Unlike previous conflicts, the American Civil War saw the rapid transmission of news, thanks to the invention of the telegraph. Within three days of the Emancipation Proclamation becoming official, the public was already offering divergent interpretations.
On January 4, 1863, Reverend Nathanial Hall of Dorchester, Massachusetts told his congregation that the moral stain of slavery had “poisoned the whole atmosphere of American social life.” As a result of slavery, freedom and justice in the country had become paralyzed.
While President Lincoln had supported his decision to free slaves on military grounds, Hall reminded his congregation that dismantling an institution that long contradicted the mission of a free republic had profound moral implications. “God forbid we should live at such a time,” concluded Hall, “and not feel the privilege of it.”