Emancipation Proclamation

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Social Studies
American History

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Emancipation Proclamation

The Emancipation Proclamation

Although Lincoln had opposed all aspects of slavery all his life, he also aimed to preserve the Union. He had to think carefully about whether or not the proclamation would have a more positive or negative effect on the war. It was possible that issuing the Proclamation would provoke the border states to secede and join the Confederacy. Shortly after he issued the Proclamation, Lincoln decided that the war couldn't be won unless the slaves were emancipated. He realized that if the South came back into the Union with its 4 million slaves, the North and South would eventually go to war again.

Lincoln announces the Proclamation to the cabinet.

On September 22nd, 1862, five days after the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln announced the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to the cabinet. Lincoln declared that the final Emancipation Proclamation would be put into effect on January 1st, 1863. This would mean that all slaves in the rebelling states would be freed. It would also mean that slaves would be allowed to join the Union army.

After the preliminary Proclamation was issued, Lincoln got support from influential people such as Frederick Douglas and Charles Sumner. They wanted Lincoln to make the Proclamation unconditional and to put it into effect immediately. However, Lincoln remained true to his own ideas regarding what was best for the country. Some Northerners doubted the document while abolishionists strongly supported it. When word of the Proclamation got around to slaves in the border states, they began to act more and more like freed men.

Click for a video about the Proclamation

On January 1st, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Proclamation. In the Proclamation, he specifically named all of the states in rebellion which now fell under the authority of the Proclamation. He made it clear that the border states which held slaves but were still part of the Union were excluded from the document's rule. He also excluded 12 parishes in Lousiana, 53 counties in Virginia, and all of Union-occupied Tennessee. He also urged the slaves to "abstain from all violence, unless in self defence" and to find a job and work for "reasonable wages". He encouraged African Americans to join the Union armed forces to "garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service". By enlisting African Americans in the Union army, it weakened the Southern work force and gave slaves a chance to fight for their own freedom.

Despite this announcement, many African Americans remained enslaved and only a small amount were actually freed. The Confederacy refused to recognize the document because they considered themselves an independent nation. Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy's President, said that the Proclamation was "the most excrable measure recorded in the history of a guilty man." However, many slaves took advantage of the opportunity to fight for their freedom and by the end of the war 180,000 African Americans had served in the Union Army. Many proslavery Southerners compared Lincoln to John Brown. To many anti-slavery Americans, Lincoln was changing the war's objective from just reuniting the Union to putting an end to slavery in America. The Proclamation also escalated the stakes of the war because if the South won, slavery wouldn't be abolished in the South. However, if the North was victorious, the South would be forced to reenter the Union and leave slavery behind forever, making the United States a slave-free nation. Although slavery was not officially ended until 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation was the beginning of the end for slavery.

The Final Proclamation

The Aftermath



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