate reactions for and against it reverberated loudly throughout the following month.

Almost all abolitionists and radical Republicans, even those who had condemned Lincoln’s methods as being too cautious, were thrilled. William Lloyd Garrison, the venerable abolitionist, called the occasion “a great historic event, sublime in its magnitude and beneficent in its far-reaching consequences.” The radical Republican Benjamin Wade proclaimed, “Now, hurrah for Old Abe and the proclamation!”

Black Americans were naturally likewise jubilant. The minister Henry Highland Garnet called Lincoln “the man of our choice and hope” and said that the proclamation was “one of the greatest acts in all history.” Frederick Douglass said much the same thing: the proclamation was “the greatest event in our nation’s history.”

The document had a profound effect on antislavery and pro-Union sentiment in Britain. Charles Francis Adams, Lincoln’s minister to the Court of St. James, had been laboring for months to prevent the recognition of the Confederacy by the British. Now, he wrote, the effect of the definitive proclamation was to “annihilate all agitation for recognition.” Mass meetings in support of Lincoln and the Union were organized throughout England....



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