Lincoln Takes Charge

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This proclamation enabled Lincoln to end a year full of frustration and failure with a document breathing hope and inspiration. On New Year’s Day Seward and his son took the sheet to the White House for signature. Lincoln, dipping his pen, held it suspended as he observed: “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper. But I have been receiving calls and shaking hands since nine o’clock this morning, till my arm is stiff and numb. Now, this signature will be closely examined, and if they find my hand trembled, they will say ‘he had some compunctions.’ But anyway, it is going to be done.” With firm hand, he signed the declaration that all slaves throughout the areas in rebellion were then and forever free.