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Civil War and Reconstruction: The Freedmen’s fight for an equal share of the American Dream

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Suny Geneseo

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  1. Introduction
  2. The analysis of the way emancipation
  3. The change in the meaning of freedom
  4. The broader meaning of freedom
  5. Conclusion

The analysis of the way emancipation was acquired is revealing of the reason why the freedom the slaves obtained turned out to be so limited. The context must be taken into account. The reasons why the war started and was going on were not clear so clear anymore. Making emancipation a result of the war was perfectly fitting the ideals the North had been supporting so far. It appeared to be a mere reward for Blacks participation in the war and an encouragement for more to join the Union lines. The goal was not only to assure the Union's victory but also to unify the nation. The war was never really meant to lead on emancipation. It happened as a matter of circumstance, as we can understand with Lincoln's defense of Emancipation: ?I issued the Proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union?But Negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must me prompted by the strongest motive?even the promise of freedom.? Emancipation here appears to be a political tactic. It was an improvised proclamation realized upon Lincoln's self-beliefs and intuition. The emancipation could not have been more unprepared. It freed the slaves where most people were pro-slavery and highly racist and no one had really anticipated how to handle millions of freed slaves. The Union commander General Benjamin F. Butler foresaw that issue when he wondered in 1861: ?What shall be done with them?Are they free? Is their condition that of men, women and children, or of property, or is it a mixed relation?? His statements are really interesting.

[...] It appeared to be a mere reward for Blacks participation in the war and an encouragement for more to join the Union lines. The goal was not only to assure the Union's victory but also to unify the nation. The war was never really meant to lead on emancipation. It happened as a matter of circumstance, as we can understand with Lincoln's defense of Emancipation: issued the Proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union But Negroes, like other people, act upon motives. [...]


[...] His definition of liberty is revealing of Blacks requirements, am for the ?immediate, unconditional, and universal' enfranchisement of the black man, in every State of the Union. Without this, his liberty is mockery; without this, you might as well almost retain the old name of slavery for his condition; for in fact, if he is not the slave of the individual master, he is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right.?[9]Realizing how fragile liberty was, he figured blacks needed to be able to vote to play a more practical role in politics. [...]

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