July 22, 1862 Cabinet Meeting

The discussions of the Lincoln cabinet are reported to have taken place on July 22, 1862 in Lincoln’s office as depicted in Francis Carpenter’s famous painting, First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.


He “had resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice.” Then removing two foolscap sheet from his pocket and adjusting his glasses on his nose, he began to read what amounted to a legal brief for emancipation based on the chief executive’s powers as commander in chief.

“His draft proclamation set January 1, 1863, little more than five months away, as the date on which all slaves within states still in rebellion against the Union would be declared free, ‘Thenceforth and forever’. It required no cumbersome enforcement proceedings. Though it did not cover the roughly 425,000 slaves in the loyal border states- where, without the use of his war powers, no constitutional authority justified his action-the proclamation was shocking in scope. In a single stroke, it superseded legislation on slavery and property rights that had guided policy in eleven states for nearly three quarters of a century. Three and a half million blacks who had lived enslaved for generations s were promised freedom. It was a daring move.”

“The cabinet listened in silence. With the exception of (William H.) Seward and (Gideon) Welles, to whom the president had intimated his intentions the previous week, the members were startled by the boldness of Lincoln’s proclamation. Only (Edwin M.) Stanton and, surprisingly, (Edward) Bates declared themselves in favor of ‘its immediate promulgation.’ Stanton instantly grasped the military value of the proclamation. Having spent more time than any of his colleagues contemplating the logistical problems facing the army, he understood the tremendous advantages to be gained if the massive workforce of slaves could be transferred from the Confederacy to the Union. Equally important, he had developed a passionate belief in the justice of Emancipation.”

Team of Rivals…The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln –“We are in the Depths”; pages 484-485 – Doris Kearns Goodwin

William H. Seward:

Gideon Welles: http://www.americanpresident.org/history/abrahamlincoln/cabinet/

Edwin M. Stanton:

Edward Bates: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000231

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