Emancipation Proclamation
May 26, 2004 12:36 PM   Subscribe

CivilWarTriviaFilter. This was a question on a 'Millionaire' I recently watched, and it's been driving me nuts. There are *two* signatures on the Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln's, of course, but also that of his Secretary of State, William Seward.

What I want to know is why. The Proclamation was a document dealing with domestic affairs. Why would the Secretary of State sign it, rather than, say, my guess, which was Stanton, the Secretary of War (since it only applied to where the Union Army occupied states in rebellion.) Google only confirms Seward's signature, not the reason.
posted by mojohand to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Maybe because it dealt with matters in the confederacy, which, despite the nature of the conflict itself, was more or less its own country at the time?
posted by bingo at 1:00 PM on May 26, 2004

bingo, that was my first guess as well, but didn't the south secede *after* the proclamation? I thought the proclamation was the straw that broke the south's back, so to speak. I could easily be wrong.
posted by o2b at 1:15 PM on May 26, 2004

Bingo! hahahahaha. Yes, I agree.

The Secretary of War dealt with all military matters. The Emancipation Proclamation told all slaves that they were free, even if they weren't under Federal control. This has more to do with the Secretary of the State than the Secretary of War.
posted by geoff. at 1:16 PM on May 26, 2004

I don't believe so o2b. In fact I think it was issued after the Confederates tried to invade Maryland and were sucessfully repealed. What was strange about it was that it did no affect Union states, as some were slave-holding states. But it did get rid of legitmacy in the mind of the international community towards the Confederacy.
posted by geoff. at 1:18 PM on May 26, 2004

Response by poster: While leaders in Richmond would have held that opinion, the U.S. government emphatically did not acknowledge the Confederacy as a separate nation, merely states in rebellion. It was an essential distinction. I should have included this in my original question. But thanks for trying.
posted by mojohand at 1:18 PM on May 26, 2004

The Emancipation Proclamation was signed after the beginning of the Civil war in January 1863 [nice timeline btw] in part to muster public support. Also, there were US generals using different rules in dealing with slaves - some were freed, some were "contraband of war."
posted by plemeljr at 1:24 PM on May 26, 2004

Does this shed any light on the subject?
posted by lilboo at 1:33 PM on May 26, 2004

Best answer: [the below is from about 10 minutes of research, so it may not be 100% complete and accurate]

There were only 5 cabinet Departments at that time: State, War, Treasury, Navy and Interior.

War and Navy deal with military stuff.
Treasury deals with money stuff (and protection of the president, but not until after Lincoln, for obvious reasons)

Interior was formed in the 1840s and mostly

State was the catch-all Department that did basicly everything, until Interior and, later, other Departments started taking over duties. During the Civil War period, State was half-domestic, half-foreign.

"Secretary Seward was President Abraham Lincoln's principal counselor on a broad range of urgent wartime domestic matters as well as on the vital diplomatic effort to prevent European powers from recognizing or assisting the Confederacy. The success of the State Department and American diplomatic representatives abroad in the early years of the Civil War were critical to isolating the South until Union armies and navy could be mobilized to win the struggle."
posted by falconred at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2004

Oops, that first link should be 5 cabinet Departments
posted by falconred at 1:36 PM on May 26, 2004

Response by poster: Nice work, falconred. You've nailed it. I gotta start using the Wikipedia more as a information portal. Thanks.
posted by mojohand at 1:45 PM on May 26, 2004

Best answer: The secretary of State has long been misconstrued as our all-around ambassador. He's more than that. He's sort of an administrator of the union and, officially, the head of the Cabinet. The president is the head of government, but, for example, the SecState is the person that all federal (appointed) employees send letters of resignation to, including the president. It's hard to explain it, but to me, it makes sense that Seward signed it. This really wasn't a military matter.
posted by MrAnonymous at 2:25 PM on May 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

This page suggests the State Department had general responsibility over all presidential proclamations, regardless of whether they dealt with foreign policy or not. Indeed, the proclamation itself was apparently drafted at the State Department.
posted by profwhat at 2:34 PM on May 26, 2004

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