I have been reading "To The Manner Born" a biography of the fiery, cantankerous, W.H.T. Walker. He is...a character....in good and bad ways, perhaps the subject of another post. But I just read the portion of the book related to Cleburne's emancipation proposal given in January 1864. This incident has been mentioned on the podcast as well.
We know of course that the proposal did not go over well, and likely ended Cleburne's potential for promotion. Yet Cleburne was essentially proven right when a similar proposal was eventually adopted by the Confederacy in 1865. It is still striking to read some of the reactions to the proposal. Senior leaders in the army were called to the meeting by Hardee, where Cleburne presented his proposal. I don't think many of the attendees knew the reason going into the meeting. Included in attendance were Patton Anderson, W.B. Bate, Joe Johnston, Hardee, W.H.T. Walker, A.P. Stewart, Carter Stevenson, and T.C. Hindman.
Some of the reactions to the proposal are rather strong:
-Bate "hideous and objectionable"
-Anderson wrote that the plans "would shake our government, both state and Confederate, to their very foundations."
-Stewart thought the proposal was "at war with my social, moral and political principles."
One of Cleburne's own staff officers read a statement against the proposal to the group.
Hindman was in favor of the proposal, though would not put anything in writing. Hardee likely in favor as well.
Walker later wrote Bragg that the proposal was at odds with "all the teachings of my youth and the mature sentiments of my manhood." Walker gathered the reactions he could from the participants and sent them to Jefferson Davis in an effort to get the proposal scuttled, which he did. One copy of the paper was preserved, which is how it eventually became known.
After all of these years it can be easy to lose sight of how strongly some of these men felt about their beliefs and how set they were in what they were doing.
A full copy of the proposal is here: