[New Orleans: ca. December 24, 1862]. pp. on a single folded sheet. Minor creasing, a couple of short closed edge tears, light fraying to bottom edge, three small tape repairs to inner fold. Very good. Item #3349
An extraordinary document issued by General Nathaniel Banks in New Orleans on Christmas Eve, 1862, in which he announces the intentions of the forthcoming Emancipation Proclamation, provides instructions to the people of Louisiana for its implementation, and prints the text of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation -- perhaps the first government printing of any part of the Emancipation Proclamation west of the Mississippi River, about a week before the issuance of the Final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
General Nathaniel Banks arrived in New Orleans in mid-December 1862 to relieve the command of controversial General Benjamin Butler. One of his first official acts is encapsulated in the present document, in which he provides almost two pages of instructions and clarifications on the impending issuance of the Final Emancipation Proclamation and the impact and importance in winning the Civil War. Banks writes that he issued the present order "to correct public misapprehension and misinterpretations" and for the instruction of his troops through "official publication...of the Proclamation by the President of the United States, relating to the subject of Emancipation." Banks makes four initial observations regarding the Proclamation: it a "declaration of purpose only;" states acting in "good faith" are not considered "in rebellion against the United States;" the State of Louisiana has not been "designated by the President as in rebellion;" and that one of the "chief recommendations" of the Proclamation is compensation ("pecuniary aid") for states not in rebellion that would provide for "immediate or gradual emancipation; the colonization of persons of African descent elsewhere," and reimbursement for lost slaves.
Banks reminds his troops and the people of Louisiana that the present version of the Proclamation is not intended to take effect on January 1 or at any known time, but cautions against overreactions to the Proclamation. He also counsels local slaves on their behavior in light of the impending issuance of the document: "I call upon all persons, of whatever estate, condition or degree, soldiers, citizens or slaves, to observe this material and important fact, and to govern themselves accordingly. All unusual public demonstrations, of whatever character, will be for the present suspended. Provost Marshals, officers and soldiers are enjoined to prevent any disturbance of the public peace. The slaves are advised to remain upon their plantations until their privileges shall have been definitely established. They may rest assured that whatever benefit the Government intends will be secured to them, but no man can be allowed in the present condition of affairs to take the law into his own hands. If they seek the protection of the Government, they should wait its pleasure."
At this point, Banks writes about the "Act of Congress cited in the Proclamation, which forbids the return of fugitives by officers of the army." He then comments on the fundamental conundrum of the measure: "No encouragement will be given to laborers to desert their employers, but no authority exists to compel them to return." He then suggests a sharecropping relationship between the planters and former slaves: "It is suggested to planters that some plan be adopted by which an equitable proportion of the proceeds of the crops of the coming year...be set apart and reserved for the support and compensation of labor."
General Banks then expounds upon the nature of the relationship between slavery and the present Civil War, and the role of the soldier: "The war is not waged by the Government for the overthrow of slavery. The President has declared, on the contrary, that it is to restore the 'constitutional relationships between the United States and each of the States' in which the relation is or may be suspended.... Slavery existed by consent and constitutional guaranty; violence and war will inevitably bring it to an end. It is impossible that any military man, in the event of continued war, should counsel the preservation of slave property in the rebel States. If it is to be preserved, war must cease, and the former constitutional relations be again established. The first gun at Sumter proclaimed emancipation. The continuance of the contest there commenced will consummate that end, and the history of the age will leave no other permanent trace of the rebellion."
Banks concludes his text with a passionate plea arguing that both local and national interests are "dependent upon the suppression of the rebellion" and that the war must result in a "permanent peace." He then proceeds to state that "every land fertile enough to make a history has had its desolating civil wars," which eventually "widens the scope of human history, and is attended with peace, prosperity, and power." He equates New Orleans with Bunker Hill and ends on a patriotic note: "Let us fulfill the conditions of this last great trial, and become a nation - a grand nation - with sense enough to govern ourselves and strength enough to stand against the world united!"
The present work is a clear attempt by Banks to maintain order in Louisiana following the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, and clearly anticipates the public furor amongst a portion of the people of Louisiana that would greet the landmark document when it was issued on New Year's Day. The third page of the present document is entirely taken up with a printing of President Lincoln's Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This printing of the document is not mentioned in Eberstadt's bibliography of the Emancipation, and must be considered among the first and only printings of Lincoln's preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation in the American West.
The tenets of the Emancipation had a particular effect on Louisiana. The Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863. Its main provision - the freeing of all slaves - only applied to states considered to be in rebellion against the United States, except for certain areas of Virginia and Louisiana. The Proclamation did not free slaves in a dozen parishes, including the City of New Orleans, because those parishes were not in rebellion against the United States government. This added to the confusion and complexity of the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in the Bayou State, and speaks to the issues addressed by Banks in the present document.
General orders from the western theater of the Civil War are decidedly rarer than those issued in the eastern and southern regions of the war. The present order is also an obscure and decidedly understudied document relating to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in Louisiana, with much information to be mined relating to the relationship of Louisiana to the issue of slavery at the time the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.