Summary: No other words in American history changed the lives of so many Americans as those of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. But no other words in American history have been so often passed over or held up to greater suspicion. Born in the struggle of Lincoln’s determination to set slavery on the path to destruction, it has remained a document of struggle, as conflicting interpretations and historical mysteries swirl around it. So what were Lincoln’s real intentions on the first of January, 1863, the moment when he signed the Proclamation into law? Was he the Great Emancipator or just a Great Fixer? What slaves did the Proclamation actually free? Or did the slaves free themselves? Why is the language of the Proclamation so bland, so legalistic, so far from the soaring eloquence of the Gettysburg Address? Using unpublished letters and documents, little-known accounts from Civil War-era newspapers, and Congressional memoirs and correspondence, Prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen C. Guelzo tells the story of the complicated story of the first of January, 1863, Lincoln’s “Emancipation Moment,” and the greatest moment of the American Civil War.
Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Dean of the Templeton Honors College at Eastern College (St. Davids, PA), where he is also Grace F. Kea Professor of American History. He is the author of Edwards on the Will: A Century of American Philosophical Debate (1989), The Crisis of the American Republic: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (1995), and editor of Josiah G. Holland’s Life of Abraham Lincoln (1998). His biography of Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (1999) was the co-winner of the Lincoln Prize for 2000. His most recent book, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, will be published shortly before this talk in February 2004.