Updated:
Original:
Year
1862
Month Day
August 20

Horace Greeley’s “The Prayer of Twenty Millions” is published

New YorkTribune editor Horace Greeley publishes a passionate editorial calling on President Abraham Lincoln to declare emancipation for all slaves in Union-held territory. Greeley’s blistering words voiced the impatience of many Northern abolitionists; but unbeknownst to Greeley and the public, Lincoln was already moving in the direction of emancipation.

In 1841, Greeley launched the Tribune, a newspaper to promote his reform ideas. He advocated temperance, westward expansion, and the labor movement, and opposed capital punishment and land monopoly. Greeley served a brief stint in the U.S. House of Representatives, and he introduced legislation that eventually became the Homestead Act of 1862.

Greeley was most passionate in his opposition to slavery, and was an important organizer of the Republican Party in 1854. When the war erupted, Greeley, along with many abolitionists, argued vociferously for a war policy constructed on the eradication of slavery. President Lincoln did not outwardly share these sentiments. For the war’s first year and a half, Lincoln was reluctant to alienate the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, which practiced slavery but had not seceded.

In his editorial, “The Prayer of Twenty Millions,” Greeley focused on Lincoln’s reluctance to enforce the Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862. Congress had approved the appropriation of Confederate property, including slaves, as a war measure, but many generals were reluctant to enforce the acts, as was the Lincoln administration. Greeley argued that it was “preposterous and futile” to try to put down the rebellion without destroying slavery. The “Union cause,” he wrote, “has suffered from a mistaken deference to Rebel slavery.”

Although he did not admit it publicly at that time, Lincoln was planning to emancipate slaves. He did so a month later with his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Viking 1 launched to Mars

Viking 1, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to Mars. On June 19, 1976, the spacecraft entered into orbit around Mars and devoted the next month to imaging the Martian surface with the purpose of finding an appropriate landing ...read more

U.S. Marines deployed to Lebanon

During the Lebanese Civil War, a multinational force including 800 U.S. Marines lands in Beirut to oversee the Palestinian withdrawal from Lebanon. It was the beginning of a problem-plagued mission that would stretch into 17 months and leave 262 U.S. servicemen dead. In 1975, a ...read more

Soviets invade Czechoslovakia

On the night of August 20, 1968, approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring”—a brief period of liberalization in the communist country. Czechoslovakians protested the invasion with public demonstrations and other ...read more

Professional football is born

On August 20, 1920, seven men, including legendary all-around athlete and football star Jim Thorpe, meet to organize a professional football league at the Jordan and Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton, Ohio. The meeting led to the creation of the American Professional Football ...read more

Benjamin Harrison is born

On this day in 1833, future President Benjamin Harrison is born in North Bend, Ohio. Politics had long been the Harrison family business. At the time of his birth, Harrison’s father was serving Ohio in the United States House of Representatives, while his grandfather, William ...read more

The Menendez brothers murder their parents

Lyle and Erik Menendez shoot their parents, Jose and Kitty, to death in the den of the family’s Beverly Hills, California, home. They then drove up to Mulholland Drive, where they dumped their shotguns before continuing to a local movie theater to buy tickets as an alibi. When ...read more

Battle of Fallen Timbers

On August 20, 1794, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne proves that the fragile young republic can counter a military threat when he puts down Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket’s confederacy near present-day Toledo, Ohio, with the newly created 3,000-man strong Legion of the United States at the ...read more