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+ - Why the Emancipation Proclamation Spends Most of its Time in the Dark

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Hugh Pickens writes
Hugh Pickens writes writes "On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln and William Seward affixed their signatures to the Emancipation Proclamation, the document Frederick Douglass called "the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the thralldom of the ages" and to mark the 150-year anniversary, The Proclamation will be on rare public display at Washington's National Archives until the end of the day. Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it placed the issue squarely on top of the wartime agenda. It added moral force to the Union cause and was a significant milestone leading to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, formally outlawing slavery throughout the nation. The Emancipation Proclamation linked the preservation of American constitutional government to the end of slavery, and has become one of our country’s most treasured documents. The Proclamation, unlike the Constitution and the Declaration, spends most of the year stored in darkness, encapsulated in layers of alkaline and inert mylar because its paper and ink have been damaged over the years by improper handling and overexposure to light and much of the frailty comes from the fact that the Proclamation was written on low-quality, machine-made paper — the mass-produced stuff typical of the Industrial Revolution — rather than the heartier, animal-skin-based parchment that hosts the founding charters. "One of the most significant documents in our history — a document created with the express purpose of changing the course of that history — and the history-makers didn't splurge for separate pieces of paper," writes Megan Garber. "Its fragility is a reminder that even the most transcendent decisions are inscribed, because they must be, in their historical moment. Often on very bad paper.""
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Why the Emancipation Proclamation Spends Most of its Time in the Dark

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