A state of being freed from water.--Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon, c. 1850
On this date in 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas, became the last to learn of their newfound freedom; Union soldiers reached the city and read Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, by then two and a half years old. Though Lincoln has received much of the credit for the liberation of American slaves, he could hardly have been characterized as being zealously against this evil, at least before becoming president. In the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates on August 21, 1858, he remarked, "I have no purpose, either directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists. I believe I have no right to do so." And even as president four years later, just before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, he wrote to Horace Greeley, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."
That's something that drives me absolutely nuts about the Civil War as it's popularly taught and understood. Ask a dozen people on the street and they'll tell you it was to free the slaves -- but it wasn't about slavery and never was. It was about Federal power vs. State power -- from the government P.O.V. slavery was just a propaganda tool that the average Joe in the northern states would get behind. Sorta like WMDs in Iraq. If you are scared that the country is slouching towards totalitarianism , thank Abraham Lincoln, he's the one who laid the groundwork for it.
Of course, the reason slavery worked as a hot-button issue is because it was such an evil (duh), which is why the Civil War is still such a problem. Who do you root for, the Overreaching Government, or the Slavers? I'd say a fair assessment is that we all lost on that one. (Except for the slaves -- at least they got something good out of it! Eventually.)
 Despite the best efforts of the Bush administration, and for that matter the Clinton administration before them, I don't believe we're slouching towards totalitarianism. The U.S. has long had a tendency to swing like a pendulum, going from libertine to puritan and back again, and averaging somewhere in the middle. The key is to try to avoid the evils of either extreme.