Walter E. Williams

President Obama was sworn into office placing his hand on Abraham Lincoln's Bible. That is the last Bible I would use to be sworn into office. You say, "Why? Didn't Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation free your ancestors?" It all depends where they were living. Let's examine the document's text to see why.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which reads, "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 …" The key phrase is "in rebellion against the United States" because slaves remained slaves in states not in rebellion.

The Proclamation is specific about the states where slaves were freed, 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."

Slaves in the excepted Louisiana parishes were not freed because those parishes were not in rebellion. Neither were slaves in West Virginia. By the way, West Virginia's June 1863 admission as a state, formerly a part of Virginia, was a clear violation of the Constitution's Article IV, Section 3, that reads in part "but no new States shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress." But what the heck, Lincoln had much of the Constitution under siege by then.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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