On this date 150 years ago – July 22, 1862 – President Lincoln announces to his Cabinet his decision to issue a proclamation of slave emancipation. He was not seeking their opinion; he was informing them relative to his decision and intent.
The pronouncement would only be directed toward slavery in those states in rebellion against the government – thus Lincoln would walk a fine line relative to not upsetting the institution in the border states whose loyalty must be maintained. He realized it would have no immediate effect by simple pronouncement, though could be implemented as the army would gain territory in the South.
Though his Cabinet members were largely supportive in principle, some were concerned about the timing on the matter… fearing the use of the edict against them in the coming elections by those who would passionately disagree with such measures. Stanton’s words particularly spoke to Lincoln as containing wisdom. In the context of Northern depression over the failed Peninsula Campaign, the President was advised to wait for a victory to announce the measure … “until you can give it to the country supported by military success.” Stanton feared that otherwise it would have the appearance of “the last measure of an exhausted government … our last shriek, on the retreat.” Of course, this waiting for a victory would involve several months.
This meeting, this date, this moment – marks a significant change in the President’s direction and determination. It marks the turn of the corner onto the home stretch toward Antietam as well.