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Lincoln address kicks off Chautauqua

When Abraham Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, he faced resistance within his own party. But, he said, he told Congress, "We cannot escape history."...

George Frein portrays Abraham Lincoln in "Lincoln, Land and Liberty," as part of the Grand Forks Chautauqua, through Sunday. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

When Abraham Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, he faced resistance within his own party. But, he said, he told Congress, "We cannot escape history."

"One hundred thousand Negro soldiers and sailors were fighting for the Union because we promised them freedom, and a promise made must be a promise kept," he said.

The scholar who portrayed the 16th president, George Frein, showed that Lincoln determined slavery opposed the self-evident truth that all men were endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Frein is one of several scholars portraying historical figures from Lincoln's time at this weekend's Everett Albers Chautauqua. Others include Jerome Tweten as William Jayne, governor of the Dakota Territory appointed by Lincoln; Charles Pace as Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist leader; and Carrol Peterson as poet Walt Whitman.

Frein portrayed Lincoln as a leader committed to his principles.


When Lincoln ran for president in 1860, he said "the Republican Party stood for free labor, free soil and free men."

He received 180 electoral votes to 12 for Stephen Douglas, who finished fourth.

Douglas chaired the territorial committees in the Senate and wanted to expand slavery into the territories by popular vote. Lincoln disagreed that slavery should be self-governed.

"When a white man governs more than himself, that's not self-governing," Lincoln said. "My thought was to contain slavery, not expand."

Frein showed Lincoln to be a leader who opposed violence, yet felt powerless to stop it. He said "Slavery was an injustice, but abolitionist tactics set the clock back 50 years."

Some abolitionists used violent tactics to try to overthrow slavery.

"The way to win a person to the cause of liberty is persuasion. It is our duty to prevent liberty's destruction by mob violence," Lincoln said.

South Carolina and six other Southern states seceded from the union in 1861 with slavery clearly at the center of the rebellion. The nation plunged into Civil War and Lincoln said his goal was to "repress the rebellion and restore the Union."


By March 1862, Lincoln signed laws that abolished slavery on federal land and forbade fugitive slaves from being sent back to the South.

Lincoln said, "I took a vow to God that if the Union had military success, I would take it as a sign to move forward with emancipation."

By the time the emancipation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, tens of thousands of lives had been lost in battles and Lincoln was told to rescind it. He said, "It is a fixed thing. I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back."

Frein will lead a discussion titled "Lincoln as a Writer" at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Myra Museum where all other daytime programs will be held.

Evening events today and Sunday for Chautauqua will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Empire Arts Center.

Related Topics: LINCOLN
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