Throughout the Civil War, Lincoln kept hoping that compensated emancipation might be a route to restore the Union and to end slavery peacefully. The Confederate States rejected compensated emancipation out of hand, but Lincoln hoped if the loyal border states would agree to compensated emancipation, it might be a first step to at least some Confederate state agreeing to rejoining the Union in exchange for compensation for their slaves. Alas, Lincoln’s hopes were dashed time and time again. An interesting example of the unwillingness of any of the border states agreeing to abolish slavery was Delaware.
Delaware was a slave state but was strongly pro-Union, with almost no pro-Secession sentiment. Additionally, slavery was clearly a moribund institution in Delaware by the start of the War, with only 1798 slaves according to the 1860 census. In 1847 a bill for compensated emancipation failed in Delaware by only one vote in the state senate. If any of the border states would agree to compensated emancipation, Delaware was clearly that state.
Delaware Congressman George P. Fisher agreed to attempt to have the Delaware legislature pass a bill for compensated emancipation in 1862. Fisher drew up a proposed bill. All slaves over 35 were to be freed at once, with the remainder to be freed by 1872. Compensation was to be determined by local assessors and would average about $500.00 per slave, which was more than the going rate for a prime field hand in Delaware. Congress would provide the money for the compensation. (more…)