Union soldiers as well as civilians viewed the Emancipation Proclamation in diverse ways. Some were for anything that would end the war sooner, while others swore that they would desert before they would fight for anything other than to preserve the Union. Most Southerners were of the opinion that the document was nothing more than a presidential sanction for slave insurrections and wanton destruction.
The image above was drawn by Confederate sympathizer Adelbert J. Volck. Volck was a Prussian political refugee who came to America during the 1848 European revolutions. He was not only an artist, he practiced dentistry as well. Produced in 1864, this pro-Southern image portrays Lincoln as the demonic author of the despised Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln rests his left foot on the Constitution, while a demonic icon hold his glass of water. A statue of Lady Liberty has a hood over head in the corner as bats are seen out the window. A picture of John Brown holding a pike and with a sarcastic halo is on the wall and labeled "St. Ossawattomie," for his role in Bleeding Kansas and his Harpers Ferry raid. The picture to the right of Brown's image is a scene of terror from the Haitian revolution, "Saint Domingue," where a slave rebellion started in 1791 and took power from the French colony. Finally, what appears to be a buzzard's skull holds back the curtains, while another skull image is worked into the president's chair back.
A more favorable view of Lincoln's measure is David Gilmore Blythe's lithograph, President Lincoln, Writing the Proclamation of Freedom. Also produced in 1864, Blythe's Lincoln is much different than that portrayed by Volck. Blythe's Lincoln is shown working hard on the document in his bed clothes and slippers with books and papers surrounding him for inspiration. Instead of standing on the Constitution as Volck portrays it at top, Blythe shows Lincoln with the Bible and Constitution on his lap. A bust of Andrew Jackson, who threatened to put down South Carolina's threats during the Nullification Crisis of the early 1830s, sits on the mantle, while a bust of former president James Buchanan (who proved inactive in South Carolina's December 1860 secession) hangs by a rope from the bookcase. An American flag drapes the window to allow enlightenment enter the room, while a scales of justice hangs on the wall and a rail splitter's maul lays on the floor with one of his bedroom slippers.
It has been said many times that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Art, like history, is open to interpretation and is influenced by the artist's sympathies and biases. An artists' perspective often comes out as clearly in images as an historians' does in written text. Part of the fun of studying history is recognizing those sympathies and biases and weighing them against what you have previously learned.