President Abraham Lincoln's (1861–1865) Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves of the rebelling Confederate states during the American Civil War (1861–1865), was signed on January 1, 1863. At first glance, the proclamation was a paradox. Although Lincoln abhorred slavery, he did not attempt to abolish it after taking office or after the Civil War began in April 1861. Indeed, Lincoln initially stated that the Civil War was being fought to preserve the Union, not to end slavery in the South.
There were several factors behind Lincoln's reasoning. First, he felt duty-bound to honor the Constitution, which safeguarded slavery in any state whose citizens supported the institution. Instead, Lincoln favored gradual emancipation, voluntarily accepted by the states, with federal compensation to slaveholders. Second, after the start of the Civil War, Lincoln avoided policies aimed at abolishing slavery, fearing that the four pro-slavery border states that remained loyal to the Union—Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware—would withdraw their allegiance. Finally, Lincoln was intent on maintaining the solidarity of the political coalition of Republicans and Northern Democrats. Although anti-slavery sentiment was strong in the Republican Party, the Northern Democrats were split on the issue. Irish Democrats were particularly opposed to fighting a civil war whose purpose was to end slavery.
As the war continued, Lincoln eventually altered his public stance on slavery. He was influenced by a number of considerations. Perhaps most important, Lincoln was swayed by the strategic value of proclaiming the emancipation of the slaves. Slavery was an important asset for the South's military machine. Slaves tilled southern farms, worked in its munitions factories, and built the fortifications of the Confederate Army. Calling an end to slavery would demoralize the South and encourage Southern slaves to rebel or attempt escape to Union Army lines. Such calculations became especially important in 1862, when Northern armies were faring poorly on the battlefield.
Lincoln also quite rightly expected emancipation to generate much needed political capital. To be sure, an anti-slavery proclamation would alienate many Northern Democrats, but it would also strengthen Lincoln's support among his vital Republican constituency, which was increasingly anxious over the president's failure to move against slavery. Emancipation would also obtain foreign support for the Northern cause and discourage European intervention on the side of the South.
Despite the incentives to accept emancipation, Lincoln would have supported the preservation of slavery in the core southern states if they had ended their secession. After the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, Lincoln decided to leave the matter to the rebelling states. He publicly stated that unless the southern states returned to the Union by the end of the year, he would declare their slaves to be free. None of the Southern states returned to the Union, however, and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day 1863.
The proclamation had an important and positive effect on Northern prospects of winning the war, which was now transformed into a moral crusade, reviving support for the Northern war effort. The proclamation also gained international approval and undercut support for Confederate independence. For example, British support for diplomatic recognition of the Confederate States began to decline after the Emancipation Proclamation cast the conflict not only as a struggle for national unity, but as a noble war in support of basic human rights. Equally important for the outcome of the war, the proclamation invited free Blacks and newly freed slaves to join the ranks of the Union Army. By the end of the war in April 1865, more than 190,000 Black men had enlisted.
See also: Civil War (Economic Causes of), Civil War (Economic Impact of), Slavery
Donald, David. Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War Era. New York: Vintage: 1989.
Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. New York: HarcourtBrace, 1976.
Stewart, James Brewer. Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery. New York: Hill and Wang, 1997.
that on the 1st day of january, a.d. 1863, 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.
president abraham lincoln, emancipation proclamation speech, 1863
EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. President Abraham Lincoln's grant of freedom, on 1 January 1863, was given to slaves in states then in rebellion. In conformity with the preliminary proclamation of 22 September 1862, it declared that all persons held as slaves within the insurgent states—with the exception of Tennessee, southern Louisiana, and parts of Virginia, then within Union lines—"are and henceforth shall be, free." The proclamation was a war measure based on the president's prerogatives as commander in chief in times of armed rebellion. Admonishing the freedmen to abstain from violence, it invited them to join the armed forces of the United States and pledged the government to uphold their new status. Unlike the preliminary proclamation, it contained no references to colonization of the freed slaves "on this continent or elsewhere."
Enshrined in American folklore as the central fact of Lincoln's administration, the actual proclamation was a prosaic document. On the day it was issued, it ended slavery legally and effectively only in limited areas, chiefly along the coast of South Carolina. Eventually, as Union forces captured more and more Southern territory, it automatically extended freedom to the slaves in the newly conquered regions. Moreover, the mere fact of its promulgation ensured the death of slavery in the event of a Northern victory. The Emancipation Proclamation may thus be regarded as a milestone on the road to final freedom as expressed in the Thirteenth Amendment, declared in force on 18 December 1865.
Although Lincoln had always detested the institution of slavery, during the first year of the war, he repeatedly emphasized that the purpose of the conflict was the maintenance of the Union rather than the emancipation of the slaves. Aware of the necessity to retain the support of both the border states and the Northern Democrats, he refrained from pressing the antislavery issue. Thus, he countermanded General John C. Frémont's emancipation order in Missouri and General David Hunter's proclamation in the Department of the South. But Lincoln signed confiscation bills, by which the private property of Southerners was subject to forfeiture, as well as measures freeing the slaves in the District of Columbia and in the
federal territories. In addition, he urged loyal slave states to accept proposals for compensated emancipation.
These piecemeal measures did not satisfy the radical Republicans. Tirelessly advocating a war for human freedom, they pressured the president to implement their program. Lincoln sought to satisfy his radical Republican supporters and reap the diplomatic rewards of an anti-slavery policy—foreign powers were reluctant to recognize the slaveholding Confederacy—all without alienating the border states. The peculiar wording of the Emancipation Proclamation shrewdly balanced these conflicting interests.
The president wrote the first draft of the preliminary proclamation during June 1862. On 13 July he revealed his purpose to Secretary of State William H. Seward and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. Nine days later, he read the document to the cabinet but, upon Seward's advice, postponed its publication. To promulgate the proclamation so shortly after General George B. McClellan's early summer failure to take Richmond would have been impolitic. It is also possible that Salmon P. Chase, secretary of the treasury, desiring piecemeal emancipation, persuaded Lincoln to wait a bit longer.
During the following weeks various groups urged Lincoln to adopt an emancipation policy. However, even though he had already decided to comply with their request, Lincoln refused to commit himself and remained silent about the document then in preparation. Even in his celebrated reply to Horace Greeley's "Prayer of Twenty Millions" (22 August 1862), Lincoln emphasized that his paramount objective in the war was to save the Union, not to destroy slavery. Although he conceded that his personal wish had always been that all men everywhere could be free, it was not until after the Battle of Antietam (17 September 1862) that he believed the time had come for the proclamation. Informing his cabinet that his mind was made up, Lincoln accepted a few minor alterations and published the document on 22 September, promising freedom to all persons held as slaves in territories still in rebellion within the period of 100 days.
The reaction to the preliminary proclamation was varied. Denounced in the South as the work of a fiend, in the North it was generally acclaimed by radicals and moderates. Conservatives and Democrats condemned it, while all blacks enthusiastically hailed it as a herald of freedom.
During the 100-day interval between the two proclamations, some observers questioned Lincoln's firmness of purpose. Republican reversals in the election of 1862, the president's proposal in December for gradual compensated emancipation, and the revolutionary nature of the scheme led many to believe that he might reconsider. But, in spite of the conservatives' entreaties, Lincoln remained steadfast. After heeding some editorial suggestions from his cabinet, especially Chase's concluding sentence invoking the blessings of Almighty God, in the afternoon of 1 January 1863 he issued the proclamation.
The appearance of the Emancipation Proclamation clearly indicated the changed nature of the Civil War. It was evident that the conflict was no longer merely a campaign for the restoration of the Union but also a crusade for the eradication of slavery. In the remaining period of his life, Lincoln never wavered from this purpose. Having already said that he would rather die than retract the proclamation, he insisted on its inclusion in all plans of re-union and amnesty. His administration became ever more radical and he actively furthered the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. It is, therefore, with considerable justice that Lincoln has been called the Great Emancipator.
The president's calculations proved correct. Following the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, and owing to increased evidence of federal military prowess, neither Great Britain nor any other power recognized the Confederacy; nor did any border states desert the Union. The document thus stands as a monument to Lincoln's sense of timing, his skill in maneuvering, and his ability to compromise. The freedom of some 4 million human beings and their descendants was the result.
Cox, LaWanda C. Fenlason. Lincoln and Black Freedom: A Study in Presidential Leadership. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.
Franklin, John Hope. The Emancipation Proclamation. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963.
Trefousse, Hans L. Lincoln's Decision for Emancipation. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1975.
Hans L.Trefousse/a. r.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. It declared that “all persons held as slaves” in the rebellious jurisdictions of the Confederate States “are, and henceforward shall be free.” With this executive proclamation, which Lincoln justified as a matter of “military necessity,” approximately 3.5 million African Americans in the Confederacy were emancipated from the bonds of slavery.
The Emancipation Proclamation was part of a lengthy process by which Lincoln, the first avowed antislavery president to be elected, moved the United States toward eliminating the enslavement of Africans. Lincoln had long harbored a distaste and opposition to slavery. However, he did not believe the federal Constitution allowed the federal government to abolish slavery unilaterally. Moreover, he believed slavery was a regressive institution that would eventually die out on its own. Lincoln’s inactivity disappeared after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which appeared to open the western territories of the United States to slave expansion. Lincoln stood for the U.S. Senate in 1855 as an opponent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and again in 1858 as a candidate of the new anti-antislavery Republican Party. He was elected president in 1860.
Lincoln attempted to calm dissension in the slave states, chiefly by agreeing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, but it was feared in these states that Lincoln would use the discretionary powers of the presidency to subvert slavery all the same. In fact, within six months of his inauguration, Lincoln composed a federal buyout plan that used offers of federal bonds to induce slave state legislatures to emancipate their slaves. By the spring of 1861, eleven slave states severed their ties to the federal Union and organized their own rival slave republic.
Lincoln interpreted the secession of the states as an “insurrection,” and he invoked the president’s war powers under the Constitution. Many antislavery advocates urged him to use the insurrection as the occasion to
emancipate the enslaved through a war powers proclamation. Lincoln, however, was aware that the legal status of his war powers was ambiguous and he was unwilling to risk an emancipation proclamation that the federal courts might strike down. Furthermore, Lincoln was wary of alienating the four slave states (Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland) that had remained loyal to the Union. By 1862 Lincoln became convinced that a presidential proclamation was the only remaining option. The war had gone badly for the North, Lincoln’s caution on the slavery issue had failed to break the cohesion of the South, and the Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862, which freed slaves used in the Confederate war effort, had limited effect.
The Confiscation Acts provided only for the “confiscation” of rebel property, including slaves, but did not guarantee change of title; hence, slaves “confiscated” under the federal government legally remained slaves but were now in the custody of the federal government. Lincoln believed that the Acts, as in rem proceedings and as punishments for treason, violated the Constitution’s ban on bills of attainder, and in fact, very little enforcement of the Acts was undertaken. Even the Acts’ chief architect, Lyman Trumbull, admitted that the Confiscation Acts were mostly designed for political effect and would result in freedom for very few slaves. On July 22, 1862, Lincoln read a first draft of an emancipation proclamation to his cabinet; on their advice, he waited until after a Union victory in battle to issue the proclamation in preliminary form, which was done on September 22, 1862. He signed it into law on January 1, 1863.
The proclamation was not, in many respects, a radical document. It freed slaves, but did not abolish slavery as an institution, and it limited the extent of emancipation only to the geographical areas of the Confederacy still in actual rebellion and out of Union control so that the slaves in the loyal slave states and the occupied districts of the confederacy remained in slavery. These limitations, however, represent Lincoln’s interest in heading off federal court challenges. In other respects, the proclamation was radical indeed: All of the slaves remaining within the Confederacy were declared permanently free, and “the armed service of the United States” was now opened to freed slaves who would enlist to fight against their former masters. Moreover, once issued, Lincoln refused any suggestion that he use the proclamation as a bargaining chip with the Confederate authorities.
Lincoln nevertheless remained anxious about possible court challenges after the war’s close, and in 1864 he urged Congress to pass a Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and completely abolish slavery as an institution. He also remained unsure about the civil status of the freed slaves, at one point underwriting an experiment in colonizing freed slaves out of the United States to the Caribbean. By 1864 it was clear that the freed slaves had no desire to leave the United States, and Lincoln turned to a variety of initiatives for granting citizenship and equal civil rights to the freed men and women.
Black enthusiasm for Lincoln and the proclamation was, in the generation following emancipation, almost reverential. Modern African-American interpretation has been more inclined to fault Lincoln for the proclamation’s limitations. But a total presidential abolition may have incurred precisely the judicial retaliation Lincoln feared. In the end, the Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment together pointed the nation in the direction of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and full civil equality for African Americans.
Foner, Eric. 1983. Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Franklin, John Hope. 1963. The Emancipation Proclamation. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday.
Allen Carl Guelzo
The Emancipation Proclamation, formally issued on January 1, 1863, by President abraham lincoln is often mistakenly praised as the legal instrument that ended slavery—actually, the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, ratified in December 1865, outlawed slavery. But the proclamation is justifiably celebrated as a significant step toward the goal of ending slavery and making African Americans equal citizens of the United States. Coming as it did in the midst of the Civil War (1861–65), the proclamation announced to the Confederacy and the world that the abolition of slavery had become an important goal of the North in its fight against the rebellious states of the South. The document also marked a shift in Lincoln's mind toward support for emancipation. Just before signing the final document in 1863, Lincoln said, "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper."
In the text of the proclamation—which is almost entirely the work of Lincoln himself—Lincoln characterizes his order as "an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity." These words capture the essential character of Lincoln's work in the document. On the one hand, he perceived the proclamation as a kind of military tactic that would aid the Union in its difficult struggle against the Confederacy. As such, it was an extraordinary measure that carried the force of law under the powers granted by the Constitution to the president as commander in chief of the U.S. military forces. But on the other hand, Lincoln saw the proclamation as "an act of justice" that announced the intention of the North to free the slaves. In this respect, it became an important statement of the intent to abolish slavery in the United States once and for all, as well as a vital symbol of human freedom to later generations.
Lincoln had not always regarded emancipation as a goal of the Civil War. In fact, he actively resisted emancipation efforts early in the war, as when he voided earlier emancipation proclamations issued by the Union generals John C. Frémont and David Hunter in their military districts. Lincoln also failed to enforce provisions passed by Congress in 1861 and 1862 that called for the confiscation and emancipation of slaves owned by persons supporting the rebellion.
Antislavery sentiment in the North, however, grew in intensity during the course of the Civil War. By the summer of 1862, with the Union faring poorly in the conflict, Lincoln had begun to formulate the ideas he would eventually express in the proclamation. In particular, he reasoned that emancipation would work to the military advantage of the North by creating a labor shortage for the Confederacy and providing additional troops for the Union. While Lincoln was increasingly sympathetic to abolitionists who wished to end slavery, he was reluctant to proclaim emancipation on a wider scale, out of fear that it would alienate the border slave states of Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, which had remained part of the Union. Already stung by military setbacks, Lincoln did not want to do anything to jeopardize the ultimate goal of victory in the war. Even if he had wished to proclaim emancipation on a wider scale, such an act probably would not have been constitutionally legitimate for the presidency.
Lincoln's cabinet was nervous about the effect of issuing the proclamation, and it advised him to wait until the Union had won a major victory before releasing it. As a result, the president announced the preliminary proclamation on September 22, 1862, five days after the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam. In language that would be retained in the final version of the proclamation, this preliminary order declared that on January 1, 1863, all the slaves in the parts of the country still in rebellion "shall be … thenceforward and forever, free." It also pledged that "the executive government of the United States, including the military … will recognize and maintain the freedom" of ex-slaves. But this preliminary proclamation also contained language that was not included in the final document.
For example, it recommended that slave owners who had remained loyal to the Union be compensated for the loss of their slaves.
The final version of the proclamation specified the regions still held by the Confederacy in which emancipation would apply: all parts of Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and parts of Louisiana and Virginia. It also asked that freed slaves "abstain from all violence" and announced that those "of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States." This last provision led to a significant practical effect of the proclamation: by 1865, over 190,000 African Americans had joined the U.S. armed services in the fight against the Confederacy.
News and copies of the proclamation quickly spread through the country, causing many people, especially African Americans, to celebrate. At one gathering, the African American abolitionist frederick douglass made a speech in which he pronounced the proclamation the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the servitude of the ages. In following years, many African Americans would continue to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the proclamation.
However, many abolitionists were disappointed with the limited nature of the proclamation. They called for complete and immediate emancipation throughout the entire country, and they criticized the proclamation as the product of military necessity rather than moral idealism.
Although the practical effects of the proclamation were quite limited, it did serve as an important symbol that the North now intended not only to preserve the Union but also to abolish the practice of slavery. For Lincoln, the proclamation marked an important step in his eventual support of complete emancipation. Later, he would propose that the republican party include in its 1864 platform a plank calling for the abolition of slavery by constitutional amendment, and he would sign the Thirteenth Amendment in early 1865.
The copy of the proclamation that Lincoln wrote by hand and signed on January 1, 1863, was destroyed in a fire in 1871. Early drafts and copies of the original, including the official government copy derived from Lincoln's own, are held at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C.
Franklin, John Hope. 1995. The Emancipation Proclamation. Davidson.
——. 1993. The Emancipation Proclamation: Milestone Documents in the National Archives. National Archives.
Guelzo, Allen C. 2004. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Levinson, Sanford. 2001. "Was the Emancipation Proclamation Constitutional? Do We/Should We Care What the Answer Was?" University of Illinois Law Review (October): 1135–58.
"Emancipation Proclamation" (Appendix, Primary Document).
The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order made by President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; served 1861–65) on January 1, 1863. It granted freedom to slaves within the rebelling Confederate States of America during the American Civil War (1861–65). It signaled an important shift in federal policy on slavery and gave a significant advantage to Union troops. Although it originally limited the abolition of slavery to rebelling territories, it set the tone for complete abolition throughout the entire Union.
The politics of slavery
Issues surrounding the institution of slavery dominated American politics for many years before the Civil War. Debates between politicians were passionate. Lincoln and the Republican Party hoped to prevent the expansion of slavery into new territories. White slavers in the Southern states, where the Democratic Party ruled, feared complete abolition of slavery by the federal government, which was controlled by the Republican Party.
Lincoln's intention, however, was not to interfere with slavery where it already existed. He hoped for gradual emancipation, voluntarily accepted by the Southern states, with federal compensation to slaveholders for loss of their slaves, who were considered property in American society. Because the institution of slavery was protected in the U.S. Constitution , Lincoln felt obligated to recognize its legal status.
When the Southern states seceded, or separated, from the Union in early 1861, Lincoln focused his efforts on restoring the United States. Lincoln would have supported slavery in whatever form necessary to maintain the Union. When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, it was called a battle between the power of the federal government and the rights of individual states. It was not considered to be a war over slavery.
All but four slavery states seceded from the Union in 1861. Missouri , Kentucky , Maryland , and Delaware maintained their loyalty to and membership in the United States. To hold onto those states during the Civil War, Lincoln had to be especially careful about how he handled slavery. Fearing that more states might secede and that the Republicans and the remaining Union Democrats might split apart,
Lincoln at first refrained from linking the war with the abolition of slavery. A change in this policy came only with the need to boost the Union's military efforts.
There were several factors that led Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The strategic value of freeing slaves in rebelling territories became obvious over time. Slavery was an important asset for the South, because it enabled Southern whites to devote themselves to fighting. Black slaves supported Confederate efforts by maintaining Southern farms, munitions factories, and fortifications for the Confederate Army. Although slaves were not permitted to fight on the front lines, their efforts were essential to Confederate success.
Federal laws demanded that slaves be returned to their owners, so Union soldiers were required to return runaways to the enemy. This put the Union Army in the position of returning Confederate manpower, effectively supporting the other side. Limited emancipation would allow Confederate slaves to escape as Union troops advanced, freeing the slaves to take up arms against the Confederates rather than being returned to their owners. Emancipation also might discourage foreign powers from taking up arms alongside the Confederate forces if the Southern cause became directly associated with slavery.
Despite the incentives to declare emancipation, Lincoln did not take action lightly or quickly. He quietly began to work on the proclamation in June 1862, sharing it with his cabinet officials in July. After hearing their suggestions, he decided to wait awhile before announcing his intentions to the public. Union troops had been suffering losses, and Lincoln did not want to appear to be acting in desperation. Lincoln refrained from public discussion of emancipation until the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862.
On September 22, 1862, Lincoln publicly announced his plan for the Emancipation Proclamation. Threatening the South, Lincoln said he would take action to free slaves in rebelling states unless the states returned to the Union by the end of the year. By giving the Confederate states a time line, he gave them a chance to preserve the institution of slavery, leaving the matter up to them. The rebelling states ignored Lincoln, and slaves remained in bondage.
As promised, Lincoln issued the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. As hoped, the order boosted Northern prospects for winning the war. It undercut support for Confederate independence by transforming the war into a moral crusade. Foreign powers refrained from supporting the Confederate government, and internal national support for the Union effort was rekindled. With the invitation for free blacks and newly freed slaves to join the Union efforts, more than 190,000 African American men enlisted in the Union Army.
The Emancipation Proclamation cleared the path to abolish slavery entirely if the Union won the Civil War, which it did in April 1865. On December 18, 1865, slavery was officially ended in America by ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION (1863)
A seminal document in United States history, the Emancipation Proclamation not only failed to accomplish its stated goal, it also constituted a sharp reversal of the most deeply held convictions of its author. Abraham Lincoln, who viewed the Civil War primarily as a means of preserving the Union, had long favored a system of gradual, voluntary emancipation to be carried out by the states. However, as the abolitionist movement gained support throughout much of the North and in the Congress, the President begin to consider more seriously the idea of total emancipation through executive order. Largely a symbolic gesture of intent, the Proclamation applied only to slaves living in states controlled by the Confederacy, but because Lincoln feared alienating slave-holding border states friendly to the Federal government, did not affect slaves residing in Union-held territory nor those in Confederate regions already retaken by Union soldiers. Despite these very significant limitations, the Emancipation Proclamation made the freedom of African slaves in the United States a fundamental goal of the Civil War. Lauded by the British and the French, it also served to cut off crucial foreign support from the Confederacy. Before signing it, the formerly reluctant Lincoln is said to have remarked, "I never in my life felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper."
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 where of 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 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 where of, 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:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State
SOURCE: Richardson, James D., ed. Messages and Papers of the Presidents. New York: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1904.
President Abraham Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862, became federal military policy on January 1, 1863, prompting Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles to describe it as "a broad step … a landmark in history" (Welles, vol. 1, p. 212). The edict transformed the Civil War into a war of African-American liberation. On New Year's Day, "all persons held as slaves within any State … then … in rebellion against the United States" became "thenceforward, and forever free" (Basler, vol. 5, p. 434). Although in 1861 Lincoln had repeatedly asserted that his responsibility as president was to suppress the South's rebellion and reunite the nation, not to free its slaves, by late 1862 the realities of war forced him to incorporate emancipation into national policy. Emancipation was both a military tactic and a humanitarian act.
At this point in the war, the armies stood locked in a stalemate and Northern morale was low. England was threatening to recognize Confederate President Jefferson Davis's new government, which could have turned the Civil War into an international conflict. Lincoln needed more men to fill depleted Union regiments, and the Confederacy's military successes depended heavily on slavery: Bondsmen and women provided the agricultural and industrial labor that equipped, fed, and supplied its armies. Slaves constructed fortifications, repaired railroads, and freed up Southern whites to serve in the army.
Union Major General George B. McClellan's tactical draw against Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, provided the breakthrough Lincoln sought. Five days afterward, Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. In doing so, he gave the rebellious states an ultimatum: If after January 1, 1863, they did not stop fighting and continued to resist federal forces, their slaves would be freed. When the Confederates failed to surrender upon Lincoln's deadline, the emancipation of the South's four million slaves became a Northern war aim.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis damned Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation as an effort to cause a slave uprising and race war within the Confederacy. In the North, however, abolitionists, African Americans, and others sympathetic to the slaves welcomed Lincoln's proclamation. "We are all liberated" by the Emancipation Proclamation, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass declared. "The white man is liberated, the black man is liberated, the brave men now fighting the battles of their country against rebels and traitors are now liberated, and may strike … the Rebels, at their most sensitive point" (Foner, vol. 3, p. 322).
Many Northern Republicans nonetheless expressed disappointment that the president justified his proclamation on the grounds of military necessity, not on the grounds of a commitment to racial equality. They complained that it technically freed slaves only in territory still under Confederate control. In fairness to Lincoln, however, the Emancipation Proclamation did free many slaves along the Mississippi River, in eastern North Carolina and the Sea Islands along the Atlantic coast, and in areas that fell to Union armies throughout the Confederacy.
In addition to freeing Confederate slaves, Lincoln's final Emancipation Proclamation also decreed that suitable emancipated slaves "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" (Basler, vol. 6, p. 30). This signaled a major reversal in policy, because since the start of the war the U.S. Army had turned away free black volunteers.
After 1863, both free African Americans and slaves rushed to join the U.S. Army. They were determined to bury slavery, defeat the Confederacy, prove their manhood, and earn full citizenship. By war's end the army had raised 178,975 African-American troops.
The wartime emancipation of Confederate slaves, coupled with the military service of the African-American troops, paved the way for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution (December 1865). The Emancipation Proclamation has come to symbolize the destruction of slavery. It commenced the halting and slow, but eventually successful, integration of African Americans into every aspect of American life.
Franklin, John Hope. The Emancipation Proclamation. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1963.
U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
Welles, Gideon. Diary of Gideon Welles: Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson. 3 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911.
John David Smith
By the President of the United States of America
President abraham lincoln supported the u.s. civil war to preserve the Union, not to end slavery. Though he was personally opposed to slavery, he had been elected on a platform that pledged the continuation of slavery in states where it already existed. Wartime pressures, however, drove Lincoln toward emancipation of the slaves. Military leaders argued that an enslaved labor force in the South allowed the Confederate states to place more soldiers on the front lines. By the summer of 1862, Lincoln had prepared an emancipation proclamation,but he did not want to issue it until Union armies had had greater success on the battlefield. He feared that otherwise the proclamation might be seen as a sign of weakness.
The Union army's victory at the Battle of Antietam encouraged the president to issue a preliminary proclamation on September 22, 1862, that announced the abolition of slavery in areas occupied by the Confederacy effective January 1, 1863. The wording of the Emancipation Proclamation on that date made clear that slavery would still be tolerated in the border states and areas occupied by Union troops, so as not to jeopardize the war effort. Lincoln was uncertain that the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of his action, so he lobbied Congress to adopt the thirteenth amendment, which totally abol ished slavery.
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.
Source: Statutes at Large, vol. 12 (1864), pp. 1268–1269.
"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 states 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, Terre Bonne, 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 Berkeley, 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-defense; 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:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Emancipation Proclamation, in U.S. history, the executive order abolishing slavery in the Confederate States of America.
Desire for Such a Proclamation
In the early part of the Civil War, President Lincoln refrained from issuing an edict freeing the slaves despite the insistent urgings of abolitionists. Believing that the war was being fought solely to preserve the Union, he sought to avoid alienating the slaveholding border states that had remained in the Union. "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." He wrote these words to Horace Greeley on Aug. 22, 1862, in answer to criticism from that administration gadfly; he had, however, long since decided, after much reflection, to adopt the third course.
Lincoln kept the plan to himself until July 13, 1862, when, according to the cabinet diarist Gideon Welles, he first mentioned it to Welles and Secretary of State William H. Seward. On July 22 he read a preliminary draft to the cabinet and acquiesced in Seward's suggestion to wait until after a Union victory before issuing the proclamation. The Antietam campaign presented that opportunity, and on Sept. 22, 1862, after reading a second draft to the cabinet, he issued a preliminary proclamation that announced that emancipation would become effective on Jan. 1, 1863, in those states "in rebellion" that had not meanwhile laid down their arms.
On Jan. 1, 1863, the formal and definite Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The President, by virtue of his powers as commander in chief, declared free all those slaves residing in territory in rebellion against the federal government "as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion." Congress, in effect, had done as much in its confiscation acts of Aug., 1861, and July, 1862, but its legislation did not have the popular appeal of the Emancipation Proclamation—despite the great limitations of the proclamation, which did not affect slaves in those states that had remained loyal to the Union or in territory of the Confederacy that had been reconquered. These were freed in other ways (see slavery). Nor did the proclamation have any immediate effect in the vast area over which the Confederacy retained control. Confederate leaders, however, feared that it would serve as an incitement to insurrection and denounced it.
Purpose of the Proclamation
The proclamation did not reflect Lincoln's desired solution for the slavery problem. He continued to favor gradual emancipation, to be undertaken voluntarily by the states, with federal compensation to slaveholders, a plan he considered eminently just in view of the common responsibility of North and South for the existence of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was chiefly a declaration of policy, which, it was hoped, would serve as an opening wedge in depleting the South's great manpower reserve in slaves and, equally important, would enhance the Union cause in the eyes of Europeans, especially the British.
At home it was duly hailed by the radical abolitionists, but it cost Lincoln the support of many conservatives and undoubtedly figured in the Republican setback in the congressional elections of 1862. This was more than offset by the boost it gave the Union abroad, where, on the whole, it was warmly received; in combination with subsequent Union victories, it ended all hopes of the Confederacy for recognition from Britain and France. Doubts as to its constitutionality were later removed by the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.
See J. H. Franklin, The Emancipation Proclamation (1963); E. Foner, Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (1983).
On 22 September 1862, Lincoln declared that all slaves would be freed in states or regions of states still in rebellion on the first day of the following year. After this proclamation, the prospect of pro‐Southern intervention by Britain faded. The proclamation also marked a fundamental shift in Union military policy. Initially opposed to enrolling any blacks as soldiers, Lincoln authorized an aggressive recruitment campaign immediately following the issuance of the final proclamation on 1 January 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation was Lincoln's most direct action to hasten the end of slavery. Historians have offered varied interpretations of its relative significance in the process of wartime emancipation. Louis Gerteis in From Contraband to Freedman argues that military necessity created the conditions that first prompted Congress and later required Lincoln to adopt emancipation policies. Ira Berlin and his colleagues in The Destruction of Slavery emphasize the roles played by African Americans in securing their own liberation within the conditions created by war and federal policy. In his Pulitzer Prize‐winning Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson insists that emancipation—and the Union victory necessary to obtain it—rested fundamentally on Lincoln's leadership.
[See also: African Americans in the Military; Civil War: Domestic Course; Colored Troops, U.S.]
Louis Gerteis , From Contraband to Freedman: Federal Policy Toward Southern Blacks, 1861–1865, 1972.
Ira Berlin,, Barbara J. Fields,, Thavolia Glymph,, Joseph P. Reidy,, and and Leslie S. Rowland , Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867, Series I, Vol. I: The Destruction of Slavery, 1985.
James McPherson , Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, 1988.
Louis S. Gerteis