On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in those states that were then in rebellion against the federal government. It is not a document frequently remembered or celebrated despite its intention to liberate slaves in the Confederate States of America. The document itself is careful, lawyerly, and tedious. Written with no explicit appeal to grand philosophic principles, authorized under the President’s war powers, the Emancipation Proclamation is also bound up with the destructiveness of the Civil War, arguable constitutional claims about executive power, and the extension of war beyond the battlefield to civilians and society.
Needless to say there is much to discuss in 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Law and Liberty’s Liberty Forum this month features learned essays from different perspectives by David Nichols, Marshall DeRosa, and Allen Guelzo evaluating the constitutional legitimacy of the document and the larger questions of liberty, power, and justice raised by it. I am sure you will benefit tremendously from reading the arguments and questions raised in these essays.