Painter William Tolman Carlton was born in Boston in 1816 and moved to Dorchester in his adult life, dying there in 1888.
Perhaps his most well-known painting hangs over Lincoln's desk in the White House at Washington, DC. Watch Meeting--Dec. 31st, 1862--Waiting for the Hour depicts slaves waiting for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect.
The signing took place during the afternoon of New Year?s Eve, 1862. The Proclamation was to go into effect at midnight. As darkness fell that evening, clusters of eager blacks gathered together all across the country to see freedom in. This painting commemorates one of those midnight watches. Slaves have come together in a church somewhere behind the Union lines. Their elderly pastor leans on his pulpit?hammered together from packing crates that still bear the stenciled name of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. In his hand is a precious gold timepiece ticking away his bondage. It is five minutes to midnight.
This little-known painting, which captured one of the great moments in American history, also served as a curious link between two of the era?s greatest men: William Lloyd Garrison and Abraham Lincoln. The grim Yankee abolitionist and the laconic prairie President had little in common; they were united only in their opposition to slavery.
For more than thirty years, Garrison had demanded its immediate and unconditional end. For him, slavery was above all a sin; Americans had to repent; no compromise with it was possible. In 1831, in the very first issue of his newspaper, The Liberator, he promised to be ?as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation.? He never did.
American politics were wicked, a product of hateful compromise with the slave power, he said, and he had urged his supporters to ?stand aloof? from the 1860 presidential contest. But with Lincoln?s election and the coming of the war, Garrison altered his position: armed struggle, he now believed, would quickly accomplish what three decades of moral suasion had failed to achieve. He told his friends to withhold criticism of Lincoln and to work behind the scenes to persuade him to use his war power to emancipate the slaves.
The two men finally met at the Republican convention in 1864, and Garrison came away convinced that Lincoln was committed ?to uproot slavery and give fair play to the emancipated.? Later that summer, Garrison found a way to express his pleasure: he arranged to have the original Carlton painting shipped to the White House.
The painting was presented to Abraham Lincoln by public subscription on the occasion of one of his visits to Boston.
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Created: November 19, 2006 Modified: November 19, 2006