Last night, John Stauffer lectured about the parallel lives of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln described in a book he wrote, “Giants.” Not only was he the best lecturer I have ever experienced in a long life of geekiness…..but I learned many things.
I learned that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free Maryland slaves — the Emancipation Proclamation that Abraham Lincoln signed on January 1, 1863, only freed slaves in the rebelling states. Since Maryland remained loyal to the union (at least as a “border” state), Maryland slaves were not freed until November 1, 1864, when a new Maryland constitution was adopted which freed slaves and outlawed slavery. Apparently, the initial vote on adopting the constitution had failed to adopt it and was extremely close. A second election was held for the returning Maryland union troops to vote for passage and the second vote was successful.
There are things I learn about our Maryland history that fill me with pride from time to time. For example, our constitution provided for much more dramatic civil liberties than the US constitution. Last night I learned that Maryland was the first state to vote for ratification of the 13th amendment. The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and the Maryland House of Delegates voted for ratification the same day.
The substance of the lecture about Douglas and Lincoln was fascinating. By way of example, Douglas was born a slave and secretly learned to read. Lincoln had no formal education and had a father who discouraged and belittled education. Consequently, both were “self-made” men. Both, in their youth, self-read and self-studied the same six core books: the Bible, Shakespeare, Aesop’s Fables, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, and The Columbian Orator. I also learned that the definition of “self-made men” meant only self-educated and successful but also included going on to help others. (I just ordered Aesop’s Fables from Barnesandnoble.com to see what I missed from many years ago).
There are Emancipation Day celebrations that remain this week. Thursday, October 30, there is an interpretative acting event at Maryland Hall. Friday at noon a “Libation Ceremony” at the city dock. Saturday, at 10 am at the State House, Emancipation Day will be proclaimed and a quilt prepared by people from all over the state will be unveiled. The quilt is reputed to be a fabulous item and everyone is encouraged to attend.
I am quite eager to read the book and hope that it is at least half as engaging as the lecture. I learned about the lecture from Cynthia Clark, who said she was attending. There was no sign of Cynthia at the lecture. In an abundance of enthusiasm, I got her a book for Christmas despite her absence.