One Hundred Sixty years ago today, thousands of enslaved black people were free! The Emancipation Proclamation of the President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, made it so. But not in St. Charles County, or in the State of Missouri. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Missouri was both a rebellious and a slave state, but they were not included, because they had not seceded. And if it had been included, Lincoln had figured, it just might tip the balance of things, the wrong way. Missouri was a very pivotal and important state, both geographically and politically. And thereby so were the lives of thousands of enslaved people who called it home.
The entire country knew. Yet here, think of the despair and the anger that must have been felt. Thousands here would not be able to celebrate the new day as free, in Missouri. A new awakening, amongst those enslaved and those that saw how wrong this was, began. Beginning on January 1, 1863, those that would work to see slavery end in their state would have to work harder than ever. The network to freedom, known as the Underground Railroad, would become even more crucial than ever. And the war would drag on. One had to be more careful than ever. Watch what you said. Desperation set in.
What it must have been like to know that freedom had come, but not for you. Your life would not be changed at all. Freedom was still elusive, just a word. Slowly, quietly, and furtively, things would begin to change. There were those that would work to make it happen. The war in Missouri had become one fought in secret meetings, in hidden rooms, and with a language all its own. For those who hid their true agenda, a “haystacker” would be the best reference, and there were plenty. Everyone was suspect. If you following the North Star, or had gone down to the River and freedom, life was even more difficult, because it could be hard to know who to trust. The year 1863 had begun anew, for some. But not for everyone. For some, nothing had changed at all.
The Emancipation Proclamation reads as follows…..
January 1, 1863
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
“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; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.