A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Worth Fighting For


Massachusetts writer and educator Lucy Larcom has just returned from a Civil War rally in Newburyport, MA, held in August 1862, and she reflects on the experience in her journal. President Lincoln releases the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation one month later, on 22 September 1862.


Selection from the Massachusetts Historical Society: Lucy Larcom diary, 21-23 April 1865.
Selection from the Library of Congress: Abraham Lincoln, 22 September 1862, Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Questions to Consider


  1. What is Lucy Larcom’s opinion of the rally she has just attended? What is her opinion of the speakers? How does she feel about rumors of an Emancipation Proclamation?
  2. What promises does the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation contain? Why does Lincoln claim to be making such promises, and how does he plan to enforce them? When will these promises be enacted?


  1. What was happening in the Civil War at the time that the Newburyport rally was held? What would the Northerners’ morale have been like at this time? Larcom mentions the name "McClellan." Who was he, and what role was he playing nationally at the time?
  2. What was happening (or had just happened) in the war when Lincoln released his Proclamation? What else was happening politically?


  1. Why did Larcom record national events in her diary? Do you think she ever intended for anyone else to read it? Whose opinions do we learn about from this diary?
  2. Why did President Lincoln issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation when he did? What were some of his motives in issuing it? Which reasons are articulated in the document, and which are not?


  1. Do you think Larcom would have been pleased with the Proclamation? What parts of her concerns does it attempt to address? What new concerns might it raise?
  2. Who is Lincoln trying to reach with this Proclamation? What types of groups make up the audience, and how would each react?


  1. How does a private piece of writing shed light on political, public events? How does a famous public event illuminate a diary?
  2. What were the results of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation? What further steps were necessary before all slaves were freed and their rights secured?