East Room: Emancipation Proclamation
The President first began designing the Proclamation at the beginning of the summer in 1862. He discussed with his Cabinet who recommended that he delay its release until after a Union victory. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, after which Confederates retreated from the Maryland battlefield, the President released a preliminary emancipation proclamation which warned that slavery would be abolished in areas of the country still under rebellion by the end of the year. He told a cabinet meeting that "the time for the annunciation of the emancipation policy could no longer be delayed." He told Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: "I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves." The President kept his promise and revised his Emancipation Proclamation. He later told artist Francis Carpenter that it was "the central act of my administration, and the great event of the nineteenth century." 1
The President "received the diplomatic corps at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, and when these shining officials had duly congratulated him and had been bowed out, the officers of the Army and Navy who happened to be in town were received in the order of their rank. At twelve, noon, the gates of the White House grounds were flung wide open, and the sovereign people were admitted to the mansion in installments. I had gone to the house earlier, and now enjoyed the privilege of contrasting the decorous quiet of the receptions at the residences of lesser functionaries with the wild, tumultuous rush into the White House. Sometimes the pressure and the disorder were almost appalling; and it required no little engineering to steer the throng, after it had met and engaged the President, out of the great window from which a temporary bridge had been constructed for an exit."
2. Ben Perley Poore, Perley's Reminiscences, Volume II, p. 137
3. Ruth Painter Randall, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage, p. 286.
4. Noah Brooks, Washington, D.C., in Lincoln's Time, p. 48-49.