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Major General Frémont's Emancipation Proclamation

In a proclamation issued by General John C. Frémont, dated Hqs. of the Western Dept., in command of the Dept. of Missouri at St. Louis, August 31, 1861: Fremont, instituted martial law in Missouri, and declared that slaves of all Missourians taking up arms against the United States would be freed.

The hour has come, and the man.
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Medallion by René de Quélin in 1913.
De Quélin worked for a while as an assistant to Saint-Gaudens, and later designed for Tiffanys.
Martial Law in Missouri because of "its disorganized condition, the helplessness of the civil authority, the total insecurity of life, and the devastation of property by bands of murderers and marauders, who infest nearly every county in the State. . ."

"The property, real and personal, of all persons in the state of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and their slaves, if any they have, are hearby declared freemen."

go See in full.

This sent a shock wave throughout the country and in England. Northerners took to the streets cheering. However, Lincoln, to avoid the loss of border states, ordered Frémont to rescind the order.
A clipping from the Boston Daily Evening Transcript, dated August 31, 1861.

One of the deeds of Manumission given by General Frémont which the government forbade him any longer to issue.


Whereas T. L. S. of the city and county of St. Louis, Mo., has been taking active part with the enemies of the United States in the present insurrectionary movement against the Government of the United States, Now, therefore, I, John Charles Frémont, Major-General, commanding the Western Department of the army of the United States, by authority of law, and the power vested in me, as such Commanding General, declare Frank Lewis, heretofore 'held to service' or labor, by said T. L. S. to be Free and forever discharged from the bonds of servitude; giving him full right and authority to have, use and control his own labor or service as to him may seem proper, without any accountability whatever to said T. L. S., or any one to claim by, through or under him. And this Deed of Manumission, shall be respected and treated, by all persons and in all courts of justice, as the full and complete evidence of the freedom of said Frank Lewis.
In testimony whereof this act is done at St. Louis, Mo., this 1st day of September, 1861, as is evidenced by departmental Seal hereto affixed by my order.
(signed) John C. Frémont

Frémont's letter of response to Lincoln's request that he modify his order.

If your better judgment decides that I was wrong in the article respecting the liberation of slaves, I have to ask that you will openly direct me to make the correction. The implied censure will be received as a soldier always should receive the reprimand of his chief. If I were to retract on my own accord it would imply that I myself thought it wrong, and that I had acted without the reflection which the gravity of the point demanded. But I did not. I acted with full deliberation, and the certain conviction that it was a measure right and necessary, and I still think so.

The President accordingly issued an order modifying that of General Frémont. On October 24th, Lincoln removed him from command of the Army of the West.

Thy error, Frémont, was to act
The brave man's part, without the statesman's tact,
And taking council but of common sense,
To strike at cause as well as consequence.
John Greenleaf Whittier

Which is why Lincoln is on the $5 instead of

A new University of Oklahoma Press edition of Tom Chaffin's now classic Pathfinder: John Charles Fremont and the Course of American Empire.

"The most eloquent, understanding, and yet very candid biography of Frémont that has appeared to date"--Howard R. Lamar, Yale University

Indeed, his emancipation proclamation of 1861, liberating slaves owned by rebel sympathizers in Missouri--which led President Lincoln to fire him as major general--also arguably paved the way for Lincoln's own broader Emancipation Proclamation two years later
Frémont's performance as major general in the Department of the West has been similarly underrated. In 1861 in Missouri, he inherited a dire military situation: outside St. Louis, guerilla warfare flared throughout the state; and just outside Missouri, Confederates were massing for an invasion. Though lacking adequate troops and matériel, Frémont managed to hold St. Louis and Missouri for the Union. Before his dismissal by Lincoln, he also devised the Saratoga, began the construction of the armada, and installed the general--Ulysses S. Grant--that made possible the later run of victories which won the Union control of the Mississippi, thus fatally dividing the Confederacy into two weakened eastern and western sections.
Tom Chaffin, Pathfinder: John C. Frémont and the Course of American Empire


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