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The Emancipation Proclamation in New Jersey

The Emancipation Proclamation in New Jersey

On September 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation: as of New Year’s Day 1863, all slaves in rebel territory or those who could reach the Union lines would be free. The reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation in New Jersey was mixed. African Americans and many Republicans supported it, while many Democrats opposed it because it deprived slaveholders of their property without their consent and represented a massive interference in states’ rights. Racists feared an influx of southern blacks into New Jersey who would compete for jobs with whites. In his inaugural address in early 1863, New Jersey’s newly-elected Democratic governor Joel Parker criticized the timing and constitutionality of the proclamation. The Democrat-dominated state assembly passed bills preventing the immigration of African Americans into the state and prohibiting mixed marriage, both of which died in the state senate. Meanwhile, Quakers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania raised money to help freedmen in the South.

Portrait, Joel Parker. Engraving by W.G. Jackman, NY.

State of New Jersey. Assembly No. 267.

State of New Jersey. Assembly No. 267, An Act to Prevent the Admixture of Races in the State of New Jersey. New Jersey Legislative Bills and Resolutions Collection.