The Executive Order That “Freed all slaves in the states that were in rebellion against the federal government”

February 25th, 2016

A YouGov/Economist Poll that is making the rounds posed a series of question about topics such as religious liberty, civil rights, and executive power. The framing of one of the questions is bizarre.

Question 49(a) asks, “Do you approve or disapprove of the executive order which freed all slaves in the states that were in rebellion against the federal government.”

When I first read that, I did a double-take. They are describing the Emancipation Proclamation, as an executive order! I have never heard it characterized in this fashion. Really, it was a wartime order by the commander in chief. I suppose that could be deemed an executive order. And, for what it’s worth, the Emancipation Proclamation was really a two-step process. First, the slaves were seized as chattel, under the Commander in Chief’s wartime power, and then immediately emancipated. (This doesn’t fit into the rosy Lincoln hagiography). For this reason, Section 4 of the 14th Amendment eliminated the need to provide just compensation for the slaves’ owners.

“[N]either the United States nor any State shall assume or pay . . . any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave.”

The amount was estimated at as much as $2 billion in 1868! I bet your ConLaw professor skipped over that when you studied the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment.

The subsequent questions ask about Japanese internment, desegregating the military, restricting funding for foreign NGOs that perform abortions, establishing military tribunals and enhanced interrogation techniques, and DACA.