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The Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation
Washington, D.C.
January 1, 1863

On January 1, 1863 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This was an order that freed the slaves in the Confederate States. Although not all the slaves were immediately set free, it paved the way for the 13th Amendment which would free all slaves in the United States a few years later.

The watershed document Lincoln prepared many months before its signing. The Emancipation Proclamation is arguably one of the top ten most important documents in the history of the United States; however, it is also one of the most misunderstood.
This page is to help you learn the history and politics surrounding The Emancipation Proclamation. Research below 10 facts, the background and the Emancipation Proclamation writing itself.

Although January 1st, 1863, is the date most Americans identify as the day the Emancipation Proclamation officially took effect, the ideals of the Proclamation had been carefully contemplated by President Lincoln many months before.

Lincoln first proposed the idea of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in the summer of 1862 as a war measure to cripple the Confederacy. Lincoln surmised that if the slaves in the Southern states were freed, then the Confederacy could no longer use them as laborers to support the army in the field, thus hindering the effectiveness of the Confederate war effort. As an astute politician, however, Lincoln needed to prove that the Union government could enforce the Proclamation and protect the freed slaves. On September 22, 1862, following the Union “victory” at the Battle of Antietam, the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued, this preliminary proclamation would go into effect three months later on January 1, 1863.

The Emancipation had an immediate and profound effect on the course of the war. In addition to saving the Union, freeing the slaves now became an official war aim, garnering passionate reactions from both the North and the South. The Proclamation also allowed for African-Americans to join the Union’s armed forces, and by the end of the war nearly 200,000 would honorably serve.

Initially the Proclamation applied just to the states in rebellion, but it paved the way for the 13th Amendment, adopted on December 6, 1865, which officially abolished slavery in the United States.

President Lincoln read the first draft of this document to his Cabinet members on July 22, 1862. After some changes, he issued the preliminary version on September 22, which specified that the final document would take effect January 1, 1863. Slaves in Confederate states which were not back in the Union by then would be free, but slaves in the Border States were not affected. The president knew the proclamation was a temporary military measure and only Congress could remove slavery permanently, but had the satisfaction of seeing the 13th Amendment pass a few months before his death.

The most controversial document in Lincoln's presidency, its signing met with both hostility and jubilation in the North. After the preliminary version was made public, Lincoln noted, "It is six days old, and while commendation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals is all that a vain man could wish, the stocks have declined, and troops come forward more slowly than ever. This, looked soberly in the face, is not very satisfactory." However, on the day he approved the final version, Lincoln remarked, "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper."

10 Facts about the Emancipation Proclamation

Fact #1: Lincoln actually issued the Emancipation Proclamation twice.

Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863.

Fact #2: The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the states in rebellion.

President Lincoln justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure intended to cripple the Confederacy. Being careful to respect the limits of his authority, Lincoln applied the Emancipation Proclamation only to the Southern states in rebellion.

Fact #3: Lincoln’s advisors did not initially support the Emancipation Proclamation.

When President Lincoln first proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in the summer of 1862, many of the cabinet secretaries were apathetic, or worse, worried that the Proclamation was too radical. It was only Lincoln’s firm commitment to the necessity and justice of the Proclamation, along with the victory at Antietam, which finally persuaded his cabinet members to support him.

Fact #4: The Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) provided the necessary Union victory to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Lincoln had first proposed the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet in July 1862, but Secretary of State William Seward suggested waiting for a Union victory so that the government could prove that it could enforce the Proclamation. Although the Battle of Antietam resulted in a draw, the Union army was able to drive the Confederates out of Maryland – enough of a “victory,” that Lincoln felt comfortable issuing the Emancipation just five days later.

Fact #5: The Emancipation Proclamation was a firm demonstration of the President’s executive war powers.

The Southern states used slaves to support their armies on the field and to manage the home front so more men could go off to fight. In a display of his political genius, President Lincoln shrewdly justified the Emancipation Proclamation as a “fit and necessary war measure” in order to cripple the Confederacy’s use of slaves in the war effort. Lincoln also declared that the Proclamation would be enforced under his power as Commander-in-Chief, and that the freedom of the slaves would be maintained by the “Executive government of the United States.”

Fact #6: The Emancipation Proclamation changed the focus of the war.

Up until September 1862, the main focus of the war had been to preserve the Union. With the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freedom for slaves now became a legitimate war aim.

Fact #7: The Emancipation Proclamation helped prevent the involvement of foreign nations in the Civil War.

Britain and France had considered supporting the Confederacy in order to expand their influence in the Western Hemisphere. However, many Europeans were against slavery. Although some in the United Kingdom saw the Emancipation Proclamation as overly limited and reckless, Lincoln's directive reinforced the shift of the international political mood against intervention while the Union victory at Antietam further disturbed those who didn't want to intervene on the side of a lost cause.

Fact #8: The Emancipation Proclamation paved the way for African-Americans to fight for their freedom.

Lincoln declared in the Proclamation that African-Americans of “suitable condition, would be received into the armed service of the United States.” Five months after the Proclamation took effect; the War Department of the United States issued General Orders No. 143, establishing the United States Colored Troops (USCT). By the end of the war, over 200,000 African-Americans would serve in the Union army and navy.

Teachers Institute - Hari Jones from Civil War Trust on Vimeo.

Fact #9: The Emancipation Proclamation led the way to total abolition of slavery in the United States.

With the Emancipation Proclamation, the aim of the war changed to include the freeing of slaves in addition to preserving the Union. Although the Proclamation initially freed only the slaves in the rebellious states, by the end of the war the Proclamation had influenced and prepared citizens to advocate and accept abolition for all slaves in both the North and South. The 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, was passed on December 6th, 1865.

Fact #10: Lincoln considered the Emancipation Proclamation the crowning achievement of his presidency.

Heralded as the savior of the Union, President Lincoln actually considered the Emancipation Proclamation to be the most important aspect of his legacy. “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper,” he declared. “If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."

The Emancipation Proclamation Transcription

The Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 1863
A Transcription

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."
Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

The Emancipation Proclamation Timeline

1860
November 6
Lincoln elected president.
1861
March 4

Lincoln inaugurated.

April 12
Firing on Fort Sumter, S.C., initiated the Civil War.

July 21
First Battle of Bull Run.

1862
June-September

Second Bull Run campaign.

July 13
Lincoln read initial draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to Secretaries Seward and Welles.

July 22
Lincoln discussed Draft of the Emancipation Proclamation at a cabinet meeting.
September Antietam campaign.

September 22
Cabinet discussion of Emancipation.
First printing of preliminary version of Emancipation Proclamation.

1863
January 1
Lincoln signed the Final Draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.
April-May
Chancellorsville campaign.
June-July
Gettysburg campaign.
November 19
The Gettysburg Address.
1864
April 4

Lincoln explained his choices related to emancipation.
May-December
The march toward Richmond.
May 5-7
Grant's Wilderness campaign.
May 7-20
Battle of Spotsylvania.
June '64-May '65
Petersburg campaign.
September 1
Fall of Atlanta.
November 8
Lincoln re-elected.
1865
April 9

General Lee surrendered.
April 14
Lincoln assassinated (further details in Lincoln assassination timeline).
John Sellers, Library of Congress Manuscript Division Historian.
 
 
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